Benedict XVI  from January 2012

 

On the Pastoral Visit to Milan for Family Meeting
Love is the Only Force that Can Transform the World

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2012- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. Today the Holy Father reviewed his trip of last Friday through Sunday to Milan for the 7th World Meeting of Families.

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“The family, work and celebration”: this was the theme of the Seventh World Meeting of Families, which took place in recent days in Milan. I still carry in my mind’s eye and in my heart the images and emotions of this unforgettable and marvelous event, which transformed Milan into a city of families: families from around the world, united by the joy of believing in Jesus Christ. I am deeply grateful to God for having granted me the experience of this meeting “with” families and “for” the family. In all those who listened to me during these days I found a sincere readiness to receive and give witness to the “Gospel of the family”. Yes, there is no future for humanity without the family; in order to learn the values that give meaning to life, the young in particular need to be born and raised in that community of life and love which God Himself has willed for man and for woman.

The encounter with numerous families from the various Continents offered me the joyous occasion to visit the Archdiocese of Milan for the first time as the Successor of Peter. Cardinal Angelo Scola, priests and faithful alike, as well as the Mayor and other civil authorities welcomed me with great warmth – and for this I am deeply grateful. Thus I was able to experience up close the faith of the Ambrosian people, with their wealth of history, culture, humanity and active charity. The first meeting of this intense three-day pastoral visit took place in the Piazza del Duomo, the symbol and heart of the city. I cannot forget the warm embrace of the crowds of Milanese and participants in the VII World Meeting of Families, who accompanied me throughout the entire course of my visit, the streets thronged with people.

A sea of families on holiday with sentiments of profound participation united themselves particularly to the warm and supportive greetings I wished to address at once to all those who are in need of help and comfort and who are plagued by various concerns, especially families most affected by the economic crisis and the dear people struck by the recent earthquakes. During this first meeting with the city, I first wished to speak to the hearts of the Ambrosian faithful, exhorting them to live the faith in their personal and communal lives, in their private and public lives, so as to favor an authentic “well-being”, beginning with the family, which must be rediscovered as humanity’s principle patrimony. From high atop the cathedral, the statue of Our Lady with arms outstretched seemed to welcome with maternal tenderness all the families of Milan and of the whole world!

Milan then gave me a unique and noble greeting in one of city’s most evocative and significant locations, La Scala theatre, where important pages in the country’s history were written under the impulse of great spiritual values and ideals. In this temple of music, the notes of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony gave voice to this moment of universality and fraternity, which the Church untiringly proposes by announcing the Gospel. At the end of the concert, I made reference to the contrast between this ideal and the dramas of history, and to the existence of a God who is near and who shares in our sufferings, dedicating the concert to the many brothers and sisters who have been tried by earthquakes. I emphasized that -- in Jesus of Nazareth -- God draws near to us and carries our sufferings with us. At the conclusion of this intense artistic and spiritual moment, I wished to refer to the family of the third millennium, by recalling that it is within the family that we experience for the first time that the human person is not created to live enclosed within himself, but in relationships with others; and it is in the family that the light of peace is first set aflame in our hearts so that it might illumine our world.

The following day, in the cathedral filled with priests, religious and seminarians, and in the presence of the many cardinals and bishops who came to Milan from various countries of the world, I celebrated Terce according to the Ambrosian liturgy. There I wished to confirm the value of celibacy and of consecrated virginity, which were so dear to the great St. Ambrose. Within the Church, celibacy and virginity are a luminous sign of love for God and for one’s brothers and sisters, and are born of an increasingly intimate relationship with Christ in prayer and are expressed in the total gift of self.

A moment filled with great enthusiasm was the meeting at the Meazza stadium, where I experienced the welcome of a joyous multitude of young people who received the Sacrament of Confirmation this year. The careful preparation of the event, with meaningful texts and prayers and choreography, made the encounter even more stimulating. I addressed an appeal to the Ambrosian youth to give a free and conscious “yes” to the Gospel of Jesus, by receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which allow them to be formed as Christians, to live the Gospel and to be active members of the community. I encouraged them to be committed particularly to their studies and to the generous service of those around them.

The meeting with representatives of institutional authorities, with employers and workers, and with the world of culture and education in Milan and Lombardy society allowed me to highlight the importance of legislation and the work of state institutions being ordered to the service and protection of the person in his various aspects, beginning with the right to life, the deliberate suppression of which can never be allowed, and the acknowledgement of the proper identity of the family, founded on marriage between one man and one woman.

Following this last appointment dedicated to the state of the diocese and city, I went to the great area of the Northern Park in the region of Bresso, where I took part in the exciting Feast of Testimonies entitled “One world, family, love”. There I had the joy of meeting thousands of people, a rainbow of families from Italy and across the globe, who had already gathered on the first afternoon in an atmosphere of festivity and authentic family warmth. In responding to the questions of several families -- questions arising out of their lives and experience -- I wished to give a sign of the open dialogue that exists between families and the Church, between the world and the Church. I was very struck by the touching testimonies of spouses and children from various continents, on the burning issues of our time: the economic crisis, the challenge of reconciling time for work with time for family, the spread of separation and divorce, as well as existential questions that affect adults, youth and children. Here I would like to recall what I stated in defense of family time, which is threatened by a kind of “overbearance” of work commitments: Sunday is the Lord’s day and man’s day, a day when everyone should be able to be free, free for family and free for God. In defending Sunday, we defend man’s freedom!

The Holy Mass on Sunday June 3, which concluded the Seventh World Meeting of Families, saw the participation of an immense praying assembly who completely filled the area of the Bresso airport, which became an great open-air cathedral, thanks also to the reproduction of the stupendous stained glass windows of Milan’s Cathedral that stood in the sanctuary. Before a myriad of faithful from various nations who participated deeply in the liturgy which was very well coordinated, I made an appeal to build ecclesial communities that are increasingly family oriented and capable of reflecting the beauty of the Most Holy Trinity and of evangelizing not only with words, but by radiating the strength of love lived, for love is the only force that can transform the world. I also emphasized the importance of the “triad” of family, work and celebration. They are three gifts of God, three dimensions of our lives that must find a harmonious equilibrium in order to build a society with a human face.

I am deeply grateful for these magnificent days in Milan. Thanks to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli and to the Pontifical Council for the Family, to all the civil authorities for their presence and collaboration in the event. Thanks also to the President of the Council of Ministers and the Republic of Italy for having participated in the Holy Mass on Sunday. And I renew my cordial “thanks” to the various institutions that generously cooperated with the Holy See and with the Archdiocese of Milan in organizing the Meeting, which enjoyed great pastoral and ecclesial success and whose echo resounded throughout the entire world. In fact, the event drew more than a million people to Milan. For several days, they peacefully invaded the streets and witnessed to the beauty of the family -- the hope for humanity.

The World Meeting in Milan was an eloquent “epiphany” of the family, which manifested itself in its variety of expressions but in the uniqueness of its essential identity: a communion of love, founded on marriage and called to be a sanctuary of life, a domestic Church, a cell of society. From Milan, a message of hope was sent out to all the world, substantiated by lived experience: it is possible and joyous, even if demanding, to live faithful love “for ever” which is open to life; it is possible to participate as a family in the mission of the Church and in the building up of society. With God’s help and the special protection of Most Holy Mary, the Queen of Families, may the Milan experience bear abundant fruits in the Church’s journey and be a sign of greater attention to the cause of the family, which is the cause of man and of civilization. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In Italian, he said:]

My thoughts go to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Dear young people, may God’s faithful love be the model of your love for your brothers and sisters; dear sick, you are never alone in your suffering but the whole Church prays for you and with you; lastly, dear newlyweds, may the communion of love that God lives in Himself always be the foundation of your married and family life.

Lastly, I would like to recall that tomorrow, as every year on the feast of Corpus Domini, the Holy Mass will be celebrated at St. John Lateran at 7pm. At the conclusion, a solemn procession will follow, travelling along the Via Merulana and concluding at St. Mary Major. I invite all the faithful of Rome and all pilgrims to be united in this act of profound faith in the Eucharist, which constitutes the most precious treasure of the Church of humanity.

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Papal Address Before the Angelus
"I Encourage You to Always be in Solidarity with the Families who are Experiencing Great Hardships"

MILAN, JUNE 4, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in Bresso Park for the conclusion of the VII World Meeting of Families.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I cannot find the words to thank everyone for this Feast of God, for this communion of the Family of God that we are. At the conclusion of this Eucharistic celebration, I greatly thank God who granted us this great ecclesial experience. For my part I offer an affectionate thank you to all of those who worked for this event, beginning with Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family – thank you your Eminence! – and with Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan – thank you! Also for this beautiful temple of God that he gave us. I thank all of those in charge of organizing and all of the volunteers. And I am happy to announce that the next World Meeting of Families that will take place in 2015 in Philadelphia, in the United States. I greet the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Monsignor Charles Chaput, and I thank him for his offer.

[The Holy Father then greeted those present in various languages before leading the recitation of the Angelus. In English he said:]

As we conclude this celebration by turning in prayer to the Virgin Mary, I wish to extend my thanks to all who have contributed to the success of this World Meeting of Families, particularly to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to Cardinal Angelo Scola, to the Archdiocese and City of Milan, and to the many people from Italy and abroad who have prayed and worked so hard to make this meeting a time of grace for all. I now have the joy of announcing that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in 2015 in Philadelphia in the United States of America. I send my warm greetings to Archbishop Charles Chaput and to the Catholics of that great city, and look forward to meeting them there along with numerous families from all around the world. May God bless you all!

[His last remarks before the Angelus were in Italian:]

Dear families of Milan, of Lombardy, of Italy and of the whole world! I greet all of you with affection and I thank you for your participation. I encourage you to always be in solidarity with the families who are experiencing great hardships; I think of the economic and social crisis, I think of the recent earthquake in Emilia [in Italy]. May the Virgin Mary accompany you and sustain you always! Thank you!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]

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The More People Criticize Him, The More People Flock to Listen to Him
Benedict XVI Encourages Families to Renew and Nourish the Civilization of Love

By Antonio Gaspari

ROME, JUNE 4, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Many criticize him. Others have betrayed his trust by causing scandal. Some call for his resignation. But in the face of one of the most troubling times in his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI has shown the world the beauty and regenerating strength of Christianity.

Echoing the words of St. Paul, “When I am weak, I am strong,” Pope Benedict XVI demonstrated, at the VII World Meeting of Families in Milan, Christianity’s renewed strength in converting hearts and giving hope to the people of the world.

In a world where everything seems to be collapsing -- finance, ideologies, idols, political parties, public buildings and even religious ones, the Pope gathered 80,000 young candidates for Confirmation, and more than one million families from all over the world, to tell them that the future belongs to those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

To the young people who filled the “Giuseppe Meazza” Stadium in Milan, the Pope indicated sanctity as “the normal path for Christians,” and invited them to be “be available and generous to others, overcoming temptations to put yourselves at the center because egoism is the enemy of true joy.”

“Be open to what he suggests and if he calls you to follow him on the path of the priesthood or the consecrated life, do not say no to him! It would be misguided laziness. Jesus will fill your hear for the rest of your life!”, he stressed.

Benedict XVI confirmed to families that they are the primary resource of every society during his homily at the Closing Mass. “Dear married couples, in living out your marriage you are not giving each other any particular thing or activity, but your whole lives. And your love is fruitful first and foremost for yourselves, because you desire and accomplish one another’s good, you experience the joy of receiving and giving,” he said.

The Pope explained that marriage between a man and a woman is “fruitful in your generous and responsible procreation of children, in your attentive care for them, and in their vigilant and wise education.”

“It is fruitful for society, because family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation.”

In the midst of huge crowds in Milan, Pope Benedict XVI showed his serene yet strong determination in guiding “St. Peter’s boat”, illuminating the hearts and mind of the whole world.

Upon his election in April 19, 2005, the Pope said that he would be “a humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord.” Up to now, he has kept his promises: he is trimming the vineyard, making it more open and stronger against attempts to condition and pollute it.

The Holy Father is elderly and seems frail in body, but the way in which he is cleaning “Peter’s house”, rendering it transparent and open, is something extraordinarily heroic.

No pontiff has succeeded in such a short time to cut off the dry parts, free vine shoots from impediments, and make the vine grow in the midst of a thousand difficulties.

For Catholics and for the world, the Pope has increasingly assumed the dimension of a “blessing of God.”

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Papal Address to Civil Leaders of Milan, Lombardy
"Freedom is Not a Privilege for Some, but a Right for All"

MILAN, June 4, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address that Benedict XVI gave to civil and military authorities, along with representatives in the field of education and culture from Milan and Lombardy during the VII World Meeting of Families.

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Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am sincerely grateful for this meeting, which reveals your sentiments of respect and esteem for the Apostolic See and, at the same time, permits me, as Pastor of the Universal Church, to express my appreciation for the zealous and valuable work that you do not cease to promote for an always improving civil, social and economic wellbeing among the hardworking people of Milan and Lombardy. I thank Cardinal Angelo Scola for the introduction. In offering my deferential and cordial greeting to you, my thoughts turn to your illustrious predecessor, St. Ambrose, governor – “consularis” – of the provinces of Liguria and Aemilia, with his headquarters in imperial Milan, a thoroughfare and point of reference for Europe. Before being elected bishop of Mediolanum – which was a complete surprise and against his will since he felt unprepared – he was in charge of public order and administered justice. I think that the words with which the prefect Probus invited him to Milan as “consularis” are significant; he said to him, in fact: “Go and rule not as a judge but as a bishop.” And he was indeed a balanced and enlightened governor who knew how to deal with issues with wisdom, good sense and authority, knowing how to overcome conflicts and break divisions. I would like to reflect briefly on some principles that he followed and that are still precious for those who are called to concern themselves with public affairs.

In his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, St. Ambrose recalls that “the institution of power comes so much from God that he who exercises it is himself a ‘minister of God’” (Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, IV, 29). Some words might seem strange to men of the 3rd millennium, and yet they clearly indicate a central truth about the human person, which is the solid foundation of social coexistence: no power of man can be considered divine, so no man is the owner of another man. Ambrose courageously reminds the emperor of this, writing: “You too, O august emperor, are a man” (Epistula 51,11).

There is another element that we can find in St. Ambrose’s teaching. Justice is the first quality of those who rule. Justice is the public virtue par excellence, because it has to do with the good of the whole community. And yet it is not enough. Ambrose sets another quality alongside it: love of freedom, which he considers a criterion for discerning between good and bad rulers, since, as we read in another of this letters: “the good love freedom, the wicked love servitude” (Epistula 40, 2). Freedom is not a privilege for some, but a right for all, a precious right that civil authority must guarantee. Nevertheless, freedom does not mean the arbitrary choice of the individual, but implies rather responsibility of everyone. Here we find one of the principal elements of the secularity of the state: assure freedom so that everyone can propose their vision of common life, always, however, with respect for the other and in the context of laws that aim at the good of all.

On the other hand, the extent to which the conception of a confessional state is left behind, it appears clear that, in any case, the laws must find their justification and force in natural law, which is order adequate to the dignity of the human person, overcoming a merely positivist conception from which it is not possible to derive precepts that are, in some way, of an ethical character (cf. Speech to the German Parliament, Sept. 22, 2011). The state is at the service of and protects the person and his “well-being” in its multiple aspects, beginning with the right to life, the deliberate suppression of which is never permissible. Everyone can see then how legislation and the work of state institutions must be especially in the service of the family, founded on marriage and open to life, and how there must be a recognition of the primary right of the parents to freely educate and form their children, according to the educational plan that they judge valid and pertinent. The family is not treated justly if the state does not support the freedom of education for the common good of society as a whole.

In this existence of the state for the citizens, a constructive collaboration with the Church appears something precious, not, of course, with a confusion of the different and distinct purposes and roles of civil power and the Church herself, but for the contribution that the latter has made and continues to make to society with her experience, doctrine, tradition, institutions and works that are placed at the service of the people. Just think of the many saints of charity, education, culture, of the care of the sick and marginalized, who are served and loved as the Lord is served and loved. This tradition continues to bear fruit: the industriousness of Lombard Christians in such areas is quite alive and perhaps more significant than in the past. Christian communities propose these activities not so much as a supplement but out of the gratuitous superabundance of the charity of Christ and the total experience of their faith. The time of crisis that we are going through needs, besides courageous technical-political decisions, gratuity, as I have said before: “The ‘city of man’ is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion” (Caritas in veritate, 6).

We can take a last precious suggestion from St. Ambrose, whose solemn and admonishing figure is woven into the standard for the City of Milan. St. Ambrose asks that those who wish to collaborate in governing and public administration make themselves loved. In De Officis he states: “He who loves can never cause fear. Nothing is more useful than to make oneself loved” (II, 29). On the other hand, the reason for your industrious and hardworking presence in the various spheres of public life can only be the desire to dedicate yourselves to the good of the citizens, and so a clear expression and an evident sign of love. In this way politics is profoundly ennobled, becoming an elevated form of charity.

Illustrious ladies and gentlemen! Accept these simple reflections of mine as a sign of my profound esteem for the institutions that you serve and for your important work. May you be assisted in this work of yours by the continued protection of heaven of which the apostolic benediction that I impart to you and your collaborators and families is meant as a pledge and hope. Thank you!

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Papal Address during Midday Prayer
"Look to the Future with Confidence, Counting on Gods Fidelity"

MILAN, June 1, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave during Midday Prayer with priests, seminarians and religious at the Cathedral of Milan during the VII World Meeting of Families.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

We are recollected in prayer, responding to the invitation of the Ambrosian hymn for Tierce: “It is the 3rd hour. Reviled, Jesus the Lord ascends the cross.” It is a clear reference of the loving obedience of Jesus to the Father. The paschal mystery ushered in a new time: the death and resurrection of Christ recreates the innocence of humanity and makes joy flow. The hymn continues: “From here the epoch of Christ’s salvation begins – Hinc iam beata tempora coepere Christi gratia.” We are here together in the cathedral basilica, in this duomo, which is truly the heart of Milan. From here our thoughts extend to the vast Ambrosian archdiocese, which over the course of the centuries and in recent times has given to the Church men who radiated holiness in their life and in their ministry, such as St. Ambrose and St. Charles Borromeo, and some pontiffs of uncommon stature, such as Pius XI and the Servant of God Paul VI, and cardinals who have been beatified, namely, Andrea Carlo Ferrari and Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster.

I am very happy to pause for a moment with you! I offer an affectionate greeting to each and everyone in particular, and in a special way to the sick and the elderly. I greet with lively cordiality your Archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Scola, and I thank him for his kind words; I greet the emeritus archbishops, Cardinals Carlo Maria Martini and Dionigi Tettamanzi, along with the other cardinals and archbishops who are present.

In this moment we experience the mystery of the Church in its highest expression, that of liturgical prayer. Our lips, our hearts and our minds, in prayer, are interpreters of the needs and desires of all of humanity. We have supplicated the Lord on behalf of all men in the words of Psalm 118: “Incline my heart toward your teachings ... May your grace be bestowed upon me, O Lord.” The daily prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours constitutes an essential task of the ordained ministry of the Church. Priests our united to the Lord Jesus, who is alive and working in history, in a special way also through the Divine Office, which prolongs the central mystery of the Eucharist through the day. The priesthood: what a precious gift! Dear seminarians, who are preparing for the priesthood, learn how to have a taste for it even now and live the precious time in the seminary with commitment! Archbishop Montini, during the ordinations of 1958, said in this cathedral: “The priestly life begins: a poem, a drama, a new mystery ... source of perpetual meditation ... always an object of discovery and wonder;” the priesthood, he said, “is always something new and beautiful for those who dedicate loving thought to it ... it is the recognition of the work of God in us” (Homily for the Ordination of 46 priests on June 21, 1958).

If Christ, to build the Church, places himself in the priest’s hands, the priest must for his part unconditionally entrust himself to Christ: love for the Lord Jesus is the soul and the reason of the ministerial priesthood, as was the premise upon which he assigned Peter the mission of feeding his flock: “Simon ... do you love me more than these? Feed my lambs” (John 21:15). Vatican Council II reminded us that Christ “remains always the source and wellspring of the unity of their lives. Priests, then, can achieve this coordination and unity of life by joining themselves with Christ to acknowledge the will of the Father. For them this means a complete gift of themselves to the flock committed to them. Hence, as they fulfill the role of the Good Shepherd, in the very exercise of their pastoral charity they will discover a bond of priestly perfection which draws their life and activity to unity and coordination” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 14). In this way the Council instructs the priest on how, in his various duties, from moment to moment, to find unity of life, the unity of being a priest precisely from this source of deep friendship with Jesus, of an interior being together with him. And there is no opposition between the good of the person of the priest and his mission; indeed, pastoral charity is the unifying element of life that begins from an increasingly intimate relationship with Christ in the prayer for living the total gift of himself for the flock, the way that the People of God grows in communion with God and is a manifestation of the communion of the Most Holy Trinity. Each one of our actions, in fact, has as its purpose the leading of the faithful to union with the Lord and making ecclesial communion grow in this way for the salvation of the world. These are the 3 things: personal union with God, the good of the Church, the good of humanity in its totality. They are not distinct or opposed, but a symphony of lived faith.

