Benedict from August 2011 to December 2011


Pope's Urbi et Orbi Address
"Only the God Who Is Love, and the Love Which Is God, Could Choose to Save Us in This Way"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the traditional blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city [of Rome] and the world).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

Christ is born for us! Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to the men and women whom he loves. May all people hear an echo of the message of Bethlehem which the Catholic Church repeats in every continent, beyond the confines of every nation, language and culture. The Son of the Virgin Mary is born for everyone; he is the Saviour of all.

This is how Christ is invoked in an ancient liturgical antiphon: "O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, hope and salvation of the peoples: come to save us, O Lord our God". Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! This is the cry raised by men and women in every age, who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers. They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high. Dear brothers and sisters, this hand is Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set us firmly on rock, the secure rock of his Truth and his Love (cf. Ps 40:2).

This is the meaning of the Child's name, the name which, by God's will, Mary and Joseph gave him: he is named Jesus, which means "Saviour" (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31). He was sent by God the Father to save us above all from the evil deeply rooted in man and in history: the evil of separation from God, the prideful presumption of being self-sufficient, of trying to compete with God and to take his place, to decide what is good and evil, to be the master of life and death (cf. Gen 3:1-7). This is the great evil, the great sin, from which we human beings cannot save ourselves unless we rely on God's help, unless we cry out to him: "Veni ad salvandum nos! – Come to save us!"

The very fact that we cry to heaven in this way already sets us aright; it makes us true to ourselves: we are in fact those who cried out to God and were saved (cf. Esth [LXX] 10:3ff.). God is the Saviour; we are those who are in peril. He is the physician; we are the infirm. To realize this is the first step towards salvation, towards emerging from the maze in which we have been locked by our pride. To lift our eyes to heaven, to stretch out our hands and call for help is our means of escape, provided that there is Someone who hears us and can come to our assistance.

Jesus Christ is the proof that God has heard our cry. And not only this! God's love for us is so strong that he cannot remain aloof; he comes out of himself to enter into our midst and to share fully in our human condition (cf. Ex 3:7-12). The answer to our cry which God gave in Jesus infinitely transcends our expectations, achieving a solidarity which cannot be human alone, but divine. Only the God who is love, and the love which is God, could choose to save us in this way, which is certainly the lengthiest way, yet the way which respects the truth about him and about us: the way of reconciliation, dialogue and cooperation.

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, on this Christmas 2011, let us then turn to the Child of Bethlehem, to the Son of the Virgin Mary, and say: "Come to save us!" Let us repeat these words in spiritual union with the many people who experience particularly difficult situations; let us speak out for those who have no voice.

Together let us ask God's help for the peoples of the Horn of Africa, who suffer from hunger and food shortages, aggravated at times by a persistent state of insecurity. May the international community not fail to offer assistance to the many displaced persons coming from that region and whose dignity has been sorely tried.

May the Lord grant comfort to the peoples of South-East Asia, particularly Thailand and the Philippines, who are still enduring grave hardships as a result of the recent floods.

May the Lord come to the aid of our world torn by so many conflicts which even today stain the earth with blood. May the Prince of Peace grant peace and stability to that Land where he chose to come into the world, and encourage the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. May he bring an end to the violence in Syria, where so much blood has already been shed. May he foster full reconciliation and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan. May he grant renewed vigour to all elements of society in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East as they strive to advance the common good.

May the birth of the Saviour support the prospects of dialogue and cooperation in Myanmar, in the pursuit of shared solutions. May the Nativity of the Redeemer ensure political stability to the countries of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, and assist the people of South Sudan in their commitment to safeguarding the rights of all citizens.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us turn our gaze anew to the grotto of Bethlehem. The Child whom we contemplate is our salvation! He has brought to the world a universal message of reconciliation and peace. Let us open our hearts to him; let us receive him into our lives. Once more let us say to him, with joy and confidence: "Veni ad salvandum nos!"

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Christmas Eve Homily
"A Child, in All Its Weakness, Is Mighty God"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily tonight at Christmas Eve Mass.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to Titus that we have just heard begins solemnly with the word "apparuit", which then comes back again in the reading at the Dawn Mass: apparuit – "there has appeared". This is a programmatic word, by which the Church seeks to express synthetically the essence of Christmas. Formerly, people had spoken of God and formed human images of him in all sorts of different ways. God himself had spoken in many and various ways to mankind (cf. Heb 1:1 – Mass during the Day). But now something new has happened: he has appeared. He has revealed himself. He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which he dwells. He himself has come into our midst. This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared. No longer is he merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of him on the basis of mere words. He has "appeared". But now we ask: how has he appeared? Who is he in reality? The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: "the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed" (Tit 3:4). For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God himself might not be good either, that he too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real "epiphany", the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness. Today too, people who are no longer able to recognize God through faith are asking whether the ultimate power that underpins and sustains the world is truly good, or whether evil is just as powerful and primordial as the good and the beautiful which we encounter in radiant moments in our world. "The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed": this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas.

In all three Christmas Masses, the liturgy quotes a passage from the Prophet Isaiah, which describes the epiphany that took place at Christmas in greater detail: "A child is born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end" (Is 9:5f.). Whether the prophet had a particular child in mind, born during his own period of history, we do not know. But it seems impossible. This is the only text in the Old Testament in which it is said of a child, of a human being: his name will be Mighty-God, Eternal-Father. We are presented with a vision that extends far beyond the historical moment into the mysterious, into the future. A child, in all its weakness, is Mighty God. A child, in all its neediness and dependence, is Eternal Father. And his peace "has no end". The prophet had previously described the child as "a great light" and had said of the peace he would usher in that the rod of the oppressor, the footgear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood would be burned (Is 9:1, 3-4).

God has appeared – as a child. It is in this guise that he pits himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace. At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways, when over and over again there are oppressors’ rods and bloodstained cloaks, we cry out to the Lord: O mighty God, you have appeared as a child and you have revealed yourself to us as the One who loves us, the One through whom love will triumph. And you have shown us that we must be peacemakers with you. We love your childish estate, your powerlessness, but we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: manifest your power, O God. In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors’ rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph in this world of ours.

Christmas is an epiphany – the appearing of God and of his great light in a child that is born for us. Born in a stable in Bethlehem, not in the palaces of kings. In 1223, when Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated Christmas in Greccio with an ox and an ass and a manger full of hay, a new dimension of the mystery of Christmas came to light. Saint Francis of Assisi called Christmas "the feast of feasts" – above all other feasts – and he celebrated it with "unutterable devotion" (2 Celano 199; Fonti Francescane, 787). He kissed images of the Christ-child with great devotion and he stammered tender words such as children say, so Thomas of Celano tells us (ibid.). For the early Church, the feast of feasts was Easter: in the Resurrection Christ had flung open the doors of death and in so doing had radically changed the world: he had made a place for man in God himself. Now, Francis neither changed nor intended to change this objective order of precedence among the feasts, the inner structure of the faith centred on the Paschal Mystery. And yet through him and the character of his faith, something new took place: Francis discovered Jesus’ humanity in an entirely new depth. This human existence of God became most visible to him at the moment when God’s Son, born of the Virgin Mary, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The Resurrection presupposes the Incarnation. For God’s Son to take the form of a child, a truly human child, made a profound impression on the heart of the Saint of Assisi, transforming faith into love. "The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed" – this phrase of Saint Paul now acquired an entirely new depth. In the child born in the stable at Bethlehem, we can as it were touch and caress God. And so the liturgical year acquired a second focus in a feast that is above all a feast of the heart.

This has nothing to do with sentimentality. It is right here, in this new experience of the reality of Jesus’ humanity that the great mystery of faith is revealed. Francis loved the child Jesus, because for him it was in this childish estate that God’s humility shone forth. God became poor. His Son was born in the poverty of the stable. In the child Jesus, God made himself dependent, in need of human love, he put himself in the position of asking for human love – our love. Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.

Francis arranged for Mass to be celebrated on the manger that stood between the ox and the ass (cf. 1 Celano 85; Fonti 469). Later, an altar was built over this manger, so that where animals had once fed on hay, men could now receive the flesh of the spotless lamb Jesus Christ, for the salvation of soul and body, as Thomas of Celano tells us (cf. 1 Celano 87; Fonti 471). Francis himself, as a deacon, had sung the Christmas Gospel on the holy night in Greccio with resounding voice. Through the friars’ radiant Christmas singing, the whole celebration seemed to be a great outburst of joy (1 Celano 85.86; Fonti 469, 470). It was the encounter with God’s humility that caused this joy – his goodness creates the true feast.

Today, anyone wishing to enter the Church of Jesus’ Nativity in Bethlehem will find that the doorway five and a half metres high, through which emperors and caliphs used to enter the building, is now largely walled up. Only a low opening of one and a half metres has remained. The intention was probably to provide the church with better protection from attack, but above all to prevent people from entering God’s house on horseback. Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus’ birth has to bend down. It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our "enlightened" reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis – the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions – the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby. In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart. And let us also pray especially at this hour for all who have to celebrate Christmas in poverty, in suffering, as migrants, that a ray of God’s kindness may shine upon them, that they – and we – may be touched by the kindness that God chose to bring into the world through the birth of his Son in a stable. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



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Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The occasion that brings us together today is always particularly moving. The holy feast of Christmas is almost upon us and it prompts the great family of the Roman Curia to come together for a gracious exchange of greetings, as we wish one another a joyful and spiritually fruitful celebration of this feast of the God who became flesh and established his dwelling in our midst (cf. Jn 1:14). For me, this is an occasion not only to offer you my personal good wishes, but also to express my gratitude and that of the Church to each one of you for your generous service; I ask you to convey this to all the co-workers of our extended family. I offer particular thanks to the Dean of the College, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has given voice to the sentiments of all present and of all who work in the various offices of the Curia and the Governorate, including those whose apostolate is carried out in the Pontifical Representations throughout the world. All of us are committed to spreading throughout the world the resounding message that the angels proclaimed that night in Bethlehem, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will" (Lk 2:14), so as to bring joy and hope to our world.

As this year draws to a close, Europe is undergoing an economic and financial crisis, which is ultimately based on the ethical crisis looming over the Old Continent. Even if such values as solidarity, commitment to one’s neighbour and responsibility towards the poor and suffering are largely uncontroversial, still the motivation is often lacking for individuals and large sectors of society to practise renunciation and make sacrifices. Perception and will do not necessarily go hand in hand. In defending personal interests, the will obscures perception, and perception thus weakened is unable to stiffen the will. In this sense, some quite fundamental questions emerge from this crisis: where is the light that is capable of illuminating our perception not merely with general ideas, but with concrete imperatives? Where is the force that draws the will upwards? These are questions that must be answered by our proclamation of the Gospel, by the new evangelization, so that message may become event, so that proclamation may lead to life.

The key theme of this year, and of the years ahead, is this: how do we proclaim the Gospel today? How can faith as a living force become a reality today? The ecclesial events of the outgoing year were all ultimately related to this theme. There were the journeys to Croatia, to the World Youth Day in Spain, to my home country of Germany, and finally to Africa – Benin – for the consignment of the Post-Synodal document on justice, peace and reconciliation, which should now lead to concrete results in the various local churches. Equally memorable were the journeys to Venice, to San Marino, to the Eucharistic Congress in Ancona, and to Calabria. And finally there was the important day of encounter in Assisi for religions and for people who in whatever way are searching for truth and peace, representing a new step forward in the pilgrimage towards truth and peace. The establishment of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization is at the same time a pointer towards next year’s Synod on the same theme. The Year of Faith, commemorating the beginning of the Council fifty years ago, also belongs in this context. Each of these events had its own particular characteristics. In Germany, where the Reformation began, the ecumenical question, with all its trials and hopes, naturally assumed particular importance. Intimately linked to this, at the focal point of the debate, the question that arises repeatedly is this: what is reform of the Church? How does it take place? What are its paths and its goals? Not only faithful believers but also outside observers are noticing with concern that regular churchgoers are growing older all the time and that their number is constantly diminishing; that recruitment of priests is stagnating; that scepticism and unbelief are growing. What, then, are we to do? There are endless debates over what must be done in order to reverse the trend. There is no doubt that a variety of things need to be done. But action alone fails to resolve the matter. The essence of the crisis of the Church in Europe is the crisis of faith. If we find no answer to this, if faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength from the encounter with Jesus Christ, then all other reforms will remain ineffective.

On this point, the encounter with Africa’s joyful passion for faith brought great encouragement. None of the faith fatigue that is so prevalent here, none of the oft-encountered sense of having had enough of Christianity was detectable there. Amid all the problems, sufferings and trials that Africa clearly experiences, one could still sense the people’s joy in being Christian, buoyed up by inner happiness at knowing Christ and belonging to his Church. From this joy comes also the strength to serve Christ in hard-pressed situations of human suffering, the strength to put oneself at his disposal, without looking round for one’s own advantage. Encountering this faith that is so ready to sacrifice and so full of happiness is a powerful remedy against fatigue with Christianity such as we are experiencing in Europe today.

A further remedy against faith fatigue was the wonderful experience of World Youth Day in Madrid. This was new evangelization put into practice. Again and again at World Youth Days, a new, more youthful form of Christianity can be seen, something I would describe under five headings.

1. Firstly, there is a new experience of catholicity, of the Church’s universality. This is what struck the young people and all the participants quite directly: we come from every continent, but although we have never met one another, we know one another. We speak different languages, we have different ways of life and different cultural backgrounds, yet we are immediately united as one great family. Outward separation and difference is relativized. We are all moved by the one Lord Jesus Christ, in whom true humanity and at the same time the face of God himself is revealed to us. We pray in the same way. The same inner encounter with Jesus Christ has stamped us deep within with the same structure of intellect, will and heart. And finally, our common liturgy speaks to our hearts and unites us in a vast family. In this setting, to say that all humanity are brothers and sisters is not merely an idea: it becomes a real shared experience, generating joy. And so we have also understood quite concretely: despite all trials and times of darkness, it is a wonderful thing to belong to the worldwide Church, to the Catholic Church, that the Lord has given to us.

2. From this derives a new way of living our humanity, our Christianity. For me, one of the most important experiences of those days was the meeting with the World Youth Day volunteers: about 20,000 young people, all of whom devoted weeks or months of their lives to working on the technical, organizational and material preparations for World Youth Day, and thus made it possible for the whole event to run smoothly. Those who give their time always give a part of their lives. At the end of the day, these young people were visibly and tangibly filled with a great sense of happiness: the time that they gave up had meaning; in giving of their time and labour, they had found time, they had found life. And here something fundamental became clear to me: these young people had given a part of their lives in faith, not because it was asked of them, not in order to attain Heaven, nor in order to escape the danger of Hell. They did not do it in order to find fulfilment. They were not looking round for themselves. There came into my mind the image of Lot’s wife, who by looking round was turned into a pillar of salt. How often the life of Christians is determined by the fact that first and foremost they look out for themselves, they do good, so to speak, for themselves. And how great is the temptation of all people to be concerned primarily for themselves; to look round for themselves and in the process to become inwardly empty, to become "pillars of salt". But here it was not a matter of seeking fulfilment or wanting to live one’s life for oneself. These young people did good, even at a cost, even if it demanded sacrifice, simply because it is a wonderful thing to do good, to be there for others. All it needs is the courage to make the leap. Prior to all of this is the encounter with Jesus Christ, inflaming us with love for God and for others, and freeing us from seeking our own ego. In the words of a prayer attributed to Saint Francis Xavier: I do good, not that I may come to Heaven thereby and not because otherwise you could cast me into Hell. I do it because of you, my King and my Lord. I came across this same attitude in Africa too, for example among the Sisters of Mother Teresa, who devote themselves to abandoned, sick, poor and suffering children, without asking anything for themselves, thus becoming inwardly rich and free. This is the genuinely Christian attitude. Equally unforgettable for me was the encounter with handicapped young people in the Saint Joseph Centre in Madrid, where I encountered the same readiness to put oneself at the disposal of others – a readiness to give oneself that is ultimately derived from encounter with Christ, who gave himself for us.

3. A third element, that has an increasingly natural and central place in World Youth Days and in the spirituality that arises from them, is adoration. I still look back to that unforgettable moment during my visit to the United Kingdom, when tens of thousands of predominantly young people in Hyde Park responded in eloquent silence to the Lord’s sacramental presence, in adoration. The same thing happened again on a smaller scale in Zagreb and then again in Madrid, after the thunderstorm which almost ruined the whole night vigil through the failure of the microphones. God is indeed ever-present. But again, the physical presence of the risen Christ is something different, something new. The risen Lord enters into our midst. And then we can do no other than say, with Saint Thomas: my Lord and my God! Adoration is primarily an act of faith – the act of faith as such. God is not just some possible or impossible hypothesis concerning the origin of all things. He is present. And if he is present, then I bow down before him. Then my intellect and will and heart open up towards him and from him. In the risen Christ, the incarnate God is present, who suffered for us because he loves us. We enter this certainty of God’s tangible love for us with love in our own hearts. This is adoration, and this then determines my life. Only thus can I celebrate the Eucharist correctly and receive the body of the Lord rightly.

4. A further important element of the World Youth Days is the sacrament of Confession, which is increasingly coming to be seen as an integral part of the experience. Here we recognize that we need forgiveness over and over again, and that forgiveness brings responsibility. Openness to love is present in man, implanted in him by the Creator, together with the capacity to respond to God in faith. But also present, in consequence of man’s sinful history (Church teaching speaks of original sin) is the tendency that is opposed to love – the tendency towards selfishness, towards becoming closed in on oneself, in fact towards evil. Again and again my soul is tarnished by this downward gravitational pull that is present within me. Therefore we need the humility that constantly asks God for forgiveness, that seeks purification and awakens in us the counterforce, the positive force of the Creator, to draw us upwards.

5. Finally, I would like to speak of one last feature, not to be overlooked, of the spirituality of World Youth Days, namely joy. Where does it come from? How is it to be explained? Certainly, there are many factors at work here. But in my view, the crucial one is this certainty, based on faith: I am wanted; I have a task in history; I am accepted, I am loved. Josef Pieper, in his book on love, has shown that man can only accept himself if he is accepted by another. He needs the other’s presence, saying to him, with more than words: it is good that you exist. Only from the You can the I come into itself. Only if it is accepted, can it accept itself. Those who are unloved cannot even love themselves. This sense of being accepted comes in the first instance from other human beings. But all human acceptance is fragile. Ultimately we need a sense of being accepted unconditionally. Only if God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being. If ever man’s sense of being accepted and loved by God is lost, then there is no longer any answer to the question whether to be a human being is good at all. Doubt concerning human existence becomes more and more insurmountable. Where doubt over God becomes prevalent, then doubt over humanity follows inevitably. We see today how widely this doubt is spreading. We see it in the joylessness, in the inner sadness, that can be read on so many human faces today. Only faith gives me the conviction: it is good that I exist. It is good to be a human being, even in hard times. Faith makes one happy from deep within. That is one of the wonderful experiences of World Youth Days.

It would take too long now to go into detail concerning the encounter in Assisi, as the significance of the event would warrant. Let us simply thank God, that as representatives of the world’s religions and as representatives of thinking in search of truth, we were able to meet that day in a climate of friendship and mutual respect, in love for the truth and in shared responsibility for peace. So let us hope that, from this encounter, a new willingness to serve peace, reconciliation and justice has emerged.

As I conclude, I would like to thank all of you from my heart for shouldering the common mission that the Lord has given us as witnesses to his truth, and I wish all of you the joy that God wanted to bestow upon us through the incarnation of his Son. A blessed Christmas to you all! Thank you.


On Christmas
The "Love Story Between God and Man Passes by Way of the Manger of Bethlehem"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope reflected on the approaching feast of Christmas.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to receive you in this general audience, just days before the celebration of the Lord's birth. During these days, the greeting on everyone's lips is "Merry Christmas! Season's Greetings!" Let us ensure that, even in today's society, the exchange of greetings not lose its deep religious significance, and that the exterior aspects that play upon our heartstrings not absorb the feast. Certainly, external signs are beautiful and important, so long as they do not distract us, but rather help us to experience Christmas in its truest sense -- the sacred and Christian sense -- and cause our joy to be not superficial, but deep.

With the Christmas liturgy, the Church introduces us to the great Mystery of the Incarnation. Christmas, in fact, is not a mere anniversary of Jesus' birth -- it is also this, but it is more -- it is the celebration of a mystery that has marked and continues to mark mankind's history -- God Himself came to dwell among us (cf. John 1:14), He made Himself one of us; a mystery that concerns our faith and our very lives; a mystery that we experience concretely in the liturgical celebrations, especially in the Holy Mass.

Someone might ask himself: How can I live out now an event that took place so long ago? How can I participate fruitfully in the birth of the Son of God, which took place over 2,000 years ago? During the Holy Mass on Christmas Night, we will repeat as a refrain to the responsorial psalm, these words: "Today a Savior is born for us." This adverb of time "Today," which is used repeatedly throughout the Christmas celebrations, refers to the event of Jesus' birth and to the salvation that the incarnation of the Son of God comes to bring.

In the liturgy, this event reaches beyond the limits of space and time and becomes actual, present; its effect continues, even amidst the passing of days, years and centuries. In indicating that Jesus is born "today," the liturgy does not use a meaningless phrase, but underscores that this birth affects and permeates the whole of history -- even today, it remains a reality to which we may attain, precisely in the liturgy. For believers, the celebration of Christmas renews our certainty that God is really present with us, still "flesh" and not only far away: though also with the Father, He is close to us. In that Child born in Bethlehem, God drew near to man: we can encounter Him now -- in a "today" whose sun knows no setting.

I would like to stress this point, because modern man -- a man of "the sensible," of the empirically verifiable -- finds it increasingly more difficult to open his horizons and enter the world of God. The Redemption of mankind certainly took place at a precise and identifiable moment in history: in the event of Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus is the Son of God -- He is God Himself, who not only spoke to man, showed him wondrous signs and guided him throughout the history of salvation -- but became man and remains man. The Eternal entered into the limits of time and space, in order to make possible an encounter with Him "today."

The liturgical texts of Christmas help us to understand that the events of salvation wrought by Christ are always actual -- the interest of every man and of all mankind. When, within liturgical celebrations, we hear or proclaim this "Today a Savior is born for us," we are not employing an empty, conventional expression; rather, we mean that God offers us "today", now, to me, to each one of us, the possibility of acknowledging and receiving Him like the shepherds in Bethlehem, so that He might be born in our lives and renew them, illumine them, transform them by His grace, by His Presence.

Christmas, then, while commemorating Jesus' birth in the flesh of the Virgin Mary -- and numerous liturgical texts put before our eyes this or that event -- is an efficacious event for us. Pope St. Leo the Great, in presenting the profound meaning of Christmas, issued an invitation to the faithful with these words: "Let us be glad in the Lord, dearly-beloved, and rejoice with purest joy that there has dawned for us the day of ever-new redemption, of ancient preparation, of eternal bliss. For as the year rolls round, there recurs for us the commemoration of our salvation, which promised from the beginning and accomplished in the fullness of time, will endure for ever" (Sermon 22, In Nativitate Domini, 2,1; PL 54,193).

And again, in another Christmas homily St. Leo the Great affirms: "Today the Maker of the world was born of a Virgin's womb, and He, who made all natures, became the Son of her, whom He created. Today the Word of God appeared clothed in flesh, and That which had never been visible to human eyes began to be tangible to our hands as well. Today the shepherds learned from angels' voices that the Savior was born in the substance of our flesh and soul (Sermon 26, In Nativitate Domini, 6,1; PL 54,213).

There is a second aspect that I would like to touch upon briefly. The event of Bethlehem should be considered in the light of the Paschal Mystery: The one and the other are part of the one redemptive work of Christ. Jesus' incarnation and birth invite us to direct our gaze to His death and resurrection: Christmas and Easter are both feasts of the Redemption. Easter celebrates it as the victory over sin and death: It signals the final moment, when the glory of the Man-God shines forth as the light of day; Christmas celebrates it as God's entrance into history, His becoming man in order to restore man to God: It marks, so to speak, the initial moment when we begin to see the first light of dawn.

But just as dawn precedes and already heralds the day's light, so Christmas already announces the cross and the glory of the resurrection. Even the two times of year when we mark the two great feasts -- at least in some parts of the world -- can help us to understand this aspect. In fact, while Easter falls at the beginning of spring, when the sun breaks through the thick, chilly mists and renews the face of the earth, Christmas falls right at the beginning of winter, when the sun's light and warmth seek in vain to awaken nature enwrapped by the cold. Under this blanket, however, life throbs and the victory of the sun and warmth begins again.

The Fathers of the Church always interpreted Christ's birth in the light of the whole work of Redemption, which finds its summit in the Paschal Mystery. The incarnation of God's Son appears not only as the commencement and condition for salvation, but as the very presence of the mystery of our salvation: God becomes man; He is born a babe like us; He takes on our flesh to conquer death and sin.

Two important texts of St. Basil illustrate this well. St. Basil tells the faithful: "God assumes flesh to destroy death within it hidden. Just as antidotes to poison, when ingested, eliminate the poison's effects, and as the shadows within a house clear with the light of the sun; so death, which had dominated human nature, was destroyed by the presence of God. And as ice remains solid in water as long as night endures and shadows reign, but melts at once by the sun's heat, so death -- which had reigned until the coming of Christ -- as soon as the grace of God our Savior appeared, and the Sun of Justice arose, 'was swallowed up in victory' (1 Corinthians 15:54), for it cannot coexist with Life" (Homily on the Birth of Christ, 2: PG 31,1461).

And again, in another text St. Basil issues this invitation: "Let us celebrate the world's salvation and mankind's birth. Today Adam's guilt has been remitted. Now we need no longer say: 'you are dust and to dust you shall return' (Genesis 3:19), but rather: united to Him who descended from heaven, you shall be admitted into heaven (Homily on the Birth of Christ, 6: PG 31,1473).

At Christmas we encounter the tenderness and love of God, who stoops down to our limitations, to our weakness, to our sins -- and He lowers Himself to us. St. Paul affirms that Jesus Christ "though He was in the form of God ... emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7). Let us look upon the cave of Bethlehem: God lowers Himself to the point of being laid in a manger -- which is already a prelude of His self-abasement in the hour of His Passion. The climax of the love story between God and man passes by way of the manger of Bethlehem and the sepulcher of Jerusalem.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us joyously live the feast of Christmas, which now draws near. Let us live this wondrous event: The Son of God again is born "today"; God is truly close to each one of us, and He wants to meet us -- He wants to bring us to Himself. He is the true light, which dispels and dissolves the darkness enveloping our lives and mankind. Let us live the Lord's birth by contemplating the path of God's immense love, which raised us to Himself through the mystery of the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of His Son, for -- as St. Augustine affirms -- "In [Christ] the divinity of the Only Begotten was made a partaker of our mortality, so that we might be made partakers of His immortality" (Letter 187,6,20: PL 33: 839-840). Above all, let us contemplate and live this Mystery in the celebration of the Eucharist, the heart of Christmas; there, Jesus makes Himself really present -- as the true Bead come down from heaven, as the true Lamb sacrificed for our salvation.

To you and to your families I wish a truly Christian celebration of Christmas, such that even your exchange of greetings on that day will be expressions of the joy of knowing that God is near and wants to accompany us along life's journey. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Christmas approaches, I offer prayerful good wishes to you and your families for a spiritually fruitful celebration of the Lord's birth. At Midnight Mass, we sing: "Today a Saviour is born for us". This "Today" evokes an eternal present, for the mystery of Christ's coming transcends time and permeates all history. "Today" – every day - we are invited to discover the presence of God's saving love in our midst. In the birth of Jesus, God comes to us and asks us to receive him, so that he can be born in our lives and transform them, and our world, by the power of his love. The Christmas liturgy also invites us to contemplate Christ's birth against the backdrop of his paschal mystery. Christmas points beyond itself, to the redemption won for us on the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. May this Christmas fill you with joy in the knowledge that God has drawn near to us and is with us at every moment of our lives.

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© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Our Lady's Question to Gabriel
"The Virginity of Mary and the Divinity of Jesus are Reciprocally Guaranteed"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On this Fourth and last Sunday of Advent this year the liturgy presents us with the account of the angel's announcement to Mary. Contemplating the wondrous image of the Holy Virgin in the moment in which she receives the divine message and gives her answer, we are enlightened within by the always-new light of truth that shines forth from that mystery. For a brief moment I would like to reflect in particular on the importance of Mary's virginity, of the fact that she conceived Jesus remaining a virgin.

In the background of the event of Nazareth there is the prophecy of Isaiah: "Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, who will be called Emmanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). This ancient promise found an overflowing fulfillment in the Incarnation of the Son of God. In fact, not only did the virgin conceive but she did so by the power of the Holy Spirit, that is, by the power of God himself. The human being who begins to live in her womb takes flesh from Mary, but his existence comes totally from God. He is fully man, made from the earth -- to use a biblical symbol -- but comes from above, from heaven. That Mary conceives while remaining a virgin is essential for knowing Jesus and for our faith, because it shows that the initiative is God's and above all it reveals who it is that is conceived. As the Gospel says: "For this reason he who will be born will be holy and will be called Son of God" (Luke 1:35). In this sense, the virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus are reciprocally guaranteed.

This is why the one question that Mary, "greatly disturbed," asks the angel is so important: "How can this be since I do not know man?" (Luke 1:34). In her simplicity Mary is very wise: She does not doubt God's power, but wants to understand his will better so that she can completely conform to this will. Mary is infinitely surpassed by the mystery and yet, she perfectly occupies the post that she is assigned at its center. Her heart and her mind are completely humble, and, precisely because of her singular humility, God awaits this young woman's "yes" to realize his design. He respects her freedom. Mary's "yes" implies both maternity and virginity, and it desires that everything in her is for God's glory, and that the Son whom she will bear will be wholly the gift of grace.

Dear friends, Mary's virginity is unique and unrepeatable, but its spiritual significance regards every Christian. It, in substance, is linked to faith: In fact, those who deeply trust in the love of God welcome Jesus within themselves, his divine life, through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas! I hope that you will all live it with profound joy.


Pope's Address at Roman Prison
"Only That Child Who Was Laid in a Manger Is Able to Bestow Upon All This Complete Liberation"

ROME, DEC. 19, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday when he visited the prison of Rebbiba in northern Rome

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I visit you this morning with great joy and emotion shortly before the celebration of the Lord's birth. I offer a warm greeting to all, in particular the minister of justice, Honorable Paola Severino, the chaplains, whom I thank for the words of welcome addressed to me in their name. I greet Dr. Carmelo Cantone, the prison director, and the employees, prison police and volunteers who give their best for the activities of this institute. And I greet all of you prisoners in a special way, manifesting my nearness to you.

"I was in prison and you came to visit me" (Matthew 25:36). These are the words of the last judgment, as told by the Evangelist Matthew, and these words of the Lord, in which he identifies himself with prisoners, fully express the sentiments of my visit among you today. Wherever there is someone who is hungry, a stranger, a sick person, a prisoner, there is Christ himself who awaits our visit and our help. This is the principal reason why I am happy to be here, to pray, to dialogue, to listen. The Church has always counted visiting prisoners among the corporal works of mercy (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2447). For this to be complete there must be a complete capacity for welcoming the prisoner, "making space for him with our time, in our home, in our friendships, in our laws, in our cities" (Italian Bishops' Conference, "Evangelizzazione e testimonianza della carità," 39). In fact I would like to listen to each one's personal story, but unfortunately that is not possible; I have come however simply to say to you that God loves you with an infinite love, and you are always sons of God. And the same Only-Begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus, experienced prison, was tried by a court and was most brutally condemned to death.

On the occasion of my recent apostolic trip to Benin in November I signed a postsynodal apostolic exhortation in which I re-emphasized the Church's concern for justice in political communities, writing: "Independent judiciary and prison systems are urgently needed, therefore, for the restoration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders. It is time to put a stop to miscarriages of justice and ill-treatment of prisoners, and the widespread non-enforcement of the law which represents a violation of human rights, as well as imprisonment either without trial or else with much-delayed trial. The Church [...] recognizes her prophetic mission towards all those affected by crime and their need for reconciliation, justice and peace. Prisoners are human persons who, despite their crime, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They need our care" ("Africae munus," 77).

Dear brothers and sisters, human and divine justice are very different. Certainly, men are not able to work divine justice, but they must at least look to it, try to see the profound spirit that animates it, that it might enlighten human justice too to avoid -- as unfortunately is not a rare occurrence -- the situation in which the prisoner becomes one excluded. God, in fact, is he who powerfully proclaims justice but who, at the same time, cares for wounds with the balm of mercy.

The parable in Matthew's Gospel (20:1-16) about the workers called to work for a day in the vineyard helps us to understand in what this difference between human and divine justice consists, because it makes the delicate relationship between justice and mercy explicit. The parable describes a farmer who hires workers for his vineyard. However, he hires them at different times of the day and so some work the whole day and others only an hour. When it comes time to pay them the owner causes surprise and arguments among the workers.

The problem has to do with the generosity of the owner of the vineyard, which those present regard rather as injustice. He decides to give the same pay to the workers who came in the morning and those that came in the late afternoon. From the human perspective this decision is a real injustice; from God's perspective it is an act of goodness, because divine justice gives to each what he deserves and, moreover, includes mercy and forgiveness.

Justice and mercy, justice and charity, the hinges upon which the social doctrine of the Church turns, are two different realities only for men, who carefully distinguish a just act from an act of love. For us justice is "what is owed to another" and mercy is what is given out of goodness. And the one seems to exclude the other. But it is not so for God: in him justice and mercy coincide; there is no just action that is not also an act of mercy and forgiveness and, at the same time, there is no act of mercy that is not perfectly just.

How far God's logic is from ours! And how different is his way of acting from ours! The Lord invites us to understand and follow the true spirit of the law, observing it perfectly through love of those in need: "Love is the perfect observance of the law," St. Paul writes (Romans 13:10): Our justice will be all the more perfect the more it is animated by love of God and our brothers.

Dear friends, the detention system turns on two axes, both important: on one hand, the protection of society from possible threats, on the other hand, the reintegration of those who have made mistakes without stripping away their dignity and without excluding them from social life. Both aspects have their relevance and are instated so as not to create a "gulf" between the actual reality of imprisonment and that envisioned by law, which sees the function of re-education in punishment as a fundamental element along with respect for the rights and dignity of persons. Human life belongs to God alone, who has bestowed it, and it cannot be left to the mercy of anyone, not even our free will! We are called to protect the precious pearl of our own life and that of others.

I know that the overcrowding and deterioration of prisons can make detention all the more bitter: I have received various letters from prisoners that underscore this. It is important that institutions promote an attentive analysis of today's prison situation, that they examine the structures, methods, personnel in such a way that the prisoners never have to deal with a "double punishment"; it is important to promote a development of the penal system that, while respecting justice, is always more adequate to the exigencies of the human person, even with recourse to punishment that does not involve imprisonment or to different forms of detention.

Dear friends, today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. May the Lord's birth, which already draws near, rekindle the hope and love of your heart. The birth of the Lord Jesus, which we will commemorate in a few days, reminds us of his mission of bringing salvation to all men, none excluded. His salvation is not imposed, but reaches us through an act of love, of mercy and forgiveness that we ourselves know how to realize.

The Child of Bethlehem will be happy when all men return to God with a renewed heart. Let us ask him in silence and in prayer for us all to be released from the prison of sin, from haughtiness and pride: Everyone in fact needs to leave this interior prison to be truly free from evil, from anxiety and from death. Only that Child who was laid in a manger is able to bestow upon all this complete liberation!

I would like to conclude by telling you that the Church supports and encourages every effort directed toward guaranteeing everyone a dignified life. Be assured that I am near to each one of you, your friends, your babies, your young children, your elderly relatives and I carry all of you in my heart before God. May the Lord bless you and your future!


Papal Address to New Zealand, Pacific Bishops on 'Ad Limina' Visit
"Christian Faith Provides a Surer Basis for Life Than the Secular Vision"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2011 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the bishops of New Zealand and to the episcopal representatives of the Pacific Islands, in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

I am pleased to offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. This gathering is a tangible sign of our communion in faith and charity in the one Church of Christ. I wish to thank Archbishop Dew and Bishop Mafi for the kind words offered on your behalf. My cordial greetings go to the priests, the men and women religious, and those entrusted to your pastoral care. Please assure them of my prayers for their growth in holiness and of my affection for them in the Lord.

With gratitude to Almighty God, I note from your reports the many blessings which the Lord has bestowed upon your Jurisdictions. I am also aware of the challenges to the Christian life which are common to all of you, in spite of the many social, economic and cultural contexts in which you work. You have mentioned in particular the challenge set before you by the secularism characteristic of your societies, a reality that has a significant impact on the understanding and practice of the Catholic faith. This is seen specifically in a weakened appreciation for the sacred nature of Christian marriage and the stability of the family. In such a context, the struggle to lead a life worthy of the our baptismal calling (cf. Eph. 4:1) and to abstain from the earthly passions which wage war against ours souls (cf. 1 Pet 2:11) becomes ever more challenging. Yet we know that, ultimately, Christian faith provides a surer basis for life than the secular vision; for "it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of humanity truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

Thus, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization was recently established. Since the Christian faith is founded on the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the new evangelization is not an abstract concept but a renewal of authentic Christian living based on the teachings of the Church. You, as Bishops and Pastors, are called to be protagonists in formulating this response according to local needs and circumstances in your various countries and among your peoples. By strengthening the visible bonds of ecclesial communion, build among yourselves an ever stronger sense of faith and charity, so that those whom you serve, in their turn, may imitate your charity and be ambassadors of Christ both in the Church and in the civil arena.

As you face this historic challenge, you must do so under the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit, who also calls forth, consecrates and sends priests as "co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God" (Rite of Ordination of Priests). Dear Brother Bishops, I encourage you to have a special care for your priests. As you know, one of your first pastoral duties is to your priests and to their sanctification, especially those who are experiencing difficulties and those who have little contact with their brother priests. Be a father who guides them on the path to holiness, so that their lives may also attract others to follow Christ. We know that good, wise and holy priests are the best promoters of vocations to the priesthood. With the confidence that comes from faith, we can say that the Lord is still calling men to the priesthood, and you are aware that encouraging them to consider dedicating their lives fully to Christ is among your top priorities. In our day young people need more assistance with spiritual discernment so that they may know the Lord’s will. In a world affected by a "profound crisis of faith" (Porta Fidei,2), ensure too that your seminarians receive a well-rounded formation that will prepare them to serve the Lord and love his flock according to the heart of the Good Shepherd.

In this context, I wish to acknowledge the significant contribution to the spread of the Gospel made by the men and women religious present throughout your region, including those active in pastoral, catechetical, and educational fields. Together with those living a contemplative life, may they remain faithful to the charisms of their founders, which are always united with the life and discipline of the entire Church, and may their witness to God continue to be a beacon that points towards a life of faith, love and right living.

Likewise, the lay faithful’s role in the well-being of the Church is essential, since the Lord does not expect pastors "to undertake by themselves the entire saving mission of the Church" (Lumen Gentium, 30). I understand from your reports that your task of spreading the Gospel often depends on the assistance of lay missionaries and catechists. Continue to ensure that a sound and ongoing formation be afforded them, especially within the context of their associations. In so doing, you will equip them for every good work in the building up of the body of Christ (cf. 2 Tim 3:17; Eph 4:12). Their zeal for the faith under your continued leadership and support will surely bear much fruit in the vineyard of the Lord.

My dear Brother Bishops and Priests, as I have had this opportunity to discuss with you the New Evangelization, I do so mindful of the recently proclaimed Year of Faith, which "is intended to give a fresh impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead human beings out of the wilderness in which they find themselves" (Homily, 16 October 2011). May this privileged time serve as an inspiration as you join the entire Church in the ongoing efforts of the New Evangelization, for although you are spread among many islands and we are separated by great distances, together we profess "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all" (Eph 4:5-6). May you continue to be united among yourselves and with the Successor of Peter. Commending you to the intercession of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and assuring you of my affection and prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

[Original language: French and English; translation provided by the Vatican]

Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to University Students
"In the Stable of Bethlehem Man's Solitude Is Overcome"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to university students of Rome.

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"Be steadfast, brothers, until the coming of the Lord." (James 5:7)

With these words the Apostle James indicates the interior attitude necessary to prepare ourselves to hear and welcome again the proclamation of the birth of the Redeemer in the stable of Bethlehem -- ineffable mystery of light, of love and grace. To you, dear university students of Rome, I affectionately offer my greeting: I receive you with your desires, your expectations, your worries as Holy Christmas nears; and I also greet the academic communities that you represent. I thank the rector, Prof. Massimo Egidi, for the courteous words that he addressed to me in your name and with which he highlighted the delicate mission of the university professor. I greet with lively cordiality the minster for universities, Prof. Francesco Profumo, and the academic authorities of the various athenaeums.

Dear friends, St. James exhorts us to imitate the farmer, who "steadfastly waits for the precious fruit of the earth" (James 5:7). To you who live in the heart of the cultural and social world of our time, who experience the new and ever more refined technologies, you who are the protagonists of an historical dynamism that sometimes seems overwhelming, the Apostle's invitation might seem anachronistic, almost an invitation to leave history behind, to fail to see the fruits of your labor, of your research. But is this really how it is? Does the invitation to wait upon God draw us outside of time? And we might ask ourselves, even more radically: what does Christmas mean to me? Is it really important for my life, for the building up of society? There are many persons in our time, especially in the halls of the universities, who ask whether we are to expect something or someone; whether we must look for another messiah, another god; if it is worthwhile to entrust ourselves to that Child whom we find in the manger between Mary and Joseph on Christmas night.

The Apostle's exhortation to patient steadfastness, that might somewhat perplex the people of our time, is in fact the path toward a profound acceptance of the question of God, the meaning it has in life and history, because it is precisely in the patience, fidelity and steadfastness of the search for God, in the openness to him, that he reveals his face. We do not need a generic, indefinite god, but the living and true God, who opens the horizon of man's future to the prospect of a firm and sure hope, a hope that is rich with eternity and that permits us to face the present in all its aspects with courage. But we must ask ourselves then: where does my seeking find the true face of this God? Or better still: where does God himself come to show me his face, revealing his mystery, entering into my history?

Dear friends, St. James' invitation to us -- "Be steadfast, brothers, until the coming of the Lord" -- reminds us that the certainty of the great hope of the world is given to us and that we are not alone and that we are not the only architects of history. God is not far from man, but has descended and has become flesh (John 1:14), that man might understand where to find the solid foundation of all things, the fulfillment of his deepest longings: in Christ (cf. post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini," 10). Patience is the virtue of those who entrust themselves to this presence in history, who do not let themselves be overcome by the temptation of placing all hope in the immediate, in the purely horizontal perspective, in technically perfect projects, but which are far from the deepest of realities, that which gives the human person the highest dignity: the transcendent dimension, being a creature in the image and likeness of God, carrying in the heart the desire of ascending to him.

There is, however, another aspect that I would like to underscore this evening. St. James said to us: "Look at the farmer: he steadfastly waits" (James 5:7). God, in the incarnation of the Word, in the incarnation of his Son, experienced human time, his growth, his immersion in history. That child is the sign of the patience of God, who is the first of the patient, the steadfast, faithful to his love for us; he is the true "farmer" of history, who knows how to wait. How many times have men tried to build the world without or against God! The result is marked by the tragedy of ideologies that, in the end, showed themselves to be against man and his profound dignity. Patient steadfastness in the construction of history, both at the personal and communal level, is not the same as the traditional virtue of prudence, which is certainly necessary, but is something greater and more complex. Being steadfast and patient means learning how to construct history together with God, because the edifice will stand only if it is built upon him and with him; only thus will it not be instrumentalized for ideological ends but be something truly worthy of man.

This evening let us rekindle more fervently, then, the hope of our hearts, because the Word of God reminds us that the coming of the Lord is near, indeed, the Lord is with us and it is possible to build together with him. In the stable of Bethlehem man's solitude is overcome, our existence is no longer at the mercy of impersonal natural and historical forces, our house can be built upon the rock: we can plan our history, the history of humanity, not as a utopia but in the certainty that the God of Jesus Christ is present and walks with us.

Dear friends, we run with joy to Bethlehem, we embrace the Child that Mary and Joseph present to us. Let us begin again from him and with him, facing every difficulty. The Lord asks each of you to collaborate in the construction of the city of man, uniting faith and culture in a serious and passionate way. To this end I invite you always to seek the true face of God, helped by the pastoral journey that has been proposed to you this academic year. Seeking the face of God is the profound aspiration of our heart and it is also the answer to the fundamental question that always returns even in our contemporary society. You, dear friends, know that the Church of Rome, with the wise and solicitous guidance of the Cardinal Vicar and your chaplains, is near to you. Let us give thanks to the Lord because, as it was noted, 20 years ago Bl. John Paul II instituted the University Pastoral Care Office to serve the Roman academic community. The work undertaken promoted the creation and development of chaplaincies to connect with a well-organized network, where the formation programs of various public, private, Catholic and pontifical institutions can contribute to the elaboration of a culture that is at the service of man's integral growth.

At the conclusion of this liturgy, the image of the "Sedes Sapientiae" will be handed over by the Spanish university delegation to the delegation from La Sapienza University of Rome. A marian pilgrimage will begin among the chaplaincies, which I will accompany with prayer. Know that the Pope is counting on you and your testimony of fidelity and apostolic initiative.

Dear friends, with confidence this evening hurry along our way to Bethlehem, bringing the expectations and hopes of our brothers with us, that all might encounter the Word of life and entrust themselves to him. This is my wish for the Roman academic community: that you proclaim that the true face of God is in the Child of Bethlehem, who is so near to each one of us that no one can feel excluded, no one must doubt the possibility of meeting him, because he is the patient and faithful God, who knows how to wait and respect our freedom. We want to confess with confidence to him the deepest desire of our heart: "I seek your face, O Lord. Come, do not delay!" Amen.


On Jesus' Prayer as Love for God and Neighbor
"Petition, Praise and Thanksgiving Should Coalesce"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope continued with his reflections on Jesus' prayer.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to reflect with you on Jesus’ prayer as it relates to His prodigious healing action. In the Gospels, various situations are presented in which Jesus prays before the beneficent and healing work of God the Father, who acts through Him. It is a prayer that manifests once again His unique relationship of knowledge and communion with the Father, as Jesus becomes involved in a deeply human way in the difficulties of His friends; for example, of Lazarus and his family, or of the many poor and sick whom He wills to help concretely.

One important instance is the healing of the deaf man (Mark 7:32-37). The Evangelist Mark’s account -- which we just heard -- shows that Jesus’ healing action is connected to His intense relationship both with His neighbor -- the man who is ill -- and with the Father. The scene of the miracle is carefully described in this way: “And they brought to Him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought Him to lay His hand upon him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, He put His fingers into his ears and He spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him ‘Ephphata’, that is, ‘Be opened’.” (7:33-34).

Jesus wills that the healing occur “aside, [away] from the multitude”. This seems due not only to the fact that the miracle had to be kept hidden from the people to avoid their forming limited or distorted interpretations of the person of Jesus. The choice of taking the sick man aside causes Jesus and the deaf-mute to be alone -- close together in a unique relationship -- at the moment of the healing.

With a gesture, the Lord touches the ears and tongue of the man who is ill; i.e., the specific sites of his infirmity. The intensity of Jesus’ attention is revealed also in the unusual features of the healing: He uses His own fingers and even His own saliva. Also the fact that the Evangelist reports the original word pronounced by the Lord -- “Ephphata”, or “Be opened!” -- emphasizes the scene’s unique character.

But the central focus of this episode is the fact that Jesus -- at the moment He performs the healing -- looks directly to His relationship with the Father. The account says in fact that, “looking up to heaven, He sighed” (Verse 34). The attention given to the man who is ill, Jesus’ care for him, is tied to a profound attitude of prayer to God. And the sigh He emits is described with a word that, in the New Testament, indicates the aspiration to something good that is still lacking (cf. Romans 8:23).

The whole narrative, then, shows that human involvement with the man who is ill leads Jesus to prayer. Once again, His unique relationship with the Father re-emerges -- His identity as the Only Begotten Son. In Him, through His person, God’s healing and beneficent action is made present. It is not by chance that the people’s final comment following the miracle recalls the appraisal of creation found at the beginning of Genesis: “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).

Prayer enters clearly into Jesus’ healing action, with His gaze towards heaven. Certainly, the power that healed the deaf-mute was caused by [Jesus’] compassion for him, but it finds its origin in [His] recourse to the Father. The two relationships meet: the human relationship of compassion with the man, which enters into the relationship with God and thus becomes a healing.

In the Joannine account of the raising of Lazarus, this same dynamic is attested to with still greater evidence (cf. John 11:1-44). Here also are interwoven -- on one hand -- Jesus’ bond with a friend and his suffering -- and on the other -- His filial relationship with the Father.

Jesus’ human participation in the story of Lazarus has several special features. His friendship with him, as well as with his sisters Martha and Mary, is recalled repeatedly throughout the account. Jesus Himself affirms: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). His sincere affection for His friend is emphasized also by the sisters of Lazarus, as well as by the Jews (cf. John 11:3; 11:36); it manifests itself in Jesus’ being deeply moved at the sight of Martha's and Mary’s sorrow and of all of Lazarus’ friends, and it leads Him to weep -- so deeply human -- as He approaches the tomb: “When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept (John 11:33-35).

This bond of friendship, Jesus’ involvement and emotion before the suffering of Lazarus’ relatives and acquaintances, is interlinked throughout the narrative with a continual and intense relationship with the Father. From the outset, Jesus interprets the event in relation to His very identity and mission, and to the glorification that awaits Him. When he hears of Lazarus’ illness, in fact, He comments: “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it” (John 11:4).

The announcement of His friend’s death is also received by Jesus with profound human pain, but always with clear reference to His relationship with God and to the mission entrusted to Him; He says: “Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:14-15). The moment of Jesus’ explicit prayer to the Father before the tomb is the natural climax of the entire episode, which reaches across this double register of friendship with Lazarus and of filial relationship with God. Here also the two relationships go together. “Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” (John 11:41): it is a Eucharist.

The phrase reveals that Jesus did not retreat -- even for an instant -- from His prayer of petition for Lazarus’ life. His prayer continued; indeed, it strengthened the bond with His friend, and at the same time, it confirmed Jesus’ decision to remain in communion with the Father’s Will, with His plan of love, in which Lazarus’ illness and death are regarded as a place where the glory of God is made manifest.

Dear brothers and sisters, in reading this narrative each one of us is called to understand that in the prayer of petition to the Lord, we must not expect an immediate fulfillment of our requests, of our will; rather, we must entrust ourselves to the Father’s Will, interpreting each event within the perspective of His glory, of His design of love, which is often mysterious to our eyes.

This is why -- in our prayer -- petition, praise and thanksgiving should coalesce, even when it seems to us that God is not responding to our concrete expectations. Abandonment to God’s love, which precedes and accompanies us always, is one of the attitudes at the heart of our conversation with Him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments in this way on Jesus’ prayer in the account of the raising of Lazarus: “Jesus’ prayer, characterized by thanksgiving, reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits Himself to the One who in giving gives Himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; He is the ‘treasure’; in Him abides His Son’s heart; the gift is given ‘as well’”(Matthew 6:21 and 6:33) (2604).

This seems to me to be very important: before the gift is given, to adhere to Him who gives; the Giver is more precious than the gift. Also for us, then, beyond what God gives us when we call upon Him, the greatest gift He can give us is His friendship, His presence, His love. He is the precious treasure we should ask for and treasure always.

The prayer Jesus utters as the stone is rolled from the entrance to Lazarus’ tomb also presents a singular and unexpected development. In fact, after having given thanks to God the Father, He adds: “I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me” (John 11:42). With His prayer, Jesus wills to lead [us] to faith, to total trust in God and in His Will, and He wants to show that this God who so loved man and the world as to send His Only Begotten Son (cf. John 3:16), is the God of Life, the God who brings hope and who is able to reverse situations that are humanly impossible. The trustful prayer of a believer is therefore a living witness of this presence of God in the world, of His interest in man, of His action in realizing His plan of salvation.

The two prayers of Jesus that we have meditated upon -- which accompany the curing of the deaf-mute and the raising of Lazarus -- reveal that the deep bond between the love of God and the love of neighbor must enter into our prayer also. In Jesus, true God and true man, attention to the other -- especially to the needy and the suffering -- being moved before the sorrow of a beloved family, leads Him to turn to the Father, in that fundamental relationship that guides the whole of His life. But the opposite is also true: communion with the Father, constant dialogue with Him, drives Jesus to be uniquely attentive to the concrete situations of man in order to bring to them the consolation and love of God. The relationship with our fellow men leads us to the relationship with God, and [our relationship] with God leads us anew to our neighbor.

Dear brothers and sisters, our prayer opens the door to God, who teaches us to go out of ourselves constantly so that we might be able to become close to others, especially in moments of trial, to bring them consolation, hope and light. May the Lord grant that we be capable of prayer that is ever more intense, so that our personal relationship with God the Father may be strengthened. May He open our hearts to the needs of those around us and enable us to feel the beauty of being “sons in the Son” together with so many brothers and sisters. Thank you.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on prayer, we now consider Jesus’ own prayer, particularly in the context of his miracles of healing. Both the cure of the deaf man (Mk 7:32-37) and the raising of Lazarus (Jn 11:1-44) show us Jesus at prayer before cases of human suffering. His prayer on these occasions reveals not only his profound identification with the suffering but also his unique relationship with the Father. In the case of the deaf man, Jesus’ compassion leads him to introduce his prayer with a deep sigh (v. 34). In the case of Lazarus, he is deeply moved by the sorrow of Martha and Mary, and weeps before the tomb of his friend. At the same time, he sees the tragedy of Lazarus’ death in the light of the Father’s will and of his own identity and mission. Jesus’ example teaches us that in our own prayers we must always trust in the Father’s will and strive to see all things in the light of his mysterious plan of love. We too must join petition, praise and thanksgiving in every prayer, knowing that the greatest gift God can give us is his friendship, and that our example of prayer can open our hearts to our brothers and sisters in need and point others to God’s saving presence in our world.


On True Joy
"Not a Mere Passing State of Soul"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The liturgical texts of this period of Advent renew the invitation to us to live in expectation of Jesus and not to cease to await his coming and thus to maintain in us an attitude of openness and availability for the encounter with him. The vigilance of heart that the Christian is always called to exercise in everyday life characterizes this time in which we prepare ourselves with joy for the mystery of Christmas (cf. Advent Preface II). Elsewhere the usual commercial messages are proposed even if perhaps in a diminished way because of the economic crisis. The Christian is invited to live Advent without letting himself get distracted by the lights so that he can fix his interior gaze upon Christ and know how to assign things their proper value. If in fact we remain "vigilant in prayer and exultant in praise" (ibid.), our eyes will be able to recognize in him the true light of the world who comes to illuminate our darkness.

In particular this Sunday's liturgy, called "Gaudete," invites us to joy, to a vigilance that is not sorrowful but joyful. "Gaudete in Domino semper," St. Paul writes: "Rejoice in the Lord" (Philippians 4:4). True joy does not come from diversions, intended in the word's etymological sense: "di-vertere," being drawn away from life and from its responsibilities. True joy is linked to something much more profound. Naturally, in the daily round, which is often frenetic, it is important to find moments for rest, for relaxation, but true joy is connected with our relationship to God. Those who have met Jesus in their lives experience a serenity and a joy in their hearts that no one and no situation can take away. St. Augustine understood it quite well; in his search for truth, for peace, for joy, after having sought it in vain in many things, he concludes with the celebrated expression according to which man's heart is restless, does not find serenity and peace, until it finds rest in God (cf. Confessions, I, 1, 1). True joy is not a mere passing state of soul, nor something that is achieved by our own power but is a gift; it is born from the encounter with the living person of Jesus, from making space for him in us, from welcoming the Holy Spirit who guides our life. It is the invitation that the Apostle Paul makes, who says: "May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). In this Advent season let us strengthen our certainty that the Lord has come among us and continues to renew his presence of consolation, love and joy. We trust in him; again as St. Augustine says in light of his experience: the Lord is closer to us than we are to ourselves "interior intimo meo et superior summo meo" (Confessions, III, 6, 11).

Let us entrust our journey to the Immaculate Virgin, whose spirit exulted in God the Savior. May she be the one to guide our hearts in the joyous expectation of the coming of Jesus, an expectation that is rich in prayer and good works.

[Following the Angelus the Holy Father spoke to the faithful in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, today my first greeting is to the children of Rome, who have come for the traditional blessing of the statues of the Christ child that they will place in the crèche. This event was organized by the Centro Oratori Romani. I thank all of you! Dear children, when you pray before your crèche, remember me too as I will remember you. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

[In English he said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today for this Angelus prayer. In today's Gospel, we hear the voice of John the Baptist crying in the wilderness, encouraging us to prepare the way of the Lord. Through renewed faith, prayer and penance, may we too become authentic heralds of the Lord's coming among us at Christmas. May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you. Have a good Sunday. "Gaudete"!


On Mary, Full of Grace
"With Her 'Yes,' She Brought Heaven Near to Earth"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the Church solemnly celebrates the immaculate conception of Mary. As Pope Pius IX declared in his apostolic letter "Ineffabilis Deus" of 1854, she "was preserved from every stain of original sin by a special grace and privilege of almighty God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race." This truth of faith is contained in the Archangel Gabriel's words of greeting: "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! (Luke 1:28). The expression "full of grace" indicates the marvelous deed of the love of God, who desired to give back to us -- through his only-begotten incarnate Son, who died and rose again -- the life and freedom that we lost with sin. It was this that led the Church in the East and West to invoke and celebrate the Virgin who, with her "yes," brought heaven near to earth, becoming "the Mother of God and the nurse of our life," as St. Romanos the Melodist writes in an ancient song (Canticum XXV in Nativitatem B. Mariae Virginis, in J.B. Pitra, Analecta Sacra t. I, Parigi 1876, 198). In the 7th century St. Sophronius of Jerusalem praises the greatness of Mary since in her the Holy Spirit came to dwell: "You surpass all the gifts that God's magnificence ever bestowed on any human being. More than anyone you are made rich by God dwelling in you" (Oratio II, 25 in SS. Deiparæ Annuntiationem: PG 87, 3, 3248 AB). And St. Bede the Venerable explains: "Mary is blessed among women because with her virginity she enjoyed the grace of being the mother of a son who is God" (Hom I, 3: CCL 122, 16).

Upon us too is bestowed the "fullness of grace" that we must make shine in our life, because "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," St. Paul writes, "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing ... and has chosen us before the creation of the world to be holy and immaculate ... predestining us to be his adopted sons" (Ephesians 1:3-5). We receive this filiation through the Church on the day of baptism. In this regard St. Hildegard writes: "The Church is, therefore, the virgin mother of all Christians. By the secret power of the Holy Spirit she conceives them and gives them birth, offering them to God is such a way that they are also called sons of God" (Scivias, visio III, 12: CCL Continuatio Mediævalis XLIII, 1978, 142). And, finally, among the many who have sung of the spiritual beauty of the Mother of God, there stands out St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who says that the invocation "Hail, Mary, full of grace" is "pleasing to God, the angels and men. To men because of her maternity, to Angels because of her virginity and to God because of her humility" (Sermo XLVII, De Annuntiatione Dominica: SBO VI, 1, Roma 1970, 266).

Dear friends, in anticipation of the customary homage that we will pay to Mary in the Piazza di Spagna this afternoon, we offer our fervent prayer to her who intercedes with God that she might help us to celebrate with faith the Birth of the Lord, which is now drawing near.

[Following the Angelus the Holy Father spoke to the faithful in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear friends!

I offer a special greeting to the Pontifical Academy of the Immaculate, recalling with devotion and affection the mourned Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, who led it for so many years. May the Virgin assist you always, dear friends, in each of your activities.

[In English he said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors on this great feast-day when we honor the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her sinless perfection, Mary is a great sign of hope for the Church and for the world, a sign of the marvels that God's grace can accomplish in us, his human creatures. In these days of Advent, in company with the holy and immaculate Mother of God, let us prepare to welcome her Son into our lives and into our hearts. May God bestow his blessings of joy and peace upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish for all of you the best spiritual fruits on this feast of the Virgin Mary, of our Mother. Thank you. Happy feast day to all of you!


Pope's Address for Feast of Immaculate Conception
"Mary, in Fact, Is Wholly Associated With the Victory of Jesus Christ"

ROME, DEC. 8, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in honor of the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The great feast of Mary Immaculate invites us every year to gather here, in one of Rome’s most beautiful piazzas, to offer homage to her, to the Mother of Christ and our Mother. With affection I greet all of you who are present here and those who are joining us via radio and television. And I thank you for your choral participation in my act of prayer.

At the top of the column that we crown Mary is represented by a statue that in part recalls the passage from the Book of Revelation that was just proclaimed: “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and, upon her head, a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). What is the meaning of this image? It represents both Our Lady and the Church.

First of all the “woman” of the Book of Revelation is Mary herself. She appears “clothed in the sun,” that is, clothed in God: the Virgin Mary is in fact surrounded by the light of God and lives in God. This symbol of the luminous garments expresses a condition that regards the whole of Mary’s being: she is the one who is “full of grace,” filled with the love of God. And “God is light” as St. John says (1 John 1:5). This is why she who is “full of grace,” the “Immaculate” reflects with her whole person the light of the “sun” that is God.

This woman has the moon beneath her feet, the symbol of death and mortality. Mary, in fact, is wholly associated with the victory of Jesus Christ, her Son, over sin and death; she is free from every shadow of death and is completely filled with life. As death no longer has any power over the risen Jesus (cf. Romans 6:9), thus, by a grace and a singular privilege of almighty God, Mary has left death behind, she has overcome it. And this is manifested in the two great mysteries of her life: at the beginning, being conceived without original sin, which is the mystery that we celebrate today; and, at the end, being assumed in soul and body into heaven, into God’s glory. But also her whole life on earth was a victory over death, because it was spent entirely in the service of God, in the complete offering of herself to God and neighbor. Because of this Mary is in herself a him to life: she is the creature in whom the word of Christ is already realized: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

In the vision of the Book of Revelation there is another detail: upon the head of the woman clothed in the sun there is “a crown of twelve stars.” This sign represents the 12 tribes of Israel and means that the Virgin Mary is at the center of the People of God, of the whole communion of saints. And thus this image of the crown of twelve stars introduces us to the second great interpretation of the celestial sign of the “woman clothed in the sun”: besides representing our Lady, this sign personifies the Church, the Christian community of all times. She is pregnant, in the sense that she carries Christ in her womb and must bear him for the world: this is the suffering of the pilgrim Church on earth, who in the midst of God’s consolations and the world’s persecution must bring Jesus to men.

It is precisely for this, because she brings Jesus, that the Church meets the opposition of a ferocious adversary, represented in the Book of Revelation by the “great red dragon” (Revelation 12:3). This dragon sought in vain to devour Jesus – the “male child destined to govern all the nations” (12:5). The dragon tries in vain because Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has ascended to God and he has taken his seat upon his throne. This is why the dragon, defeated once and for all in heaven, turns his attacks toward to the woman – the Church – in the wilderness of the world. But in every age the Church is sustained by the light and by the power of God, which nourishes her in the wilderness with the bread of his Word and the Holy Eucharist. And so in every tribulation, through all of the trials that she meets in the course time and in different parts of the world, the Church suffers persecution but is always victorious in the end. And precisely in this way the Christian community is the presence, the guarantee of God’s love against every ideology of hatred and egoism.

The only threat the Church can and must fear is the sin of her members. While, in fact, Mary is the Immaculate, free from every stain of sin, the Church is holy, but at the same time she is stained by our sins. This is why the People of God, in pilgrimage through time, turns to its heavenly Mother and implores her help; it asks this so that she might accompany us on the journey of faith, that she might encourage the undertaking of a Christian life and support our hope. We need her above all in this very difficult moment for Italy, for Europe, for various parts of the world. Mary helps us to see that there is a light beyond the dark clouds that seems to envelop reality. For this reason we too, especially on this occasion, do not cease ask for her help with filial confidence: “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” Ora pro nobis, intercede pro nobis ad Dominum Iesum Christum!