Priestly celibacy and consecrated virginity are a luminous sign of this pastoral charity and undivided heart. In the hymn of St. Ambrose we sang: “If the Son of God is born in you, keep your life faultless.” “Welcoming Christ – Christum suscipere,” is a motif that often returns in the preaching of, St. Ambrose, the holy bishop of Milan; here is a line from his commentary on St. Luke: “Whoever welcomes Christ in the intimacy of his home is satiated by the greatest joys” (Expos. Evangelii sec. Lucam, V, 16). The Lord Jesus was the lure, the principal theme of his reflection and preaching, and above all the goal of a living and confident love. Of course, all Christians are called to love Jesus, but it acquires a special meaning for the celibate priest and for those who have responded to the vocation to the consecrated life: the source and model of repeating the “yes” to God’s will is only and always in Christ. “By what bonds is Christ held fast?” asked St. Ambrose, who with surprising intensity preached and cultivated virginity in the Church, also promoting the dignity of women. To this question he answers: “Not with knots of ropes but with the chains of love and the affection of the soul” (De virginitate, 13, 77). And, indeed, in a celebrated sermon to virgins he said: “Christ is everything for us: if you wish to heal your wounds, he is the physician; if you are parched with the heat of a fever, he is drink; if you find yourself oppressed by guilt, he is justice; if you need help, he is power; if you are afraid of death, he is life; if you desire paradise, he is the way; if you flee from darkness, he is light; if you are in need of food, he is nourishment” (De virginitate, 16, 99).

Dear consecrated brothers and sisters, I thank you for your witness and I encourage you: look to the future with confidence, counting on God’s fidelity, which will never be lacking, and the power of his grace, always able to work new miracles, even in us and with us. The antiphons of the psalmody this Saturday led us to contemplate the mystery of the Virgin Mary. In her, we can in fact, recognize that “type of chaste and detached life, which Christ the Lord chose for Himself and which His Mother also embraced” (Lumen gentium, 46), a life in complete obedience to the will of God.

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Benedict XVIs Dialogue with Families
"We are Defending Mans Freedom When We Defend Sunday"

MILAN, June 4, 2012 - Here is a translation of the dialogue Benedict XVI had with several families in Milan during the VII World Meeting of Families.

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1. Cat Tien (a little girl from Vietnam):

Hi, Pope. I am Cat Tien, I come from Vietnam.

I am 7 years old and I would like to present my family to you. He is my dad, Dan, and my mom’s name is Tao, and he is my little brother Binh.

I would really like to know something about your family and when you were little like me…

Holy Father: Thank you, dear, and your parents. I thank you from my heart. Well, you asked about what my memories of my family are like: there would be a lot! I wanted to say only a few things. Sunday was always the important time for our family, but Sunday already began Saturday evening. Father read the readings to us from a book that was very popular in Germany at that time. The book also included an explanation of the readings. That is how Sunday began: we were already entering into the liturgy, in a joyful atmosphere. The next day we went to Mass. My home is very close to Salzburg, so we had a lot of music – Mozart, Schubert, Haydn – and when the Kyrie began it was as if heaven had opened up. And at home the big lunch together was naturally important. And we also sang a lot: my brother is a great musician, he composed music for all of us already as a young man, and the whole family sang. Dad played the zither and sang; they are unforgettable moments. Then, of course, we took trips together, walking; we were near a forest and so walking in the forests was very nice: adventures, games, etc. In a word, we were one heart and one soul, with many shared experiences, even in very hard times, because it was wartime – first there was the dictatorship, then poverty. But this love that we had for each other, this joy even in simple things was strong and so we were able to overcome and endure even these things. I think that it was very important that even little things gave us joy because the other person’s heart expressed itself in this way. And in this way we grew up in the certainty that it was good to be a human being, because we saw that God’s goodness was reflected in our parents and in us children. And, to tell the truth, if I try to imagine a little how paradise will be, I think always of the time of my youth, of my childhood. In this context of confidence, of joy and love we were happy and I think that paradise must be something like how it was in my youth. In this sense I hope to go “home,” going to the “other side of the world.”

2. Serge Razafinbony and Fara Andrianombonana (an engaged couple from Madagascar):

Serge: Our names are Fara and Serge, and we come from Madagascar. We met each other in Florence, where we were studying. I was studying engineering and she was studying economics. We have been engaged for 4 years and having just graduated we dream of returning to our country to help our people also through our professions.

Fara: The family models that dominate the West do not convince us, but we are also aware that certain customs of our Africa must be changed in some way. We feel made for each other; because of this we want to get married and build a future together. We also want every aspect of our life to be guided by the values of the Gospel. But talking about marriage, Your Holiness, there is one word that attracts and, at the same time, frightens us more than any other: “forever”…

Holy Father: Dear friends, thank you for your witness. My prayer is with you in this journey of engagement and I hope that you can create, with the values of the Gospel, a family that is “forever.” You spoke of different types of marriage: we know the “traditional marriage” (mariage coutumier) of Africa and western marriage. In Europe too, to tell the truth, until the 1800s, a different model of marriage that was dominant: often the marriage was in reality a contract between clans in which the aim was to preserve the clan, hoping to adapt the one to the other. This is also how it was in part where I come from. I remember that it was still very much like this in a small town where I went to school. But then, beginning in the 1800s, there was the emancipation of the individual, personal freedom, and marriage was no longer based on the will of others but on personal choice; first a couple fell in love, then they got engaged and then came marriage. At that time we were all convinced that this was the only correct model of marriage and that love alone guaranteed the “forever,” because love is absolute, it wants everything and therefore also the whole of time: it is “forever.” Unfortunately, the reality was not thus: we see that falling love is beautiful, but perhaps it is not always perpetual, just as sentiment is not: it does not remain forever. So, we see that the passage from falling in love to engagement and then to marriage requires different decisions, different interior experiences. As I said, this sentiment of love is beautiful, but it must be purified, it must follow a path of discernment, that is, it must enter into the reason and will; reason, sentiment and will must join together. In the Rite of Matrimony the Church does not say: “Are you in love?” but “Do you will?” (Vuoi?), “Are you decided?” (Sei deciso?) In other words, falling in love must become true love involving the will and reason on a journey, which is that of engagement, of purification, of greater depth, so that truly the whole person, with all of his capacities, with the discernment of reason, the power of the will, says: “Yes, this is my life.” I think often of the marriage at Cana. The first wine is delicious: this is falling in love. But it does not go all the way: a second wine must come, that is, it must ferment and grow, mature. A definitive love that really becomes a “second wine” is more beautiful, better than the first wine. And this is what we must seek. And here it is also important that the “I” is not isolated, I and you, but that they community of the parish, the Church, friends be involved too. These things – the proper personalization, communion of life with others, with families that support each other – are very important and only in this way, in this involvement of the community, of friends, of the Church, of faith, of God himself, can there grow a wine that lasts forever. Congratulations to you!

3. The Paleologos Family (from Greece)

Nikos: Kalispera! We are the Paleologos family. We come from Athens. My name is Nikos and this is my wife Pania. And these are our 2 children, Pavlos and Lydia.

A number of years ago, with 2 other partners, we invested everything we had and we started a small information technology company.

When the current economic crisis hit, the client pool drastically shrank and those who have remained defer their payments more and more. We are barely able to pay the salaries of the 2 employees, and very little remains for us partners: so with every day that passes little remains to support our families. Our situation is one among many, among millions of others. In the city people walk around with their heads down; no one trusts anyone anymore, hope is gone.

Pania: Although we continue to believe in providence, we also find it hard to think of a future for our children.

There are days and nights, Holy Father, in which we ask ourselves how not to lose hope. What can the Church say to all of these people, to these persons and families who no longer have futures?

Holy Father: Dear friends, thank you for this testimony which has moved my heart and the heart of everyone here. How can we respond? Words are insufficient. We must do something concrete and it is painful for all of us that we are unable to do anything concrete. Let us speak first of politics: it seems to me that in all of the political parties the sense of responsibility must develop, that they not promise what they cannot deliver, that they not only seek votes for themselves, but that they be responsible for everyone’s good and understand that politics is always also human and moral responsibility before God and men. Then, naturally, individuals suffer and must accept the situation as it is, often without the possibility of defending themselves. Nevertheless, we can also say here: let us make an effort that everyone do what is possible for him to do, that he think of himself, of the family, of others, with a great sense of responsibility, knowing that sacrifices are necessary to move forward. A third point: what can we ourselves do? This is my question at this moment. I think that perhaps twinning cities, families, parishes could help. We have in Europe right now a network of twinning, but they are culture exchanges, which are in a certain way good and useful, but maybe we need twinning in another sense: a family in the West, from Italy, from Germany, from France… might truly take on the responsibility of helping another family. Parishes, cities too could do this, really assuming responsibility, helping in a concrete manner. And be certain: I and many others are praying for you, and this praying is not only words, but opening up the heart to God and so also it creates creativity in finding solutions. We hope that the Lord will help us, that the Lord will always help you! Thank you.

4. The Rerrie Family (from the United States)

Jay: We live near New York.

My name is Jay. I am originally from Jamaica and I am an accountant. This is my wife Anna and she is a teacher’s aid.

And these are our 6 children, who are between 2 and 12. From this you can well imagine, Your Holiness, that our life is one of always racing against the clock, of complicated worries and attempt at coordination…

Even with us, in the United States, one of the absolute priorities is keeping a job, and to do it you cannot worry about the hours, and often it is our family that sets us back.

Anna: Of course, it is not always easy … The impression, Your Holiness, is that institutions and businesses do not facilitate the conciliation of working hours with the family schedule.

Your Holiness, we imagine that for you too it is not easy to conciliate your infinite commitments with rest.

Do you have some advice to help us rediscover this necessary harmony? In the vortex of the many stimuli imposed by contemporary society, how can families be helped to live celebrations according to God’s heart?

Holy Father: Great question, and I would like to reflect on this dilemma in connection to 2 priorities: the priority of work is fundamental, and the priority of the family. And how do we reconcile these 2 priorities? I can only try to offer a small bit of advice. The first point: there are businesses that permit extra time for the family – birthdays, etc. – and they see that allowing a little freedom is good even for the business, because it reinforces the love for work, for the workplace. So, here I would like to invite employers to think of the family, to think also of helping to conciliate the 2 priorities. Second point: it seems to me that you must try to be creative, and this is not always easy. But at least every day bring some element of joy to the family, of attention, some sacrifice of your own wishes, so that the family can be together; and accept and overcome the nights, the hard times of which we spoke earlier, and think of this great good that is the family and thus, even in the important attempt to do something good every day, find the reconciliation of the 2 priorities. And finally there is Sunday, the feast: I hope that Sunday is observed in America. Sunday seems very important to me, the day of the Lord and, precisely as such, the “day of man” too, because we are free. This was, in the creation account, the Creator’s original intention: that on one day everyone would be free. In this freedom for each other, for ourselves, we are free for God. And so I think that we are defending man’s freedom when we defend Sunday and holidays as God’s days and therefore days for man. Best wishes to you! Thank you.

5. The Araujo Family (from Porto Alegre, Brazil)

Maria Marta: Your Holiness, as in the rest of the world so also in our Brazil failed marriages continue to increase.

My name is Maria Marta and this is Manoel Angelo. We have been married for 34 years and we are already grandparents. As a doctor and family psychotherapist we meet many families, and notice in conflicts between couples a more pronounced difficulty in forgiving and accepting forgiveness, but in various cases we have seen the desire and the will to remarry and to build something lasting also for the children who are born from the new union.

Manoel Angelo: Some of these remarried couples would like to return to the Church, but when they are refused the Sacraments their delusion is great. They feel excluded, singled out by a judgment to which there is no appeal.

These great sufferings wound the very depths of those who are involved – lacerations that also become part of the world, and they are also our wounds, of all humanity.

Holy Father, we know that the Church has these situations and these persons in her heart: what words and what signs of hope can we give them?

Holy Father: Dear friends, thank you for your psychotherapeutic work with families, which is very necessary. Thank you for all that you do to help these suffering persons. In fact, this problem of divorced people who have remarried is among the more painful things that today’s Church has to suffer. And we do not have simple fixes for it. The suffering is great and we can only help the parishes and individuals help these persons endure the suffering of this divorce. I would say that, naturally, prevention is very important, that is, from the very beginning to deepen the affection (innamoramento) into a profound, ripened decision; moreover, accompanying the family during the marriage [is also very important], so that families are never alone but are truly accompanied on their journey. And then, in regard to divorced persons, we must tell them – as you said – that the Church loves them, but they must see and feel this love. It seems to me that it is a major task of a parish, of a Catholic community, really to do what is possible so that they really feel that they are loved, accepted, that they are not “outside” even if they cannot receive absolution and the Eucharist: they must see that even in this way they live fully in the Church. Perhaps it is not possible to receive absolution in Confession, nevertheless, permanent contact with a priest, with a spiritual director, is very important so that they can see that someone is there for them, helping them. Then it is also very important that they sense that the Eucharist is real and participated in if they truly enter into communion with the Body of Christ. Even without the “bodily” reception of the Sacrament, we can be spiritually united to Christ in his Body. And making this understood is important so that they really discover the possibility of living a life of faith, with the Word of God, with the communion of the Church and are able to see that their suffering is a gift for the Church, that they serve everyone in this way even for defending the stability of love, of marriage; that they also see that this suffering is not only a physical and psychological torment, but that it is also a suffering in the community of the Church for the great values of our faith. I think that their suffering, if it is truly accepted interiorly, is a gift for the Church. They must know this, that precisely in this way they serve the Church, they are in the Church’s heart. Thank you for your work.

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Papal Message to Earthquake Victims
"We all Want to Work Together to Help You"

MILAN, June 4, 2012 - Here is a translation of a message Benedict XVI gave in Milan to the victims of the earthquake in Emilia-Romagna at the VII World Meeting of Families.

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Dear friends, you know that we feel your sorrow deeply; and, above all, I pray every day that this earthquake will finally end. We all want to work together to help you: be certain that we have not forgotten you, that each of us is doing what we can to help you – Caritas, all of the Church’s organizations, the state, the different communities – each of us wants to help you, spiritually in our prayer, in the nearness of our heart, and materially, and I pray insistently for you. May God help you and all of us! Greetings to you, may the Lord bless you!

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Papal Address to Confirmandi
"Learn to Converse With the Lord"

MILAN, June 4, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the meeting with youth receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation at the VII World Meeting of Families.

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Dear young men and women,

It is a great joy for me to be able to meet you during my visit to this city of yours. In this famous soccer stadium today you are the protagonists! I greet your archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Scola, and I thank him for the words that he has addressed to me. I also thank Fr. Samuele Marelli. I greet your friend who welcomed me on your behalf. I am happy to greet the episcopal vicars who, in the name of the archbishop, administered or will confirm you. A special thank you to the Foundation of Milanese Oratories, who organized this meeting, to your priests, to all the catechists, the educators, the sponsors and to those in the individual parish communities were your companions on the way and who to you bore witness to the faith in Jesus Christ dead, risen, and alive.

You, dear young people, are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, or you have already received it a short time ago. I know that you have completed a significant course of formation, this year called “The Spirit Show.” Helped by this journey, with different stages, you have learned to recognize the marvelous things that the Holy Spirit has done and is doing in your lives and in all those who say “yes” to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You have discovered the great value of Baptism, the first Sacrament, the entryway into the Christian life. You received it thanks to your parents, who, together with your godparents, professed the Creed in your name and committed themselves to educate you in the faith. This was for you, as for me – many years ago! – an incredible grace. From that moment, reborn in the water of the Spirit, you became members of the family of the children of God, you became Christians, members of the Church.

Now you have grown, and you yourselves can pronounce your personal “yes” to God, a free and conscious “yes.” The Sacrament of Confirmation ratifies Baptism and pours the Holy Spirit out upon you in abundance. You yourselves now, full of gratitude, have the ability to welcome his great gifts that help you, in the journey of life, to become faithful and courageous witnesses of Jesus. The Spirit’s gifts are wondrous realities that allow you to form yourselves as Christians, to live the Gospel and to be active members of the community. I would like briefly to recall these gifts of which the prophet Isaiah and Jesus speak to us:

- the first gift is wisdom, through which you discover how good and great the Lord is and, as the word “wisdom” itself says, gives much flavor (sapore) to your life because, as Jesus said, you are “the salt of the earth”;

- then the gift of understanding, which helps you to understand the depths of the Word of God and the truths of the faith;

- then the gift of counsel, which will guide you to the discovery of the plan that God has for your life, the life of each one of you;

- the gift of courage, to defeat the temptations of evil and to always do the good, even when it means sacrifice;

- then there comes the gift of knowledge, not technical knowledge, as is taught at universities, but knowledge in the deeper sense that teaches us to find the signs, the traces of God in creation, to understand how God speaks to us in every age and speaks to me, and to animate daily work with the Gospel; to understand that there is a profundity to [daily life] and to understand this profundity and thus to give flavor (sapore) to work, even hard work;

- another gift is piety, which keeps the flame of love for our Father in heaven alive in such a way that we can pray to him every day with the confidence and tenderness of children who are much loved; it helps us not to forget the fundamental reality of the world and my life: that God exists and God knows me and awaits my answer to his plan;

- and finally the 7th gift is the fear of God – we spoke earlier of fear; to fear God in this sense does mean to be frightened of him, but to feel a deep respect for him, respect for his will, which is the true plan for my life and is the way through which personal and community life becomes good; and today, with all of the crises in the world, we see how important it is that everyone respect this will of God, which is written into our hearts and by which we must live; and thus this fear of God is the desire to do good, to do truth, to do the will of God.

Dear young people, the whole of Christian life is a journey, it is like climbing a path that leads up a mountain – and so it is not always easy, but climbing a mountain is something beautiful – together with Jesus; with these precious gifts your friendship with him will become still more real and intimate. This friendship is continually nourished with the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which we receive his Body and Blood. In this regard I invite you always to participate in Sunday Mass with joy and fidelity. At Mass the whole community gathers together to pray, to listen to the Word of God and to take part in the eucharistic sacrifice. Participate also in the Sacrament of Penance, Confession: it is a meeting with Jesus who forgives our sins and helps us to do the good; receiving this gift, beginning again, is a great gift in life, knowing that I am free, that I can start over, that all is forgiven. Do not forget also daily personal prayer. Learn to converse with the Lord, confide in him, tell him your joys and worries, and ask him for light and help on along your way.

Dear friends, you are fortunate to have oratories in your parishes, it is a great gift in the Diocese of Milan. The oratory, as the word itself indicates, is a place where we pray, but also where we come together in the joy of faith, where there is catechesis, games, activities of service and other types, which help us always to grow in our knowledge and in our following of the Lord! These 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit grow precisely in this community where life is lived in truth, in God. In your families, be obedient to your parents, listen to the instructions they give you to grow up like Jesus “in wisdom, age and grace before God and men” (Luke 2:51-52). Finally, do not be lazy, but hard working young people, especially in your studies, in view of the future: it is your daily duty and a great opportunity that you have to grow and to prepare the future. Be available and generous to others, overcoming temptations to put yourselves at the center because egoism is the enemy of true joy. If you now taste the beauty of being part of Jesus’ community, you can also make your own contribution to making it grow and inviting others to be a part of it. Let me tell you also that every day the Lord is calling you to great things, even here today. Be open to what he suggests and if he calls you to follow him on the path of the priesthood or the consecrated life, do not say no to him! It would be misguided laziness. Jesus will fill your hear for the rest of your life!

Dear young men and women, I say this to you in all seriousness: have high ideals: everyone can reach the heights, not just a few! Be saints! But is it possible to be saints at your age? Certainly! St. Ambrose, the great saint of your city, says this too in one of his works: “Every age is ripe for Christ” (“De virginitate,” 40). And above all this is demonstrated by the witness of many saints who are your own age, like Domenico Savio or Maria Goretti. Sanctity is the normal path for Christians: it is not only for a few chosen ones, but is open to all. Naturally, [this can be done] with the light and the power of the Holy Spirit – which we will not lack if we raise up our hands and open our heart! – and with the help of Our Mother. Who is Our Mother? It is the Mother of Jesus, Mary. Jesus entrusted all of us to her before he died ont he cross. May the Virgin Mary then always safeguard the beauty of your “yes” to Jesus, her Son, the great and faithful Friend of your life. So be it!