On Jesus' Cry of Exultation
"We Too, By the Gift of His Spirit, Can Turn to God in Prayer With the Confidence of Children"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 7, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language address Benedict XVI gave during today's general audience. He continued with his reflection on Jesus' prayer.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The Evangelists Matthew and Luke (cf. Matthew 11:25-30 and Luke 10:21-22) have bequeathed to us a “jewel” of Jesus’ prayer, which often is called the Cry of Exultation or the Cry of Messianic Exultation. It is a prayer of gratitude and of praise, as we just heard. In the original Greek of the Gospels, the word with which this hymn begins -- and which expresses Jesus’ attitude in addressing the Father -- is exomologoumai -- often translated as “I give praise” (Matthew 11:25 and Luke 10:21). But in the writings of the New Testament, this word indicates principally two things: the first is “to confess” -- as for example, John the Baptist asked those who went out to be baptized by him to confess their sins (cf. Matthew 3:6); and the second is “to be in agreement." Therefore, the expression with which Jesus begins His prayer contains His full confession of the Father’s action -- and with it, His being in total, conscious and joyous agreement with this way of acting -- with the Father’s plan. The Cry of Exultation is the apex of a journey of prayer in which Jesus’ profound and intimate communion with the life of the Father in the Holy Spirit clearly emerges and reveals His divine Sonship.

Jesus addresses God by calling Him “Father”. This word expresses Jesus’ awareness and certainty in being “the Son” in intimate and constant communion with Him, and this is the focus and source of all of Jesus’ prayer. We see this clearly in the hymn’s conclusion, which illumines the entire text. Jesus says: “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Luke 10:22). Jesus affirms, therefore, that only “the Son” truly knows the Father.

Every knowing between persons -- we all experience this in our human relationships -- implies involvement, some interior bond between the one who knows and the one known, at a more or less profound level: We cannot know one another without a communion of being. In the Cry of Exultation -- as in all of His prayer -- Jesus shows that true knowledge of God presupposes communion with Him. It is only by being in communion with the other that I may begin to know him; and so it is with God: only if I am in true contact, if I am in communion with Him, may I also know Him. Therefore, true knowledge is reserved to the “Son,” the Only Begotten who is forever in the bosom of the Father (cf. John 1:18), in perfect unity with Him. Only the Son truly knows God, by being in an intimate communion of being -- only the Son can truly reveal who God is.

The name “Father” is followed by a second title, “Lord of heaven and earth.” With this expression, Jesus recapitulates the belief in Creation and echoes the first words of Sacred Scripture: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Praying, He recalls the great biblical narrative of the history of God’s love for man, which begins with the act of Creation. Jesus enters into this history of love -- He is its summit and fulfillment. In His experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture is illumined and comes alive in its fullest breadth: the announcement of the mystery of God and the response of man transformed. But in the expression “Lord of heaven and earth” we are able also to recognize how in Jesus -- the Revealer of the Father -- there is reopened to man the possibility of gaining access to God.

Let us now ask ourselves the question: To whom does the Son wish to reveal the mysteries of God? At the beginning of the hymn Jesus expresses His joy, for the Father’s Will is to keep these things hidden from the learned and the wise and to reveal them to the little ones (cf. Luke 10:21). In this expression of His prayer, Jesus reveals His communion with the decision of the Father, who reveals His mysteries to the simple of heart: the Son’s Will is one with the Father’s.

Divine revelation does not come to pass according to worldly logic, which says that it is the cultured and the powerful who possess important knowledge and who transmit it to simpler people, to the little ones. God used a wholly different way: The recipients of His communication were precisely the “little ones.” This is the Father’s Will, and the Son joyously shares it with Him. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “His exclamation, ‘Yes, Father!’ expresses the depth of His heart, His adherence to the Father's ‘good pleasure,’ echoing His mother's Fiat at the time of his conception and prefiguring what He will say to the Father in his agony. The whole prayer of Jesus is contained in this loving adherence of His human heart to the mystery of the will of the Father (Ephesians 1:9)” (2603).

Hence derives the invocation we address to God in the Our Father: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”: Together with Christ and in Christ, we also ask to enter into harmony with the Father’s Will, and in this way we also become His children. Therefore, in this Cry of Exultation, Jesus expresses His Will to draw into His own filial knowledge of God all those whom the Father wishes to share in it; and those who welcome this gift are the “little ones.”

But what does it mean “to be little,” to be simple? What is the “littleness” that opens man to filial intimacy with God and to the welcoming of His Will? What must the fundamental attitude of our prayer be? Let us look to “The Sermon on the Mount,” where Jesus affirms: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). It is purity of heart that allows us to recognize the face of God in Jesus Christ -- it is having a simple heart, like those of children -- free from the presumption of the one who is closed in on himself, who thinks he has no need of anyone -- not even God.

It is also interesting to note the circumstances in which Jesus breaks into this hymn to the Father. In Matthew’s Gospel narrative, it is joy in the fact that -- despite the opposition and refusal of many -- there are “little ones” who welcome His word and who open themselves to the gift of faith in Him. The Cry of Exultation, in fact, is preceded by the contrast between the praise of John the Baptist -- one of the “little ones” who recognized God acting in Christ Jesus (cf. Mathew 11:2-19) -- and the reproof for the incredulity of the lake cities “where most of His mighty works had been done” (cf. Matthew 11:20-24).

The exultation is seen by Matthew, therefore, in relation to the words with which Jesus notes the efficacy of His word and of His action: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Matthew 11:4-6).

St. Luke also presents the Cry of Exultation in connection with a moment of development in the proclamation of the Gospel. Jesus sent out the “seventy-two disciples” (Luke 10:1), and they departed with a sense of fear over the possible failure of their mission. Luke also emphasizes the refusal encountered in the cities where the Lord had preached and accomplished mighty works. But the seventy-two disciples return full of joy, because their mission was successful; they witnessed that with the power of Jesus’ word, the evils of men are conquered. And Jesus shares their satisfaction: “in that same hour” -- in that moment -- He rejoiced.

There are still two elements I would like to emphasize. The Evangelist Luke introduces the prayer with the annotation: “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21). Jesus rejoices from His inmost being, in what He holds most deeply: [His] unique communion of knowledge and love with the Father, the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In drawing us into His Sonship, Jesus invites us also to open ourselves to the light of the Holy Spirit, since -- as the Apostle Paul affirms -- “[We] do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words … according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27) and He reveals to us the Father’s love.

In Matthew’s Gospel -- following the Cry of Exultation -- we find one of Jesus’ most heartfelt appeals: “Come to me, all who are weary are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus asks us to go to Him, for He is true Wisdom -- to Him, for He is “gentle and humble of heart.” He offers us “His yoke” -- the road of the wisdom of the Gospel -- which is neither a doctrine to be learned nor an ethical system, but a Person to be followed: He Himself, the Only Begotten Son in perfect communion with the Father.

Dear brothers and sisters, we have experienced for a moment the riches of this prayer of Jesus. We too, by the gift of His Spirit, can turn to God in prayer with the confidence of children, calling upon Him with the name Father, “Abba.” But we must have the heart of the little ones, of the “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) -- in order to recognize that we are not self-sufficient, that we are unable to build our lives alone, that we need God -- we need to encounter Him, to listen to Him, to speak to Him. Prayer opens us to receive the gift of God -- His Wisdom -- which is Jesus Himself, in order to accomplish the Father’s Will in our lives and thus to find rest amidst the hardships of our journey. Thank you.

[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 are considering the teaching and example given us by Jesus himself. In the "cry of exultation" recorded for us by the evangelists Matthew and Luke, Jesus gives thanks to the Father because he has willed to reveal the mystery of salvation not to the wise and learned, but to the "little ones" (cf. Mt 11:25-30; Lk 10:21-22). This magnificent prayer has its source in Jesus’ profound communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit; as the eternal Son, Jesus alone "knows" the Father and rejoices in complete openness to his will. Indeed, "no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Lk 10:22). In this prayer, then, the Lord expresses his desire to share his knowledge of the Father with the "little ones", the pure of heart and those open to the divine will. In Saint Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ cry of exultation is followed by his words: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (11:28). Jesus is the source and model of our prayer; through him, in the Holy Spirit, we can turn with trust to God our Father, confident that, in doing his will, we shall find true freedom and peace.

I offer a warm welcome to the Missionaries of Charity and their families. Upon all the English-speaking visitor present, including the various pilgrimage groups from the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Preparing for Christmas
"We Must Let Ourselves Be Illumined by the Ray of Light That Comes From Bethlehem"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 5, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday marks the second stage of Advent. This period of the liturgical year highlights two figures who had a pre-eminent role in the preparation of Jesus Christ’s entering into history: the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. Today’s text from the Gospel of Mark focuses precisely on the latter. In fact it describes the personality and mission of the Precursor of Christ (cf. Mark 1:2-8). Beginning with externals, John is presented as a very ascetic figure: he is clothed in camel skins, he eats locusts and wild honey and he lives in the wilderness of Judea (cf. Mark 1:6). Jesus himself, once contrasted him with those “who live in the palaces of kings” and “wear soft garments” (Matthew 11:8). John the Baptist’s style should recall all Christians to choose a sober lifestyle, especially in preparation for the feast of Christmas in which the Lord -- as St. Paul says -- “although he was rich, became poor for your sake, that you might become rich through his poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

In regard to John’s mission, it was an extraordinary call to conversion: his baptism “is connected to an ardent call to a new way of thinking and acting, but above all with the proclamation of God’s judgment” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” Ignatius Press, 2008, p. 14) and of the imminent appearance of the Messiah, defined as “he who is greater than me” and who “will baptize in the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:7, 8). John’s message thus goes further and deeper than a sober way of life: it calls us to interior change, beginning with the acknowledgement and confession of our sin. As we prepare ourselves for Christmas, it is important that we look within ourselves and we sincerely reflect on our life. We must let ourselves be illumined by the ray of light that comes from Bethlehem, the light of him who is “the greater one” and made himself small, the “strongest one” and made himself weak.

All four of the evangelists describe the preaching of John the Baptist making reference to a passage of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice cries out: in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). Mark also inserts a citation from another prophet, Malachi, which says: “Behold, I send my messenger before you: he will prepare your way” (Mark 1:2; cf. Malachi 3:1). These references to the scriptures of the Old Testament “speak of a saving intervention of God, who emerges from his hiddenness to judge and save; it is for this God that the door is to be opened and the way made ready” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” p. 15).

To the maternal intercession of Mary, the Virgin of expectation, let us entrust our path toward the Lord, while we continue our Advent itinerary of making our heart and our life ready for the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the faithful in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

In the upcoming days in Geneva and in other cities the 50th anniversary of the institution of the International Organization for Migration, the 60th anniversary of the convention on the status of refugees and the 50th anniversary of the convention on the reduction of cases of statelessness will be marked. I entrust to the Lord those who must -- and often are forced -- to leave their own country or are deprived of citizenship. While I encourage solidarity with them, I pray for all those who expend themselves to protect and assist these brothers in these emergency situations, even exposing themselves to great toil and danger.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. Today we mark the second Sunday of Advent by a Gospel passage where John the Baptist calls us to conversion. May we heed his call to repentance and ask the Lord to forgive us our sins, so that Emmanuel, God-with-us, may find us ready when he comes. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

A wish everyone a good Sunday. Have a good Sunday and a good week! Thank you!


Papal Address to International Theological Commission
"A Truly Catholic Theology ... Is Necessary Today More Than Ever"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 6, 2011- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave last Friday to the members of the International Theological Commission.

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Lord Cardinal,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Illustrious Professors, dear Co-workers!

It is a great joy for me to be able to receive you at the conclusion of the annual plenary session of the International Theological Commission. I would like first of all to express sincere gratitude for the words Cardinal William Levada wished to address to me in your name in his capacity of president of the Commission.

This year the work of this session coincided with the first week of Advent, an occasion that brings to mind that every theologian is called to be a man of advent, a witness of vigilant expectation, who sheds light on the ways of the intelligence of the Word made flesh. We can say that the knowledge of the true God looks to and continually lives from that "hour," unknown to us, when the Lord will return. Maintaining this vigilance and keeping alive the hope of this expectation are not, therefore, a secondary task for proper theology, which finds its reason for being in the Person of him who comes to meet us and enlightens our knowledge of salvation.

Today I would like to reflect briefly with you on the three themes that the International Theological Commission has been studying in recent years. The first, as was said, regards the basic question for all theological reflection: the question of God and in particular the understanding of monotheism. Within this broad doctrinal horizon you have also studied a topic of an ecclesial nature: the meaning of the social doctrine of the Church, paying special attention to a theme that has relevance in contemporary theological thought about God: the question of the status itself of theology today, its prospects ["prospettive"], its principles and criteria.

Behind the Christian faith's profession of the one God we find the daily profession of faith of the people of Israel: "Here, O Israel: the Lord is our God. The Lord is the only God" (Deuteronomy 6:4). The unheard of fulfillment of the free bestowal of God's love on all men was realized in the incarnation of the Son in Jesus Christ. In this revelation of God's intimacy with man and his bond of love with man, the monotheism of the one God is illumined by a completely new light: the trinitarian light. And in the trinitarian mystery, fraternity among men is also illumined. Christian theology, together with Christian life, must restore the happy and clear evidence of the impact of the trinitarian revelation on our community. While the ethnic and religious conflicts in the world make it more difficult to accept the singularity of Christian thinking about God and the humanism inspired by it, men can recognize in the Name of Jesus Christ the truth of God the Father toward which the Holy Spirit draws every longing of creatures (cf. Romans 8). Theology, in fruitful dialogue with philosophy, can help believers to become aware and bear witness that trinitarian monotheism shows us the true face of God, and this monotheism is not the cause of violence, but is a force for personal and universal peace.

The point of departure of every Christian theology is the acceptance of this divine revelation: the personal acceptance of the Word made flesh, listening to the Word of God in Scripture. From this starting point theology assists the believing intelligence of faith and its transmission. But the whole history of the Church shows that to reach the unity of faith, the acknowledgement of the point of departure is not enough. The Bible is always read in a given context and the only context in which the believer can be in full communion with Christ is the Church and her living Tradition. We must always re-live the experience of the first disciples, who "persevered in the teaching of the apostles and in communion, in the breaking of the bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). From this perspective the Commission studied the principles and criteria according to which a theology can be Catholic, and also reflected on the contribution of contemporary theology. It is important to remember that Catholic theology, always attentive to the link between faith and reason, had an historical role in the birth of the university. A truly Catholic theology, with the two movements, "intellectus quaerens fidem et fide quaerens intellectum" (understanding seeking faith and faith seeking understanding), is necessary today more than ever, to make a symphony of the sciences possible and to avoid the violent derivations of a religiosity that opposes itself to reason and a reason that opposes itself to religion.

The Theological Commission has studied the relation between the social doctrine of the Church and Christian teaching as a whole. The Church's social engagement is not merely something human nor is it a mere social theory. The transformation of society carried out by Christians over the centuries is a response to the coming of the Son of God into the world: the splendor of this Truth and Charity enlightens every culture and society. St. John says: "By this we know love; that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our life for the brethren" (1 John 3:16). The disciples of Christ the Redeemer know that without the solicitude for the other, forgiveness, love even for enemies, no human community can live in peace; and this begins in the first and fundamental society that is the family. In the necessary collaboration on behalf of the common good even with those who do not share our faith, we must make the true and profound religious reasons for our social commitment present so that the joint effort occurs with transparency. Those who have recognized the bases for Christian social action can also thus have a motivation to take the same faith in Jesus Christ into consideration.

Dear friends, our meeting confirms in a significant way how much the Church needs the competent and faithful reflection of theologians on the mystery of the God of Jesus Christ and his Church. Without healthy and vigorous theological reflection the Church runs the risk of not fully expressing the harmony between faith and reason. At the same time, without the faithful living of communion with the Church and adherence to the Magisterium, which is the vital space of its existence, theology would not succeed in giving an adequate reason for the gift of faith.

Extending, through you, greetings and encouragement to all brother and sister theologians working in various ecclesial contexts, I invoke for you the intercession of Mary, the Woman of Advent and the Mother of the Incarnate Word, who is for us, in her carrying of the Word in her heart, the paradigm of proper theologizing, the sublime model of the true knowledge of the Son of God. May she, the Star of Hope, guide and protect the precious work that you undertake for the Church and in the name of the Church. With these sentiments of gratitude, I renew my Apostolic Benediction. Thank you.


On The Prayer of Jesus
"To listen, to meditate, to fall silent before the Lord who speaks is an art that is learned by practicing it with constancy"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope continued with his series on prayer, turning today to the theme of Jesus’ prayer.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In recent catecheses, we have reflected on several examples of prayer from the Old Testament. Today, I would like to begin to look to Jesus and to His prayer, which runs through the whole of His life like a secret channel irrigating His existence, His relationships and His acts -- and which guides Him with steady constancy to the total giving of Himself according to God the Father’s plan of love. Jesus is also the Master for our prayer; indeed, He is the fraternal and active support each and every time we turn to the Father. Truly, as a title from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes it, “Prayer is fully revealed and realized in Jesus” (541-547). To Him we wish to look in the upcoming catecheses.

A particularly significant moment along His path is the prayer that follows the baptism He submitted to in the Jordan River. The Evangelist Luke notes that Jesus -- after having received baptism at the hands of John the Baptist together with all the people -- enters into an intensely personal and prolonged prayer: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him” (Luke 3:21-22). It is precisely this “praying” in conversation with the Father that illumines the action He accomplished together with so many from among His own people who had come to the banks of the Jordan. By praying, He gives to his baptism an exclusive and personal character.

The Baptist had issued a strong appeal to live truly as “sons of Abraham” by converting to the good and by bearing fruit worthy of such repentance (cf. Luke 3:7-9). And a great number of Israelites were moved -- as the Evangelist Mark records, who writes: “And there went out … [to John] all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by Him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). The Baptist was bringing something truly new: submitting to baptism had to mark a decisive turning point -- a leaving behind of behavior tied to sin and the beginning of a new life.

Even Jesus welcomes this invitation -- He enters into the grey multitude of sinners who wait along the banks of the Jordan. However, as in the early Christians, so also in us the question arises: Why did Jesus voluntarily submit to this baptism of repentance and conversion? He had no need to confess sins -- He had no sin -- and therefore He had no need of conversion. Why then this act? The Evangelist Matthew reports the Baptist’s astonishment: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” and Jesus’ response: “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all justice” (Verse 15). In the biblical world, the word “justice” means to accept the Will of God fully. Jesus shows His closeness to that portion of His people who, following the Baptist, acknowledge the insufficiency of merely considering themselves children of Abraham -- but who want also to do God’s Will, who want to devote themselves to making their conduct a faithful response to the covenant God offered to Abraham.

Therefore, in descending into the river Jordan, Jesus -- who is without sin -- visibly manifests His solidarity with those who recognize their own sins, who choose to repent and to change their lives; He makes us understand that being part of God’s people means entering into a renewed perspective on life -- lived in accordance with God.

In this act, Jesus anticipates the Cross; He begins His activity by taking the place of sinners; by taking upon his shoulders the weight of the guilt of all mankind; by fulfilling the Father’s Will. By recollecting Himself in prayer, Jesus manifests the intimate bond He shares with the Father Who is in Heaven; He experiences His paternity; He welcomes the demanding beauty of His love -- and in conversation with the Father, He receives confirmation of His mission. In the words that resound from Heaven (cf. Luke 3:22), there is an early reference to the Paschal Mystery, to the Cross, and to the Resurrection. The divine voice calls Him “My Son, the Beloved” -- recalling Isaac, the well beloved son whom Abraham his father was ready to sacrifice in accordance with God’s command (cf. Genesis 22:1-14).

Jesus is not only the Son of David, the royal messianic descendent, or the Servant in whom God is well pleased -- He is also the Only-Begotten Son, the Beloved -- similar to Isaac -- whom God the Father gives for the salvation of the world. In the moment when, through prayer, Jesus profoundly lives His own Sonship and the experience of the Father’s Paternity (cf. Luke 3:22b), the Holy Spirit descends (cf. Luke 3:22a) -- [the Spirit] who guides Him in His mission and whom [Jesus] will pour forth once He has been lifted up upon the Cross (cf. John 1:32-34; 7:37-39), that He may illumine the Church’s work. In prayer, Jesus lives an uninterrupted contact with the Father in order to carry out to the end the plan of love for mankind.

The whole of Jesus’ life -- lived in a family profoundly tied to the religious tradition of the people of Israel -- stands against the backdrop of this extraordinary prayer. The references we find in the Gospels demonstrate this: His circumcision (cf. Luke 2:21) and His presentation in the temple (cf. Luke 2:22-24), as well as the education and formation He received at Nazareth in the holy house (cf. Luke 2:39-40 and 2:51-52). We are speaking here of “about thirty years” (Luke 3:23), a long period of hidden, daily life -- even if marked by experiences of participation in moments of communal religious expression, like the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (cf. Luke 2:41).

In narrating for us the episode of the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple, sitting among the teachers (cf. Luke 2:42-52), the Evangelist Luke emphasizes that Jesus, who prays after His baptism in the Jordan, has long been accustomed to intimate prayer with God the Father, [a prayer] rooted in the traditions and style of His family, and in the decisive experiences lived out within it. The 12-year-old’s response to Mary and Joseph already points to the divine Sonship that stands to be revealed by the heavenly voice following His baptism: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). In coming up out of the waters of the Jordan, Jesus does not inaugurate His prayer; rather, He continues his constant, habitual relationship with the Father -- and it is in His intimate union with Him that He completes the transition from the hidden life of Nazareth to His public ministry.

Certainly, Jesus’ teaching on prayer comes from the way He learned to pray within His family, but it has its deep and essential origin in His being the Son of God, in His unique relationship with God the Father. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church responds to the question: From whom did Jesus learn how to pray? in this way: “Jesus, with his human heart, learned how to pray from his mother and from the Jewish tradition. But his prayer sprang from a more secret source because he is the eternal Son of God who in His holy humanity offers His perfect filial prayer to His Father” (541).

In the Gospel narrative, the setting of Jesus’ prayer is found always at the crossroads between insertion into the tradition of His people and the newness of a unique personal relationship with God. “The lonely place” (cf. Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16) to which He often retires, “the mountain” He ascends in order to pray (cf. Luke 6:12; 9:28), “the night” that allows Him a time of solitude (cf. Mark 1:35; 6:46-47; Luke 6:12) all recall moments along the path of God’s revelation in the Old Testament, and indicate the continuity of His plan of salvation. But at the same time, they mark moments of particular importance for Jesus, who enters knowingly into this plan in utter faithfulness to the Father’s Will.

In our prayer also, we must learn increasingly to enter into this history of salvation whose summit is Jesus; [we must learn] to renew before God our personal decision to open ourselves to His Will, and to ask Him for the strength to conform our will to His -- in every aspect of our lives -- in obedience to His plan of love for us.

Jesus’ prayer touches all the phases of His ministry and all of His days. Hardships do not impede it. Indeed, the Gospels clearly show that it was a custom of Jesus’ to pass part of the night in prayer. The Evangelist Mark recounts one of these nights, after the hard day of the multiplication of the loaves, and he writes: “Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went into the hills to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land” (Mark 6:45-47).

When decisions become urgent and complex, His prayer becomes more prolonged and intense. Faced with the imminent choice of the Twelve Apostles, for example, Luke emphasizes that Jesus’ prayer in preparation for this moment lasted the entire night: “In these days He went out into the hills to pray; and all night He continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).

In looking to the prayer of Jesus, a question should arise in us: How do I pray? How do we pray? What sort of time do I dedicate to my relationship with God? Does there exist today a sufficient education and formation in prayer? And who can be its teacher?

In the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini I spoke of the importance of the prayed reading of Sacred Scripture. Having gathered the findings of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, I placed particular emphasis upon the specific form of lectio divina. To listen, to meditate, to fall silent before the Lord who speaks is an art that is learned by practicing it with constancy. Certainly, prayer is a gift that must first and foremost be welcomed -- it is the work of God -- but it demands commitment and continuity on our part; above all, continuity and constancy are important. The example of Jesus’ experience shows that His prayer, animated by the fatherhood of God and by the communion of the Spirit, deepened through prolonged and faithful exercise -- unto the Garden of Olives and the Cross.

Today, Christians are called to be witnesses to prayer because our world is often closed to divine horizons and to the hope that leads to an encounter with God. Through a deep friendship with Jesus -- and by living a filial relationship with the Father in Him and with Him -- by our faithful and constant prayer we can open the windows to God’s heaven. Indeed, in walking along the way of prayer --without regard for human concern -- we can help others to travel the same road: for it is true also of Christian prayer that, in travelling along its paths, paths are opened.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us form ourselves in an intense relationship with God, in prayer that is not occasional but constant, and full of trust, capable of illumining our lives, as Jesus teaches us. And let us ask Him that we may be able to communicate -- to the persons close to us and to those whom we meet on our streets -- the joy of encountering the Lord, Who is light for our lives. 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 prayer, we now turn to Jesus, who by his own example most fully reveals the mystery of Christian prayer. A significant moment in this regard is Jesus’ prayer following his Baptism, which expresses his both his deepest identity as the Son of God and his solidarity with the sinful humanity whom he came to save. Jesus’ prayer reflects his complete, filial obedience to the Father’s will, an obedience which would lead him to death on the Cross for the redemption of our sins. With his human heart, Jesus learned to pray from his Mother and from the Jewish tradition, yet the source of his prayer is his eternal communion with the Father; as the incarnate Son, he shows us perfectly how to pray as children of the heavenly Father. Jesus’ example of fidelity to prayer challenges us to examine the time and effort we devote to our own prayer. While prayer is a gift of God, it is also an art learned through constant practice. Jesus teaches us to pray constantly, but also to bear witness before others of the beauty of prayer, self-surrender and complete openness to God.

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Pope's Message to Ecumenical Patriarch for Feast of St. Andrew
"The Present Circumstances ... Present to Catholics and Orthodox the Same Challenge"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I for today's feast of St. Andrew. The message is dated last Thursday.

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"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing" (Romans 15:13)

In the communion of faith that we have received from the Apostles and in the fraternal charity that unites us, I unite myself wholeheartedly to the solemn celebration that Your Holiness presides over on the feast of the Apostle and Martyr St. Andrew, brother of Peter and holy Protector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to wish Your Holiness, the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and all the faithful, an abundance of heavenly gifts and divine blessings. My prayers, like those of all my Catholic brothers and sisters, accompany yours to invoke from God, our Father, who loves his Church and built it on the foundation of the Apostles, peace in the whole world, prosperity for the Church and the unity of all those who believe in Christ. The delegation I have sent you, led by my venerable brother Cardinal Kurt Koch, to whom I have entrusted this message of congratulations, is the tangible sign of my participation and I offer you the fraternal greeting of the Church of Rome.

I keep in my heart the still very fresh memory of our last meeting, when together, we made ourselves pilgrims of peace, in the city of Assisi, to reflect on the profound relation that unites the sincere search for God, for truth, for peace and justice in the world. I thank the Lord who has enabled me to reinforce with Your Holiness the bonds of sincere friendship and genuine fraternity that unite us, and to give witness to the whole world of the broad vision we share in regard to the responsibilities to which we are called as Christians and pastors of the flock that God has entrusted to us.

The present circumstances, whether of the cultural, social, economic, political or ecological order, present to Catholics and Orthodox the same challenge. The proclamation of the mystery of salvation through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ must be renewed forcefully today in the numerous regions that received the first light and today suffer the effects of a secularization capable of impoverishing man in his most profound dimension. Given the urgency of this task, we have the duty to offer the whole of humanity the image of persons mature in the faith, capable of coming together despite human tensions, thanks to the common search for truth, being conscious that the future of evangelization depends on the witness of unity given by the Church and of the quality of charity, as the Lord taught us in the prayer he gave us: "that they may all be one, so that the world may believe" (John 17:21). It is a great consolation for me to know that Your Holiness also, since you were called to the ministry of archbishop of Constantinople and of ecumenical patriarch 20 years ago, has always had present the question of the witness of the Church and of Your Holiness, in the contemporary world.

Holiness, on this day in which we celebrate the feast of the Apostle Andrew, we raise once again our ardent prayer to the Lord so that he will grant us to progress on the path of peace and reconciliation. That we may, through the intercession of St. Andrew and of Sts. Peter and Paul, holy patrons of the Church of Constantinople, and of the Church of Rome, respectively, receive the gift of unity that comes to us from on High.

With these sentiments of faith, charity and hope, I reiterate to you, Holiness, my most fervent congratulations and I exchange with you a fraternal embrace in Christ our Lord.


Pope's Address to Health Care Council
"The Face of the Savior ... Teaches Us to Protect and Promote Life"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave last Saturday to the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It is a great joy to meet with you on the occasion of the 26th international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers that has as its theme "Health Pastoral Care, Serving Life in the Light of the Magisterium of Blessed John Paul II." I am pleased to greet the bishops who oversee pastoral care in the health field, who have come together for the first time at the tomb of the Apostle Peter to confirm collegial approaches in this very delicate sphere of the Church's mission. I express my gratitude to the dicastery for its valuable service, beginning with the president, Monsignor Zygmunt Zimowski, whom I thank for the cordial words that he addressed to me and in which he also illustrated the work done during the conference. I also greet the secretary and undersecretary, both of whom were recently appointed, the officials and personnel along with the speakers and experts, the heads of the curial institutes, the health care workers, all those present and those who helped to organize the conference.

I am certain that your reflections contributed to a better understanding of "The Gospel of Life," the precious legacy of the magisterium of Blessed John Paul II. In 1985 he established this Pontifical Council to give [this message of life] a concrete witness in the vast and complex sphere of health care. Twenty years ago he instituted the celebration of the World Day of the Sick and he also launched the Good Samaritan Foundation [in 2004] as an instrument for charitable assistance to the poorest of the sick in various countries. I would like to call for a renewed commitment to the support of this foundation.

Over the long and intense years of his pontificate, Blessed John Paul II proclaimed that serving persons sick in body and spirit is a constant part of the ecclesial community's commitment to evangelization, following Jesus' command to the Twelve to go forth and heal the infirm (cf. Luke 9:2). In particular in the apostolic letter "Salvifici doloris" of February 11, 1984, my venerable predecessor states: "Suffering seems to belong to man's transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense 'destined' to go beyond himself, and he is called to this in a mysterious way" (2). The mystery of suffering seems to obscure the face of God, almost making him a stranger, or even identifying him as the one responsible for human suffering, but the eyes of faith can see into the depths of this mystery. God became incarnate, he drew near to man, even in the most difficult situations; he did not eliminate suffering, but in the Crucified and Risen One, in the Son of God who suffered unto death, and death on a cross, he reveals that his love descends even into man's deepest abyss to bring him hope. The Crucified One is risen; Easter morning illumines death: "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that whoever should believe in him would not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). In the Son, who was "given" for the salvation of humanity, the truth of love is, in a certain way, demonstrated through the truth of suffering, and the Church, born from the mystery of Redemption in the Cross of Christ, "has to try to meet man in a special way on the path of his suffering. In this meeting man 'becomes the way for the Church,' and this way is one of the most important ones" ("Salvifici doloris," 3).

Dear friends, your service of accompaniment, of nearness to our brothers who are sick, alone, often suffering from physical wounds but spiritual and moral wounds too, places you in a privileged position to bear witness to the salvific action of God, his love for man and the world, which embraces even the most painful and terrible situations. The Face of the Savior, dying upon the cross, of the Son who is consubstantial with the Father and suffers for us as a man (cf. ibid., 17) teaches us to protect and promote life, in whatever stage and in whatever condition it is found, recognizing the dignity and value of every single human being, created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27) and called to eternal life.

This vision of pain and suffering illuminated by the death and resurrection of Christ was born witness to by the slow Calvary of the final years of life of Blessed John Paul II, to whom we can apply the words of St. Paul: "I complete what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church" (Colossians 1:24). Firm and certain faith pervaded his physical weakness, rendering his sickness -- endured for the love of God, the Church and the world -- a concrete participation in the way of Christ, even to Calvary.

The "sequela Christi" (following of Christ) did not spare Blessed John Paul II from taking up his own cross every day to the very end, to be like his only Master and Lord, who from the cross became a point of attraction and salvation for humanity (cf. John 12:32; 19:37) and manifested his glory (cf. Mark 15:39). In the homily of the Holy Mass for the beatification of my venerable predecessor I recalled how "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" (Homily, May 1, 2011).

Dear friends, treasuring the witness that Blessed John Paul II lived in his own flesh, I hope that you too, in the exercise of your pastoral ministry and in your professional work, might discover in the glorious tree of the cross of Christ "the fulfillment and the complete revelation of the whole Gospel of life" ("Evangelium vitae," 50). In the service you provide in the various fields of health ministry, may you too experience that "only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much He loves me" ("Deus Caritas est," 18).

I entrust each of you, the sick, the families of all health care workers to the maternal intercession of Mary, and I gladly bestow upon you from my heart the apostolic blessing.


Pope's Address to Pontifical Council for the Laity
"God Is Known Through Men and Women Who Know Him"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday to the Pontifical Council for the Laity during its 35th plenary assembly.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to meet with you, members and advisers of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, gathered for the 35th plenary assembly. I greet in a particular way Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko and Monsignor Josef Clemens, the secretary, and I thank Cardinal Ry?ko for the courteous words that he has addressed to me. A cordial welcome to all of you, especially the laymen and women, who make up the dicastery. Since the last plenary assembly you have been engaged in various initiatives which His Eminence has already mentioned. I too would like to recall the congress for the laypeople of Asia, and World Youth Day in Madrid. They were very intense moments of faith and ecclesial life and they are also important in view of the great ecclesial events that we will be celebrating next year: the 13th ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization and the opening of the Year of Faith.

The congress for the laypeople of Asia was organized last year in Seoul, with the help of the Church in Korea, on the theme "Proclaiming Jesus Christ in Asia Today." The vast Asian continent contains different peoples, cultures and religions of ancient origin, but the Christian proclamation has so far only reached a small minority, which often -- as you yourself said Your Eminence -- live their faith in difficult circumstances, sometimes even real persecution. The meeting provided the occasion for the laity, the associations, the movements and the new communities that have been established in Asia to strengthen their commitment to and their courage in their mission. These brothers of ours admirably bear witness to their following of Christ, giving us a glimpse how their faith is opening up large areas for evangelization in Asia. I know that the Pontifical Council for the Laity is organizing a similar congress in Cameroon for the laypeople of Africa next year. These continental meetings are invaluable for giving impetus to the work of evangelization, to strengthen unity and to reinforce the bonds between particular Churches and the universal Church.

I would also like to draw attention to the last World Youth Day in Madrid. The theme of the gathering, as we know, was faith: "Rooted and Built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith" (cf. Colossians 2:7). And I truly was able to contemplate an incredible number of young people, enthusiastically gathered together from all over the world to encounter the Lord and experience universal brotherhood. An extraordinary flood of light illuminated Madrid, and not only Madrid, but old Europe too and the whole world, re-proposing the pertinence of the search for God in a clear way. No one was able to remain indifferent, no one was able to think that the question of God is irrelevant for man today. The young people of the whole world anxiously await the celebration of these special gatherings dedicated to them, and I know that you are already working on the next one in Rio de Janeiro in 2013.

In this respect it seems to me to be particularly important that there was a wish to treat the topic of God in this year's general assembly, whose theme was "The Question of God Today." We must never tire of re-proposing this question, to "begin again from God," to give back to man the totality of his dimensions, his complete dignity. In fact, a mentality that is widespread in our time that rejects every reference to the transcendent, has shown itself to be incapable of preserving the human. The spread of this mentality has generated the crisis that we are experiencing today, which is a crisis of meaning and of values before it is an economic and social crisis. Those who try to live in a positivistic way, in the calculable and the measurable, become suffocated in the end. In this context the question of God is, in a sense, "the question of all questions." It brings us back to man's most basic questions, to the aspirations for truth, happiness and freedom that are native to his heart, that seek a realization. The man who reawakens the question about God in himself becomes open to hope, to a trustworthy hope, for which it is worthwhile to face the toil of the journey in the present (cf. "Spe salvi," 1).

But how do we reawaken the question of God so that it becomes the fundamental question? Dear friends, if it is true that at the beginning "[b]eing Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person" ("Deus caritas est," 1), the question of God is reawakened in meeting those who have the gift of faith, with those who have a living relationship with the Lord. God is known through men and women who know him: the way to him passes, in a concrete way, through those who have met him. Here your role as laypeople is particularly important. As "Christifideles laici" observes, this is your specific vocation. In the Church "a particular place falls to the lay faithful, by reason of their 'secular character,' obliging them, in their proper and irreplaceable way, to work towards the Christian animation of the temporal order" (36). You are called to bear a transparent witness to the relevance of the question of God in every sphere of thought and action. In the family, in the workplace and in politics and the economy, contemporary man needs to see with his own eyes and touch how it is that with God or without God everything changes.

But the challenge posed by a mentality closed to transcendence obliges Christians themselves to return in a more decisive way to the centrality of God. Now and then there is an effort to make the presence of Christians more incisive in society, politics or the economy, and perhaps there has not been a corresponding concern for the solidity of their faith, almost as if it were something acquired once and for all. In reality Christians do not inhabit a distant planet that is immune to the "diseases" of the world, rather they share the anxieties, the disorientation and the difficulties of their time. Thus, it is not less urgent to re-propose the question of God even in the ecclesial sphere. How often, despite calling themselves Christians, do the faithful not in fact make God the central point of reference in their way of thinking and acting, in their fundamental decisions in life? The first response to the great challenge of our time is then the profound conversion of our heart, so that the Baptism that made us the light of the world and the salt of the earth might truly transform us.

Dear friends, the Church's mission needs contribution of each and every one of her members, especially the laity. In the stations of life to which the Lord has called you, be courageous witnesses of the God of Jesus Christ, living your Baptism. In this I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of all peoples, and from my heart I impart to you and your loved ones the apostolic blessing. Thank you.


On the Master of the World
"Hearts Are Reawakened to the Expectation of Christ's Return"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2011 Here is a L'Osservatore Romano translation of Benedict XVI's address Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the whole Church begins a new liturgical year: a journey of faith to be lived together within Christian communities, but also, as always, within the history of the world, to open it to the mystery of God, to the salvation that comes from his love. The liturgical year begins with the period of Advent: a wonderful time in which people's hearts are reawakened to the expectation of Christ's return and to the memory of His first coming, when He divested Himself of His divine glory to assume our mortal flesh.

"Stay awake!" This is Jesus' call in today's Gospel. He directs it not only to his disciples, but to everyone: "Stay awake! (Mt, Mk 13:37). It is a timely reminder that life has not only an earthly dimension, but is projected, "beyond," like a small seedling whose shoots open from the earth towards heaven. A small thinking seedling, man, gifted with freedom and responsibility, for which each one of us will be called to render account of how he has lived, how he has used his abilities: if he has kept them for himself or he has made them bear fruit for the good of others.

"Isaiah, the prophet of Advent, also makes us think today with his heartfelt prayer addressed to God in the name of his people. He dwells on the shortcomings of his people and at a certain point says: 'There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hands of iniquity'. How can we not be struck by this description? It seems to reflect certain aspects of the post-modern world: cities where life has become anonymous and horizontal, where God seems to be absent and only man is master, as if he were the universal architect. Building, work, economy, transport, science, technology, everything seems to depend only upon man. And at times, in this apparently perfect world, terrible things happen, either in nature or society, which make us think that God has withdrawn and has, so to say, left us to our own devices.

"In reality, the real 'master' of the world is not man but God. The Gospel says: 'stay awake for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly'. Advent comes every year to remind us of this fact, that our lives might find their just orientation towards the face of God. The face not of a 'master', but of a Father and a Friend".

With the Virgin Mary, who guides us on our Advent journey, let us make the words of the prophet our own. "Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you our potter: we are all the work of your hands." (Is 64:7)


Papal Address to New York Bishops
"We Ourselves Are the First to Need Re-evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2011 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to a group of U.S. bishops who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visits.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet you all with affection in the Lord and, through you, the Bishops from the United States who in the course of the coming year will make their visits ad limina Apostolorum.

Our meetings are the first since my 2008 Pastoral Visit to your country, which was intended to encourage the Catholics of America in the wake of the scandal and disorientation caused by the sexual abuse crisis of recent decades. I wished to acknowledge personally the suffering inflicted on the victims and the honest efforts made both to ensure the safety of our children and to deal appropriately and transparently with allegations as they arise. It is my hope that the Church’s conscientious efforts to confront this reality will help the broader community to recognize the causes, true extent and devastating consequences of sexual abuse, and to respond effectively to this scourge which affects every level of society. By the same token, just as the Church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standards.

A second, equally important, purpose of my Pastoral Visit was to summon the Church in America to recognize, in the light of a dramatically changing social and religious landscape, the urgency and demands of a new evangelization. In continuity with this aim, I plan in the coming months to present for your consideration a number of reflections which I trust you will find helpful for the discernment you are called to make in your task of leading the Church into the future which Christ is opening up for us.

Many of you have shared with me your concern about the grave challenges to a consistent Christian witness presented by an increasingly secularized society. I consider it significant, however, that there is also an increased sense of concern on the part of many men and women, whatever their religious or political views, for the future of our democratic societies. They see a troubling breakdown in the intellectual, cultural and moral foundations of social life, and a growing sense of dislocation and insecurity, especially among the young, in the face of wide-ranging societal changes. Despite attempts to still the Church’s voice in the public square, many people of good will continue to look to her for wisdom, insight and sound guidance in meeting this far-reaching crisis. The present moment can thus be seen, in positive terms, as a summons to exercise the prophetic dimension of your episcopal ministry by speaking out, humbly yet insistently, in defense of moral truth, and offering a word of hope, capable of opening hearts and minds to the truth that sets us free.

At the same time, the seriousness of the challenges which the Church in America, under your leadership, is called to confront in the near future cannot be underestimated. The obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture also affect the lives of believers, leading at times to that "quiet attrition" from the Church which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit. Immersed in this culture, believers are daily beset by the objections, the troubling questions and the cynicism of a society which seems to have lost its roots, by a world in which the love of God has grown cold in so many hearts. Evangelization thus appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extra; we ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth. Only through such interior renewal will we be able to discern and meet the spiritual needs of our age with the ageless truth of the Gospel.

Here I cannot fail to express my appreciation of the real progress which the American Bishops have made, individually and as a Conference, in responding to these issues and in working together to articulate a common pastoral vision, the fruits of which can be seen, for example, in your recent documents on faithful citizenship and on the institution of marriage. The importance of these authoritative expressions of your shared concern for the authenticity of the Church’s life and witness in your country should be evident to all.

In these days, the Church in the United States is implementing the revised translation of the Roman Missal. I am grateful for your efforts to ensure that this new translation will inspire an ongoingcatechesis which emphasizes the true nature of the liturgy and, above all, the unique value of Christ’s saving sacrifice for the redemption of the world. A weakened sense of the meaning and importance of Christian worship can only lead to a weakened sense of the specific and essential vocation of the laity to imbue the temporal order with the spirit of the Gospel. America has a proud tradition of respect for the sabbath; this legacy needs to be consolidated as a summons to the service of God’s Kingdom and the renewal of the social fabric in accordance with its unchanging truth.

In the end, however, the renewal of the Church’s witness to the Gospel in your country is essentially linked to the recovery of a shared vision and sense of mission by the entire Catholic community. I know that this is a concern close to your own heart, as reflected in your efforts to encourage communication, discussion and consistent witness at every level of the life of your local Churches. I think in particular of the importance of Catholic universities and the signs of a renewed sense of their ecclesial mission, as attested by the discussions marking the tenth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and such inititiatives as the symposium recently held at Catholic University of America on the intellectual tasks of the new evangelization. Young people have a right to hear clearly the Church’s teaching and, most importantly, to be inspired by the coherence and beauty of the Christian message, so that they in turn can instill in their peers a deep love of Christ and his Church.

Dear Brother Bishops, I am conscious of the many pressing and at times apparently insoluble problems which you face daily in the exercise of your ministry. With the confidence born of faith, and with great affection, I offer you these words of encouragement and willingly commend you and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of your Dioceses to the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. To all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.


Papal Address to Student Group on Ecology
"Respect for the Human Being and Respect for Nature Are One"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2011 - Here is a Vatican Radio translation of Benedict XVI's address today to a foundation called "Sister Nature."

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Lord Cardinal, Distinguished Authorities, Dear Youngsters and Youths!

It is with great joy that I welcome all of you to this meeting dedicated to commitment to "Sister Nature," to use the name of the Foundation that organized it.

I cordially greet Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga and I thank him for the words he also addressed to me in your name and for the gift of the beautiful reproduction of Codex 338, which contains the oldest Franciscan sources. I greet the president, Mr. Roberto Leoni, as well as the Authorities and Personalities and the numerous teachers and parents. But above all I greet you, youth, dear young people! It is precisely for you that I wanted this meeting, and I would like to tell you that I appreciate very much your choice to be "guardians of creation," and in this you have my full support.

First of all we must remember that your foundation and this same meeting have a deep Franciscan inspiration. Even today's date was chosen to commemorate the proclamation of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology, by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II in 1979. You all know that St. Francis is also a patron of Italy. But perhaps you do not know that he was so declared by Pope Pius XII, in 1939, who called him "the most Italian of the saints, the holiest of the Italians." If, therefore, the patron saint of Italy is also the patron of ecology, it seems fitting that young Italians should have a special feeling for "sister nature", and concretely work to defend her.

When studying Italian literature, one of the earliest texts found in the anthologies is in fact St Francis of Assisi's "Canticle of Brother Sun", or "of creatures,": "Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! ...." This song highlights the right place to give to the Creator, the One who has called into existence all the great symphony of creatures. "... All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures". These verses are part of your educational and cultural tradition. But first they are a prayer, that educates the heart in dialogue with God, teaches it to see the imprint of the great heavenly Artist on all creatures, as we read in the beautiful Psalm 19: "The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament proclaims the works of his hands... There is no speech, no words; their voice is not heard; A report goes forth through all the earth, their messages, to the ends of the world"(see 1.4-5). Brother Francis, faithful to Sacred Scripture invites us to recognize in nature a wonderful book that speaks to us of God, its beauty and goodness. It is enough to think of the fact that the Poverello of Assisi always asked the monk in charge of the garden of the convent, not to cultivate all the land for vegetables, but leave some for flowers, moreover to cultivate a beautiful bed of flowers, so that the people who passed by would raise their thoughts to God, the creator of such beauty (cf. Vita, Thomas of Celano, CXXIV, 165).

Dear friends, the Church, noting with appreciation the most important research and scientific discoveries, has never ceased to recall that respect for the Creator's imprint in all creation, leads to a better understanding of our true and deepest human identity. If properly undertaken, this respect can help a young person to also discover talents and personal ability, and therefore help prepare them for a certain profession, which they will always try to perform in full respect for the environment. In fact, if in his work, man forgets he is God's collaborator, then he can cause violence to creation, which always has a negative impact on humans, as we have seen, unfortunately, on several occasions. Today more than ever, it has becomes clear that respect for the environment can not leave aside the recognition of the value of the human person and its inviolability at every stage and in every condition of life. Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one, but both can grow and find their right measure if we respect in the human being and in nature the Creator and his creation. On this, dear young people, I believe to find allies in you, true "guardians of life and creation."

And now I would like to take this opportunity to say some words to the teachers and authorities who are present here. I would emphasize the great importance of education in this field of ecology. I gladly accepted the proposal of this meeting because it involves so many young students, because it has a clear educational perspective. And in fact it has become apparent that there will be no good future for humanity on earth if we do not educate everyone to a more responsible way of life for creation. And this style is learned first at home and in school. I encourage you, therefore, parents, school administrators and teachers to carry on with a constant commitment to education and teaching focus for this purpose. Moreover, it is essential that institutions in charge, who are well represented here today, support this work of families and schools.

Dear friends, we entrust these thoughts and aspirations to the Virgin Mary, Mother of all humanity. As we have just entered the season of Advent, may she accompany us and lead us to recognize in Christ the center of the universe, the light that enlightens every man and every creature. And St. Francis teach us to sing with all creation, a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father, giver of every gift. Thank you so much for coming, and I willingly accompany your study, your work and your commitment with my blessing. I spoke of singing; let us sing together the Our Father, the great prayer taught to us all by Jesus.


Advent Message for Priests From Clergy Congregation Prefect
"Our Own Lives Become Transfigured Into Christ's Coming for Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 28, 2011 - Here is a message from Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, on the occasion of the beginning of Advent.

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Dear Priests,

in this special time of Grace the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Icon and Model of the Church, wants us to be introduced to that vigilance which is the constant attitude of Her Immaculate heart.

In fact, the Virgin lived constantly in prayerful vigilance. In vigilance, She received the announcement that changed the history of humanity. In vigilance, She kept and contemplated, more than any other, the Almighty who became her Son. In vigilance, filled with loving and grateful wonder, She gave birth to the Light Himself and, together with St Joseph, became a disciple of He to whom She had given birth. He was adored by the shepherds and the kings, welcomed in jubilation by Simeon and the prophetess Anna, feared by the doctors in the temple, loved and followed by the disciples and opposed and condemned by His people. In the vigilance of her maternal heart, Mary followed Christ right up to the foot of the cross where, in the immense sorrow of a pierced heart, She accepted us as her new sons. In vigilance, She waited with certainty for the Resurrection and was Assumed into Heaven.

Dearest friends, Christ constantly watches over His Church and over every one of us! We are all called to enter into that vigilance, that passionate observation of reality that moves us between two fundamental directions: the recollection of meeting Christ in our lives and the great mystery of being His priests and the openness to the 'category of possibility'.

The Virgin Mary, was in fact 'recollected', which means that in her heart She constantly relived what God had done for Her and, in the certainty of this reality, She lived the duty of being the Mother of the Almighty. The Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary, was then constantly willing and open to the 'possible', to that materialisation of God's Will in daily circumstances and also in those that are most unexpected.

Also today, from heaven, the Virgin keeps us in Christ's living memory and continually opens the possibility of Divine Mercy to us.

Dearest Brothers and Friends, let us ask Her for a heart that is able to relive Christ's coming in our lives, a heart able to contemplate the way in which the Son of God, on the day of our Ordination, radically and definitely marked our entire existence immerging us in His priestly heart. He renews us daily in the Eucharistic Celebration so that our own lives become transfigured into Christ's coming for humanity.

Finally, let us ask for an attentive heart able to recognise the signs of Jesus' coming in the lives of every man, especially to the young who are entrusted to us, so that we are able to recognise the sign of that special coming which is the vocation to the Priesthood.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Priests and Queen of the Apostles, always grants those humble requests for that priestly paternity which is the only thing able to "accompany" the youth on the joyful and enthusiastic journey to follow Christ.

In the “Yes” of the Annunciation, we are also encouraged to be coherent to the “Yes” of our ordination. In the Visitation to Saint Elisabeth, we are encouraged to live that divine intimacy in order to bring Christ's presence to the others and to translate it into joyful service without the limits of time and space. In the Holy Mother's act of wrapping the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and adoring Him, we learn to treat the Most Holy Eucharist with an ineffable love. By conserving every event within our own hearts, we learn from Mary how to gather around the Only Necessity.

With these sentiments I assure all the dear Priests around the world of a special remembrance in the Celebration of the Holy Mysteries. I ask everyone for the prayerful support for the ministry that was entrusted to me and, before the crib, let us implore the ability to become that what we are every day.


On Psalm 110, to Christ the King
"We Are Invited to Look to Christ in Order to Understand the Meaning of True Royalty"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catecheses Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope continued with his series of catecheses on prayer, concluding today his reflection on the prayer of the Psalter.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to conclude my catecheses on the prayer of the Psalter by meditating on one of the most famous "royal psalms" -- a psalm that Jesus Himself quoted and that the authors of the New Testament have amply taken up and read with reference to the Messiah, to Christ. It is Psalm 110 according to the Hebrew tradition, 109 according to the Greco-Latin. It is a psalm much beloved by the ancient Church and by believers in every age. Initially, perhaps, this prayer was linked to the enthronement of a Davidic monarch; yet its meaning extends beyond the specific circumstances of the historical event and opens up to broader dimensions, thus becoming the celebration of the victorious Messiah, glorified at God's right hand.

The psalm begins with a solemn declaration:

"The Lord said to my lord:

"Sit at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool" (Verse 1).

God Himself enthrones the king in glory, seating him at His right hand, a sign of highest honor and of absolute privilege. The king is thus admitted to share in the divine lordship, and becomes its mediator for the people. The king's lordship is also realized in his victory over his adversaries who are placed at his feet by God Himself. The victory over the enemy is the Lord's, but the king is made a sharer in it, and his triumph becomes a witness and sign of the divine power.

The kingly glorification expressed at the beginning of the psalm was understood in the New Testament as a messianic prophecy. The verse is therefore among the most used by the New Testament authors -- both as an explicit reference and as an allusion. Jesus Himself quotes this verse in speaking of the Messiah, in order to show that the Messiah is more than David, that he is David's Lord (cf. Matthew 22:41-45; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44). And Peter employs it in his speech on the day of Pentecost, announcing that the enthronement of the king has been realized in Christ's Resurrection, and that henceforth Christ stands at the right hand of the Father, as a sharer in God's Lordship over the world (cf. Acts 2:29-35).

It is in fact the Christ, the Lord enthroned, the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God who comes on the clouds of heaven, as Jesus Himself says of Himself during the trial before the Sanhedrin (cf. Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62; cf. also Luke 22:66-69). He is the true king who by His Resurrection entered into glory at the Father's right hand (cf. Romans 8:34; Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1, 12:2), made superior to the angels, seated in the heavens above every power with every adversary at His feet, until the last enemy -- death -- is definitively destroyed (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26; Ephesians 1:20-23; Hebrews 1:3-4, 13; 2:5-8; 10:12-13; 1 Peter 3:22). And immediately we understand that this king who is at the right hand of God and who shares in His Lordship, is not one of David's successors, but rather the new David -- the Son of God who conquered death and who truly shares in the glory of God. He is our king who also gives us eternal life.

Between the king whom our psalm extols and God, there exists, then, an indissoluble relationship; the two together rule a single government, so much so that the psalmist is able to affirm that it is God Himself who extends the king’s scepter, giving him the task of ruling over his enemies, as Verse 2 says:

"The scepter of thy power the Lord sends forth from Sion: Rule thou in the midst of thy enemies!"

The exercise of power is a duty the king receives directly from the Lord, a responsibility he must live out in dependence and obedience -- thereby becoming a sign, in the midst of the people, of the powerful and provident presence of God. Dominion over his enemies, glory and victory are gifts received that make of the king a mediator of divine triumph over evil. He rules over his enemies by transforming them -- he conquers them by his love.

Therefore in the verse that follows, the greatness of the king is extolled. Actually, Verse 3 presents several difficulties for interpretation. In the original Hebrew text, reference is made to the summoning of the armies -- to which the people generously respond, rallying around their king on the day of his coronation. The Greek translation of the Septuagint (LXX), which goes back to the third or second century before Christ, makes reference instead to the king's divine sonship, to his birth or generation from the Lord, and this is the interpretive choice of the Church's entire tradition, for which reason the verse is expressed in the following way:

"Thine is princely rule in the day of thy power

in holy splendor:

From the womb before the daystar have I begotten thee."

This divine oracle concerning the king therefore affirms a divine generation suffused with splendor and mystery, a secret and mysterious origin bound to the arcane beauty of the dawn and to the marvel of the dew that in the day’s first light shines upon the fields and makes them fruitful. Thus is there sketched -- in a way indissolubly bound to heavenly realities -- the figure of the king who truly comes from God, the Messiah who brings divine life to His people and who is the mediator of holiness and salvation.

Here also we see that this is not realized by the figure of a Davidic king, but by the Lord Jesus Christ, who truly comes from God -- He is the light who brings divine life to the world.

With this evocative and enigmatic image the first stanza of the psalm ends, and another oracle follows that opens to a new perspective of a priestly dimension related with royalty. Verse 4 reads:

"The Lord has sworn and will not repent:

Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

Melchizedek was the kingly priest of Salem who blessed Abram and offered bread and wine following the victorious military campaign conducted by the patriarch to save his nephew Lot from the hands of his enemies who had captured him (cf. Genesis 14). In the figure of Melchizedek, kingly and priestly power converge and now are proclaimed by the Lord in a declaration that promises eternity: The king whom the psalm extols will be a priest forever and the mediator of the divine presence among the people, by means of the blessing which comes from God and which -- in the liturgical action -- meets with man's response of blessing.

The Letter to the Hebrews makes explicit reference to this verse (cf. 5:5-6, 10; 6:19-20), and all of Chapter 7 focuses on it by developing its reflection on the priesthood of Christ. Jesus -- the Letter to the Hebrews thus tells us in light of Psalm 110 (109) -- Jesus is the true and definitive priest, who brings to fulfillment the features of the priesthood of Melchizedek by rendering them perfect.

Melchizedek, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, was "without father or mother or genealogy" (7:3a), a priest therefore not according to the dynastic rules of the Levitical priesthood. For this reason, he "continues a priest for ever" (7:3c), prefiguring Christ the perfect High Priest who "has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life" (7:16). In the Lord Jesus -- risen and ascended into heaven where He sits at the Father's right hand -- the prophecy of our psalm is fulfilled and the priesthood of Melchizedek is brought to completion, for it is made absolute and eternal and becomes a reality that never fades (cf. 7:24).

And the offering of bread and wine, accomplished by Melchizedek in the time of Abram, finds its fulfillment in the Eucharistic act of Jesus, who in the bread and wine offers Himself and who, having conquered death, brings life to all believers. A priest forever, "holy, blameless, unstained" (7:26): He -- the Letter to the Hebrews tells us -- "is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (7:25).

After the divine oracle in Verse 4 -- with solemn judgment the setting of the psalm changes, and the poet -- addressing himself directly to the king -- proclaims: "The Lord is at thy right hand!" (Verse 5a). If in Verse 1, it was the king who was seated at the right hand of God as a sign of highest prestige and honor, now it is the Lord who places Himself at the king’s right to protect him with His shield in battle and to save him from every danger. The king remains in safety, for God is his defender and together they fight and conquer every evil.

Thus, the final verses of the psalm open with the vision of the triumphant king who, supported by the Lord -- and having received from Him power and glory (cf. Verse 2) -- thwarts the enemy by destroying his adversaries and by executing judgment over the nations. The scene is painted with striking colors in order to signify the drama of the combat and the fullness of the royal victory. The king, protected by the Lord, tears down every obstacle and proceeds securely toward victory. He tells us: yes, in the world there is great evil; there is a perennial battle between good and evil, and it appears that evil is stronger. No -- it is the Lord who is mightier -- Christ our true king and priest -- for He battles with all the strength of God, and despite all the things that cause us to doubt history's positive outcome, Christ conquers and the good conquers -- love conquers, not hatred.

And here enter the evocative image and the mysterious word that bring our psalm to a close.

"He will drink from the brook by the way;

Therefore he will lift up his head" (Verse 7).

Amid a description of battle, we see the figure of the king who stands in a moment of truce and rest quenching his thirst at a brook of water -- finding in it relief and renewed vigor in order to resume his triumphant journey with head raised as a sign of definitive victory.

It is obvious that such a mysterious word was a challenge for the Fathers of the Church, on account of the different interpretations that might be given. Thus, for example, St. Augustine says: this brook is the human being -- humanity -- and Christ drank from this brook by becoming man; and thus, by entering into the humanity of the human being, He lifted up His head and now is the Head of the Mystical Body -- He is our head; He is definitively victorious (cf. Ennarratio in Psalmum CIX, 20: PL 36, 1462).

Dear friends, following the New Testament's line of interpretation, the Church’s tradition has held this psalm in high regard as one of the most significant messianic texts. And in an eminent way, the Fathers made continual reference to it as a Christological key: the king of whom the psalmist sings is Christ, the Messiah who establishes the Kingdom of God and who conquers the powers of the world. He is the Word generated by the Father before every creature -- before the dawn -- the Son who was made incarnate, who died, rose and ascended into heaven, the eternal priest who in the mystery of bread and wine, grants the remission of sins and reconciliation with God, the king who lifts up His head by triumphing over death with His Resurrection.

It is enough to remember again a passage of St. Augustine in his commentary on this psalm, where he writes: "It was necessary to know the only Son of God, who was to come among men, who was to assume human nature and who was to become man through the nature He assumed: He died, rose, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the Father's right hand, and He has fulfilled what He promised among all peoples … All this, therefore, had to be prophesied; it had to be announced in advance; it had to be signaled as destined to come, for occurring suddenly it may have caused fear, but rather, having been preannounced, it could be accepted with faith, joy and anticipation. This Psalm is one of those promises, surely and openly prophesying our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; so that we are utterly unable to doubt that Christ is announced in this Psalm" (cf. Enarratio in Psalmum CIX, 3: PL 36, 1447).

The paschal event of Christ is therefore the reality the psalm invites us to consider; [and we are invited] to look to Christ in order to understand the meaning of true royalty, which is to be lived in service and in the gift of oneself, on a path of obedience and love "to the end" (cf. John 13:1 and 19:30). As we pray this psalm, let us therefore ask the Lord to enable us also to proceed along His paths in the following of Christ, the Messiah king -- ready to ascend with Him the mountain of the Cross so that with Him we might attain to glory and contemplate Him seated at the Father's right hand, the victorious king and merciful priest who grants pardon and salvation to all people. And may we, made by God’s grace "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9), be able to draw joyfully from the waters of salvation (cf. Isaiah 12:3) and proclaim to all the world the marvels of Him who has "called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

Dear friends, in these last catecheses I have wanted to introduce several of the psalms to you -- these precious prayers that we find in the Bible, that reflect life's various situations and the various states of soul that we can have in relation to God. Therefore, I would like to renew to all the invitation to pray the psalms, perhaps forming the habit of using the Church's Liturgy of the Hours -- Lauds in the morning, Vespers in the evening, Compline before going to sleep. Our relationship with God cannot but be enriched in our daily journey to Him and be realized with great joy and trust. 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 now turn to Psalm 110, one of the famous "royal psalms", originally linked to the enthronement of a Davidic monarch. The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy of Christ, the messianic king and eternal priest, risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father. Saint Peter, in his speech on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:32-36), applies its words to the Lord’s victory over death and his exaltation in glory. From ancient times, the mysterious third verse of the Psalm has been interpreted as a reference to the king’s divine sonship, while the fourth verse speaks of him as "a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedek". The Letter to the Hebrews specifically applies this imagery to Christ, the Son of God and our perfect high priest, who lives eternally to make intercession for all those who, through him, approach the Father (cf. Heb 7:25). The final verses of the Psalm present the triumphant King as executing judgment over the nations. As we pray this Psalm, we acclaim the victory of our risen Lord and King, while striving to live ever more fully the royal and priestly dignity which is ours as members of his Body through Baptism.

I offer a cordial greeting the many student groups present at today’s Audience. My welcome also goes to the delegation of the American Israel Affairs Committee. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present, especially those from Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Japan, Canada and the United States, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Talents Entrusted Us by God
"It Would be Foolish to Presume That These Gifts Are an Entitlement"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2011 - Here is the L'Osservatore Romano translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The word of God of this Sunday -- the second to last Sunday of the liturgical year -- warns us of the transience of our earthly existence and invites us to live it as a pilgrimage, keeping our gaze fixed on the destination for which God has created us. Moreover, since he made us for himself (cf. St Augustine, Confessions 1, 1), he is our ultimate destination and the meaning of our existence.

Death, followed by the Last Judgement, is an obligatory gate to pass through in order to reach this definitive place. The Apostle Paul says: "the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2), that is, stealthily without warning. May knowledge of the glorious return of the Lord Jesus spur us to live in an attitude of watchfulness, waiting for his manifestation and in constant remembrance of his first coming.