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Popes Homily at Closing Mass of the VII World Meeting of Families
"Christ Gives You a Share in His Spousal Love"

MILAN, June 1, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday in Milan at the Closing Mass of the VII World Meeting of Families.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a time of great joy and communion that we are experiencing this morning, as we celebrate the eucharistic Sacrifice: a great gathering, in union with the Successor of Peter, consisting of faithful who have come from many different nations. It is an eloquent image of the Church, one and universal, founded by Christ and fruit of the mission entrusted by Jesus to his Apostles, as we heard in today’s Gospel: to go and make disciples of all nations, "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:18-19). With affection and gratitude I greet Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the principal architects of this VII World Meeting of Families, together with their staff, the Auxiliary Bishops of Milan and all the other bishops. I am pleased to greet all the Authorities who are present today. And I extend a warm welcome especially to you, dear families! Thank you for your participation!

In today’s second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that in Baptism we received the Holy Spirit, who unites us to Christ as brothers and sisters and makes us children of the Father, so that we can cry out: "Abba, Father!" (cf.Rom 8:15,17). At that moment we were given a spark of new, divine life, which is destined to grow until it comes to its definitive fulfilment in the glory of heaven; we became members of the Church, God’s family, "sacrarium Trinitatis" as Saint Ambrose calls it, "a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", as the Second Vatican Council teaches (Lumen Gentium, 4). The liturgical Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that we are celebrating today invites us to contemplate this mystery, but it also urges us to commit ourselves to live our communion with God and with one another according to the model of Trinitarian communion. We are called to receive and to pass on the truths of faith in a spirit of harmony, to live our love for each other and for everyone, sharing joys and sufferings, learning to seek and to grant forgiveness, valuing the different charisms under the leadership of the bishops. In a word, we have been given the task of building church communities that are more and more like families, able to reflect the beauty of the Trinity and to evangelize not only by word, but I would say by "radiation", in the strength of living love.

It is not only the Church that is called to be the image of One God in Three Persons, but also the family, based on marriage between man and woman. In the beginning, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’" (Gen 1:27-28).

God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life. It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity , image of God. Dear married couples, in living out your marriage you are not giving each other any particular thing or activity, but your whole lives. And your love is fruitful first and foremost for yourselves, because you desire and accomplish one another’s good, you experience the joy of receiving and giving. It is also fruitful in your generous and responsible procreation of children, in your attentive care for them, and in their vigilant and wise education. And lastly, it is fruitful for society, because family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation.

Dear married couples, watch over your children and, in a world dominated by technology, transmit to them, with serenity and trust, reasons for living, the strength of faith, pointing them towards high goals and supporting them in their fragility. And let me add a word to the children here: be sure that you always maintain a relationship of deep affection and attentive care for your parents, and see that your relationships with your brothers and sisters are opportunities to grow in love.

God’s plan for the human couple finds its fullness in Jesus Christ, who raised marriage to the level of a sacrament. Dear married couples, by means of a special gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ gives you a share in his spousal love, making you a sign of his faithful and all-embracing love for the Church. If you can receive this gift, renewing your "yes" each day by faith, with the strength that comes from the grace of the sacrament, then your family will grow in God’s love according to the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Dear families, pray often for the help of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, that they may teach you to receive God’s love as they did. Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the cosmos, the world. You have before you the witness of so many families who point out the paths for growing in love: by maintaining a constant relationship with God and participating in the life of the Church, by cultivating dialogue, respecting the other’s point of view, by being ready for service and patient with the failings of others, by being able to forgive and to seek forgiveness, by overcoming with intelligence and humility any conflicts that may arise, by agreeing on principles of upbringing, and by being open to other families, attentive towards the poor, and responsible within civil society.

These are all elements that build up the family. Live them with courage, and be sure that, insofar as you live your love for each other and for all with the help of God’s grace, you become a living Gospel, a true domestic Church (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 49). I should also like to address a word to the faithful who, even though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had painful experiences of breakdown and separation. I want you to know that the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany you.

In the Book of Genesis, God entrusts his creation to the human couple for them to guard it, cultivate it, and direct it according to his plan (cf. 1:27-28; 2:15). In this indication of Sacred Scripture we may recognize the task of man and woman to collaborate with God in the process of transforming the world through work, science and technology. Man and woman are also the image of God in this important work, which they are to carry out with the Creator’s own love. In modern economic theories, there is often a utilitarian concept of work, production and the market. Yet God’s plan, as well as experience, show that the one-sided logic of sheer utility and maximum profit are not conducive to harmonious development, to the good of the family or to building a just society, because it brings in its wake ferocious competition, strong inequalities, degradation of the environment, the race for consumer goods, family tensions. Indeed, the utilitarian mentality tends to take its toll on personal and family relationships, reducing them to a fragile convergence of individual interests and undermining the solidity of the social fabric.

One final point: man, as the image of God, is also called to rest and to celebrate. The account of creation concludes with these words: "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it" (Gen 2:2-3). For us Christians, the feast day is Sunday, the Lord’s day, the weekly Easter. It is the day of the Church, the assembly convened by the Lord around the table of the word and of the eucharistic Sacrifice, just as we are doing today, in order to feed on him, to enter into his love and to live by his love. It is the day of man and his values: conviviality, friendship, solidarity, culture, closeness to nature, play, sport. It is the day of the family, on which to experience together a sense of celebration, encounter, sharing, not least through taking part in Mass. Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord’s Day! It is like an oasis in which to pause, so as to taste the joy of encounter and to quench our thirst for God.

Family, work, celebration: three of God’s gifts, three dimensions of our lives that must be brought into a harmonious balance. Harmonizing work schedules with family demands, professional life with fatherhood and motherhood, work with celebration, is important for building up a society with a human face. In this regard, always give priority to the logic of being over that of having: the first builds up, the second ends up destroying. We must learn to believe first of all in the family, in authentic love, the kind that comes from God and unites us to him, the kind that therefore "makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28)" (Deus Caritas Est, 18). Amen.

[Original text: Italian]

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope Arrives in Milan for World Meeting of Families
Urges Faithful to Continue Being Witnesses of the Gospel

Pope Benedict XVI arrived to Milan today, starting a three day visit for the VII World Meeting of Families. Upon landing, The Holy Father was greeted at the airport by several dignitaries and prelates, including Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan and Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

The pope was met by thousands of people hoping to catch a glimpse of him at Milan’s Piazza del Duomo, where he thanked everyone for their warm welcome and greeted those that came to participate in the meeting of families. Speaking to the faithful of Milan, the pope said that the international event gives him “ the welcome occasion to visit your city and to renew the close and constant bonds that unite the Ambrosian community to the Church of Rome and Successor of Peter.”

The Holy Father also recounted the history of saintly men and women from Milan, from St. Ambrose to St. Gianna Molla, while inviting those gathered to continue being witnesses of the Gospel. “It is up to you now, heirs of a glorious past and a spiritual heritage of inestimable value, to commit yourselves to transmitting the torch of such a brilliant tradition to future generations. You are well aware how urgent it is to imbue the current cultural context with the Gospel leaven,” he said.

The 85 year old pontiff concluded his address by highlighting the importance of faith and the family in today’s society. “Faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, who is living among us, must enliven the entire fabric of life, personal and collective, private and public, so as to enable a stable and authentic "well being," beginning with the family, rediscovered as humanity’s principal asset, coefficient and sign of a true and stable culture in favor of man,” he said.

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Pope Benedict XVIs Address in Piazza del Duomo, Milan
"Faith in Jesus Christ Must Enliven the Entire Fabric of Life"

MILAN, JUNE 1, 2012 - Here is the translation of the address given at Piazza del Duomo on Friday evening by Pope Benedict XVI to the citizens of Milan and participants of the VII World Meeting of Families.

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Mr. Mayor,

Distinguished Authorities,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear brothers and sisters of the Archdiocese of Milan.

I cordially greet all of you gathered here in such numbers, as well as those following this event on radio or television. Thank you for your warm welcome! I thank the mayor for his kind words of welcome to me on behalf of the local community. I respectfully greet the representative of the government, the president of the region, the president of the province, as well as other representatives of civil and military institutions, and I express my gratitude for the help they have offered for the different moments of this visit.

I am very pleased to be here with you today and thank God for this occasion to visit your renowned city. My first meeting with the Milanese takes place in this ‘Piazza del Duomo,’ the heart of Milan, where the magnificent monument that is the symbol of this city rises. With its forest of spires, it invites us to look upwards, to God. This very impetus towards the heavens has always characterized Milan and allowed the city, over the years, to successfully respond to its mission: to be a crossroads -- Mediolanum -- of peoples and cultures. The city has wisely managed to balance local pride with an ability to accept every positive influence it has received throughout its history. Even today, Milan is called to rediscover its positive role as a herald of development and peace for all of Italy.

My cordial "thank you" goes to the pastor of this archdiocese, Cardinal Angelo Scola, for the welcome and words he addressed to me on behalf of the entire diocesan community; I also greet the auxiliary bishops and those who preceded him on this glorious and ancient cathedra, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini.

I send a special greeting to the representatives of the families -- from all over the world -- taking part in the VII World Meeting. A loving thought then goes to those in need of aid and comfort, and who are troubled by various concerns: to the lonely or needy, the unemployed, the sick, prisoners, the homeless, or those without even the most indispensable to live a worthy life. May none of these, our brothers and sisters, ever lack the united and ongoing attention of the community. In this regard, I welcome what the diocese of Milan has done and continues to do to effectively respond to the needs of families affected by the economic-financial crisis, and for having immediately organized, together with the whole Church and the rest of Italy, to send help to the earthquake victims in Emilia Romagna, who are in our hearts and prayers and for whom, once again, I encourage a generous solidarity.

The VII World Meeting of Families provides me the welcome occasion to visit your city and to renew the close and constant bonds that unite the Ambrosian community to the Church of Rome and Successor of Peter. As is known, Ambrose came from a roman family and always kept alive his ties with the Eternal City and the Church of Rome, indicating and praising the primacy of the bishop who presides over it. In Peter -- he affirms – “there is the foundation of the Church and the Magisterium of discipline" (De Virginitate, 16, 105); and again, the famous saying: "Where Peter is, there is the Church" (Explanatio Psalmi 40, 30, 5). The pastoral wisdom and teachings of Ambrose on the orthodoxy of faith and Christian life will leave an indelible mark on the universal Church and, in particular, will mark the Church of Milan, which has never ceased to sustain his memory and preserve his spirit. The Ambrosian Church, safeguarding the prerogatives of its rite and its own expressions of the one faith, is called to fully live the catholicity of the one Church, to witness to it and contribute to enriching it.

The profound ecclesial sense and sincere regard for communion with the Successor of Peter, have been part of the richness and identity of your Church throughout its history, and is brilliantly expressed in the figures of the great pastors who have led it.

Above all, St. Charles Borromeo: a native son. He was, as the Servant of God, Paul VI, said, "a shaper of the conscience and lifestyle of the people" (Address to Milanesi, March 18, 1968); especially by his extensive, tenacious and demanding application of the Tridentine reforms; the creation of institutions of renewal, beginning with seminaries, and his limitless charity rooted in a profound union with God, accompanied by an exemplary life of austerity.

But, along with Saints Ambrose and Charles, I would also like to call to mind other excellent, more recent, pastors, who have embellished the Church of Milan with holiness and doctrine: Blessed Cardinal Andrea Carlo Ferrari, apostle of catechesis and oratories and promoter of social renewal in the Christian sense; Blessed Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, the “Cardinal of Prayer," untiring pastor, until the total consumption of himself for his faithful. I also want to mention two Archbishops of Milan who became popes: Achille Ratti, Pope Pius XI; he was responsible for the successful conclusion of the Roman Question and the creation of the Vatican City State; and the Servant of God, Giovanni Battista Montini, Paul VI, good and wise, who, with an expert hand, guided and lead the Second Vatican Council to a positive conclusion. Several spiritual fruits, which are especially noteworthy of our time, also developed in the Ambrosian Church.

Among others, precisely, thinking of families, I would like to recall today, Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, wife and mother, a woman involved in the Church and her community, she irradiated the beauty and joy of faith, hope and charity.

Dear friends, your history is full of culture and faith. This wealth has imbued the art, music, literature, culture, industry, politics, sports, works of charity of Milan and the entire Archdiocese. It is up to you now, heirs of a glorious past and a spiritual heritage of inestimable value, to commit yourselves to transmitting the torch of such a brilliant tradition to future generations. You are well aware how urgent it is to imbue the current cultural context with the Gospel leaven. Faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, who is living among us, must enliven the entire fabric of life, personal and collective, private and public, so as to enable a stable and authentic "well being," beginning with the family, rediscovered as humanity’s principal asset, coefficient and sign of a true and stable culture in favor of man. The unique identity of Milan should not isolate or separate it, closing in on itself. On the contrary, preserving the sap of the roots and traits of its history, it is called to look to the future with hope, nurturing an intimate and active link with life throughout Italy and Europe. With a clear distinction of roles and purposes, the positively "secular" Milan and the Milan of faith are called to sustain the common good.

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you, again, for your welcome! I entrust you to the protection of the Virgin Mary, who from the highest spire of the cathedral maternally vigils day and night on this City. To all of you, whom I embrace as one, I impart my loving Blessing.

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Papal Address at La Scala Theater in Milan
"It is in the Family That the Light of Peace Begins to Shine to Illumine Our World"

MILAN, JUNE 1, 2012 - Here is the translation of the address given at “La Scala” Theater on Friday evening by Pope Benedict XVI to participantsof the VII World Meeting of Families

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Lord Cardinals,
Distinguished Authorities,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Presbyterate,
Dear Delegations of the VII World Meeting of Families.

In this historic place I would like first of all to recall an event: it was May 11, 1946, and Arturo Toscanini raised the baton to direct a memorable concert in ‘La Scala’ rebuilt after the horrors of the war. It is said that the great maestro, no sooner he arrived here in Milan, came immediately to this theater and began to clap his hands in the center of the hall to see if the proverbial acoustics had been kept intact and, hearing that the acoustics were perfect, he exclaimed: “It’s La Scala, it’s always my Scala!” Enclosed in these words, “It’s La Scala, it’s always my Scala!,” is the meaning of this place, the temple of opera, the musical and cultural reference point not only for Milan and Italy, but for the whole world. And La Scala is connected to Milan in a profound way, it is one of its greatest glories and I wished to recall that May of 1946 because the reconstruction of La Scala was a sign of hope for the whole city to take up life again after the destructions of the War. Hence, for me it is an honor to be with all of you and to have experienced, with this splendid concert, a moment of elevation of the spirit. I thank the mayor, Giuliano Pisapia, the Superintendent, Stephane Lissner, also for having introduced this evening, but above all the Orchestra and Choir of La Scala Theater, the four soloists and maestro, Daniel Barenboim, for the intense and moving interpretation of one of the absolute masterpieces of the history of music. The gestation of the 9thSymphony of Ludwig van Beethoven was long and complex, but from the first famous sixteen notes of the first movement, a climate of expectation is created of something grandiose and the expectation is not disappointed.

Although following essentially the traditional forms and language of the classic symphony, Beethoven makes one perceive something new already from the breadth without precedents of all the movements of the work, which is confirmed with the final part introduced by a terrible dissonance, of which the recitative stands out with the famous words “O friends, not these tones, let us intone others that are more attractive and joyful,” words that, in a certain sense, “turn the page” and introduce the main theme of the Hymn to Joy. It is an ideal vision of humanity that Beethoven designs with his music: “the active joy in brotherhood and reciprocal love, under the paternal gaze of God” (Luigi Della Croce). It is not a properly Christian joy that Beethoven sings, however, it is the joy of the fraternal coexistence of peoples, of the victory over egoism, and it is the desire that humanity’s journey be marked by love, almost an invitation that he addresses to all beyond every barrier and conviction.

Over this concert, which should be a joyful celebration on the occasion of this meeting of persons from almost all the nations of the world, there is the shadow of the earthquake which brought great suffering to so many inhabitants of our country. The words taken from Schiller’s Hymn to Joy sound empty to us, in fact, they do not seem true. We do not completely experience the divine sparks of the Elysium. We are not inebriated by the fire, but rather paralyzed by the sorrow for so much incomprehensible destruction which cost human lives, which took away the homes and dwellings of so many. Also, the theory that above in the starry heavens a good father dwells seems debatable. Is the good father only above the starry heavens? Does his goodness not reach us? We seek a God that does not reign at a distance, but who enters our life and our suffering.

In this hour, Beethoven’s words, “Friends, not these tones …”, we want to refer, in fact, to Schiller. Not these tones. We do not need an unreal lesson on a distant God and on a brotherhood that is not challenging. We are looking for a close God. We are seeking a brotherhood that, in the midst of sufferings, sustains others and in this way helps to go forward. After this concert many will go to Eucharistic Adoration – to the God who entered into our sufferings and who continues to do so. To the God who suffers with us and for us and in this way has rendered men and women capable of sharing the suffering of others and of transforming it into love. It is precisely to this that we feel called by this concert.

Therefore, thank you once again to the Orchestra and Choir of La Scala Theater, to the soloists and to all those who made this event possible. Thank you to maestro Daniel Barenboim, also, because, with the choice of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, he enables us to send a message with the music which affirms the fundamental value of solidarity, of fraternity and of peace. And I think this message is also precious for the family, because it is in the family that one experiences for the first time how the human person is not created to live enclosed in himself, but in relationship with others; it is in the family that one understands how one’s fulfillment does not lie in putting oneself at the center, led by egoism, but in self-giving; it is in the family that the light of peace begins to shine to illumine our world. And thank you all for the moment we lived together. My most sincere thanks.

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Papal Address at Conclusion of the Marian Month of May
"Her Faith Invites Us to Look Beyond Appearances"

VATICAN CITY, June 1, 2012 - Here is the translation of the address given in the Vatican Gardens by Pope Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the procession commemorating the end of the Marian month of May.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am always very happy to take part in this Marian vigil in the Vatican, a moment that, even with the presence of so many people, always has an intimate and familiar character. The month that the devotion of the faithful dedicates in an altogether particular way, to devotion to the Mother of God, closes with the liturgical feast that recalls the “second Joyful Mystery”: Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. This event is characterized by the joy expressed by the words with which the Holy Virgin glorifies the Almighty for the great things that He has done looking on the humility of His handmaid: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46). The Magnificat is the canticle of praise that rises from redeemed humanity by divine mercy, it rises from the whole people of God; at the same time, it is the hymn that denounces the illusion of those who believe themselves to be lords of history and arbiters of their destiny.

Mary, on the contrary, has put God at the center of her life; she abandoned herself trustfully to His will, in an attitude of humble docility to his plan of love. Because of her poverty of spirit and humility of heart, she was chosen to be the temple that bears the Word in herself, God made man. Of her, therefore, is the figure of the “daughter of Sion” that the prophet Zephaniah invites to rejoice, to exult with joy (cf. Zp. 3:14).

Dear friends, this evening we wish to turn our gaze to Mary with renewed filial affection. We must always learn from our heavenly Mother; her faith invites us to look beyond appearances and firmly to believe that our daily difficulties are, in fact, part of a springtime which has already begun with the risen Christ. This evening we wish to draw from Mary's Immaculate Heart with renewed trust, allowing ourselves to be imbued with her joy which had its most profound source in the Lord. Joy, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, is a fundamental distinguishing characteristic of Christians. It is founded on hope in God, it draws strength from incessant prayer and it enables us to face trials and suffering with serenity. As St. Paul reminds us: 'Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer'. These words of the Apostle are like an echo of Mary's 'Magnificat' and exhort us to reproduce, in our own selves and in our everyday lives, the sentiments of joy in the faith expressed in that Marian canticle.

I would like to wish each and all of you, dear brothers and sisters, venerable Cardinals, bishops, priests, consecrated persons and all faithful, that this spiritual joy, overflowing from the heart full of gratitude of the Mother of Christ and our Mother, be at the end of this month of May more consolidated in our souls, in our personal and family life, in every environment, especially in the life of this family that, here in the Vatican, serves the universal Church. Thank you all!