In the well known Parable of the Talents -- recounted by the Evangelist Matthew (cf. 25: 14-30) -- Jesus tells the story of three servants to whom their master entrusted his property, before setting out on a long journey. Two of them behaved impeccably, doubling the value of what they had received. On the contrary, the third, buried the money he had received in a hole. On his return, the master asked his servants to account for what he had entrusted to them and while he was pleased with the first two he was disappointed with the third.

Indeed, the servant who had hidden his talent and failed to make it increase in worth, had calculated badly. He behaved as if his master were never to return, as if there would never be a day on which he would be asked to account for his actions. With this parable Jesus wanted to teach his disciples to make good use of their gifts: God calls every person and offers talents to all, at the same time entrusting each one with a mission to carry out. It would be foolish to presume that these gifts are an entitlement, just as failing to use them would mean failing to achieve one's purpose in life.

In commenting on this Gospel passage St. Gregory the Great noted that the Lord does not let anyone lack the gift of his charity, of his love. He wrote: "brothers, it is necessary that you pay the utmost attention to preserving love in everything you must do" (Homilies on the Gospel, 9, 6). After explaining that true charity consists in loving enemies as well as friends, he added: "if someone lacks this virtue, he loses every good he possesses, he is deprived of the talent he received and is cast out into the darkness" (ibid.).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the invitation to be watchful, of which we are constantly reminded by the Scriptures! This is the attitude of those who know that the Lord will return and that he will like to see the fruits of his love in us. Charity is the fundamental good that no one can fail to bring to fruition and without which every other good is worthless. If Jesus loved us to the point of giving his life for us (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), how can we not love God with the whole of ourselves and love one another with real warmth? (cf. 1 Jn 4:11). It is only by practicing charity that we too will be able to share in the joy of our Lord. May the Virgin Mary teach us active and joyful watchfulness on our journey toward the encounter with God.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the faithful in various languages:]

Today is the World Day of Diabetes, a chronic disease that afflicts many, even young people. I pray for all these brothers and sisters and for all who, every day, share in their daily trials; as well as for health care workers and for the volunteers who help them.

Today the Church in Italy is celebrating Thanksgiving Day. In looking at the fruits of the earth which the Lord has given to us this year too, let us acknowledge that human work would be fruitless if he did not make it fertile. "Only with God is their a future in the land." While we give thanks, let us engage to respect the earth that God has entrusted to our keeping.

Dear French-speaking pilgrims, today the Lord asks us to recognize the gifts he has made for us. He entrusts to each one the responsibility for making them fruitful, so that he or she may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. These words of Christ guided the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. I hope to impart them to all when I go to Benin to strengthen the faith and hope of the Christians of Africa and of the adjacent Islands. I entrust to your prayers this journey and the inhabitants of the beloved continent of Africa, especially those who are experiencing the lack of security and violence. May Our Lady of Africa accompany and sustain the efforts of all who are working for reconciliation, justice and peace with my blessing!

[In English, he said:]

I welcome the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, especially the large group of Filipino pilgrims! In today's Gospel, the parable of the talents, Jesus invites us to reflect with gratitude on the gifts we have received and to use them wisely for the growth of God's Kingdom. May his words summon us to an ever deeper conversion of mind and heart, and a more effective solidarity in the service of all our brothers and sisters. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord's blessings of wisdom, joy and peace!

[To the German-speaking faithful the Holy Father spoke of the beatification that afternoon at Dornbirn, Austria, of the priest-martyr, Carl Lampert, who was guillotined in hatred of the faith on Nov. 13, 1944.]


Pope on Stem Cell Research
"It Is Tempting for Scientists and Policy-Makers to Brush Aside Ethical Objections"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 14, 2011 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to participants in an international conference on stem cell research, which was held at the Vatican.

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Dear Brother Bishops,
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,

I wish to thank Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, for his kind words and for promoting this International Conference on Adult Stem Cells: Science and the Future of Man and Culture. I would also like to thank Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Health Workers, and Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life for their contribution to this particular endeavour. A special word of gratitude goes to the many benefactors whose support has made this event possible. In this regard, I would like to express the Holy See’s appreciation of all the work that is done, by various institutions, to promote cultural and formative initiatives aimed at supporting top-level scientific research on adult stem cells and exploring the cultural, ethical and anthropological implications of their use.

Scientific research provides a unique opportunity to explore the wonder of the universe, the complexity of nature and the distinctive beauty of life, including human life. But since human beings are endowed with immortal souls and are created in the image and likeness of God, there are dimensions of human existence that lie beyond the limits of what the natural sciences are competent to determine. If these limits are transgressed, there is a serious risk that the unique dignity and inviolability of human life could be subordinated to purely utilitarian considerations. But if instead these limits are duly respected, science can make a truly remarkable contribution to promoting and safeguarding the dignity of man: indeed herein lies its true utility. Man, the agent of scientific research, will sometimes, in his biological nature, form the object of that research. Nevertheless, his transcendent dignity entitles him always to remain the ultimate beneficiary of scientific research and never to be reduced to its instrument.

In this sense, the potential benefits of adult stem cell research are very considerable, since it opens up possibilities for healing chronic degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissue and restoring its capacity for regeneration. The improvement that such therapies promise would constitute a significant step forward in medical science, bringing fresh hope to sufferers and their families alike. For this reason, the Church naturally offers her encouragement to those who are engaged in conducting and supporting research of this kind, always with the proviso that it be carried out with due regard for the integral good of the human person and the common good of society.

This proviso is most important. The pragmatic mentality that so often influences decision-making in the world today is all too ready to sanction whatever means are available in order to attain the desired end, despite ample evidence of the disastrous consequences of such thinking. When the end in view is one so eminently desirable as the discovery of a cure for degenerative illnesses, it is tempting for scientists and policy-makers to brush aside ethical objections and to press ahead with whatever research seems to offer the prospect of a breakthrough. Those who advocate research on embryonic stem cells in the hope of achieving such a result make the grave mistake of denying the inalienable right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death. The destruction of even one human life can never be justified in terms of the benefit that it might conceivably bring to another. Yet, in general, no such ethical problems arise when stem cells are taken from the tissues of an adult organism, from the blood of the umbilical cord at the moment of birth, or from fetuses who have died of natural causes (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Dignitas Personae, 32).

It follows that dialogue between science and ethics is of the greatest importance in order to ensure that medical advances are never made at unacceptable human cost. The Church contributes to this dialogue by helping to form consciences in accordance with right reason and in the light of revealed truth. In so doing she seeks, not to impede scientific progress, but on the contrary to guide it in a direction that is truly fruitful and beneficial to humanity. Indeed, it is her conviction that everything human, including scientific research, "is not only received and respected by faith, but is also purified, elevated and perfected" (ibid., 7). In this way science can be helped to serve the common good of all mankind, with a particular regard for the weakest and most vulnerable.

In drawing attention to the needs of the defenceless, the Church thinks not only of the unborn but also of those without easy access to expensive medical treatment. Illness is no respecter of persons, and justice demands that every effort be made to place the fruits of scientific research at the disposal of all who stand to benefit from them, irrespective of their means. In addition to purely ethical considerations, then, there are issues of a social, economic and political nature that need to be addressed in order to ensure that advances in medical science go hand in hand with just and equitable provision of health-care services. Here the Church is able to offer concrete assistance through her extensive health-care apostolate, active in so many countries across the globe and directed with particular solicitude to the needs of the world’s poor.

Dear friends, as I conclude my remarks, I want to assure you of a special remembrance in prayer and I commend to the intercession of Mary, Salus Infirmorum, all of you who work so hard to bring healing and hope to those who suffer. I pray that your commitment to adult stem cell research will bring great blessings for the future of man and genuine enrichment to his culture. To you, your families and your collaborators, as well as to all the patients who stand to benefit from your generous expertise and the results of your work, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you very much!


Papal Address to Bishops Directing Charity Groups
"Goodness Exists and ... It Is Growing in Our Midst"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2011 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of bishops with pastoral responsibility for charitable work and representatives of European charity organizations.

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Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Friends,

I am grateful for the opportunity to greet you as you meet under the auspices of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" in this European Year of Volunteering.

Let me begin by thanking Cardinal Robert Sarah for the kind words he has addressed to me on your behalf. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to you and, by extension, to the millions of Catholic volunteers who contribute, regularly and generously, to the Church’s charitable mission throughout the world. At the present time, marked as it is by crisis and uncertainty, your commitment is a reason for confidence, since it shows that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst. The faith of all Catholics is surely strengthened when they see the good that is being done in the name of Christ (cf. Philem 6).

For Christians, volunteer work is not merely an expression of good will. It is based on a personal experience of Christ. He was the first to serve humanity, he freely gave his life for the good of all. That gift was not based on our merits. From this we learn that God gives us himself. More than that: Deus Caritas est – God is love, to quote a phrase from the First Letter of Saint John (4:8) which I employed as the title of my first Encyclical Letter. The experience of God’s generous love challenges us and liberates us to adopt the same attitude towards our brothers and sisters: "You received with paying, give without pay" (Mt 10:8). We experience this especially in the Eucharist when the Son of God, in the breaking of bread, brings together the vertical dimension of his divine gift with the horizontal dimension of our service to our brothers and sisters.

Christ’s grace helps us to discover within ourselves a human desire for solidarity and a fundamental vocation to love. His grace perfects, strengthens and elevates that vocation and enables us to serve others without reward, satisfaction or any recompense. Here we see something of the grandeur of our human calling: to serve others with the same freedom and generosity which characterizes God himself. We also become visible instruments of his love in a world that still profoundly yearns for that love amid the poverty, loneliness, marginalization and ignorance that we see all around us.

Of course, Catholic volunteer work cannot respond to all these needs, but that does not discourage us. Nor should we let ourselves be seduced by ideologies that want to change the world according to a purely human vision. The little that we manage to do to relieve human needs can be seen as a good seed that will grow and bear much fruit; it is a sign of Christ’s presence and love which, like the tree in the Gospel, grows to give shelter, protection and strength to all who require it.

This is the nature of the witness which you, in all humility and conviction, offer to civil society. While it is the duty of public authority to acknowledge and to appreciate this contribution without distorting it, your role as Christians is to take an active part in the life of society, seeking to make it ever more humane, ever more marked by authentic freedom, justice and solidarity.

Our meeting today takes place on the liturgical memorial of Saint Martin of Tours. Often portrayed sharing his mantle with a poor man, Martin became a model of charity throughout Europe and indeed the whole world. Nowadays, volunteer work as a service of charity has become a universally recognized element of our modern culture. Nonetheless, its origins can still be seen in the particularly Christian concern for safeguarding, without discrimination, the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. If these spiritual roots are denied or obscured and the criteria of our collaboration become purely utilitarian, what is most distinctive about the service you provide risks being lost, to the detriment of society as a whole. Dear friends, I would like to conclude by encouraging young people to discover in volunteer work a way to grow in the self-giving love which gives life its deepest meaning. Young people readily react to the call of love. Let us help them to hear Christ who makes his call felt in their hearts and draws them closer to himself. We must not be afraid to set before them a radical and life-changing challenge, helping them to learn that our hearts are made to love and be loved. It is in self-giving that we come to live life in all its fullness.

With these sentiments, I renew my gratitude to all of you and to all those whom you represent. I ask God to watch over your many works of service and to make them ever more spiritually fruitful, for the good of the Church and of the whole world. To you and your associates I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Message to Ecuador Family Conference
"Society Is Not a Mere Sum of Individuals, But the Result of Relationships"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the 2nd National Family Congress in Ecuador, which concludes Saturday.

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To the Venerable Brother Antonio Arregui Yarza

Metropolitan Archbishop of Guayaquil

President of the Ecuadorian Episcopal Conference

On the occasion of the Second National Family Conference, I greet affectionately the pastors and faithful of the Church in Ecuador who -- within the context of the Continental Mission backed in Aparecida by the Latin American and Caribbean episcopates and in preparation for the 7th World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Milan -- propose to carry out a process of reflection on the Gospel that will enable Christian spouses and families to respond to their identity, vocation and mission.

The theme of the Congress, "The Ecuadorian Family on Mission: Work and Celebration at the Service of the Person and the Common Good," recognizes that the family, born from the pact of love and the total and sincere self-giving of a man and a woman in marriage, is not a private reality, enclosed in itself. By its vocation it renders a wonderful and decisive service to the common good of society and to the mission of the Church. In fact, society is not a mere sum of individuals, but the result of relationships between persons -- man-woman, parents-children, between siblings -- that have their basis in family life and in the bonds of affection that derive from it. Through its children, every family gives society the human richness it has experienced. No wonder it can be affirmed that on the health and quality of family relations depends the health and quality of social relations themselves.

In this connection, work and celebration particularly concern and are deeply linked to the life of families: They condition their choices, influence the relations between spouses and between parents and children, and affect the bonds of the family with society and the Church.

Through work, man experiences himself as subject, a participant in the creative plan of God. This explains why the lack of work or precarious work undermines man's dignity, creating not only situations of injustice and poverty, which frequently degenerate into despair, criminality and violence, but also into an identity crisis in persons. Hence, it is urgent that effective measures, serious and accurate approaches should arise everywhere, as well as an unbreakable and honest will, which will lead to finding ways so that all will have access to fitting, stable and well remunerated work, through which they are sanctified and participate actively in the development of society, combining intense and responsible work with appropriate times for a rich, fruitful and harmonious family life. A serene and constructive home environment, with its domestic obligations and its affections, is the first school of work and the most adequate place for the person to discover his potential, increase his desire to improve and give way to his most noble aspirations. Moreover, family life teaches one to overcome egoism, to nourish solidarity, to not flinch from sacrifice for the happiness of the other, to value the good and the upright, and to apply oneself with conviction and generosity for the sake of the common good and reciprocal good, being responsible before oneself, others and the environment.

For its part, celebration humanizes time, opening it to the encounter with God, with others and with nature. This is why families need to recover the genuine meaning of celebration, especially of Sunday, the Lord's day and man's. In the Sunday Eucharistic celebration, the family experiences here and now the real presence of the Risen Lord, receives new life, welcomes the gift of the Spirit, increases its love of the Church, hears the Divine Word, shares the Eucharistic bread and opens to fraternal love.

With these sentiments, while I reiterate my closeness with and affection for the beloved sons and daughters of this nation, I entrust the fruits of this conference to the powerful intercession of Our Lady of the Presentation of Quinche, heavenly patroness of Ecuador, and, as a pledge of abundant divine favors, I gladly impart to all those present the implored Apostolic Blessing.


November 1, 2011



On Psalm 119, the Acrostic Psalm
"Wholly Pervaded by Love for God's Word"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2011 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In previous catecheses, we meditated on several of the psalms that exemplify the typical kinds of prayer: lament, trust and praise. In today's catechesis, I would like to turn to a consideration of Psalm 119 according to the Hebrew tradition, 118 according to the Greco-Latin: It is a very special psalm, the only one of its kind. First, it is unique for its length: It is composed of 176 verses, divided into 22 stanzas of eight verses each. Then, it has the peculiar characteristic of being an "acrostic alphabet": It is constructed, that is, according to the Hebrew alphabet, which is made up of 22 letters. Each stanza corresponds to a letter of that alphabet, and with this letter the first word of the stanza's eight verses begins. It is an original and very demanding literary construction in which the psalm's author had to employ all his skill.

But what is more important for us is this psalm's central theme: It is, in fact, an imposing and solemn hymn about the Lord's Torah; i.e., about His Law -- a term which in its broadest and most complete acceptation is understood as teaching, instruction, as a directive for life. The Torah is revelation; it is the Word of God that questions man and calls forth from him a response of trusting obedience and of generous love.

And this psalm is wholly pervaded by love for God's Word -- it extols its beauty, its saving power, and its capacity to bestow joy and life. For the divine Law is not a heavy yoke of slavery but a gift of grace that liberates and leads to happiness. "I will delight in thy statues; I will not forget thy word" (Verse 16); and again: "Lead me in the path of thy commandments, for I delight in it" (Verse 35), and yet again: "Oh, how I love thy law! It is my meditation all the day" (Verse 97). The Lord's Law, His Word, is the center of the life of the one praying; in it he finds consolation, he makes it the object of his meditation, he keeps it in his heart: "I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Verse 11), and this is the secret of the psalmist's happiness; and again: "The godless besmear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep thy precepts" (Verse 69).

The psalmist's faithfulness is born of listening to the Word, of keeping it in his inmost heart, of meditating on it and loving it -- like Mary, who "kept all these things, pondering ... in her heart" the words that had been spoken to her and the wondrous events wherein God revealed Himself and asked her assent of faith (cf. Luke 2:19,51). And if our psalm begins in its first verses by proclaiming "blessed" "those who walk in the law of the Lord" (Verse 1b) and "who keep His testimonies" (Verse 2a), it is again the Virgin Mary who brings to completion the perfect figure of the believer described by the psalmist. She, in fact, is the truly "blessed" one, and was declared so by Elizabeth, for she "believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45). And it is to her and to her faith that Jesus Himself gives testimony when, to the woman who cried out "blessed is the womb that bore you," He responds: "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:27-28). Certainly, Mary is blessed because she carried the Savior in her womb, but she is blessed above all for having welcomed the announcement of God, for having been the attentive and loving keeper of His Word.

Psalm 119 is therefore wholly woven around this Word of life and blessedness. If its central theme is the "Word" and the "Law" of the Lord, alongside these words there also recur, in nearly all of the verses, the synonyms "precepts," "decrees," "commands," "teachings," "promise," "judgments"; and then also many related verbs such as to observe, to keep, to understand, to know, to love, to meditate upon, to live. The entire alphabet unfolds through the 22 stanzas of this psalm, as does the whole vocabulary of the believer's trusting relationship with God; therein we find praise, thanksgiving and trust, but also supplication and lament -- always pervaded, however, by the certainty of divine grace and of the power of God's Word. Even the stanzas most notably marked by suffering and a sense of darkness remain open to hope and permeated by faith. "My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to thy word" (Verse 25), the psalmist trustingly prays; "For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten thy statutes" (Verse 83) is the cry of the believer. His fidelity, even though put to the test, finds strength in the Lord's Word: "Then shall I have an answer for those who taunt me, for I trust in thy word" (Verse 42), he resolutely affirms; and even before the agonizing prospect of death, the Lord's commands are his point of reference and his hope for victory: "They have almost made an end of me on earth; but I have not forsaken thy precepts" (Verse 87).

The divine law -- the object of the Psalmist's ardent love and that of every believer -- is a fount of life. The desire to understand it, to observe it, to orient one's whole being toward it is the defining characteristic of the just man who is faithful to the Lord, who "meditates on it day and night" as Psalm 1 states (Verse 2); it is a law -- God's Law -- which is to be held "upon the heart," as the well known text of the Shema in Deuteronomy states:

"Hear, O Israel … these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (6:4, 6-7).

As the center of life, God's Law asks for the heart's listening -- a listening carried out in an obedience that is not servile but filial, trusting and mindful. Hearing the Word is a personal encounter with the Lord of life, an encounter that must be translated into concrete choices and become a path and a sequela. When asked what must be done to have eternal life, Jesus points to the path of the observance of the Law, but He does so by indicating how it is to be brought to completion: "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Mark 10:21). The fulfillment of the Law is to follow Jesus, to take the path of Jesus, in company with Jesus.

Psalm 119 leads us therefore to an encounter with the Lord, and it orients us toward the Gospel. In it, there is a particular verse which I would now like to pause to consider: It is verse 57: "The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep thy words." In other psalms also, the one praying affirms that the Lord is his "portion," his inheritance: "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup" (Verse 5a), Psalm 16 states; "God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever" (Verse 26), proclaims the faithful one in Psalm 73; and again, in Psalm 142 the psalmist cries to the Lord: "Thou art my refuge, my portion in the land of the living" (Verse 5b).

The word "portion" evokes the event of the apportionment of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel, when the Levites were assigned no portion of the territory, because their "portion" was the Lord Himself. Two texts from the Pentateuch are explicit in this regard, and employ the word in question: "The Lord said to Aaron: 'You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and inheritance among the people of Israel" declares the Book of Numbers (18:20), and Deuteronomy reasserts: "Therefore Levi has no portion of inheritance with his brothers; the Lord is his inheritance, as the Lord your God said to him" (Deuteronomy 10:9; cf. Deuteronomy 18:2; Joshua 13:33; Ezekiel 44:28).

The priests, who belonged to the tribe of Levi, could not be proprietors of land in the Land that God was giving as an inheritance to His people, thus bringing to fulfillment the promise made to Abram (cf. Genesis 12: 1-7). The possession of land, a fundamental element of stability and of the possibility of survival, was a sign of blessing, since it implied the possibility of building a home, of raising children, of cultivating the land and of living from the fruits of the earth. The Levites, as mediators of the sacred and divine benediction, cannot possess -- as the other Israelites -- this exterior sign of blessing and this source of sustenance. Wholly given to the Lord, they must live from Him alone, abandoned to His provident love and to the generosity of the brethren, without having an inheritance -- since God is their portion of the inheritance, God is their land, who makes them live in fullness.

And now, the one praying Psalm 119 applies this reality to himself: "The Lord is my portion." His love for God and for His Word leads him to the radical choice of having the Lord as his only good and also of keeping His words as a precious gift, more highly valued than every inheritance, than every earthly possession. Our verse, in fact, has the possibility of a double translation and may be rendered also in this manner: "My portion, O Lord, I said, is to keep thy words." The two translations do not contradict one another but indeed complete one another: The psalmist is affirming that his portion is the Lord, but also that keeping the divine words is his inheritance, as he will go on to say in Verse 111: "Thy testimonies are my heritage forever; yea, they are the joy of my heart." This is the psalmist's happiness: To him, as to the Levites, the Word of God was given as his portion of the inheritance.

Beloved brothers and sisters, these verses are of great importance also today for us all. First and foremost for priests, who are called to live only from the Lord and from His Word, without other securities, having Him as their only good and only source of true life. It is in this light that we understand the free choice of celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, which merits rediscovering in its beauty and strength. But these verses are also important for all the faithful, the People of God who belong to Him alone, "a kingdom of priests" for the Lord (cf. 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10), who are called to the radicality of the Gospel, to be witnesses to the life brought by Christ, the new and definitive "High Priest" who offered Himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world (cf. Hebrews 2:17; 4:14-16; 5:5-10; 9:11ff). The Lord and His Word: these are the "land" we live in, in communion and in joy.

Let us therefore allow the Lord to place within our hearts this love for His Word, and may He grant us always to have Him and His will as the center of our lives. Let us ask that our prayer and our entire lives be enlightened by God’s Word, that it be a lamp for our feet and a light to our path, as Psalm 119 states (cf. Verse 105), so that our way may be secure, in the land of men. And may Mary, who welcomed and gave birth to the Word, be for us a guide and comfort, the star who points out the way of happiness.

Then we, too, in our prayer -- like the author of Psalm 16 -- shall rejoice in the Lord’s unexpected gifts and in the unmerited inheritance that falls to us:

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup ...

The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Psalm 16:5-6).

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to Psalm 119, a solemn celebration of the Torah, the Law of the Lord. In twenty-two stanzas, each beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the Psalmist proclaims his love for God's Law, which brings light, life and salvation. His song voices the range of sentiments which fill the hearts of those who pray: praise, thanksgiving, trust, supplication and lament, all within the context of a heartfelt openness to the Lord's word. In praying this Psalm, Christians see in the Blessed Virgin Mary the model of this loving docility to God's will, and in Jesus the fulfilment of the Law. A striking example of the Psalmist's devotion is seen in his words: "The Lord is my portion" (v. 57). We can apply these words in a special way to priests, whose lives of celibacy testify to their call to complete devotion to the Lord and his Kingdom. But they can also be applied to all the faithful, who share in Christ's royal priesthood and are called daily to bear witness to the Gospel. May the Lord grant us a deeper love for him, so that, like the Psalmist, we may always make his word "a lamp to our feet and a light to our path".


On Hope in Life
"If We Remove God, We Remove Christ and the World Falls Back Into Emptiness and Darkness"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 7, 2011 - Here is a L'Osservatore Romano translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The biblical readings of this Sunday's liturgy invite us to extend the reflection on eternal life that we began on the occasion of the commemoration of the faithful departed. On this point there is a clear difference between those who believe and those who do not believe or, one might likewise say, between those who hope and those who do not hope.

Indeed St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thes 4:13). Faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in this sphere too is a crucial divide. St. Paul always reminded the Christians of Ephesus that before accepting the Good News they had been "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12). Indeed the religion of the Greeks, the pagan cults and myths, were unable to shed light on the mystery of death; thus an ancient inscription said: "In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidmus," which means: "How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing." If we remove God, we remove Christ and the world falls back into emptiness and darkness. Moreover, this is also confirmed in the expressions of contemporary nihilism that is often unconscious and, unfortunately, infects a great many young people.

Today's Gospel is a famous parable that speaks of 10 maidens invited to a wedding feast, a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven and of eternal life (Mt 25:1-13). It is a happy image with which, however, Jesus teaches a truth that calls us into question. In fact five of those 10 maidens were admitted to the feast because when the bridegroom arrived they had brought the oil to light their lamps, whereas the other five were left outside because they had been foolish enough not to bring any. What is represented by this "oil," an indispensable prerequisite for being admitted to the nuptial banquet?

St. Augustine (cf. Discourses 93, 4), and other ancient authors interpreted it as a symbol of love that one cannot purchase but receives as a gift, preserves within oneself and uses in works. True wisdom is making the most of mortal life in order to do works of mercy, for after death this will no longer be possible. When we are reawakened for the Last Judgement, it will be made on the basis of the love we have shown in our earthly life (cf. Mt 25:31-46). And this love is a gift of Christ, poured out in us by the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in God-Love bear within them invincible hope, like a lamp to light them on their way through the night beyond death to arrive at the great feast of life.

Let us ask Mary, Sedes Sapientiae, to teach us true wisdom, the wisdom that became flesh in Jesus. He is the Way that leads from this life to God, to the Eternal One. He enabled us to know the Father's face, and thus gave us hope full of love. This is why the Church addresses the Mother of the Lord with these words: "Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra" [our life, our sweetness and our hope]. Let us learn from her to live and die in the hope that never disappoints.

[After the Angelus the Pope said:]

I am following with concern the tragic episodes that have occurred in Nigeria in the past few days and, as I pray for the victims, I ask people to put an end to all violence, which does not solve problems but increases them, sowing hatred and division also among believers.

[He said in English:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. In today's Gospel Jesus invites us to be prepared, like the wise maidens, for the definitive encounter with him who will come to complete his work of salvation at the end of time. May the light of faith always guide us and may the gift of Christian love grow strong in our hearts and in our deeds as we journey to the eternal wedding feast. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

[He added in Italian:]

Lastly I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially to the group from Veruno with the Mayor and other administrators, as well as the faithful from Rieti and from Piedmonte di Barano d'Ischia. Our thoughts today cannot but turn to the city of Genoa, harshly affected by floods. I offer the assurance of my prayers to the victims, their relatives and all who have suffered serious damage. May the Madonna della Guardia sustain the beloved Genoese people in their solidarity and commitment to overcoming this trial. Dear pilgrims, I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. A good Sunday to you all!


Papal Reflection on Priesthood to Open Academic Year
"As Priests, the One Legitimate Ascent ... Is Not That of Success But That of the Cross"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 7, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave last Friday evening when he presided overs Vespers for the opening of the academic year in pontifical universities.

His homily focused on priestly ministry, in light of the 70th anniversary of Pope Pius XII founding the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations.

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Venerable Brothers,

Dear brothers and sisters!

It is a joy for me to celebrate these Vespers with you the members of the great community of the pontifical Roman universities. I greet Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, thanking him for the courteous words that he has addressed to me and above all for his service as head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, assisted by the secretary and the other collaborators. To them, and to all of the rectors, professors and the other students I address my most cordial greeting.

Seventy years ago, Venerable Pius XII, with the motu proprio "Cum Nobis" (cf. AAS 33 [1941], 479-481) instituted the Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations, with the aim of promoting vocations to the priesthood, to spread an understanding and necessity of the ordained ministry and to encourage the faithful to pray for many worthy priests. On the occasion of that anniversary, this evening I would like to propose some reflections to you on the priestly ministry.

The motu proprio "Cum Nobis" represented the beginning of a vast movement of prayer initiatives and pastoral activities. It was a clear and generous response to the Lord's call: "The harvest is great but the laborers are few! Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest! (Matthew 9:37). Everywhere other ventures would develop following the launch of the Pontifical Work. Among these I would like to recall "Serra International," founded in the United States and named for Father Junípero Serra, a Spanish Franciscan friar, with the purpose of encouraging and supporting vocations to the priesthood and giving financial support to seminarians. I thank the members of Serra International, who are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their recognition by the Holy See.

The Pontifical Work for Priestly Vocations was instituted on the liturgical commemoration of St. Charles Borromeo, venerable patron of seminarians. We pray to him in this celebration to intercede for the reawakening, sound formation and growth of priestly vocations.

The Word of God too, which we heard in the passage from the First Letter of Peter, invites us to meditate on the mission of shepherds in the Christian community. From the beginnings of the Church there is an obvious prominence of the leaders of the first communities, who were appointed by the Apostles to proclaim the Word of God through preaching and celebrating the sacrifice of Christ, the Eucharist. Peter offers passionate encouragement: "I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder, a witness to the sufferings of Christ and a participant in the glory that must manifest itself" (1 Peter 5:1). St. Peter offers this exhortation on the basis of his personal relationship with Christ, which culminated in the dramatic events of the passion and in the experience of the encounter with him after his resurrection from the dead. Peter, furthermore, highlights the reciprocal solidarity of pastors in ministry, underscoring his and their belonging to the one apostolic order: He says, in fact, that he is "a fellow elder"; the Greek term is "sympresbyteros." Feeding the flock of Christ is the vocation and task common to them and links them in a particular way because they are united to Christ by a special bond. In fact, the Lord Jesus compared himself many times to a caring shepherd, attentive to each one of his sheep. He said of himself: "I am the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11). And St. Thomas Aquinas writes in his commentary on the Gospel of St. John: "Although the leaders of the Church are all shepherds, nevertheless, [Christ] is in a singular way. He says "I am the good shepherd" with the purpose of introducing the virtue of charity with sweetness. In fact, one cannot be a good shepherd without becoming one with Christ and his members through charity. Charity is the first duty of the good shepherd" (10, 3).

The Apostle Peter's vision of the call to the office of leading the community is a grand one, conceived in continuity with the unique election of The Twelve. The apostolic vocation exists through the personal relationship with Christ, nourished by assiduous prayer and animated by the passion for communicating the message received and the Apostles' same experience of faith. Jesus called The Twelve to be with him and to send them to preach his message (cf. Mark 3:14). There are some conditions for there to be a growing consonance between Christ and the life of the priest. I would like to focus on three, which emerge from the reading that we heard: the aspiration to work with Jesus to spread the Kingdom of God, the gratuity of the pastoral charge and the attitude of service.

First of all, in the call to the ministerial priesthood there is the encounter with Christ and being fascinated, struck by his words, by his gestures, by his very person. It is distinguishing his voice from many voices, responding like Peter: "You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and known that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). It is like feeling the radiance of the Good and Love that emanate from him, feeling enveloped and involved to the point of desiring to remain with him like the disciples of Emmaus -- "stay with us for the day is nearly spent" (Luke 24:29) and bringing the proclamation of the Gospel to the world. God the Father sent the eternal Son into the world to realize his plan of salvation. Christ Jesus established the Church to extend the beneficial effects of the redemption through time. The vocation of priests has its root in this action of the Father realized in Christ through the Holy Spirit. The minister of the Gospel then is he who lets himself be drawn by Christ, who knows how to "remain" with him, who enters into harmony, in intimate friendship, with him, that all be done "as God wishes" (1 Peter 5:2), according to his will of love, with great interior freedom and profound joy of heart.

In the second place, priests are called to be administrators of the Mysteries of God "not for personal gain but with a generous soul," St. Peter says in the reading from these Vespers (1 Peter 5:2). It must never be forgotten that one enters the priesthood through the sacrament, Ordination, and this means precisely opening oneself to the action of God, choosing every day to give oneself for him and for the brothers according to the word of the Gospel: "Freely have you received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). The Lord's call to ministry is not the fruit of special merits but a gift to be received and to which there corresponds a dedication of oneself not to one's own project but God's, in a generous and disinterested way, that he might dispose of us according to his will even if this does not concur with our desires of self-realization. It means loving together with him who first loved us and gave himself entirely. It means being open to letting oneself be involved in his full and complete act of love toward the Father and every person, consummated on Calvary. We must never forget -- as priests -- the one legitimate ascent for the ministry of shepherd is not that of success but that of the cross.

In this logic, being priests means being servants even with the exemplarity of life. "Be examples to the flock" is the invitation of the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:3). Priests are the dispensers of the means of salvation, of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Penance. They do not dispose of them according to their own will but they are their humble servants for the good of the People of God. It is one life, then, profoundly marked by this service: from the attentive care of the flock, from the faithful celebration of the liturgy, and from the prompt solicitude for all of the brothers, especially the most poor and needy. In living this "pastoral charity" on the model of Christ and with Christ, in whatever post the Lord calls one to, every priest can fully realize himself and his vocation.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have offered a reflection on the priestly ministry. But consecrated persons and laypeople, I think especially of the many religious women and lay women who study at the ecclesiastical universities of Rome, and of those who offer their service as professors or as staff of these schools, can also find useful elements [in what I have said] for living the time that they spend in the Eternal City more intensely. It is important for all, in fact, always to learn more to "remain" with the Lord, daily, in the personal encounter with him to let oneself be fascinated and be drawn by his love and to be proclaimers of his Gospel; it is important to seek in life to follow generously not one's own project but God's for each person, conforming one's will to the Lord's; it is important to prepare oneself, also through serious and demanding studies, to serve the People of God in the tasks entrusted to us.

Dear friends, live well, in intimate communion with the Lord, this time of formation: It is a precious gift that God offers you, especially here in Rome where one breathes the Church's catholicity in a completely singular way. May St. Charles Borromeo obtain the grace of fidelity for all those who attend the ecclesiastical institutes of Rome. May the Lord grant all of you, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, "Sedes Sapientiae," a profitable academic year. Amen.


On All Saints Day
"We Are All Going to Another Life"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Tuesday, the feast of All Saints, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those who had gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Solemnity of All Saints is a propitious occasion to lift our gaze from earthly realities marked by time, to the dimension of God, the dimension of eternity and of sanctity. The liturgy reminds us today that sanctity is the original vocation of every baptized person (cf. Lumen Gentium, 40). Christ, in fact, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the only Holy One (cf. Revelation 15:4) loved the Church as his Bride and gave himself for her, in order to sanctify her (cf. Ephesians 5:25-26). Because of this, all the members of the People of God are called to become saints, in keeping with the Apostle Paul's affirmation: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3). We are invited to consider the Church not only in her temporal and human aspect, marked by fragility, but as Christ wished her to be, that is "the communion of saints" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 946). In the Creed we profess that the Church is "holy," holy because she is the Body of Christ, she is the instrument of participation in the Holy Mysteries -- in the first place the Eucharist -- and the family of the saints, to whose protection we are entrusted on the day of our baptism.

Today we venerate this innumerable community of All the Saints, who, through their diverse life journeys, point out to us different ways of sanctity, gathered under a common denominator: to follow Christ and to conform ourselves in Him up to the last of our human affairs. All the states of life, in fact, can become, with the action of grace and with commitment and perseverance, ways of sanctification.

The commemoration of the deceased faithful, to which tomorrow, Nov. 2, will be dedicated, helps us to remember our dear ones who have left us, and all souls on the way to the fullness of life, on the horizon of the heavenly Church, to which today's Solemnity has elevated us. From the earliest times of the Christian faith, the earthly Church, acknowledging the communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, has cultivated with great piety the memory of the deceased and has offered prayers for them. Our prayer for the dead is, therefore, not only useful but also necessary, given that it not only can help them, but that at the same time it makes effective their intercession in our favor (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 958). Also the visit to cemeteries, while protecting the bonds of affection with those who have loved us in our life, reminds us that we are all going to another life, beyond death. May tears due to the earthly distancing not prevail over the certainty of the resurrection, over the hope of attaining the blessedness of eternity, "the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality" (Spe Salvi, 12). The object of our hope is the enjoyment of the presence of God in eternity. Jesus promised it to his disciples, saying: "but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22).

We entrust to the Virgin Mary, Queen of All Saints, our pilgrimage to our heavenly homeland, while we invoke her intercession for our deceased brothers and sisters.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

I am pleased to wish all of you a happy All Saints Day! This wonderful feast, along with tomorrow’s commemoration of the faithful departed, speaks to us of the beauty of our faith and of the joy that awaits us in heaven with our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Christ. Let us therefore pray earnestly that we may all be joyfully united one day in the Father’s house. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily at Mass for Deceased Prelates
"Christ's Death Is the Font of Life, for Into It God Poured All of His Love"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Mass for the cardinals and bishops who have died this year.

* * *

Venerable Brothers,

Dear brothers and sisters!

The day after the liturgical commemoration of all the faithful departed we are gathered at the altar of the Lord to offer his Sacrifice on behalf of the cardinals and bishops who, during the course of this year, came to the end of their earthly pilgrimage. With great affection we recall the venerable members of the College of Cardinals who have left us: Urbano Navarrete, S.J., Michele Giordano, Varkey Vithayathil, C.SS.R., Giovanni Saldarini, Agustín García-Gasco Vicente, Georg Maximilian Sterzinsky, Kazimierz S'wia;tek, Virgilio Noè, Aloysius Matthew Ambrozic, Andrzej Maria Deskur. Together with them we present to the throne of the Most High the souls of their brothers in the episcopate whom we also mourn. For each and every one we offer our prayer, animated by faith in eternal life and the mystery of the communion of saints; a faith full of hope, enlightened also by the Word of God that we have heard.

The passage taken from the prophet Hosea turns our thoughts immediately to the resurrection of Jesus, to the mystery of his death and his rising to unending life. This text of Hosea -- the first half of Chapter 6 -- was deeply impressed upon the heart and mind of Jesus. In fact, more than once in the Gospels he repeats Verse 6: "I want love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God more than holocausts." Jesus does not cite Verse 2 but he makes it his own and he realizes it in the Paschal Mystery: "After two days he will give life back to us and on the third he will raise us up again, and we will live in his presence." In the light of these words the Lord Jesus entered into the passion, he decisively embarked upon the road to the cross; he spoke openly to his disciples of what must happen to him in Jerusalem, and the words of the Prophet Hosea echoed in his own words: "The Son of man will be given over into the hands of men and they will kill him; but, once he is killed, after three days, he will rise again" (Mark 9:31).

The evangelist observes that the disciples "did not understand these words and they were afraid to question him" (9:32). We too, in the face of death, cannot fail to experience the sentiments and thoughts characteristic of our human condition. And we are always surprised and overcome by a God who draws so close to us that he does not even stop before the abyss of death, who rather passes through it, remaining for two days in the tomb. But exactly here the mystery of the "third day" occurs. Christ takes on our mortal flesh completely that it might be invested with the glorious power of God, by the breath of the life-giving Spirit, who transforms and regenerates it. This is the baptism of the passion (Luke 12:50), which Jesus received for us and about which St. Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans. The expression used by the Apostle -- "baptized into his death" -- never ceases to strike us, such is the concision with which he summarizes the dizzying mystery. Christ's death is the font of life, for into it God poured all of his love, as in a great cataract, which makes us think of the image of Psalm 41: "Abyss calls to abyss, in the roar of your torrents; all your billows and waves have passed over me" (8). The abyss of death is filled by another abyss that is greater still, namely, the love of God, which is such that death no longer has power over Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 8:9), nor over them who, by faith and baptism, are associated with him: "If we have died with Christ," says St. Paul, "we believe that we will also live with him" (Romans 8:8). This "living with Jesus" is the fulfillment of the hope prophesied by Hosea: "… and we will live in his presence" (6:2).

In truth, it is only in Christ that such a hope finds its real foundation. Before [Christ] it ran the risk of becoming an illusion, a symbol taken from the rhythm of the seasons: "like the autumn rain, like the spring rain" (Hosea 6:3). At the time of the Prophet Hosea the faith of the Israelites was in danger of being contaminated with the naturalistic religions of the land of Canaan, but this faith is not able to save anyone from death. But God's intervention in the drama of human history does not obey any natural cycle; it only obeys his grace and faithfulness. The new and eternal life is the fruit of the tree of the cross, a tree that blossoms and bears fruit from the light of the sun of God. Without the cross of Christ all the energy of nature remains impotent before the negative force of sin. A beneficent force greater than that which moves the cycles of nature, a Good greater than that of creation itself: a love that proceeds from the "heart" itself of God and that, while it reveals the ultimate meaning of creation, renews it and directs it toward its original and final goal.

All of this happens in the "three days," when the "grain of wheat" falls to the earth; it remained there for the time necessary to fill up the measure of the justice and mercy of God, and in the end produced "much fruit," not remaining alone, but as the first born of many brothers (cf. John 12:24; Romans 8:29). Now, thanks to Christ, thanks to the work accomplished in him by the Most Holy Trinity, the images drawn from nature are no longer only symbols, illusory myths, but they speak to us of a reality. At the foundation of the hope is the will of the Father and the Son, which we heard about in the Gospel for this liturgy: "Father, I want those whom you have given me to be with me where I am" (John 17:24). And among those whom the Father gave to Jesus are also the venerable brothers for whom we offer this Eucharist: They "knew" God through Jesus, they knew his name, and love of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit, dwelled in them (cf. John 12:25-26), opening their life to heaven, to eternity. Let us thank God for this inestimable gift. And, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, let us pray that this mystery of communion, which filled their whole existence, be fully realized in each one of them.


On Death and Life
"Man Needs Eternity -- and Every Other Hope, for Him, Is All Too Brief"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

After celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints, the Church today invites us to commemorate all the faithful departed, to turn our gaze to so many faces that have gone before us and that have completed their earthly journey. In today's Audience, then, I would like to offer a few simple thoughts on the reality of death, which for us as Christians is illumined by Christ's resurrection, in order to renew our faith in eternal life.

As I said at yesterday's Angelus, during these days we visit the cemetery to pray for our dear departed ones; we go to visit them, as it were, in order to express our affection for them once more, to feel them still close to us; and in so doing, we also remember an article of the Creed: In the communion of saints there is a close bond between us who still journey on this earth and so many brothers and sisters who have already reached eternity.

Man has always been concerned for his loved ones who have died, and he has sought to give them a kind of second life through his attention, care and affection. In a certain way, we want to hold on to their experience of life; and paradoxically, we discover how they lived, what they loved, what they feared, what they hoped in and what they hated precisely at their graves, which we crowd with mementos. They are, as it were, a mirror of their world.

Why is this? Because -- although death is often treated as an almost prohibited subject of discussion in our society, and there is a continual attempt to remove the mere thought of death from our minds -- it regards us all, it regards men of every time and in every place. And before this mystery we all, even unconsciously, seek something that invites us to hope, a sign that brings us consolation, that opens a horizon before us, that offers us a future. The road of death, in reality, is a way of hope -- and to visit our cemeteries, and to read the inscriptions on graves, is to make a journey marked by hope in eternity.

But we ask ourselves: Why do we experience fear in the face of death? Why has humanity, to a large extent, never resigned itself to believing that beyond death there is only nothingness? I would say that there are a variety of reasons: We fear death because we fear emptiness; we fear departing for something unfamiliar to us, for something unknown to us. And then, there is in us a sense of refusal, for we cannot accept that all the beauty and greatness realized during a lifetime is suddenly blotted out, that it is cast into the abyss of nothingness. Above all, we feel that love requires and asks for eternity -- and it is impossible to accept that love is destroyed by death in a single moment.

Again, we fear death because -- when we find ourselves approaching the end of life -- we perceive that there will be a judgment of our actions, of how we led our lives, especially of those shadowy points that we often skillfully know how to remove -- or attempt to remove -- from our consciences. I would say that the question of judgment is what often underlies the care men of all times have for the departed, and the attention a man gives to persons who were significant to him and who are no longer beside him on the journey of earthly life. In a certain sense, the acts of affection and love that surround the departed loved one are a way of protecting him -- in the belief that these acts are not without effect on judgment. We can see this in the majority of cultures, which make up human history.

Today the world has become, at least apparently, much more rational -- or better, there is a widespread tendency to think that every reality has to be confronted with the criteria of experimental science, and that we must respond even to the great question of death not so much with faith, but by departing from experiential, empirical knowledge. We do not sufficiently realize, however, that this way ends in falling into forms of spiritism in the attempt to have some contact with the world beyond death, imagining as it were that there exists a reality that in the end is a copy of the present one.

Dear friends, the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of the faithful departed tell us that only he who is able to recognize a great hope in death is able also to live a life that springs from hope. If we reduce man exclusively to his horizontal dimension, to what can be perceived empirically, life itself loses its profound meaning. Man needs eternity -- and every other hope, for him, is all too brief, is all too limited. Man is explainable only if there is a Love that overcomes all isolation -- even that of death -- in a totality that transcends even space and time. Man is explainable -- he finds his deepest meaning -- only if God is. And we know that God has gone forth from the distance and has made Himself close; He has entered into our lives and He tells us: "I am the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).

Let us think for a moment of the scene at Calvary and let us listen once again to the words that Jesus addressed on the Cross to the robber crucified at his right: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Let us think of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when -- after having travelled a stretch of road with the Risen Jesus -- they recognize Him and quickly set out toward Jerusalem to announce the Lord's resurrection (cf. Luke 24:13-35). The Master's words come to mind with renewed clarity: "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:1-2).

God has truly appeared; He has become accessible; He has so loved the world "that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16), and in the supreme act of love -- in the Cross -- plunging into the abyss of death, He conquered it, He rose and He opened the doors of eternity also to us. Christ sustains us through the night of death, which He himself traversed: He is the Good Shepherd, in whose guidance we can trust without any fear, since He knows well the road, even in obscurity.

Each Sunday, in reciting the Creed, we reaffirm this truth. And in visiting cemeteries to pray with affection and love for our dear departed ones, we are invited once again to renew with courage and with strength our faith in eternal life; indeed, we are invited to live out this great hope and to give witness to it in the world: Nothingness is not behind this present moment. And it is precisely faith in eternal life that gives the Christian the courage to love our world even more intensely, and to work to build a future for it, to give it a true and lasting hope. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the day after the Solemnity of All Saints, the Church invites us to pray for the faithful departed. This yearly commemoration, often marked by visits to the cemetery, is an occasion to ponder the mystery of death and to renew our faith in the promise of eternal life held out to us by Christ's resurrection. As human beings, we have a natural fear of death and we rebel against its apparent finality. Faith teaches us that the fear of death is lightened by a great hope, the hope of eternity, which gives our lives their fullest meaning. The God who is love offers us the promise of eternal life through the death and resurrection of his Son. In Christ, death no longer appears as an abyss of emptiness, but rather a path to life which will never end. Christ is the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in him will never die. Each Sunday, in reciting the Creed, we reaffirm our faith in this mystery. As we remember our dear departed ones, united with them in the communion of the saints, may our faith inspire us to follow Christ more closely and to work in this world to build a future of hope.

* * *


Sunday's Angelus: On Practicing Our Preaching
Christ "Expresses the Truth of His Teaching Through Fidelity to the Father's Will"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave last Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In this Sunday's liturgy the Apostle Paul invites us to approach the Gospel "not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the Word of God" (1 Titus 2:13). This is how we can welcome Jesus' admonishments to our consciences in order to change our conduct and conform to them. In today's [Gospel] passage he upbraids the scribes and Pharisees, who had the role of teachers in their community, because their conduct was openly contrary to the teaching that they insistently proposed to others. Jesus points out that they "say but do not do" (Matthew 23:3); rather, "they tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them" (Matthew 23:4). The sound teaching should be accepted but it risks being betrayed by an inconsistent way of life. For this reason Jesus says: "do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example" (Matthew 23:3). Jesus' attitude is exactly the opposite: He first practices the commandment of love, which he teaches everyone, and he can say that it is a burden that is light and easy since he helps us to bear it together with him (cf. Matthew 11:29-30).

Thinking of teachers who oppress others' freedom in the name of their own authority, St. Bonaventure indicates who the true Teacher is: "No one can teach or do or attain the truths that can be known unless the Son of God is present" (Sermo I de Tempore, Dom. XXII post Pentecosten, Opera omnia, IX, Quaracchi, 1901, 442). Jesus sits on the "cathedra" as "the greater Moses, who broadens the Covenant to include all nations" ("Jesus of Nazareth," Ignatius Press, 2007, 66). He is our true and only Master! We are thus called to follow the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, who expresses the truth of his teaching through fidelity to the Father's will, through the gift of himself. Blessed Antonio Rosmini writes; "The first teacher forms all the other teachers, as he also forms all of the disciples themselves because [both] exist only on account of that first tacit but powerful teaching" ("Idea della Sapienza," 82, in: "Introduzione alla filosofia," vol. II, Roma 1934, 143). Jesus also roundly condemns vainglory and observes that acting "to be admired by people" (Matthew 23:5) puts one at the mercy of human approval, threatening the values that constitute personal authenticity.

Dear friends, the Lord Jesus presented himself to the world as a servant, completely stripping himself, and lowered himself to the point of giving the most eloquent lesson of humility and love on the cross. From his example there flows the proposal of life: "Whoever wishes to be greatest among you will be your servant" (Matthew 23:11). Let us invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy and pray, in particular, for those in the Christian community who are called to the service of teaching that they may always witness by deeds the truths that they transmit with words.


Pope's Homily at Vigil in Preparation for Assisi
"It Is Not the Sword of the Conqueror That Builds Peace, But the Sword of the Sufferer"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at a liturgy in preparation for Thursday's day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for peace in Assisi.

The liturgy replaced the customary general audience held on Wednesdays.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today our customary meeting for the General Audience takes on a special character, for it is the vigil of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, which will be held tomorrow in Assisi -- 25 years after the historic first meeting called by Pope John Paul II. I wanted to give this day the title "Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace" in order to signify the commitment we solemnly wish to renew -- together with members of different religions and also with those who are non-believers but who sincerely seek the truth -- to the advancement of the true good of humanity and for the building up of peace. As I have already had occasion to recall, "He who is on the journey towards God cannot help but transmit peace; those who build peace cannot help but draw close to God."

As Christians, we are convinced that the most precious contribution we can make to the cause of peace is that of prayer. For this reason, we find ourselves gathered here today, as the Church of Rome together with pilgrims who are present in the city, in order to listen to God's Word, and to invoke the gift of peace in faith. The Lord can enlighten our minds and hearts and guide us to be builders of justice and of reconciliation in our everyday lives and in the world.

In the passage we just heard from the Prophet Zechariah, an announcement resounds full of peace and light (cf. Zechariah 9:10). God promises salvation; He issues an invitation to "rejoice greatly," for this salvation is about to be realized. A king is spoken of: "Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious" (Verse 9), but the one who is announced is not a king who presents himself in human power with the strength of armies; nor is he a king who dominates through political and military force; he is a gentle king, who reigns with humility and meekness before God and men, a king who is different than the great rulers of the world: "humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass," says the prophet (ibid.). He comes riding the animal of the common people -- of the poor -- in contrast with the war chariots of the armies of the great powers of the world. Indeed, he is a king who will cause these chariots to vanish; he will cut off the battle bow; he will announce peace to the nations (cf. Verse 10).

But who is this king of whom the Prophet Zechariah speaks? Let us go for a moment to Bethlehem and listen to what the Angel says to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night. The Angel announces a great joy which will come to all the people, and which is tied to a sign of poverty: a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (cf. Luke 2:8-12). And a multitude of the heavenly host sings "Glory to God in the highest and on the earth peace among men, whom He loves" (Verse 14), to men of goodwill. The birth of that child, who is Jesus, carries with it an announcement of peace to the whole world.

But let us also go to the final moments of Christ's life, when He enters Jerusalem welcomed by a jubilant crowd. The Prophet Zechariah's announcement of the coming of a meek and humble king returned to the minds of Jesus' disciples in a particular way after the events of the Passion, Death and Resurrection -- of the Paschal Mystery -- when they reconsidered with the eyes of faith the Master's joyous entrance into the Holy City. He rides upon an ass, which was borrowed (cf. Matthew 21:2-7): He does not ride in a stately carriage or on horseback like the great ones. He does not enter Jerusalem accompanied by a powerful army of chariots and charioteers. He is a poor king, the king of God's poor. In the Greek text, the word praeîs appears, which means gentle, meek; Jesus is the king of the anawim, of those whose hearts are free of the lust for power and material riches, free of the will and the search for dominion over others. Jesus is the king of all those who possess that interior freedom that enables them to overcome the greed and egoism of the world, and who know that God is their only wealth.

Jesus is the poor king among the poor, meek among those who desire to be meek. In this way, He is the king of peace, thanks to the power of God, which is the power of good, the power of love. He is a king who causes the chariots and charioteers of battle to disappear, who will shatter the bows of war; He is a king who will bring peace to fulfillment on the Cross by joining heaven and earth, and by throwing a bridge of brotherhood between all peoples. The Cross is the new bow of peace, the sign and instrument of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of understanding, a sign of the love that is stronger than all violence and oppression, stronger than death: Evil is conquered with good, with love.

This is the new kingdom of peace whose king is Christ; and it is a kingdom that extends over all the earth. The Prophet Zechariah announces that this humble, peaceful king will have dominion "from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah 9:10). The reign inaugurated by Christ has universal dimensions. The horizons of this poor and gentle king are neither a territory nor a state, but rather the very ends of the earth; transcending every barrier of race, language and culture, He creates communion; He creates unity.

And where do we see this announcement fulfilled today? The prophecy of Zechariah shines with splendor in the great nets of the Eucharistic communities that extend over all the earth. These form a great mosaic of communities in which this gentle and peaceful king's sacrifice of love is made present; they form a multitude of "islands of peace" that radiate peace. Everywhere, in every circumstance and reality, in every culture, from the great cities with their palaces to tiny villages with their humble abodes, from towering cathedrals to little chapels, He comes, He makes Himself present; and in entering into communion with Him, men are also united with one another in one body, overcoming division, rivalries, and resentment. The Lord comes in the Eucharist to take us away from our individualism, our particularities that exclude others, to form of us one body, one kingdom of peace in a divided world.

But how may we build this kingdom of peace, of which Christ is king? The command that He leaves to His Apostles, and through them, to us all is: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19). Like Jesus, the messengers of peace in His kingdom must take to the road, they must respond to His invitation. They must go, but not with the power of war, nor with the force of power. In the Gospel passage we heard, Jesus sends 72 disciples into the great harvest that is the world, and He invites them to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest (cf. Luke 10:1-3); He does not send them with powerful means, but rather "as lambs in the midst of wolves" (Verse 3), without purse, or bag or sandals (cf. Verse 4). St. John Chrysostom, in one of his Homilies, comments: "As long as we are lambs we will conquer; even if we are surrounded by many wolves, we will succeed in overcoming them. But if we become wolves, we will be defeated, because we will be deprived of the help of the Shepherd" (Homily 33, 1: PG 57,389).

Christians must never yield to the temptation to become wolves in the midst of wolves; it is not with power, with force or with violence that Christ's kingdom of peace is extended, but with the gift of self, with love taken to the extreme, even toward our enemies. Jesus does not conquer the world with the strength of armies, but with the strength of the Cross, which is victory's true guarantee. Consequently, for the one who desires to be the Lord's disciple -- His messenger -- this means being ready for suffering and martyrdom, being ready to lose one's life for Him, so that good, love and peace may triumph in the world. This is the condition for being able to say, upon entering into any circumstance: "Peace be to this house!" (Luke 10:5).

In front of St. Peter's Basilica there stand two great statues of Sts. Peter and Paul, which are easily identifiable: St. Peter holds keys in his hands, and Paul instead holds a sword. One who is unfamiliar with the story of the latter might think he is a great captain who commanded powerful armies and subjected peoples and nations with the sword, procuring for himself fame and riches by others' blood. Instead it is exactly the opposite: The sword he holds is the instrument with which Paul was put to death, with which he underwent martyrdom and shed his own blood. His battle was not one of violence and of war but of martyrdom for Christ. His only weapon was the proclamation of "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). His preaching was not based "on plausible words and wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power" (Verse 4). He dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel's message of reconciliation and peace, spending all his energy in order that it might resound to the very ends of the earth.

And this was his strength: He did not seek a tranquil, comfortable life, far from difficulties and contradictions; rather, he wore himself out for the sake of the Gospel, he gave himself entirely and without reserve, and in this way he became the great messenger of Christ's peace and reconciliation.

The sword that St. Paul holds also recalls the power of truth, which can often wound, can hurt: the Apostle remained faithful to this truth to the end; he served it; he suffered for it; he gave over his life for it. This same logic holds true also for us if we want to be bearers of the kingdom and peace announced by the Prophet Zechariah and fulfilled by Christ: We must be willing to pay personally, to suffer in the first person misunderstanding, rejection, persecution. It is not the sword of the conqueror that builds peace, but the sword of the sufferer, of he who knows how to give his very life.

Dear brothers and sisters, as Christians we want to invoke from God the gift of peace; we want to ask Him to make us instruments of His peace in a world torn by hatred, division, egoism and war; we want to ask Him that tomorrow's meeting in Assisi foster dialogue between people of different religious affiliations and that it carry with it a ray of light capable of enlightening the minds and hearts of all people, so that resentment may give way to forgiveness, division to reconciliation, hatred to love, violence to meekness, and that peace may reign in the world. Amen.

[Translated by Diane Montagna]

Appeal of the Holy Father for the Peoples of Turkey

Dear brothers and sisters, before greeting you in various languages, I begin with an appeal. In this moment, my thoughts go to the peoples of Turkey who have been harshly hit by the earthquake that has caused grave losses of human life, numerous missing persons and extensive damage. I invite you to unite yourselves with me in prayer for those who have lost their lives, and to be spiritually close to the many persons so harshly tried. May the Almighty give support to all those who are committed to the work of providing aid. Now I greet you in various languages.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

I am pleased to receive you in Saint Peter's Basilica and to extend a warm welcome to all of you who could not be accommodated in the Audience Hall. Always stay faithfully united to Christ and bear joyful witness to the Gospel. To all of you I cordially impart my Blessing.

* * *

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. I ask you to accompany me in prayer as I journey tomorrow to Assisi for the celebration of the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, together with representatives of different religions. I extend special greetings to the pilgrims from the Diocese of Niigata in Japan celebrating their centenary. I also welcome those present from England, Denmark, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam and the United States. May Almighty God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[He added in Italian:]

Lastly, I greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the example of St. Francis of Assisi, at whose tomb I will pray tomorrow, support you, dear young people, in the commitment of daily fidelity to Christ; may he encourage you, dear sick, to always follow Jesus along the path of trial and suffering; may he help you, dear newlyweds, to make your family life a place of constant encounter with the love of God and neighbor. Thank you to you all. Good day.


Franciscan Leader's Message Welcoming Pope to Assisi
"Thank You ... for Reminding Us That Peace Is Inseparable From Truth"

ASSISI, Italy, OCT. 26, 2011 - Here is the text of a message sent to Benedict XVI by Father José Rodríguez Carballo, the minister-general of the Franciscans.

* * *

Holy Father,

With few and simple words, as the Poor Man of Assisi exhorted us, I would like, on behalf of all the Friars Minor spread all over the world, to address two words to you from the depths of my heart: Welcome and Thank You.

Holy Father, welcome to Assisi, the altar of memory for all those who follow the way of life that our Father Francis lived, wrote, and presented to the Lord Pope for approval (cf. Test 14ss)! Welcome to Assisi, the city of peace, spiritual ark in which all of humanity seeks refuge! Welcome, especially to the Portiuncula, the cradle of the Order of Friars Minor and Poor Sisters! Welcome to our home and to your home, your Holiness!

Your Holiness, Thank you! Thank you for picking up the witness left by your venerated predecessor Blessed John Paul II 25 years ago. Thank you for remembering us with this day of prayer for peace, which is a gift from God, a gift we must implore. Thank you for choosing Assisi for this new day of prayer for peace, the town of Francis, a herald of peace and reconciliation, the man who, as Your Holiness wrote, "embodied in an exemplary manner the Beatitude proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospel, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God (Mt 5, 9)." There is a natural reference to Francis' witness in his time by those who today cultivate the ideal of peace, respect for nature, and dialogue between peoples, religions, and cultures." Thank you, therefore, Holy Father, for reminding us that peace is inseparable from truth; and because we have yet to reach it, we are still on the journey as pilgrims. Thank you for reminding us that peace is a commitment we must all take upon ourselves and that violence cannot be justified in the name of God or religion.

Most Holy Father, the Friars Minor pray for your intentions and especially pray that this day we are going to live tomorrow in Assisi in communion with the Successor of Peter will bear abundant fruit on the path of peace. At the same time, we, Friars Minor, commit ourselves, like St. Francis, to be instruments of peace and reconciliation, and bring love where there is hatred, peace where there is violence, faith where there is doubt, truth where there is error, and pardon where there is injury.

So that we may be faithful to this inheritance we have received, we ask for your blessing, Holy Father.

With the veneration of a son and on behalf of all the Friars Minor,

Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm
Minister General, OFM


Pope Benedict XVI’s address in the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi, before representatives of the world’s religions and non-believers:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Distinguished Heads and Representatives of Churches, Ecclesial Communities and World Religions,
Dear Friends,

Twenty-five years have passed since Blessed Pope John Paul II first invited representatives of the world’s religions to Assisi to pray for peace. What has happened in the meantime? What is the state of play with regard to peace today? At that time the great threat to world peace came from the division of the earth into two mutually opposed blocs. A conspicuous symbol of this division was the Berlin Wall which traced the border between two worlds right through the heart of the city. In 1989, three years after Assisi, the wall came down, without bloodshed. Suddenly the vast arsenals that stood behind the wall were no longer significant. They had lost their terror. The peoples’ will to freedom was stronger than the arsenals of violence. The question as to the causes of this dramatic change is complex and cannot be answered with simple formulae. But in addition to economic and political factors, the deepest reason for the event is a spiritual one: behind material might there were no longer any spiritual convictions. The will to freedom was ultimately stronger than the fear of violence, which now lacked any spiritual veneer. For this victory of freedom, which was also, above all, a victory of peace, we give thanks. What is more, this was not merely, nor even primarily, about the freedom to believe, although it did include this. To that extent we may in some way link all this to our prayer for peace.

But what happened next? Unfortunately, we cannot say that freedom and peace have characterized the situation ever since. Even if there is no threat of a great war hanging over us at present, nevertheless the world is unfortunately full of discord. It is not only that sporadic wars are continually being fought – violence as such is potentially ever present and it is a characteristic feature of our world. Freedom is a great good. But the world of freedom has proved to be largely directionless, and not a few have misinterpreted freedom as somehow including freedom for violence. Discord has taken on new and frightening guises, and the struggle for freedom must engage us all in a new way.

Let us try to identify the new faces of violence and discord more closely. It seems to me that, in broad strokes, we may distinguish two types of the new forms of violence, which are the very antithesis of each other in terms of their motivation and manifest a number of differences in detail. Firstly there is terrorism, for which in place of a great war there are targeted attacks intended to strike the opponent destructively at key points, with no regard for the lives of innocent human beings, who are cruelly killed or wounded in the process. In the eyes of the perpetrators, the overriding goal of damage to the enemy justifies any form of cruelty. Everything that had been commonly recognized and sanctioned in international law as the limit of violence is overruled. We know that terrorism is often religiously motivated and that the specifically religious character of the attacks is proposed as a justification for the reckless cruelty that considers itself entitled to discard the rules of morality for the sake of the intended “good”. In this case, religion does not serve peace, but is used as justification for violence.

The post-Enlightenment critique of religion has repeatedly maintained that religion is a cause of violence and in this way it has fuelled hostility towards religions. The fact that, in the case we are considering here, religion really does motivate violence should be profoundly disturbing to us as religious persons. In a way that is more subtle but no less cruel, we also see religion as the cause of violence when force is used by the defenders of one religion against others. The religious delegates who were assembled in Assisi in 1986 wanted to say, and we now repeat it emphatically and firmly: this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction. In response, an objection is raised: how do you know what the true nature of religion is? Does your assertion not derive from the fact that your religion has become a spent force? Others in their turn will object: is there such a thing as a common nature of religion that finds expression in all religions and is therefore applicable to them all? We must ask ourselves these questions, if we wish to argue realistically and credibly against religiously motivated violence. Herein lies a fundamental task for interreligious dialogue – an exercise which is to receive renewed emphasis through this meeting. As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith. We acknowledge it with great shame. But it is utterly clear that this was an abuse of the Christian faith, one that evidently contradicts its true nature. The God in whom we Christians believe is the Creator and Father of all, and from him all people are brothers and sisters and form one single family. For us the Cross of Christ is the sign of the God who put “suffering-with” (compassion) and “loving-with” in place of force. His name is “God of love and peace” (2 Cor 13:11). It is the task of all who bear responsibility for the Christian faith to purify the religion of Christians again and again from its very heart, so that it truly serves as an instrument of God’s peace in the world, despite the fallibility of humans.

If one basic type of violence today is religiously motivated and thus confronts religions with the question as to their true nature and obliges all of us to undergo purification, a second complex type of violence is motivated in precisely the opposite way: as a result of God’s absence, his denial and the loss of humanity which goes hand in hand with it. The enemies of religion – as we said earlier – see in religion one of the principal sources of violence in the history of humanity and thus they demand that it disappear. But the denial of God has led to much cruelty and to a degree of violence that knows no bounds, which only becomes possible when man no longer recognizes any criterion or any judge above himself, now having only himself to take as a criterion. The horrors of the concentration camps reveal with utter clarity the consequences of God’s absence.

Yet I do not intend to speak further here about state-imposed atheism, but rather about the decline of man, which is accompanied by a change in the spiritual climate that occurs imperceptibly and hence is all the more dangerous. The worship of mammon, possessions and power is proving to be a counter-religion, in which it is no longer man who counts but only personal advantage. The desire for happiness degenerates, for example, into an unbridled, inhuman craving, such as appears in the different forms of drug dependency. There are the powerful who trade in drugs and then the many who are seduced and destroyed by them, physically and spiritually. Force comes to be taken for granted and in parts of the world it threatens to destroy our young people. Because force is taken for granted, peace is destroyed and man destroys himself in this peace vacuum.

The absence of God leads to the decline of man and of humanity. But where is God? Do we know him, and can we show him anew to humanity, in order to build true peace? Let us first briefly summarize our considerations thus far. I said that there is a way of understanding and using religion so that it becomes a source of violence, while the rightly lived relationship of man to God is a force for peace. In this context I referred to the need for dialogue and I spoke of the constant need for purification of lived religion. On the other hand I said that the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence.

In addition to the two phenomena of religion and anti-religion, a further basic orientation is found in the growing world of agnosticism: people to whom the gift of faith has not been given, but who are nevertheless on the lookout for truth, searching for God. Such people do not simply assert: “There is no God”. They suffer from his absence and yet are inwardly making their way towards him, inasmuch as they seek truth and goodness. They are “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”. They ask questions of both sides. They take away from militant atheists the false certainty by which these claim to know that there is no God and they invite them to leave polemics aside and to become seekers who do not give up hope in the existence of truth and in the possibility and necessity of living by it. But they also challenge the followers of religions not to consider God as their own property, as if he belonged to them, in such a way that they feel vindicated in using force against others. These people are seeking the truth, they are seeking the true God, whose image is frequently concealed in the religions because of the ways in which they are often practised. Their inability to find God is partly the responsibility of believers with a limited or even falsified image of God. So all their struggling and questioning is in part an appeal to believers to purify their faith, so that God, the true God, becomes accessible. Therefore I have consciously invited delegates of this third group to our meeting in Assisi, which does not simply bring together representatives of religious institutions. Rather it is a case of being together on a journey towards truth, a case of taking a decisive stand for human dignity and a case of common engagement for peace against every form of destructive force. Finally I would like to assure you that the Catholic Church will not let up in her fight against violence, in her commitment for peace in the world. We are animated by the common desire to be “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”.


Pope's Closing Remarks in Assisi
"We Will Continue to Be United in This Journey, in Dialogue"

ASSISI, Italy, OCT. 28, 2011 - Here is a translation and presentation of the statement Benedict XVI made to close Thursday's Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, held in Assisi.

* * *

Illustrious guests, dear friends:

At the end of this intense day, I want to thank you: a heartfelt word of thanks to those who have made possible today's encounter. We particularly thank those who, once again, have welcomed us: the city of Assisi, the community of this diocese with their bishop, the children of St. Francis, who care for the precious spiritual heritage left us by the Poor Man of Assisi.

As well, thank you to the numerous youth who have made a pilgrimage on foot from St. Mary of the Angels to testify how, among the new generations, there are so many who are committed to overcoming violence and division, and to being promoters of justice and peace.

Today's event is an image of how the spiritual dimension is a key element in the building of peace. Through this unique pilgrimage we have been able to engage in fraternal dialogue, to deepen our friendship, and to come together in silence and prayer.

After renewing our commitment to peace and exchanging with one another a sign of peace, we feel even more profoundly involved, together with all the men and women from the communities that we represent, in our common human journey.

We are not being separated; we will continue to meet, we will continue to be united in this journey, in dialogue, in the daily building of peace and in our commitment to a better world, a world in which every man and woman and every people can live in accordance with their own legitimate aspirations.

From my heart I thank all of you here present for having accepted my invitation to come to Assisi as pilgrims of truth and peace and I greet each one of you in Saint Francis' own words: May the Lord grant you peace -- "il Signore ti dia pace".


Pope's Farewell to Assisi Delegations
"The Journey of the Spirit Is Always a Journey of Peace"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2011 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave today to bid farewell to the delegations that joined with him Thursday in Assisi for the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World.

* * *

Distinguished Guests,
Dear Friends,

I welcome you this morning to the Apostolic Palace and I thank you once more for your willingness to take part in the day of reflection, dialogue and prayer for justice and peace in the world held yesterday in Assisi, twenty-five years after that historic first meeting.

In a certain sense, this gathering is representative of the billions of men and women throughout our world who are actively engaged in promoting justice and peace. It is also a sign of the friendship and fraternity which has flourished as the fruit of the efforts of so many pioneers in this kind of dialogue. May this friendship continue to grow among all the followers of the world’s religions and with men and women of good will everywhere.

I thank my Christian brothers and sisters for their fraternal presence. I also thank the representatives of the Jewish people, who are particularly close to us, and all of you, the distinguished representatives of the world’s religions. I am aware that many of you have come from afar and have undertaken a demanding journey. I express my gratitude also to those who represent people of good will who follow no religious tradition but are committed to the search for truth. They have been willing to share this pilgrimage with us as a sign of their desire to work together to build a better world.

Looking back, we can appreciate the foresight of the late Pope John Paul II in convening the first Assisi meeting, and the continuing need for men and women of different religions to testify together that the journey of the spirit is always a journey of peace.

Meetings of this sort are necessarily exceptional and infrequent, yet they are a vivid expression of the fact that every day, throughout our world, people of different religious traditions live and work together in harmony. It is surely significant for the cause of peace that so many men and women, inspired by their deepest convictions, are committed to working for the good of the human family.

In this way, I am sure that yesterday’s meeting has given us a sense of how genuine is our desire to contribute to the good of all our fellow human beings and how much we have to share with one another.

As we go our separate ways, let us draw strength from this experience and, wherever we may be, let us continue refreshed on the journey that leads to truth, the pilgrimage that leads to peace. I thank all of you from my heart!


Papal Address to Soldiers' Bishops
"There Are Many Men and Women in Uniform Full of Faith in Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Saturday to participants in an International Meeting of Military Ordinariates, held at the Vatican.

* * *

Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Friends,

I am happy to receive you on the occasion of the 6th International Congress of Military Ordinariates and of the third International Course of formation for military chaplains in humanitarian law, promoted jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. On greeting you all cordially, I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet for the courteous words he addressed to me in your name.

These initiatives of yours assume particular importance, because they are placed -- as already mentioned -- in the context of the 25th anniversary of the apostolic constitution Spirituali militum curae, promulgated by John Paul II, whose liturgical memorial we celebrate today. Through legislative procedures, an attempt is made to give military ordinariates the possibility to promote an ever more appropriate and better organized pastoral ministry for an important portion of the People of God, namely, military personnel and their families, with their institutions such as barracks, military schools and hospitals. Twenty-five years after the document, it is necessary to affirm that the military ordinariates, in general, have demonstrated their having adopted an increasingly evangelical style, adapting pastoral structures to the urgent needs of the new evangelization.

Ideally, in these days of study, you hope to review the historical and juridical path of military ordinariates, their ecclesial mission, as it is delineated by Spirituali militum curae, separating the common paths for ministry to military personnel and reflecting further on the most important current problems. In expressing my cordial encouragement, I want to call your attention to the need to guarantee to men and women of the armed forces a spiritual assistance that responds to all the needs of a coherent and missionary Christian life. An attempt is made to form Christians to have profound faith, to live their religious practice with conviction, and to be genuine witnesses of Christ in their environments. To achieve this objective, it is necessary that military bishops and chaplains feel that they are responsible for the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments where military personnel and their families are present.

If the challenge of military ordinariates is to evangelize the military world, making possible an encounter with Jesus Christ and the holiness to which all men are called, it seems evident that the priests who are committed in this ministry must have a solid human and spiritual formation, constant attention to their own interior life and, at the same time, be ready to listen and to dialogue, to be able to accept the personal and environmental difficulties of the individuals entrusted to them. These people, in fact, need constant support along their journey of faith, given that the religious dimension has special meaning also in the life of a soldier. The reason for the existence of military ordinariates, that is, spiritual assistance to faithful in the armed forces and the police, makes reference to the solicitude with which the Church has wished to offer military faithful and their families all the means of salvation to give them ordinary pastoral attention and the specific help they need to develop their mission with the style of Christian charity. A Christian’s military life, in fact, is placed in relation to the first and greatest commandment, that of love of God and of neighbor, because the Christian military man is called to realize a synthesis that makes it possible to be a military man out of love, fulfilling the ministerium pacis inter arma.

I am referring, especially, to charity exercised by soldiers who rescue earthquake and flood victims, and also fugitives, putting their courage and competence at the disposal of the weakest. I am thinking of the exercise of charity of soldiers involved in de-activating mines, with the personal danger and risk involved in this, in areas which have been the scene of wars, as well as of soldiers who, in the realm of peace missions, patrol cities and territories so that brothers will not kill one another. There are many men and women in uniform full of faith in Jesus, who love the truth, who want to promote peace and who commit themselves as true disciples of Christ, in the service of their nation, fostering the promotion of the fundamental human rights of nations.

Inserted in this context is the relation between humanitarian law and military chaplains, given that a collaboration between humanitarian organizations and religious leaders develops fruitful energies directed to alleviating the sufferings of conflicts. In the devastating wounds caused by wars and, before the eyes of all, human dignity is often abused and peace destroyed. However, the dynamic of law alone is not enough to re-establish the lost balance: It is necessary to undertake the path of reconciliation and forgiveness. So wrote Blessed John Paul II in the Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, which followed the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: "True peace therefore is the fruit of justice, that moral virtue and legal guarantee which ensures full respect for rights and responsibilities, and the just distribution of benefits and burdens. But because human justice is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and egoism of individuals and groups, it must include and, as it were, be completed by the forgiveness which heals and rebuilds troubled human relations from their foundations" (No. 3).

Dear friends, also in the light of these considerations, the pastoral motivations that are the basis of the identity of the military ordinariate are of great current importance. The work of evangelization in the military world calls for a growing assumption of responsibilities, so that, in this ambit, there is always a new, convinced and joyful proclamation of Jesus Christ, the only hope of life and peace for humanity. In fact, He said: "Without me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). May your particular mission and your ministry and that of your collaborators, presbyters and deacons, foster a general renewal of hearts, the premise of universal peace to which the whole world aspires. With these sentiments I assure you of my prayer and accompany you with my blessing, which I impart from my heart to you and to those entrusted to your pastoral care.


Pope's Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees
"A New Evangelization Also in the Vast and Complex Phenomenon of Human Mobility"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The text is dated Sept. 21 and was released today.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Proclaiming Jesus Christ the one Saviour of the world "constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14). Indeed, today we feel the urgent need to give a fresh impetus and new approaches to the work of evangelization in a world in which the breaking down of frontiers and the new processes of globalization are bringing individuals and peoples even closer. This is both because of the development of the means of social communication and because of the frequency and ease with which individuals and groups can move about today. In this new situation we must reawaken in each one of us the enthusiasm and courage that motivated the first Christian communities to be undaunted heralds of the Gospel’s newness, making St Paul’s words resonate in our hearts: "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16).

"Migration and the New Evangelization" is the theme I have chosen this year for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and it arises from the aforesaid situation. The present time, in fact, calls upon the Church to embark on a new evangelizationalso in the vast and complex phenomenon of human mobility. This calls for an intensification of her missionary activity both in the regions where the Gospel is proclaimed for the first time and in countries with a Christian tradition.

Blessed John Paul II invited us to "nourish ourselves with the word in order to be ‘servants of the word’ in the work of evangelization ... [in] a situation which is becoming increasingly diversified and demanding, in the context of ‘globalization’ and of the consequent new and uncertain mingling of peoples and cultures" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 40). Internal or international migration, in fact, as an opening in search of better living conditions or to flee from the threat of persecution, war, violence, hunger or natural disasters, has led to an unprecedented mingling of individuals and peoples, with new problems not only from the human standpoint but also from ethical, religious and spiritual ones. The current and obvious consequences of secularization, the emergence of new sectarian movements, widespread insensitivity to the Christian faith and a marked tendency to fragmentation are obstacles to focusing on a unifying reference that would encourage the formation of "one family of brothers and sisters in societies that are becoming ever more multiethnic and intercultural, where also people of various religions are urged to take part in dialogue, so that a serene and fruitful coexistence with respect for legitimate differences may be found", as I wrote in my Message last year for this World Day. Our time is marked by endeavours to efface God and the Church’s teaching from the horizon of life, while doubt, scepticism and indifference are creeping in, seeking to eliminate all the social and symbolic visibility of the Christian faith.

In this context migrants who have known and welcomed Christ are not infrequently constrained to consider him no longer relevant to their lives, to lose the meaning of their faith, no longer to recognize themselves as members of the Church, and often lead a life no longer marked by Christ and his Gospel. Having grown up among peoples characterized by their Christian faith they often emigrate to countries in which Christians are a minority or where the ancient tradition of faith, no longer a personal conviction or a community religion, has been reduced to a cultural fact. Here the Church is faced with the challenge of helping migrants keep their faith firm even when they are deprived of the cultural support that existed in their country of origin, and of identifying new pastoral approaches, as well as methods and expressions, for an ever vital reception of the Word of God. In some cases this is an opportunity to proclaim that, in Jesus Christ, humanity has been enabled to participate in the mystery of God and in his life of love. Humanity is also opened to a horizon of hope and peace, also through respectful dialogue and a tangible testimony of solidarity. In other cases there is the possibility of reawakening the dormant Christian conscience through a renewed proclamation of the Good News and a more consistent Christian life to enable people to rediscover the beauty of the encounter with Christ who calls Christians to holiness wherever they may be, even in a foreign land.

The phenomenon of migration today is also a providential opportunity for the proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world. Men and women from various regions of the earth who have not yet encountered Jesus Christ or know him only partially, ask to be received in countries with an ancient Christian tradition. It is necessary to find adequate ways for them to meet and to become acquainted with Jesus Christ and to experience the invaluable gift of salvation which, for everyone, is a source of "life in abundance" (cf. Jn 10:10); migrants themselves have a special role in this regard because they in turn can become "heralds of God’s word and witnesses to the Risen Jesus, the hope of the world" (Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 105).

Pastoral workers – priests, religious and lay people – play a crucial role in the demanding itinerary of the new evangelization in the context of migration. They work increasingly in a pluralist context: in communion with their Ordinaries, drawing on the Church’s Magisterium. I invite them to seek ways of fraternal sharing and respectful proclamation, overcoming opposition and nationalism. For their part, the Churches of origin, of transit and those that welcome the migration flows should find ways to increase their cooperation for the benefit both of those who depart and those who arrive, and, in any case, of those who, on their journey, stand in need of encountering the merciful face of Christ in the welcome given to one’s neighbour. To achieve a fruitful pastoral service of communion, it may be useful to update the traditional structures of care for migrants and refugees, by setting beside them models that respond better to the new situations in which different peoples and cultures interact with one another.

Asylum seekers, who fled from persecution, violence and situations that put their life at risk, stand in need of our understanding and welcome, of respect for their human dignity and rights, as well as awareness of their duties. Their suffering pleads with individual states and the international community to adopt attitudes of reciprocal acceptance, overcoming fears and avoiding forms of discrimination, and to make provisions for concrete solidarity also through appropriate structures for hospitality and resettlement programmes. All this entails mutual help between the suffering regions and those which, already for years, have accepted a large number of fleeing people, as well as a greater sharing of responsibilities among States.

The press and the other media have an important role in making known, correctly, objectively and honestly, the situation of those who have been forced to leave their homeland and their loved ones and want to start building a new life.

Christian communities are to pay special attention to migrant workers and their families by accompanying them with prayer, solidarity and Christian charity, by enhancing what is reciprocally enriching, as well as by fostering new political, economic and social planning that promotes respect for the dignity of every human person, the safeguarding of the family, access to dignified housing, to work and to welfare.

Priests, men and women religious, lay people, and most of all young men and women are to be sensitive in offering support to their many sisters and brothers who, having fled from violence, have to face new lifestyles and the difficulty of integration. The proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ will be a source of relief, hope and "full joy" (cf. Jn 15:11).

Lastly, I would like to mention the situation of numerous international students who are facing problems of integration, bureaucratic difficulties, hardship in the search for housing and welcoming structures. Christian communities are to be especially sensitive to the many young men and women who, precisely because of their youth, need reference points in addition to cultural growth, and have in their hearts a profound thirst for truth and the desire to encounter God. Universities of Christian inspiration are to be, in a special way, places of witness and of the spread of the new evangelization, seriously committed to contributing to social, cultural and human progress in the academic milieu. They are also to promote intercultural dialogue and enhance the contribution that international students can give. If these students meet authentic Gospel witnesses and examples of Christian life, it will encourage them to become agents of the new evangelization.

Dear friends, let us invoke the intercession of Mary, "Our Lady of the Way", so that the joyful proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ may bring hope to the hearts of those who are on the move on the roads of the world. To one and all I assure my prayers and impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 21 September 2011



On the Newly Canonized
"Let Us Measure Our Actions Every Day by His Call to Love"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Sunday before praying the midday Angelus with crowds in St. Peter's Square. He had just finished celebrating Mass for the canonization of three saints.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before concluding this solemn celebration, I would like to cordially greet everyone.

[In Italian, he said:]

I turn first to pilgrims who have come to pay homage to St. Guido Maria Conforti and St. Luigi Guanella, with a thought of special affection and encouragement for members of the Institutes founded by them: the Xavieran Missionaries, the Daughters of Our Lady of Providence and the Servants of Charity. I greet the bishops and civil authorities and thank each of them for their presence. Once again, Italy has offered the Church and the world brilliant testimonies of the Gospel; let us give glory to God and let us pray that in this nation the faith may never cease to renew itself and bear good fruit.

[Translation by L'Osservatore Romano]

[In Spanish, he said:]

I very cordially greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who have come to Rome to participate in the joyful celebration of the proclamation of these new saints. Together with the archbishops and bishops who accompany you, the official delegations and those devoted to those canonized today, following them in spirit, I particularly greet the Servants of St. Joseph, who have the great joy of seeing the holiness of their founder recognized for the universal Church. May the example and intercession of these personalities honored in the Church motivate everyone to renew their commitment to live their faith in Christ with their whole heart, and give witness in the diverse spheres of society. Thank you very much.

[In English, he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present, especially those here for today’s canonizations. In this Sunday's Gospel passage, Jesus urges us to love God above all things and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Let us measure our actions every day by his call to love, and live it with courage and joy. May almighty God bless all of you!


Pope's Address to John Paul II Foundation
"The Blessed Pontiff Sought ... to Bind the Faithful Not to Himself, But Ever More to Christ"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2011 - Here is the text of an address that Benedict XVI gave today to the John Paul II Foundation, which is marking its 30th anniversary.

* * *

Dear Cardinals,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thirty years ago, at the request of "some brothers and sisters who live in Poland or have emigrated from there but retain strong links with their land of origin", my Predecessor Blessed John Paul II instituted in Vatican City a Foundation bearing his name, with the object of "promoting through their support, material and otherwise, initiatives of a religious, cultural, pastoral and charitable nature, and cultivating and reinforcing the traditional links between them and the Holy See" (Decree of Institution).

Today, members of the Foundation and friends from all over the world have chosen to celebrate this anniversary, giving thanks to the Lord for all the fruits that the various activities have produced in the course of three decades. I am pleased to be able to join you in this thanksgiving. I warmly greet all of you here today, especially Cardinal Stanis?aw Dziwisz, former Secretary of the beloved Holy Father and one of the promoters of the Foundation, now its ex officio head as Archbishop of Cracow. I extend a cordial welcome to Cardinal Stanislaw Ryko, President of the Council of Administration, and I thank him for the words that he addressed to me. I greet Archbishop Szczepan Weso?y, former President, as well as the distinguished Members of the Council, and together with them the Directors of the individual Institutions of the Foundation. Finally I extend a cordial greeting to all the members of the Circle of Friends of the Foundation dispersed throughout the continents. All who are present here represent the thousands of benefactors who continue to support the work of the Foundation financially and spiritually. I ask you to convey to all of them my greetings and my thanks.

As we read in the premise of the Statutes, "conscious of the greatness of the gift that the person and work of the Polish Pope represent for the Church, for the homeland and for the world, the Foundation seeks to conserve and develop this spiritual heritage, which it aims to transmit to future generations." I know that this object is realized above all through the "Centre for the Documentation and Study of the Pontificate of John Paul II", which not only collects archives, bibliographical material and museum items, but also promotes publications, exhibitions, congresses and other scientific and cultural events, in order to disseminate the teaching and the pastoral and humanitarian activity of the Blessed Pontiff. I trust that, through daily study of the sources and cooperation with bodies of similar character both in Rome and elsewhere, this Centre will become an ever more important point of reference for all who seek to know and appreciate the vast and rich heritage that he left us.

Affiliated to the Foundation, the Casa Giovanni Paolo II here in Rome, in collaboration with the noble Hospice of Saint Stanislaus, offers practical and spiritual assistance to pilgrims who come to the tombs of the Apostles so as to reinforce their faith and their union with the Pope and the universal Church. The Blessed Pontiff sought at every moment to bind the faithful not to himself, but ever more to Christ, to the Apostolic Tradition and to the Catholic community united to the episcopal college with the Pope as its head. I myself can experience the efficacy of these efforts, as I receive the love and spiritual support of so many people from all over the world who welcome me with affection as the Successor of Peter, called by the Lord to confirm them in the faith. I am grateful that the Foundation continues to cultivate this spirit of love that unites us in Christ.

One task of great human and cultural value, explicitly desired by John Paul II and undertaken by the Foundation, is that of assisting the "formation of the clergy and the laity, especially those from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe". Every year, students arrive in Lublin, Warsaw and Cracow from countries which, in former times, suffered the ideological oppression of the Communist regime, in order to pursue studies in the various branches of science, so as to live new experiences, to encounter different spiritual traditions, and to broaden their cultural horizons. Then they return to their own countries, enriching the various sectors of social, economic, cultural, political and ecclesial life. More than 900 graduates is a precious gift for those nations. All this is possible thanks to the study bursaries and the spiritual and professional assistance guaranteed by the generosity of the Foundation. I hope that this work will continue, develop and bear abundant fruits.

My dear friends, one could list many more successes and many accomplishments of your Foundation. Yet I would like to underline one aspect of primary importance, over and above its immediate and visible effects. In association with the Foundation, there has evolved a spiritual union of thousands of people in various continents who not only support it materially, but constitute the Circles of Friends, communities of formation based on the teaching and the example of Blessed John Paul II. They do not limit themselves to a sentimental memory of the past, but they discern the needs of the present, they look to the future with solicitude and confidence, and they commit themselves to imbue the world more deeply with the spirit of solidarity and fraternity. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit who unites, enlightens and inspires you.

With a grateful heart, through the intercession of your Patron, Blessed John Paul II, I entrust the future of your Foundation to Divine Providence and I bless you from my heart.


Papal Homily at Canonization Mass
"Incredible Examples of Such Passionate Love"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 24, 2011 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily from a Mass he celebrated Sunday for the canonization of Guido Maria Conforti, Luigi Guanella and Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro

* * *

Venerable brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today our Sunday liturgy is enriched by several events that cause us to thank and praise God. Not only do we celebrate World Mission Sunday with the whole Church -- an annual event that aims to reawaken missionary drive and commitment -- but we also praise the Lord for three new saints: Bishop Guido Maria Conforti, Father Luigi Guanella, and Sister Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. I happily greet all of you present, particularly the official delegations and the numerous pilgrims who have come to celebrate these three exemplary disciples of Christ.

The Word of the Lord, proclaimed just a couple minutes ago in the Gospel, reminded us that the Divine Law can be summed up in love. Matthew the Evangelist tells how the Pharisees, after Jesus had silenced the Sadducees with his response, conspired to put him to the test (see Matthew 22:34-35). One of them, a doctor of the law, asked Jesus: "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Verse 36). Jesus responds with complete simplicity to the deliberately crafty question: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment" (Verse 37-38). Truly, the main requirement for all of us is that God be present in our lives. As the Scriptures say, he ought to permeate all the levels of our being and to fill us completely: Our hearts should relish him and be touched by him, as well as our souls, our wills, our minds and our thoughts. We should be able to say with St. Paul, "It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 1:20).

And right away Jesus adds something that the doctor of the law hadn't even asked for: "The second is similar: You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Verse 39). By saying that the second commandment is similar to the first, Jesus implies that loving our neighbor is as important as loving God. In fact, love for our brothers and sisters is the visible sign of God's love that a Christian can show to the world. It is very providential that precisely today the Church points out to all its members three new saints who were transformed by God's love and who oriented their entire lives to it. In diverse situations and with different charisms, each of them loved the Lord with all their hearts, and they loved their neighbors as themselves, "so as to be examples for all believers." (1 Titus 1:7)

Psalm 17, which we heard a short while ago, invites us to confidently abandon ourselves into the hands of the Lord, who is "faithful to his holy ones" (Verse 51). This attitude guided St. Guido Maria Conforti in his life and ministry. From his youth, when he had to overcome his father's opposition in order to enter the seminary, he showed a firm decision to follow God's will and to correspond entirely to the caritas Christi (love of Christ), which attracted him while he contemplated Christ crucified. He felt a strong need to announce Christ's love to all who had not heard of it, and the motto Caritas Christi urget nos (the love of Christ impels us, 2 Corinthians 5:14), sums up the missionary institute that he brought to life when he was barely 30 years old. It is a religious family entirely at the service of evangelization under the patronage of St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to the East. St. Guido Maria was called to live this missionary drive as a bishop in Ravenna and later in Parma. He gave himself entirely to help the souls of those entrusted to him, especially those who were far from the Lord. His life was marked by many trials, including several serious difficulties. But he knew how to accept each situation with docility, welcoming it as part of the path traced out for him by divine providence. In every circumstance, even in the most painful losses, he knew how to recognize God's plan, which drove him to build up Christ's Kingdom above all by denying himself and accepting God's will each day with a trusting abandonment that grew more so each day. He first experienced and witnessed what he also taught his missionaries -- that perfection consists in doing God's will, according to the example set by Christ crucified. St. Guido Maria Conforti fixed his inner eye on the cross, which gently attracted him; in contemplating the cross, he saw the horizons of the world spread out before him, and he felt the urgent desire that is hidden in the heart of every person to receive and accept the only love that can save us.

The human and spiritual witness of St. Luigi Guanella is a special grace for the whole Church. Throughout his life he courageously lived the Gospel of charity, the "great commandment," which today the Word of God has invited us to live. Thanks to a deep and continuous union with Christ in the contemplation of his love, Don Guanella followed divine providence and became a friend, teacher, comfort and support to the very poor and weak. God's love stirred up in him the desire to do good to everyone entrusted to him in his everyday life. He gave careful attention to each person's path, respecting each individual's growth. At the same time, he firmly hoped that every person, created in the image and likeness of God, who savored the joy of being loved by him -- the Father of all -- would give the best of himself to others. Today we want to praise and thank the Lord because he has given us a prophet and apostle of charity in St. Luigi Guanella. In his example, which is full of kindness and care for the weak, we see a shining witness to God's loving presence and action -- the God who, as the first reading reminded us, defends the foreigner, the widow, the orphan, and the poor one who must pawn his own coat, his only covering for the night (cf. Exodus 22:20-26). May this new saint of charity be for everyone, and especially for the members of the congregation that he founded, an example of a deep and fruitful synthesis of contemplation and action, just as he lived it. The last words that he pronounced on his deathbed, "in caritate Christi" (in the love of Christ), sum up his entire human and spiritual experience. Christ's love shines on the life of every person, showing that by giving ourselves to others we lose nothing, and in fact, find our true and complete happiness. May St. Luigi Guanella help us to grow in our friendship with the Lord in order to bring God's love to everyone, to promote life in every condition and circumstance, and to help human society become ever more a family of the children of God.

In the second reading, we heard a passage from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, which uses the metaphor of manual labor to describe the work of evangelization. In a certain way, that metaphor also applies to the virtues of St. Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro. When St. Paul writes this letter he is also working to earn his wages, and it seems clear from the tone of the letter and from the examples he uses that he preaches in his workshop and finds his first disciples there. This same attitude inspired St. Bonifacia, who, from the very beginning, united her daily work with her following of Christ. Work, which she had done since childhood, was not only a way not to be burdensome to others, but it also enabled her to fulfill her vocation and it offered her the opportunity to attract and form other women, who could likewise find God and hear his loving call in work, where they could discern their life project and learn to carry it out. This was how the Servants of St. Joseph was founded, in the midst of the humility and simplicity of the Gospel, which presents a school of Christian life in the home at Nazareth. In his letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul also says that his love for the community is tiring because it entails imitating Christ's self-giving to others, not expecting anything in return and not seeking anything but to please God. Mother Bonifacia, who dedicated herself enthusiastically to her apostolate and who started to see the first results of her labors, also lived this experience of loss and rejection, even by her disciples, and this was how she learned a new dimension of following Christ: the cross. She carried it with an endurance that gives hope, offering her life for the unity of the work she had started. This new saint is a perfect example of God's work and an echo calling her daughters, the Servants of St. Joseph, as well as us, to receive her testimony with the joy of the Holy Spirit, without fearing opposition, and to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven everywhere. We entrust ourselves to her intercession, and we ask God to bless all workers, especially those who carry out menial tasks or whose work is not sufficiently appreciated. May they discover God's loving hand in the midst of their daily work and witness to his love, transforming their tiredness into a song of praise to the Creator.

"I love you, Lord, my strength." Dear brothers and sisters, we proclaimed this in the responsorial psalm, and these three new saints are incredible examples of such passionate love. Let us be inspired by their example and led by their teaching so that our lives may become a testimony of true love of God and of others.

May the Virgin Mary, Queen of all saints, and the intercession of St. Guido Maria Conforti, St. Luigi Guanella, and St. Bonifacia Rodríguez de Castro obtain this grace for us. Amen.


Pope's Address to Ambassador From the Netherlands
"Christianity Has Always Pointed to Reason and Nature"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2011 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's address today to Joseph Weterings, the new ambassador of the Netherlands to the Holy See.

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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 Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See, I wish first of all to express my gratitude to you for transmitting the courteous greeting of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix, and I would ask you kindly to reciprocate and to convey, in turn, my good wishes to her, as well as my appreciation of the cordial relations existing between the Holy See and your country.

Bilateral relations between a nation-state and the Holy See are clearly of a different character from those between nation-states. The Holy See is not an economic or military power. Yet as you yourself have indicated, its moral voice exerts considerable influence around the world. Among the reasons for this is precisely the fact that the Holy See's moral stance is unaffected by the political or economic interests of a nation-state or the electoral concerns of a political party. Its contribution to international diplomacy consists largely in articulating the ethical principles that ought to underpin the social and political order, and in drawing attention to the need for action to remedy violations of such principles. It does so, evidently, from the standpoint of the Christian faith, but as I observed in my recent address to the German Parliament, Christianity has always pointed to reason and nature as the sources of the norms on which a state of law should be built (Address to the Bundestag, 22 September 2011). Hence the diplomatic dialogue in which the Holy See engages is conducted neither on confessional nor on pragmatic grounds but on the basis of universally applicable principles that are as real as the physical elements of the natural environment.

In acting as a voice for the voiceless and defending the rights of the defenceless, including the poor, the sick, the unborn, the elderly, and the members of minority groups who suffer unjust discrimination, the Church seeks always to promote natural justice as it is her right and duty to do. While recognizing with humility that her own members do not always live up to the high moral standards that she proposes, the Church cannot do other than continue to urge all people, her own members included, to seek to do whatever is in accordance with justice and right reason and to oppose whatever is contrary.

On this basis, I have no doubt that the Holy See and the Kingdom of the Netherlands have many areas of shared concern. Mr Ambassador, you have spoken of the need to promote global peace through just resolution of conflicts and through opposing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. You underlined the need to foster development and to promote self-reliance in emerging countries. You mentioned the generous humanitarian response of the Dutch people when emergency aid is needed around the world. And you spoke of the need to defend human dignity. These and many other areas of international policy will continue to provide opportunities for fruitful exchanges between your country and the Holy See.

I am heartened also by your words about the Dutch Government's intention to promote freedom of religion which, as you know, is a matter of particular concern to the Holy See at the present time. It is threatened not only by legal constraints in some parts of the world, but by an anti-religious mentality within many societies, even those where freedom of religion enjoys the protection of law. It is therefore greatly to be hoped that your Government will be vigilant, so that the freedom of religion and freedom of worship will continue to be protected and promoted, both at home and abroad.

I am likewise encouraged by the steps that the Dutch Government has taken to discourage drug abuse and prostitution. While your nation has long championed the freedom of individuals to make their own choices, nevertheless, those choices by which people inflict harm on themselves or others must be discouraged, for the good of individuals and society as a whole. Catholic social teaching, as you know, places great emphasis on the common good, as well as the integral good of individuals, and care is always needed to discern whether perceived rights are truly in accordance with those natural principles of which I spoke earlier.

With these sentiments, Your Excellency, I offer my best wishes for the success of your mission, and I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.


Pope's Address at Opening of Domus Australia
"The Gospel Has Spread to the Very Furthest Regions of the World"

ROME, OCT. 20, 2011 - Here is the text of the greeting Benedict XVI gave Wednesday at the celebration of the opening of Domus Australia.

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Dear Brother Bishops, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be with you for these celebrations to mark the opening of the Domus Australia, the Australian Pilgrimage Centre in Rome. On this occasion, I recall with particular gratitude the warmth of the hospitality that was extended to me when I visited your country for World Youth Day in 2008, and now I have the opportunity to reciprocate by welcoming all of you to Rome. I thank Cardinal Pell for inviting me to join you this evening, and for his kind words. I also thank Saint Mary's Cathedral Choir for their praise of God in song.

In addition to greeting my brother Bishops, here for their Ad Limina visit, I would like to greet His Excellency Timothy Fischer, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, and the other Ambassadors present. I am pleased to salute the Rector of the Domus, Father Anthony Denton, and Mr Gabriel Griffa and his staff. I am also happy to greet all the people of Australia and to acknowledge the support and assistance of so many of them for this project which, along with your new Embassy, has brought a little corner of Australia to the ancient city of Rome. May the Domus now be blessed by the passage of many pilgrims!

Almost exactly one year ago, the first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop, was raised to the altars, and I join all of you in giving thanks to God for the many blessings he has already poured out upon the Church in your land through her example. I pray that Saint Mary will continue to inspire many Australians to follow in her footsteps by living lives of holiness, in the service of God and neighbour. The Lord sent his Apostles out into the whole world, to proclaim the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15). This evening's event speaks eloquently of the fruits of the Church's missionary endeavours, by which the Gospel has spread to the very furthest regions of the world, has taken root there and has given birth to a living and thriving Christian community. Like all Christian communities, the Church in Australia is conscious of being on a journey whose ultimate destination lies beyond this world: as Saint Paul expressed it, "our commonwealth is in heaven" (Phil 3:20). Our earthly lives are spent journeying towards that ultimate goal, where "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). Here on earth, the Church's long tradition of pilgrimage to holy places serves to remind us that we are heavenward bound, it refocuses our minds on the call to holiness, it draws us ever closer to the Lord and strengthens us with spiritual food for the journey.

Many generations of pilgrims have made their way to Rome from all over the Christian world, in order to venerate the tombs of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and thereby to deepen their communion in the one Church of Christ, founded on the Apostles. In so doing, they strengthen the roots of their faith; and roots, as we know, are the source of life-giving sustenance. In that sense, pilgrims to Rome should always feel at home here, and the Domus Australia will play an important part in creating a home for Australian pilgrims in the city of the Apostles. Yet roots are only a part of the story. According to a saying attributed to a great poet from my own country, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, there are two things that children should receive from their parents: roots and wings. From our holy Mother, the Church, we too receive both roots and wings: the faith of the Apostles, handed down from generation to generation, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, conveyed above all through the sacraments of the Church. Pilgrims to this city return to their homelands renewed and strengthened in their faith, and borne aloft by the Holy Spirit in the journey onward and upward to their heavenly home.

My prayer today is that the pilgrims who pass through this house will indeed return to their homes with firmer faith, more joyful hope and more ardent love for the Lord, ready to commit themselves with fresh zeal to the task of bearing witness to Christ in the world in which they live and work. And I pray too that their visit to the See of Peter will deepen their love for the universal Church and unite them more closely with Peter's Successor, charged with feeding and gathering into one the Lord's flock from every corner of the world. Commending all of them, and all of you, to the intercession of Our Lady, Help of Christians and Saint Mary MacKillop, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of the joys that await us in our eternal home.


Pope's Address to Australia Bishops on 5-Yearly Visit

"The Holy Spirit Never Ceases to Awaken in Young Hearts the Desire for Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2011 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today for the five-yearly ad limina visits that the bishops of Australia are completing.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum. This pilgrimage to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul provides you with an important occasion to strengthen the bonds of communion in the one Church of Christ. This moment is therefore a privileged opportunity to reaffirm our unity and the fraternal affection which must always characterize relations in the College of Bishops, with and under the Successor of Peter. I wish to thank Archbishop Wilson for his kind words on your behalf. My cordial greetings go to the priests, the men and women religious, and lay faithful of Australia, and I ask you to assure them of my prayers for their peace, prosperity and spiritual well-being.

As His Grace pointed out in his address, the church in Australia has been marked by two special moments of grace in recent years. Firstly, World Youth Day was blessed with great success and, together with you, I saw how the Holy Spirit moved the young people gathered on your home soil from all over the world. I have also learned from your reports of the continued impact of that celebration. Not just Sydney but Dioceses throughout the country welcomed the world’s young Catholics as they came to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ along with their Australian sisters and brothers. Your clergy and faithful saw and experienced the youthful vitality of the Church to which we all belong and the perennial relevance of the Good News which must be proclaimed afresh to every generation. I understand that one of the outstanding consequences of the event is still to be seen in the numbers of young people who are discerning vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. The Holy Spirit never ceases to awaken in young hearts the desire for holiness and apostolic zeal. You should therefore continue to foster that radical attachment to the person of Jesus Christ, whose attraction inspires them to give their lives completely to him and to the service of the Gospel in the Church. By assisting them, you will help other young people to reflect seriously upon the possibility of a life in the priesthood or the religious life. In so doing, you will strengthen a similar love and single-minded fidelity among those men and women who have already embraced the Lord’s call.

The canonization last year of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop is another great event in the life of the Church in Australia. Indeed, she is an example of holiness and dedication to Australians and to the Church throughout the world, especially to women religious and to all involved in the education of young people. In circumstances that were often very trying, Saint Mary remained steadfast, a loving spiritual mother to the women and children in her care, an innovative teacher of the young and an energetic role model for all concerned with excellence in education. She is rightly considered by her fellow Australians to be an example of personal goodness worthy of imitation. Saint Mary is now held up within the Church for her openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and for her zeal for the good of souls which drew many others to follow in her footsteps. Her vigorous faith, translated into dedicated and patient action, was her gift to Australia; her life of holiness is a wonderful gift of your country to the Church and to the world. May her example and prayers inspire the actions of parents, religious, teachers and others concerned with the good of children, with their protection from harm and with their sound education for a happy and prosperous future.

Saint Mary MacKillop’s courageous response to the difficulties she faced throughout her life can also inspire today’s Catholics as they confront the new evangelization and serious challenges to the spread of the Gospel in society as a whole. All the members of the Church need to be formed in their faith, from a sound catechesis for children, and religious education imparted in your Catholic schools, to much-needed catechetical programmes for adults. Clergy and religious must also be assisted and encouraged by an ongoing formation of their own, with a deepened spiritual life in the rapidly secularizing world around them. It is urgent to ensure that all those entrusted to your care understand, embrace and propose their Catholic faith intelligently and willingly to others. In this way, you, your clergy and your people will give such an account of your faith by word and example that it will be convincing and attractive. People of good will, seeing your witness, will respond naturally to the truth, the goodness and the hope that you embody.

It is true that yours is a pastoral burden which has been made heavier by the past sins and mistakes of others, most regrettably including some clergy and religious; but the task now falls to you to continue to repair the errors of the past with honesty and openness, in order to build, with humility and resolve, a better future for all concerned. I therefore encourage you to continue to be pastors of souls who, along with your clergy, are always prepared to go one step further in love and truth for the sake of the consciences of the flock entrusted to you (cf. Mt 5:41), seeking to preserve them in holiness, to teach them humbly and to lead them irreproachably in the ways of the Catholic faith.

Finally, as Bishops, you are conscious of your special duty to care for the celebration of the liturgy. The new translation of the Roman Missal, which is the fruit of a remarkable cooperation of the Holy See, the Bishops and experts from all over the world, is intended to enrich and deepen the sacrifice of praise offered to God by his people. Help your clergy to welcome and to appreciate what has been achieved, so that they in turn may assist the faithful as everyone adjusts to the new translation. As we know, the sacred liturgy and its forms are written deeply in the heart of every Catholic. Make every effort to help catechists and musicians in their respective preparations to render the celebration of the Roman Rite in your Dioceses a moment of greater grace and beauty, worthy of the Lord and spiritually enriching for everyone. In this way, as in all your pastoral efforts, you will lead the Church in Australia towards her heavenly home under the sign of the Southern Cross.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem, and I commend all of you to the intercession of Saint Mary MacKillop. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord. Thank you.


On Psalm 136 (135)
"God Is; God Is Good, and His Mercy Is Eternal"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 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 today continued his catecheses on prayer with a reflection on Psalm 136 (135).

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to meditate with you on a psalm that summarizes the whole of salvation history as recounted for us in the Old Testament. It is a great hymn of praise that extols the Lord in the manifold, repeated manifestations of His goodness throughout the course of human history; it is Psalm 136 -- or 135 according to the Greco-Latin tradition.

A solemn prayer of thanksgiving known as the "Great Hallel," this psalm is traditionally sung at the end of the Hebrew Passover meal, and was probably also prayed by Jesus during the final Passover celebrated with the disciples; the Evangelists seem in fact to allude to it in their annotations: "And when they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives" (cf. Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). The horizon of praise thus illumines the difficult road to Golgotha. The whole of Psalm 136 takes the form of a litany marked by the refrain "for His steadfast love endures forever."

Throughout this poetic composition, God's many mighty deeds in human history are enumerated, as are His continual interventions on behalf of His people; and to each proclamation of the Lord's saving action the antiphon responds with the fundamental motivation for praise: God's eternal love, a love that, according to the Hebrew word employed, involves fidelity, mercy, goodness, grace and tenderness. This is the unifying reason for the entire psalm; it is always repeated in the same way, while His prompt and paradigmatic manifestations change: creation, the liberation of the exodus, the gift of land, the Lord's constant and providential help for His people and for every creature.

After a threefold invitation to give thanks to the sovereign God (Verses 1-3), the Lord is extolled as He who alone does great wonders (Verse 4), the first of which is creation: the heavens, the earth and the great lights (Verses 5-9). The created world is not merely a set onto which God's saving action enters; it is rather the very beginning of that marvelous action. With creation, the Lord reveals Himself in all His goodness and beauty; He involves Himself with life, revealing the good will from which every other saving action flows. And our psalm, echoing the first chapter of Genesis, summarizes the created world in its principle elements, laying particular stress upon the great lights: the sun, the moon, the stars -- those magnificent creatures that govern the day and the night. The creation of the human being is not spoken of here, but he is always present; the sun and the moon are for him -- for man -- they are to mark time for man, putting him in relation with the Creator especially through the indication of liturgical times.

And, in fact, it is the feast of Passover that is recalled immediately after this when, passing on to God's self-revelation in history, it begins with the great event of liberation from Egyptian slavery, of the Exodus -- traced out in its most important elements: the liberation from Egypt by the plague that smote the Egyptians' first-born; the departure from Egypt; the passage through the Red Sea, the journey through the desert and the entrance into the Promised Land (Verses 10-20). We are in the first moments of Israel's history. God powerfully intervenes in order to bring His people into freedom; through Moses, His envoy, He makes Himself known to Pharaoh, revealing Himself in all his greatness and, in the end, He bends the Egyptians' resistance with the terrible scourge of the death of their firstborn sons. Thus is Israel able to leave the land of slavery, with the gold of their oppressors (cf. Exodus 12:35-36) and "with raised hands" (Exodus 14:8) in the exultant sign of victory.

The Lord acts with merciful power also at the Red Sea. Faced by an Israel who stands afraid at the sight of the Egyptians who pursue them, so much so that they regret having left Egypt (cf. Exodus 14:10-12), God, our psalm says, "divided the Red Sea in sunder […] made Israel pass through the midst of it […] and overthrew Pharaoh and his host" (Verses 13-15). The image of the Red Sea "divided" in two seems to evoke the idea of the sea as a great monster cut in two and thus rendered harmless.

The Lord's power conquers the peril of the forces of nature as well as that of the military forces set up by men: the sea, which seemed to block the way for God's people, allows Israel to pass on dry ground -- and then closes in upon the Egyptians, sweeping them away. The Lord's "mighty hand and outstretched arm" (cf. Deuteronomy 5:15; 7:19; 26:8) are thus revealed in all their saving power: The unjust oppressor is conquered, swallowed up by the waters, while the People of God "pass through the midst of it" to continue on their journey toward freedom.

Our psalm now makes reference to this journey by calling to mind Israel's long pilgrimage toward the Promised Land with a very brief phrase: "He led His people through the wilderness, for His steadfast love endures forever" (Verse 16). These few words summarize an experience that lasted 40 years -- a decisive time for Israel, who in allowing itself to be guided by the Lord, learns to live by faith, in obedience and in docility to God's law. They are difficult years marked by the harshness of life in the desert, but they are also happy ones -- years of confidence in the Lord, of filial trust; it is the time of "youth" as the prophet Jeremiah defines it when speaking to Israel in the name of the Lord, with expressions full of tenderness and nostalgia: "I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown" (Jeremiah 2:2). The Lord, like the shepherd in Psalm 23 that we contemplated in another catechesis, guided His People for 40 years; He educated and loved them, leading them to the Promised Land and conquering even the resistance and hostility of enemy peoples who wanted to obstruct them on the way of salvation (cf. Verses 17-20).

In unfolding the "great wonders" enumerated by our psalm, we reach the moment of the decisive gift, through the fulfillment of the divine promise made to the Fathers: "He gave their land as a heritage, for His love endures forever; a heritage to Israel his servant, for His steadfast love endures forever" (Verses 21-22). In extolling God's eternal love, the gift of land is now remembered, a gift which the people must receive without ever claiming it as their own possession -- by living continually in an attitude of grateful acceptance. Israel received the land in which they live as an "inheritance" -- a word that generally designates the possession of a good received from another; a right of propriety that refers specifically to a paternal inheritance. One of the prerogatives of God is that of "giving"; and now, at the end of the Exodus journey, Israel, the receiver of the gift, enters as a son into the Land of the promise fulfilled. The time of wandering -- under tents, in a life marked by danger -- is over. Now the blessed time of stability has begun -- of joy in building their homes and in planting their vineyards, of living in security (cf. Deuteronomy 8:7-13). But it is also the time of temptation to idol-worship; of contamination with the pagans; of a self-sufficiency that makes them forget the Origin of the gift. For this reason, the psalmist mentions humiliation and the foe, a mortal reality in which the Lord, yet again, reveals Himself as Savior: "It is He who remembered us in our low estate, for His steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for His steadfast love endures forever" (Verses 23-24).

At this point the question arises: How can we make this psalm our own, how can we make this psalm a part of our own prayer? What frames this psalm at its beginning and its end is important: and this is Creation. Let us return to this point: Creation as God's great gift from which we live, in which He reveals Himself in his goodness and greatness. Therefore, to regard creation as a gift of God is of interest to us all.

Then follows salvation history. Naturally we can say: The liberation from Egypt, the time in the desert, the entrance into the Promised Land and then the other problems are very distant from us; they are not part of our history. But we must be attentive to the fundamental structure of this prayer. The fundamental structure is that Israel remembers the Lord's goodness. In its history, there are so many dark valleys, so many passages through difficulty and death, but Israel remembers that God is good, and they can overcome in the dark valley -- in the valley of death -- because they remember. Israel remembers the Lord's goodness and His power; that His mercy endures forever.

And this is also important for us: remembering the Lord's goodness. Remembering becomes the strength of hope. Remembering tells us: God is; God is good, and His mercy is eternal. And thus, remembering opens the road to the future -- even in the darkness of a day, of a moment in time, it is the light and star that guides us. Let us, too, remember the good; let us remember God's eternal, merciful love. Israel's history is already part of our memory as well, of how God revealed Himself, of how He created for Himself a people to be His own. Then God became man, one of us: he lived with us, suffered with us, died for us. He remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament and in the Word. It is a history, a remembrance of God's goodness that assures us of His goodness: His love is eternal.

And then also, in these 2,000 years of the Church's history, there is always -- once again -- the goodness of the Lord. After the dark period of the Nazi and Communist persecutions, God freed us. He showed us that He is good, that He has power and that His mercy endures forever.

And, just as the presence of the memory of God's goodness helps us and becomes a star of hope for us in our common, collective history, so also each of us has his own personal history of salvation, and we must truly treasure this history, keeping always in mind the great things He has also done in my life, so that we might trust: His mercy is eternal. And if today I am in the dark night, tomorrow He will free me, for His mercy is eternal.

Let us return to the psalm, for at the end, it returns to creation. The Lord, it says, "gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever" (Verse 25). The prayer of the Psalm concludes with an invitation to praise: "O give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever." The Lord is a good and provident Father, who gives the inheritance to His children and bestows food upon all. The God who created the heavens and the earth and the great celestial lights, who enters into human history in order to bring salvation to all of His children, is the God who fills the universe with His good presence, taking care of life and giving us bread. The invisible power of the Creator and Lord, which the psalm extols, is revealed in the littleness and visibility of the bread that He gives us, and by which He makes us live. And thus, this daily bread symbolizes and summarizes God's love as Father, and opens before us the New Testament fulfillment of that "bread of life," the Eucharist, which accompanies us in our existence as believers, and anticipates the definitive joy of the messianic banquet of Heaven.

Brothers and sisters, the blessing and praise of Psalm 136 has led us to retrace the most important stages in the history of salvation, reaching all the way to the paschal mystery in which God's saving action reaches its culmination. With grateful joy, let us therefore extol the Creator, Savior and faithful Father, who "so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). In the fullness of time, the Son of God was made man in order to give His life, to give salvation to each one of us, and He gives Himself as bread in the mystery of the Eucharist in order to make us enter into His covenant, which makes us His children. To such great heights do God's merciful goodness and the sublimity of "His eternal love" attain.

I therefore wish to conclude this catechesis by making my own the words St. John writes in his First Letter, and which we must always keep present in our prayer: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 John 3:1). Thank you.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to Psalm 136. Known as the Great Hallel, this Psalm is a great hymn of praise which was traditionally sung at the conclusion of the Passover meal. As such, it was probably sung by Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper (cf. Mt 26:30). The Psalm takes the form of a litany praising God's mighty deeds in the creation of the world and in the history of Israel; each reference to God's saving work is followed by the refrain: "For his steadfast love endures for ever". It is God's faithful love, in fact, which is revealed in the ordered beauty of the universe and in the great events of Israel's liberation from slavery and the pilgrimage of the Chosen People to the land of promise. As we sing this great litany of God's mighty works, we give thanks that the depth of his steadfast and merciful love was fully revealed in the coming of his only-begotten Son. In Christ, we see clearly "what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, for that is what we are" (1 Jn 3:1).

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© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to German Aid Project
"Adveniat Enables the Face of Christ ... to Shine Ever More in Latin America"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2011 - Here is a translation of a message Benedict XVI sent to Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, Germany, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Adveniat aid project.

The message is dated Oct. 4 and was released by the Vatican this week.

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To My Venerable Brother Franz-Josef Overbeck, Bishop of Essen:

I learned with joy that the work of the charity Adveniat is celebrating its 50th anniversary in these days, and I wish to express my affectionate greetings and blessings to all who have arrived in Essen for the occasion.

During the season of Advent in 1961, the German bishops allocated for the first time the Christmas collection made throughout the national territory to pastoral projects of the Church in Latin America.

From this faithful relationship between the Church in Germany and brothers and sisters of South and Central America was born the work of aid Adveniat. Through their generous donations and unconditional commitment, German Catholics have carried out innumerable aid projects in countries of Latin America. This generous expression of Christian caritas merits sincere recognition.

The name Adveniat is the program. In fact, the charity has taken the name of the prayer of the Our Father, "Adveniat regnum tuum," (Thy Kingdom come.) The Kingdom of God is introduced among us through the incarnation of Jesus and in the same way Christians are called to collaborate in the building of this Kingdom. In this connection, Adveniat enables the face of Christ, human and divine, to shine ever more in Latin America and cooperates decisively in the development of a vital society deserving of living in justice and peace. Through innumerable socio-charitable projects and formation programs, poor people without resources have received great support. Collaboration with the Kingdom of God has an essentially spiritual dimension. In the Our Father, Christ teaches us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom. We cannot simply bring it about because it is above all a gift. The Kingdom of God and the work of Christ go together. They unfold where, through the proclamation of the Good News and the celebration of the sacraments, the encounter with Him who is the Redeemer and Savior of men occurs. He himself is the source of peace and the giver of salvation. He does not allow our social effort to remain material, in an exterior and empty way, but he fills it with spirit and life.

The work of aid Adveniat always tries to address man in his complexity, in his natural and supernatural needs. Hence the Kingdom of God truly arises in the midst of us. Already Blessed John XXIII, in his letter of Jan. 11, 1961, to the bishops of Germany, thanked them for their wise decision to "help Latin America."

Today I wish to renew this gratitude and to say to you and to all the Catholics of Germany a Vergelt's Gott with all my heart for these 50 years of fruitful aid. With joy I support Adveniat's work for the people of Latin America with my prayers, in particular to Our Lady of Guadalupe, in addition to all the patron saints of Latin America.

From the Vatican, October 4, 2011


Papal Address to Centesimus Annus Foundation
"The Relationship Between Family and Work"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to participants in the annual conference of the Centesimus Annus Foundation.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very happy to receive you on the occasion of the annual congress of the Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation, which has gathered you for two days of study on the topic of the relationship between family and work. I thank the president, Dr. Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, for the courteous words he addressed to me, and I greet you all cordially.

As was noted, this year marks the 20th anniversary Blessed John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus Annus, published 100 years after Rerum Novarum, as well as the 30th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio. This double celebration makes your topic even more timely and opportune. In these 120 years of development of the Social Doctrine of the Church, great changes have taken place in the world, which could not even be imagined at the time of the historic encyclical of Pope Leo XIII. However, though external conditions have changed, the internal patrimony of the social magisterium has not changed. It always promotes the human person and the family, in its context of life and also that of business.

The Second Vatican Council spoke of the family in terms of a domestic Church, an "untouchable shrine" where a person matures in his affections, in solidarity, in spirituality. Economy as well, with its laws, must always consider the interests of this primary cell of society and safeguard it; the word "economy" itself in its etymological origin contains a claim to the importance of the family: oikia and nomos, the law of the home.

In the apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, Blessed John Paul II indicated four duties for the family institution, which I would like to recall briefly: the formation of a community of persons; service to life; participation in society and participation in the Church. All of these are functions at whose base is love, and it is to this that a family is educated and formed. "The love between husband and wife," the venerable Pontiff stated, "and, in a derivatory and broader way, the love between members of the same family-between parents and children, brothers and sisters and relatives and members of the household-is given life and sustenance by an unceasing inner dynamism leading the family to ever deeper and more intense communion, which is the foundation and soul of the community of marriage and the family" (No. 18). In the same way, love is at the base of the service to life, founded on the cooperation that the family gives to the continuity of creation, to the procreation of man made in the image and likeness of God.

And it is first in the family where correct behavior is learned, so as to live in society, also in the world of work, of economy, of business -- which must be guided by caritas, in the logic of gratitude, of solidarity and of responsibility for one another. "The relationships between the members of the family community are inspired and guided by the law of 'free giving," John Paul II wrote. "By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity" (No. 43). From this perspective, the family passes from being a mere object to being an active subject capable of recalling the "human face" that the world of economy must have. If this is true for society in general, it assumes even greater importance in the ecclesial community. Also in evangelization, in fact, the family has an important place, as I recalled recently in Ancona: It is not, simply, the recipient of pastoral action, but is its protagonist, called to take part in evangelization in its own original way, putting at the service of the Church herself and of society its own being and action, as ann intimate community of life and love (cf. apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, No. 50). The family and work are privileged places for the fulfillment of the vocation of man, who collaborates in the creative work of God today.

As you noted in your addresses, in the difficult situation we are experiencing, we are unfortunately witnessing a crisis in work and in the economy, which is accompanied by a crisis in the family: the conflicts of couples, generational conflicts, conflicts occasioned between the times of the family and of work, occupational crises, create a complex situation of unease that influences social living itself.

A new harmonious synthesis between the family and work is therefore necessary, and the Social Doctrine of the Church can offer a valuable contribution. In the encyclical Caritas in Veritate I wished to highlight that the family model of the logic of love, of gratitude, and of gift goes together with a universal dimension. Commutative justice -- "give to have" -- and distributive justice -- "give to owe" – are not sufficient in social living. To have true justice it is necessary to arrive at gratuitousness and solidarity. "Solidarity is first and foremost a sense of responsibility on the part of everyone with regard to everyone, and it cannot therefore be merely delegated to the State. While in the past it was possible to argue that justice had to come first and gratuitousness could follow afterwards, as a complement, today it is clear that without gratuitousness, there can be no justice in the first place. (...) Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself" (No. 38).

"The market of gratuitousness does not exist, and attitudes of gratuitousness cannot be established by law. Yet both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift" (No. 39). It is not the duty of the Church to define the ways to address the present crisis. However, Christians have the duty to denounce evils, to attest to and to keep alive the values on which the dignity of the person is founded, and to promote those ways of solidarity that foster the common good, so that humanity will become the family of God.

Dear friends, I hope that the reflections that have arisen in your conference will help you to assume ever more actively, your role in the spreading and implementation of the Social Doctrine of the Church, not forgetting that "development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us" (No. 79). With this hope, while I entrust you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, I impart to you and to your dear ones my wholehearted special Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Address to Leader of Syro-Malabar Church
"You Provide an Eloquent Sign of the Hierarchical Communion"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2011 - Here is Benedict XVI's statement from Monday when he was visited by Archbishop George Alencherry, the leader of the Syro-Malabar Church.

* * *

Your Beatitude,

I am pleased to greet you and the members of the Permanent Synod of the Syro-Malabar Church who have travelled to Rome in an expression of communion with the Successor of Peter, and I thank you for your kind words on their behalf and in your own name. This visit is a significant one, as it comes not long after your election as Major Archbishop. By coming here, you provide an eloquent sign of the hierarchical communion that you formally expressed in your recent letter to me requesting confirmation of your election.

Your predecessor, the late Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, has left a legacy upon which you and your brother Bishops will surely wish to build. In this context, I would like to recall the example of the two holy patrons of the Syro-Malabar Church, Saint Alphonsa Muttathupadathu and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, who were beatified by Blessed John Paul II, during his visit to Kerala twenty-five years ago. Later, the grace fell to me to canonize Saint Alphonsa in 2008. At home, the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala continues to enjoy the respect of the local community for its work in education and for its social and charitable institutions at the service of the whole community. I know that life for Christians has been complicated by sectarian mistrust and even violence, but I would urge you to continue to work with people of good will of all religions in the area, in order to maintain the peace and harmony of the region, for the good of the Church and that of all citizens.

Within the Church itself, there are encouraging signs of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life which will help you to maintain your pastoral outreach. To be kept in mind are the ongoing challenges in the formation of the clergy and religious, in Christian family life and in the pastoral care of your faithful. I commend you for your efforts to maintain the strength of your family structures, the quality of Catholic education and catechesis at every level, and your pastoral work with youth. I also encourage you to continue your good work in fostering vocations among young men and women.

In fidelity to the Gospel and to the grace bestowed upon us by Christ our Lord, you and your faithful have flourished at home and abroad in union with the universal Church. By fostering your own authentic liturgical tradition, your faithful have been nourished by word and sacrament in accordance with what was handed down to you by your fathers in the faith. I am also aware of pastoral initiatives in favour of Syro-Malabar Catholics scattered throughout the world. As I did during your Ad Limina Visit in April, allow me again to encourage you in this important task and, especially with regard to your pastoral outreach to Syro-Malabar Catholics living beyond your homeland, I ask you to do so always mindful of the essential need for cooperation with Catholic Bishops and pastors of other rites.

Your Beatitude, dear Brothers Bishops, with these few thoughts I commend you to the intercession of Saint Thomas, the great Apostle of India, Saint Alphonsa and Blessed Kuriakose. I assure you of my affection and prayers and I willingly impart to you, your clergy and religious and all those entrusted to your care, my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.


On the Year of Faith
"It Would Be Opportune to Remember the Beauty and the Centrality of the Faith"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Yesterday and today there was an important event here at the Vatican regarding the new evangelization, an event that concluded this morning with a Eucharistic celebration over which I presided in St. Peter's Basilica. The initiative, organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, had the main objective of going deeper into the issues surrounding a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in nations with an ancient Christian tradition, and at the same time, it presented various testimonies and significant experiences. Numerous people from around the world have responded to this invitation, people committed to this mission, which Blessed John Paul II already clearly indicated to the Church as an urgent and gripping challenge.

[John Paul II] -- in the footsteps of the Second Vatican Council, and those of Paul VI, the one who put the council's implementation into motion -- was, in fact, a tireless defender of the mission ad gentes, that is, to the peoples and territories where the Gospel has not yet put down roots, as well as a herald of the new evangelization.

These are aspects of the one mission of the Church, and it is therefore meaningful to consider them together in this month of October, marked by the celebration of World Mission Day, precisely next Sunday.

Just as I did a few minutes ago in the homily of the Mass, I happily take advantage of this opportunity to announce that I have decided to convoke a special "Year of Faith," which will begin Oct. 11, 2012 -- the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council -- and will conclude Nov. 24, 2013, Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe.