[Original text: Italian]

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On Prayer in St. Pauls Second Letter to the Corinthians
"In our prayer we are called to say yes to God and to respond with the amen of adherence"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. Today the Holy Father continued his series of catecheses on prayer in the Letters of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

In these catecheses we are pondering prayer in the letters of St. Paul, and we are seeking to see Christian prayer as a true and personal encounter with God the Father, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. In today’s meeting, God’s faithful “yes” enters into dialogue with believers’ trustful “amen”. I wish to emphasize this dynamic by considering the Second Letter to the Corinthians. St. Paul sends this impassioned letter to a Church that has repeatedly questioned his apostleship, and he opens his heart so that his hearers might be reassured of his fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel. This Second Letter to the Corinthians begins with one of the loftiest prayers of blessing contained in the New Testament. It reads: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Paul suffered great tribulation and had to pass through many difficulties and afflictions, but he never yielded to discouragement, for he was sustained by grace and by the nearness of the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom he had become an apostle by surrendering his entire life to Him. For this reason, Paul begins this Letter with a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to God -- for there was never a moment in his life as an apostle of Christ that he felt the support of the merciful Father, of the God of all consolation, lessen. He suffered terribly -- he says it in this Letter -- but amidst all these situations, when a path forward didn’t seem to open, he received consolation and comfort from God.

He also suffered persecutions to the point of being imprisoned for the sake of proclaiming Christ, but he always felt interiorly free, animated by the presence of Christ, and filled with desire to announce the Gospel’s word of hope. Thus, from prison he writes to Timothy, his faithful coworker. In chains he writes: “The Word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:9b-10). In his suffering for Christ, he experiences the consolation of God. He writes: “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5).

In the prayer of blessing that introduces the Second Letter to the Corinthians, what prevails in addition to the theme of affliction is the theme of consolation, which should not be understood as simple comfort, but rather as encouragement and exhortation not to let oneself be conquered by tribulation and difficulties. The invitation is to live every situation in union with Christ, who takes all of the world’s suffering and sin upon Himself in order to bring light, hope and redemption. And in this way, Jesus makes us capable of consoling those who are afflicted in any way. Profound union with Christ through prayer and faith in His presence leads to a readiness to share in the sufferings and afflictions of others. St. Paul writes: “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized and I do not tremble?” (2 Corinthians 11:29). This ‘sharing in’ does not originate in benevolence, in human generosity or in a spirit of altruism; rather, it flows from the consolation of the Lord, from the unshakeable support of the “transcendent power that comes from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Dear brothers and sisters, our lives and our journey are often marked by difficulty, by misunderstandings, by suffering. We all know this to be true. In being faithful to our relationship with the Lord through constant, daily prayer we too are able to feel concretely the consolation that comes from God. And this strengthens our faith, because it makes us experience concretely God’s “yes” to man, to us, to me, in Christ; it makes us feel the fidelity of His love, which extends even to the gift of His Son on the Cross. St. Paul affirms: “The Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we preached among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not “yes” and “no”; but in Him it is always “yes”. For all the promises of God find their “yes” in Him. That is why we utter the “amen” through Him, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20). God’s “yes” is not halfway; it does not vacillate between “yes” and “no”; rather, it is a simple and sure “yes”. And we respond to this “yes” with our “yes”, with our “amen” and it is in this way that we remain secure in God’s “yes”.

Faith is not primarily a human action; rather, it is a gratuitous gift of God rooted in His fidelity, in His “yes”, which makes us understand how to live our lives by loving Him and our brothers and sisters. The whole of salvation history is a progressive self-revelation of the God’s faithfulness despite our infidelity and our rejection, in the certainty that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!” as the Apostle declares in the Letter to the Romans (11:29).

Dear brothers and sisters, God’s way of acting – which is very different from our own – gives us consolation, strength and hope, because God does not take back His “yes”. In the face of conflict in human relationships, even with members of our families, we are inclined not to persevere in gratuitous love, which requires commitment and sacrifice. God, on the other hand, never tires of us; He never tires of being patient with us, and with His immense mercy He always goes before us; He goes out to meet us first; His “yes” is entirely worthy of our trust. In the event of the Cross, He offers us the measure of His love, which neither calculates nor measures. In the Letter to Titus, St. Paul writes: “The goodness of God our Savior and His love for men has appeared” (Titus 3:4). And in order that that this “yes” might be renewed each day, “He has anointed us and has sealed us and given the pledge of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:21b-22).

It is the Holy Spirit, in fact, who makes God’s “yes” in Jesus Christ continually present and alive and it is He who creates in our hearts the desire to follow Him, in order to one day enter fully into His love, when in heaven we will receive a dwelling place not fashioned by human hands. There is no person who is not sought and summoned by this faithful love, a love that is capable of waiting even for those who continually respond with the “no” of rejection or with hardness of heart. God waits for us; He always seeks us out; He wills to receive us into communion with Himself in order to give each one of us fullness of life, of hope and of peace.

The Church’s “amen,” which resounds in every liturgical action, is grafted onto God’s faithful “yes”: “amen” is the response of faith that always concludes our personal and communal prayer, and that expresses our “yes” to God’s initiative. In prayer, we often respond with our “amen” through habit, without grasping its profound meaning. This term comes from ‘aman, which in Hebrew and Aramaic means “to make stable” to “strengthen” and, consequently, “to be certain”, “to tell the truth”.

If we look to Sacred Scripture, we see that this “amen” is pronounced at the end of the Psalms of blessing and of praise, as in Psalm 41, for example: “You have upheld me by reason of my integrity: and have established me in Your sight forever. Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel from eternity to eternity. Amen. Amen.” (Verses 13-14). Or it expresses adherence to God, at the time when the People of Israel return full of joy from Babylonian exile and pronounce their “yes”, their “amen” to God and to His Law. In the Book of Nehemiah, it is said that, after this return, “Ezra opened the book in the sight of all people, for he was above all the people; and when he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God; and all the people answered: ‘Amen, amen,” lifting up their hands (Nehemiah 8:5-6).

From the beginning, therefore, the “amen” of the Jewish liturgy became the “amen” of the first Christian communities. And the book on the Christian liturgy par excellence is the Apocalypse of St. John, which begins with the Church’s “amen”: “To Him who loves us and who freed us from our sins by His blood, who made us a kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Apocalypse 1:5b-6). So it is in the first chapter of the Apocalypse. And the same Book concludes with the invocation: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Apocalypse 22:21).

Dear friends, prayer is an encounter with a living Person to whom we should listen and with whom we should converse; it is an encounter with God who renews His unshakeable faithfulness, His “yes” to man, and to each one of us, in order to give us His consolation in the midst of storms and to make us live a life united with Him, full of joy and goodness, that will find its fulfillment in life eternal.

In our prayer we are called to say “yes” to God and to respond with the “amen” of adherence, of faithfulness to Him with our whole life. We can never attain to this fidelity by our own powers; it is not only the fruit of our daily commitment; it comes from God and is founded on the “yes” of Christ, who says: “my food is to do the will of the Father (cf. John 4:34). We must enter into this “yes”, [we must] enter into this “yes” of Christ, in adherence to the will of God, in order that we might say with St. Paul that it is no longer we who live, but Christ himself who lives in us. Then the “amen” of our personal and communal prayer will envelop and transform the whole of our lives, into a life of consolation, a life immersed in eternal and unshakeable Love. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing reflection on prayer in the letters of Saint Paul, we now consider the Apostle’s striking affirmation that Jesus Christ is God’s “Yes” to mankind and the fulfilment of all his promises, and that through Jesus we say our “Amen”, to the glory of God (cf. 2 Cor 1:19-20). For Paul, prayer is above all God’s gift, grounded in his faithful love which was fully revealed in the sending of his Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, poured forth into our hearts, leads us to the Father, constantly making present God’s “Yes” to us in Christ and in turn enabling us to say our “Yes” – Amen! – to God. Our use of the word “Amen”, rooted in the ancient liturgical prayer of Israel and then taken up by the early Church, expresses our firm faith in God’s word and our hope in his promises. Through this daily “Yes” which concludes our personal and communal prayer, we echo Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will and, through the gift of the Spirit, are enabled to live a new and transformed life in union with the Lord.

* * *

I welcome the Vietnamese pilgrims from the Archidiocese of Hochiminh City, led by Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Mân. I also welcome the participants in the Buddhist-Christian Symposium being held in Castelgandolfo. My greeting likewise goes to the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation from the United States. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, including those from England, Ireland, Norway, India, Indonesia, Japan and the United States I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

I am particularly pleased to greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen Christ, guide you, dear young people, and make you capable of decisively directing your lives toward the good; may He sustain you, dear sick, in receiving suffering as a mysterious instrument of salvation for yourselves and for your brothers and sisters; and may He help you, dear newlyweds, to rediscover each day the demands of love, and to be always ready to understand and support one another.

My thoughts turn once more to the dear people of Emilia, who were hit by further aftershocks, which caused deaths and enormous damage, especially to the churches. I am close in prayer and affection to the wounded and to those who have suffered great inconvenience, and I wish to express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives. I hope that, with everyone’s help and with the solidarity of the entire country, they may be able to return as soon as possible to normal life in those areas that have been so sorely tried.

Appeal:

The events of recent days involving the Curia and my collaborators have brought sadness to my heart. However, I have never lost my firm certainty that, despite the weakness of man, despite difficulties and trials, the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and the Lord will ensure she never lacks the help she needs to support her on her journey.

Nonetheless there has been increasing conjecture, amplified by the communications media, which is entirely gratuitous, goes beyond the facts and presents a completely unrealistic image of the Holy See. Thus, I wish to reiterate my trust and encouragement to my closest collaborators and to all those people who every day, with faithlessness, and with a spirit of sacrifice and in silence, help me to carry out my ministry.

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Papal Address to Renewal in the Spirit Movement
"Do Not Tire of Turning to Heaven"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2012 - Here is the translation of the address given in St. Peter’s Square given on Saturday by Pope Benedict XVI to participants of the Renewal in the Spirit Movement, on the occasion of their 40th anniversary.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I receive you with great joy on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the birth of Renewal in the Spirit (Rinnovamento nello Spirito) in Italy, an expression of a larger movement of charismatic renewal that traversed the Catholic Church in the wake of Vatican Council II. I greet all of you with affection, beginning with the national president, whom I thank for the kind words, full of Spirit, addressed to me on behalf of all of you. I greet the spiritual counsel, the members of the Committee and the Counsel, the leaders and animators of the groups and communities throughout Italy. In this pilgrimage of yours, which offers you the opportunity to pause in prayer at the tomb of St. Peter, may you reinvigorate your faith, grow in Christian witness and face the demanding tasks of the new evangelization without fear, guided by the Holy Spirit.

I am happy to meet you on the eve of Pentecost, the fundamental feast of the Church and so significant for your movement, and I call on you to accept God’s love that is communicated to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the unifying principle of the Church. In these last decades – 40 years – you have made an effort to offer your specific contribution to the spreading of the Kingdom of God and to the building up of the Christian community, nourishing the communion with the Successor of Peter, with the Pastors of the whole Church. In various ways you have affirmed the primacy of God, to whom your worship is always directed above all things. And you have sought to propose this experience to new generations, manifesting the joy of the new life in the Spirit, through a broad work of formation and multiple activities linked to the new evangelization and to the mission “ad gentes” (to the nations). Your apostolic work has thus contributed to the growth of the spiritual life in the fabric of Italian society and the Church in Italy, through paths of conversion that have led many persons to be deeply healed by the love of God, and many families to overcome moments of crisis. There has not been a lack in your groups of young people who have generously responded to the vocation of special consecration to God in the priesthood or in the consecrated life. For all of this I thank you and the Lord!

Dear friends, continue to witness to the joy of the faith in Christ, the beauty of being disciples of Christ, the power of love that his Gospel unleashes in history and the incomparable grace that every believer can experience in the Church with the sanctifying practice of the Sacraments and the humble and disinterested exercise of charisms, that, as St. Paul says, must always be used for the common good. Do not give in to the temptation of mediocrity and habit! Cultivate in your soul soaring and generous desires! Make the thoughts, sentiments and actions of Jesus your own! Yes, the Lord calls each of you to be tireless collaborators in his plan of salvation, which changes hearts; he also has need of you to make your families, your communities and your cities, places of love and hope.

In contemporary society we live in a situation that is, in a sense, precarious, characterized by insecurity and fragmentation of choices. Often there are no valid points of reference to guide our lives. It becomes, therefore, ever more important to build our lives and the complex of our social relations on the stable rock of the Word of God, letting ourselves be guided by the magisterium of the Church. We understand better and better the determinant value of that statement of Jesus, according to which, “whoever listens to my words and puts them into practice, will be similar to the wise man who built his house on rock. The rain falls, the rivers flood, the winds blow and beat against that house, but it does not fall, because it is built upon rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

The Lord is with us, he acts with power in his Spirit. He invites us to grow in confidence and abandonment to his will, in fidelity to our vocation and in the commitment to become adults in the faith, in hope and in charity. An adult, according to the Gospel, is not the one who does not submit to anyone and does not need anyone. We can only be adults, that is, mature and responsible, if we become little, humble and servants before God, and do not simply follow the winds of the moment. It is, thus, necessary to form our conscience in the light of the Word of God and in this to become steadfast and truly mature. It is from the Word of God that every ecclesial and human project – even with respect to what regards the earthly city (cf. Psalm 127:1) – draw their meaning and strength. It is necessary to renew the soul of institutions and fecundate history with the seeds of new life.

Today believers are called to a decisive, sincere and credible witness of faith, closely connected to the commitment of charity. Through charity, in fact, even persons who are far from and indifferent to the message of the Gospel are able to come near to the truth and convert to the merciful love of the heavenly Father. In this regard, I express my pleasure in what you have done to spread a “culture of Pentecost” in social spheres, proposing a spiritual animation together with initiatives on behalf of those who suffer from situations of poverty and marginalization. I have in mind especially your work for the spiritual and material rebirth of those in prison and former prisoners; I think of the “Pole of Excellence in Human Promotion and Solidarity Mario and Luigi Sturzo” in Caltagirone; and also of the “International Center for the Family” of Nazareth, whose first stone I had the joy of blessing. Continue in your commitment to the family, which is the essential place for educating in love and self-sacrifice.

Dear friends of Renewal in the Spirit! Do not tire of turning to heaven: the world needs prayer. It needs men and women who feel the attraction of heaven in their lives, who make the praise of the Lord a new way of life. And be joyful Christians! I entrust you to Mary Most Holy, present in the cenacle at Pentecost. Persevere with her in prayer, walk with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, living and proclaiming the news of Christ. May the apostolic benediction accompany you, which I impart to you with affection, extending it to all members and to your families. Thank you!

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On the Feast of Pentecost
"The Spirit of the risen Lord continues to make his voice heard"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Pentecost Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, which concludes the Easter Season, 50 days after the Sunday of the Resurrection. By this solemnity we are reminded and we relive the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the other disciples, gathered together in prayer with the Virgin Mary in the cenacle (cf. Acts 2:1-11). Jesus, risen and ascended into heaven, sends his Spirit to the Church, that every Christian might participate in his own divine life and become his true witnesses in the world. The Holy Spirit, breaking into history, overcomes its dryness, opens up hearts to hope, stimulates and fosters in us interior growth in our relationship with God and neighbor.

The Spirit, who “spoke through the prophets,” with the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, continues to inspire women and men who commit themselves to the pursuit of truth, proposing original paths to known and understand the mystery of God, man and the world. In this context I am happy to announce that on October 7, at the beginning of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, I will proclaim St. John of Avila and St. Hildegard of Bingen doctors of the universal Church. These 2 great witnesses of the faith lived in very different historical periods and cultural environments. Hildegard was a Benedictine nun in the heart of the German Middle Ages, an authentic teacher of theology and a profound student of the natural sciences and music. John, a diocesan priest during the years of the Spanish Renaissance, participated in the travail of the cultural and religious renewal of the Church and of the social order at the dawn of modernity. But the holiness of their lives and the profundity of their doctrine makes them perennial relevant: the grace of the Holy Spirit, in fact, cast them into that experience of the penetrating understanding of divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with the world that constitute the permanent horizon of the life and action of the Church. Above all in the light of the project of a new evangelization, to which the just-mentioned Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated, and on the eve of the Year of Faith, these 2 figures of saints and doctors appear to have a relevant importance and actuality. Even in our days, through their teaching, the Spirit of the risen Lord continues to make his voice heard and to illumine the path that leads to that Truth that alone can set us free and give complete meaning to our life.

Praying now together the Regina Caeli, we invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that she obtain for the Church to be powerfully animated by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to Christ with evangelical boldness and to open herself more and more to the fullness of the truth.

[Following the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father addressed those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

This morning in Vannes, France, Mère Saint-Louise, who was born Élisabeth Molé, was beatified. She was the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis and lived between the 18th and 19th centuries. We thank God for this exemplary witness to love for God and neighbor.

I also note that next Friday, June 1, I will travel to Milan, where the 7th World Meeting of Families will take place. I invite everyone to follow this event and to pray for its success.

[In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Regina Caeli on the Solemnity of Pentecost. Next Friday, I will go to Milan to be with families from all over the world celebrating the 7th World Meeting of Families. I ask you to join me in praying for the success of this important event, and that families may be filled with the Holy Spirit, rediscover the joy of their vocation in the Church and the world, and bear loving witness to the faith. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a happy feast day and a good Sunday. Happy feast day!

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Benedict XVI's Pentecost Homily
"Only With the Gift of God's Spirit can There be Unity"

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

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On this Solemnity of Pentecost I am happy to celebrate with you this Holy Mass, animated today by the Choir and Youth Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, whom I thank. This mystery constitutes the baptism of the Church; it is an event that gave her, so to say, her initial form and the zeal for her mission. And this “form” and this “zeal” are always valid, always relevant, and they are renewed in a special way through liturgical actions. This morning I would like to reflect upon an essential aspect of the mystery of Pentecost, which maintains its importance in our days. Pentecost is the feast of unity, of understanding and of human communion. We can all recognize how in our world, even if we are ever nearer to each other with the development means of communication, and geographical distances seem to disappear, understanding and communion among persons is often superficial and difficult. Inequalities continue that do not infrequently lead to conflicts; dialogue between generations is hard sometimes opposition prevails; we see daily events which appear to suggest that people are becoming more aggressive and more unsociable; it seems to be too demanding to try to understand each other and we prefer to be closed up in our own “I,” in our own interests. In this situation can we truly find that unity that we need and live it?

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, which we heard in the first reading (cf. Acts 2:1-11), has in its background one of the last great frescos that we find at the beginning of the Old Testament: the ancient story of the construction of the Tower of Babel (cf. Genesis 11:1-9). But what is Babel? It is the description of a kingdom in which men have concentrated so much power that they think that they no longer need a distant God and they believe that they are strong enough to build a way to heaven by themselves and open its gates to put themselves in God’s place. But precisely in this situation something strange and unique occurs. While the men were working to build the tower, suddenly they realized that they were working against each other. While they tried to be like God, they ran the risk of no longer even being men, because they lost a fundamental element of being human persons: the capacity to agree, to understand and to work together.

This biblical account contains a perennial truth; we can see it throughout history, but in our world too. With the progress of science and technology we have developed the power to dominate forces of nature, to manipulate the elements, to manufacture living beings, almost attaining the ability to make human beings. In this context, praying to God seems like something obsolete, useless, because we can build and realize anything we want. But we do not grasp that we are reliving the very experience of Babel. Indeed, we have multiplied the possibilities of communicating, of having information, of transmitting news, but can we say that the capacity to understand each other has grown or is it perhaps the case that, paradoxically, we understand each other less and less? Have not a sense of diffidence, of suspicion, of mutual fear worked themselves into our lives to the point that we have become dangerous to each other? Let us return, then, to the initial question. Can unity, concord really exist? How can they exist?

We find the answer in Sacred Scripture: only with the gift of God’s Spirit can there be unity. This Spirit will give us a new heart and a new tongue, a new capacity to communicate. And this is what happened on Pentecost. On that morning, 50 days after Easter, a tempestuous wind blew upon Jerusalem and the flame of the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, who were gathered together, settling on each and lighting divine fire in them, a fire of love with the power to transform. The fear dissipated, the heart felt a new force, tongues were loosened and began to speak with boldness, in such a way that all could understand the proclamation of Jesus Christ dead and risen. At Pentecost, where there was division and estrangement, unity and understanding were born.

But let us look at today’s Gospel in which Jesus says: “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (John 16:13). Here Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, explains to us what the Church is and how she must live to be herself, to be the place of unity and of communion in the Truth; he tells us that acting like Christians means not being shut up in our own “I,” but relating ourselves to the whole; it means welcoming the whole Church into us or, better, letting ourselves be interiorly taken up into her. So, when I speak, think, act as a Christian, I do not do this closing myself in my “I,” I always do it within the whole and from the whole: thus the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity and truth, can continue to resound in our hearts and in the minds of men and move them to engage with and welcome each other. The Spirit, precisely because he acts in this way, leads us to the whole truth, which is Jesus himself, brings us to fathom and understand it: we do not grow in knowledge closing ourselves up in our “I,” but only in becoming capable of listening and sharing in the “we” of the Church, with an attitude of profound interior humility. And thus it becomes clear why Babel is Babel and Pentecost is Pentecost. Where men want to make themselves God, they can only oppose each other. Where they place themselves in the Lord’s truth instead, they open up to the action of the Spirit, who sustains and unites them.