I have explained the motives, goals and guidelines of this year in an apostolic letter that will be published soon. The Servant of God Paul VI convoked a similar "Year of Faith" in 1967, on the occasion of the 19th centenary of the martyrdom of the Apostles Peter and Paul, during a period of great cultural changes. I believe that, now that a half century has passed since the opening of the Council, and linked to the happy memory of Blessed John XXIII, it would be opportune to remember the beauty and the centrality of the faith, the need to strengthen and deepen it, both at the personal and the community level, and to do this in a perspective that is not so much celebratory, but rather, missionary -- precisely in the perspective of the mission ad gentes and the new evangelization.

Dear friends, in the liturgy of this Sunday, we read what St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: "For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction." May this word from the Apostle of the Gentiles be the promise and the program for the missionaries of today -- priests, religious and laity -- committed to proclaim Christ to those who do not know him, or those who have reduced him to a mere historical figure. May the Virgin Mary help each Christian to be an effective witness of the Gospel.

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

I extend heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking visitors here today. Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel that over and above our duties to one another and to the civil authorities, we have obligations to Almighty God. We pray for the wisdom always to recognize where our duty lies, and in all things to give due praise and honour to our Creator and Redeemer. May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Porta Fidei:  Apostolic Letter on the Year of Faith

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 - Here is Benedict XVI's apostolic letter "Porta Fidei," dated Oct. 11, and released by the Vatican today. With this letter the Pope announced a Year of Faith, which will begin Oct. 11, 2012, and conclude Nov. 24, 2013.

* * *

Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data"

Porta Fidei

of the Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI

for the Indiction of the Year of Faith

1. The "door of faith" (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22). To profess faith in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is to believe in one God who is Love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8): the Father, who in the fullness of time sent his Son for our salvation; Jesus Christ, who in the mystery of his death and resurrection redeemed the world; the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church across the centuries as we await the Lord’s glorious return.

2. Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I said: "The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance."[1] It often happens that Christians are more concerned for the social, cultural and political consequences of their commitment, continuing to think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society. In reality, not only can this presupposition no longer be taken for granted, but it is often openly denied.[2] Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.

3. We cannot accept that salt should become tasteless or the light be kept hidden (cf. Mt 5:13-16). The people of today can still experience the need to go to the well, like the Samaritan woman, in order to hear Jesus, who invites us to believe in him and to draw upon the source of living water welling up within him (cf. Jn 4:14). We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the word of God, faithfully handed down by the Church, and on the bread of life, offered as sustenance for his disciples (cf. Jn 6:51). Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: "Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life" (Jn 6:27). The question posed by his listeners is the same that we ask today: "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" (Jn 6:28). We know Jesus’ reply: "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (Jn 6:29). Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitively at salvation.

4. In the light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11. October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. The starting date of 11 October 2012 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a text promulgated by my Predecessor, Blessed John Paul II,[3] with a view to illustrating for all the faithful the power and beauty of the faith. This document, an authentic fruit of the Second Vatican Council, was requested by the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in 1985 as an instrument at the service of catechesis[4] and it was produced in collaboration with all the bishops of the Catholic Church. Moreover, the theme of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that I have convoked for October 2012 is "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith". This will be a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith. It is not the first time that the Church has been called to celebrate a Year of Faith. My venerable Predecessor the Servant of God Paul VI announced one in 1967, to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul on the 19th centenary of their supreme act of witness. He thought of it as a solemn moment for the whole Church to make "an authentic and sincere profession of the same faith"; moreover, he wanted this to be confirmed in a way that was "individual and collective, free and conscious, inward and outward, humble and frank".[5] He thought that in this way the whole Church could reappropriate "exact knowledge of the faith, so as to reinvigorate it, purify it, confirm it, and confess it".[6] The great upheavals of that year made even more evident the need for a celebration of this kind. It concluded with the Credo of the People of God,[7] intended to show how much the essential content that for centuries has formed the heritage of all believers needs to be confirmed, understood and explored ever anew, so as to bear consistent witness in historical circumstances very different from those of the past.

5. In some respects, my venerable predecessor saw this Year as a "consequence and a necessity of the postconciliar period",[8] fully conscious of the grave difficulties of the time, especially with regard to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation. It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, "have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning."[9] I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: "if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church."[10]

6. The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, said this: While "Christ, ‘holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb2:17)... the Church ... clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord it is given strength to overcome, in patience and in love, its sorrow and its difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that it may reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light."[11]

The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: "We were buried ... with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. "Faith working through love" (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).

7. "Caritas Christi urget nos" (2 Cor 5:14): it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples. Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, "strengthen themselves by believing".[12] The saintly Bishop of Hippo had good reason to express himself in this way. As we know, his life was a continual search for the beauty of the faith until such time as his heart would find rest in God.[13] His extensive writings, in which he explains the importance of believing and the truth of the faith, continue even now to form a heritage of incomparable riches, and they still help many people in search of God to find the right path towards the "door of faith".

Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger; there is no other possibility for possessing certitude with regard to one’s life apart from self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God.

8. On this happy occasion, I wish to invite my brother bishops from all over the world to join the Successor of Peter, during this time of spiritual grace that the Lord offers us, in recalling the precious gift of faith. We want to celebrate this Year in a worthy and fruitful manner. Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel, especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing. We will have the opportunity to profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world; in our homes and among our families, so that everyone may feel a strong need to know better and to transmit to future generations the faith of all times. Religious communities as well as parish communities, and all ecclesial bodies old and new, are to find a way, during this Year, to make a public profession of the Credo.

9. We want this Year to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is"the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; ... and also the source from which all its power flows."[14] At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility. To rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed,[15] and to reflect on the act of faith, is a task that every believer must make his own, especially in the course of this Year.

Not without reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in baptism. With words rich in meaning, Saint Augustine speaks of this in a homily on the redditio symboli, the handing over of the creed: "the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built above the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts."[16]

10. At this point I would like to sketch a path intended to help us understand more profoundly not only the content of the faith, but also the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves fully to God, in complete freedom. In fact, there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent. Saint Paul helps us to enter into this reality when he writes: "Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved" (Rom 10:10). The heart indicates that the first act by which one comes to faith is God’s gift and the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.

The example of Lydia is particularly eloquent in this regard. Saint Luke recounts that, while he was at Philippi, Paul went on the Sabbath to proclaim the Gospel to some women; among them was Lydia and "the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul" (Acts 16:14). There is an important meaning contained within this expression. Saint Luke teaches that knowing the content to be believed is not sufficient unless the heart, the authentic sacred space within the person, is opened by grace that allows the eyes to see below the surface and to understand that what has been proclaimed is the word of God.

Confessing with the lips indicates in turn that faith implies public testimony and commitment. A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him. This "standing with him" points towards an understanding of the reasons for believing. Faith, precisely because it is a free act, also demands social responsibility for what one believes. The Church on the day of Pentecost demonstrates with utter clarity this public dimension of believing and proclaiming one’s faith fearlessly to every person. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness, making it frank and courageous.

Profession of faith is an act both personal and communitarian. It is the Church that is the primary subject of faith. In the faith of the Christian community, each individual receives baptism, an effective sign of entry into the people of believers in order to obtain salvation. As we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: " ‘I believe’ is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. ‘We believe’ is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. ‘I believe’ is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both ‘I believe’ and ‘we believe’."[17]

Evidently, knowledge of the content of faith is essential for giving one’s own assent, that is to say for adhering fully with intellect and will to what the Church proposes. Knowledge of faith opens a door into the fullness of the saving mystery revealed by God. The giving of assent implies that, when we believe, we freely accept the whole mystery of faith, because the guarantor of its truth is God who reveals himself and allows us to know his mystery of love.[18]

On the other hand, we must not forget that in our cultural context, very many people, while not claiming to have the gift of faith, are nevertheless sincerely searching for the ultimate meaning and definitive truth of their lives and of the world. This search is an authentic "preamble" to the faith, because it guides people onto the path that leads to the mystery of God. Human reason, in fact, bears within itself a demand for "what is perennially valid and lasting".[19] This demand constitutes a permanent summons, indelibly written into the human heart, to set out to find the One whom we would not be seeking had he not already set out to meet us.[20] To this encounter, faith invites us and it opens us in fullness.

11. In order to arrive at a systematic knowledge of the content of the faith, all can find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a precious and indispensable tool. It is one of the most important fruits of the Second Vatican Council. In the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, signed, not by accident, on the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John Paul II wrote: "this catechism will make a very important contribution to that work of renewing the whole life of the Church ... I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith."[21]

It is in this sense that that the Year of Faith will have to see a concerted effort to rediscover and study the fundamental content of the faith that receives its systematic and organic synthesis in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here, in fact, we see the wealth of teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history. From Sacred Scripture to the Fathers of the Church, from theological masters to the saints across the centuries, the Catechism provides a permanent record of the many ways in which the Church has meditated on the faith and made progress in doctrine so as to offer certitude to believers in their lives of faith.

In its very structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church follows the development of the faith right up to the great themes of daily life. On page after page, we find that what is presented here is no theory, but an encounter with a Person who lives within the Church. The profession of faith is followed by an account of sacramental life, in which Christ is present, operative and continues to build his Church. Without the liturgy and the sacraments, the profession of faith would lack efficacy, because it would lack the grace which supports Christian witness. By the same criterion, the teaching of the Catechism on the moral life acquires its full meaning if placed in relationship with faith, liturgy and prayer.

12. In this Year, then, the Catechism of the Catholic Church will serve as a tool providing real support for the faith, especially for those concerned with the formation of Christians, so crucial in our cultural context. To this end, I have invited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by agreement with the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See, to draw up a Note, providing the Church and individual believers with some guidelines on how to live this Year of Faith in the most effective and appropriate ways, at the service of belief and evangelization.

To a greater extent than in the past, faith is now being subjected to a series of questions arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of scientific and technological discoveries. Nevertheless, the Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.[22]

13. One thing that will be of decisive importance in this Year is retracing the history of our faith, marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin. While the former highlights the great contribution that men and women have made to the growth and development of the community through the witness of their lives, the latter must provoke in each person a sincere and continuing work of conversion in order to experience the mercy of the Father which is held out to everyone.

During this time we will need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the "pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2): in him, all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment. The joy of love, the answer to the drama of suffering and pain, the power of forgiveness in the face of an offence received and the victory of life over the emptiness of death: all this finds fulfilment in the mystery of his Incarnation, in his becoming man, in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection. In him who died and rose again for our salvation, the examples of faith that have marked these two thousand years of our salvation history are brought into the fullness of light.

By faith, Mary accepted the Angel’s word and believed the message that she was to become the Mother of God in the obedience of her devotion (cf. Lk 1:38). Visiting Elizabeth, she raised her hymn of praise to the Most High for the marvels he worked in those who trust him (cf. Lk 1:46-55). With joy and trepidation she gave birth to her only son, keeping her virginity intact (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Trusting in Joseph, her husband, she took Jesus to Egypt to save him from Herod’s persecution (cf. Mt 2:13-15). With the same faith, she followed the Lord in his preaching and remained with him all the way to Golgotha (cf. Jn 19:25-27). By faith, Mary tasted the fruits of Jesus’ resurrection, and treasuring every memory in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19, 51), she passed them on to the Twelve assembled with her in the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:1-4).

By faith, the Apostles left everything to follow their Master (cf. Mk 10:28). They believed the words with which he proclaimed the Kingdom of God present and fulfilled in his person (cf. Lk 11:20). They lived in communion of life with Jesus who instructed them with his teaching, leaving them a new rule of life, by which they would be recognized as his disciples after his death (cf. Jn 13:34-35). By faith, they went out to the whole world, following the command to bring the Gospel to all creation (cf. Mk 16:15) and they fearlessly proclaimed to all the joy of the resurrection, of which they were faithful witnesses.

By faith, the disciples formed the first community, gathered around the teaching of the Apostles, in prayer, in celebration of the Eucharist, holding their possessions in common so as to meet the needs of the brethren (cf. Acts2:42-47).

By faith, the martyrs gave their lives, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel that had transformed them and made them capable of attaining to the greatest gift of love: the forgiveness of their persecutors.

By faith, men and women have consecrated their lives to Christ, leaving all things behind so as to live obedience, poverty and chastity with Gospel simplicity, concrete signs of waiting for the Lord who comes without delay. By faith, countless Christians have promoted action for justice so as to put into practice the word of the Lord, who came to proclaim deliverance from oppression and a year of favour for all (cf. Lk 4:18-19).

By faith, across the centuries, men and women of all ages, whose names are written in the Book of Life (cf. Rev 7:9, 13:8), have confessed the beauty of following the Lord Jesus wherever they were called to bear witness to the fact that they were Christian: in the family, in the workplace, in public life, in the exercise of the charisms and ministries to which they were called.

By faith, we too live: by the living recognition of the Lord Jesus, present in our lives and in our history.

14. The Year of Faith will also be a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. As Saint Paul reminds us: "So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:13). With even stronger words – which have always placed Christians under obligation – Saint James said: "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But some one will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith" (Jas 2:14-18).

Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path. Indeed, many Christians dedicate their lives with love to those who are lonely, marginalized or excluded, as to those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ’s own face is seen. Through faith, we can recognize the face of the risen Lord in those who ask for our love. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40). These words are a warning that must not be forgotten and a perennial invitation to return the love by which he takes care of us. It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbour along the journey of life. Supported by faith, let us look with hope at our commitment in the world, as we await "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pet 3:13; cf. Rev 21:1).

15. Having reached the end of his life, Saint Paul asks his disciple Timothy to "aim at faith" (2 Tim 2:22) with the same constancy as when he was a boy (cf. 2 Tim 3:15). We hear this invitation directed to each of us, that none of us grow lazy in the faith. It is the lifelong companion that makes it possible to perceive, ever anew, the marvels that God works for us. Intent on gathering the signs of the times in the present of history, faith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world. What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end.

"That the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph" (2 Th 3:1): may this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm, since only in him is there the certitude for looking to the future and the guarantee of an authentic and lasting love. The words of Saint Peter shed one final ray of light on faith: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet 1:6-9). The life of Christians knows the experience of joy as well as the experience of suffering. How many of the saints have lived in solitude! How many believers, even in our own day, are tested by God’s silence when they would rather hear his consoling voice! The trials of life, while helping us to understand the mystery of the Cross and to participate in the sufferings of Christ (cf. Col 1:24), are a prelude to the joy and hope to which faith leads: "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:10). We believe with firm certitude that the Lord Jesus has conquered evil and death. With this sure confidence we entrust ourselves to him: he, present in our midst, overcomes the power of the evil one (cf. Lk 11:20); and the Church, the visible community of his mercy, abides in him as a sign of definitive reconciliation with the Father.

Let us entrust this time of grace to the Mother of God, proclaimed "blessed because she believed" (Lk 1:45).

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 October in the year 2011, the seventh of my Pontificate.



1 Homily for the beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome (24 April 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 710.

2 Cf. Benedict XVI, Homily at Holy Mass in Lisbon’s "Terreiro do Paço" (11 May 2010): Insegnamenti VI:1 (2010), 673.

3 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (11 October 1992): AAS 86 (1994), 113-118.

4 Cf. Final Report of the Second Extraordinary Synod of Bishops (7 December 1985), II, B, a, 4 in Enchiridion Vaticanum, ix, n. 1797.

5 Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Petrum et Paulum Apostolos on the XIX centenary of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul (22 February 1967): AAS 59 (1967), 196.

6 Ibid., 198.

7 Paul VI, Credo of the People of God, cf.Homily at Mass on the XIX centenary of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul at the conclusion of the "Year of Faith" (30 June 1968): AAS 60 (1968), 433-445.

8 Paul VI, General Audience (14 June 1967): Insegnamenti V (1967), 801.

9 John Paul II,Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (6 January 2001), 57: AAS 93 (2001), 308.

10 Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 52.

11 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, 8.

12 De Utilitate Credendi, I:2.

13 Cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, I:1.

14 Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10.

15 Cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (11 October 1992): AAS 86 (1994), 116.

16 Sermo 215:1.

17 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 167.

18 Cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, chap. III: DS 3008-3009: Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 5.

19 Benedict XVI, Address at the Collège des Bernardins, Paris (12 September 2008): AAS 100 (2008), 722.

20 Cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, XIII:1.

21 John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum (11 October 1992): AAS 86 (1994), 115 and 117.

22 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio (14 September 1998), 34, 106: AAS 91 (1999), 31-32, 86-87.

[Original text: Latin]

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to New Evangelizers
"To Be Evangelizers Is Not a Privilege, But a Commitment That Comes From Faith"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to participants in an event hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood

Dear Friends!

I joyfully received the invitation from the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to be with you today, this afternoon at least briefly and especially tomorrow in the Eucharistic Celebration. I thank Archbishop Fisichella for the words of greeting he addressed to me in your name, and I am delighted to see that you are very numerous. I know you are representing many others that, like you, are committed in the difficult task of the New Evangelization. I greet all those who are following this event through the media, which enables many new evangelizers to be connected at the same time, though they are scattered throughout different parts of the world.

You chose as the motto for your reflection today the expression: "The Word of God Increases and Multiplies." The Evangelist Luke uses this formula many times in the book of the Acts of the Apostles; in different situations, he affirms, in fact, that "the Word of God increased and multiplied" (cf. Acts 6:7; 12:24). However for today's theme you modified the tense of the two verbs to evidence a very important aspect of the faith: the conscious certainty that the Word of God is always alive, in all the moments of history, up to our days, because the Church actualizes it through her faithful transmission, the celebration of the sacraments and the witness of believers. That is why our history is in continuity with that of the early Christian community, it lives with the same spirit.

But what ground does the Word of God find? As then, also today it encounters closure and rejection, ways of thinking and living that are far from the search for God and truth. Contemporary man is often confused and unable to find answers to so many questions that unsettle his mind in regard to the meaning of life and to the questions that dwell in the depth of his heart. Man cannot elude these questions that affect the meaning of himself and of reality, and he cannot live only in one dimension! However, it is no accident that he is distracted from the search for the essential in life, while an ephemeral happiness is suggested to him, making him content only for an instant, and immediately leaving sadness and dissatisfaction.

However, despite the condition of contemporary man, we can still affirm with certainty, as at the beginning of Christianity, that the Word of God continues growing and spreading. Why? I would like to point out, at least, three reasons. The first is that the strength of the Word does not depend, in the first place, on our action, on our means, on our "doing," but on God, who hides his power under the signs of weakness, who makes himself present in the light morning breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:12), who reveals himself on the wood of the Cross. We must always believe in the humble power of the Word of God and allow God to act! The second reason is that the seed of the Word, as the Gospel parable of the Sower narrates, falls also today on good soil that receives it and produces fruit (cf. Matthew 13:3-9). And the new evangelizers are part of this field that enables the Gospel to grow in abundance and transform one's life and that of others. In the world, although evil makes much noise, good ground continues to exist. The third reason is that the proclamation of the Gospel has effectively reached the ends of the earth; even in the midst of indifference, incomprehension and persecution, many continue, yet today, with courage, opening the heart and mind to receive the invitation of Christ to encounter him and become his disciples. Though not making noise, they are as the grain of mustard that becomes a tree, the leaven that ferments the dough, the grain of wheat that is destroyed to create the ear. All this, if on one hand it gives consolation and hope because it shows an incessant missionary ferment that animates the Church, on the other hand, it must fill everyone with a renewed sense of responsibility for the Word of God and the diffusion of the Gospel.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, which I instituted last year, is a valuable instrument to identify the great questions that are moving in the various sectors of society and contemporary culture. It is called to offer a particular help to the Church in her mission and above all in those countries of ancient Christian, which seem to be indifferent if not hostile to the Word of God. Today's world needs persons who proclaim and witness that Christ teaches us the art of living, the way to true happiness, because He himself is the Way of Life; people who look steadily, first of all, at Jesus, the Son of God: The word of the proclamation must be immersed in an intense relationship with Him, in an intense life of prayer. Today's world needs persons who speak to God to be able to speak of God. And we must also remember that Jesus did not redeem the world with beautiful words or showy means, but with suffering and death. The law of the grain of wheat that dies in the earth also serves today; we cannot give life to others, without giving our life: "Whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it," the Lord says to us (Mark 8:35). Seeing all of you and knowing the great commitment that each one gives to the service of the mission, I am convinced that the new evangelizers will multiply increasingly to give life to the real transformation that the present world needs. Only through men and women permeated with the presence of God, will the Word of God continue its journey in the world bearing its fruits.

Dear friends, to be evangelizers is not a privilege, but a commitment that comes from faith. To the question the Lord addresses to Christians: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" you answer with the same courage and the same trust as the Prophet: "Here I am! Send me" (Isaiah 6:8). I ask you to let yourselves be permeated by the grace of God and that you correspond docilely to the action of the Spirit of the Risen One. Be signs of hope, capable of looking at the future with the certainty that comes from the Lord Jesus, who has conquered death and has given us eternal life. Communicate to all the joy of the faith with the enthusiasm that comes from being moved by the Holy Spirit, because He makes all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5), trusting in the promise made by Jesus to the Church: "And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

At the end of this day let us also pray for the protection of the Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, while from my heart I accompany each one of you and your commitments with the Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.


Pope's Homily at Mass With New Evangelizers
"Proclamation Must Always Be Preceded, Accompanied and Followed by Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday when he celebrated a Mass for participants in an event hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

* * *

Venerable Brothers,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

With joy I celebrate today this Mass for you who are committed in many parts of the world on the frontiers of the New Evangelization. This liturgy is the conclusion of the meeting that gathered you yesterday to address the realms of that mission and to listen to some significant testimonies. I myself wish to present some thoughts to you, while I break for you today the Bread of the Word and of the Eucharist, in the certainty -- shared by all of us -- that without Christ, Word and Bread of life, we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5). I am content because this conference is situated in the context of the month of October, in fact one week before World Mission Sunday: this puts the New Evangelization in its specific dimension, in harmony with that of the mission ad gentes.

I address a cordial greeting to all of you who accepted the invitation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. In particular I greet and thank the president of this recently established dicastery, Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, and his collaborators.

Let us turn now to the biblical readings in which the Lord speaks to us today. The first, taken from the Book of Isaiah, tells us that God is one, He is unique; there are no other gods besides the Lord, and even the powerful Cyrus, emperor of the Persians, forms part of a greater plan, which only God knows and carries forward. This reading gives us the theological meaning of history: the changes of epochs, the succession of great powers, are under the supreme dominion of God; no earthly power can put itself in His place. The theology of history is an important, essential aspect of the New Evangelization, because the men of our time, after the terrible period of the totalitarian empires of the 20th century, need to rediscover a global vision of the world and of time, a truly free, peaceful vision, the vision that the Second Vatican Council transmitted in its documents, and that my Predecessors, the Servant of God Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II, illustrated with their Magisterium.

The second reading is the beginning of the First Letter to the Thessalonians, and this is already very thought provoking, because it is the oldest letter that has come down to us from the greatest evangelizer of all times, the Apostle Paul. He says to us first of all that one does not evangelize in an isolated way: In fact he also had Silvanus and Timothy as collaborators (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:1), and many others. And he immediately adds another very important thing: that the proclamation must always be preceded, accompanied and followed by prayer. He writes, in fact: "We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers" (v. 2). The Apostle says he is very conscious of the fact that he has not chosen the members of the community, but God has: "They were chosen by Him," he states (v. 4). Every missionary of the Gospel must have this truth always present: It is the Lord who touches hearts with his Word and his Spirit, calling persons to faith and to communion in the Church. Finally, Paul leaves us a very beautiful teaching, taken from his experience. He writes: "for our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" (v. 5). To be effective, evangelization needs the strength of the Spirit, to animate the proclamation and infuse in the one who bears it that "full conviction" of which the Apostle speaks. This term "conviction," "full conviction" in the Greek original is pleroforia: a term that does not express so much the subjective, psychological aspect, but rather the plenitude, the fidelity, the completeness, in this case of the proclamation of Christ. A proclamation that, to be complete and faithful, must be accompanied by signs, by gestures, as the preaching of Jesus. Word, Spirit and conviction -- thus understood -- are, hence, inseparable and thus concur to make the evangelical message spread efficaciously.

We now pause on the passage of the Gospel. It is the text on the legitimacy of the tribute that must be paid to Caesar, which contains Jesus' famous answer: "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21). But before coming to this point, this is a passage that can refer to all those who have the mission to evangelize. In fact, Jesus' interlocutors -- disciples of the Pharisees and Herodians -- address Him with an expression of appreciation: "We know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men" (v. 16). And it is in fact this affirmation, though arising from hypocrisy, which must call our attention. The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians do not believe what they say. They affirm it with a captatio benevolentiae so that they will be listened to, but their heart is very far from that truth; rather they want to lay a snare for Jesus to be able to accuse him. For us, instead, that expression is beautiful and true: Jesus, in fact, is true and he teaches the way of God according to the truth and he is not subject to anyone. He himself is this "way of God," which we are called to follow.

We can recall Jesus' words in John's Gospel: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (14:6). In this regard, St. Augustine's commentary is enlightening: "It was necessary for Jesus to say: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" because once the Way was known, the end had to be known. The Way led to the Truth, it led to the Life … and we, where are we going if not to Him? And by what Way do we go if not by Him?" (In Ioh 69:2). The new evangelizers are called to walk first on this Way that is Christ, to bring others to know the beauty of the Gospel that gives Life. And on this Way, one never walks alone but in company: an experience of communion and fraternity that is offered to all those we meet, to make others participants of our experience of Christ and of his Church. Thus, witness, together with proclamation, can open the heart of those who are seeking the truth, so that they can discover the meaning of their lives.

A brief reflection also on the central question of the tribute to Caesar. Jesus answers with astonishing political realism, linked to the theo-centrism of the prophetic tradition. The tribute to Caesar is paid, because the image on the coin is his; but man, every man, bears in himself another image, that of God, and hence he is His, to whom each one owes his existence. The Fathers of the Church, inspired in the fact that Jesus refers to the image of the Emperor coined on the coin of tribute, interpreted this step in the light of the fundamental concept of man as image of God, contained in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.

An anonymous author writes: "The image of God is not imprinted on gold but on the human race. Caesar's coin is gold, God's is humanity … hence, give your wealth to Caesar, but keep for God the unique innocence of your conscience where God is contemplated … Caesar, in fact, has engraved his image on each coin, but God has chosen man, whom He has created, to reflect his glory" (Anonymous, Incomplete Work on Matthew, Homily 42). And St. Augustine used this reference many times in his homilies: "If Caesar claims his own image engraved on the coin," he affirms, "will God not exact from man the divine image sculpted in him? (En. In Ps., Psalm 94:2). And still: "As the coin is returned to Caesar, so the illumined soul is returned to God imprinted by the light of his face ... Christ in fact dwells in man's interior" (Ivi, Psalm 4:8).

This word of Jesus is rich in anthropological content, and it cannot be reduced solely to the political realm. The Church, therefore, does not limit herself to remind men of the correct distinction between the sphere of Caesar's authority and God's, between the political and the religious realm. The mission of the Church, as Christ's, is essentially to speak of God, to remind of his sovereignty, to remind everyone, especially Christians who have lost their identity, of God's right over what belongs to Him, that is, our life.

Precisely to give renewed impulse to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they are often found to the place of life, friendship with Christ who gives us his life in plenitude, I would like to announce in this Eucharistic Celebration that I have decided to declare a "Year of Faith," which I will illustrate with a special Apostolic Letter. This "Year of Faith" will begin on Oct. 11, 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, and will end on Nov. 24, 2013, Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe. It will be a time of grace and commitment to en ever fuller conversion to God, to reinforce our faith in Him and to proclaim Him with joy to the men of our time.

Dear brothers and sisters, you are among the protagonists of the New Evangelization, which the Church has undertaken and carries forward, not without difficulty, but with the same enthusiasm of the early Christians.

In conclusion, I make my own the expressions of the Apostle Paul that we have heard: I thank God for all of you. And I assure you that I keep you in my prayers, conscious of your commitment in faith, your diligence in charity, and your constant hope in Jesus Christ our Lord.

May the Virgin Mary, who was not afraid to answer "yes" to the Word of the Lord, and, after having conceived Him in her womb, went out full of joy and hope, always be your model and your guide. Learn from the Mother of the Lord and our Mother to be humble and at the same time brave, simple and prudent; balanced and strong, not with the force of the world, but with that of truth. Amen.


Benedict XVI's Message on World Food Day
"The Purpose of This Day Should Be a Commitment to Modify Behavior"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, on the occasion of World Food Day, which was marked Sunday.

The Vatican released the message today.

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To Mr. Jacques Diouf

Director General of FAO

1. The annual celebration of World Food Day, while recalling the foundation of the F.A.O. and its commitment in favor of agricultural development to combat hunger and malnutrition, is also an occasion to underscore the situation of so many brothers and sisters of ours who lack daily bread.

The painful images of numerous victims of famine in the Horn of Africa remain engraved before our eyes and every day a new chapter is added to what is one of the most serious humanitarian catastrophes of recent decades. Surely in the face of the death of entire communities caused by famine and the forced abandonment of the native lands, immediate aid is essential, but it is also necessary to intervene in the medium- and long-term so that international activity is not limited to responding only to emergencies.

The situation has been increasingly complicated because of the difficult crisis that is globally affecting various sectors of the economy and which harshly strikes the neediest above all, conditioning in turn agricultural production and the consequent possibility of access to foods. Nevertheless, the efforts of governments and other components of the international community must be oriented to effective options, aware that liberation from the yoke of hunger is the first concrete manifestation of the right to life, which -- despite its having been solemnly proclaimed -- is often very far from being fulfilled effectively.

2. The theme chosen for the Day: "Food Prices: From Crisis to Stability," invites us to reflect on the importance of the different factors that can give people and communities essential resources, beginning with agricultural work, which must not be considered as a secondary activity, but as the objective of every strategy of growth and integral development. This is still more important if we keep in mind that the availability of foods is increasingly conditioned by the volatility of prices and sudden climatic changes. We observe at the same time a continuous abandonment of rural areas with a global decline in agricultural production and, hence, in food reserves. Moreover, spreading everywhere, unfortunately, is the idea that food is just one more merchandise and, hence, also subject to speculative movements.

It cannot be ignored that -- despite the progress achieved up to now and the hopes based on an economy that increasingly respects the dignity of every person -- the future of the human family is in need of a new impulse to overcome present fragilities and uncertainties. Although we live in a global dimension, there are evident signs of the profound division between those who lack daily sustenance and those who have many resources, using them often for ends other than food and even destroying them. Confirmed thus is that globalization makes us feel closer but not brothers (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 19). Because of this, those Christian values inscribed in the heart of every person and which have always inspired his action must be rediscovered: the feeling of compassion and humanity toward others and the duty of solidarity and commitment to justice, must again be the basis of every activity, including those carried out by the international community.

3. Given the magnitude of the tragedy of famine, it is not enough to invite reflection and analyze the problems, nor even the willingness to intervene. Too often these factors are useless because they are reduced to the sphere of emotions, without being capable of moving the conscience and its search for truth and goodness. Frequent are the attempts to justify the conduct and omissions dictated by egoism and by private objectives and interests. On the contrary, the purpose of this Day should be a commitment to modify behavior and decisions, which ensure today rather than tomorrow, that every person has access to the necessary food, and that the agricultural sector has a level of investments and resources capable of giving stability to production and hence to the market. It is easy to reduce discussions to the food requirements for an increasing population, knowing well that the causes of hunger have other roots and have caused so many victims among so many Lazaruses who are not allowed to sit at the table of the rich Epulon (cf. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, 47).

In short, it is about assuming an interior attitude of responsibility, capable of inspiring a different style of life, with necessary sobriety in conduct and consumption, to thus favor the good of society. And that this is true also for future generations, for their sustainability, protection of the goods of creation, distribution of resources and, above all, the concrete commitment to the development of whole peoples and nations. For their part, the beneficiaries of international cooperation are called to use any solidaristic contribution responsibly in "rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level," (Caritas in Veritate, 27).

4. All this can be accomplished if the international institutions also guarantee their service with impartiality and efficacy, but respecting fully the most profound convictions of the human soul and the aspirations of every person. In this perspective, the F.A.O. can contribute to guarantee adequate food for all, to reinforce methods of cultivation and commercialization and to protect the fundamental rights of those who work the earth, without ever forgetting the most authentic values that are protected in the rural world and those who live in it.

The Catholic Church is close to institutions that commit themselves to guarantee food. Through her structures and development agencies, she will continue to support them actively in this effort so that every nation and community will have the necessary food security, which no commitment or negotiation, no matter how accredited it is, will be able to ensure without real solidarity and genuine fraternity.

"The importance of this goal is such as to demand our openness to understand it in depth and to mobilize ourselves at the level of the 'heart,' so as to ensure that current economic and social processes evolve towards fully human outcomes" (Caritas in Veritate, 20).

With these sentiments I wish you, Mr. Director General, to continue in the commitment in favor of the neediest that has characterized these years of responsibility and dedication, while I invoke upon the F.A.O., upon each one of the Member States and above all upon your person, abundant blessings of the Almighty.


On Psalm 126
"It Is Important Not to Lose the Memory of God's Presence in Our Lives"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 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 today continued his catecheses on prayer with a reflection on Psalm 126.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the previous catecheses, we have meditated on a number of psalms of lament and of trust. Today, I would like to reflect with you on a notably joyous psalm, a prayer that sings with joy the marvels of God. It is Psalm 126 -- according to Greco-Latin numbering, 125 -- which extols the great things the Lord has done with His people, and which He continues to do with every believer.

The psalmist begins the prayer in the name of all Israel by recalling the thrilling experience of salvation:

"When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy" (Verses 1-2a).

The psalm speaks of "restored fortunes"; that is, restored to their original state in all their former favorability. It begins then with a situation of suffering and of need to which God responds by bringing about salvation and restoring the man who prays to his former condition; indeed, one that is enriched and even changed for the better. This is what happens to Job, when the Lord restores to him all that he had lost, redoubling it and bestowing upon him an even greater blessing (cf. Job 42:10-13), and this is what the people of Israel experience in returning to their homeland after the Babylonian exile.

This psalm is meant to be interpreted with reference to the end of the deportation to a foreign land: The expression "restore the fortunes of Zion" is read and understood by the tradition as a "return of the prisoners of Zion." In fact, the return from exile is paradigmatic of every divine and saving intervention, since the fall of Jerusalem and the deportation into Babylon were devastating experiences for the Chosen People, not only on the political and social planes, but also and especially on the religious and spiritual ones. The loss of their land, the end of the davidic monarchy and the destruction of the Temple appear as a denial of the divine promises, and the People of the Covenant, dispersed among the pagans, painfully question a God who seems to have abandoned them.

Therefore, the end of the deportation and their return to their homeland are experienced as a marvelous return to faith, to trust, to communion with the Lord; it is a "restoring of fortunes" that involves a conversion of heart, forgiveness, re-found friendship with God, knowledge of His mercy and a renewed possibility of praising Him (cf. Jeremiah 29:12-14; 30:18-20; 33:6-11; Ezekiel 39:25-29). It is an experience of overflowing joy, of laughter and of cries of jubilation, so beautiful that "it seems like a dream." Divine help often takes surprising forms that surpass what man is able to imagine; hence the wonder and joy that are expressed in this psalm: "The Lord has done great things." This is what the nations said, and it is what Israel proclaims:

"Then they said among the nations,

'the Lord has done great things for them.'

The Lord has done great things for us;

we are glad" (Verses 2b-3).

God performs marvelous works in the history of men. In carrying out salvation, He reveals Himself to all as the powerful and merciful Lord, a refuge for the oppressed, who does not forget the cry of the poor (cf. Psalm 9:10,13), who loves justice and right and of whose love the earth is filled (cf. Psalm 33:5). Thus, standing before the liberation of the People of Israel, all the nations recognize the great and marvelous things God has accomplished for His People, and they celebrate the Lord in His reality as Savior.

And Israel echoes the proclamation of the nations, taking it up and repeating it once more -- but as the protagonist -- as a direct recipient of the divine action: "The Lord has done great things for us"; "for us" or even more precisely, "with us," in hebrew 'immanû, thus affirming that privileged relationship that the Lord keeps with His chosen ones, and which is found in the name Emmanuel, "God with us," the name by which Jesus would be called, His complete and full revelation (cf. Matthew 1:23).

Dear brothers and sisters, in our prayer we should look more often at how, in the events of our own lives, the Lord has protected, guided and helped us, and we should praise Him for all He has done and does for us. We should be more attentive to the good things the Lord gives to us. We are always attentive to problems and to difficulties, and we are almost unwilling to perceive that there are beautiful things that come from the Lord. This attention, which becomes gratitude, is very important for us; it creates in us a memory for the good and it helps us also in times of darkness. God accomplishes great things, and whoever experiences this -- attentive to the Lord's goodness with an attentiveness of heart -- is filled with joy. The first part of the psalm concludes on this joyous note. To be saved and to return to one's homeland from exile are like being returned to life: Freedom opens up to laughter, but is does so together with a waiting for a fulfillment still desired and implored. This is the second part of our psalm, which continues:

"Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like the watercourses in the Negeb!

May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy!

He that goes forth weeping,

bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

bringing his sheaves with him" (Verses 4-6).

If at the beginning of the prayer, the psalmist celebrated the joy of a fortune already restored by the Lord, now instead he asks for it as something still to be realized. If we apply this psalm to the return from exile, this apparent contradiction could be explained by Israel's historical experience of a difficult and only partial return to their homeland, which prompts the man who prays to implore further divine help to bring the People's restoration to completeness.

But the psalm goes beyond the purely historical moment and opens to broader, theological dimensions. The consoling experience of freedom from Babylon is nevertheless still incomplete, it has "already" occurred, but it is "not yet" marked by a definitive fullness. Thus, while the prayer joyously celebrates the salvation received, it opens in anticipation of its full realization. Therefore, the psalm uses distinctive imagery that in its complexity calls to mind the mysterious reality of redemption, in which the gift received and yet still to be awaited, life and death, joys dreamed of and painful tears, are interwoven.

The first image refers to the dried-up streams of the Negeb desert, which with the rains are filled with rushing waters that restore life to the arid ground and make it flourish. Thus, the psalmist's request is that the restoration of the People's fortunes and their return from exile be like those waters, roaring and unstoppable, capable of transforming the desert into an immense stretch of green grass and flowers.

The second image shifts from the arid and rocky hills of the Negeb to the fields that farmers cultivate for food. In describing salvation, the experience renewed every year in the world of agriculture is here recalled: the difficult and tiring time of sowing, and then the overflowing joy in the harvest. It is a sowing in tears, since one casts to the ground what could still become bread, exposing it to a time of waiting that is full of uncertainty: The farmer works, he prepares the earth, he scatters the seed, but as the parable of the Sower illustrates well, one never knows where the seed will fall -- if the birds will eat it, if it will take root, if it will become an ear of grain (cf. Matthew 13:3-9; Mark 4:2-9; Luke 8:4-8).

To scatter the seed is an act of trust and of hope; man's industriousness is needed, but then one must enter into a powerless time of waiting, well aware that many deciding factors will determine the success of the harvest, and that the risk of failure is always lurking. And yet, year after year, the farmer repeats his gesture and scatters the seed. And when it becomes an ear of grain, and the fields fill with crops, this is the joy of he who stands before an extraordinary marvel.

Jesus knew well this experience, and He spoke of it with those who were His own: "He said: 'The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how'" (Mark 4:26-27). It is the hidden mystery of life, these are the wondrous, "great things" of salvation that the Lord carries out in human history and whose secret men do not know.

When divine help is manifested in all its fullness, it has an overflowing dimension, like the watercourses of the Negeb and like the grain of the fields -- the latter also evoking a disproportion characteristic of the things of God: a disproportion between the effort of the sowing and the immense joy of the harvest; between the anxiety of waiting and the comforting vision of the granaries filled; between the little seeds thrown upon the ground and the great sheaves of grain made golden by the sun. At the harvest, all is transformed; the weeping has ended and has given way to an exultant cry of joy.

This is what the psalmist refers to when he speaks of salvation, of liberation, of the restoration of fortunes and of return from exile. The deportation to Babylon, like every other situation of suffering and of crisis, with its painful darkness filled with doubts and the apparent absence of God, in reality -- our psalm says -- is like a time of sowing. In the Mystery of Christ -- in the light of the New Testament -- the message becomes even clearer and more explicit: The believer who passes through this darkness is like the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and dies, but that bears much fruit (cf. John 12:24); or, borrowing another image that was dear to Jesus, the believer is like the woman who suffers the pains of labor for the sake of attaining the joy of having brought a new life to light (cf. John 16:21).

Dear brothers and sisters, this psalm teaches us that, in our prayer, we must always remain open to hope, and firm in our faith in God. Our personal history -- even if often marked by suffering, uncertainty and moments of crisis -- is a history of salvation and of the "restoring of fortunes." In Jesus our every exile ends and every tear is wiped away in the mystery of His Cross, of death transformed into life, like the grain of wheat that falls into the earth and yields a harvest. Also for us, this discovery of Jesus Christ is the great joy of God's "yes," of the restoration of our fortunes. But like those who -- having returned from Babylon filled with joy -- found an impoverished, devastated land as well as difficulty in sowing, and weeping, they suffered not knowing if at the end there would actually be a harvest, so also we, after the great discovery of Jesus Christ -- our life, the truth, the way -- entering into the terrain of faith, into the "land of faith," we also often find that life is dark, hard, difficult -- a sowing in tears -- but we are certain that in the end, the light of Christ truly gives us the great harvest.

And we must learn this also in the dark nights; do not forget that the light is there, that God is already in the midst of our lives and that we can sow with the great trust in the fact that God's "yes" is stronger than us all. It is important not to lose the memory of God's presence in our lives, this profound joy that God has entered into our lives, thus freeing us: It is gratitude for the discovery of Jesus Christ, who has come among us. And this gratitude is transformed into hope; it is a star of hope that gives us trust; it is light, since the very pains of sowing are the beginning of new life, of the great and definitive joy of God.

[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 Psalm 126. This Psalm is a joyful prayer of thanksgiving for God's fidelity to his promises in bringing about Israel's return from the Babylonian Exile: "The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced" (v. 3). A similar spirit of joy and thanksgiving should mark our own prayer as we recall the care which God has shown to us in the events of our lives, even those which seem dark and bitter. The Psalmist implores God to continue to grant Israel his saving help: "May those who sow in tears, reap with shouts of joy" (v. 5). This imagery of the seed which silently grows to maturity reminds us that God's salvation is at once a gift already received and the object of our hope, a promise whose fulfilment remains in the future. Jesus will use this same imagery to express the passage from death to life, from darkness to light, which must take place in the lives of all who put their faith in him and share in his paschal mystery (cf. Jn 12:24). As we pray this Psalm, may we echo the song of the Virgin Mary by rejoicing in the great things which the Almighty has done for us (cf. Lk 1:49) and by awaiting in hope the fulfilment of God's promises.

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Pope's Address to Carthusian Monks
"A Whole Life Barely Suffices to Enter Into This Union With God"

LAMEZIA TERME, Italy, OCT. 11, 2011 - Here is a L'Osservatore Romano translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday during vespers celebrated in the Carthusian monastery of St. Bruno. The Pope was on a one-day pastoral visit to Lamezia Terme and Serra San Bruno in the region of Calabria, Italy.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Carthusian Brothers,

Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord who has brought me to this place of faith and prayer, the Charterhouse of Serra San Bruno. In renewing my grateful greeting to Archbishop Vincenzo Bertolone of Catanzaro-Squillace, I address this Carthusian Community, each one of its members, with deep affection, starting with the Prior, Father Jacques Dupont, whom I warmly thank for his words, while I ask him to communicate my grateful thoughts and my blessing to the Minister General and to the Nuns of the Order.

I am first of all eager to stress that this Visit comes in continuity with certain signs of strong communion between the Apostolic See and the Carthusian Order, which became apparent in the past century. In 1924, Pope Pius XI issued an Apostolic Constitution with which he approved the Statutes of the Order, revised in the light of the Code of Canon Law. In May 1984, Blessed John Paul II addressed a special letter to the Minister General, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the foundation by St Bruno of the first community at the Chartreuse [Charterhouse] near Grenoble. On 5 October that same year my beloved Predecessor came here and the memory of his passing between these walls is still vivid.

Today I come to you in the wake of these events, past but ever timely, and I would like our meeting to highlight the deep bond that exists between Peter and Bruno, between pastoral service to the Church's unity and the contemplative vocation in the Church. Ecclesial communion, in fact, demands an inner force, that force which Father Prior has just recalled, citing the expression "captus ab Uno," ascribed to St Bruno: "grasped by the One," by God, "Unus potens per omnia," as we sang in the Vespers hymn. From the contemplative community the ministry of pastors draws a vital sap that comes from God.

"Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare": to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp the eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (cf. Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 13): the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone.

Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13:44-46); you have responded radically to Jesus' invitation: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). Every monastery -- male or female -- is an oasis in which the deep well, from which to draw "living water" to quench our deepest thirst, is constantly being dug with prayer and meditation. However, the charterhouse is a special oasis in which silence and solitude are preserved with special care, in accordance with the form of life founded by St Bruno and which has remained unchanged down the centuries. "I live in a rather faraway hermitage... with some religious brothers", is the concise sentence that your Founder wrote (Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 4). The Successor of Peter's Visit to this historical Charterhouse is not only intended to strengthen those of you who live here but the entire Order in its mission which is more than ever timely and meaningful in today's world.

Technical progress, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always a lingering background noise, in some areas even at night. In the recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality that risks getting the upper hand over reality. Unbeknown to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, as for fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude.

I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. I shall sum it up like this: by withdrawing into silence and solitude, human beings, so to speak, "expose" themselves to reality in their nakedness, to that apparent "void," which I mentioned at the outset, in order to experience instead Fullness, the presence of God, of the most royal Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every created thing: in the air that we breathe, in the light that we see and that warms us, in the grass, in stones.... God, Creator omnium, [the Creator of all], passes through all things but is beyond them and for this very reason is the foundation of them all.

The monk, in leaving all, "takes a risk," as it were: he exposes himself to solitude and silence in order to live on nothing but the essential, and precisely in living the essential he also finds a deep communion with his brethren, with every human being.

Some might think that it would suffice to come here to take this "leap." But it is not like this. This vocation, like every vocation, finds an answer in an ongoing process, in the searching of a whole life. Indeed it is not enough to withdraw to a place such as this in order to learn to be in God's presence. Just as in marriage it is not enough to celebrate the Sacrament to become effectively one but it is necessary to let God's grace act and to walk together through the daily routine of conjugal life, so becoming monks requires time, practice and patience, "in a divine and persevering vigilance," as St Bruno said, they "await the return of their Lord so that they might be able to open the door for him as soon as he knocks" (Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 4); and the beauty of every vocation in the Church consists precisely in this: giving God time to act with his Spirit and to one's own humanity to form itself, to grow in that special state of life according to the measure of the maturity of Christ.

In Christ there is everything, fullness; we need time to make one of the dimensions of his mystery our own. We could say that this is a journey of transformation in which the mystery of Christ's resurrection is brought about and made manifest in us, a mystery to which the word of God in the biblical Reading from the Letter to the Romans has recalled us this evening: the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and will give life even to our mortal bodies (cf. Rom 8:11) is the One who also brings about our configuration to Christ in accordance with each one's vocation, a journey that unwinds from the baptismal font to death, a passing on to the Father's house. In the world's eyes it sometimes seems impossible to spend one's whole life in a monastery but in fact a whole life barely suffices to enter into this union with God, into this essential and profound Reality which is Jesus Christ.

I have come here for this reason, dear Brothers who make up the Carthusian Community of Serra San Bruno! To tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church. Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes. We are one body, in which every member is important and has the same dignity, and is inseparable from the whole. You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through your veins.

Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis [the cross is steady while the world is turning], your motto says. The Cross of Christ is the firm point in the midst of the world's changes and upheavals. Life in a Charterhouse shares in the stability of the Cross which is that of God, of God's faithful love. By remaining firmly united to Christ, like the branches to the Vine, may you too, dear Carthusian Brothers, be associated to his mystery of salvation, like the Virgin Mary who stabat (stood) beneath the Cross, united with her Son in the same sacrifice of love.

Thus, like Mary and with her, you too are deeply inserted in the mystery of the Church, a sacrament of union of men with God and with each other. In this you are unusually close to my ministry. May the Most Holy Mother of the Church therefore watch over us and the holy Father Bruno always bless your community from Heaven. Amen.


Pope's Address to Bishops of Indonesia
"The Missionary Impulse Remains Essential to the Church's Life"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Friday upon receiving in audience the bishops of Indonesia, at the end their five-yearly "ad limina" visit to Rome.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a privileged opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift of communion that exists in the one Church of Christ, and a moment to deepen our bonds of unity in the apostolic faith. I wish to thank Bishop Situmorang for his kind words offered on your behalf and in the name of those entrusted to your pastoral care. My cordial greetings also go to the priests, the men and women religious, and laity whom you shepherd. Please assure them of my prayers for their sanctification and well-being.

Christ’s message of salvation, forgiveness and love has been preached in your country for centuries. Indeed, the missionary impulse remains essential to the Church’s life, and finds expression not only in the preaching of the Gospel, but also in the witness of Christian charity (cf. Ad Gentes, 2). In this regard, I appreciate the intense efforts made by numerous individuals and agencies in the name of the Church to bring the tender compassion of God to many members of Indonesian society. This is the hallmark of every movement, action and expression of the Church, in all of her sacramental, charitable, educational and social endeavors, so that in everything her members may strive to make the Triune God known and loved through Jesus Christ. This will not only contribute to the spiritual vitality of the Church as she grows in confidence through humble yet courageous witness; it will also strengthen Indonesian society by promoting those values that your fellow citizens hold dear: tolerance, unity and justice for all citizens. Appropriately, Indonesia’s constitution guarantees the fundamental human right of freedom to practice one’s religion. The freedom to live and preach the Gospel can never be taken for granted and must always be justly and patiently upheld. Nor is religious freedom merely a right to be free from outside constraints. It is also a right to be authentically and fully Catholic, to practice the faith, to build up the Church and to contribute to the common good, proclaiming the Gospel as Good News for all, and inviting everyone to intimacy with the God of mercy and compassion made manifest in Jesus Christ

A significant amount of the charitable and educational work within your Dioceses is done under the aegis of religious men and women. Their consecration to Christ and their lives of deep prayer and genuine sacrifice continue to enrich the Church and to render God’s presence visible and active in your nation. I wish to express my gratitude to the many priests and men and women religious who offer glory to the Lord through countless good works which benefit their Indonesian brothers and sisters. Their labors are an indispensable expression of the Church’s commitment to humanity, and in particular to the most needy.

For this reason, I ask you, dear Brother Bishops, to continue to ensure that the formation and education that seminarians and men and women religious receive will always be adequate to the mission entrusted to them. Amid the growing complexities of our world and the rapid transformation of Indonesian society, the need for well-prepared religious men and women is all the more urgent. In concert with their local Superiors, ascertain that they have received what is necessary for them to live lives filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding, and to bear fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9,10). I can only encourage you in your continuing efforts to promote and sustain interreligious dialogue in your nation. Your country, so rich in its cultural diversity and possessed of a large population, is home to significant numbers of followers of various religious traditions. Thus, the people of Indonesia are well-placed to make important contributions to the quest for peace and understanding among the peoples of the world. Your participation in this great enterprise is decisive, and so I urge you, dear brothers, to ensure that those whom you shepherd know that they, as Christians, are to be agents of peace, perseverance and charity.

The Church is called to follow her Divine Master, who unites all things in himself, and to witness to that peace which only he can give. This is the precious fruit of charity in him who, suffering unjustly, gave us his life and taught us to respond in all situations with forgiveness, mercy and love in truth. Believers in Christ, rooted in charity, ought to be committed to dialogue with other religions, respecting mutual differences. Common endeavors for the upbuilding of society will be of great value when they strengthen friendships and overcome misunderstanding or distrust.

I have confidence that you and the priests, religious and laity of your Dioceses will continue to bear witness to the image and likeness of God in each man, woman and child, regardless of their faith, by encouraging everyone to be open to dialogue in the service of peace and harmony. By doing everything possible to ensure that the rights of minorities in your country are respected, you further the cause of tolerance and mutual harmony in your country and beyond.

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem. Your country is composed of thousands of islands; so too the Church in Indonesia is made up of thousands of Christian communities, "islands of Christ’s presence". May you always be united in faith, hope and love among yourselves and with the Successor of Peter. I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Calabria, the Land of Marian Piety
"Have Always in Your Heart Ecclesial Communion and Missionary Commitment"

LAMEZIA TERME, Italy, OCT. 9, 2011- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus after celebrating Mass in an industrial site in Lamezia Terme, during his pastoral visit to the Italian city.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we come to the end of our celebration, we turn with filial devotion to the Virgin Mary, whom this month of October we venerate in particular with the title Queen of the Holy Rosary.

I know that there are many Marian shrines present in this land of yours, and I am happy to learn that here in Calabria popular piety is alive. I encourage you to practice it constantly in the light of the teachings of Vatican Council II, of the Apostolic See, and of your pastors. I entrust your diocesan community affectionately to Mary, so that it will be united in faith, hope and charity. May the Mother of the Church help you to have always in your heart ecclesial communion and missionary commitment. May she support the priests in their ministry, help parents and teachers in their educational task, console the sick and the suffering, preserve in young people a pure and generous soul.

Let us also invoke Mary's intercession for the most serious social problems of this territory and of the whole of Calabria, especially those of work, of youth, of the care of handicapped people, who require increasing attention on the part of everyone, in particular of the institutions.

In communion with your bishops, I exhort you in particular, lay faithful, not to hold back the contribution of your competence and responsibility in the building of the common good.

As you know, this afternoon I will go to Serra San Bruno to visit the Carthusian Order. St. Bruno came to this land nine centuries ago, and he left a profound sign, with the strength of his faith. The faith of the saints renews the world! With the same faith, you too renew today your beloved Calabria!


On Psalm 23
"The Nearness of God Transforms Reality, the Dark Valley Loses Its Danger"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 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 his series of catecheses on prayer with a reflection on Psalm 23.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Turning to Lord in prayer involves a radical act of trust, in the awareness that one is entrusting oneself to God who is good, "merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 86:15; cf. Joel 2:13; Genesis 4:2; Psalm 103:8; 145:8; Nehemiah 9:17). For this reason, today I would like to reflect with you on a Psalm that is wholly imbued with trust, in which the psalmist expresses the serene certainty that he is guided and protected, and kept safe from every danger, because the Lord is his shepherd. It is Psalm 23 -- according to the Graeco-Latin tradition [Psalm] 22 -- it is a text familiar to all and much-beloved by all.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want": thus begins this beautiful prayer, calling to mind the nomadic environment of sheep-rearing and the experience of a mutual knowledge that is established between the shepherd and the sheep that make up his little flock. The image evokes an atmosphere of confidence, intimacy and tenderness: the shepherd knows his young sheep one by one; he calls them by name and they follow him, because they know him and they trust him (cf. John 10:2-4). He cares for them; he guards them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to assure their well-being, and to establish them in peace. Nothing can be lacking if the shepherd is with them. The psalmist makes reference to this experience, by calling God his shepherd and by allowing himself to be guided by Him towards safe pastures:

"He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for His name's sake" (verses 2-3).

The vision that opens before our eyes is one of green meadows and springs of limpid waters, a haven of peace towards which the shepherd accompanies the flock -- symbols of the places in life towards which the Lord leads the psalmist, who feels like the sheep lying on the grass beside a spring, in restful repose -- neither tense nor in a state of alarm, but trusting and still -- for his place is secure, the water is fresh, and the shepherd is watching over them.

And let us not forget that the scene the psalmist here recalls is set in a largely desert land beaten by the burning sun, where the middle-eastern semi-nomadic shepherd lives with his flock in the arid steppes extending around the villages. But the shepherd knows where to find grass and fresh water, the essentials of life; he knows how to bring them to the oasis where the soul "is restored" and where it is possible to renew one's strength and to gain new energy in order to continue on along the path.

As the psalmist says, God guides him towards "green pastures" and "still waters", where everything is found in abundance, where all is copiously given. If the Lord is the shepherd, even in the desert -- a place of absence and of death -- his certainty in a radical presence of life is not lessened, so much so that he can say: "I shall not want".

The shepherd in fact has the good of his flock at heart; he adjusts his own rhythms and his own needs to those of his sheep, he walks and lives with them, guiding them along "right" paths -- that is, along paths suitable for them -- attentive to their needs rather than to his own. The safety of his flock is his priority, and he is obedient to this in guiding them.

Dear brothers and sisters, we also like the psalmist, if we walk behind the "Good Shepherd" -- however difficult, winding or long the paths of our life may appear, often taking us also through spiritually desert regions, waterless and with a sun of scorching rationalism -- under the guidance of the Good Shepherd, Christ, we can be sure of travelling along "right" paths and [we can be sure] that the Lord guides us, that He is always close to us -- and that we will want for nothing.

For this reason, the psalmist speaks of his stillness and security with neither uncertainty nor fear:

"Even though I walk through a dark valley,

I fear no evil, for thou art with me.

They rod and they staff,

They comfort me" (verse 4).

He who goes with the Lord even into the dark valleys of suffering, of uncertainty and of every human problem feels secure. You are with me: this is our certainty, this is what sustains us. The darkness of night frightens us with its moving shadows, with the difficulty it brings in distinguishing dangers, with its silence filled with indecipherable sounds. If the flock moves after sunset, when visibility is lessened, it is normal for the sheep to become restless, since there is a risk of stumbling or of going astray and becoming lost -- and there is the added fear of possible aggressors, who conceal themselves under the cover of night.

In speaking of the "dark" valley, the psalmist uses a Hebrew expression that evokes the shadows of death. The valley to be crossed is therefore a place of anguish, of awful threat and of mortal danger. And yet the man who prays proceeds securely and without fear, for he knows that the Lord is with him. His "you are with me" is a proclamation of unwavering trust and sums up the experience of radical faith; the nearness of God transforms reality, the dark valley loses its danger -- it is emptied of every threat. Now the flock can walk in peace, accompanied by the familiar sound of the staff hitting the ground -- the sign of the reassuring presence of the Shepherd.

This comforting image concludes the first part of the Psalm, and gives way to a different scene. We are still in the desert where the shepherd lives with his flock, but now we are transported to his tent, which is opened in order to provide hospitality:

"Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

Thou anointest my head with oil.

My cup overflows" (verse 5).

The Lord is now presented as He who welcomes the man who prays with signs of a hospitality that is generous and full of attention. The divine host prepares the food on the "table," a word that in Hebrew signifies -- in its primitive meaning -- the animal skin that was laid out upon the ground, and upon which the dishes for a common meal were placed. It is a gesture and an act of sharing not only food, but also life, in an offering of communion and friendship that creates bonds and expresses solidarity.

Then there is the bounteous gift of perfumed oil upon the head, which gives relief from the drying effects of the desert sun; which refreshes and soothes the skin and enlivens the spirit with its fragrance. Lastly, the overflowing chalice adds a note of festivity, with its exquisite wine shared with lavish generosity. Food, oil, wine: they are gifts that enliven and give joy, because they surpass what is strictly necessary and express the gratuity and the lavishness of love. Celebrating the Lord's provident goodness, Psalm 104 proclaims: "Thou dost cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man's heart" (verses 14-15).

The psalmist has been made the object of so many attentions; he therefore sees himself as a wayfarer who finds rest in a welcoming tent, while his enemies must stop and watch without being able to intervene, for he whom they looked upon as their prey has been placed in safety, has become an untouchable, sacred guest. And we are the psalmist if we are truly believers in communion with Christ. When God opens His tent to welcome us, nothing can harm us.

Once the wayfarer sets off again, the divine protection continues and accompanies him on his journey: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (verse 6).

The goodness and fidelity of God are the escort that accompanies the psalmist as he leaves the tent and returns to the road. However, it is a journey that acquires a new meaning and becomes a pilgrimage to the God's Temple, the holy place where the man who prays wants "to dwell" forever and to which he wishes "to return." The Hebrew word employed here has a sense of "return," but, with a slight change in vowels, it can also be understood as "dwell" -- and so it has been rendered in older versions as well as in the majority of modern translations. Both senses can be maintained: to return to the Temple and to dwell therein is every Israelite's desire, and to dwell close to God in His nearness and goodness is the longing and nostalgia of ever believer: to be able truly to abide where God is, close to God.

The following of the Shepherd takes us to His home -- it is the destination of every journey, the desired oasis in the desert, the tent of refuge in the flight from one's enemies, the place of peace where one can experience God's goodness and His faithful love, day after day, in the serene joy without end.

This Psalm's imagery, with its richness and depth, has accompanied the whole history and religious experience of the people of Israel, and it accompanies Christians. The figure of the shepherd in particular recalls the beginnings of the Exodus, the long journey in the desert, like a flock under the guidance of the divine Shepherd (cf. Isaiah 63:11-14; Psalm 77:20-21; 78:52-54). And in the Promised Land, it was the king whose task it was to pasture the Lord's flock, like David, the shepherd chosen by God and the figure of the Messiah (cf. 2 Samuel 5:1-2; 7:8; Psalm 78:70-72). Then, after the Babylonian exile, as though in a new Exodus (cf. Isaiah 40:3-5,9-11; 43:16-21), Israel was returned to their homeland like scattered sheep that were found and led back by the Lord to luxuriant pastures and to places of repose (cf. Exodus 34:11-16, 23-31).

But it is in the Lord Jesus that all the evocative power of our Psalm attains completeness and finds its fulfillment: Jesus is the "Good Shepherd" who goes in search of His lost sheep, who knows His sheep and gives His life for them (cf. Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:4-7; John 10:2-4,11-18). He is the way, the right path that leads us to life (cf. John 14:6); the light that illumines the dark valley and conquers our every fear (cf. John 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). He is the generous host who welcomes us and saves us from our enemies, preparing for us the table of His body and His blood (cf. Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20), and that definitive table in Heaven's messianic banquet (cf. Luke 14:15ff; Revelation 3:20; 19:9). He is the regal Shepherd, the King of meekness and of pardon, enthroned on the glorious wood of the Cross (cf. John 3:13-15; 12:32; 17:4-5).

Dear brothers and sisters, Psalm 23 invites us to renew our trust in God, by abandoning ourselves totally into His hands. With faith, let us therefore ask the Lord to grant us -- along the difficult roads of our times as well -- to walk always on His paths as a docile and obedient flock. [Let us ask] that He welcome us into His home, to His table, and that He lead us to "still waters", so that in receiving the gift of His Spirit, we may drink from His springs, from the fount of that living water "welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14; cf. 7:37-39). Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[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 Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want". With its exquisite pastoral imagery this much-beloved Psalm speaks of the radical trust in God's loving care which is an essential aspect of prayer. The Psalmist begins by presenting God as a good shepherd who guides him to green pastures, standing at his side and protecting him from every danger. "He leads me beside still waters; he refreshes my soul" (vv. 2-3). The scene then passes to the shepherd's tent, where the Lord welcomes him as a guest, gracing him with the gifts of food, oil and wine. "You prepare a table before me … you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows" (v. 5). God's protection continues to accompany the Psalmist with goodness and mercy along his way, a way which leads to length of days in the Lord's Temple (v. 6). The powerful image of God as the Shepherd of Israel accompanied the whole religious history of the Chosen People, from the Exodus to the return to the Promised Land. It finds its ultimate expression and fulfilment in the coming of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gave his life for his sheep, preparing for us the table of his Body and Blood as a foretaste of the definitive messianic banquet which awaits us in heaven.


On the Lord's Work in History
"God Gives Himself Into Our Hands"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 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!

This Sunday's Gospel closes with Jesus' warning addressed to the chief priests and elders of the people that is particularly severe: "The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will bear its fruits" (Matthew 21:43). These are words that make us think of the great responsibility of those who, in every age, are called to work in the vineyard of the Lord, especially with the role of authority; they move us to complete fidelity to Christ. He is the "stone that the builders rejected" (cf. Matthew 21:42), because they judged him an enemy of the law and a threat to public order; but he himself, rejected and crucified, is risen, becoming the "cornerstone" upon which every human existence and the entire world can rest with absolute security.