The opposition between Babel and Pentecost echoes in the second reading too, where the Apostle says: “Walk according to the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). St. Paul explains to us that our personal life is marked by an interior conflict, by division, between impulses that come from the flesh and those that come from the Spirit; and we cannot follow all of them. We cannot, in fact, be simultaneously egoistic and generous, giving in to the temptation to dominate others and experience the joy of disinterested service. We must choose which impulse to follow and we can do it authentically only with the help of the Spirit of Christ. St. Paul lists – as we have heard – the works of the flesh, they are the sins of egoism and violence, such as strife, discord, jealousy, dissension; there are thoughts and deeds that to not allow us to live in a truly human and Christian way, in love. The latter is a direction that leads to the losing of one’s own life. The Holy Spirit leads us toward the heights of God, that we might already live on this earth from the seed of divine life that is in us. St. Paul, in fact, states: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” (Galatians 5:22). And let us note that the Apostle uses the plural to describe the works of the flesh, which divide and scatter us, while he uses the singular to define the Spirit’s action – he speaks of “fruit” – just as the scattering of Babel is opposed to the unity of Pentecost.

Dear friends, we must live according to the Spirit of unity and of truth, and for this we must pray that the Spirit enlighten us and lead us to overcome the fascination with following our own truths and instead the truth of Christ transmitted in the Church. The Lucan account of Pentecost tells us that Jesus, before ascending into heaven, asks the Apostles to remain together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gather in prayer with Mary in the cenacle in expectation of the promised event (cf. Acts 1:14). Today the Church – recollected as she was at her birth with Mary – prays: “Veni Sancte Spiritus!” –“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Papal Address to General Assembly of Italian Bishops
"The New Evangelization needs adults who are mature in the faith and witnesses of humanity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language address delivered today to the 64th General Assmebly of the Italian Episcopal Conference.

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Venerable and Dear Brothers,

Your annual gathering in Assembly is a moment of grace, in which you live a profound experience of encounter, sharing and discernment on your common journey, animated by the Spirit of the Risen Lord. It is a moment of grace that manifests the nature of the Church. I thank Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco for the cordial words with which he received me, making himself interpreter of your sentiments: to you, Eminence, I address best wishes for your renewed confirmation as head of the Italian Episcopal Conference. May the collegial affection that animates you nourish increasingly your collaboration at the service of ecclesial communion and the common good of the Italian nation, in the fruitful interlocution with its civil institutions. In this new five-year period, continue together the ecclesial renewal entrusted to you by the Vatican II Ecumenical Council. May the 50th anniversary of its beginning, which we will celebrate in the Fall, be a reason to reflect further on the texts, the condition of a dynamic and faithful reception. “What interests the Council most is that the sacred deposit of the Christian doctrine be protected and taught more effectively,” affirmed Blessed Pope John XXIII in his opening address. And it is worthwhile to meditate and read these words. The Pope exhorted the Fathers to reflect further and to present this perennial doctrine in continuity with the age-old tradition of the Church: “to transmit the doctrine pure and integral, without attenuations or distortions,” but in a new way, “according to what is required by our times.” (Address at the Solemn Opening of Vatican II Ecumenical Council, October 11, 1962). With this key of reading and application – certainly not from the point of view of an “unacceptable hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture, but of a hermeneutics of continuity and reform – to listen to the Council and to make our own the authoritative indications, is the way to identify the way with which the Church can offer a meaningful answer to the great social and cultural transformations of our time, which have visible consequences also on the religious dimension.

Scientific rationality and the technical culture, in fact, not only tend to make the world uniform, but often cross over the respective specific areas, with the pretext of delineating the perimeter of the certainties of reason solely with the empirical criterion of their own conquests. Thus the power of human capacities ends by restraining the measure of acting, free from every moral norm. Precisely in this context, there is no lack of re-emergence, at times in a confused way, of a singular and growing question of spirituality and of the supernatural, sign of a “concern that shelters in the heart of the man who does not open himself to the transcendent horizon of God. This situation of secularism characterizes above all the society of ancient Christian tradition and erodes that cultural fabric that, up to the recent past, was a unifying reference, capable of embracing the whole of human existence and of articulating the most significant moments, from birth to the passage to eternal life. The spiritual and moral patrimony in which the West sinks its roots and which constitutes its vital lymph, today is no longer understood in its profound value, to the point that it no longer grasps the urgency of truth. Thus even fecund earth risks becoming an inhospitable desert and the good seed is suffocated, trampled upon and lost.

It is a sign of the lessening of religious practice, visible in the participation in the Eucharistic liturgy and, even more so, in the Sacrament of Penance. So many of the baptized have lost their identity and membership: they do not know the essential contents of the faith or think they can cultivate it without ecclesial mediation. And while many look with doubt at the truths taught by the Church, others reduce the Kingdom of God to some great values, which certainly have something to do with the Gospel, but which again have no concern with the central nucleus of the Christian faith. The Kingdom of God is a gift that transcends us. As Blessed John Paul II affirmed: “The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God.” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio [December 7, 1990], 18). Unfortunately, it is God Himself who is excluded from the horizon of so many persons, and when the discourse on God does not meet with indifference, closure or rejection, it is nevertheless relegated to the subjective realm, reduced to an intimate and private event, marginalized from the public conscience. The heart of the crisis that wounds Europe passes through this abandonment, this lack of openness to the Transcendent. It is a spiritual and moral crisis: man pretends to have an identity fulfilled simply in himself.

In this context, how can we correspond to the responsibility which has been entrusted to us by the Lord? How can we sow with trust the Word of God, so that every man can find the truth about himself, his own authenticity and hope? We are aware that new methods of the Gospel proclamation or pastoral actions to make the Christian proposal meet with greater reception and sharing, are not enough. In the preparation of Vatican II, the prevailing question to which the conciliar Assembly intended to give an answer was: “Church, what do you say of yourself?” Reflecting on this question, the conciliar Fathers were, so to speak, led back to the heart of the answer: it was about beginning again from God, celebrated, professed and witnessed. Externally, seemingly at random, but fundamentally not at random, in fact, the first Constitution approved was that of the Sacred Liturgy: divine worship orientates man to the future City and restores to God his primacy, molds the Church, incessantly convoked by the Word, and shows the world the fecundity of the encounter with God. In turn, while we must cultivate a grateful look for the growth of the good seed even in a terrain that is often arid, we perceive that our situation requires a renewed impulse, which will point to what is essential of the faith and of Christian life. At a time in which God has become for many the great unknown and Jesus simply a great personality of the past, there will be no new thrust of the missionary action without the renewal of the quality of our faith and our prayer; we will not be able to give adequate answers without a new reception of the gift of Grace; we will not know how to win men over to the Gospel if we ourselves do not first have a profound experience of God.

Dear brothers, our first, true and only task remains that of committing our life to what has worth and remains, to what is really reliable, necessary and ultimate. Men live from God, of Him who often unwittingly or only tentatively they seek to give full meaning to existence: we have the task of proclaiming it, of showing it, of leading to the encounter with Him. However, it is always important for us to remember that the first condition to speak about God is to speak with God, to become increasingly men of God, nourished by an intense life of prayer and molded by his Grace. Saint Augustine, after an anxious but sincere search for truth, finally succeeded in finding it in God. Then he became aware of a singular aspect that filled his heart with wonder and joy: he understood that throughout his long journey it was truth that was seeking him and had found him. I would like to say to each one: we must let ourselves be found and seized by God, to help every person we meet to be reached by Truth. It is from the relationship with Him that our communion is born and that the ecclesial community is generated, which embraces all times and all places to constitute the one People of God.

That is why I wished to proclaim a Year of Faith, which will begin next October 11, to rediscover and receive again this precious gift that is faith, to know more profoundly the truths that are the lymph of our life, to lead the man of today, often, distracted, to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ “Way, Life and Truth.”

In the midst of transformations that interested ample strata of humanity, the Servant of God Paul VI indicated clearly as task of the Church that of “affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation.” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi [December 8, 1975[], 19). I would like to recall here how, on the occasion of the first visit of the Pontiff to his native land, Blessed John Paul II visited an industrial quarter of Krakow conceived as a sort of “city without God.” Only the obstinacy of the workers had led to the erection first of a cross and then of a church. In those signs, the Pope recognized the beginning of what he defined for the first time as “New Evangelization,” explaining that “evangelization of the new millennium must refer to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. It must be, as that Council taught, a work shared by bishops, priests, religious and laity, by parents and young people.” And he concluded: “You have built the church; build your lives with the Gospel.” (Homily in the Shrine of the Holy Cross, Mogila, June 9, 1979).

Dear brothers, the old and new mission that is before us is that of introducing men and women of our time to the relationship with God, to help them to open their mind and heart to that God who seeks them and wants to be close to them, to lead them to understand that to do his will is not a limitation of liberty, but it is to be truly free, to realize the true good of life. God is the guarantor, not the counter-current of our happiness, and where the Gospel enters – and hence the friendship of Christ – man experiences his being the object of a love that purifies, warms and renews, and renders us capable of loving and serving man with divine love.

As the main topic of your Assembly evidences opportunely, the New Evangelization needs adults who are “mature in the faith and witnesses of humanity.” Attention to the world of adults manifests your awareness of the decisive role of those who are called, in the different realms of life, to assume an educational responsibility in addressing the new generations. Watch and work so that the Christian community will be able to form adult persons in the faith because they have encountered Jesus Christ, who has become the fundamental reference of their life; persons who know Him because they love Him and they love Him because they have known Him; persons capable of giving solid and credible reasons of life. Particularly important, in this formative journey – 20 years after its publication – is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, precious aid for an organic and complete knowledge of the contents of the faith and to lead to the encounter with Christ. Also thanks to this instrument, may the assent of faith become criterion of intelligence and action that involves the whole of existence.

Finding ourselves in the novena of Pentecost, I would like to conclude these reflections with a prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Spirit of Life, which in the beginning hovered over the abyss,

Help humanity of our time to understand

That the exclusion of God leads to being lost in the desert of the world.

And that only where faith enters, do dignity and liberty flourish

And the whole society is built on justice.

Spirit of Pentecost, which makes of the Church one Body,

Restore in the baptized an authentic experience of communion;

Render yourself a living sign of the presence of the Risen One in the world,

Community of saints that lives in the service of charity.

Holy Spirit, which trains to the mission,

Make us recognize that, also in our time,

So many persons are in search of the truth about their existence and the world.

Make us collaborators of their joy with the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,

Grain of the wheat of God, which renders good the terrain of life and assures the abundance of the harvest.

Amen.

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On the Holy Spirit's Prayer in Us: 'Abba! Father!'
"God has inscribed Himself in our hearts"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. Today the Holy Father continued his series of catecheses on prayer.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I showed how St. Paul says that the Holy Spirit is the great teacher of prayer and teaches us to address God with the affectionate words of children, calling Him “Abba, Father”. This is what Jesus did; even in the most dramatic moment of His earthly life, He never lost confidence in the Father and always called out to Him with the intimacy of the beloved Son. In Gethsemane, as He feels the anguish of death, His prayer is: “Abba! Father! All things are possible to Thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what Thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).

From the very first steps of her journey, the Church received this invocation and made it her own, especially in the prayer of the Our Father, in which we daily say: “Father … Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (cf. Matthew 6:9-10). In the Letters of St. Paul we find it twice. The Apostle, as we just heard, addresses himself to the Galatians with these words: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6). And at the heart of that hymn to the Spirit, which is Chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul affirms: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15). Christianity is not a religion of fear but of trust, and of love for the Father who loves us.

These two packed statements speak to us of the sending and receiving of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Risen One that makes us sons in Christ -- the Only begotten Son -- and establishes us in a filial relationship with God, a relationship of profound trust, like that of children; a filial relationship analogous to Jesus’, even though its origin is different and its depth is different: Jesus is the eternal Son of God made flesh; we instead become sons in Him, in time, through faith and the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; thanks to these two sacraments we are immersed in the Paschal Mystery of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the precious and necessary gift that makes us children of God, that effects that filial adoption to which all human beings are called, for as the divine blessing contained in the Letter to the Ephesians states: God, in Christ, “chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and immaculate in his sight in charity. He predestined us to be his adopted sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4).

Perhaps men today do not perceive the beauty, the grandeur and the profound consolation contained in the word “father” by which we may address God in prayer, because the father figure today is often not sufficiently present; and this presence is often not adequately positive in daily life. A father’s absence, i.e. the problem of a father who is not present in the child’s life, is a great problem of our time; and therefore, it becomes difficult to understand the profound significance of what it means to say that God is a Father to us. We can learn from Jesus Himself, and from His filial relationship with God, what being a “father” truly means, and the true nature of the Father who is in heaven. Critics of religion have said that to speak of the “Father”, of God, would be a projection of our human fathers onto heavenly realities. But the opposite is true: in the Gospel, Christ shows us who a father is and what a true father is like, so that we may sense what true fatherhood is, and also learn true fatherhood. Consider Jesus’ word during the Sermon on the Mount, where he says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). It is precisely Jesus’ love -- which reaches even to the gift of himself on the Cross -- that reveals the Father’s true nature to us: He is Love, and we too, in our prayer as children, enter into this movement of love, into God’s love, which purifies our desires and our attitudes that are marked by closure, by self-sufficiency and by the egoism that characterize the old man.

We may say, then, that in God, being Father has two dimensions. First of all, God is our Father, because He is our Creator. Each one of us, every man and every woman, is a miracle of God, is wanted by Him and is known personally by Him. When, in the Book of Genesis, it says that the human being is created in the image of God (cf. 1:27), what it wishes to express is precisely this reality: God is our Father; for Him we are not anonymous, impersonal beings; rather, we have a name. And a word from the psalms always touches me when I pray it: “Your hands have made and fashioned me,” the psalmist says (Psalm 119:73). Each one of us can say, according to this beautiful image of the personal relationship with God: "Your hands have made and fashioned me. You thought of me and created me and wanted me”.

But this is still not enough. The Spirit of Christ opens us to a second dimension of God’s fatherhood, beyond creation, for Jesus is the “Son” in the fullest sense, “consubstantial with the Father,” as we profess in the Creed. In becoming a human being like us through His Incarnation, Death and Resurrection, Jesus in turn receives us into His humanity and into His own being Son; thus we too may enter into His specific belonging to God. To be sure, our being sons of God does not have the fullness of Jesus’: we must become this more and more, through the course of the whole of our Christian lives, by growing in our following of Christ, in our communion with Him, in order to enter ever more intimately into the relationship of love with God the Father, who sustains our lives. It is this fundamental reality that is disclosed to us when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and when He causes us to turn to God saying “Abba! Father!” We have truly entered - beyond creation – into adoption; with Jesus, we are truly united in God and are children in a new way and in a new dimension.

But now I would like to return to two passages from St. Paul that we are considering regarding this action of the Holy Spirit in our prayer; here too the two passages correspond to one another but contain slightly different nuances. In the Letter to the Galatians, in fact, the Apostle says that the Holy Spirit cries out in us “Abba! Father!”, the Spirit. In the Letter to the Romans it says that it is we who cry out “Abba! Father!” And St. Paul wants us to understand that Christian prayer is never, and never occurs in one direction between us and God, it is not only “our action”; rather, it is the expression of a reciprocal relationship in which God acts first: it is the Holy Spirit who cries out in us, and we are able to cry out because the impulse comes from the Holy Spirit. We would be unable to pray were the desire for God, and the desire to be God’s children, not inscribed in our hearts. From the moment of his existence, the homo sapiens is always in search of God; he seeks to speak with God, because God has inscribed Himself in our hearts. Therefore the first initiative is God’s, and through Baptism, once again God acts in us, the Holy Spirit acts in us; He is the first initiator of prayer so that we may then truly speak with God and say “Abba” to God. Therefore, His presence opens our prayer and our lives, opens to the horizons of the Trinity and the Church.

Furthermore, we comprehend -- this is the second point -- that the prayer of the Spirit of Christ in us and ours in Him, is not merely an individual act; rather, it is an act of the entire Church. In prayer our hearts are opened, we enter into communion not only with God, but also with all of God’s children, for we are one. When we turn to the Father in our interior room, in silence and recollection, we are never alone. He who speaks with God is not alone. We are in the great prayer of the Church, we are part of a great symphony, which the Christian community scattered in every part of the world and in every time raises to God; certainly, the musicians and the instruments are varied -- and this is an enriching element -- but the melody of praise is one and harmonious. Every time, then, that we cry out and say: “Abba! Father!” it is the Church, the whole communion of people in prayer that supports our invocation and our invocation is the Church’s invocation. This is also reflected in the wealth of charisms, of ministries, of tasks, that we carry out in the community. St. Paul writes to the Christians at Corinth: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). Prayer guided by the Holy Spirit, which causes us to say “Abba! Father!” with Christ and in Christ, inserts us into one great mosaic of the family of God in which each one of us has a place and an important role, in deep unity with the whole.

A final note: we also learn to cry out “Abba! Father” with Mary, the Mother of the Son of God. The arrival of the fullness of time, of which St. Paul speaks in the Letter to the Galatians (cf. 4:4) occurs at the moment of Mary’s “yes”, of her full adherence to the Will of God: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn in our prayer to taste the beauty of being friends, indeed, of being children of God, of being able to call upon Him with the confidence and trust that a child has in his parents who love him. Let us open our prayer to the action of the Holy Spirit that He may cry out to God in us “Abba! Father!” and that our prayer may change and constantly convert our way of thinking and acting, conforming it ever more to that of the Only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our reflection on prayer in the letters of Saint Paul, we now consider two passages in which the Apostle speaks of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to call upon God as “Abba”, our Father (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:5). The word “Abba” was used by Jesus to express his loving relationship with the Father; our own use of this word is the fruit of the presence of the Spirit of Christ within us. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, we have become sons and daughters of God, sharing by adoption in the eternal sonship of Jesus. Paul teaches us that Christian prayer is not simply our own work, but primarily that of the Spirit, who cries out in us and with us to the Father. In our prayer, we enter into the love of the indwelling Trinity as living members of Christ’s Body, the Church. Our individual prayer is always part of the great symphony of the Church’s prayer. Let us open our hearts ever more fully to the working of the Spirit within us, so that our prayer may lead us to greater trust in the Father and conformity to Jesus, his Son.

* * *

I am pleased to greet the ecumenical delegation from the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Sweden. I also welcome the group from the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas in Manila. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, India, the Philippines, South Korea and the United States I cordially invoke the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, my thoughts go out to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. The gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost always supports the Christian community’s life of faith: dear young people, may you place the search for God and love for Him above all else; dear sick, may the Holy Spirit help and comfort you in the moment of your greatest need; and may you, dear newlyweds, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, make your union firmer and more profound.

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Papal Greeting to Cardinals
"I feel safe in this company of great friends, who are with me and all together with the Lord"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2012 - Here is a translation of the short greeting Benedict XVI gave the cardinals after he lunched with them Monday. The lunch was an expression of appreciation for congratulations received last month for the Pope's 85th birthday (April 16) and seventh anniversary of election to the See of Peter (April 19).

* * *

Eminence,

Dear Brothers,

At this moment my word can be only a word of gratitude. Gratitude first of all to the Lord for the many years he has given me; years with so many days of joy, splendid times, but also dark nights. However, in retrospect one understands even the nights were necessary and good, a motive for gratitude.

Today the word ecclesia militans is somewhat out of fashion, but in reality we can understand ever better that it is true, that it bears truth in itself. We see how evil wishes to dominate the world and that it is necessary to enter into battle with evil. We see how it does so in so many ways, bloody, with the different forms of violence, but also masked with goodness and precisely this way destroying the moral foundations of society.

Saint Augustine said that the whole of history is a struggle between two loves: love of oneself to contempt of God; love of God to contempt of self, in martyrdom. We are in this struggle and in this struggle it is very important to have friends. And, in my own case, I am surrounded by the friends of the College of Cardinals: they are my friends and I feel at home, I feel safe in this company of great friends, who are with me and all together with the Lord.

Thank you for this friendship. Thank you, Eminence, for all that you have done for this moment today and for all that you do always. Thank you for the communion of joys and sorrows. Let’s go forward, the Lord said: courage, I have overcome the world. We are in the Lord’s squad, hence in the victorious squad. Thanks to you all. May the Lord bless you all. And let’s toast.