The parable of the unfaithful tenants, to whom a man gave his vineyard to be cultivated to bear fruit, speaks of this truth. The owner of the vineyard represents God himself, while the vineyard symbolizes God's people as well as the life that he has bestowed upon us to do good through our commitment and his grace. St. Augustine says that "God cultivates us like a field to make us better" (Sermo 87, 1, 2: PL 38, 531). God has a project for his friends but unfortunately man's answer is often oriented to infidelity, which translates into rejection. Pride and egoism impede the recognition and acceptance even of God's most precious gift: his only begotten Son. When, in fact, "he sent them his son," writes the Evangelist Matthew, "they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him" (Matthew 21:37, 39). God gives himself into our hands, he allows himself to be an unfathomable mystery of weakness and manifests his omnipotence in fidelity to a plan of love that, in the end, foresees also punishment for the wicked (cf. Matthew 21:41).

Solidly anchored in faith in the cornerstone that is Christ, we remain in him as a branch that cannot bear fruit on its own if it does not remain in the vine. Only in him, through him and with him is the Church, the people of the New Covenant, built up. In this connection the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote: "The first benefit which we trust the Church will reap from a deepened self-awareness, is a renewed discovery of its vital bond of union with Christ. This is something which is perfectly well known, but it is supremely important and absolutely essential. It can never be sufficiently understood, meditated upon and preached" ("Ecclesiam Suam," August 6, 1964: AAS 56 [1964], 622).

Dear friends, the Lord is always near and working in human history, and he also accompanies us with the unique presence of his angels, whom the Church venerates today as "guardians," that is, ministers of the divine care for every man. From the beginning until the hour of death, human life is surrounded by their unceasing protection. And the angels are the crown of the august Queen of Victories, the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary, who in the first Sunday of October, precisely at this hour, receives the fervid plea, from the sanctuary in Pompeii and from the whole world, that evil be defeated and the goodness of God be revealed in its fullness.

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

Dear brothers and sisters, this afternoon, in Ivrea, Italy, Sister Antonia Maria Verna, foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea, will be proclaimed blessed. The rite will be celebrated by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my secretary of state. We thank God for the luminous figure of this newly beatified woman, who lived between the 18th and 19th centuries, a model for women who lead the consecrated life and those who are teachers.


Pope's Farewell to Castel Gandolfo
The Lord "Does Not Leave Those Who Trust Him Without Help"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 29, 2011 Here is a translation of the farewell address Benedict XVI gave today as he prepares to leave the summer papal residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The summer season that I customarily spend in this kind and hospitable location so dear to me is drawing to a close this year. This summer also, Castel Gandolfo opened its doors to many pilgrims and visitors who arrived to meet with the Pope and pray with him, especially on Sundays for the usual Angelus appointment and so many times for the Wednesday general audiences. Over these months I have been able to admire, once again, the solicitude and generous work of so many persons committed to guaranteeing the necessary assistance to me and my collaborators, as well as to the visitors and pilgrims who come to visit me. For all this I wish to express my profound gratitude to each one of you, who have made possible a very tranquil stay.

I greet with fraternal affection, above all, the bishop of Albano Laziale, Marcello Semerare, whom I thank for the kindness with which he treats me. I greet the parish priest and the parish community of Castel Gandolfo, in addition to the religious communities and the laity, masculine and feminine, present in the territory. During these months I have felt their spiritual closeness and I thank them from my heart, promising everyone to correspond with renewed generosity to the call of God, employing my own energies at the service of the Gospel.

I address a deferent greeting to the lord mayor and to the components of the municipal administration. Thank you for your care and for all that you did for me and my collaborators during these months. Through you, dear public administrators, I thank and greet all the citizens, with a special remembrance for elderly and sick persons, to whom I affectionately assure my remembrance in prayer.

I now address the directors and collaborators of the different services of the Governorate: the Gendarmerie Corps, the florists, the technical services, the health services as well as the Papal Swiss Guard. Dear friends, I express my sincere esteem and great appreciation for the work you did daily, guaranteeing assistance and security in the whole Apostolic Palace and in the Papal Villas. I thank the officers and agents of the various Italian Forces of Order for their assiduous collaboration as well as the officers and pilots of the 31st Wing of the Air Force. If everything proceeds in tranquility and serenity, it is due above all to your presence and your qualified service.

Dear brothers and sisters, I express to all my most sincere gratitude. Thank you again for your presence at this meeting, especially those who have made themselves spokesmen of your sentiments. I assure you, for my part, that I will not fail to pray for each one of you and for all your intentions and I ask you to remember me in your prayers. May the Lord, rich in kindness and mercy, who does not leave those who trust Him without help, be always your firm support. May the Virgin Mary, who in the month of October we will invoke in a special way with the recitation of the rosary, watch over you with maternal protection. May she accompany you and your families at all times. With these sentiments I bless you affectionately and also your families and loved ones. Thank you.


Pope's Thank You Note to Madrid Cardinal
Says He Holds WYD Organizers in His Heart

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 29, 2011 Here is a translation of an Aug. 22 thank you note, which Benedict XVI sent to Madrid's Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, after World Youth Day was held in his city. The Spanish Episcopal Conference published the letter today.

* * *

To Venerable Brother

Antonio María Cardinal Rouco Varela

Metropolitan Archbishop of Madrid

President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference

On returning to Rome after the unforgettable days of my pastoral visit to Madrid for the 26th World Youth Day, I would like to express to Your Eminence my most cordial gratitude for your innumerable demonstrations of hospitality and the continuous care that you gave me during my recent stay in Spain.

I beg Your Eminence to transmit my heartfelt gratitude also to the suffragan bishops, to the auxiliary bishops, to the clergy, to the religious communities and the other collaborators in that beloved particular Church of Madrid, as well as to the national, autonomous and municipal authorities, to the security forces, to the health personnel and to the countless volunteers who worked so energetically in this great event for youth.

Likewise, be so kind as to express to the members of the Spanish Episcopal Conference my affection for their determined support of this important ecclesial event, and manifest likewise my closeness to the presbyters and representatives of consecrated life for their generous involvement in this significant meeting. May each and every one of those who made possible this celebration of faith that we experienced together -- cooperating in it in different ways and giving the best of themselves in its preparation, development and successful completion -- know that they are joyfully in my heart.

I gladly correspond to the great deference I experienced throughout my apostolic journey, imploring God that He enrich all the children of those noble lands with an abundance of gifts of love and mercy, that will serve particularly the new generations to remain rooted and built up in Christ, firm in the faith and ready to proclaim to all the joy implied in living the Gospel fully, making it known with courage to those around us.

With these sentiments, and while entrusting Your Eminence, the bishops, priests, seminarians, religious and faithful of Madrid and the whole of Spain to the intercession of Our Lady of Almudena, I impart to you from my heart a special Apostolic Blessing, pledge of abundant divine gifts.

Benedict XVI


Pope's Message on Anniversary of UK Trip
"Bear Joyful Witness to the Truth of the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 21, 2011 - Here is the message Benedict XVI sent through Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, his secretary of state, on the occasion of the Mass Sunday in London at Westminster Cathedral marking the first anniversary of the Pontiff's visit to England and Scotland. The Pope's trip took place from Sept. 16-19.

* * *

The Holy Father was pleased to learn that on Sept. 18, 2011, a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated in Westminster Cathedral to mark the anniversary of his Apostolic Visit to the United Kingdom. He sends cordial greetings to the bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful gathered for the occasion, as well as to the distinguished civil authorities present.

His Holiness recalls with deep gratitude the warmth of the welcome given by Her Majesty The Queen and her Government, and he again expresses his appreciation to all those who contributed to the happy outcome of his Visit. He trusts that this moment of thanksgiving will serve as a renewed summons to take up the challenge which he issued a year ago in this very place: to bear joyful witness to the truth of the Gospel "which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society." In a special way, he encourages the seminarians to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, to devote themselves wholeheartedly to their intellectual and spiritual formation, and to be steadfast heralds of the new evangelization.

Commending you to the intercession of the Blessed John Henry Newman, the Holy Father is pleased to impart his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Prelates of India
"The Catholic Church Is the Friend of the Poor"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 19, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he addressed a group of prelates in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. The bishops represented Agra, New Delhi and Bhopal, as well as the apostolic vicariate of Nepal.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, a joyful opportunity to strengthen the bonds of communion shared between the Church in India and the See of Peter. I wish to thank the Most Reverend Vincent Concessao for his kind words offered on your behalf and in the name of those entrusted to your pastoral care. My cordial greetings also go to the priests, the men and women religious, and laity of your various Dioceses. Please assure them of my prayers and spiritual solicitude.

The most significant concrete resources of the Churches that you lead are not to be found in their buildings, schools, orphanages, convents or rectories, but in the men, women and children of the Church in India who bring the faith to life, who bear witness to the loving presence of God through lives of holiness. As part of its ancient and rich heritage, India has a long and distinguished Christian presence which has contributed to Indian society and benefited your culture in innumerable ways, enriching the lives of countless fellow citizens, not just those who are Catholic. The enormous blessing of faith in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ, to which the members of the Church bear witness in your country, motivates them to acts of selflessness, kindness, love and charity (cf. 2 Cor 5:14). Most importantly, the Church in India proclaims its faith and love to society at large, and puts these into action through a concern for all people, in every aspect of their spiritual and material lives. Whether her members be rich or poor, old or young, male or female, of ancient Christian heritage or newly welcomed into the faith, the Church cannot but see in the faith of her members, individually and collectively, a great sign of hope for India and for its future.

In particular, the Catholic Church is the friend of the poor. Like Christ, she welcomes without exception all who approach her to hear the divine message of peace, hope and salvation. Moreover, in obedience to the Lord, she continues to do so without regard for "tribe and tongue and people and nation" (cf. Rev 5:9), for in Christ, we "are one body" (cf. Rom 12:5). It is thus imperative that the clergy, religious and catechists in your dioceses be attentive to the diverse linguistic, cultural and economic circumstances of those whom they serve.

Furthermore, if the local churches ensure that an appropriate formation is given to those who, genuinely motivated by a love of God and neighbour, wish to become Christians, they will remain faithful to Christ’s command to "make disciples of all nations" (cf. Mt 28:19). Even though you, dear brothers, must take into account the challenges that the missionary nature of the Church entails, you must always be prepared to spread the Kingdom of God and to walk in the footsteps of Christ, who was himself misunderstood, despised, falsely accused and who suffered for the sake of truth. Do not be deterred when such trials arise in your own ministry, and in that of your priests and religious. Our belief in the certainty of Christ’s Resurrection gives us confidence and courage to face all that may come and to press forward, building the Kingdom of God, aided as always by the grace of the sacraments and through prayerful meditation on the Scriptures. God welcomes everyone, without distinction, into union with him through the Church. So too, I pray that the Church in India will continue to welcome everyone, above all the poor, and to be an exemplary bridge between men and God.

Finally, my dear brother Bishops, I note with gratitude the various efforts the local churches in India have made in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Apostolic Visit of Pope John Paul II to your country. During those memorable days, he had several notable encounters with leaders of other religious traditions. Manifesting his personal respect for his interlocutors, this blessed Pope gave an authentic witness to the value of interreligious dialogue. I renew the sentiments he expressed so well, "To work for the attainment and preservation of all human rights, including the basic right to worship God according to the dictates of an upright conscience and to profess that faith externally, must become ever more a subject of interreligious collaboration at all levels" (John Paul II,Meeting with Representatives of the different religious and cultural traditions and with the youth at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, 2 February 1986). I encourage you, dear brothers, to carry forward the Church’s efforts to promote the well-being of Indian society through continued attention to the promotion of basic rights – rights shared by all humanity – and by inviting your fellow Christians and the followers of other religious traditions to take up the challenge of affirming the dignity of each and every human person. This dignity, expressed in respect for and promotion of the innate moral, spiritual and material rights of the person, is not merely a concession granted by any earthly authority. It is the gift of the Creator, and stems from the fact that we are created in his image and likeness. I pray that the followers of Christ in India will continue to be promoters of justice, bearers of peace, people of respectful dialogue, and lovers of the truth about God and about man.

With these thoughts, dear brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem. I commend all of you to the intercession of Blessed Pope John Paul, who surely brings his affection for India before the throne of our heavenly Father. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On a New Sense of Life and Existence
"The Good News ... Is Destined to Reach All People and Nations"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 18, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

In today's liturgy we have the beginning of St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, that is, to the members of the community that the Apostle himself established at Philippi, an important Roman colony in Macedonia, present day northern Greece. Paul arrived in Philippi during his second missionary journey, sailing from the coast of Anatolia and crossing the Aegean Sea. That was the Gospel's first entrance into Europe. We are near the year 50, so about 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. And yet, in the Letter to the Philippians there is a hymn to Christ that already presents a complete synthesis of his mystery: incarnation, "kenosis," that is, humiliation unto death on the cross, and glorification.

This mystery itself became one with the life of the Apostle Paul, who wrote this letter while he was in prison, awaiting a sentence of life or death. He writes: "For me to live is Christ and die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). It is a new sense of life, of human existence, that consists in living communion with the living Jesus Christ; not only with a historical person, a master of wisdom, a religious leader, but with a man in whom God dwells personally. His death and resurrection are the Good News that, starting from Jerusalem, is destined to reach all people and nations, and to transform all cultures from within, opening them to the fundamental truth: God is love; he became man in Jesus and with his sacrifice he ransomed humanity from slavery to evil, giving it a trustworthy hope.

St. Paul was a man who brought together three worlds: the Jewish world and the Greek and Roman worlds. It is not by chance that God entrusted to him the mission of bringing the Gospel from Asia Minor to Greece and to Rome, building a bridge that would take Christianity to the very ends of the earth. Today we live in an epoch of new evangelization. Vast horizons open up to the Gospel, while regions of ancient Christian tradition are called to rediscover the beauty of the faith. The protagonists of this mission are the men and women who, like St. Paul, can say: "For me to live is Christ " -- persons, families, communities, who decide to work in the vineyard of the Lord, according to the image of this Sunday's Gospel (cf. Matthew 20:1-16). Humble and generous workers, who do not ask any other recompense than participating in the mission of Jesus and the Church. "If living in the body," St. Paul continues, "means working and bearing fruit, I do not know which to choose" (Philippians 1:22): full union with Christ beyond death or service to his mystical body on earth.

Dear friends, the Gospel has transformed the world, and it is still transforming it, like a river that waters a great field. Let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary that in the whole Church priestly, religious and lay vocations ripen in service to the new evangelization.

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

Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday in Turin, Monsignor Francesco Paleari of the Society of Priests of St. Joseph of Cottolegno was proclaimed Blessed. He was born in Pogliano Milanese in 1863 into a humble peasant family, he entered the seminary at a young age and, immediately after ordination, he dedicated himself to the poor and the sick in the Little House of Providence (Piccola Casa della Divina Provvidenza), but also to teaching, distinguishing himself for his affability and patience. Let us give thanks to God for this luminous witness of his love!

[In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this "Angelus" prayer, including those from the Acton Institute and the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. In this Sunday's Gospel, we hear Jesus compare the Kingdom of Heaven to the actions of a landowner who is generous to all the workers in his vineyard. Perhaps at times we may feel envious of the success of others or feel that we have not been sufficiently thanked for our service. May we always strive to be humble servants of the Lord and rejoice when God bestows abundant graces on those around us. I wish you a good Sunday. May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday!


Pope's Address to Newly Ordained Bishops
"The Bishop ... Has the Duty of Unifying and Harmonizing Charismatic Diversity"

ROME, SEPT. 15, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of some 100 newly ordained bishops upon receiving them in audience this morning in the apostolic palace in Castel Gandolfo. The bishops are taking part in an annual course organized jointly by the Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for Eastern Churches.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate!

As Cardinal Ouellet mentioned, for the past 10 years newly appointed bishops have gathered in Rome to make a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Peter and to reflect on the primary commitments of the episcopal ministry. This meeting, organized by the Congregations for Bishops and by the Congregation for Eastern Churches, is an addition to the initiatives for the permanent formation prescribed by the post-synodal apostolic exhortation "Pastores Gregis" (No. 24). You are invited to renew your profession of faith and your trusting adherence to Jesus Christ at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, showing the same impulse of love as Peter himself, and strengthening your ties of communion with his Successor and with your brother bishops.

Together with this central aspect of the initiative is a strong experience of affective collegiality. The bishop, as you well know, is not alone, but rather he is part of that "corpus episcoporum" that dates back to its apostolic roots and extends to our times, bringing us together in Christ, "Shepherd and bishop of our souls" (Roman Missal, Preface after the Ascension). May the episcopal fraternity that you are living in these days be lived out in your daily service, helping you to act always in communion with the Pope and with your brothers in the episcopate, and to cultivate friendships with your fellow bishops and with your priests. In this spirit of communion and friendship, I receive you, bishops of the Latin and Eastern rites, with great affection, greeting through each one of you the Churches entrusted to your pastoral care, with a particular thought for those that, especially in the Middle East, are suffering. I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for the words he addressed to me on your behalf, and for the book, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

This annual meeting with the bishops attending this course has given me the possibility to highlight some aspects of the episcopal ministry. Today I would like to reflect briefly with you on the importance of acceptance, on the part of the bishop, of the charisms that the Spirit arouses for the edification of the Church. Episcopal consecration has conferred on you the plenitude of the sacrament of holy orders that, in the ecclesial community, is placed at the service of the common priesthood of the faithful, of their spiritual growth and their sanctity. The ministerial priesthood, as you know, has the objective and mission to make the faithful live out the priesthood in which they participate, through baptism and in their way, in the one priesthood of Christ, as the conciliar constitution "Lumen Gentium" states: "Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ" (No. 10).

Because of this, bishops have the task of watching and working to ensure that the baptized increase in grace, in accordance with the charisms the Holy Spirit causes to arise in their hearts and communities. Vatican II recalled that the Holy Spirit, while unifying in the communion and ministry of the Church, provides and directs her with different hierarchical and charismatic gifts and embellishes her with their fruits (cf. ibid., 4). The recent World Youth Day in Madrid showed, once again, the fecundity of the charisms of the Church, concretely today, and the ecclesial unity of all the faithful gathered around the Pope and the bishops. This is a vitality that reinforces the work of evangelization and the presence of Christ in the world. We are able to see -- and we can almost touch -- that the Holy Spirit is still present in the Church today, and that He creates charisms and unity.

The fundamental gift you are called to cherish in the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care is that of divine filiation; in other words, the fact that everyone participates in Trinitarian communion. Baptism, which makes men and women "children in the Son" and members of the Church, is the root and source of all other charismatic gifts. Through your ministry of sanctification, you educate the faithful to participate with increasing intensity in the priestly, prophetic and regal office of Christ, helping them to build the Church, actively and responsibly, according to the gifts they have received from God. In fact, always bear in mind the fact that the gifts of the Spirit -- be they extraordinary or simple and humble -- are always given freely for the edification of all. The bishop, as a visible sign of the unity of his particular Church, has the duty of unifying and harmonizing charismatic diversity, favoring reciprocity between the hierarchical and the baptismal priesthood.

Accept, therefore, the charisms with gratitude for the sanctification of the Church and the vitality of the apostolate! And this acceptance and gratitude to the Holy Spirit, who also works among us today, are inseparable from the discernment that is proper to the mission of the bishop. Vatican Council II said as much when it gave pastoral ministry the task of judging the genuineness of charisms and their proper use, not extinguishing the Spirit but testing and retaining what is good (cf. Ibid., No. 12). This seems important to me: On one hand, not to extinguish but, but on the other, to distinguish, order and keep in mind through examining. Therefore, it must always be clear that no charism can dispense from deferring and submitting to the pastors of the Church (cf. apostolic exhortation "Christifidelis Laici," No. 24). By accepting, judging and ordering the different gifts and charisms, the bishop carries out a great and valuable service to the priesthood of the faithful and to the vitality of the Church, which will shine as the Lord's Bride, clothed in the sanctity of her children.

This articulated and delicate ministry requires the bishop to nourish his own spiritual life with care. Only in this way does the gift of discernment grow. As the apostolic exhortation "Pastores Gregis" affirms, the bishop becomes "father" given that he is fully a "son" of the Church (No. 10). Moreover, in virtue of the plenitude of the sacrament of Holy Orders, he is teacher, sanctifier and pastor who acts in the name and in the person of Christ. These two inseparable aspects call him to grow as son and as pastor as he follows Christ, in order that his personal sanctity may be an expression of the objective sanctity he received through episcopal consecration.

Hence, I exhort you, dear brothers, to remain always in the presence of the Good Shepherd and to assimilate increasingly his sentiments and his human and priestly virtues, through personal prayer, which must accompany your difficult apostolic days. In intimacy with the Lord you will find consolation and support for your committed ministry. Do not be afraid to entrust to the heart of Jesus Christ all your concerns, certain that he looks after you, as he already admonished the Apostle Peter (cf. 1 Peter 5:6). May your prayer always be nourished by meditation on the Word of God, by personal study and just rest, so that you will be able to listen and accept with serenity "what the Spirit says to the Churches" (Revelation 2:11) and lead all to the unity of faith and love.

The sanctity of your lives and your pastoral charity will be an example and support to your priests, your main and irreplaceable collaborators. It will be your urgency to make them grow in co-responsibility as wise guides of the faithful, who are also called to build the community with their gifts, charisms and the witness of their lives, so that the choral communion of the Church may bear witness to Jesus Christ, that the world may believe. And this closeness with priests, yet today, with all their problems, is of very great importance.

Entrusting your ministry to Mary, Mother of the Church, who shines before the People of God full of gifts of the Holy Spirit, I impart with affection to each one of you, to your dioceses and particularly to your priests, the apostolic blessing. Thank you.


On the Prayer of Psalm 22
"Death and Life Have Met in an Inseparable Mystery, and Life Has Triumphed"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope continued his series of catecheses on prayer, with a reflection of Psalm 22.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In today's catechesis I would like to talk about a psalm with strong Christological implications, which continually emerges in the accounts of the Passion of Jesus with its twofold dimension of humiliation and of glory, of death and of life. It is Psalm 22 according to the Hebrew tradition; [Psalm] 21 according to the Greek–Latin tradition. [It is] a heartfelt and touching prayer, of a human depth and theological richness that make it one of the most prayed and studied psalms in the Psalter. It is a lengthy poetic composition, and we will reflect in particular on its first part, which is focused on lament, in order to deepen our understanding of some of the significant dimensions of the prayer of supplication to God.

This psalm presents the figure of an innocent man who is persecuted and surrounded by enemies who want his death; and he turns to God in a painful lamentation, which in the certainty of faith opens mysteriously to praise. In his prayer, the distressing reality of the present and the consoling memory of the past alternate in an anguished awareness of his own desperate situation, yet this does not cause him to give up hope. His initial cry is an appeal addressed to an apparently distant God who does not respond and who seems to have abandoned him:

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Why art thou so far from helping me,
From the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer;
and by night, but find no rest" (Verses 1-2).

God remains silent, and this silence pierces the heart of the man who prays, who incessantly calls out, but who finds no response. The days and nights pass in an unwearied search for a word, for help that does not come. God seems so distant, so unmindful, so absent. Prayer asks for listening and for a response; it invites contact; it seeks a relationship that can give comfort and salvation. But if God does not respond, the cry for help vanishes into the void, and the solitude becomes unbearable. And yet, the man praying our psalm three times cries out, calling the Lord "my" God in an extraordinary act of trust and of faith. Despite all appearances, the psalmist cannot believe that his bond with the Lord has been completely broken; and while he asks the reason for his present incomprehensible abandonment, he affirms that "his" God cannot abandon him.

It is well known that the psalm's initial cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou abandoned me?" is reported in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark as the cry Jesus uttered as He was dying on the cross (cf. Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). This [cry] expresses all the desolation of the Messiah, the Son of God, as He faces the drama of death -- a reality utterly opposed to the Lord of life. Abandoned by nearly all those who were His own, betrayed and denied by His disciples, surrounded by those who insult Him, Jesus is placed under the crushing weight of a mission that must pass through humiliation and abnegation. He therefore cries out to the Father, and His suffering takes on the painful words of the psalm.

But His is not a desperate cry, nor was that of the psalmist, who in his supplication journeys along a path of torment that nonetheless opens to a vista of praise and trust in the divine victory. And since according to Jewish use, to cite the beginning of a psalm implied a reference to the whole poem, Jesus' heartrending prayer -- while full of unspeakable suffering -- opens to the certainty of glory. "Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26) the Risen One will say to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. During His passion, in obedience to the Father, the Lord Jesus passes through abandonment and death in order to attain life and to grant it to those who believe.

In painful contrast, Psalm 22's initial cry of supplication is followed by the memory of the past:

"In thee our fathers trusted;
They trusted, and thou didst deliver them.
To thee they cried, and were saved;
In thee they trusted, and were not disappointed" (Verses 4-5).

The God who today appears so distant to the psalmist, is nevertheless the merciful Lord who Israel knew and experienced throughout her history. The one who prays belongs to a people that was the object of God's love and that can witness to His fidelity to that love. Beginning with the patriarchs, then in Egypt and in their long sojourn in the desert, in their stay in the promised land in contact with aggressive and hostile peoples, to the darkness of exile, the whole of biblical history was a story of the people crying out for help, and of God's saving responses. And the psalmist here makes reference to the unwavering faith of his fathers, who "trusted" -- this word is repeated three times -- without ever being disappointed. Now however, it appears that this chain of trustful invocation and divine response has been broken; the psalmist's situation appears to contradict the whole history of salvation, making the present reality all the more painful.

But God cannot contradict Himself, and so we find the prayer begin to describe the painful situation of the one praying, in order to persuade God to have mercy and to intervene, as He had always done in times past. The psalmist calls himself "a worm and not a man; scorned by men, and despised by the people" (Verse 6); he is mocked and scoffed at (Verse 7) and wounded precisely for his faith: "He committed his cause to the Lord; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!" (Verse 8), they say. Under the mocking blows of irony and contempt, it seems as though the persecuted one has lost all human semblance, like the suffering servant described in the Book of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 52:14; 53:2b-3). And like the just one oppressed in the Book of Wisdom (cf. 2:12-20), like Jesus on Calvary (cf. Matthew 27:39-43), the psalmist sees his relationship with the Lord called into question, in the cruel and sarcastic emphasis on what is making him suffer: the silence of God, His apparent absence.

And yet, God was present in the life of the one praying with an undeniable closeness and tenderness. The psalmist reminds God of this: "Yet thou art He who took me from the womb; thou didst keep me safe upon my mother's breasts. Upon thee was I cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me thou hast been my God" (Verses 9-10). The Lord is the God of life who brings to birth and welcomes the newborn, caring for him with a father's love. And if he previously remembered God's fidelity throughout the course of his people's history, now the man praying calls to mind his own personal history and relationship with the Lord, tracing it back to the particularly significant moment of the beginning of his life. And there, despite his current desolation, the psalmist recognizes a closeness and a divine love so radical that he can now exclaim, in a confession full of faith and hope: "Since my mother bore me, thou hast been my God" (Verse 10b).

The prayer of lament now becomes an anguished plea: "Be not far from me, for trouble is near and there is none to help" (Verse 11). The only closeness the psalmist perceives -- and which frightens him -- is that of his enemies. It is necessary, then, that God draw near and help, because the enemies of the man praying surround him, they encompass him like strong bulls that open wide their mouths to roar and tear him to pieces (cf. Verses 12-13). Anguish changes the perception of the danger, magnifying it. His adversaries seem invincible; they have become ferocious and dangerous animals, while the psalmist is like a little worm, powerless and utterly without defense.

But these images used by the psalmist also serve to illustrate [the truth] that when man becomes brutal and attacks his brother, something animal-like takes over in him, and he seems to lose every human semblance; violence always carries within itself something beastly, and only God's saving intervention can restore man to his humanity. For the psalmist, who has become the object of such fierce aggression, there now seems to be no escape, and death begins to take hold of him: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint […] my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws […] they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots" (Verses 14-15; 18). With dramatic images that we find again in the accounts of Christ's passion, the breaking of the body of the condemned is described, along with the unbearable burning thirst that torments the dying, and which is echoed in Jesus' request "I thirst" (cf. John 19:28), culminating finally in the definitive gesture of the torturers who, like the soldiers beneath the cross, divide the garments of the victim, who is looked upon as already dead (Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24).

Then once again, we hear an urgent cry for help: "But thou, O Lord, be not far off! O thou my help, hasten to my aid […] Save me" (Verses 19, 21a). This is a cry that opens the heavens, because it proclaims a faith and a certainty that surpasses every doubt, every darkness and every experience of desolation. And the lamentation is transformed; it gives way to praise in the welcoming of salvation: "You have answered me. I will tell of thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee" (Verses 21c-22). Thus, the psalm breaks forth into thanksgiving, into the great final hymn that involves the whole people, the Lord's faithful, the liturgical assembly, the future generations (cf. Verses 23-21). The Lord has come to his help. He has saved the poor one and has shown him His merciful Face. Death and life have met in an inseparable mystery, and life has triumphed. The God of salvation has shown Himself to be the uncontested Lord, whom all the ends of the earth will celebrate, and before whom all the families of peoples will bow down in worship. It is the victory of faith, which is able to transform death into a gift of life -- the abyss of suffering into a source of hope.

Beloved brothers and sisters, this psalm has taken us to Golgotha, to the foot of Jesus' cross, in order to relive His passion and to share the fruitful joy of the resurrection. Let us allow ourselves to be flooded by the light of the paschal mystery, even in [times] of God's seeming absence, even in God's silence, and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, let us learn to discern the true reality that surpasses all appearances, by recognizing the path of exaltation precisely in humiliation and the full revelation of life in death, in the cross. By thus placing all of our trust and hope in God the Father, in every anxiety we too will be able to pray to Him in faith, and our cry for help will be transformed into a hymn of praise. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we reflect on Psalm Twenty-two, a heartfelt prayer of lamentation from one who feels abandoned by God. Surrounded by enemies who are persecuting him, the psalmist cries out by day and by night for help, and yet God seems to remain silent. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the opening line of this psalm is placed on the lips of Jesus as he calls upon the Father from the Cross. He too seems to have been abandoned to a cruel fate, while his enemies mock him, attacking him like ravenous and roaring lions, dividing his clothing among them as if he were already dead. The psalmist recalls how, in the past, the people of Israel called trustingly upon the Lord in times of trial, and he answered their prayer. He remembers the tenderness with which the Lord cared for him personally in his earlier life, as a child in his mother's womb, as an infant in his mother's arms, and yet now God seems strangely distant. Despite such adverse circumstances, though, the psalmist's faith and trust in the Lord remains. The psalm ends on a note of confidence, as God's name is praised before all the nations. The shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection. We too, when we call upon him in times of trial, must place our trust in the God who brings salvation, who conquers death with the gift of eternal life.

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© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Vatican Statement on Meeting With St. Pius X Society

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 14, 2011 - Here is the statement released today by the Vatican regarding a meeting between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Society of St. Pius X.

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On 14 September at the offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the congregation and president of the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei'; Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer S.J., secretary of the congregation, and Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the pontifical commission, met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Society of St. Pius X, who was accompanied by Fr. Niklaus Pfluger and Fr. Alain-Marc Nely, respectively first and second assistant general to the society.

Following the appeal of 15 December 2008, addressed by the superior general of the Society of St. Pius X to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father decided to remove the excommunication against the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre. At the same time, he approved the opening of discussions with the society in order to clarify doctrinal problems and to heal the existing rift.

In order to put the Holy Father's instructions into effect, a joint study commission was set up, composed of experts from the Society of St. Pius X and from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who met in Rome on eight occasions between October 2009 and April 2011. Their discussions, which aimed to identify and study the essential doctrinal difficulties in the controversial issues, had the result of clarifying the positions of the two sides and their respective motivations.

While bearing in mind the concerns and demands presented by the Society of St. Pius X about protecting the integrity of the Catholic faith against Vatican Council II's 'hermeneutic of rupture' with Tradition (a theme addressed by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith maintains that the fundamental basis for achieving full reconciliation with the Apostolic See is the acceptance of the text of the Doctrinal Preamble, which was handed over during a meeting on 14 September 2011. The Preamble defines certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation Catholic doctrine, which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church Magisterium and 'sentire cum Ecclesia'. At the same time, it leaves open to legitimate discussion the examination and theological explanation of individual expressions and formulations contained in the documents of Vatican Council II and later Magisterium.

At the same meeting, certain suggestions were made for a canonical solution to the position of the Society of St. Pius X, with a view to achieving the desired reconciliation.


Papal Message to Munich Interreligious Meeting
"We Have to Learn Not to Live Next to One Another But With One Another"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 14, 2011 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI addressed to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising, on the occasion of the "'Bound to Live Together': Religions and Culture in Dialogue" meeting, being held in this city.

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To my honorable brother
Reinhard Cardinal Marx
Archbishop of Munich and Freising

In a few weeks it will be exactly 25 years since Blessed John Paul II invited representatives of the different world religions to Assisi for an international meeting of prayer for peace. Following on this, the Sant'Egidio community has organized this meeting for peace every year to deepen this spirit of peace and reconciliation and so that in prayer we let God make us into people of peace. I am happy that this year's meeting takes place in Munich, my former episcopal see, and shortly before my visit to Germany and in anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the Assisi world prayer meeting that will be celebrated in October. I would like to assure the organizers and participants of my spiritual nearness to them, and I offer them all my heartfelt best wishes.

The theme of the peace meeting, "Bound to live together," reminds us that we as human beings are bound to each other. This living together is in fact a precondition that derives from our being human. And it is our duty to give it a positive content. This living together can transform itself into living against one another, can become a hell if we do not learn to accept one another, if everyone only wants to be himself or herself. But it can also be a gift when we open up to one another, when we give ourselves to one another. So what matters is to understand the precondition of living together as a task and a gift, to find the true way to live together. This living together that in the past could be limited regionally today can only be lived universally. The subject of living together today is humanity as a whole. Meetings like the one in Assisi and also the one now in Munich are occasions for religions to investigate themselves and ask how they can become forces of living together.

When we gather as Christians we remind ourselves that according to the biblical faith God is the creator of all humanity; yes, he wants us to be one family in which we are brothers and sisters for one another. We remind ourselves that Christ announced peace for those far away and peace for those near to us (Ephesians 2:16). We have to learn this time and again. The deep sense of these meetings is that we meet those far away and those near to us in the same spirit of peace that Christ lived and taught us through his example. We have to learn not to live next to one another but with one another. That means opening our hearts to one another, letting our neighbors participate in our joys, hopes, and sorrows. The heart is the place where God touches us. That's why religion, which is about the meeting of people with the divine mystery, is essentially linked to the question of peace. When religion fails in this meeting with God, when it pulls Him down to us instead of raising us up to Him, when we, so to say, make him our possession, then it can contribute to the destruction of peace. But if it finds the way to the divine, to the creator and redeemer of all people, then it is a force for peace. We know that also in Christianity there have been errors of the image of God that have led to the destruction of peace. Even more, we are all called to let ourselves be purified by the divine God and thus become people of peace.

We may never diminish our efforts for peace. Therefore the numerous initiatives everywhere in the world, like the annually organized meetings for peace of Sant'Egidio and similar meetings are very valuable. The field on which the fruit of peace should grow, must be constantly tended. Often we cannot do more than prepare continuously, and in many small steps, the ground for peace in us and around us, also when coping with the large challenges, which not only concern the individual but the entire human family, like migration, globalization, economic crisis, protection of creation. In the end, we know that peace cannot simply be "made" but is always also "given." "Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a plan that has to be realized and that is never completely finished" (Message to World Peace Day 2011, 15). Especially here a common testimony is needed of all those who sincerely search for God to realize more and more the vision of a peaceful living together of all people. Since the first meeting in Assisi 25 years ago there have been, and there are, a lot of hopeful initiatives for reconciliation and peace, and unfortunately also a lot of lost opportunities and set backs.

Terrible acts of violence and terror often have suffocated the hope for peaceful living together of the human family at the dawn of the third millennium, old conflicts continue or are reawakened, new conflicts and problems arise alongside of these. All this shows us clearly that peace is a never-ending task for all of us and a gift which we should all invoke. May in this sense the peace meeting in Munich and the conferences and conversations that take place there promote reciprocal understanding and living together, and so prepare new paths for peace in our time. Therefore I will invoke the blessing of the Almighty God on all participants of the peace meeting in Munich.

Castel Gandolfo, 1 September 2011
Benedict XVI


On the Virgin's "Fiat"
The Risen Christ Is the "Source of Hope and Comfort for Daily Life"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus. The Holy Father had just finished celebrating Mass during his visit to conclude the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress in Ancona.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before ending this solemn Eucharistic celebration, the Angelus prayer invites us to mirror ourselves in Mary Most Holy to contemplate the abyss of love from which the Sacrament of the Eucharist comes. Thanks to the Virgin's "fiat," the Word became flesh and came to dwell among us. Meditating on the mystery of the Incarnation, we all turn with our minds and hearts to the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, only a few kilometers from here. The Marche region is illumined by the spiritual presence of Mary in her historic shrine, which makes these hills still more beautiful and enjoyable! To her I entrust at this time the city of Ancona, the diocese, the Marche and the whole of Italy, so that faith in the Eucharistic mystery will always be alive in the Italian people, who in every city and in every country, from the Alps to Sicily, render present the Risen Christ, source of hope and comfort for daily life, especially in difficult moments.

Today our thought goes to Sept. 11 ten years ago. In remembering to the Lord of Life the victims of the attacks carried out that day and their families, I invite the leaders of nations and men of good will to always reject violence as a solution to problems, to resist the temptation to hatred and to act in society, inspired by the principles of solidarity, justice and peace.

Finally, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy I pray that the Lord will recompense all those who worked for the preparation and organization of this National Eucharistic Congress, and to them I express my most heartfelt gratitude!


Papal Address to Engaged Couples
"Educate Yourselves Henceforth in the Liberty of Fidelity"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 12, 2011- Here is a translation of the address to engaged couples that Benedict XVI gave Sunday during his visit to Ancona. He made a one-day trip to the Italian port city for the close of the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

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Dear engaged couples,

I am happy to conclude this intense day, the culmination of the National Eucharistic Congress, by meeting with you, almost as though wishing to entrust the legacy of this event of grace to your young lives. Moreover, the Eucharist, Christ's gift for the salvation of the world, points to and contains the truest dimension of the experience you are living: the love of Christ as the plenitude of human love. I thank the archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Archbishop Edoardo Menichelli, for his cordial greeting, and all of you for your lively participation; thank you also for the words you addressed to me and which I receive trusting in the Lord Jesus' presence in our midst: He alone has words of eternal life, words of life for you and for your future!

The questions you pose, in the present social context, take on an even greater weight. I would like to give you just one guideline as an answer. For these aspects, ours is not an easy time, above all for you young people. The table is full of many delicious things, but, as in the Gospel episode of the Wedding of Cana, it seems that wine is lacking from the celebration. Above all, the difficulty of finding stable work spreads a veil of uncertainty over the future. This condition contributes to [people choosing to] leave definitive commitments for later, and influences the growth of society in a negative way. Society is not able to appreciate fully the wealth of energies, competencies and creativity of your generation.

The wine of celebration is also lacking from a culture that tends to put aside clear moral criteria: In this disorientation, everyone is seen striving to move in an individual and autonomous way, often only within the perimeter of the present. The fragmentation of the communal fabric is reflected in a relativism that hides essential values; a consonance in sensations, states of mind and emotions seems more important than sharing a plan of life. Also fundamental decisions become vulnerable, exposed to a perennial revocability, which often is considered an expression of liberty, though actually, it points rather to a lack of liberty. The apparent exaltation of the body belongs also to a culture deprived of the wine of celebration, [an apparent exaltation] which in reality trivializes sexuality and tends to make it exist outside a context of communion of life and love.

Dear young people, do not be afraid to face these challenges! Never lose hope. Have courage, also in difficulties, remaining firm in the faith. Be sure that, in every circumstance, you are loved and protected by the love of God, which is our strength. Because of this, it is important that an encounter with him, above all in personal and community prayer, be constant, faithful -- precisely as the path for your love: to love God and to feel that he loves me. Nothing can separate us from the love of God!

Be sure, moreover, that the Church is also close to you, supports you, and does not fail to regard you with great confidence. She knows that you are thirsty for values, the true values upon which it is worthwhile to build your home. The value of faith, of the person, of the family, of human relations, of justice. Do not lose courage in face of the needs that seem to extinguish joy at the table of life. At the Wedding of Cana, when wine was lacking, Mary invited the servants to go to Jesus and she gave them a precise indication: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5). Treasure these words, the last of Mary's taken up in the Gospels -- virtually a spiritual testament -- and you will always have the joy of the celebration: Jesus is the wine of the celebration!

As engaged couples you are living a unique stage, which opens to the wonder of encounter and which makes one discover the beauty of existing and of being precious to someone, of being able to say to one another: You are important to me. Live this path with intensity, gradualness and truth. Do not give up on pursuing the lofty ideal of love, which is a reflection and testimony of the love of God!

But, how should this phase of your life be lived? How can you give a witness of love in the community? I would like to suggest to you first of all that you avoid enclosing yourselves in intimate relations, which are falsely tranquilizing; instead, make your relationship become leaven in an active and responsible presence in the community. Moreover, do not forget that to be genuine, love also requires a journey of maturing: beginning from the initial attraction and "feeling well" with the other, educate yourselves to "love well," to "want the good" of the other. Love lives from gratuitousness, self-sacrifice, forgiveness and respect for the other.

Dear friends, all human love is a sign of the eternal Love that has created us, and whose grace sanctifies the decision of a man and a woman to give themselves reciprocally to the life of matrimony. Live this time of engagement in confident waiting for this gift, which must be received by following a path of knowledge, respect, and attentions that you must never neglect. Only under this condition will the language of love become meaningful also with the passing of the years. Hence, educate yourselves henceforth in the liberty of fidelity, which leads to protecting one another, to the point of the one living for the other. Prepare yourselves to choose with conviction the "for ever" that distinguishes love: indissolubility, more than a condition, is a gift that must be desired, requested and lived, beyond any changing human situation. And do not think, along with the widespread mentality, that living together is a guarantee for the future. If you skip the steps of intimacy, which require respect for time and a gradual progression of expressions, you will “get burned” in love; love needs room for Christ, who is capable of making a human love faithful, happy and indissoluble. The fidelity and enduring nature of your love will also make you capable of being open to life, of being parents: The stability of your union in the sacrament of matrimony will enable the children that God wishes to give you to grow confident in the goodness of life. Fidelity, indissolubility and transmission of life are the pillars of every family, a true common good, a precious patrimony for the whole society. Henceforth, found on them your path to matrimony and give witness of this to your contemporaries: This is a precious service! Be grateful to those who with commitment, competence and willingness accompany you in formation: They are the sign of the attention and care that the Christian community reserves for you. You are not alone: Seek and receive in the first place the company of the Church.

I would like to return again to an essential point: the experience of love has within itself a tension toward God. True love promises the infinite! Hence, make of this time of preparation for matrimony an itinerary of faith: Rediscover for your life as a couple the centrality of Jesus Christ and of walking with the Church. Mary teaches us that the good of each one depends on listening with docility to the word of the Son. In those who trust in him, the water of daily life is transformed into the wine of a love that makes life good, beautiful and fruitful. Cana, in fact, is a proclamation and anticipation of the gift of the new wine of the Eucharist, the sacrifice and banquet in which the Lord reaches us, renews us and transforms us. Do not neglect the vital importance of this encounter; may the Sunday liturgical assembly find you active participants: From the Eucharist springs the Christian meaning of existence and a new way of living (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 72-73). Hence, do not be afraid to take on the committed responsibility of the conjugal choice; do not fear to enter into this "great mystery," in which two persons become one flesh (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32).

Very dear young people, I entrust you to the protection of St. Joseph and Mary Most Holy; following the invitation of the Virgin Mother "Do whatever he tells you," you will not lack the pleasure of the real celebration and you will be able to take the best "wine," the one that Christ gives for the Church and for the world.

I would like to tell you that I am also close to you and to those, like you, who live this wonderful journey of love. I bless you with all my heart!


Papal Address to Priests and Parents
"No Vocation Is a Private Issue"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 12, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address to priests and families that Benedict XVI gave Sunday during his visit to Ancona. He made a one-day trip to the Italian port city for the close of the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

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Dear priests and dear spouses,

The hill on which this cathedral is built has enabled us to have a most beautiful view of the city and the sea; but if one crosses the majestic portico, the soul is fascinated by the harmony of the Romanesque style, enriched by an interweaving of Byzantine influences and Gothic elements. Also in your presence, priests and married couples from various Italian dioceses, [we can] perceive the beauty of the harmony and complementarity of your different vocations. Mutual knowledge and esteem, and sharing the same faith, lead to appreciating the other's charism and to recognizing one another within the one "spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5) that, having Jesus Christ himself as the cornerstone, grows well ordered to be a holy temple in the Lord (cf. Ephesians 2:20-21). Thank you, therefore, for this meeting: thank you to the beloved archbishop, Edoardo Menichelli, also for the kind words with which he presented this meeting, and to each one of you.

I would like to pause briefly on the need to lead holy orders and matrimony back to their unique Eucharistic source. Both states of life have -- in the love of Christ, who gives himself for the salvation of humanity -- the same root; they are called to a common mission: to give witness and to make present this love for the good of the community, for the building up of the People of God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1534). This perspective makes it possible above all to surmount a reductive vision of the family, which considers it as a mere recipient of pastoral work. It is true that, in this difficult time, the family needs particular care. Not because of this, however, must its identity be diminished or its specific responsibility be denied. The family is richness for the spouses, most irreplaceable for children, the indispensable foundation of society, and a vital community for the journey of the Church.

At the ecclesial level, to appreciate the family means to recognize its importance in pastoral activity. The ministry born from the sacrament of matrimony is important for the life of the Church: The family is the privileged place for human and Christian education and continues to be, for this end, the best ally of the priestly ministry; it is a precious gift for the building up of the community. The priest's closeness to the family helps him in turn to become aware of his own profound reality and his own mission, fostering the development of a strong ecclesial sensitivity. No vocation is a private issue, and matrimony much less so, because its horizon is the whole Church. Hence, in pastoral work, it is a question of being able to integrate and harmonize the priestly ministry with "the authentic Gospel of matrimony and of the family" (encyclical "Familiaris Consortio," 8), for a real and fraternal communion. And the Eucharist is the center and the source of this unity, which animates all the action of the Church.

Dear priests, by the gift that you received at ordination, you are called to serve the ecclesial community as pastors, this community that is a "family of families," and, hence, you are called to love each one with a paternal heart, with genuine forgetfulness of yourselves, with full, continual and faithful dedication. You are the living sign that points to Christ Jesus, the only Good Shepherd. Conform yourselves to him, to his style of life, with that total and exclusive service of which celibacy is an expression. The priest also has a spousal dimension; it is to be lost in the heart of Christ the Spouse, who gives his life for the Church his Bride (cf. postsynodal apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 24). Cultivate a profound familiarity with the Word of God, Light on your way. May the daily and faithful celebration of the Eucharist be the place to obtain the strength to give of yourselves every day in the ministry and to live constantly in the presence of God: He is your abode and heritage. You must be witnesses of this for the family and for every person that the Lord puts on your path, also in the most difficult circumstances (cf. ibid., 80). Encourage spouses, share their educational responsibilities, help them to continually renew the grace of their marriage. Make the family a protagonist in pastoral work. Be hospitable and merciful, also with those for whom it is most difficult to fulfill the commitments they assumed in the matrimonial bond and with all those who, unfortunately, have failed.

Dear spouses, your matrimony is rooted in the faith that "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and that to follow Christ means "to abide in love" (cf. John 15:9-10). Your union -- as the Apostle Paul teaches -- is a sacramental sign of the love of Christ for the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:32), a love that culminates on the cross and which is "signified and made present in the Eucharist" (apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 29). May the Eucharistic Mystery influence ever more profoundly your daily life: You will draw inspiration and strength from this sacrament for your conjugal relationship and for the educational mission to which you are called. Build your families in unity, a gift that comes from on high and which nourishes your commitment in the Church and in promoting a just and fraternal world. Love your priests, express to them your appreciation for the service they carry out. May you be able also to bear with their limitations, without ever ceasing to ask them to be exemplary ministers among you, who speak to you of God and who lead you to him. Your fellowship is for them a valuable spiritual help and support in the trials of life.

Dear priests and dear spouses, may you be able to find always in Holy Mass the strength to live your membership in Christ and his Church, in forgiveness and in the gift of self and in gratitude. May your daily work have its origin and center in sacramental communion, so that all is done for the glory of God. In this way, Christ's sacrifice of love will transform you, until it makes you in him "one body and one Spirit" (cf. Ephesians 4:4-6). Educating new generations in the faith is linked to your coherence too. Give them a witness of the demanding beauty of Christian life, with the trust and patience of the one who knows the power of the seed thrown to the earth. As in the evangelical passage we have heard (Mark 5:21-24.35-43), be for all those entrusted to your responsibility a sign of the benevolence and tenderness of Jesus: He makes visible how the God who loves life is not foreign to or distant from human vicissitudes, but is the friend who never abandons. And in the moments when the temptation is insinuated that all educational commitment is vain, obtain from the Eucharist the light to reinforce faith, certain that the grace and power of Jesus Christ can reach man in every situation, including the most difficult.

Dear friends, I entrust you all to the protection of Mary, venerated in this cathedral with the title "Queen of All Saints." Tradition joins her image to the ex-voto of a sailor, in thanksgiving for the salvation of his son, who came through a storm at sea unharmed. May the maternal gaze of the Mother also accompany your steps in holiness to a port of peace.


Papal Homily at Close of Eucharistic Congress
"A Eucharistic Spirituality Is a Real Antidote to Individualism"

ANCONA, Italy, SEPT. 11, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave during the Mass he celebrated today for the close of the 25th Italian National Eucharistic Congress.

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Dearest Brothers and Sisters!

Six years ago, the first apostolic journey in Italy of my pontificate led me to Bari, for the 24th National Eucharistic Congress. Today I came to solemnly conclude the 25th, here in Ancona. I thank the Lord for these intense ecclesial moments, which strengthen our love for the Eucharist and see us united around the Eucharist! Bari and Ancona, two fascinating cities on the Adriatic Sea; two cities rich in history and Christian life; two cities open to the East, to its culture and its spirituality; two cities brought closer by the themes of the Eucharistic Congresses: In Bari we recalled how "we cannot live without Sunday"; today our coming together is under the banner the "Eucharist for daily life."

Before offering you some thoughts, I would like to thank you for your wholehearted participation: In you I spiritually embrace the whole Church in Italy. I address a grateful greeting to the president of the episcopal conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, for the cordial words he addressed to me also on behalf of all of you; to my Legate to this Congress, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re; to the Archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Edoardo Menichelli, to the bishops of the metropolis, of the Marche and to the numerous people gathered from all parts of the country. Along with them, I greet the priests, the deacons the consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful, among whom I see many families and many young people. My gratitude goes also to the civil and military authorities and to all those who, in different capacities, have contributed to the success of this event.

"This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" (John 6:60). Confronted with Jesus' discourse on the bread of life, in the Synagogue of Capernaum, the reaction of the disciples, many of whom abandoned Jesus, is not very far from our resistance before the total gift that He makes of himself. Because to really accept this gift means to lose oneself, to allow oneself to be drawn in and transformed to the point of living from Him, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in the Second Reading: "If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (Romans 14:8).

"This is a hard saying!" It is hard because we often confuse liberty with the absence of chains, with the conviction of being able to make do by ourselves, without God, who is seen as a limit to liberty. This is an illusion that is soon turned into delusion, generating unrest and fear and leading, paradoxically, to longing for the chains of the past: "Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt," said the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16:3), as we heard. In reality, it is only in openness to God, in the acceptance of his gift, that we become truly free, free from the slavery of sin that disfigures man and the capacity to serve the real good of brethren.

"This is a hard saying!" It is hard because man often falls into the illusion of being able to "transform the stones into bread." After having put God aside, or having tolerated him as a private choice that must not interfere with public life, certain ideologies have aimed at organizing society with the force of power and the economy. History shows us, tragically, how the objective of ensuring development, material well-being and peace to all, doing without God and his revelation, has resulted in giving men stones instead of bread. Bread, dear brothers and sisters, is the "fruit of man's work," and enclosed in this truth is all the responsibility entrusted to our hands and to our ingeniousness; but bread is also, and even first "fruit of the earth," which receives from on High sun and rain: It is a gift to be requested, which takes away all arrogance and makes us invoke with the trust of the humble: "Father (...), give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).

Man is incapable of giving life to himself, he is understood only from God: it is the relationship with Him that gives consistency to our humanity and renders our life good and just. In the Our Father we pray that His name be hallowed, that His will be done. It is first of all the primacy of God that we must recover in our world and in our lives, because it is this primacy that enables us to rediscover the truth of what we are, and it is in knowing and following the will of God that we find our true good -- to give time and space to God, so that He will be the vital center of our existence.

From whence should we start, as the source, to recover and reaffirm the primacy of God? From the Eucharist: Here God makes Himself so close as to become our food, here He becomes the strength on the way that is so often difficult, here he makes himself a friendly presence that transforms. Already the Law given through Moses was considered as "bread of Heaven," thanks to which Israel became the people of God, but in Jesus the last and definitive Word of God becomes flesh, comes to meet us as Person. He, the Eternal Word, is the true manna, he is the bread of life (cf. John 6:32-35) and to carry out the works of God is to believe in Him (cf. John 6:28-29). In the Last Supper, Jesus summarizes his whole existence in a gesture that is inscribed in the great Paschal Blessing of God, a gesture that He lives as Son as thanksgiving to the Father for his immense love. Jesus breaks the bread and shares it, but with a new profundity, because He gives himself. He takes the chalice and shares it, so that all can drink from it, but with this gesture He gives the "new covenant in his blood," he gives himself. Jesus anticipates the act of supreme love, in obedience to the will of the Father: the sacrifice of the Cross. His life will be taken from him on the Cross, but already now He offers it on his own. Thus Christ's death is not reduced to a violent execution, but is transformed by Him into a free act of love, of self-giving; he goes victoriously through death itself and confirms the goodness of creation which came from the hands of God, humiliated by sin and finally redeemed. This immense gift is accessible to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: God gives himself to us, to open our existence to Him, to link it to the mystery of love of the Cross, to render it a participant in the eternal mystery from which we come and to anticipate the new condition of full life in God, in the expectation of which we live.

However, what does this starting from the Eucharist to reaffirm the primacy of God entail for our daily life? Eucharistic communion, dear friends, tears us away from our individualism, it communicates the spirit of Christ dead and risen, it conforms us to Him; it unites us intimately to brethren in that mystery of communion which is the Church, where the one Bread makes of many just one body (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17), carrying out the prayer of the early Christian community reported in the book of the Didache: "as this broken bread was scattered on the hills, and gathered became only one thing, thus your Church from the confines of the earth is gathered in your Kingdom" (IX, 4). The Eucharist sustains and transforms the whole of daily life. As I reminded in my first encyclical, "Eucharistic communion includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn," for which reason "a Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented" ("Deus Caritas Est," 14).

The 2,000-year history of the Church is studded with men and women saints whose life is an eloquent sign of how in fact from communion with the Lord, from the Eucharist a new and intense assumption of responsibility is born at all levels of community life; born hence is a positive social development, which has the person at the center, especially the poor, the sick and the straitened. To be nourished by Christ is the way not to remain foreign and indifferent to the fortunes of our brothers, but to enter into the very logic of love and of gift of the sacrifice of the Cross; he who is able to kneel before the Eucharist, who receives the Lord's body cannot fail to be attentive, in the ordinary course of the days, to situations unworthy of man, and is able to bend down personally to attend to need, is able to break his bread with the hungry, share water with the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (cf. Matthew 25:34-36). He will be able to see in every person the Lord who did not hesitate to give the whole of himself for us and for our salvation. Hence, a Eucharistic spirituality is a real antidote to individualism and egoism that often characterize daily life, and leads to the rediscovery of gratuitousness, the centrality of relationships, beginning with the family, with a particular care for binding the wounds of the broken. A Eucharistic spirituality is the soul of an ecclesial community that overcomes divisions and oppositions and appreciates the diversity of charisms and ministries putting them at the service of the unity of the Church, of her vitality and of her mission. A Eucharistic spirituality is a way to restore dignity to man's days and, hence, to his work, in the quest for reconciliation with the times of celebration and the family and in the commitment to surmount the uncertainty of precariousness and the problem of unemployment. A Eucharistic spirituality will also help us to approach the different forms of human fragility conscious that they do not obfuscate the value of the person, but require closeness, acceptance and help. Drawn from the Bread of life will be the vigor of a renewed educational capacity, attentive to witnessing the fundamental values of life, of learning, of the spiritual and cultural patrimony; its vitality will make us inhabit the city of men with the willingness to spend ourselves on the horizon of the common good for the building of a more equitable and fraternal society.

Dear friends, let us leave the Marche land with the strength of the Eucharist in a constant osmosis between the mystery that we celebrate and our daily situations. There is nothing that is genuinely human that does not find in the Eucharist the right way to live it in fullness: hence, daily life becomes the place of spiritual worship, to live the primacy of God in all circumstances, within a relationship with Christ and as an offering to the Father (cf. Postsynodal Exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis," 17). Yes, "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4): We live from obedience to this word, which is living bread, to the point of entrusting ourselves, like Peter, with the intelligence of love: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).

Like the Virgin Mary, let us also become a "womb" willing to offer Jesus to the people of our time, reawakening the profound desire for that salvation that comes only from Him. Good journey, with Christ the Bread of life, to all the Church that is in Italy!


Benedict XVI's Address to UK Envoy
"Integral Human Development ... Truly Worthy of the World's Attention"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 9, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he received the letters of credence of the new U.K. ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Holy See. I am grateful for the warm greetings which you bring from Her Majesty The Queen and I ask you to convey my prayerful good wishes for Her health and prosperity. I am also pleased to send my cordial greetings to Her Majesty’s Government and to all the British people.

The Holy See and the United Kingdom have enjoyed excellent relations in the thirty years that have passed since full diplomatic relations were established. The close bond between us was further strengthened last year during my Visit to your country, a unique occasion in the course of the shared history of the Holy See and the countries which today compose the United Kingdom. I would therefore like to begin my remarks by reiterating my gratitude to the British people for the warm welcome which I received during my stay.

Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh received me most graciously and I was pleased to meet the leaders of the three main political parties and to discuss with them matters of common concern. As you know, a particular motive for my Visit was the Beatification of John Henry Cardinal Newman, a great Englishman whom I have admired for many years and whose raising to the altars was a personal wish fulfilled. I remain convinced of the relevance of Newman’s insights regarding society, as the United Kingdom, Europe and the West in general today face challenges that he identified with remarkable prophetic clarity. It is my hope that a fresh awareness of his writings will bear new fruit among those searching for solutions to the political, economic and social questions of our age.

As you rightly remarked in your address, Mr Ambassador, the Holy See and the United Kingdom continue to share a common concern for peace among nations, the integral development of peoples throughout the world, especially the poorest and weakest, and the spread of authentic human rights, especially through the rule of law and fair participative government, with a special care for the needy and those whose natural rights are denied. On the subject of peace, I was very pleased to note the success of Her Majesty’s recent Visit to the Republic of Ireland, an important milestone in the process of reconciliation that is happily becoming ever more firmly established in Northern Ireland, despite the unrest that occurred there during this past summer. I take this opportunity once again to encourage all who would resort to violence to put aside their grievances, and to seek instead a dialogue with their neighbours for the peace and prosperity of the whole community.

As you pointed out in your speech, your Government wishes to employ policies that are based on enduring values that cannot be simply expressed in legal terms. This is especially important in the light of events in England this summer. When policies do not presume or promote objective values, the resulting moral relativism, instead of leading to a society that is free, fair, just and compassionate, tends instead to produce frustration, despair, selfishness and a disregard for the life and liberty of others. Policy makers are therefore right to look urgently for ways to uphold excellence in education, to promote social opportunity and economic mobility, to examine ways to favour long-term employment and to spread wealth much more fairly and broadly throughout society.

Moreover, the active fostering of the essential values of a healthy society, through the defence of life and of the family, the sound moral education of the young, and a fraternal regard for the poor and the weak, will surely help to rebuild a positive sense of one’s duty, in charity, towards friends and strangers alike in the local community. Be assured that the Catholic Church in your country is eager to continue offering her substantial contribution to the common good through her offices and agencies, in accordance with her own principles and in the light of the Christian vision of the rights and dignity of the human person.

Looking further afield, Your Excellency has mentioned several areas where the Holy See and the United Kingdom have already agreed and worked together, including initiatives for debt relief and financing for development. The sustainable development of the world’s poorer peoples through well-targeted assistance remains a worthy goal, since the peoples of developing countries are our brothers and sisters, of equal dignity and worth and deserving of our respect in every way, and such assistance should always aim to improve their lives and their economic prospects. As you know, development is also of benefit to donor countries, not only through the creation of economic markets, but also through the fostering of mutual respect, solidarity, and above all peace through prosperity for all the world’s peoples. Promoting models of development which employ modern knowledge to husband natural resources will also have the benefit of better protecting the environment for emerging and developed countries alike.

This is why I remarked in Westminster Hall last year that integral human development, and all that it entails, is an enterprise truly worthy of the world’s attention and one that is too big to be allowed to fail. The Holy See therefore welcomes Prime Minister Cameron’s recent announcement of his intention to ring-fence Great Britain’s aid budget. I would also invite you, during your mandate, to explore ways of furthering development cooperation between your Government and the Church’s charity and development agencies, especially those based here in Rome and in your country.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, in offering you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your mission, allow me to assure you that all the departments of the Roman Curia stand ready to support you in your duties. Upon you, your family and all the British people, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vatican


Papal Address to Latin Rite Bishops From India
"Religious ... Are the Often Unsung Heroes of the Church's Vitality"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 8, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today when he received in audience a group of bishops from India at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. The bishops represented Bombay, Nagpur, Goa e Damão, Gandhinagar and Bangalore, and are in Italy 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 further occasion to deepen the communion that exists between the Church in India and the See of Peter, and an opportunity to rejoice in the universality of the Church. I wish to thank Cardinal Oswald Gracias for his kind words offered on your behalf and in the name of those entrusted to your pastoral care. My cordial greetings also go to the priests, the men and women Religious, and laity whom you shepherd. Please assure them of my prayers and solicitude.

The Church in India is blessed with a multitude of institutions which are intended to be expressions of the love of God for humanity through the charity and example of the clergy, religious and lay faithful who staff them. By means of her parishes, schools and orphanages, as well as her hospitals, clinics and dispensaries, the Church makes an invaluable contribution to the well-being not only of Catholics, but of society at large. Among these institutions in your region, a special place is held by the schools which are an outstanding witness to your commitment to the education and formation of our dear young people.

The efforts made by the whole Christian community to prepare the young citizens of your noble country to build a more just and prosperous society have long been a hallmark of the Church in your Dioceses and throughout India. In helping the spiritual, intellectual and moral faculties of their students to mature, Catholic schools should continue to develop a capacity for sound judgment and introduce them to the heritage bequeathed to them by former generations, thus fostering a sense of values and preparing their pupils for a happy and productive life (cf. Gravissimum Educationis, 5). I encourage you to continue to pay close attention to the quality of instruction in the schools present in your Dioceses, to ensure that they be genuinely Catholic and therefore capable of passing on those truths and values necessary for the salvation of souls and the up-building of society.

Of course, Catholic schools are not the only means by which the Church seeks to instruct and to edify her people in intellectual and moral truth. As you know, all of the Church’s activities are meant to glorify God and fill his people with the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32). This saving truth, at the heart of the deposit of faith, must remain the foundation of all the Church’s endeavours, proposed to others always with respect but also without compromise. The capacity to present the truth gently but firmly is a gift to be nurtured especially among those who teach in Catholic institutes of higher education and those who are charged with the ecclesial task of educating seminarians, religious or the lay faithful, whether in theology, catechetical studies or Christian spirituality. Those who teach in the name of the Church have a particular obligation faithfully to hand on the riches of the tradition, in accordance with the Magisterium and in a way that responds to the needs of today, while students have the right to receive the fullness of the intellectual and spiritual heritage of the Church.