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On the Ascension
"In his humanity, he brought humanity with him into the depths of the Father"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

According to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, 40 days after the Resurrection Jesus ascended into heaven, that is, he returned to the Father, by whom he had been sent into the world. In many countries this mystery is not celebrated on Thursday but today, the Sunday that follows. The Ascension of the Lord marks the completion of the salvation that began with the Incarnation. After having instructed his disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven (cf. Mark 16:19). However, he “did not separate himself from our condition” (cf. Preface); in fact, in his humanity, he brought humanity with him into the depths of the Father and thus revealed the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage. Just as he descended from heaven for us, and suffered and died for us on the cross, so too he rose from the dead and ascended to God for us. And so God is no longer distant but is “our God,” “our Father,” (cf. John 20:17).

The ascension is the last act of our liberation from sin; as St. Paul writes: “he ascended on high and took prisoners captive” (Ephesians 4:8). St. Leo the Great Explains that with this mystery “not only is there proclaimed the immortality of the soul, but also that of the flesh. Today, in fact, we are not only confirmed as possessors of paradise, but we have with Christ penetrated the heights of heaven” (De Ascensione Domini, Tractatus 73, 2.4: CCL 138 A, 451.453). This is why, when the disciples saw the Master lifted up from the earth and carried on high, they were not seized by discouragement, indeed, they experienced a great joy and felt driven to proclaim Christ’s victory over death (cf. Mark 16:20). And the risen Lord worked with them, distributing to each a particular charism, so that the whole Christian community might reflect the harmonious richness of the heavens. St. Paul continues: “he gave gifts to men ... he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers ... for building up the body of Christ .... to the extent of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4:8, 11-13).

Dear friends, the Ascension tells us that in Christ our humanity is raised to the heights of God; thus every time we pray, earth joins heaven. And like the smoke of burning incense lifts high its sweet odor, when we then raise up to the Lord our fervent and confident prayer in Christ, it passes through the heavens and reaches the Throne of God it is heard and answered by God. In the celebrated work by St. John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” we read that “to see the desires of our heart realized, there is no better way than to direct the energy of our prayer to the thing that most pleases God. For then not only will he give that which we ask of Him, which is salvation, but also that which he sees to be fitting and good for us, although we pray not for it” (Book III, ch. 4, 2).

We supplicate the Virgin Mary, that she help us to contemplate the heavenly goods that the Lord has promised us and to become ever more credible witnesses of the divine life.

[Following the Regina Caeli the Holy Father addressed those present in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we observe the World Day of Social Communications, whose theme this year is “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” I invite all to pray that communication, in all of its forms, always serve to establish authentic dialogue with our neighbor based on mutual respect, listening and sharing. Silence is an integral part of communication, it is a privileged place for the encounter with the Word of God and our brothers and sisters.

Thursday, May 24 is a day dedicated to the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, venerated with great devotion at the shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. Let us join in prayer with all of the Catholics of China that they might proclaim Christ dead and risen with humility and joy, that they be faithful to his Church and to the Successor of Peter and live their everyday lives in a way that is consistent with the faith that they profess. May Mary, faithful Virgin, sustain Chinese Catholics on their journey, make their prayer ever more intense and precious in the eyes of the Lord, and make the universal Church’s affection for the Church in China grow along with her participation in her path.

I address a cordial greeting to the thousands of members of the Italian Movement for Life, who are gathered in Paul VI Hall. Dear friends, your movement has always been engaged in defending human life in accordance with the teachings of the Church. Along these lines you have announced a new initiative called “One of Us,” to support the dignity and rights of every human being from the moment of conception. I encourage and exhort you always to be witnesses and builders of the culture of life.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that he has come so that his joy may be fulfilled in us. Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain for us a deeper faith in her Son, so that we may live to the full the spiritual joy which he wills for us. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

[In Italian he said:]

I greet the various school groups, and unfortunately today I must recall the young people of the school in Brindisi who were affected by yesterday’s vile attack. Let us pray together for those who were injured, some gravely, and especially for the young woman Melissa, the innocent victim of a brutal act of violence, and for her family, who are grieving. My affectionate thoughts also go out to the dear people of Emilia Romagna who were struck a few hours ago by an earthquake. I am spiritually near to the persons who have been tried in these calamities: let us implore God for mercy on those who have died and relief from suffering from those who were injured.

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

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Papal Audience on the 'Logic of the Gift'
"What happens in the family ... is a fundamental educational moment for learning how to live as a Christian"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to members of the Federation of Christian Organizations for International Volunteer Service (FOCSIV); the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Commitment; and the Christian Workers Movement.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

I am happy to welcome you this morning in this meeting that brings together the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement, the Federation of Christian Organizations of International Voluntary Service and the Christian Workers Movement. I greet with affection my brothers in the episcopate, who support you and guide you, the directors and leaders, the ecclesiastical assistants and all of the members and supporters. This year your associations celebrate anniversaries of your foundation. The Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement celebrates 80 years and the Federation of Christian International Voluntary Service Organizations and the Christian Workers Movement celebrate 40 years. And all three of these entities are indebted to the wise work of the Servant of God Paul VI, who, as national assistant in 1932 supported the first steps of the Graduate Movement of Catholic Action [which changed its name to the Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement in 1980], and, as Pontiff, gave recognition to the Federation of Christian Volunteer Organizations and in the Christian Workers Movement in 1972. My venerable predecessor deserves your grateful remembrance for having given impetus to such important ecclesial associations.

These anniversaries are propitious occasions for reconsidering your charisms with gratitude and with a critical scrutiny too, attentive to the historical origins and to the new signs of the times. Culture, volunteering and work constitute a indissoluble trinomial of the daily commitment of the Catholic laity, which intends to give incisive witness to Christ and the Church both in the private sphere and the public sphere of society. The faithful layman takes up a challenge when he involves himself in one or more of these areas and – in cultural service, in acts of solidarity with those in need or in work – promotes human dignity. These three spheres are linked by a common denominator: the gift of self. Cultural engagement, above all in schools and universities, aimed at the formation of future generations, does not limit itself to the transmission of technical and theoretical concepts, but requires the gift of self by word and example. Volunteering, an irreplaceable resource for society, does not so much involve giving things but in giving oneself in concrete assistance to the neediest. Finally, work is not only and instrument for individual prophet but a movement in which we express our abilities by spending ourselves, in a spirit of service, in professional activity, whether this be in manual labor, farming, science or some other area.

But for you all of this has a Christian connotation. Your activity must be animated by charity; this means learning to see with the eyes of Christ and giving to the other more than external necessities; it means looking and acting with love in your relationships with those in need. This is born in the love that comes from God, who first loved us, it is born from the intimate encounter with him (cf. “Deus Caritas Est,” 18). St. Paul, in his farewell discourse to the elders at Ephesus, recalls a truth expressed by Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Dear friends, it is the logic of the gift – a logic that is often threatened – that you value and to which you bear witness: giving your time, your abilities and expertise, your teaching, your professionalism; in a word, giving attention to others without expecting like reciprocation; and I thank you for this great testimony. Acting in this way, not only do we do good for others, but we discover profound happiness, according to the logic of Christ, who gave all of himself.

The family is the first place in which we experience gratuitous love; and when that does not happen, the family is denatured, it enters into crisis. What happens in the family, giving oneself without reserve for the good of the other is a fundamental educational moment for learning how to live as a Christian even in relationship to culture, volunteering and work. In the encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” I wished to extend the family model of the logic of gratuity and the gift to a universal dimensions. Justice alone, in fact, is insufficient. To ensure true justice the “more” that only gratuitousness and solidarity can give is necessary: “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” (38). Gratuitousness is not acquired on the market, nor can it be prescribed by law. And yet both the economy and politics need gratuitousness and persons capable of mutual self-giving (cf. ibid. 39).

Today’s meeting highlights two elements: your affirmation of the necessity of continuing to follow the way of the Gospel in fidelity to the social doctrine of the Church and to her pastors; and my encouragement, the pope’s encouragement, that invites you to continue with constancy your commitment to our brothers. Revealing injustices and bearing witness to the values on which the dignity of the person is based, promoting forms of solidarity that favor the common good – these are also part of your commitment. The Ecclesial Movement for Cultural Engagement, in light of its history, is called to a renewed service in the world of culture, which is marked by urgent and complex challenges, for the spreading of Christian humanism: reason and faith are allied in the path to the Truth. May the Federation of Christian Organizations of International Voluntary Service continue to have confidence above all in the power of the charity that comes from God, advancing its commitment against every form of poverty and exclusion on behalf of the most disadvantaged populations. May the Christian Workers Movement know how to bring the light of Christian hope into the world of work to achieve ever greater social justice also. Moreover, always look to the young, who today more than ever seek forms of engagement that bring idealism together with the concrete.

Dear friends, I hope that each of you will carry out your personal and group commitments with joy, witnessing to the Gospel of the gift and gratuitousness. I invoke on your behalf the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary and I impart the apostolic benediction, which I extend to all members and families. Thank you for your work, for your steadfastness.


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Papal Address to US Bishops
"The truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2012 - Here is a text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to U.S. bishop of Regions 14 and 15, in Rome for their ad limina visit.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection in the Lord. Our meeting today concludes the series of quinquennial visits of the Bishops of the United States of America ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, over these past six months I have wished to reflect with you and your Brother Bishops on a number of pressing spiritual and cultural challenges facing the Church in your country as it takes up the task of the new evangelization.

I am particularly pleased that this, our final meeting, takes place in the presence of the Bishops of the various Eastern Churches present in the United States, since you and your faithful embody in a unique way the ethnic, cultural and spiritual richness of the American Catholic community, past and present. Historically, the Church in America has struggled to recognize and incorporate this diversity, and has succeeded, not without difficulty, in forging a communion in Christ and in the apostolic faith which mirrors the catholicity which is an indefectible mark of the Church. In this communion, which finds its source and model in the mystery of the Triune God (cf.Lumen Gentium, 4), unity and diversity are constantly reconciled and enhanced, as a sign and sacrament of the ultimate vocation and destiny of the entire human family.

Throughout our meetings, you and your Brother Bishops have spoken insistently of the importance of preserving, fostering and advancing this gift of Catholic unity as an essential condition for the fulfillment of the Church’s mission in your country. In this concluding talk, I would like simply to touch on two specific points which have recurred in our discussions and which, with you, I consider crucial for the exercise of your ministry of guiding Christ’s flock forward amid the difficulties and opportunities of the present moment.

I would begin by praising your unremitting efforts, in the best traditions of the Church in America, to respond to the ongoing phenomenon of immigration in your country. The Catholic community in the United States continues, with great generosity, to welcome waves of new immigrants, to provide them with pastoral care and charitable assistance, and to support ways of regularizing their situation, especially with regard to the unification of families. A particular sign of this is the long-standing commitment of the American Bishops to immigration reform. This is clearly a difficult and complex issue from the civil and political, as well as the social and economic, but above all from the human point of view. It is thus of profound concern to the Church, since it involves ensuring the just treatment and the defense of the human dignity of immigrants.

In our day too, the Church in America is called to embrace, incorporate and cultivate the rich patrimony of faith and culture present in America’s many immigrant groups, including not only those of your own rites, but also the swelling numbers of Hispanic, Asian and African Catholics. The demanding pastoral task of fostering a communion of cultures within your local Churches must be considered of particular importance in the exercise of your ministry at the service of unity (cf. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 63). This diaconia of communion entails more than simply respecting linguistic diversity, promoting sound traditions, and providing much-needed social programs and services. It also calls for a commitment to ongoing preaching, catechesis and pastoral activity aimed at inspiring in all the faithful a deeper sense of their communion in the apostolic faith and their responsibility for the Church’s mission in the United States. Nor can the significance of this challenge be underestimated: the immense promise and the vibrant energies of a new generation of Catholics are waiting to be tapped for the renewal of the Church’s life and the rebuilding of the fabric of American society.

This commitment to fostering Catholic unity is necessary not only for meeting the positive challenges of the new evangelization but also countering the forces of disgregation within the Church which increasingly represent a grave obstacle to her mission in the United States. I appreciate the efforts being made to encourage the faithful, individually and in the variety of ecclesial associations, to move forward together, speaking with one voice in addressing the urgent problems of the present moment. Here I would repeat the heartfelt plea that I made to America’s Catholics during my Pastoral Visit: "We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together to Christ" and thus embrace "that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world" (Homily in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, New York, 19 April 2008).

In our conversations, many of you have spoken of your concern to build ever stronger relationships of friendship, cooperation and trust with your priests. At the present time, too, I urge you to remain particularly close to the men and women in your local Churches who are committed to following Christ ever more perfectly by generously embracing the evangelical counsels. I wish to reaffirm my deep gratitude for the example of fidelity and self-sacrifice given by many consecrated women in your country, and to join them in praying that this moment of discernment will bear abundant spiritual fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of their communities in fidelity to Christ and the Church, as well as to their founding charisms. The urgent need in our own time for credible and attractive witnesses to the redemptive and transformative power of the Gospel makes it essential to recapture a sense of the sublime dignity and beauty of the consecrated life, to pray for religious vocations and to promote them actively, while strengthening existing channels for communication and cooperation, especially through the work of the Vicar or Delegate for Religious in each Diocese.

Dear Brother Bishops, it is my hope that the Year of Faith which will open on 12 October this year, the fiftieth anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council, will awaken a desire on the part of the entire Catholic community in America to reappropriate with joy and gratitude the priceless treasure of our faith. With the progressive weakening of traditional Christian values, and the threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly, the truth of Christ needs not only to be understood, articulated and defended, but to be proposed joyfully and confidently as the key to authentic human fulfillment and to the welfare of society as a whole.

Now, at the conclusion of these meetings, I willingly join all of you in thanking Almighty God for the signs of new vitality and hope with which he has blessed the Church in the United States of America. At the same time I ask him to confirm you and your Brother Bishops in your delicate mission of guiding the Catholic community in your country in the ways of unity, truth and charity as it faces the challenges of the future. In the words of the ancient prayer, let us ask the Lord to direct our hearts and those of our people, that the flock may never fail in obedience to its shepherds, nor the shepherds in the care of the flock (cf. Sacramentarium Veronense, Missa de natale Episcoporum). With great affection I commend you, and the clergy, religious and lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States, and I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Prayer in the Spirit
"The Holy Spirit is, as it were, the interpreter who makes us, and God, understand what it is we wish to say"


VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2012 - 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 reflection on prayer.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

In the last catecheses we reflected on prayer in the Acts of the Apostles. Today I would like to begin to speak about prayer in the Letters of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. First, I would like to note that it is not by chance that his Letters are introduced and conclude with expressions of prayer: at the beginning, thanksgiving and praise; at the end, the wish that the grace of God guide the journey of the community to whom the writing is addressed. The content of the Apostle’s Letters develops between the opening formula: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:8), and the final wishes: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” (1 Corinthians 16:23). The prayer of St. Paul manifests a great wealth of forms -- from thanksgiving to benediction, from praise to petition and intercession, from hymns to supplication: a variety of expressions, which demonstrate how prayer involves and penetrates all the situations of life, those which are personal as well as those of the community he is addressing.

A first element that the Apostle wants us to understand is that prayer should not be seen merely as a good work that we carry out for God, an action of ours. First and foremost, it is a gift, the fruit of the living, vivifying presence of the Father of Jesus Christ in us. In the Letter to the Romans he writes: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (8:26). And we know how true the Apostle’s saying is: “We do not know how to pray as we ought”. We want to pray, but God is far off, we do not have the words, the language, to speak with God, nor even the thought to do so. We can only open ourselves, place our time at God’s disposition, wait for Him to help us to enter into true dialogue. The Apostle says: this very lack of words, this absence of words, yet this desire to enter into contact with God, is prayer that the Holy Spirit not only understands, but brings and interprets before God. This very weakness of ours becomes -- through the Holy Spirit -- true prayer, true contact with God. The Holy Spirit is, as it were, the interpreter who makes us, and God, understand what it is we wish to say.

In prayer we experience -- more than in other aspects of life -- our weakness, our poverty, our being creatures, for we are placed before the omnipotence and transcendence of God. And the more we advance in listening and in dialogue with God, so that prayer becomes the daily breath of our souls, the more we also perceive the measure of our limitations, not only in the face of the concrete situations of everyday life, but also in our relationship with the Lord. The need to trust, to rely increasingly upon Him then grows in us; we come to understand that “we do not know … how to pray as we ought” (Romans 8:26).

And it is the Holy Spirit who helps our inability, who enlightens our minds and warms our hearts, guiding us as we turn to God. For St. Paul, prayer is above all the work of the Holy Spirit in our humanity, to take our weakness and to transform us from men bound to material realities into spiritual men. In the First Letter to the Corinthians he says: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths in spiritual terms” (2:12-13). By means of His abiding in our fragile humanity, the Holy Spirit changes us; He intercedes for us; He leads us toward the heights of God (cf. Romans 8:26).

Our union with Christ is realized by this presence of the Holy Spirit, for He is the Spirit of the Son of God, in whom we are made children. St. Paul speaks of the Spirit of Christ (cf. Romans 8:9), and not only of the Spirit of God. It is obvious: if Christ is the Son of God, His Spirit is also the Spirit of God. Thus, if the Spirit of God -- the Spirit of Christ -- already drew near to us in the Son of God and Son of Man, then the Spirit of God also becomes the spirit of man and touches us; we can enter into the communion of the Spirit. It is as if to say that not only God the Father became visible in the Incarnation of the Son, but also that the Spirit of God revealed Himself in the life and action of Jesus, of Jesus Christ, who lived, was crucified, died and was raised.

The Apostles reminds us that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). The Spirit, then, directs our hearts toward Jesus Christ, such that “it is not longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us” (cf. Galations 2:20). In his Catecheses on the Sacraments, reflecting on the Eucharist, St. Ambrose affirms: “He who is inebriated with the Holy Spirit is rooted in Christ” (5,3,17: PL 16, 450).

And now I would like to highlight three consequences for our Christian lives when we allow the Spirit of Christ, and not the spirit of the world, to work in us as the interior principle of all our actions.

First, prayer animated by the Spirit enables us to abandon and to overcome every form of fear and slavery, and so to experience the true freedom of the children of God. Without prayer that nourishes our being in Christ each day in a steadily growing intimacy, we find ourselves in the condition described by St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans: we do not do the good we want, but the evil we do not want (cf. Romans 7:19).

And this is the expression of the alienation of the human being, of the destruction of our freedom due to the condition of our being that is brought about by original sin: we want the good that we do not do, and we do what we do not want, evil. The Apostle wants us to understand that it is not our will that first and foremost frees us from this condition, nor is it the Law, but rather the Holy Spirit. And since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17), through prayer we experience the freedom given by the Spirit: an authentic freedom, which is freedom from evil and from sin for the good and for life, for God. The freedom of the Spirit, St. Paul continues, is never identical with libertinism or with the possibility of choosing evil but rather with the “fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). This is true freedom: the ability to actually follow the desire for the good, for true joy, for communion with God and not to be oppressed by the circumstances that take us down other roads.

A second consequence that comes about in our lives when we allow the Spirit of Christ to work in us is that our relationship with God becomes so deep that it cannot be affected by any circumstance or situation. We then come to understand that, through prayer, we are not delivered from trials or sufferings, but we are able to live them in union with Christ, with His sufferings, with a view to participating also in His glory (cf. Romans 8:17).

Many times, in our prayer, we ask God to be freed from physical or spiritual evil, and we do this with great trust. Yet we often have the impression that we have not been heard, and then we run the risk of becoming discouraged and of not persevering. In reality, there is no human cry that God does not hear, and it is precisely in continual and faithful prayer that we come to understand with St. Paul that “the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Prayer does not exempt us from trial and suffering; indeed -- St. Paul says -- we “groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23); he says that prayer does not exempt us from suffering, but that prayer allows us to experience it and to face it with new strength, with the same trust as Jesus, who -- according to the Letter to the Hebrews -- “in the days of his flesh offered prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to God who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard on account of his complete abandonment to Him” (5:7). God the Father’s response to the Son, to his loud cries and tears, was not deliverance from suffering, from the Cross, from death; rather, it was a much greater fulfillment, a much deeper response; through the Cross and death, God responded with the Resurrection of the Son, with new life. Prayer animated by the Holy Spirit leads us, too, to live the journey of life with its daily trials and suffering in full hope and trust in God, who responds as he responded to the Son.