Having received the benefits of a sound formation and dedicated to charity in truth, the clergy, religious and lay leaders of the Christian community will be better able to contribute to the growth of the Church and the advancement of Indian society. The various members of the Church will then bear witness to the love of God for all humanity as they enter into contact with the world, providing a solid Christian testimony in friendship, respect and love, and striving not to condemn the world but to offer it the gift of salvation (cf. Jn 3:17). Encourage those involved in education, whether priests, religious or laity, to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. Enable them to reach out to their neighbours that, by their word and example, they may more effectively proclaim Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6).

A significant role of witness to Jesus Christ is carried out in your country by men and women religious, who are the often unsung heroes of the Church’s vitality locally. Above and beyond their apostolic labours, however, religious and the lives they lead are a source of spiritual fruitfulness for the entire Christian community. As they open themselves to the grace of God, religious men and women inspire others to respond with trust, humility and joy to the invitation of the Lord to follow him.

In this regard, my Brother Bishops, I know that you are aware of the many factors which inhibit spiritual and vocational growth, particularly among young people. Yet we know that it is Jesus Christ alone who responds to our deepest longings, and who gives true meaning to our lives. Only in him can our hearts truly find rest. Continue, therefore, to speak to young people and to encourage them to consider seriously the consecrated or priestly life; speak with parents about their indispensible role in encouraging and supporting such vocations; and lead your people in prayer to the Lord of the harvest, that he may send many more labourers into this harvest (cf. Mt 9:38).

With these thoughts, dear Brother Bishops, I renew to you my sentiments of affection and esteem. I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. Assuring you of my prayers for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care, I am pleased to impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Psalm 3
"He Listens, He Responds and He Saves According to His Ways"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 7, 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 his series of catecheses on prayer with a reflection on Psalm 3.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we return to the audiences in St. Peter's square, and in the "school of prayer" that we are experiencing together in these Wednesday catecheses, I would like to begin to meditate on some of the psalms, which -- as I said last June -- form the "prayerbook" par excellence.

The first psalm I wish to consider is a psalm of lament and supplication imbued with profound trust, in which the certainty of God's presence forms the basis of a prayer arising from the condition of extreme difficulty in which the man praying finds himself. It is Psalm 3, attributed by the Hebrew tradition to David in the moment he fled from Absalom his son (cf. Verse 1): This is one of the most dramatic and anguished episodes in the king's life, when his son usurps his royal throne, forcing him to leave Jerusalem in order to save his life (cf. 2 Samuel 15ff). The perilous and anguished situation David experiences serves as the backdrop to this prayer, and it helps us to understand it, by presenting itself as the typical situation in which such a psalm might be recited. Every man can recognize in the psalmist's cry feelings of pain and bitterness together with a trust in God that -- according to the biblical account -- accompanied David as he fled the city.

The psalm begins with an invocation to the Lord:

"O Lord, how many are my foes!

Many are rising against me;

many are saying of me,

there is no help for him in God!" (Verses 1-2)

The prayer's description of his situation is marked by strongly dramatic tones. Three times he repeats the idea of the multitude -- "numerous," "many," "how many" -- which in the original text is said with the same Hebrew root, in order to underline even more the immensity of the danger in a repeated, almost relentless way. This insistence on the number and greatness of the foe serves to express the psalmist's perception of the absolute disproportion there is between himself and his persecutors -- a disproportion that justifies and forms the basis of the urgency of his request for help; the aggressors are many; they have the upper hand, while the man praying is alone and defenseless, at the mercy of his assailants.

And yet, the first word the psalmist pronounces is "Lord"; his cry begins with an invocation to God. A multitude looms over and arises against him, producing a fear that magnifies the threat, making it appear even greater and more terrifying; but the man praying does not allow himself to be conquered by this vision of death; he remains steadfast in his relationship with the God of life, and the first thing he does is turn to Him for help.

However, his enemies also attempt to break this bond with God and to destroy their victim's faith. They insinuate that the Lord cannot intervene; they maintain that not even God can save him. The assault, then, is not only physical but also touches the spiritual dimension: "The Lord cannot save him" -- they say -- even the core of the psalmist's soul is attacked.

This is the great temptation to which the believer is subjected -- the temptation to lose faith, to lose trust in the nearness of God. The just man overcomes this ultimate test; he remains steadfast in the faith, in the certainty of the truth and in full confidence in God, and it is precisely in this way that he finds life and truth. It seems to me that here the psalm touches us very personally; in so many problems we are tempted to think that perhaps not even God can save me, that He doesn't know me, that perhaps it is not possible for Him; the temptation against faith is the enemy's final assault, and this we must resist -- in so doing, we find God and we find life.

The man praying our psalm is therefore called to respond with faith to the attacks of the impious: The enemy -- as I said -- denies that God is able to save him; but he instead calls out to Him, he calls on His name, "Lord"; he then turns to Him with an emphatic "You" that expresses an unshakeable, solid relationship, and within himself he holds on to the certainty of a divine response:

"But thou, O Lord, art a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cry aloud to the Lord,

and he answers me from his holy mountain" (Verses 4-5).

The vision of the enemy now disappears; they have not defeated him because he who believes in God is certain that God is his friend: There remains only the "You" of God -- the "many" are contrasted now by one alone, who is far greater and more powerful than many adversaries. The Lord is help, defense, salvation; as a shield He protects the one who entrusts himself to Him, and He raises up his head in a gesture of triumph and of victory. The man is no longer alone, his enemies are not as invincible as they once seemed, because the Lord hears the cry of the oppressed and responds from the place of His presence, from His holy mount. The man cries out in anguish, in danger, and in pain; the man asks for help, and God responds.

This interweaving of the human cry and the divine response is the dialectic of prayer and the key to reading the whole of salvation history. The cry expresses the need for help and it appeals to the faithfulness of the other; to cry out means to express faith in the nearness of God and in His readiness to listen. Prayer expresses certainty in a divine presence already experienced and believed in, [a presence] manifested most fully by God's saving response. This is significant: that in our prayer the certainty of God's presence be important, that it be present. Thus, the psalmist, who feels himself besieged by death, confesses his faith in the God of life who as a shield wraps him with invulnerable protection; he who thought himself already lost can now lift up his head, for the Lord saves him; the man who prays -- threatened and scorned -- is in glory, because God is his glory.

The divine response that receives his prayer gives the psalmist complete assurance; fear is also gone, and his cry calms and quiets in peace, in a deep interior tranquility:

"I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.

I am not afraid of ten thousands of people

who have set themselves against me round about" (Verses 5-6).

The man praying, even amid danger and battle, can lie tranquilly in an unequivocal attitude of trustful surrender. His adversaries encamp around him, they beleaguer him, they are many, they rise up against him, they deride him and attempt to make him fall; but he instead lies down and sleeps in tranquil serenity, assured of the presence of God. And when he awakes, he finds God still beside him, as a guardian who will neither slumber nor sleep (cf. Psalm 121:3-4), who sustains him, who holds his hand, who never abandons him. The fear of death is conquered by the presence of the One who never dies. And the night, filled with ancestral fears, the painful night of solitude and of anguished waiting, is now transformed: What evokes death becomes the presence of the Eternal One.

The enemy's visible, massive, imposing attack is contrasted by the invisible presence of God, with all His invincible power. And it is to Him that the psalmist once more -- following his two expressions of trust -- addresses this prayer: "Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God!" (Verse 8). The foes "rise up" (cf. Verse 2) against their victim, [but] he who will "rise up" is the Lord, in order to strike them down. God will save him by responding to his cry. For this reason, the psalmist can conclude with a vision of liberation from the danger that kills and from the temptation that can make him perish.

After turning to the Lord and asking Him to rise up and save him, the man praying describes the divine victory: The foes -- who with their unjust and cruel oppression, are symbolic of all that is opposed to God and to His plan for salvation -- are defeated. Struck in the mouth, they can no longer attack with their destructive violence, nor can they insinuate the evil of doubt in the presence and action of God: Their senseless and blasphemous talk is definitively denied and reduced to silence by the Lord's saving intervention (cf. Verse 7bc). Thus may the psalmist conclude his prayer with a phrase with liturgical connotations, which celebrates, in gratitude and in praise, the Lord of life: "Deliverance belongs to the Lord; thy blessing be upon thy people!" (Verse 8).

Dear brothers and sisters, Psalm 3 presents us with a prayer full of trust and consolation. In praying this psalm, we can make the psalmist's sentiments our own -- [the psalmist] who is a figure of the just man who is persecuted, and who finds his fulfillment in Jesus. In suffering, in danger, in the bitterness of misunderstanding and offense, the psalmist's words open our hearts to the comforting certainty of faith. God is always near -- even in difficulties, in problems, in the darkness of life -- He listens, He responds and He saves according to His ways. But we need to know how to recognize His presence and to accept His ways, like David in his crushing escape from Absalom his son; like the just man who is persecuted in the Book of Wisdom; and finally and fully, like the Lord Jesus on Golgotha. And, when to the eyes of the impious, God seems not to intervene and the Son dies, precisely then are true glory and salvation's definitive realization manifested to all who believe. May the Lord grant us faith; may He come to the help of our weakness; and may He enable us to believe and to pray in every anxiety, in the painful nights of doubt and in the long days of suffering, by trustfully abandoning ourselves to Him who is our "shield" and our "glory." Thank you.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We return today to our series of catecheses on prayer with a consideration of Psalm Three, in which the psalmist cries out to God to rescue him from the enemies who surround him. Traditionally the psalm is attributed to King David as he flees from the armies of his rebellious son Absalom. Assailed on every side by foes who seek his life, the psalmist calls on the name of the Lord, filled with faith in the presence and the power of God who alone can save him from the evils that threaten him. We are reminded of the plight of the just man in the Book of Wisdom, condemned to a shameful death by the wicked, who taunt him by arguing that God will surely come to his rescue. Our thoughts move on to Calvary, where the passers-by mocked Jesus, saying that God would deliver him from death if he were really who he claimed to be. And yet, we know that God truly hears the prayers of those who call upon him in faith. He answers from his holy mountain. The unseen God responds with great power, and he becomes our shield and our glory. Even though Jesus appears to be abandoned by the Father as he dies on Calvary, yet for the eyes of faith this is the crowning moment of salvation, the triumph of the Cross, the hour of our Saviour's glorification.

* * *


On Fraternal Correction
"There Is a Co-responsibility in the Journey of the Christian Life"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 4, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with crowds that gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The biblical readings for the Mass this Sunday center on the theme of fraternal charity in the community of believers, which has its source in the communion of the Trinity. The apostle Paul affirms that the whole Law of God has its fullness in love in such a way that in our relationships with others, the 10 Commandments and every precept are summed up thus: "You will love your neighbor as yourself" (cf. Romans 13:8-10). The Gospel text, taken from Matthew 18, which treats of the life of the Christian community, tells us that brotherly love also includes reciprocal responsibility, on account of which, if my brother sins against me, I must be charitable to him and, first of all, speak with him personally, showing him that that what he said or did is not good. This way of behaving is called fraternal correction: it is not a reaction to the offense I have suffered but a being moved by love for my brother. St. Augustine comments: "He who has offended you, in offending you, he has caused himself a grave injury, and will you not care for the wound of your brother? […] You must forget that you have been offended but not your brother’s wound" (Sermon 82, 7).

And what if my brother does not listen to me? In today's Gospel, Jesus indicates a gradual approach: first go back and talk to him with two or three other persons so as to help him better grasp what he has done; if despite this he rejects the observation, the community must be told; and if he does not listen to the community either, it is necessary to make him see the rupture that he himself has provoked, separating himself from the Church. All of this shows that there is a co-responsibility in the journey of the Christian life: everyone, conscious of his own limits and defects, is called to welcome fraternal correction and to help others with this particular service.

Another fruit of charity in the community is unified prayer. Jesus says: "If two of you on earth agree to ask for something, my Father who is in heaven will grant it. Because wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst" (Matthew 18:19-20). Personal prayer is certainly important, indeed indispensable, but the Lord assures his presence in the community that -- even if it is very small -- is united and of one accord, because it reflects the reality itself of God One-and-Three, perfect communion of love. Origen says that "we must play in this symphony" (Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew 14:11), that is, within this concord of the Christian community. We must participate both in fraternal correction, which requires much humility and simplicity of heart, and in prayer, that it might rise up to God from a community truly united in Christ.

Let us plead for all of this through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church, and of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor, whom we commemorated in yesterday’s liturgy.


Pope's Letter to Catholic-Orthodox Symposium
"The Destiny of Evangelization Is Certainly Bound Up With the Witness of Unity"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 2, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Aug. 6 letter Benedict XVI sent to the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch, on the occasion of the 12th Inter-Christian Symposium.

The symposium, with the theme "The Witness of the Church in the Modern World," concluded today in Thessaloniki (Salonika), Greece.

* * *

To the Venerable Brother

Lord Cardinal Kurt Koch

President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity,

On the occasion of the 12th Inter-Christian Symposium, with the theme "The Witness of the Church in the Modern World," which is being held in Salonika from Aug. 30 to Sept. 2, 2011, I wish to manifest through you, Venerable Brother, my great appreciation for this laudable initiative, promoted by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum and by the Department of Theology of the Orthodox Theological Faculty of the Aristotle University of Salonika.

2. The topic that will be discussed at the symposium is of great current importance and is at the center of my concern and prayers, as I already affirmed in the apostolic letter "Ubicumque et Semper," with which I instituted the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. In the course of the centuries the Church has not failed to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but this same proclamation today needs a renewed vigor in many of the regions that were the first to receive the light and that are experiencing the effects of a secularization capable of impoverishing man in his deepest dimension. In reality, we are witnessing in the contemporary world contradictory phenomena: On one hand there is a generalized distraction and also an insensitivity in regard to transcendence; on the other, there are numerous signs that attest to an ongoing profound nostalgia for God in many hearts, which manifests itself in many different ways and which brings many men and women to an attitude of sincere searching.

3. The present cultural, social and economic backdrop poses the same challenges to Catholics and Orthodox. The reflection that will take place in the symposium will have an important ecumenical consequence. The interventions will make it possible to draw a clear picture of the common problems and the presentation of the particularities of the different points of view, favoring an exchange of reflections and experiences in a climate of fraternal charity. The mutual knowledge of our traditions and sincere friendship represent, in themselves, a contribution to the cause of Christian unity. I wish to recall here the words of my Venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, when, in regard to evangelization, he affirmed: "As evangelizers, we must offer Christ's faithful not the image of people divided and separated by unedifying quarrels, but the image of people who are mature in faith and capable of finding a meeting-point beyond the real tensions, thanks to a shared, sincere and disinterested search for truth. Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church. This is a source of responsibility and also of comfort" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 77).

4. Certainly contributing to the good outcome of this work will be the intercession of St. Paul, whose memory is alive in the city of Salonika, where the Apostle preached the Gospel in the first place -- a city to which he remained linked by a special bond of affection. It is necessary that you be animated by the same apostolic zeal that Paul had for a renewed proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world.

5. To all those who contributed to the realization of the symposium, to the illustrious speakers and to all the participants, I address my cordial greeting with the hope that the initiative will be a success. I support the works with prayer and with my Apostolic Blessing.

From Castel Gandolfo, August 6, 2011



Papal Address After Concert
"A Moment of Meditation and Prayer, Bringing Us to Intuit the Harmonies of Heaven"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 1, 2011 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's brief address Wednesday after a concert in his honor held at the apostolic palace of Castel Gandolfo.

The concert was a gift from Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, a former director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, who himself composed the four works that were performed.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Friends,

This afternoon we were immersed in sacred music, that music which, in a totally particular way, is born of faith and is able to express and communicate faith. Thank you, too, to the splendid performers: the two sopranos, the baritone, Maestro Baiocchi, the Rossini Chamber Choir of Pesaro and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Marche, as well as the organizers and the authorities who have made this event possible.

In the midst of our daily activities, you have offered us a moment of meditation and prayer, bringing us to intuit the harmonies of heaven. An affectionate and special thank you to the author of the pieces we have heard, Maestro Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci. Thank you, Eminence, for having given me this concert and for having composed for the occasion the Benedictus piece dedicated to me as prayer and thanksgiving to the Lord for my ministry.

Maestro Cardinal Bartolucci needs no introduction. I would only like to allude to three aspects of his life that particularly characterize him (in addition to his proud Florentine spirit): his faith, priesthood and music.

Dear Cardinal Bartolucci, faith is the light that has always oriented and guided your life, which has opened your heart to respond with generosity to the Lord's call; and it is from faith that your composing style springs. It is true that you have had a solid musical formation received in the Florentine Duomo, in Florence's Conservatory and in the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, with great maestros such as Vito Frazzi, Raffaele Casimiri, Ildebrando Pizzetti. However, for you sacred music is a privileged language to communicate the faith of the Church and to help those who listen to your works in their journey of faith. You have also exercised your priestly ministry through music. Your composing style is inserted in the wake of the great authors of sacred music, in particular of the Sistine Chapel, where you were director for many years: appreciation of the precious treasure that is Gregorian chant, and the wise use of polyphony, faithful to tradition, but also open to new sonorities.

Dear Maestro, tonight, with your music, you have made our soul turn to Mary with the most loved prayer of the Christian tradition, but you have also made us return to the beginning of our journey of faith, to the liturgy of baptism, to the moment we became Christian: an invitation to satiate ourselves always with the only water that extinguishes thirst, the living God, and to commit ourselves every day to reject evil and to renew our faith, reaffirming "I believe!"

"Christus circumdedit me," Christ has enveloped me and envelops me: This motto summarizes your life, your ministry and your music, dear Lord Cardinal. Therefore, I renew my gratitude to you, to the two sopranos, to the baritone, to the director, and to the choral and orchestral ensembles, and I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.


On Beauty as a Way to God
Art "Is Like a Door Opened to the Infinite"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

On several occasions in recent months, I have recalled the need for every Christian to find time for God, for prayer, amidst our many daily activities.The Lord himself offers us many opportunities to remember Him. Today, I would like to consider briefly one of these channels that can lead us to God and also be helpful in our encounter with Him: It is the way of artistic expression, part of that "via pulchritudinis" -- "way of beauty" -- which I have spoken about on many occasions, and which modern man should recover in its most profound meaning.

Perhaps it has happened to you at one time or another -- before a sculpture, a painting, a few verses of poetry or a piece of music -- to have experienced deep emotion, a sense of joy, to have perceived clearly, that is, that before you there stood not only matter -- a piece of marble or bronze, a painted canvas, an ensemble of letters or a combination of sounds -- but something far greater, something that "speaks," something capable of touching the heart, of communicating a message, of elevating the soul.

A work of art is the fruit of the creative capacity of the human person who stands in wonder before the visible reality, who seeks to discover the depths of its meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colors and sounds. Art is capable of expressing, and of making visible, man's need to go beyond what he sees; it reveals his thirst and his search for the infinite. Indeed, it is like a door opened to the infinite, [opened] to a beauty and a truth beyond the every day. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, urging us upward.

But there are artistic expressions that are true roads to God, the supreme Beauty -- indeed, they are a help [to us] in growing in our relationship with Him in prayer. We are referring to works of art that are born of faith, and that express the faith. We see an example of this whenever we visit a Gothic cathedral: We are ravished by the vertical lines that reach heavenward and draw our gaze and our spirit upward, while at the same time, we feel small and yet yearn to be filled. … Or when we enter a Romanesque church: We are invited quite naturally to recollection and prayer. We perceive that hidden within these splendid edifices is the faith of generations. Or again, when we listen to a piece of sacred music that makes the chords of our heart resound, our soul expands and is helped in turning to God. I remember a concert performance of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach -- in Munich in Bavaria -- conducted by Leonard Bernstein. At the conclusion of the final selection, one of the Cantate, I felt -- not through reasoning, but in the depths of my heart -- that what I had just heard had spoken truth to me, truth about the supreme composer, and it moved me to give thanks to God. Seated next to me was the Lutheran bishop of Munich. I spontaneously said to him: "Whoever has listened to this understands that faith is true" -- and the beauty that irresistibly expresses the presence of God's truth.

But how many times, paintings or frescos also, which are the fruit of the artist's faith -- in their forms, in their colors, and in their light -- move us to turn our thoughts to God, and increase our desire to draw from the Fount of all beauty. The words of the great artist, Marc Chagall, remain profoundly true -- that for centuries, painters dipped their brushes in that colored alphabet, which is the Bible.

How many times, then, can artistic expression be for us an occasion that reminds us of God, that assists us in our prayer or even in the conversion of our heart! In 1886, the famous French poet, playwright and diplomat Paul Claudel entered the Basilica of Notre Dame in Paris and there felt the presence of God precisely in listening to the singing of the Magnificat during the Christmas Mass. He had not entered the church for reasons of faith; indeed, he entered looking for arguments against Christianity, but instead the grace of God changed his heart.

Dear friends, I invite you to rediscover the importance of this way for prayer, for our living relationship with God. Cities and countries throughout the world house treasures of art that express the faith and call us to a relationship with God. Therefore, may our visits to places of art be not only an occasion for cultural enrichment -- also this -- but may they become, above all, a moment of grace that moves us to strengthen our bond and our conversation with the Lord, [that moves us] to stop and contemplate -- in passing from the simple external reality to the deeper reality expressed -- the ray of beauty that strikes us, that "wounds" us in the intimate recesses of our heart and invites us to ascend to God.

I will end with a prayer from one of the Psalms, Psalm 27: "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Verse 4). Let us hope that the Lord will help us to contemplate His beauty, both in nature as well as in works of art, so that we might be touched by the light of His face, and so also be light for our neighbor. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, especially those from Scotland and Malta. Today we reflect on the need to draw near to God through the experience and appreciation of artistic beauty. Art is capable of making visible our need to go beyond what we see and it reveals our thirst for infinite beauty, for God. Dear friends, I invite you to be open to beauty and to allow it to move you to prayer and praise of the Lord. May Almighty God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Words to Former Students
"Let Us Ask the Lord to Show Himself"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 29, 2011 - Here is a translation of the words Benedict XVI gave Sunday at the start of Mass with a group of his former students.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we respond to the First Reading, from the Prophet Jeremiah, with Psalm 62: My soul thirsts for thee, for the living God; as in a dry and weary land where no water is, the living God awaits you.

In this time of the absence of God, when the land of souls is arid and people yet do not know from where the living water comes, let us ask the Lord to show himself. We want to pray for those who seek the living water elsewhere, that he show them that this water is he himself, and that he not permit the life of men, their thirst for what is great, for fullness, to drown and suffocate in the transient.

We want to ask him, above all for young people, that thirst for him become alive in them and that they recognize where the answer is.

And we, who have been able to know him since our youth, may ask for pardon, because we so meagerly take the light of his face to men; the certainty that "He is, He is present, and He is the great, full reality that we all await" comes from us so weakly. We want to ask him to forgive us, that he renew us with the living water of his Spirit and that he make us celebrate the Sacred Mysteries worthily.


On Thinking Like God and Accepting the Cross
"To Think According to the World Is to Put God Aside"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 28, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with crowds that gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's Gospel, Jesus explains to his disciples that he must "go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised" (Matthew 16:21). Everything seems to be turned upside down in the heart of the disciples! How is it possible that "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (verse 16), can suffer to the point of death?

The Apostle Peter rebels, he does not accept this, so he spoke up and said to the Master: "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you" (verse 22). What appears evident is the difference between the loving design of the Father, which goes so far as the gift of his only-begotten Son on the cross to save humanity, and the expectations, the desires, the plans of the disciples.

And this discord occurs also today: when the fulfillment of one's life is directed solely to social success, to physical and economic wellbeing, then one no longer reasons according to God, but according to men (verse 23). To think according to the world is to put God aside, not to accept his plan of love, almost impeding the fulfillment of his wise will. Because of this, Jesus says something particularly harsh to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me" (ibid.).

The Lord shows that "the path of the disciples is to follow him, the Crucified. In all three Gospels, however, he explains this following in the sign of the cross ... as the way to 'lose oneself,' which is necessary for man and without which it is not possible for him to find himself" (Gesù di Nazaret, Milan 2007, 333 [cf. Jesus of Nazareth, pg. 287]).

As with the disciples, Jesus also addresses the invitation to us. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). A Christian follows Christ when he accepts his cross with love, which in the eyes of the world seems a defeat and a "loss of life" (cf. verses 25-26). But the Christian knows that he does not carry the cross alone but with Jesus, sharing in his way of donation. The Servant of God Paul VI wrote: "In a mysterious way, Christ Himself accepts death ... on the cross, in order to eradicate from man's heart the sins of self-sufficiency and to manifest to the Father a complete filial obedience" (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino).

By willingly accepting the cross, Jesus carries the cross of all men and becomes the source of salvation for the whole of humanity. St. Cyril of Alexandria comments: "The victorious cross has illumined him who was blinded by ignorance, has released him who was a prisoner of sin, has brought redemption to the whole of humanity" (Catechesis Illuminandorum XIII, 1: de Christo crucifixo et sepulto: PG 33, 772 B).

We entrust our prayer to the Virgin Mary and to St. Augustine, whose memorial is today, so that each one of us will be able to follow the Lord on the way of the cross and allow ourselves to be transformed by divine grace, renewing our way of thinking, so that we "may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).


On World Youth Day 2011
"The Cross of Christ Gives Much More Than It Demands"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 24, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to return briefly in mind and heart to the extraordinary days spent in Madrid for the XXVI World Youth Day. It was, as you know, a moving ecclesial event: approximately 2 million youth from every continent gathered for a truly exceptional experience of fraternity, of encounter with the Lord, of sharing and of growth in the faith: a true cascade of light. I thank God for this precious gift, which gives hope for the future of the Church: young people with the unwavering and sincere desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain firm in the faith, and to walk together with the Church.

A thanks to all those who worked so generously for this Day: the cardinal archbishop of Madrid, his auxiliaries, the other bishops of Spain and of other parts of the world, the Pontifical Council for the Laity, priests, men and women religious and lay faithful. I renew my gratitude to the Spanish authorities, to the institutions and associations, to the volunteers and to all those who offered the support of their prayer. Nor can I forget the warm welcome I received from their majesties the king and queen of Spain, as well as from the entire country.

Naturally I cannot describe in only a few words the intense moments we experienced. I have in mind the uncontainable enthusiasm with which the young people welcomed me the first day at Plaza de Cibeles, their words so rich in expectations; their strong desire to turn to the most profound truth and to root themselves in it -- that truth that God has given us to know in Christ.

In the imposing Monastery of El Escorial -- so rich in history, spirituality and culture -- I met with young women religious and young university professors. I reminded the former -- the young women religious -- of the beauty of their vocation lived with fidelity, and the importance of their apostolic service and their prophetic witness. And within me there remains the impression of their enthusiasm, of a youthful faith, full of courage for the future and of a willingness to serve mankind. I reminded professors to be true educators of the new generations by guiding them in the search for truth -- not only by their words but also by their lives -- aware that the Truth is Christ Himself. In encountering Christ, we encounter the truth.

That evening, in the celebration of the Way of the Cross, a variegated multitude of young people relived with great intensity the scenes of the passion and death of Christ: the cross of Christ gives much more than it demands -- it gives all, because it leads us to God.

The following day, the Holy Mass [was celebrated] in the Cathedral of Almudena, Madrid, with seminarians: young men who want to root themselves in Christ in order to make Him present one day as His ministers. I hope that vocations to the priesthood increase! Among those present, there was more than one who had heard the call of the Lord at a former World Youth Day. I am certain that -- also in Madrid -- the Lord knocked at the door of the hearts of many young men, [calling them] to follow Him generously in priestly ministry or in religious life.

The visit to a center for disabled youth allowed me to see the great respect and love that is fostered toward each person, and it provided me the occasion to thank the thousands of volunteers who silently witness to the Gospel of charity and of life.

The evening Prayer Vigil and the great concluding Eucharistic Celebration the day after were two very intense moments: In the evening a great multitude of young people full of joy – and not at all intimidated by the rain and wind -- remained in silent adoration of Christ present in the Eucharist, to praise Him, to thank Him, to ask of Him help and light; and then on Sunday, the young people showed their exuberance and joy in celebrating the Lord in Word and Eucharist, in order that they might enter ever more deeply into Him and strengthen their faith and Christian life.

In a climate of enthusiasm, lastly I met with volunteers, whom I thanked for their generosity, and with the farewell ceremony I left the country carrying these days in my heart as a great gift.

Dear friends, the meeting in Madrid was, first and foremost, a marvelous demonstration of faith -- for Spain and for the world. For the multitude of young people who had come from every corner of the world, it was a special occasion to reflect, discuss, exchange positive experiences and, above all, to pray together and to renew their commitment to root their own lives in Christ, the Faithful Friend. I am sure that they have returned home, and that they return there with the firm purpose of being a leaven in society by carrying the hope that is born of faith. For my part, I continue to accompany them in prayer, so that they might remain faithful to the commitments they have assumed. I entrust the fruits of this Day to the maternal intercession of Mary.

And now, I desire to announce the themes of the next World Youth Days. Next year's, which will take place in the individual dioceses, will have as its motto: "Rejoice in the Lord always!" taken from the Letter to the Philippians (4:4); while the motto for the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro will be Jesus' mandate: "Go and make disciples of all nations!" (cf. Matthew 28:19). With this, I entrust to everyone's prayer the preparations for these very important meetings. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. Having just returned from Madrid, I greet affectionately the young people present, especially those who were with me for the unforgettable celebration of World Youth Day. I also welcome those present from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and the United States. May God bless all of you and remain with you forever!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI Interview with Journalists during the Flight to Madrid

Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ: Holy Father, we have come to the 26th World Youth Day, the 12th to be celebrated with an important world meeting. John Paul II, who invented the Youth Days, is now Blessed and is the official Patron of this World Youth Day in Madrid. At the beginning of your Pontificate people wondered whether you would continue along the same lines as your Predecessor. This is now your third World Youth Day, after Cologne and Sydney. How do you view the significance of these events in the pastoral “strategy” of the universal Church in the third millennium?

The Holy Father: Dear friends, good morning! I am glad to be going to Spain with you for this great event. After personally experiencing two WYDs, I can only say that Pope John Paul II was truly inspired when he created this important meeting of young people and of the world with the Lord.

I would say that these World Youth Days are a sign, a cascade of light; they give visibility to the faith and to God’s presence in the world, and thus create the courage to be believers. Believers often feel isolated in this world, almost lost. Here they see that they are not alone, that there is a great network of faith, a great community of believers in the world, that it is beautiful to live in this universal friendship. And thus, it seems to me, friendships are born, friendships beyond the confines of different cultures and different countries. And this birth of a universal network of friendship that links the world and God, is an important reality for the future of humanity, for the life of humanity today.

Naturally, the WYD cannot be an isolated event; it is part of a larger process, it should be prepared for by this journey of the Cross that transmigrates to different countries and already unites young people in the sign of the cross and in the marvellous sign of Our Lady. So it is that the preparation for the World Youth Day is of course far more than the technical plan for an event with a great many technical hitches; it is an inner preparation, a starting out towards others, together towards God. Then, later, the foundation of groups of friends follows, preserving this universal contact that opens the boundaries between cultures, between human and religious differences, hence it is a continuous journey that leads subsequently to a new summit, to a new World Youth Day. It seems to me, in this sense, that the World Youth Day should be seen as a sign, as part of a great journey; it creates friendships, opens frontiers and makes visible the beauty of our being with God and of God’s being with us. In this regard, let us continue to implement Bl. Pope John Paul II's important idea.

Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ: Your Holiness, times are changing. Europe and the Western world in general are going through a profound economic crisis which is also showing dimensions of serious social and moral hardship and great uncertainty for the future which is becoming particularly acute for young people. In the past few days we have seen, for example, what happened in Great Britain when rebellion and aggressiveness were unleashed. At the same time there are signs of generous and enthusiastic commitment, of voluntary service and of solidarity, of young believers and non-believers alike. In Madrid we shall meet a large number of marvellous young people. What message of hope can the Church provide to encourage youth throughout the world, especially those who feel discouraged today and are tempted to rebel?

The Holy Father: It is this. In the current economic crisis what formerly appeared in the previous great crisis has been confirmed: namely, that the ethical dimension is not alien to economic problems but an internal and fundamental dimension of them. The economy does not function with a self-regulation of the market alone, but it needs an ethical reason if it is to function for man. And once again Pope John II’s words in his first social Encyclical become apparent: man must be the centre of the economy and the economy cannot be measured according to the maxim of profit but rather according to the common good of all, that it implies responsibility for others and only really functions well if it functions humanly, with respect for others. And with the different dimensions: responsibility for one's own nation and not only for oneself; responsibility for the world – even a nation is not isolated, even Europe is not isolated but is responsible for the whole of humanity and must always think about economic problems in this key of responsibility for the other parts of the world too, for all who suffer, who thirst and hunger, who have no future. And so – a third dimension of this responsibility – is responsibility for the future.

We know we must protect our planet but, all things considered, we must protect a functional service of employment for everyone and realize that tomorrow is also today. If today’s young people have no prospects in life then our own life today is misguided and “wrong”. Therefore the Church, with her social doctrine, with her doctrine on responsibility to God, proposes the readiness to give up the maxim of profit and to see things in the humanistic and religious dimension: in other words existing for each other. Thus new ways can also be found. The throngs of volunteers who are working in various parts of the world, not for themselves but for others, and who thereby find the meaning of life, show that it is possible to do this and that an education in these great goals, such as the Church tries to provide, is fundamental for our future.

Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ: Youth today generally live in multicultural and multidenominational milieus. Reciprocal tolerance is more necessary than ever. You stress the importance of truth. Do you not think that this insistence on truth and on the one Truth which is Christ is a problem for the young today? Don't you think that this insistence might lead to opposition and to difficulty in dialogue and in seeking together with others?

The Holy Father: The connection between truth and intolerance, monotheism and the incapacity for dialogue with others is a subject that recurs frequently in the discussion on Christianity today. And, of course, it is true that in history there have been instances of abuse, both of the concept of truth and of the concept of monotheism; but there has been abuse. The reality is totally different. The hypothesis is erroneous because truth is only accessible in freedom. It is possible to impose forms of conduct, observance or activity with violence, but not truth!

Truth is only open to freedom, to free consent, and therefore freedom and truth are closely tied, the one is a condition for the other. Besides, there is no alternative to seeking the truth, the true values that give life and a future: we do not want falsehood, we do not want the positivism of norms imposed with a certain force; true values alone lead to the future; and let us say that it is therefore necessary to seek true values and not to permit the arbitrariness of the few, not to let a positivist reason be established which tells us, concerning ethical problems, the great problems of humanity: that there is no rational truth. This would really be exposing man to the will of those in power. We must always be in search of the truth, of true values; we have a nucleus in the fundamental values, in human rights; other similar fundamental elements are recognized and precisely these put us in dialogue with one another. The truth as such is dialogical because it seeks to know better, to understand better and does so in dialogue with others. Thus, seeking the truth and the dignity of the human being is the greatest guarantee of freedom.

Fr Federico Lombardi, SJ: The World Youth Days are a beautiful interlude and give rise to great enthusiasm, but the young people then go home and find a world in which religious practice is rapidly diminishing. Many of them will probably not be seen again in church. How can the fruits of the World Youth Days be ensured in the future? Do you think the Days effectively produce fruits that last longer than the momentary bursts of enthusiasm?

The Holy Father: God always sows in silence. The results are not immediately apparent in the statistics. And the seed the Lord scatters on the ground with the World Youth Days is like the seed of which he speaks in the Gospel: some seeds fell along the path and were lost; some fell on rocky ground and were lost, some fell upon thorns and were lost; but other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth abundant fruit.

It is exactly like this with the sowing of the WYDs: a great deal is lost – and this is human. To borrow other words from the Lord: the mustard seed was small, but it grew and became a great tree. And with yet other words: of course, a great deal is lost, we cannot say straight away that there will be an immense growth of the Church tomorrow. God does not act in this way. However, the Church grows in silence and vigorously. I know from other World Youth Days that a great many friendships were born, friendships for life; a great many experiences that God exists. And let us place trust in this silent growth, and we may be certain, even if the statistics do not tell us much, that the Lord’s seed really grows and will be for very many people the beginning of a friendship with God and with others, of a universality of thought, of a common responsibility which really shows us that these days do bear fruit. Many thanks!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Greeting to Youth
"You Have Responded in Great Numbers to the Lord's Call to Come and Meet Him"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 18, 2011 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the welcome ceremony with the youth, held in Madrid's Cibeles Square.

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Dear Young Friends,

It is a great joy for me to meet you here in the heart of this lovely city of Madrid, whose keys the Lord Mayor has kindly presented me. Today Madrid is also the capital of the world's young people, and the gaze of the whole Church is fixed here. The Lord has brought us together here so that during these days we can experience the beauty of World Youth Day. Through your presence and your participation in these celebrations, the name of Christ will echo throughout this great City. Let us pray that his message of hope and love will also resound in the hearts of those who are not believers or who have grown distant from the Church. Many thanks for the splendid welcome which you gave me as I entered the City, as a sign of your love and closeness to the Successor of Peter.

I greet Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and his staff in that Council, with gratitude for all the work which they have done. I also thank Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, the Archbishop of Madrid, for his kind words and for the efforts made by his Archdiocese, along with the other Dioceses of Spain, in preparing this World Youth Day; my thanks also go to all those in so many other Particular Churches throughout the world who have generously contributed to its preparation. I express appreciation to the national, the autonomous regional and the local authorities for their presence and for their generous help in ensuring the good organization of this great event. My thanks go also to my brother Bishops, the priests and seminarians, the consecrated men and women and all the faithful present here today, who have helped to prepare the young people to experience these intense days of pilgrimage towards an encounter with Christ. I offer all of you a heartfelt greeting in the Lord and I repeat that it is a great blessing for me to be here with you. May the flame of Christ’s love burn always bright in your hearts.


Dear young French-speaking people, you have responded in great numbers to the Lord's call to come and meet him in Madrid. I congratulate you for this! Welcome to World Youth Day! You have brought with you profound questions, and you are seeking answers. It is always a good thing to keep seeking. Above all, seek the Truth, which is not an idea or an ideology or a slogan, but a person: Christ, God himself, who has come into our midst! You rightly wish to plant your faith in him, to ground your life in Christ. He has always loved you and he knows you better than anyone else. May these days so rich in prayer, teaching and encounters help you to rediscover this, so that you may love him all the more. May Christ accompany you during this special time when, all together, we shall sing his praises and offer him our prayers!


I extend an affectionate greeting to the many English-speaking young people who have come to Madrid. May these days of prayer, friendship and celebration bring us closer to each other and to the Lord Jesus. Make trust in Christ’s word the foundation of your lives! Planted and built up in him, firm in the faith and open to the power of the Spirit, you will find your place in God’s plan and enrich the Church with your gifts. Let us pray for one another, so that we may be joyful witnesses to Christ, today and always. God bless you all!


Dear German-speaking friends! I greet all of you with great affection. I am happy that you have come in such great numbers. During these days we want together to confess our faith in Jesus Christ, to deepen that faith and to pass it on. Let us realize ever anew that Jesus is the one who gives true meaning to our lives. Let us open our hearts to Christ. May he grant all of us a joyful and blessed time here in Madrid.


Dear young Italians! I greet you with great affection and I am delighted that so many of you have come here, filled with the joy of faith. Experience these days in a spirit of intense prayer and fraternity, and testify to the vitality of the Church in Italy, its parishes, associations and movements. Share this wealth with everyone. Thank you!


Dear young people of the different countries whose official language is Portuguese, and all those who accompany you, welcome to Madrid! I greet all of you with friendship and affection and I invite you to draw close to the eternal source of your youth and to know the absolute protagonist of this World Youth Day and – I hope – of your own lives: Christ the Lord. In these days you will personally hear his word resound. Let this word into your hearts, let it take root, and make it the foundation of your lives. Firm in the faith, you will be a link in the great chain of believers. No one can believe without being supported by the faith of others, and by my faith I also help to support others in the faith. The Church needs you, and you need the Church.


I greet the young people who have come from Poland, countrymen of Blessed John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day. I am delighted by your presence here in Madrid! I pray that these will be good days, days of prayer, in which you will strengthen your relationship with Jesus. May God’s Spirit guide you.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Response to Youth Welcome Ceremony
"Build Your Lives Upon the Firm Foundation Which Is Christ"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 18, 2011 - Here is the second address that Benedict XVI delivered today at the welcome ceremony with the youth, held in Madrid's Cibeles Square.

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Dear Friends,

Thank you for the kind words addressed to me by the young people representing the five continents. And I salute with affection all of you gathered here, young people from Oceania, Africa, America, Asia and Europe; and also those unable to be here. I always keep you very much in my heart and pray for you. God has given me the grace to see and hear you for myself and, as we gather together, to listen to his word.

In the reading which has just been proclaimed, we heard a passage from the Gospel which talks of welcoming the words of Jesus and putting them into practice. There are words which serve only to amuse, as fleeting as an empty breeze; others, to an extent, inform us; those of Jesus, on the other hand, must reach our hearts, take root and bloom there all our lives. If not, they remain empty and become ephemeral. They do not bring us to him and, as a result, Christ stays remote, just one voice among the many others around us which are so familiar. Furthermore, the Master who speaks teaches, not something learned from others, but that which he himself is, the only one who truly knows the path of man towards God, because he is the one who opened it up for us, he made it so that we might have authentic lives, lives which are always worth living, in every circumstance, and which not even death can destroy. The Gospel continues, explaining these things with the evocative image of someone who builds on solid rock, resistant to the onslaught of adversity, and in contrast to someone who builds on sand - we would say today in what appears a paradise - but which collapses with the first gust of wind and falls into ruins.

Dear young people, listen closely to the words of the Lord, that they may be for you “spirit and life” (Jn 6:63), roots which nourish your being, a rule of life which likens us - poor in spirit, thirsting for justice, merciful, pure in heart, lovers of peace - to the person of Christ. Listen regularly every day as if he were the one friend who does not deceive, the one with whom we wish to share the path of life. Of course, you know that when we do not walk beside Christ our guide, we get lost on other paths, like the path of our blind and selfish impulses, or the path of flattering but self-serving suggestions, deceiving and fickle, which leave emptiness and frustration in their wake.

Use these days to know Christ better and to make sure that, rooted in him, your enthusiasm and happiness, your desire to go further, to reach the heights, even God himself, always hold a sure future, because the fullness of life has already been placed within you. Let that life grow with divine grace, generously and without half-measures, as you remain steadfast in your aim for holiness. And, in the face of our weaknesses which sometimes overwhelm us, we can rely on the mercy of the Lord who is always ready to help us again and who offers us pardon in the sacrament of Penance.

If you build on solid rock, not only your life will be solid and stable, but it will also help project the light of Christ shining upon those of your own age and upon the whole of humanity, presenting a valid alternative to all those who have fallen short, because the essentials in their lives were inconsistent; to all those who are content to follow fashionable ideas, they take shelter in the here and now, forgetting true justice, or they take refuge in their own opinions instead of seeking the simple truth.

Indeed, there are many who, creating their own gods, believe they need no roots or foundations other than themselves. They take it upon themselves to decide what is true or not, what is good and evil, what is just and unjust; who should live and who can be sacrificed in the interests of other preferences; leaving each step to chance, with no clear path, letting themselves be led by the whim of each moment. These temptations are always lying in wait. It is important not to give in to them because, in reality, they lead to something so evanescent, like an existence with no horizons, a liberty without God. We, on the other hand, know well that we have been created free, in the image of God, precisely so that we might be in the forefront of the search for truth and goodness, responsible for our actions, not mere blind executives, but creative co-workers in the task of cultivating and beautifying the work of creation. God is looking for a responsible interlocutor, someone who can dialogue with him and love him. Through Christ we can truly succeed and, established in him, we give wings to our freedom. Is this not the great reason for our joy? Isn’t this the firm ground upon which to build the civilization of love and life, capable of humanizing all of us?

Dear friends: be prudent and wise, build your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ. This wisdom and prudence will guide your steps, nothing will make you fear and peace will reign in your hearts. Then you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others. They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.

He died for us all, rising that we might have life, and now, from the throne of the Father, he accompanies all men and women, watching continually over each one of us.

I commend the fruits of this World Youth Day to the most holy Virgin Mary, who said “Yes” to the will of God, and teaches us a unique example of fidelity to her divine son, whom she followed to his death upon the Cross. Let us meditate upon this more deeply in the Stations of the Cross. And let us pray that, like her, our “Yes” to Christ today may also be an unconditional “Yes” to his friendship, both at the end of this Day and throughout our entire lives. Thank you very much.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


King of Spain's Greeting to Benedict XVI
"Encourage the Youth ... of the Whole World to Go On Growing in Values"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 18, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address King Juan Carlos I of Spain delivered today at the ceremony, held at the State Pavilion of the Madrid-Barajas Airport, that welcomed Benedict XVI to the country on the first day of his four-day trip to the nation's capital.

The Holy Father is in Madrid through Sunday to participate in the 26th World Youth Day.

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Your Holiness,

It is from the heart that I welcome you most warmly to Spain, a country that greets you with great joy and pleasant memories of your earlier visits here, occasions on which we were privileged to enjoy your friendship and amiability.

We are honored that you are today beginning your third visit to Spain in the six years of your Pontificate.

We see this as a special distinction for our country, which we greatly esteem and appreciate.

Once again, your stay among us, and we hope you will make yourself quite at home, is pregnant with meaning and import.

We know how you have looked forward to coming to Madrid, one of Europe's most open and hospitable capitals, to meet young people from all over the world and reach out to them with the power of your word.

Hundreds of thousands of young men and women from the different parts of Spain and the four corners of the Earth eagerly await you to hold the Twenty-Sixth World Youth Day and to receive your message in all its profundity.

We are keenly aware that the organization of this event has for years expressed the Church's desire to support and stand by young people as they seek to fulfill their legitimate aspirations in this complex and interdependent world.

We also retain fond memories of the great figure of His Holiness Pope John Paul the Second, who inspired this initiative and also made his third visit to Spain to preside at the memorable Fourth World Youth Day held in 1989 in Santiago de Compostela.

Holy Father,

World Youth Day returns for a second time to Spain, a country whose young people, families and institutions are delighted to welcome all of our visitors from all over the world with open arms.

Many have come a long way to attest their ambition to make the world a better place in a climate of friendship.

In Spain they will find a country that is open to the world in its history, language and culture, and a great democratic nation that is both ancient and diverse, peace-loving and desirous of freedom and justice.

As I stressed on the occasion of your farewell from Barcelona, the artistic, cultural and religious contribution of Christianity is key to understanding Spain’s historical personality.

Spain is committed to Europe and has a profound Latin American and Mediterranean vocation. It is at the same time a nation of committed youth, amply reflected in the involvement of our young people in Cooperation and Development work and international peace keeping operations.

The deep feelings of solidarity, social commitment and eager pursuit of personal realization shown by Spanish youth, the best educated generation in our history, inspire our pride and confidence in the future.

Holy Father,

We have seen great changes in the lives of ordinary men and women and on the international scene since the First World Youth Day.

Together with progress, discoveries and new opportunities, however, poverty persists along with disease, attacks on human rights and the dignity of human beings, and above all the pain of wars and the unacceptable scourge of terrorism.

As this World Youth Day begins, we cannot but remember the countless children and young men and women who are the victims of violence, and for whom we keep a special place in our hearts today.

Your Holiness,

All of those who have come to Madrid await your teachings of peace, charity and justice to shape their lives, successfully face today’s challenges and build a better society.

These are not easy times for young people, so often frustrated by the lack of personal horizons and jobs at the same time as they rebel against the grave problems that burden humanity and today's world.

At the bottom of this, a profound crisis of values can be felt. Youth needs not only opportunity but an example from the older generation. It is not merely arguments but motivational attitudes that fill and drive young people’s existence and breathe hope into their lives.

As Your Holiness has said in your message to this World Youth Day, "To desire what is truly great is a part of being young."

We cannot afford to disappoint young people in their legitimate desire to make their dreams a reality. Their aspirations and problems must be our first priority. It is their future, but it is also the future of society as a whole.

Now is the time to redouble our support, to provide young people with all possible resources to help them make their way, to put an end to the disgrace of youth unemployment, and to encourage young people to take up the torch of the values that make humanity great.

We trust in your inspiration, Holy Father, not only to encourage the youth of Spain and of the whole world to go on growing in values, but also to make our societies more sensitive to the need to support young people's projects and hopes.

I repeat my most affectionate and cordial welcome in the name of the Queen, in my own, and in the name of the people of Spain and its institutions.

Your Holiness, we wish you a happy and fruitful stay with us, this time in the historic and beautiful city of Madrid, and in this dynamic region.

Many thanks, Your Holiness, for visiting us once again.


Pope's Words Upon Arriving in Spain
"Discovery of the Living God Inspires Young People"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 18, 2011 - Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the welcome ceremony, held at the State Pavilion of the Madrid-Barajas Airport, on the first day of his four-day trip to Spain.

King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and his wife, Queen Sofia, were on hand to greet the Pope, as were Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid and the president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, and Spanish President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The Holy Father is visiting the capital of Spain to participate in the 2011 World Youth Day, which is under way through Sunday.

* * *

Your Majesties,

Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,

Your Eminences,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Distinguished National, Autonomous Regional and Local Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Madrid and of all Spain,

I am grateful to Your Majesty for your presence together with the Queen, and for the kind and deferential words with which you welcomed me, reviving in me the unforgettable gestures of kindness which I received during my previous Apostolic Journeys to Spain, and most particularly during my recent Visit to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona. I greet very cordially those of you gathered here at Barajas and those of you following this event on radio and television. A very grateful greeting also goes to those who, with such commitment and dedication, from the ecclesiastical and civil spheres, have contributed with their efforts and work so that this World Youth Day in Madrid might unfold well and bring forth abundant fruits.

With all my heart I also wish to recognize the hospitality so many families, parishes, schools and other institutions which have welcomed young people from all over the world, firstly in various regions and cities of Spain, and now in the great cosmopolitan and welcoming city of Madrid. I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence. I come as the Successor of Peter, to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us; to exhort young people to know Christ personally as a friend and so, rooted in his person, to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses.

Why has this multitude of young people come to Madrid? While they themselves should give the reply, it may be supposed that they wish to hear the word of God, as the motto for this World Youth Day proposed to them, in such a way that, rooted and built upon Christ, they may manifest the strength of their faith.

Many of them have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which he has in their lives. The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations. They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life. But, with God beside them, they will possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected. Here on this Day, they have a special opportunity to gather together their aspirations, to share the richness of their cultures and experiences, motivate each other along a journey of faith and life, in which some think they are alone or ignored in their daily existence. But they are not alone. Many people of the same age have the same aspirations and, entrusting themselves completely to Christ, know that they really have a future before them and are not afraid of the decisive commitments which fulfill their entire lives. That is why it gives me great joy to listen to them, pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them. World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world.

Of course, there is no lack of difficulties. There are tensions and ongoing conflicts all over the world, even to the shedding of blood. Justice and the unique value of the human person are easily surrendered to selfish, material and ideological interests. Nature and the environment, created by God with so much love, are not respected. Moreover, many young people look worriedly to the future, as they search for work, or because they have lost their job or because the one they have is precarious or uncertain. There are others who need help either to avoid drugs or to recover from their use. There are even some who, because of their faith in Christ, suffer discrimination which leads to contempt and persecution, open or hidden, which they endure in various regions and countries. They are harassed to give him up, depriving them of the signs of his presence in public life, not allowing even the mention of his holy name. But, with all my heart, I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us.

In this regard, the young followers of Jesus must be aided to remain firm in the faith and to embrace the beautiful adventure of proclaiming it and witnessing to it openly with their lives. A witness that is courageous and full of love for their brothers and sisters, resolute and at the same time prudent, without hiding its Christian identity, living together with other legitimate choices in a spirit of respect while at the same time demanding due respect for one’s own choices.

Your Majesty, as I reiterate my thanks for the kind welcome which you gave to me, I in turn wish to express my esteem for and nearness to all the peoples of Spain, as well as my admiration for a country so rich in history and in culture through the vitality of its faith, which has borne fruit in so many saints over the centuries, in numerous men and women who, leaving their native land, brought the Gospel to every corner of the globe, and in people through all this land who act with rectitude, solidarity and goodness. It is a great treasure which should be cared for constructively, for the common good of today and in order to offer a bright horizon to future generations. Although there are currently some reasons for concern, the greatest one is the desire for the betterment of all Spaniards with that dynamism which characterizes them and to which their deep and very fruitful Christian roots have contributed so much down through the centuries.

From this place I send very cordial greetings to you all, dear friends of Spain and Madrid, and those of you from other lands. During these days I will be with you, thinking of all young people in the world, in particular those who are going through various kinds of trial. Entrusting this Meeting to the most holy Virgin Mary, and to the patron saints of this Day, I ask God always to bless and protect the sons and daughters of Spain. Thank you very much.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pontiff's Press Conference en Route to Madrid
"For Many People It Will Be the Beginning of a Friendship With God"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, AUG. 18, 2011 - Here is a transcription and translation of the press conference Benedict XVI gave today en route to Madrid, where he will lead World Youth Day.

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Q: Madrid's is the 26th World Youth Day. At the beginning of your pontificate, we wondered if you would continue in your predecessor's wake. What significance do you see for these events within the pastoral strategy of the universal Church?

Benedict XVI: Dear friends, good morning. I am delighted to travel with you to Spain for this great event.

After living two World Youth Days firsthand, I can say that it was truly an inspiration given to Pope John Paul II when he created this reality: a great meeting of young people of the world with the Lord. I would say that these WYDs are a sign, a cascade of light -- they give visibility to the faith, visibility to the presence of God in the world, and thus give the courage to be believers. Often, believers feel isolated in this world, somewhat lost. Here they see that they are not alone, that there is a great network of faith, a great community of believers in the world. [They see that] it is lovely to live in this universal friendship, and in this way friendships are born that cross the borders of cultures, of countries. The birth of a universal network of friendship that unites the world with God is an important reality for the future of humanity, for the life of humanity today.

Naturally, WYD cannot be an isolated event; it is part of a greater journey. This journey of the cross must be prepared, which transmigrates to different countries and involves young people with the sign of the cross and the sign of the image of the Virgin. In this way the preparation of WYD, much more than a technical preparation -- and it is an event with many technical problems -- is an interior preparation, a going out to others and, together, to God. Thus groups of friendship are created. This universal contact opens the borders of cultures in a continuous journey, which then leads to a new summit, a new WYD. I think WYD should be considered in this sense as a sign, as part of a great journey; it creates friendships, opens borders, makes visible that it is beautiful to be with God, that God is with us. In this connection, we wish to continue with this great idea of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

Q: Europe and the Western world are going through a profound economic crisis, which also shows signs of a great social and moral crisis, of great uncertainty for the future, particularly painful for young people. What messages can the Church offer to give hope and encouragement to the young people of the world?

Benedict XVI: [We see] confirmed in the present economic crisis what has already been seen in the great preceding crisis: that an ethical dimension is not something exterior to economic problems, but an interior and fundamental dimension. The economy does not function with mercantile self-regulation alone, but it has need of an ethical reason to function for man. This can be seen in what was already said in John Paul II's first social encyclical: Man must be at the center of the economy and the economy must not be measured according to greatest profit, but according to the good of all. It includes responsibility for the other, and it really functions well only if it functions in a human way in regard to the other, in his various dimensions: responsibility with one's nation, and not just with oneself, responsibility with the world. Nations are not isolated, not even Europe is isolated, but they are responsible for the whole of humanity and must always think of addressing economic problems in a context of responsibility, in particular with the other parts of the world, with those who suffer, who are thirsty and hungry, and have no future. Hence, the third dimension of this responsibility is responsibility with the future: We know that we must protect our planet, but we must protect the functioning of the service of economic work for all and think that tomorrow is also today. If the young people of today do not find prospects in their life, our today is also mistaken, it is wrong. Therefore, the Church with her social doctrine, with her doctrine on responsibility before God, opens one to the capacity of giving up the greatest profit and seeing in realities the humanistic and religious dimension, that is, that we are made for one another and so it is also possible to open paths -- as happens with the great number of volunteers who work in different parts of the world not for themselves, but for others, and thus they find the meaning of their life. This can be achieved with an education in the great objectives, as the Church tries to do. This is essential for our future.

Q: I would like to ask you about the relationship between truth and multi-culturalism. Can insistence on the one Truth that is Christ be a problem for young people of today?

Benedict XVI: The relationship between truth and intolerance, monotheism and an incapacity for dialogue with others, is a discussion that frequently is taken up for debate regarding Christianity today. And of course it is true that in history there have been abuses, both of the concept of truth as well as the concept of monotheism. There have been abuses, but the reality is totally different, as truth is only accessible in liberty. A behavior, observances, a way of acting can be imposed with violence, but not truth. Truth opens only to free consent and, for this reason, liberty and truth are united intimately, one is condition of the other. Moreover, we seek truth, authentic values that give life to the future. Without a doubt, we do not want lies, we do not want the Positivism of norms imposed with a certain force. Only authentic values lead to the future and hence it is necessary to seek authentic values and not leave them to the will of some, not allow a positivist reason to be imposed that tells us that there is no rational truth on ethical problems and on man's great problems. This means exposing man to the will of those who have power. We must always be in search of truth, of values; we have fundamental human rights. These fundamental rights are known and recognized and, in fact, this puts us in dialogue with one another. Truth as such is open-minded, as it seeks to know better, to understand better, and it does so in dialogue with others. Thus, to seek truth and man's dignity is the best defense of liberty.

Q: What must be done for the positive experience of the WYD to continue in daily life?

Benedict XVI: God's sowing is always silent; it does not appear in the statistics, and the seed that the Lord sows with WYD is like the seed of which the Gospel speaks: part falls on the road and is lost; part falls on stone and is lost; part falls on thorns and is lost; but a part falls on good earth and gives much fruit. This is, in fact, what happens with the sowing of WYD: Much is lost and this is human. To use other words of the Lord, the mustard seed is small, but it grows and becomes a great tree. Certainly much is lost. We cannot say that starting tomorrow a great growth will begin in the Church. God does not act like this. [His seed] grows in silence. I know that other WYDs have awakened friendships, friendships for life; so many new experiences that God exists. And we trust in this silent growth, and we are certain that, although the statistics do not say much about it, the Lord's seed really grows. And for many people it will be the beginning of a friendship with God and with others, of a universality of thought, of a common responsibility that really shows that these days give fruit.


Benedict XVI's Reflection on Way of the Cross
"The Cross Was Not a Sign of Failure, but an Expression of Self-Giving in Love"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 19, 2011 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered at the end of a celebration of the Way of the Cross with young people at Plaza de Cibeles. The event is part of the 26th World Youth Day, which is under way through Sunday.

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Dear Young People,

We have celebrated this Way of the Cross with fervour and devotion, following Christ along the path of his passion and death. The commentaries of the Little Sisters of the Cross, who serve the poor and most needy, have helped us enter into the mystery of Christ’s glorious Cross, wherein is found God’s true wisdom which judges the world and judges those who consider themselves wise (cf. 1 Cor 1:17-19). We have also been assisted on this journey to Calvary by our contemplation of these wonderful images from the religious patrimony of the Spanish dioceses. In these images, faith and art combine so as to penetrate our heart and summon us to conversion.

When faith’s gaze is pure and authentic, beauty places itself at its service and is able to depict the mysteries of our salvation in such a way as to move us profoundly and transform our hearts, as Saint Teresa of Jesus herself experienced while contemplating an image of the wounded Christ (cf. Autobiography, 9:1).

As we were making our way with Jesus towards the place of his sacrifice on Mount Calvary, the words of Saint Paul came to mind: "Christ loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). In the face of such disinterested love, we find ourselves asking, filled with wonder and gratitude: What can we do for him? What response shall we give him? Saint John puts it succinctly: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 Jn 3:16). Christ’s passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world, in the certainty that God is not distant or far removed from man and his troubles. On the contrary, he became one of us "in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way — in flesh and blood ... hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love — and so the star of hope rises" (Spe Salvi, 39).

Dear young friends, may Christ’s love for us increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate. You are open to the idea of sharing your lives with others, so be sure not to pass by on the other side in the face of human suffering, for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion. The different forms of suffering that have unfolded before our eyes in the course of this Way of the Cross are the Lord’s way of summoning us to spend our lives following in his footsteps and becoming signs of his consolation and salvation. "To suffer with the other and for others; to suffer for the sake of truth and justice; to suffer out of love and in order to become a person who truly loves — these are fundamental elements of humanity, and to abandon them would destroy man himself" (ibid.).

Let us eagerly welcome these teachings and put them into practice. Let us look upon Christ, hanging on the harsh wood of the Cross, and let us ask him to teach us this mysterious wisdom of the Cross, by which man lives. The Cross was not a sign of failure, but an expression of self-giving in love that extends even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life. The Father wanted to show his love for us through the embrace of his crucified Son: crucified out of love. The Cross, by its shape and its meaning, represents this love of both the Father and the Son for men. Here we recognize the icon of supreme love, which teaches us to love what God loves and in the way that he loves: this is the Good News that gives hope to the world.

Let us turn our gaze now to the Virgin Mary, who was given to us on Calvary to be our Mother, and let us ask her to sustain us with her loving protection along the path of life, particularly when we pass through the night of suffering, so that we may be able to remain steadfast, as she did, at the foot of the Cross.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Holy Father's Words to University Professors
"You Provide a Splendid Service in the Spread of Truth"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 19, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon addressing a gathering of young university professors at the Basilica of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Madrid. The Pope is in the Spanish capital to preside at the 26th World Youth Day, which is under way through Sunday.

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Your Eminence,
My Brother Bishops,
Dear Augustinian Fathers,
Dear Professors,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Friends,

I have looked forward to this meeting with you, young professors in the universities of Spain. You provide a splendid service in the spread of truth, in circumstances that are not always easy. I greet you warmly and I thank you for your kind words of welcome and for the music which has marvelously resounded in this magnificent monastery, for centuries an eloquent witness to the life of prayer and study. In this highly symbolic place, reason and faith have harmoniously blended in the austere stone to shape one of Spain’s most renowned monuments.

I also greet with particular affection those of you who took part in the recent World Congress of Catholic Universities held in Avila on the theme: "The Identity and Mission of the Catholic University".

Being here with you, I am reminded of my own first steps as a professor at the University of Bonn. At the time, the wounds of war were still deeply felt and we had many material needs; these were compensated by our passion for an exciting activity, our interaction with colleagues of different disciplines and our desire to respond to the deepest and most basic concerns of our students. This experience of a "Universitas" of professors and students who together seek the truth in all fields of knowledge, or as Alfonso X the Wise put it, this "counsel of masters and students with the will and understanding needed to master the various disciplines" (Siete Partidas, partida II, tit. XXXI), helps us to see more clearly the importance, and even the definition, of the University.

The theme of the present World Youth Day – "Rooted and Built Up in Christ, and Firm in the Faith" (cf. Col 2:7) can also shed light on your efforts to understand more clearly your own identity and what you are called to do. As I wrote in my Message to Young People in preparation for these days, the terms "rooted, built up and firm" all point to solid foundations on which we can construct our lives (cf. No. 2).

But where will young people encounter those reference points in a society, which is increasingly confused and unstable? At times one has the idea that the mission of a university professor nowadays is exclusively that of forming competent and efficient professionals capable of satisfying the demand for labor at any given time. One also hears it said that the only thing that matters at the present moment is pure technical ability. This sort of utilitarian approach to education is in fact becoming more widespread, even at the university level, promoted especially by sectors outside the University. All the same, you who, like myself, have had an experience of the University, and now are members of the teaching staff, surely are looking for something more lofty and capable of embracing the full measure of what it is to be human. We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity.