And, third, the prayer of the believer opens out to the dimensions of humanity and of the whole creation, by taking on the “eager longing of creation for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). This means that prayer, sustained by the Spirit of Christ who speaks in our interior depths, never remains closed in upon itself, it is never only prayer for me; rather, it opens out to a sharing in the suffering of our time, of others. It becomes intercession for others, and thus freedom for me; a channel of hope for all creation and the expression of that love of God, which has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us (cf. Romans 5:5). And this is a sign of true prayer, that it does not end in ourselves, but opens out to others and so liberates me, and so helps in the redemption of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, St. Paul teaches us that in our prayer we must open ourselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit, who prays in us with sighs too deep for words, in order to bring us to adhere to God with all our hearts and with all our being. The Spirit of Christ becomes the strength of our “weak” prayer, the light of our “extinguished” prayer, the fire of our “cold and arid” prayer, by giving us true interior freedom, by teaching us to live facing life’s trials in the certainty that we are not alone, and by opening us to the horizons of humanity and creation “which groans in travail until now” (Romans 8:22). Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the teaching of the Apostle Paul. Saint Paul’s letters show us the rich variety of his own prayer, which embraces thanksgiving, praise, petition and intercession. For Paul, prayer is above all the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, the fruit of God’s presence within us. The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, teaching us to pray to the Father through the Son. In the eighth chapter of the Letter to the Romans, Paul tells us that the Spirit intercedes for us, unites us to Christ and enables us to call God our Father. In our prayer, the Holy Spirit grants us the glorious freedom of the children of God, the hope and strength to remain faithful to the Lord amid our daily trials and tribulations, and a heart attentive to the working of God’s grace in others and in the world around us. With Saint Paul, let us open our hearts to the presence of the Holy Spirit, who prays with us and leads us to an ever deeper union in love with the Triune God.

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© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address in Sansepolcro
"I invite young people to think big: have the courage to be daring!"

SANSEPOLCRO, Italy, MAY 15, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday in Sansepolcro. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I am happy to find myself at Sansepolcro and to join in your thanksgiving to God for the millenary of the city’s foundation, for the wonders of grace and for all of the benefits that, in 10 centuries, providence has bestowed. In this historic piazza, we repeat the words of today’s responsorial Psalm: “Sing to the Lord a new song, because he has done marvelous deeds ... All the earth acclaim the Lord, cry out, exult, sing hymns” (Psalm 97).

Dear friends of Sansepolcro, I greet all of you with affection. I am grateful for this welcome. Despite the somewhat inclement weather, our heart is full of light, warmth and joy. I greet everyone, beginning with Archbishop Monsignor Riccardo Fontana; along with him I greet the priests, the consecrated persons and the lay faithful who actively dedicate themselves to the apostolate. A address a deferential greeting to the civil and military authorities, especially the mayor, Dr. Daniela Frullani, whom I thank for the cordial words she spoke to me and for the beautiful gifts. Thank you!

One thousand years ago, the holy pilgrims Arcanus and Aegidius, in the face of the great transformations of the time, set out in search of the truth and of the meaning of life, heading for the Holy Land. Upon their return, they brought with them not only the stones gathered from Mt. Zion, but the special idea that they worked out in the land of Jesus: to build in the Alta Valle del Tevere the “civitas hominis” (city of man) in the image of Jerusalem, which in its very name evokes justice and peace. A project that recalls the great vision of St. Augustine in the work “City of God.” When Alaric’s Goths entered Rome and the pagan world accused the God of the Christians of not having saved Rome “caput mundi” (capital of the world), the holy bishop of Hippo explained what we must expect from God, the just relation between the political sphere and the religious sphere. He sees the presence of two loves in history: “love of self,” to the point of indifference to God and others, and “love of God,” which leads to complete availability for others and to the building up of the city of man guided by justice and peace (cf. “City of God,” XIV, 28).

This vision was certainly not foreign to the founders of Sansepolcro. They conceived the model of a city organized and filled by a hope for the future in which the disciples of Christ were called to be the engine of society in the promotion of peace through the practice of justice. That courageous challenge became reality because of perseverance on a path that – with the support of the Benedictine charism at the beginning and that of the Camaldolese monks subsequently – continued for generations. A firm commitment was necessary to found a monastic community and then, around the abbey church, your city. The position of the cathedral is not the result of a superficial city planning but has a deep symbolic value: it is the point of reference according to which everyone can know where they are going on the street, but even more so they can see where they are going in life; it constitutes a powerful reminder to raise our eyes, to get beyond the everyday, to look heavenward, in a continual movement toward spiritual values and toward communion with God, who does not alienate us from the ordinary but gives it meaning and helps us to live in it more intensely. This perspective is also valid today; it aids us in recovering a taste for seeking the “true,” for seeing life as a path that leads us to the “true” and the “just.”

Dear friends, the ideal of your founders remains in our time and constitutes not only the center of the identity of Sansepolcro and the diocesan Church but also a challenge to conserve and promote the Christian thinking that is the origin of this city. Sansepolcro’s millennial celebration is the occasion to engage in a reflection that is both an interior journey of faith and an obligation to rediscover your Christian roots so that the evangelical values might continue to fecundate your consciousness and your daily lives. Today there is a particular need that the Church’s service to the world be expressed by enlightened lay faithful who are able to work within the city of man with a desire to serve that is not controlled by private or party interests. The common good counts more than the individual good, and compels Christians too to contribute to the birth of a new public ethic. The splendid figure of the newly-beatified Giuseppe Toniolo reminds us of this. In opposition to diffidence toward political and social engagement Christians, especially young people, are called to embrace commitment and love for responsibility, animated by evangelical charity, which demands that we do not be shut up in ourselves but take on the burdens of others. I invite young people to think big: have the courage to be daring! Be ready to give a new flavor to the whole of civil society with the salt of honesty and disinterested altruism. It is necessary to rediscover solid reasons to serve the good of our fellow citizens.

The challenge that lies before this ancient city is that of harmonizing the rediscovery of its own 1,000-year-old identity with the welcoming and incorporation of different cultures and sensibilities. St. Paul teaches us that the Church, but also the whole of society, are like a human body in which every part is different from the others but all work together for the good of the organism (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12-26). We thank God that your diocesan community has developed an ardent missionary openness over the years, which is testified to by the partnership with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. I was happy to learn that it has borne the fruit of collaboration and charitable works on behalf of needy brothers in the Holy Land. Ancient bonds led your forbears to build a replica in stone of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem to fashion the identity of the citizens and to keep alive devotion and prayer for the Holy City. May this connection continue and make it so that everything that affects the Holy Land be seen by you as a reality that touches you as well; just as in Jerusalem your name and the presence of pilgrims from your diocese invigorates the fraternal relationships between your two cities. In this regard I am certain that you will be open to new possibilities of solidarity, inspiring a renewed apostolic zeal in the service of the Gospel. And this will be one of the most significant results of your city’s jubilee celebrations.

One more word about the cathedral, where I contemplated the beauty of the “Holy Face.” This basilica is the place of the whole city’s praise of God, the site of the rediscovered harmony between times of worship and civic life, the point of reference for the refreshment of souls. And as your fathers knew how to make a splendid temple of stone, that it might be a sign and a call to communion of life, it is your responsibility to make the meaning of the sacred place visible and credible, living in peace in ecclesial and civil community. At the height of the Renaissance the people of this city asked the painter Durante Alberti to depict Bethlehem in the mother church that no one would forget that God is with us in the poverty of the manger. Remembering the past and attentive to the present, but also projected toward the future, you Christians of the Diocese of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro know that the spiritual progress of your ecclesial community and the very promotion of the common good of the civil communities requires an ever more vital engagement of the parishes and associations of this area. May the journey that you undertake and the faith that animates you give you courage and zeal to continue. Looking to your rich spiritual patrimony, may you be a Church alive to the service of the Gospel! May you be a hospitable and generous Church that with her witness makes present God’s love for every human being, especially for the suffering and needy.

May the Holy Virgin, who is especially venerated during this month of May, keep watch over each of you and sustain the efforts for a better future. O Mary, Queen of Peace, hear our prayer: make us witnesses of your Son and tireless builders of justice and peace. Thank you!

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On Our Lady of Comfort
"Mary Most Holy always wants to comfort her children in moments of great difficulty and suffering"

AREZZO, Italy, MAY 14, 2012 - Here is a translation of the brief address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Regina Caeli on Sunday in Arezzo. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

At the conclusion of this eucharistic celebration, the time of the Marian prayer invites us all to go in spirit before the image of Our Lady of Comfort in the cathedral.

As Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy always wants to comfort her children in moments of great difficulty and suffering. And this city has experienced her maternal succor many times. Thus, today also, we entrust to her intercession all of the persons and families of your community that find themselves in situations of great need.

At the same time, through Mary, we ask moral comfort of God that the community of Arezzo and all of Italy reject the temptation of discouragement and, strong in the great humanistic tradition also, decisively set out again upon the path of spiritual and ethical renewal, which alone can lead to an authentic improvement of social and civil life. Everyone can and must make a contribution to this task.

O Mary, Our Lady of Comfort, pray for us!

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Pope's Homily in Arezzo
"God loved us first and wants us to enter his communion of love"

AREZZO, Italy, MAY 14, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday in Arezzo. The Holy Father made a one-day trip to the region of Tuscany, celebrating Mass in Arezzo and also visiting Sansepolcro.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

It is my great joy to be able to break the bread of the Word of God and the Eucharist with you. I offer my cordial greeting to all of you and I thank you for the warm welcome! I greet your bishop, Monsignor Riccardo Fontana, whom I thank for the courteous words of welcome, and I greet the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, the representatives of the ecclesial associations and movements. A deferential greeting to the mayor, the advocate Giuseppe Fanfani. I am grateful for his speech and welcome. A deferential greeting to Prime Minister Senator Mario Monti, and to the other civil and military authorities. A special thanks to those who generously worked together for my pastoral visit.

Today I am received by an ancient Church, who is an expert in relations and praiseworthy for her commitment over the centuries to building the city of man in the image of the City of God. In the land of Tuscany the community of Arezzo has in fact many times distinguished itself in the course of history for its sense of freedom and capacity for dialogue with different social constituencies. Coming among you for the first time, my wish is that this city will always know how to make this precious legacy bear fruit.

In past centuries the Church in Arezzo has been enriched and animated by multiple expressions of the Christian faith, among which the highest is that of the saints. I think especially of St. Donatus, your patron, whose life of witness, which fascinated the Christianity of the Middle Ages, is still relevant today. He was an intrepid evangelizer, working for all to be liberated from pagan customs and rediscover in the Word of God the power to affirm the dignity of every person and the true meaning of freedom. Through his preaching, prayer and the Eucharist he reunited the people whose bishop he was. The broken chalice that Donatus put back together, of which St. Gregory the Great speaks (cf. Dialogues I, 7, 3), is the image of the work of peace that the Church carries out in society, for the common good. Thus St. Peter Damian attests to you and with him the great Camadolese tradition that for 1000 years, from Casentino, has offered its spiritual wealth to this diocesan Church and to the universal Church.

In your cathedral is interred Blessed Gregory X, pope, as if to show, through the diversity of times and cultures, the continuity of the service that Church of Christ means to render to the world. He, sustained by the light that shined from the nascent mendicant orders, from theologians and saints – among whom St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio – dealt with the great problems of his time: the reform of the Church; the healing of the schism with the Christian East, which he attempted to do with the Council of Lyon; the attentiveness to the Holy Land; peace and relations between peoples – he was the first one in the West to exchange ambassadors with Kublai Khan in China.

Dear friends! The first reading presented us with an important moment in which the universality of the Christian message and the Church is manifested: St. Peter, in the house of Cornelius, baptized the first pagans. In the Old Testament God wanted the blessing of the Jewish people not to be exclusive but to extend to all nations. From the very calling of Abraham he said: “In you all the families of the earth will be called blessed” (Genesis 12:3). And thus Peter, inspired from above, understood that “God does not respect distinction of persons, but welcomes those who fear him and practice justice, regardless of the nation to which they belong” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s gesture becomes the image of the Church open to all of humanity. Following the great tradition of your Church and of your communities, be authentic witnesses of God’s love for all people!

But how can we, with our weakness, be bearers of this love? St. John in the second reading, forcefully tells us that the liberation from sin is not the result of our effort but comes from God. We were not the ones who loved him, but it is he who loved us and took upon himself our sin and washed it away with the blood of Christ. God loved us first and wants us to enter his communion of love, to cooperate in his redemptive work.

The Lord’s invitation resounded in the reading from the Gospel: “I appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (John 15:16). It is a word addressed to the apostles in a specific way, but in a general way regards all of Jesus’ disciples. The whole Church, all of us are sent into the world to bring the Gospel and salvation. But the initiative is always God’s, who calls many servants that each one might do his part for the common good. Called to the ministerial priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the married life, to a task in the world, all are asked to respond with generosity to the Lord, sustained by his Word that enlightens us: “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you” (John 15:16).

Dear Friends! I know about your Church’s commitment to promoting Christian life. Be a ferment in society, be Christians who are present, active and consistent. The city of Arezzo, with its multi-millennial history, is a précis of significant expressions of culture and values. Among the treasures of your tradition is the pride in a Christian identity, testified to by many signs and by traditional devotions like the one to Our Lady of Comfort. This land, in which many great figures of the Renaissance were born, from Petrarch to Vasari, played an active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on the history of Europe, drawing strength from Christian values. In recent times too, there belongs to the ideal patrimony of your city what some of its children, in research in universities and institutions, knew how to elaborate about the concept itself of “civitas,” expressing the Christian ideal of the age of the commune in contemporary categories. In the context of the Church in Italy, committed to the theme of education these last 10 years, we must ask ourselves – above all in the region where the Renaissance was born – what vision of man are we are able to propose to the new generations. The Word of God that we have heard is a powerful invitation to live God’s love towards all, and, the culture of these lands has, among its distinctive values, solidarity, attention to the weakest, respect for the dignity of each person. The welcome, that even in recent times you knew how to offer to those who came here in search of freedom and work, is well-known. Being in solidarity with the poor is recognizing the plan of God the Creator, who has made everyone a single family.

Of course, your province has also been severely tried by the economic crisis. The complexity of the problems makes it difficult to identify quick and effective solutions to escape from the present situation which affects the weakest especially, and greatly worries young people. Since the remotest centuries, attention to others has moved the Church to be in concrete solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against a culture of the ephemeral, which has disappointed many and caused a profound spiritual crisis. May this diocesan Church, enriched by the shining witness of the Poverello of Assisi [St. Francis], continue to be attentive and solidary towards those who find themselves in need, but also know how to teach how to overcome purely materialistic mentalities that often mark our age and end up clouding our sense of solidarity and charity

Witnessing to the love of God by caring for the least is tied to the defense of life, from its beginning to its natural end. In your region, ensuring everyone dignity, health and fundamental rights, is rightly felt to be an indispensable good. The defense of the family, through laws that are just and capable of protecting the weakest as well, always constitutes an important point that keeps the fabric of society strong and offers perspectives of hope for the future. Just as in the Middle Ages, the statutes of your city were an instrument that ensured inalienable rights to many, so may they continue that task today of promoting a city with an ever more human face. In this the Church offers her contribution so that the love of God may always be accompanied by love of one’s neighbor.

Dear brothers and sisters! Pursue the service of God and man according to Jesus’ teaching, the luminous example of your saints and the tradition of your people. May you be accompanied and sustained in this by the maternal protection of Our Lady of Comfort, who is so loved and venerated by you. Amen!

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Papal Address on Contemplating the Cross
"The contemplation of the Crucified is the work of the mind, but it is unable to soar the heights without the support, without the force of love"

ROME, MAY 14, 2012 .- During Benedict XVI's one-day apostolic visit Sunday, the La Verna stop was cancelled due to inclement weather. Nonetheless, here is a translation of the address that the Holy Father had prepared for the occasion.

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Dear Friars Minor

Dear Sisters of Holy Mother Clare,

Dear brothers and sisters: may the Lord give you peace!

To contemplate the Cross of Christ! We have come as pilgrims to the Sasso Spicco of La Verna where "two years before his death" (Celano, Vita Prima, III, 94: FF, 484) St. Francis had the wounds of the glorious passion of Christ impressed upon his body. His journey as a disciple brought him to a union with the Lord so profound that he shared even the outward signs of His supreme act of love on the Cross. It was a journey that began at San Damiano before the Crucifix, which he contemplated with mind and heart. Continual meditation on the Cross in this holy place has been a way of sanctification for so many Christians, who over the course of eight centuries, have knelt here in prayer, silence and recollection.

The glorious Cross of Christ sums up the world's sufferings, but it is above all a tangible sign of love, the measure of God's goodness to man. In this place, we too are called to rediscover life's supernatural dimension, to lift our eyes from what is contingent, and to return to complete reliance upon the Lord, with a free heart and in perfect joy, by contemplating the Crucified, that He may wound us with His love.

"Almighty, omnipotent, good Lord, Thine be the praise, the glory and the honor, and every benediction" (Canticle of Brother Sun: FF, 263). It is only by allowing himself to be illumined by the light of God's love that man and the entire creation may be redeemed, that beauty may finally reflect the splendor of the face of Christ, as the moon reflects the sun. The Blood of the Crucified flowing from the glorious Cross vivifies the dried bones of Adam who is in us, so that each of us might rediscover the joy of setting off on the path of sanctity, of climbing upwards, towards God. From this blessed place, I unite myself to the prayer of all Franciscans on earth: "We adore you O Christ and we bless You, because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world."

Enraptured by the love of Christ! We cannot ascend La Verna without allowing ourselves to be guided by the prayer of St. Francis, by the absorbeat, which reads: "May the ardent and sweet strength of Your love, I beg you O Lord, so absorb my heart as to withdraw it from all that is under heaven, so that I may die for love of Your love, as you have deigned to die for love of my love" (The Prayer "absorbeat", 1: FF, 277). The contemplation of the Crucified is the work of the mind, but it is unable to soar the heights without the support, without the force of love. In this same place, Brother Bonaventure of Bagnoregio -- the illustrious son of St. Francis -- worked out his Itinerarium mentis in Deum, pointing out to us the way to follow in order to set off for the heights, there to meet God. This great Doctor of the Church communicates to us his own experience by inviting us to prayer. First, the mind should turn to the Passion of the Lord, since it is the sacrifice of the Cross that blots out our sin, a lack that can only be filled by God's love: "I exhort the reader – he writes – to cry out in prayer through Christ Crucified, whose blood cleanses us of the stain of our sins" (Itinerarium mentis in Deum, Prol. 4). But to be effective, our prayer needs our tears; that is, our interior involvement, our love, which responds to the love of God. Then what is needed is that admiratio, which St. Bonaventure sees in the humble ones of the Gospel, who are capable of experiencing wonder before Christ's saving work. And humility is the door to every virtue. For it is not through the intellectual pride of a search enclosed upon itself that one attains to God, but rather through humility, according to the famous expression of St. Bonaventure: "May [man] not believe that it suffices to read without unction, to speculate without devotion, to investigate without wonder, to examine without exultation, to work without piety, to know without love, to understand without humility, to study without divine grace, to see without wisdom divinely inspired" (ibidem.).

The contemplation of the Crucified has an extraordinary efficacy, for it causes us to pass from the order of things thought, to that of experience lived; from hoped-for salvation to the sweet and blessed homeland. St. Bonaventure affirms: "He who gazes intently [upon the Crucified] … makes the Passover with Him – that is, the passage (ibid., VII, 2). This is the heart of the experience of La Verna, of the Poverello of Assisi's experience here. On this Sacred Mount, St. Francis lived in his own person the profound unity of sequela, imitatio and conformatio Christi. And so he tells us, too, that it is not enough to call ourselves Christians to be Christians, nor is it enough to seek to perform good works. We need to conform ourselves to Jesus through a slow, steady commitment to the transformation of our being to the image of the Lord, so that through divine grace, every member of His Body, which is the Church, might show forth the necessary likeness with its Head, Christ the Lord. And we begin this journey -- as the medieval masters teach us on the basis of St. Augustine -- with self-knowledge, with the humility of looking within ourselves with honesty.

To bear the love of Christ! How many pilgrims have climbed and continue to climb this Holy Mount in order to contemplate the love of the Crucified God and to allow themselves to be enraptured by Him. How many pilgrims have ascended in the search for God, which is the true reason for the Church existence: to be a bridge between God and man. And here they encounter you as well, sons and daughters of St. Francis. Always remember that the consecrated life has the specific task of bearing witness -- through words and by the example of a life lived in accordance with the evangelical counsels -- to the enchanting love story between God and humanity, which transcends history.

The medieval Franciscan left an indelible mark on this, your Church of Arezzo. The repeated passages of the Poverello of Assisi as well as his sojourn in your region are a precious treasure. La Verna was a unique and foundational event, due to the singularity of the stigmata impressed upon the body of the seraphic Father Francis but also because of the collective history of his friars and of your people, who continue to discover at the Sasso Spicco the centrality of Christ in the life of the believer. Montauto di Anghiari, the Cells of Cortona and the Hermitage of Monecasale as well as that of Cerbaiolo, but also other places of lesser stature for Franciscan life in Tuscany, continue to mark the identity of the communities of Arezzo, Cortona and of Sansepolcro.

So many lights have illuminated these lands, such as St. Margaret of Cortona, a little-known figure devoted to Franciscan penitence, who was able to revive the charism of the Poverello of Assisi within herself with extraordinary vivacity, by uniting the contemplation of the Crucified with charity toward the least and the forgotten. The love of God and neighbor continues to animate the precious work of the Franciscans in your ecclesial Communities. The profession of the evangelical counsels is a royal road to living out the charity of Christ. In this blessed place, I ask the Lord to continue to send laborers into his vineyard and, especially to the young, I address a pressing invitation so that he who is being called by God may respond with generosity and may have the courage to make a gift of himself in the consecrated life and in priestly ministry.

I came as a pilgrim to La Verna, as the Successor of Peter, and I would like for us all to listen once again to Jesus' question to Peter: "Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these? … Feed my lambs" (John 21:15). Love for Christ is the basis for the Pastor's life, as well as for he who is consecrated; a love that does not fear commitment and hardship. Bring this love to the men of our times, who are often closed in within their own individualism; be a sign of God's immense mercy. Priestly piety teaches priests to love what they celebrate, to break open their lives for those whom we encounter by sharing in their suffering, by attentiveness to their problems, by accompanying them along the journey of faith.

Thank you to the Minister General José Carballo for his words, to the entire Franciscan family and to you all. May you persevere like your Holy Father [Francis] in the imitation of Christ, so that those whom you meet may encounter St. Francis, and in encountering St. Francis may encounter the Lord.


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

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

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Lord Cardinals,

Honorable Ministers and Authorities,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Presbyterate,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen!

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

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

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

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

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

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Papal Address to Directors of the Pontifical Missionary Works
"Your work of missionary animation and formation is part of the soul of pastoral care"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2012.- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to directors of the Pontifical Missionary Works.

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Lord Cardinal,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I address to you all my cordial greeting, beginning with the Lord Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, whom I thank for his kind expressions and for the information about the activity of the Pontifical Missionary Works. I extend my grateful thought to the Secretary, Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai, to the Assistant Secretary, Monsignor Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, President of the Pontifical Missionary Works, to the National Directors and to all the collaborators, as well as to those who give their generous service in the Dicastery. My thoughts and those of all of you go at this time to Father Massimo Cenci, Under-Secretary, who died suddenly. May the Lord reward him for all the work he carried out on mission and at the service of the Holy See.

Today’s meeting takes place in the context of the annual Assembly of the Higher Council of the Pontifical Missionary Works, to which is entrusted the missionary cooperation of all the Churches worldwide.

The evangelization, which always has a character of urgency, in these times drives the Church to step with an even faster pace on the roads of the world, to bring every man to knowledge of Christ. In fact only in the Truth, which is Christ himself, can humanity discover the meaning of its existence, find salvation, and grow in justice and peace. Every man and every people has a right to receive the Gospel of truth. In this perspective, your commitment to celebrate the Year of Faith, now imminent, takes on a particular meaning: to reinforce the commitment to spread the Kingdom of God and knowledge of the Christian faith. On the part of those who have already encountered Jesus Christ, this calls for “an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world.” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei,6). The Christian communities “need to hear anew the voice of the Bridegroom, who invites them to conversion, spurs them on to bold new undertakings and calls forth their commitment to the great task of the “new evangelization”. (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa,23). Jesus, the incarnate Word, is always the center of the proclamation, the point of reference for the following and for the methodology itself of the evangelizing mission, because He is the human face of God who wishes to encounter every man and every woman to make them enter into communion with Him, in his love. To go through the roads of the world to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples of the earth and to guide them to the encounter with the Lord (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, 7), calls then for the herald to have a personal and daily relationship with Christ, that he know Him and love Him profoundly.

The mission today needs renewal of trust in God’s action; it needs more intense prayer so that his Kingdom will come, so that his will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. It is necessary to invoke the light and strength of the Holy Spirit, and to commit oneself with determination and generosity to inaugurate, in a certain sense, a “new era of proclamation of the Gospel is essential not only because, after two millennia, a major part of the human family still does not acknowledge Christ, but also because the situation in which the Church and the world find themselves [...] is particularly challenging for religious belief” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, 29). Hence, I am very happy to encourage the project of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and of the Pontifical Missionary Works, in support of the Year of Faith. This project foresees a worldwide campaign that, through the prayer of the Holy Rosary, will accompany the work of evangelization in the world and for many of the baptized the rediscovery and deepening of the faith.

Dear friends, you know well that the proclamation of the Gospel not infrequently entails difficulties and sufferings; in fact, the growth of the Kingdom of God in the world not rarely comes at the price of the blood of its servants. In this phase of economic, cultural and political changes, where often the human being feels alone, a prey to anguish and despair, the messengers of the Gospel, also if they are heralds of hope and peace, continue to be persecuted like their Teacher and Lord. However, despite the problems and the tragic reality of persecution, the Church is not discouraged, she remains faithful to her Lord’s mandate, in the awareness that “throughout Christian history, martyrs, that is, "witnesses," have always been numerous and indispensable to the spread of the Gospel” (John Paul II,Redemptoris missio, 45). Christ’s message, today as yesterday, cannot adapt itself to the logic of this world, because it is prophecy and liberation, it is seed of a new humanity that grows, and only at the end of time will have its full realization.

Entrusted to you, in a particular way, is the task of supporting the ministers of the Gospel, helping them to “preserve the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow.” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 80). Your particular commitment is also that of keeping alive the missionary vocation of all the disciples of Christ, so that each one, according to the charism received from the Holy Spirit, is able to take part in the universal mission consigned by the Risen One to his Church. Your work of missionary animation and formation is part of the soul of pastoral care, because the missio ad gentes constitutes the paradigm of the whole apostolic action of the Church. Be increasingly the visible and concrete expression of the communion of persons and of the means between the Churches that, as communicating vessels, live the same missionary vocation and tension, and in every corner of the earth work to sow the Word of Truth in all peoples and cultures. I am certain that you will continue to be committed, so that the local Churches assume, ever more generously, their part of responsibility in the universal mission of the Church.

May the Virgin Most Holy, Queen of the Missions accompany you and sustain your every effort in promoting missionary awareness and collaboration. With this hope, which I always have present in my prayer, I thank you and all those who cooperate in the cause of evangelization, and I impart to each from my heart the Apostolic Blessing.

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Papal Address to Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph
"The specific formation of priests is always one of the main priorities of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the Pontifical Spanish College of St. Joseph.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Lord Rector, Superiors, Religious, Students of the Pontifical Spanish College of Saint Joseph of Rome.

It is a joy for me to receive you on the commemoration of the fifty years of the present headquarters of the Pontifical Spanish College of Saint Joseph, and specifically on the liturgical memoria of Saint John of Avila, patron of the Spanish secular clergy, whom I will soon declare Doctor of the universal Church. I greet the Lord Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid and president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, whom I thank for his kind words, as well as the Lord Archbishops members of the Patronato, the formators, women Religious and you, dear students.

This event marks an important stage of the already vast itinerary of this College, which began at the end of the 19th century, when Blessed Manuel Domingo y Sol, founder of the Brotherhood of Diocesan Worker Priests, launched himself on the adventure to create a College in Rome, with the blessing of my venerable predecessor Leo XIII, and the support of the Spanish Episcopate.

Thousands of seminarians and priests have gone through your College, who have served the Church in Spain with profound love and fidelity to their mission. The specific formation of priests is always one of the main priorities of the Church. On being sent to Rome to further your priestly studies you must think above all, not so much of your particular good, but of service to the holy people of God, who need pastors who dedicate themselves to the beautiful service of the sanctification of the faithful with superior preparation and competence.

But remember that the priest renews his life and draws strength for his ministry from contemplation of the Divine Word and intense dialogue with the Lord. He is conscious that he will be unable to take Christ to his brothers or to meet Him in the poor and the sick, if he does not first discover Him in fervent and constant prayer. It is necessary to nourish a personal relationship with Him, whom one then proclaims, celebrates and communicates. Herein lies the foundation of priestly spirituality, until one becomes a transparent sign and living witness of the Good Shepherd. The itinerary of priestly formation is, also, a school of missionary communion: with the Successor of Peter, with one’s bishop, in the presbytery itself, and always at the service of the particular and universal Church.

Dear priests, may the life and doctrine of the Holy Teacher John of Avila illumine and support your stay at the Pontifical Spanish College of Saint Joseph. His profound knowledge of Sacred Scripture, of the Holy Fathers, of the Councils, of the liturgical sources and of healthy theology, together with his faithful and filial love of the Church, made him an authentic innovator, at a difficult time in the history of the Church. Precisely because of this, he was “a discerning and ardent spirit who added, to the denunciation of evils <and> the suggestion of canonical remedies, a school of intense spirituality” (Paul VI, Homily during the Canonization of Saint John of Avila, May 31, 1970).

The main teaching of the Apostle of Andalusia is the mystery of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, lived in harmony with the Lord’s sentiments, in imitation of Saint Paul (cf. Philippians 2:5). “The priest must look at himself in this priestly mirror to be conformed to Him in his desires and prayer” (Treatise on the Priesthood, 10). The priesthood requires essentially his help and friendship: “This communication of the Lord with the priest … is the relationship of friends,” says the Saint (Ibid., 9).

Hence, encouraged by the virtues and the example of Saint John of Avila, I invite you to carry out your presbyterial ministry with the same apostolic zeal that characterized him, with his same austerity of life, as well as with the same filial affection that he had for the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of priests.

Under the dear name of “Mater clementissima,” the students have been innumerable who have entrusted to her their vocation, their studies, their most noble exertions and projects, as well as their sadnesses and concerns. Do not fail to invoke her every day or tire of repeating her name with devotion. Listen to Saint John of Avila , when he exhorted priests to imitate her: “Let us look at ourselves, Fathers, from head to toe, soul and body, and we will see ourselves made similar to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, who with her words brought God to her womb … And the priest brings Him with the words of the consecration” (1st Talk to Priests). The Mother of Christ is the model of that love that leads to giving one’s life for the Kingdom of God, without expecting anything in return.

May the community of the Pontifical Spanish College of Rome, under the protection of Our Lady, be able to continue to fulfill its objectives of further reflection and actualization of ecclesiastical studies, in the climate of profound presbyterial communion and high scientific rigor that distinguishes it, in view of realizing, henceforth, the profound fraternity requested by Vatican Council II “by reason of the common sacred ordination and the common mission” (Lumen Gentium, 28). Thus pastors will be formed that, as reflection of the life of God-Love, One and Triune, will serve their brothers with rectitude of intention and total dedication, promoting the unity of the Church and the good of the whole of human society.

With these sentiments, I impart to you a special Apostolic Blessing, which I gladly extend to your families, communities of origin and to all those who collaborate in your formative itinerary during your stay in Rome. Thank you very much.

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Pope's Address to Latin American Jewish Congress
"It is cause for thanksgiving that we are committed to walking together the path of dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the Latin American Jewish Congress.

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Dear Jewish friends,

I am very pleased to welcome this delegation of the Latin American Jewish Congress. Our meeting is a particularly significant one, since you are the first group representing Jewish organizations and communities in Latin America which I have met here in the Vatican. Throughout Latin America there are vibrant Jewish communities, especially in Argentina and Brazil, which live side by side with a great majority of Catholics. In the years since the Second Vatican Council, relations between Jews and Catholics have been strengthened also in your region, and various initiatives continue to deepen our mutual friendship.

As you know, this October marks the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, whose Declaration Nostra Aetate remains the charter and guide in our efforts to promote greater understanding, respect and cooperation between our two communities. The Declaration not only took up an unambiguous position against every form of anti-Semitism; it also laid the groundwork for a theological reassessment of the Church’s relationship with Judaism and it expressed confidence that an appreciation of the spiritual heritage shared by Jews and Christians would lead to ever greater mutual understanding and esteem (No. 4).

As we consider the progress which has been made over the past fifty years in Jewish-Catholic relations throughout the world, we can only give thanks to the Almighty for this evident sign of his goodness and providence. With the growth of trust, respect and good will, groups which initially approached one another with some hesitation have step by step become reliable partners and even good friends, capable of coping with crises together and overcoming conflicts positively. Certainly, much remains to be done in overcoming the burdens of the past, fostering better relations between our two communities, and meeting the challenges which believers increasingly face in today’s world. Yet it is cause for thanksgiving that we are committed to walking together the path of dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation.

Dear friends, in a world which is increasingly threatened by the loss of the spiritual and moral values which alone can guarantee respect for human dignity and lasting peace, a sincere and respectful dialogue between religions and cultures is crucial for the future of our human family. It is my hope that our visit today will be a source of encouragement and renewed hope in taking up the challenge of building ever stronger bonds of friendship and cooperation, and in bearing prophetic witness to the power of God’s truth, justice and reconciling love, for the welfare of all mankind.

With these sentiments, dear friends, I ask the Thrice-Holy to bless you and your families with every spiritual gift and to guide your steps in the way of peace.

Shalom aleikhem!

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On St. Peter's Imprisonment and Miraculous Release
"True freedom is found in following Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2012 - 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 reflection on prayer in the Acts of the Apostles, today considering St. Peter’s imprisonment and miraculous release.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to consider the final episode of St. Peter’s life recounted in the Acts of the Apostles: his imprisonment by order of Herod Agrippa and his liberation through the prodigious intervention of the angel of the Lord, on the eve of his trial in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 12:1-17).

The prayer of the Church once again marks the account. St. Luke writes, in fact: “So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). And after having miraculously been led forth from prison, on the occasion of his visit to the home of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, it is affirmed: “Many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). Peter’s detainment and release, which span the whole night, are placed between these two important annotations, which illustrate the attitude of the Christian community when faced with danger and persecution. The power of the Church’s unceasing prayer rises to God, and the Lord hears and accomplishes an unthinkable and unhoped-for release through the sending of His angel.

The account recalls the great elements of Israel’s liberation from the slavery of Egypt, the Jewish Passover. As had occurred in that foundational event, here too the angel of the Lord who frees Peter carries out the principal action. And the very actions of the Apostle -- who is asked to get up quickly, to put on his belt and to gird himself -- mirror those of the chosen people on the night of their deliverance by God’s intervention, when they were invited to eat the lamb in haste with loins girt, sandals on their feet, staff in hand, ready to leave the country (cf. Exodus 12:11). Thus Peter can exclaim: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11).

But the angel recalls not only the event of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, but also that of Christ’s Resurrection. The Acts of the Apostles says, in fact: “And behold, and angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him” (Acts 12:7). The light that fills the prison cell, the very action of awakening the Apostle, recall the liberating light of the Passover of the Lord, who conquers the shadows of night and of evil. Lastly, the invitation: “Wrap your mantle around you and follow me” (Acts 12:8), echoes the words of Jesus’ initial call (cf. Mark 1:17), which is repeated after the Resurrection on the Lake of Tiberias, where the Lord says twice to Peter: “Follow Me” (John 21:19; 22). It is a pressing invitation to follow: for it is only in going out of ourselves in order to walk with the Lord and to do His will that we live in true freedom.

I would also like to emphasize an aspect of Peter’s attitude in prison; indeed, we note that while the Christian community was praying persistently for him, Peter “was sleeping” (Acts 12:6). In such a critical and dangerous situation, it is an attitude that may seem strange but that rather denotes tranquility and confidence. He trusts in God, he knows that the solidarity and prayer of his own surround him, and he abandons himself totally into the Lord’s hands. So must our prayer also be: assiduous, united in solidarity with others, fully trusting in God who knows us intimately and who cares for us to the point -- Jesus says -- that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore” (Matthew 10: 30-31).

Peter lives the night of imprisonment and release as a moment in his following of the Lord, who conquers the darkness of night and frees [him] from the slavery of chains and the danger of death. His is a miraculous liberation, which is marked by various carefully described passages: guided by the angel, despite the surveillance of the guards, he passes through the first and second guard, to the iron gate leading into the city: and the gate opened to them of its own accord (cf. Acts 12:10). Peter and the angel of the Lord together cover a long stretch of road until, coming to himself, the Apostle realizes that the Lord has actually delivered him; and after having reflected upon this, he goes to the home of Mary, the mother of Mark, where many of the disciples were gathered together in prayer; once again, the community’s response to difficulty and danger is to rely upon God, to intensify their relationship with Him.

Here is seems to me useful to recall another difficult situation through which the early Christian community lived. St. James speaks of it in his Letter. It is a community in crisis, in difficulty, not so much on account of persecutions, but because of the jealousies and contentions present within it (James 3:14-16). And the Apostle asks why this situation exists. He finds two principal causes: the first is allowing oneself to be dominated by one’s passions, by the dictatorship of one’s own will, by egoism (James 4:1-2a); the second is the lack of prayer -- “you do not ask” (James 4:2b) -- or the presence of a prayer that cannot be defined as such -- “you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). This situation would change, according to St. James, if the whole community were to speak with God, if they were to pray assiduously and of one accord.

Indeed, even discussion about God risks losing its interior strength, and witness withers, if they are not animated, sustained and accompanied by prayer, by the continuity of a living conversation with the Lord. This is an important reminder for us and for our communities, for small communities such as the family, as well as those that are more extensive such as the parish, the diocese and the whole Church. And it gives me pause that they prayed in the community of St. James, but they prayed badly, for they prayed only for the sake of their own passions. We must always learn anew to pray well, to pray truly, to orient ourselves toward God and not toward our own good.

The community that accompanies St. Peter in his imprisonment, on the other hand, is a community that truly prays, for the whole night, united. And the joy that floods their hearts when the Apostle knocks unexpectedly at the door is uncontainable. It is the joy and amazement at the action of God who listens. Thus, prayer for Peter arises from the Church, and to the Church he returns in order to recount “how the Lord had brought him out of the prison” (Acts 12:17). In that Church where he is placed as a rock (cf. Matthew 16:18), Peter recounts his “Easter” of liberation: he experiences that true freedom is found in following Jesus; he is enveloped by the radiant light of the Resurrection, and for this reason he can testify unto martyrdom that the Lord is the Risen One and has “truly sent his angel and rescued him from the hand of Herod” (Acts 12:11). The martyrdom he will undergo in Rome will unite him definitively to Christ, who had told him: “When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go. (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God)” (John 21:18-19).

Dear brothers and sisters, the episode of Peter’s release recounted by Luke tells us that the Church, and each one of us, passes through the night of trial, but that the unceasing vigilance of prayer sustains us. I too, from the first moment of my election as Successor of St. Peter, have always felt supported by your prayer, by the prayer of the Church, especially in the moments of greatest difficulty. I offer you my heartfelt thanks. Through constant and confident prayer, the Lord frees us from chains, he guides us through every night of imprisonment that may grip our hearts, he gives us serenity of heart to face life’s difficulties -- even rejection, opposition and persecution. The episode concerning Peter reveals the power of prayer. And the Apostle, even though in chains, remains at peace in the certainty that he is never alone: the community is praying for him; the Lord is close to him; indeed, he knows that “the power of Christ is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Constant prayer of one accord is also a precious instrument for overcoming the trials that can arise along the path of life, for it is being deeply united to God which allows us to be deeply united also to others. Thank you.


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider Saint Peter’s miraculous liberation from imprisonment on the eve of his trial in Jerusalem. Saint Luke tells us that as “the Church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5), Peter was led forth from the prison by an Angel of light. The account of Peter’s rescue recalls both Israel’s hasty exodus from bondage in Egypt and the glory of Christ’s resurrection. Peter was sleeping, a sign of his surrender to the Lord and his trust in the prayers of the Christian community. The fulfillment of this prayer is accompanied by immense joy, as Peter rejoins the community and bears witness to the Risen Lord’s saving power. Peter’s liberation reminds us that, especially at moments of trial, our perseverance in prayer, and the prayerful solidarity of all our brothers and sisters in Christ, sustains us in faith. As Peter’s Successor, I thank all of you for the support of your prayers and I pray that, united in constant prayer, we will all draw ever closer to the Lord and to one another.

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On the Vine and the Branches
"Remaining always united to Jesus, relying on him, is indispensable"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today’s Gospel, for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, begins with the image of the vine. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser’” (John 15:1). Often in the Bible, Israel is compared to the fruitful vine when it is faithful to Israel; but if