In truth, the University has always been, and is always called to be, the "house" where one seeks the truth proper to the human person. Consequently it was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities, for Christian faith speaks to us of Christ as the Word through whom all things were made (cf. Jn 1:3) and of men and women as made in the image and likeness of God. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view man solely as a consumer.

Here we see the vital importance of your own mission. You yourselves have the honor and responsibility of transmitting the ideal of the University: an ideal which you have received from your predecessors, many of whom were humble followers of the Gospel and, as such, became spiritual giants. We should feel ourselves their successors, in a time quite different from their own, yet one in which the essential human questions continue to challenge and stimulate us. With them, we realize that we are a link in that chain of men and women committed to teaching the faith and making it credible to human reason. And we do this not simply by our teaching, but by the way we live our faith and embody it, just as the Word took flesh and dwelt among us. Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth. Youth is a privileged time for seeking and encountering truth. As Plato said: "Seek truth while you are young, for if you do not, it will later escape your grasp" (Parmenides, 135d). This lofty aspiration is the most precious gift which you can give to your students, personally and by example. It is more important than mere technical know-how, or cold and purely functional data.

I urge you, then, never to lose that sense of enthusiasm and concern for truth. Always remember that teaching is not just about communicating content, but about forming young people. You need to understand and love them, to awaken their innate thirst for truth and their yearning for transcendence. Be for them a source of encouragement and strength.

For this to happen, we need to realize in the first place that the path to the fullness of truth calls for complete commitment: it is a path of understanding and love, of reason and faith. We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love; or, for that matter, love something which does not strike us as reasonable.

"Understanding and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in understanding and understanding is full of love" (Caritas in Veritate, 30). If truth and goodness go together, so too do knowledge and love. This unity leads to consistency in life and thought, that ability to inspire demanded of every good educator.

In the second place, we need to recognize that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp. We can seek it and draw near to it, but we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us. In intellectual and educational activity the virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride, which bars the way to truth. We must not draw students to ourselves, but set them on the path toward the truth, which we seek together. The Lord will help you in this, for he asks you to be plain and effective like salt, or like the lamp which quietly lights the room (cf. Mt 5:13).

All these things, finally, remind us to keep our gaze fixed on Christ, whose face radiates the Truth which enlightens us. Christ is also the Way, which leads to lasting fulfillment; he walks constantly at our side and sustains us with his love. Rooted in him, you will prove good guides to our young people. With this confidence I invoke upon you the protection of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. May she help you to cooperate with her Son by living a life which is personally satisfying and which brings forth rich fruits of knowledge and faith for your students. Thank you very much.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pontiff's Address to Young Women Religious
"We Need That Radicalism to Which Your Consecration ... Bears Witness"?

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 19, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon addressing a gathering of young women religious at the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in Madrid. The Pope is in the Spanish capital to preside at the 26th World Youth Day, which is under way through Sunday.

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Dear Young Women Religious,

As part of the World Youth Day which we are celebrating in Madrid, I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet you who have consecrated your youth to the Lord, and I thank you for the kind greeting you have given me. I also thank the Archbishop of Madrid, who arranged for this meeting in the evocative setting of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Its famous library preserves important editions of the sacred Scriptures and the monastic rules of various religious families, yet your own lives of fidelity to the calling you have received is itself a precious means of preserving the word of the Lord, which resounds in your various spiritual traditions.

Dear Sisters, every charism is an evangelical word which the Holy Spirit recalls to the Church’s memory (cf. Jn 14:26). It is not by accident that consecrated life "is born from hearing the word of God and embracing the Gospel as its rule of life. A life devoted to following Christ in his chastity, poverty and obedience becomes a living ‘exegesis’ of God’s word… Every charism and every rule springs from it and seeks to be an expression of it, thus opening up new pathways of Christian living marked by the radicalism of the Gospel" (Verbum Domini, 83).

This Gospel radicalism means being "rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith" (cf. Col 2:7). In the consecrated life, this means going to the very root of the love of Jesus Christ with an undivided heart, putting nothing ahead of this love (cf. SAINT BENEDICT, Rule, IV, 21) and being completely devoted to him, the Bridegroom, as were the Saints, like Rose of Lima and Rafael Arnáiz, the young patrons of this World Youth Day. Your lives must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. This is all the more important today when "we see a certain ‘eclipse of God’ taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity" (Message for the 2011 World Youth Day, 1). In a world of relativism and mediocrity, we need that radicalism to which your consecration, as a way of belonging to the God who is loved above all things, bears witness.

This Gospel radicalism proper to the consecrated life finds expression in filial communion with the Church, the home of the children of God, built by Christ: communion with her Pastors who set forth in the Lord’s name the deposit of faith received from the apostles, the ecclesial Magisterium and the Christian tradition; communion with your own religious families as you gratefully preserve their authentic spiritual patrimony while valuing other charisms; and communion with other members of the Church, such as the laity, who are called to make their own specific calling a testimony to the one Gospel of the Lord.

Finally, Gospel radicalism finds expression in the mission God has chosen to entrust to us: from the contemplative life, which welcomes into its cloisters the word of God in eloquent silence and adores his beauty in the solitude which he alone fills, to the different paths of the apostolic life, in whose furrows the seed of the Gospel bears fruit in the education of children and young people, the care of the sick and elderly, the pastoral care of families, commitment to respect for life, witness to the truth and the proclamation of peace and charity, mission work and the new evangelization, and so many other sectors of the Church’s apostolate.

Dear Sisters, this is the witness of holiness to which God is calling you, as you follow Jesus Christ closely and unconditionally in consecration, communion and mission. The Church needs your youthful fidelity, rooted and built up in Christ. Thank you for your generous, total and perpetual "yes" to the call of the Loved One. I pray that the Virgin Mary may sustain and accompany your consecrated youth, with the lively desire that it will challenge, nourish and illumine all young people.

With these sentiments, I ask God to repay abundantly the generous contribution which consecrated life has made to this World Youth Day. In his name, and with great gratitude, I give you my affectionate blessing.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Cardinal Rouco's Words of Welcome to Pontiff
"May These Next Few Days Together Be Filled With Happiness"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 18, 2011 ( Here is the greeting that Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid and president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, gave today to Benedict XVI at the welcome ceremony with youth, held in Madrid's Cibeles Square.

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Holy Father,

You have arrived in Madrid, the capital of Spain, to preside over the 26th World Youth Day. Young people of the five continents have welcomed you at the historical Puerta de Alcala after which the Mayor has given you the keys to this City, an open hearted and noble city where no one is a stranger, but a brother. We find ourselves in the Plaza de Cibeles, the most emblematic and popular of all Madrid plazas, and today it welcomes the festive presence of this immense multitude of young people who have come from every corner of the world and receive you with joyful and boundless enthusiasm as the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Many arrived in Madrid along with a great number of their Spanish companions after a fruitful pilgrimage organised by the dioceses, cities and towns of Spain. Here they are, dear Holy Father, to live this encounter with you, like children and brothers and sisters of the same Church: the new city of God, which knows no borders!

They have made this great project their own, this spiritual and apostolic objective, which the Father and Shepherd of the Universal Church has proposed to them: that their lives are planted and built up in Christ; that they remain firm in the faith, the faith in Jesus Christ, their Brother, their Friend, their Lord, their Saviour! Their blessed and radiant joy is easily explainable, beloved Holy Father. The successor of Peter, "the Vicar of Christ and visible Head of the whole Church, the house of the living God" (LG. 18) has come to this gathering to strengthen them in that faith which opens their hearts to the grace and love of Jesus Christ, which has the ability to change their lives forever and fill them with joy, a contagious joy capable of transforming not only their own lives, but also the lives of their families and home towns. The Pope calls to them to be "witnesses of joy" and that they will be. Spain, this old nation and community of towns whose history began with the word and embrace of Apostolic Preaching, is experiencing it once again. You can see that these young people, who since last Tuesday have filled the streets and plazas of Madrid, and the week before those of many places in Spain, have a deep sense of their purpose in life, because they are filled with the truth, because they are filled with Christ.

Madrid, dear Holy Father, its' Diocese, its' member Dioceses and all the Dioceses of Spain, welcome you with deep gratitude, feeling and sharing the same ardour of love for the Pope that these young people are feeling and demonstrating. Your visit is a visit of exceptional value. With you comes the "Young Church," accompanied by her diocesan bishops, priests, and consecrated members in numbers representative of a truly universal "catholic" Church! Christ Resurrected is passing by!

And so with the Church of Spain, the society and authorities of Spain, and most importantly, the immense majority of Spaniards receive and greet you with the reverent and noble feelings appropriate to a people with a 2000 year old Christian tradition and are exceedingly generous and willing to do whatever necessary for the success of this World Youth Day! The people of Spain!

Welcome dear Holy Father! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Madrid and the whole of Spain, the Church and all society, welcome you with the doors of their homes and their hearts wide open!

The Prayers of our contemplative communities as well as a countless number of dear souls will accompany us these next few days with a tremendous sense of love for the Pope, the Church and her young people. We entrust ourselves to the maternal care of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Almudena, Patron Saint of Madrid!

May these next few days together be filled with happiness, dear Holy Father! Blessed be the Risen Christ!


Papal Address Cut Off by the Rain
Benedict XVI Thanks Youth for Their Joy, Resistance

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 20, 2011 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI had prepared to give at today's World Youth Day prayer vigil. A sudden rainstorm and high winds interrupted the Holy Father after just the first two paragraphs.

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Dear Young Friends,

I greet all of you, especially the young people who have asked me their questions, and I thank them for the sincerity with which they set forth their concerns, that express the longing which all of you have to achieve something great in life, something which can bring you fulfilment and happiness.

How can a young person be true to the faith and yet continue to aspire to high ideals in today’s society? In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus gives us an answer to this urgent question: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love" (Jn 15:9).

Yes, dear friends, God loves us. This is the great truth of our life; it is what makes everything else meaningful. We are not the product of blind chance or absurdity; instead our life originates as part of a loving plan of God. To abide in his love, then, means living a life rooted in faith, since faith is more than the mere acceptance of certain abstract truths: it is an intimate relationship with Christ, who enables us to open our hearts to this mystery of love and to live as men and women conscious of being loved by God.

If you abide in the love of Christ, rooted in the faith, you will encounter, even amid setbacks and suffering, the source of true happiness and joy. Faith does not run counter to your highest ideals; on the contrary, it elevates and perfects those ideals. Dear young people, do not be satisfied with anything less than Truth and Love, do not be content with anything less than Christ.

Nowadays, although the dominant culture of relativism all around us has given up on the search for truth, even if it is the highest aspiration of the human spirit, we need to speak with courage and humility of the universal significance of Christ as the Saviour of humanity and the source of hope for our lives. He who took upon himself our afflictions, is well acquainted with the mystery of human suffering and manifests his loving presence in those who suffer. They in their turn, united to the passion of Christ, share closely in his work of redemption. Furthermore, our disinterested attention towards the sick and the forgotten will always be a humble and warm testimony of God’s compassionate regard.

Dear friends, may no adversity paralyze you. Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness. The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.

During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path he maps out for us.

The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfilment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.

Christ calls others to follow him more closely in the priesthood or in consecrated life. It is hard to put into words the happiness you feel when you know that Jesus seeks you, trusts in you, and with his unmistakable voice also says to you: "Follow me!" (cf. Mk 2:14).

Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in his love as his friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such "friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us" (cf. Autobiography, 8).

And so I now ask you to "abide" in the adoration of Christ, truly present in the Eucharist. I ask you to enter into conversation with him, to bring before him your questions and to listen to his voice. Dear friends, I pray for you with all my heart. And I ask you to pray for me. Tonight let us ask the Lord to grant that, attracted by the beauty of his love, we may always live faithfully as his disciples. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Greetings to Youth at Prayer Vigil
"Christ Alone Can Respond to Your Aspirations"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 20, 2011 - Here is the Vatican translation of the greetings Benedict XVI gave in various languages at today's World Youth Day prayer vigil. A sudden rainstorm and high winds interrupted the Holy Father's discourse, and after thanking the youth for their joy and strength, he concluded with the following greetings.

* * *


Dear young French-speakers, be proud of the gift of faith which you have received, as it will illumine your life at every moment. Draw strength from the faith of your neighbours, from the faith of the Church! Through faith we are grounded in Christ. Gather with others to deepen it, be faithful to the celebration of the Eucharist, the mystery of faith par excellence. Christ alone can respond to your aspirations. Let yourselves be seized by God, so that your presence in the Church will give her new life!


Dear young people, in these moments of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, let us raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives and of the future. May he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole Church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world.


Dear young Christians from the German-speaking countries! Deep in our hearts we yearn for what is grand and beautiful in life. Do not let your desires and aspirations dissipate, but ground them in Jesus Christ. He himself is the sure foundation, the point of reference, for building up your life.


I now turn to the Italian-speaking young people. Dear friends, this vigil will remain as an unforgettable experience in your lives. Guard the flame which God has lit in your hearts tonight. Never let it go out, renew it each day, share it with your contemporaries who live in darkness and who are seeking a light for their way. Thank you! Until tomorrow morning!


My dear friends, I invite each of you to enter into a personal dialogue with Christ, sharing with him your hesitations and above all listening to his voice. The Lord is here and he is calling you! Young friends, it is good to hear within us the word of Jesus and to follow in his footsteps. Ask the Lord to help you to discover your vocation in life and in the Church, and to persevere in it with joy and fidelity, knowing that he never abandons you or betrays you! He remains with us until the end of the world.


Dear young friends from Poland! This prayer vigil is filled with the presence of Christ. Grounded in his love, draw near to him with the flame of your faith. He will fill your hearts with his life. Build your lives on Christ and on his Gospel. I willingly bless all of you.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Youth With Illnesses and Disabilities
"The Lives of These Young People Surely Touch Human Hearts"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon his visit to the Foundation of Saint Joseph's Institute.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Priests and Religious of the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Young People, Family Members and Volunteers,

I thank you most sincerely for your kind greeting and heartfelt welcome.

This evening, just before the Prayer Vigil with the young people from throughout the world gathered in Madrid for this World Youth Day, we have this chance to spend time together as a way of showing the Pope’s closeness and esteem for each of you, for your families and for all those who help and care for you in this Foundation of Saint Joseph's Institute.

Youth, as I have said more than once, is the age when life discloses itself to us with all its rich possibilities, inspiring us to seek the lofty goals which give it meaning. So when suffering appears on the horizon of a young life, we are shaken; perhaps we ask ourselves: "Can life still be something grand, even when suffering unexpectedly enters it?" In my Encyclical on Christian Hope, I observed that "the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer … A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through 'com-passion' is a cruel and inhuman society" (Spe Salvi, 38). These words reflect a long tradition of humanity which arises from Christ's own self-offering on the Cross for us and for our redemption. Jesus and, in his footsteps, his Sorrowful Mother and the saints, are witnesses who shows us how to experience the tragedy of suffering for our own good and for the salvation of the world.

These witnesses speak to us, first and foremost, of the dignity of all human life, created in the image of God. No suffering can efface this divine image imprinted in the depths of our humanity. But there is more: because the Son of God wanted freely to embrace suffering and death, we are also capable of seeing God's image in the face of those who suffer. This preferential love of the Lord for the suffering helps us to see others more clearly and to give them, above and beyond their material demands, the look of love which they need. But this can only happen as the fruit of a personal encounter with Christ. You yourselves – as religious, family members, health care professionals and volunteers who daily live and work with these young people – know this well. Your lives and your committed service proclaim the greatness to which every human being is called: to show compassion and loving concern to the suffering, just as God himself did. In your noble work we hear an echo of the words found in the Gospel: "just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40).

At the same time, you are also witnesses of the immense goodness which the lives of these young people represent for those who love them, and for humanity as a whole. In a mysterious yet real way, their presence awakens in our often hardened hearts a tenderness which opens us to salvation. The lives of these young people surely touch human hearts and for that reason we are grateful to the Lord for having known them.

Dear friends, our society, which all too often questions the inestimable value of life, of every life, needs you: in a decisive way you help to build the civilization of love. What is more, you play a leading role in that civilization. As sons and daughters of the Church, you offer the Lord your lives, with all their ups and downs, cooperating with him and somehow becoming "part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race" (Spe Salvi, 40).

With great affection, and through the intercession of Saint Joseph, Saint John of God and Saint Benito Menni, I commend you to God our Lord: may he be your strength and your reward. As a pledge of his love, I cordially impart to you, and to your families and friends, my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to WYD Organizers
"Good Things Bring Us Together"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the organizing committee of the 26th World Youth Day.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Apostolic Nunciature, and to thank you warmly for all that you have done for the organization of this World Youth Day.

I know very well that, from the moment that it was made public that the Archdiocese of Madrid had been chosen as the centre for this initiative, His Eminence Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela launched the work of the Local Organizing Committee in which all those responsible for the different areas involved in an undertaking of this size worked together, coordinated by Bishop César Augusto Franco Martínez, with a deep sense of ecclesial belonging and an extraordinary affection for the Vicar of Christ. Only love for the Church and zeal to evangelize young people can explain this generous commitment of time and energy, which will bear much apostolic fruit. Over the months you have offered your best to the service of the Church’s mission. May God reward you for it a hundredfold, and not just you but your families and your institutions which with self-sacrifice have supported your dedication and care. Since Jesus tells us that not even a cup of water given in his name will go without reward, how much more will be rewarded the daily and unceasing contribution to the organization of a church event of such importance as the one we are now celebrating! Thank you to each one of you.

Similarly, I wish to offer my thanks to the members of the Mixed Commission formed by the Archdiocese of Madrid and the national Government offices, the Community of Madrid and the City Hall which, since the beginning of this World Youth Day, was set up with its gaze fixed upon the hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims coming to Madrid, a city open, beautiful and welcoming. Certainly, without this diligent cooperation, it would not have been possible to realize an event of such complexity and importance. In this regard, I know that many groups placed themselves at the disposal of the Local Organizing Committee, sparing no effort and in an atmosphere of friendly cooperation, which is a credit to this noble nation and to the well-known spirit of hospitality of the Spanish people.

The effectiveness of the Commission shows that cooperation between the Church and local authorities is possible, and not only when they work together on an initiative of such great significance, like the present one, proving the principle that good things bring us together. For this reason, I would like to express to the representatives of the various institutions that have worked boldly for the success of this World Day, my warm and heartfelt thanks in the name of the Church and of the young people who are now enjoying your welcome and diligence.

Upon all of you, as well as upon your families and institutions, I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings. Thank you very much.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Mass With Seminarians
"We Have to Be Saints"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 20, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Mass with seminarians during the context of the 26th World Youth Day, under way in Madrid.

* * *

Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid,

Dear Brother Bishops,

Dear Priests and Religious,

Dear Rectors and Formators,

Dear Seminarians,

Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to celebrate Holy Mass with you who aspire to be Christ’s priests for the service of the Church and of man, and I thank you for the kind words with which you welcomed me. Today, this holy cathedral church of Santa María La Real de la Almudena is like a great Upper Room, where the Lord greatly desires to celebrate the Passover with you who wish one day to preside in his name at the mysteries of salvation. Looking at you, I again see proof of how Christ continues to call young disciples and to make them his apostles, thus keeping alive the mission of the Church and the offer of the Gospel to the world. As seminarians you are on the path towards a sacred goal: to continue the mission which Christ received from the Father. Called by him, you have followed his voice and, attracted by his loving gaze, you now advance towards the sacred ministry. Fix your eyes upon him who through his incarnation is the supreme revelation of God to the world and who through his resurrection faithfully fulfills his promise. Give thanks to him for this sign of favour in which he holds each one of you.

The first reading which we heard shows us Christ as the new and eternal priest who made of himself a perfect offering. The response to the psalm may be aptly applied to him since, at his coming into the world, he said to the Father, "Here I am to do your will" (cf. Ps 39:8). He tried to please him in all things: in his words and actions, along the way or welcoming sinners. His life was one of service and his longing was a constant prayer, placing himself in the name of all before the Father as the first-born son of many brothers and sisters. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews states that, by a single offering, he brought to perfection for all time those of us who are called to share his sonship (cf. Heb10:14).

The Eucharist, whose institution is mentioned in the Gospel just proclaimed (cf. Lk 22:14-20), is the real expression of that unconditional offering of Jesus for all, even for those who betrayed him. It was the offering of his body and blood for the life of mankind and for the forgiveness of sins. His blood, a sign of life, was given to us by God as a covenant, so that we might apply the force of his life wherever death reigns due to our sins, and thus destroy it. Christ’s body broken and his blood outpoured – the surrender of his freedom – became through these Eucharistic signs the new source of mankind’s redeemed freedom. In Christ, we have the promise of definitive redemption and the certain hope of future blessings. Through Christ we know that we are not walking towards the abyss, the silence of nothingness or death, but are rather pilgrims on the way to a promised land, on the way to him who is our end and our beginning.

Dear friends, you are preparing yourselves to become apostles with Christ and like Christ, and to accompany your fellow men and women along their journey as companions and servants. How should you behave during these years of preparation? First of all, they should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ through his Holy Spirit, as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners his friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. The holiness of the Church is above all the objective holiness of the very person of Christ, of his Gospel and his sacraments, the holiness of that power from on high which enlivens and impels it. We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify.

Meditate well upon this mystery of the Church, living the years of your formation in deep joy, humbly, clear-mindedly and with radical fidelity to the Gospel, in an affectionate relation to the time spent and the people among whom you live. No one chooses the place or the people to whom he is sent, and every time has its own challenges; but in every age God gives the right grace to face and overcome those challenges with love and realism. That is why, no matter the circumstances in which he finds and however difficult they may be, the priest must grow in all kinds of good works, keeping alive within him the words spoken on his Ordination day, by which he was exhorted to model his life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

To be modeled on Christ, dear seminarians, is to be identified ever more closely with him who, for our sake, became servant, priest and victim. To be modeled on him is in fact the task upon which the priest spends his entire life. We already know that it is beyond us and we will not fully succeed but, as St Paul says, we run towards the goal, hoping to reach it (cf. Phil 3:12-14).

That said, Christ the High Priest is also the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep, even giving his life for them (cf. Jn 10:11). In order to liken yourselves to the Lord in this as well, your heart must mature while in seminary, remaining completely open to the Master. This openness, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, inspires the decision to live in celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and, leaving aside the world’s goods, live in austerity of life and sincere obedience, without pretence.

Ask him to let you imitate him in his perfect charity towards all, so that you do not shun the excluded and sinners, but help them convert and return to the right path. Ask him to teach you how to be close to the sick and the poor in simplicity and generosity. Face this challenge without anxiety or mediocrity, but rather as a beautiful way of living our human life in gratuitousness and service, as witnesses of God made man, messengers of the supreme dignity of the human person and therefore its unconditional defenders. Relying on his love, do not be intimidated by surroundings that would exclude God and in which power, wealth and pleasure are frequently the main criteria ruling people’s lives. You may be shunned along with others who propose higher goals or who unmask the false gods before whom many now bow down. That will be the moment when a life deeply rooted in Christ will clearly be seen as something new and it will powerfully attract those who truly search for God, truth and justice.

Under the guidance of your formators, open your hearts to the light of the Lord, to see if this path which demands courage and authenticity is for you. Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church’s precepts.

With this confidence, learn from him who described himself as meek and humble of heart, leaving behind all earthly desire for his sake so that, rather than pursuing your own good, you build up your brothers and sisters by the way you live, as did the patron saint of the diocesan clergy of Spain, St John of Avila. Moved by his example, look above all to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Priests. She will know how to mould your hearts according to the model of Christ, her divine Son, and she will teach you how to treasure for ever all that he gained on Calvary for the salvation of the world. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Life After World Youth Day
"Help the Church Grow ... in the Hearts of Many"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 21, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before and after reciting the midday Angelus with the youth attending the 2011 World Youth Day, held at Cuatro Vientos Air Base in Madrid.

* * *

Dear Friends,

You are now about to go back home. Your friends will want to know how you have changed after being in this lovely city with the Pope and with hundreds of thousands of other young people from around the world. What are you going to tell them? I invite you to give a bold witness of Christian living to them. In this way you will give birth to new Christians and will help the Church grow strongly in the hearts of many others.

During these days, how often I have thought of the young people at home who are waiting for your return! Take my affectionate greetings to them, to those less fortunate, to your families and to the Christian communities that you come from.

Let me also express my gratitude to the Bishops and priests who are present in such great numbers at this Day. To them all I extend my deepest thanks, encouraging them to continue to work pastorally among young people with enthusiasm and dedication.

[Spanish] I greet the Archbishop of the Forces affectionately and I warmly thank the Spanish Air Force, which very generously permitted Cuatro Vientos Air Base on this, the centenary of the foundation of the Spanish Air Force. I place all Spanish Air Force personnel and their families under the maternal protection of Our Lady of Loreto.

In this context, I recall that yesterday marked the third anniversary of the grave accident at Barajas Airport which caused many deaths and injuries, and I express my spiritual closeness and my deep affection for all those touched by that unfortunate event, and well as for the families of the victims, whose souls we commend to the mercy of God.

I am pleased now to announce that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2013, in Rio de Janeiro. Even now, let us ask the Lord to assist all those who will organize it, and to ease the journey there of young people from all over the world, so that they will be able to join me in that beautiful city of Brazil.

Dear friends, before we say good-bye, and while the young people of Spain pass on the World Youth Day cross to the young people of Brazil, as Successor of Peter I entrust all of you present with this task: make the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ known to the whole world! He wants you to be the apostles of the twenty-first century and the messengers of his joy. Do not let him down! Thank you very much.

[French] My dear young people of the French-speaking world, today Christ asks you to be rooted in him and with him, to build your lives upon him who is our rock. He sends you out to be his witnesses, courageous and without anxiety, authentic and credible! Do not be afraid to be Catholic, and to be witnesses to those around you in simplicity and sincerity! Let the Church find in you and in your youthfulness joyful missionaries of the Good News of salvation!

[English] I greet all the English-speaking young people present here today! As you return home, take back with you the good news of Christ’s love which we have experienced in these unforgettable days. Fix your eyes upon him, deepen your knowledge of the Gospel and bring forth abundant fruit! God bless all of you until we meet again!

[German] My dear friends! Faith is not a theory. To believe is to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus and to live in friendship with him in fellowship with others, in the communion of the Church. Entrust the whole of your lives to Christ and bring your friends to find their way to the source of life, to God. May the Lord make you happy and joy-filled witnesses of his love.

[Italian] My dear young Italians! Greetings to all of you. The Eucharist that we have celebrated is the risen Christ present and living in our midst: through him, your lives are rooted and built upon Christ, strong in faith. With this confidence, depart from Madrid and tell everyone what you have seen and heard. Respond with joy to the Lord’s call, follow him and remain always united to him: you will bear much fruit!

[Portuguese] Dear Portuguese-speaking young people and friends, you have met Jesus Christ! You will be swimming against the tide in a society with a relativistic culture which wishes neither to seek nor hold on to the truth. But it was for this moment in history, with its great challenges and opportunities, that the Lord sent you, so that, through your faith, the Good News of Jesus might continue to resound throughout the earth. I hope to see you again in two years’ time at the nest World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Till then, let us pray for each other, witnessing to the joy that brings forth life, rooted in and built upon Christ. Until we meet again, my dear young people! God bless you all!

[Polish] Dear young Poles, strong in the faith, rooted in Christ! May the gifts you have received from God during these days bear in you abundant fruit. Be his witnesses. Take to others the message of the Gospel. With your prayers and example of life, help Europe to rediscover its Christian roots.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Farewell Address to Spain
"Spread Throughout the World the Profound and Joyful Experience of Faith"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 21, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the departure ceremony of the Pope's visit to Spain, held at the International Airport of Madrid Barajas. The Holy Father was in the nation's capital to preside at the 26th World Youth Day.

* * *

Your Majesties,
Distinguished National, Autonomous Regional and Local Authorities,
Your Eminence the Archbishop of Madrid and President of the Spanish Episcopal Conference,
Your Eminences and Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Friends,

The time has come for us to say good-bye. These days spent in Madrid, in the company of so many young people from Spain and from throughout the world, will remain deeply etched in my mind and heart.

Your Majesty, the Pope felt at home in Spain! And the young people who were the heart of this World Youth Day found a warm welcome here and in the many cities and towns of the country, which they were able to visit in the days before these celebrations.

I thank Your Majesty for your gracious words and for your presence at my arrival in Spain and now at my departure. I thank the national, autonomous regional and local authorities for the helpfulness and understanding which they showed before this international event. I also thank the thousands of volunteers who ensured the orderly unfolding of the many activities of this meeting: the various literary, musical, cultural and religious events of the Festival joven, the catecheses given by the Bishops and the main events in the presence of the Successor of Peter. I thank the police and security forces, and all those who helped by providing a wide variety of services: from the music and the liturgy to the details of transportation, health care and meals.

Spain is a great nation whose soundly open, pluralistic and respectful society is capable of moving forward without surrendering its profoundly religious and Catholic soul. In these days, it once more made this clear, revealing its technical and human resources in the service of an undertaking of immense consequence and promise: that of helping young people to become more deeply rooted in Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

A particular word of gratitude is due to the organizers of World Youth Day: to the Cardinal President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and all the personnel of that Office, to the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, his Auxiliary Bishops and the whole Archdiocese, and in particular to the General Coordinator, Monsignor César Augusto Franco Martinez, and the many generous members of his staff. The Bishops worked generously and diligently in their Dioceses to prepare for the celebrations, together with their priests, consecrated persons and the lay faithful. To all I express my gratitude and I pray that the Lord will bless your apostolic labors.

Nor can I fail to offer heartfelt thanks to the young people for having come to the World Youth Day and for their joyful, enthusiastic and intense presence. To them I say thank you, and I congratulate you for the witness which you gave in Madrid and in the other cities of Spain in which you stayed. Now I ask you to spread throughout the world the profound and joyful experience of faith which you had here in this noble country. Share your joy especially with those who would have liked to come but were unable to do so for various reasons, with all those who were praying for you and with all those whose hearts were touched by these celebrations. By your closeness and your witness, help your friends to discover that loving Christ means living life to the full.

I leave Spain very happy and grateful to everyone. But above all I am grateful to God, our Lord, who allowed me to celebrate these days so filled with enthusiasm and grace, so charged with dynamism and hope. The feast of faith which we have shared enables us to look forward with great confidence in Providence, which guides the Church across the seas of history. That is why she continues to be young and full of life, even as she confronts challenging situations.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes Jesus Christ present in the hearts of young people in every age and shows them the grandeur of the divine vocation given to every man and woman. We were also able to see how the grace of Christ tears down the walls and overcomes the barriers which sin erects between peoples and generations, in order to make all mankind a single family which acknowledges its one Father and which cultivates, by work and respect, all that he has given us in creation.

Young people readily respond when one proposes to them, in sincerity and truth, an encounter with Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of humanity. Now those young people are returning home as missionaries of the Gospel, “rooted and built up in Christ, and firm in the faith”, and they will need to be helped on their way. So I urge Bishops, priests, Religious and Christian educators in particular, to care for those young people who want to respond enthusiastically to the Lord’s call. There is no reason to lose heart in the face of the various obstacles we encounter in some countries. The yearning for God which the Creator has placed in the hearts of young people is more powerful than all of these, as is the power from on high which gives divine strength to those who follow the Master and who seek in him nourishment for life. Do not be afraid to present to young people the message of Jesus Christ in all its integrity, and to invite them to celebrate the sacraments by which he gives us a share in his own life.

Your Majesty, before returning to Rome, I would like to assure the people of Spain of my constant prayers, especially for married couples and families who are facing various kinds of difficulties, the needy and the infirm, the elderly and children, as well as those who have no work. I pray in particular of the young people of Spain. I am sure that they will contribute the best they have to offer through their faith in Christ, so that this great country can face the challenges of the present hour and can continue along the paths of peace, solidarity, justice and freedom. Along with these intentions, I entrust the sons and daughters of this noble land to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, our heavenly Mother, and to them all I willingly impart my blessing. May the joy of the Lord always fill your hearts. Thank you.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pontiff's Address to Youth Day Volunteers
"Your Life Will Achieve Fulfillment in Ways You Cannot Imagine"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 21, 2011 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon meeting with World Youth Day Volunteers at Pavilion 9 of the New Fair of Madrid.

* * *

Dear Volunteers,

As the events of this unforgettable World Youth Day draw to a close, I wanted to come here, before my return to Rome, to thank you personally for all your invaluable help. It is both a matter of justice and a heartfelt duty. A matter of justice because, thanks to your cooperation, the young pilgrims enjoyed a warm welcome and were assisted in their every need. Your service gave World Youth Day a face of kindness, friendship and neighborly concern.

My gratitude is also a heartfelt duty, not only because you were so attentive to the pilgrims, but also to the Pope! At every event in which I took part, you were there: some were highly visible, while others stayed in the background, helping to ensure that everything took place in an orderly fashion. I also want to mention all the effort that went into preparing for these days. All the sacrifices, all the love. Everybody did his or her best, by work and prayer, to weave, stitch by stitch, the magnificent, colourful tapestry of this World Youth Day. Many thanks for your dedicated service. I am grateful for this great sign of your love.

Many of you had to give up participating directly in the events, because you were engaged in the work of organization. But this sacrifice was itself a beautiful and evangelical way to take part in the celebrations: you gave yourselves to others, as Jesus tells us to do. In a real way sense you brought to life the Lord’s words: “Whoever wants to be first must be the last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). I am certain that your experience as volunteers has enriched all of you in your Christian life, which in the end is a service to love. The Lord will turn all the weariness, the worries and the burdens of these days into a source of growth in the Christian virtues: patience, meekness, joy in self-giving and eagerness to do God’s will. To love means to serve, and service increases love. For me, this is one of the finest fruits of your contribution to World Youth Day. But you will not be the only ones who reap this harvest: the whole Church, as a mystery of communion, is enriched by the contribution of each of her members.

As you now go back to your everyday lives, I ask you to treasure this joy-filled experience in your hearts and to grow each day in giving yourselves to God and to others. Perhaps many of you felt a very simple question forming in your hearts, faintly or forcefully as the case may be: What is God asking me to do? What is his plan for my life? Is Christ asking me to follow him more closely? Should I not spend my whole life in the mission to proclaim to the world the greatness of his love through the priesthood, or the consecrated life, or marriage? If this question has surfaced, let the Lord be your guide and become volunteers in the service of the One who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mk10:45). Your life will achieve fulfillment in ways you cannot imagine.

Perhaps some of you are thinking: the Pope came to thank us and here he is asking us for something more! You are right. But that is the mission of the Pope, the Successor of Peter. After all, Peter, in his First Letter, reminds Christians that they were ransomed at a great price: that of the blood of Christ (cf. 1 Pet 1:18-19). Those who look at their lives from this perspective know that Christ’s love can only be met with love. That is what the Pope is asking you to do in this farewell: to respond in love to the One who for love gave himself up for us. Once again, I thank all of you. May God be ever at your side!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily at Closing Youth Day Mass
"The World Needs the Witness of Your Faith, It Surely Needs God"

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 21, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the words Benedict XVI delivered today before and during the closing Mass of the 2011 World Youth Day, held at Cuatro Vientos Air Base in Madrid.

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[Words Before Mass]

Dear Young Friends:

I have been thinking a lot about you during this time in which we have been separated. I hope you have been able to get some sleep in spite of the weather. I am sure that since dawn you have raised up your eyes more than once, and not only your eyes but above all your hearts, turning this occasion into prayer. God turns all things into good. With this confidence and trusting in the Lord who never abandons us, let us begin our Eucharistic celebration, full of enthusiasm and strong in our faith.

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Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15).

He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfillment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ. The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”. Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


L'Osservatore Director's Reflection on World Youth Day
"The Search for Truth Involves Everyone and Is Inexhaustible"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 22, 2011 - Here is an editorial signed by Gian Maria Vian, director of the Vatican's semi-official daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, that appeared over the weekend. The director offers a commentary on Benedict XVI's words to the youth participating in World Youth Day, which ended Sunday.

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In the middle of the second day of the papal visit – in a Madrid peacefully invaded by an impressive number of boys and girls from every part of the world – Benedict XVI cited Plato in the Basilica of the Escorial, "Seek truth while you are young, for if you do not, it will later escape your grasp" (Parmenides, 135d). The invitation of the philosopher who lived before Christ, in antiquity evoked by Hebrews and Christians to support biblical revelation, sums up well the sense of the presence of the successor of Peter at World Youth Day.

As a University professor, for some sixty years Joseph Ratzinger has been used to dialogue with new generations and understands their concerns. This is why the Pope wanted to dedicate a talk to the crucial question of the search for truth when he met young professors – a few days after the World Congress of Catholic Universities in Avila, city of St. Teresa of Jesus, whom Paul VI proclaimed Doctor of the Church: a new event in the history of World Youth Days, as the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid recalled in his greeting.

The meeting was not a last-minute addition to the papal itinerary, nor was his encounter with young religious women, who welcomed Benedict XVI with enthusiastic and moving affection. In both moments – against the splendid backdrop of the monastery of San Lorenzo of Escorial, created under Philip II, the sovereign who amidst shadows and light perhaps most represents the Spanish Catholic Monarchy – the Pope continued his reasoning with youth, and not only with those who belong to the Church.

The search for truth involves everyone and is inexhaustible, Benedict XVI explained, in the heart of these days which are revealing themselves to be an event of great magnitude. And the international media are awakening to it, albeit with some exceptions, due to prejudice or a logic which does not respect the most elementary hierarchy of news. Such as a program of the BBC which gave air time to truly minor protests at the expense of information about the Madrid event, and caused even the Guardian to complain.

But there is news, and many are becoming aware of it. The Pope has been able to unite young people from all over the world in Madrid to encourage them in the faith, in the hopes of also touching the hearts of those who are far away or are far from the Church. In an anxious society that is searching for solid foundations that are certainly not to be found in the apparently dominant mediocrity and utilitarianism. But a sure reference point exists, and it is in the person of Christ, intuited by Plato according to the Fathers of the Church: the only friend who doesn’t disappoint and whom Benedict XVI never tires to indicate.


On the Prayer of Meditation
"Consistency in Giving Time to God Is a Fundamental Element for Spiritual Growth"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 17, 2011- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are still in the light of the Feast of the Assumption, which -- as I said -- is a feast of hope. Mary has arrived in heaven, and this is our destination: We can all reach heaven. The question is: How.

Mary has arrived there, and she it is -- the Gospel says -- "who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord" (Luke 1:45). Therefore, Mary believed; she entrusted herself to God; she entered with her own [will] into the Lord's will, and thus it was that she truly took the most direct route on the road to heaven. To believe, to entrust oneself to the Lord, to enter into His will: This is the essential course.

Today, I do not wish to speak about the whole journey of faith, but only about a small aspect of the life of prayer, which is a life of contact with God; namely, about meditation. And what is meditation? It means to "remember" all that God has done and not to forget all his benefits (cf. Psalm 103:2b). Often, we see only the negative things. We also need to hold in our memory the good things, the gifts that God has given us; we need to be attentive to the positive signs that come from God, and remember these. Therefore, we are speaking about a kind of prayer that the Christian tradition calls "mental prayer." We are more familiar with vocal prayer, and naturally the mind and heart must also be present in this prayer, but today we are speaking about a meditation that does not involve words, but that is rather a making contact of our mind with the heart of God.

And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things -- she dwells deeply upon them in her heart.

She, therefore, who "believed" the announcement of the angel and became an instrument so that the Eternal Word of the Most High might become incarnate, also welcomed in her heart the wonderful miracle of the human-divine birth; she pondered it, she dwelt deeply upon all that God was doing in her, so that she might welcome the divine will in her life and conform to it. The mystery of the incarnation of God's Son, and of the maternity of Mary, is so great [a mystery] that it requires a process of interiorization. It is not only something physical that God accomplishes in her; rather, it is something that demands an interiorization from Mary, who seeks to understand it more deeply, seeks to interpret its meaning, to understand its implications. Thus, day after day, in the silence of ordinary life, Mary continued to keep in her heart the subsequent wondrous events she witnessed, even to the extreme trial of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. Mary fully lived her existence, her daily duties, her mission as mother, but she knew how to preserve within herself an interior space for reflection on the word and the will of God, on all that was happening in her, on the mysteries of the life of her Son.

In our own time, we are absorbed with so many activities and commitments, concerns and problems. Often, we tend to fill up all the spaces of the day, without having a moment to stop and reflect and to nourish our spiritual life -- our contact with God. Mary teaches us how necessary it is to find in our days -- with all its activities -- moments to recollect ourselves in silence and to ponder all that the Lord wants to teach us, how He is present and acts in the world and in our life: to be able to stop for a moment and meditate. St. Augustine likens meditation on the mysteries of God to the assimilation of food, and he uses a word that recurs throughout the Christian tradition: "ruminate." The mysteries of God should continually resound within us so that they might become familiar to us, guide our life, and nourish us as happens with the food that is necessary to sustain us. And St. Bonaventure, referring to the words of sacred Scripture, says that they "should always be ruminated on so as to be kept in mind by the ardent application of the soul" (Coll. In Hex, ed. Quaracchi 1934, p. 218).

To meditate therefore means to create within ourselves an atmosphere of recollection, of interior silence, so as to reflect upon and assimilate the mysteries of our faith, and all that God is doing in us -- and not only the things that come and go. We can "ruminate" in many ways; for instance, by taking a short passage of sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostle's Letters, or a page from a spiritual author we are drawn to and which makes the reality of God in our today more present, perhaps taking advice from a confessor or spiritual director; by reading and reflecting on what we've just read, pausing to consider it, seeking to understand it, to understand what it says to me, what it says today -- to open our soul to all that the Lord wants to say to us and teach us.

The holy rosary is also a prayer of meditation: In repeating the Hail Mary we are invited to think back and to reflect upon the mystery we have announced. But we can also dwell upon some intense spiritual experience, on the words that have remained with us from our participation in the Sunday Eucharist. You see, therefore, there are many ways of meditating and of thereby making contact with God -- of drawing near to God, and in this way, of being on the road to heaven.

Dear friends, consistency in giving time to God is a fundamental element for spiritual growth; it will be the Lord Himself who gives us a taste for His mysteries, His words, His presence and action, to feel how beautiful it is when God speaks with us. He will make us understand in a more profound way what He wants of us. In the end, this is the goal of our meditation: to entrust ourselves ever more to the hands of God, with trust and love, certain that, in the end, it is only in doing His will that we are truly happy.


On Nourishing Faith
"Our Heart Must Live the Experience of Conversion Every Day"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 16, 2011 Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the pontifical summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The passage of this Sunday's Gospel begins with the indication of where Jesus was going: Tyre and Sidon, in the northwest of Galilee, pagan land. And it is here that he meets a Canaanite woman, who turns to him and asks him to heal her daughter, tormented by a demon (cf. Matthew 15:22).

Now in this request we can perceive the beginning of the journey of faith that grows and is reinforced in the dialogue with the divine Teacher. The woman is not afraid to cry out to Jesus "Have mercy on me," an expression the recurs in the Psalms (cf. 50:1). She calls him "Lord" and "Son of David" (cf. Matthew 15:22), thus manifesting firm hope of being heard. What is the Lord's attitude in response to the pain of a pagan woman?

Jesus' silence might seem disconcerting, so much so that it arouses the intervention of the disciples, but it is not a question of insensitivity to that woman's pain. St. Augustine rightly comments: "Christ showed himself indifferent to her, not to refuse mercy to her, but to inflame her desire" (Sermon 77, 1: P: 38, 483).

Jesus' seeming detachment, who says "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel" (24), does not discourage the Canaanite woman, who insists: "Lord, help me!" (25). And even when she receives an answer that seems to close all hope -- "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs" (26) -- she does not desist. She does not want to take anything from anyone: in her simplicity and humility she is content with little, she is satisfied with crumbs, she is content with just a look, a good word from the Son of God. And Jesus is in admiration of such a great response of faith and says to her: "Be it done for you as you desire" (28).

Dear friends, we are also called to grow in faith, to open ourselves and to receive freely the gift of God, and to trust and to also cry out to Jesus: give us faith, help us to find the way!" It is the way that Jesus made his disciples, the Canaanite woman and men of all times and nations follow, and each one of us. Faith opens us to know and to accept Jesus' real identity, his novelty and uniqueness, his Word, as source of life, to live a personal relationship with him.

Knowledge of the faith grows, it grows with the desire to find the way, and it is finally a gift of God, which is revealed to us not as something abstract without a face and without a name, but faith responds to a Person, who wishes to enter into a relationship of profound love with us and to involve our whole life. That is why our heart must live the experience of conversion every day; every day must see our passing from a man withdrawn into himself to a man open to God's action, to a spiritual man (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14), who allows himself to be challenged by the Word of the Lord and opens his life to his Love.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us therefore nourish our faith every day, with profound listening to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as "cry" to Him and with charity for our neighbor. We invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom tomorrow we will contemplate in her glorious Assumption to heaven in soul and body, so that she will help us to proclaim and to witness with our life the joy of having found the Lord.


On the Assumption
"Mary Was the 1st to Take Into Her Arms the Son of God ... Now She Is the 1st to Be Next to Him"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 16, 2011 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday before and after praying the midday Angelus on the feast of the Assumption.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the heart of the month of August, Christians of the East and West celebrate jointly the Feast of the Assumption to Heaven of Mary Most Holy. In the Catholic Church, the dogma of the Assumption -- as was noted -- was proclaimed during the Holy Year of 1950 by my venerable predecessor the Servant of God Pope Pius XII. This memorial, however, sinks its roots in the faith of the early centuries of the Church.

In the East, the feast is still called today the "Dormition of the Virgin." In an ancient mosaic of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, which is inspired precisely in the Eastern icon of the"Dormition," the Apostles are pictured. Alerted by the angels of the earthly end of the Mother of Jesus, they gather around the Virgin's bed. At the center is Jesus who holds a little girl in his arms: It is Mary, become "little" for the Kingdom, and led by the Lord to Heaven.

In the passage of St. Luke's Gospel for today's liturgy, we read that "in those days Mary rose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah" (Luke 1:39). In those days Mary went in haste from Galilee to a small city near Jerusalem, to go and meet her cousin Elizabeth. Today we contemplate her going up to the mountain of God and entering into the heavenly Jerusalem, "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1).

The biblical passage of Revelation, which we read in the liturgy of this solemnity, speaks of a fight between the woman and the dragon, between good and evil. St. John seems to propose to us the very first pages of the Book of Genesis, which narrate the dark and dramatic event of Adam's and Eve's sin. Our forefathers were defeated by the Evil One; in the fullness of time, Jesus, the new Adam, and Mary, the new Eve, defeated the enemy definitively, and this is the joy of this day! With Jesus' victory over evil, interior and physical death was also defeated. Mary was the first to take into her arms the Son of God, Jesus, who became a child; now she is the first to be next to him in the glory of Heaven.

That which we celebrate today is a great mystery, and above all a mystery of hope and of joy for all of us: In Mary we see the end toward which all those who know how to link their lives to that of Jesus are journeying, those who know how to follow him as Mary did. This feast, then, speaks of our future, it tells us that we also will be next to Jesus in the joy of God and it invites us to have courage, to believe that the power of the Resurrection of Christ can operate also in us and make us men and women who every day seek to live as risen ones, taking the light of goodness to the darkness of evil that is in the world.


Pope's Homily for Feast of Assumption
"The Things of God Merit Haste"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 16, 2011 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Monday when he celebrated Mass for the feast of the Assumption in the parish of St. Thomas of Villanova in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered once again to celebrate one of the oldest and most loved feasts dedicated to Mary Most Holy: the feast of her Assumption to the glory of heaven in soul and body, namely, in her whole human being, in the integrity of her person. Thus we are given the grace to renew our love for Mary, to admire and praise her for the "great things" that the Almighty did for her and wrought in her.

On contemplating the Virgin Mary we are given another grace: that of also being able to see our lives in depth. Yes, because also our daily existence, with its problems and its hopes, receives light from the Mother of God, from her spiritual journey, from her destiny of glory: a journey and an end that can and must become, in some way, our own journey and our own end. We allow ourselves to be guided by passages of sacred Scripture that the liturgy proposes to us today. I would like to pause, in particular, on the image that we see in the first reading, treated by Revelation, which Luke's Gospel echoes, namely, that of the ark.

In the first reading, we heard: "then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of the covenant was seen within the temple" (Revelation 11:19). What is the significance of the ark? What does it appear to be? For the Old Testament, it is the symbol of the presence of God in the midst of his people. But now the symbol has given way to reality. Thus the New Testament tells us that the true ark of the covenant is a living and concrete person: it is the Virgin Mary. God does not dwell in a piece of furniture, God dwells in a person, in a heart: Mary, she who bore in her womb the Eternal Son of God made man, Jesus Our Lord and Savior. In the ark -- as we know -- the two tablets of the law of Moses were kept, which manifested the will of God to maintain the covenant with his people, indicating to them the conditions to be faithful to God's pact, to conform themselves to the will of God and thus also to our most profound truth. Mary is the ark of the covenant, because she received Jesus in herself; she received the living Word in her self, the whole content of the will of God, of the truth of God; she received in herself him who is the new and eternal covenant, culminating with the offering of his body and his blood: body and blood received from Mary. Christian piety is right, therefore, in the litanies in honor of Our Lady, to turn to her and to invoke her as Foederis Arca, that is "ark of the covenant," ark of the presence of God, ark of the covenant of love that God willed to fix definitively with the whole of humanity in Christ.

The passage of Revelation indicates another important aspect of the reality of Mary. She, living ark of the covenant, has a destiny of extraordinary glory, because she is so closely united to the Son whom she received in faith and generated in the flesh, to share fully the glory of heaven. This is what the words we heard suggest to us: "And a great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child ... she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations" (12:1-2; 5). The greatness of Mary, Mother of God, full of grace, fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, now lives in God's heaven with her whole self, soul and body. Referring to this mystery in a famous homily, St. John Damascene states: "Today the holy and unique Virgin is led to the heavenly temple ... Today the sacred ark animated by the living God, [the ark] that bore in the womb the Architect himself, rests in the Lord's temple, not built by the hand of man" (Homily on the Dormition, 2, PG 96, 723). And he continues: "It was necessary that she who had housed in her womb the divine Logos, was transformed into the tabernacle of her Son. ... It was necessary that the Bride that the Father chose, dwell in the nuptial room of heaven" (Ibid., 14, PG 96. 742).

Today the Church sings the immense love of God for this, his creature: He chose her as true "ark of the covenant," as she who continues to generate and to give Christ the Savior to humanity, as she who in heaven shares the fullness of glory and enjoys the very happiness of God and, at the same time, invites us also to become, in our modest way, an "ark" in which the Word of God is present, which is transformed and vivified by his presence, a place of God's presence, so that men may be able to see in their neighbor the closeness of God and thus live in communion with God and know the reality of heaven.

Luke's Gospel that we just heard (cf. Luke 1:39-56) shows us this living ark, which is Mary, in movement: Having left her Nazareth home, Mary journeys to the mountains to reach in haste a city of Judah and to go to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. I think it is important to stress the expression "in haste": The things of God merit haste. Indeed the only things of the world that merit haste are in fact those of God, which have real urgency for our life. Then Mary entered this home of Zechariah and Elizabeth, but she did not go in alone. She entered bearing in her womb her Son, who is God himself made man. Certainly she and her help were awaited in that home, but the Evangelist leads us to understand that this awaiting refers to another, more profound. Zechariah, Elizabeth and the small John the Baptist are, in fact, the symbol of all the righteous of Israel, whose heart, rich in hope, awaits the coming of the Messiah Savior. And it is the Holy Spirit who opens Elizabeth's eyes and makes her recognize in Mary the true ark of the covenant, the Mother of God, who comes to visit her. And thus the elderly cousin receives her exclaiming with "a loud cry": "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:42-43). And it is the Holy Spirit himself that before her who carries the God made man, opens the heart of John the Baptist in Elizabeth's womb. Elizabeth exclaims: "For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy" (verse 44). Here the Evangelist Luke uses the term "skirtan," namely "leap," the same term that we find in one of the ancient Greek translations of the Old Testament to describe the dance of King David before the holy ark that finally returned to the homeland (2 Samuel 6:16). John the Baptist dances in his mother's womb before the ark of the covenant, like David and thus recognizes that Mary is the new ark of the covenant, before whom the heart exults with joy, the Mother of God present in the world, who does not keep to herself this divine presence, but offers it sharing the grace of God. And thus -- as the prayer states -- Mary is really "cause of our joy," the "ark" in which the Savior is really present among us.

Dear brothers! We are speaking of Mary, but in a certain sense, we are speaking also of ourselves, of each one of us: We are also recipients of that immense love that God has reserved -- certainly, in an absolutely unique and unrepeatable way -- for Mary. In this solemnity of the Assumption we look at Mary: She opens us to hope, to a future full of joy and teaches us the way to reach it: to receive her Son in faith; never to lose our friendship with him, but to allow ourselves to be illumined and guided by his word; to follow him every day, even in the moments in which we feel that our crosses are heavy. Mary, the ark of the covenant that is in the sanctuary of heaven, points out to us with luminous clarity that we are on the way to our true Home, to communion of joy and peace with God. Amen!


On Monastic Silence
"The Environmental Condition That Most Favors Contemplation"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 13, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the Aug. 13 general audience at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In every age, men and women who have consecrated their lives to God in prayer -- such as monks and nuns -- have established their communities in places of particular beauty: in the countryside, upon the hills, in mountain valleys, by the lakeside or on the seashore, or even on little islands. These places unite two very important elements for the contemplative life: the beauty of creation, which points to that of the Creator, and silence, which is guaranteed by their remoteness from cities and the great means of communication.

Silence is the environmental condition that most favors contemplation, listening to God and meditation. The very fact of experiencing silence, of allowing ourselves to be "filled," so to speak, with silence, disposes us to prayer. The great prophet Elijah, on Mount Horeb -- that is, Sinai -- witnessed a great and strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally flashes of fire, but in none of these did he recognize the voice of God; instead, he recognized it in a still small breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13). God speaks in the silence, but we need to know how to listen for Him. That is why monasteries are oases where God speaks to man; and in them there is the cloister, which is a symbolic place, for it is a space that is enclosed yet opened to heaven.

Tomorrow, dear friends, we celebrate the memorial of St. Clare of Assisi. I would therefore like to recall one of these spiritual "oases" that is particularly dear to the Fransciscan family and to all Christians: the small convent of San Damiano, situated just below the town of Assisi, amidst the olive groves that slope towards [the Basilica of] St. Mary of the Angels. Near that little church, which Francis restored after his conversion, Clare and her first companions established their community and lived a life of prayer and simple works. They were called the "Poor Sisters," and their "way of life" was the same as the Friars Minor: "To observe the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rule of St. Clare, I,2), maintaining the union of mutual charity (cf. ibid., X 7) and observing in a special way the poverty and humility lived by Jesus and His most holy Mother (cf. ibid., XII, 13).

The silence and beauty of the place where the monastic community lives -- a simple and an austere beauty -- serve as a reflection of the spiritual harmony that the community itself seeks to realize. The world is studded with these spiritual oases, some very ancient, particularly in Europe, others more recent, while still others have been restored by new communities. Looking at things from a spiritual perspective, these places of the spirit are a supporting structure for the world! And is it not the case that many people, especially in times of quiet and rest, visit these places and stay for a few days: even the soul, thanks be to God, has its needs!

Let us therefore remember St. Clare. But let us also remember other saintly figures who remind us of the importance of turning our gaze to the "things of heaven"; for example, St. Edith Stein -- Teresa Benedicta of the Cross -- Carmelite and Patroness of Europe, whose feast we celebrated yesterday. And today, Aug. 10, we cannot forget St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr, with a special wish offered to the people of Rome, who have always venerated him as one of their patrons. And lastly, let us turn our gaze to the Virgin Mary, that she might teach us to love silence and prayer.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Summer Reading
"Keep the Holy Bible Close at Hand During the Summer Months"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 13, 2011 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave Aug. 3 during the general audience held at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very glad to see you here in the square at Castel Gandolfo and to resume the audiences, which were interrupted during the month of July. I would like to continue with the subject we initially began; that is, a "school of prayer," and today, in a slightly different way, and without straying from this theme, I would like to touch upon several spiritual and concrete aspects which seem useful to me, not only for those who -- in one part of the world -- are currently spending their summer holidays like us, but also for all those who are occupied with their daily work.

When we have a break from our activities, especially during vacation time, we often take up a book we want to read. It is this very aspect that I would like to reflect upon today.

Each of us needs time and space for recollection, meditation, and calm … Thanks be to God that this is so! In fact, this need tells us that we are not made for work alone, but also for thought, for reflection, or simply for following with our minds and hearts a tale in which we can immerse ourselves, "losing ourselves" in some sense to find ourselves subsequently enriched.

Naturally, many of the books we take up during our vacation are for the most part an escape, and this is normal. However, some people, particularly if they are able to take a more extended time of rest and relaxation, devote themselves to reading something more demanding.

I would therefore like to make a suggestion: why not discover a few of the books of the Bible that are not commonly known? Or perhaps from which we have heard an occasional passage during the Liturgy but which we have never read in their entirety? Indeed, many Christians never read the Bible, and have a very limited and superficial knowledge of it.

The Bible -- as the name suggests -- is a collection of books, a little "library" [biblioteca] that came to be over the course of a millennium. Some of these "little books" that make up the Bible remain virtually unknown to the vast majority of people, even to good Christians. Some are very short, like the Book of Tobias, a tale that contains a lofty sense of family and marriage; or the Book of Esther, in which the Hebrew Queen saves her people from destruction through her faith and prayer; or even shorter, the Book of Ruth, a foreigner who comes to know God and to experience His providence. These little books can be read in their entirety in an hour. More demanding and true masterpieces are the Book of Job, which confronts the great problem of innocent suffering; Ecclesiastes, which is striking for the baffling modernity with which it challenges the meaning of life and the world; the Canticle of Canticles, a stupendous symbolic poem on human love. As you see, these are all books from the Old Testament. And the New? The New Testament is of course better known and its literary genre is less diversified. But the beauty of reading a Gospel in one sitting is worth discovering, as I also recommend for the Acts of the Apostles, or one of the Letters.

To conclude, dear friends, today I would like to suggest that you keep the holy Bible close at hand during the summer months and in moments of rest, so that you might enjoy it in a new way by reading some of its Books straight through, those that are less well known as well as those that are more familiar, such as the Gospels, but without putting them down.

In this way, moments of relaxation can become not only a time of cultural enrichment, but beyond this, also a source of spiritual nourishment, capable of nourishing our knowledge of God and conversation with Him; that is, prayer. And this seems to be a beautiful occupation during the summer holidays: to take a book of the Bible in order to have a little relaxation, and at the same time, to enter into the great realm of God’s Word and to deepen our contact with the Eternal One, as the goal of the free time given to us by the Lord.


On Storms and Tempests
"Bear Life's Adversities Courageously, Trusting in God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 13, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the Italian-language address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 7 before reciting the midday Angelus together with those gathered at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday's Gospel we find Jesus who, after withdrawing to the mountain, prays throughout the night. The Lord, having distanced himself from the people and the disciples, manifests his communion with the Father and the need to pray in solitude, far from the commotion of the world.

This distancing, however, must not be seen as a lack of interest in individuals or trust in the Apostles. On the contrary, Matthew recounts, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, "and go before him to the other side" (Mt 14:22), where he would see them again. In the meantime the boat "was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them" (v. 24). And so in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea" (v. 25); the disciples were terrified, mistaking him for a ghost and "cried out for fear" (v. 26). They did not recognize him, they did not realize that it was the Lord.

Nonetheless Jesus reassured them: "Take heart, it is I; have no fear" (v. 27). This is an episode from which the Fathers of the Church drew a great wealth of meaning. The sea symbolizes this life and the instability of the visible world; the storm points to every kind of trial or difficulty that oppresses human beings. The boat, instead, represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the Apostles.

Jesus wanted to teach the disciples to bear life's adversities courageously, trusting in God, in the One who revealed himself to the Prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb "in a still small voice" [the whispering of a gentle breeze] (1 Kings 19:12).

The passage then continues with the action of the Apostle Peter, who, moved by an impulse of love for the Teacher, asks him to bid him to come to him, walking on the water. "But when he saw the wind [was strong], [Peter] was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'" (Mt 14:30).

St. Augustine, imagining that he was addressing the Apostle, commented: the Lord "leaned down and took you by the hand. With your strength alone you cannot rise. Hold tight to the hand of the One who reaches down to you" (En. in Ps. 95, 7: PL 36, 1233), and he did not say this to Peter alone but also to us.

Peter walks on the water, not by his own effort but rather through divine grace in which he believes. And when he was smitten by doubt, when he no longer fixed his gaze on Jesus but was frightened by the gale, when he failed to put full trust in the Teacher's words, it means that he was interiorly distancing himself from the Teacher and so risked sinking in the sea of life.

So it is also for us: if we look only at ourselves we become dependent on the winds and can no longer pass through storms on the waters of life. The great thinker Romano Guardini wrote that the Lord "is always close, being at the root of our being. Yet we must experience our relationship with God between the poles of distance and closeness. By closeness we are strengthened, by distance we are put to the test" (Accettare se stessi, Brescia 1992, 71).

Dear friends, the experience of the Prophet Elijah who heard God passing and the troubled faith of the Apostle Peter enable us to understand that even before we seek the Lord or invoke him, it is he himself who comes to meet us, who lowers Heaven to stretch out his hand to us and raise us to his heights; all he expects of us is that we trust totally in him, that we really take hold of his hand.

Let us call on the Virgin Mary, model of total entrustment to God, so that amidst the plethora of anxieties, problems and difficulties which churn up the sea of our life, may our hearts resonate with the reassuring words of Jesus who also says to us "Take heart, it is I; have no fear!"; and may our faith in him grow.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Compassion and Sharing
"Christ Is Attentive to Material Needs, But He Wished to Give More"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 13, 2011 - Here is a Vatican translation of the Italian-language address Benedict XVI delivered July 31 before reciting the midday Angelus together with those gathered at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel describes the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves that Jesus worked for a great throng of people who had followed him to listen to him and to be healed of various illnesses (cf. Mt 14:14).

As evening fell the disciples suggested to Jesus that he send the crowds away so that they might take some refreshment. But the Lord had something else in mind: "You give them something to eat" (Mt 14:16). However they had "only five loaves... and two fish." Jesus’ subsequent action evokes the sacrament of the Eucharist: "He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds" (Mt 14:19).

The miracle consists in the brotherly sharing of a few loaves, which, entrusted to the power of God, not only sufficed for everyone, but enough was left over to fill 12 baskets. The Lord asked this of the disciples so that it would be they who distributed the bread to the multitude; in this way he taught and prepared them for their future apostolic mission: in fact, they were to bring to all the nourishment of the Word of life and of the sacraments.

In this miraculous sign the incarnation of God and the work of redemption are interwoven. Jesus, in fact, "went ashore" from the boat to meet the men and women (cf. Mt 14:14). St Maximus the Confessor said that the Word of God made himself present for our sake, by taking flesh, derived from us and conformed to us in all things save sin, in order to expose us to his teaching with words and examples suitable for us" (Ambigua 33: PG 91, 1285 C).

Here the Lord offers us an eloquent example of his compassion for people. We are reminded of all our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa who in these days are suffering the dramatic consequences of famine, exacerbated by war and by the lack of solid institutions. Christ is attentive to material needs but he wished to give more, because man always "hungers for more, he needs more" (Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York 2007, p. 267 (English translation). God’s love is present in the bread of Christ; in the encounter with him "we feed on the living God himself, so to speak, we truly eat the ‘bread from Heaven’" (ibid. p. 268).

Dear friends, "in the Eucharist Jesus also makes us witnesses of God’s compassion towards all our brothers and sisters. The Eucharistic mystery thus gives rise to a service of charity towards neighbour" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, No. 88). St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus whom the Church is commemorating today, also bore witness to this. Indeed Ignatius chose to live "finding God in all things, loving him in all creatures" (cf. Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, III, 1, 26).

Let us entrust our prayers to the Virgin Mary, so that she may open our hearts to compassion for our neighbor and to fraternal sharing.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana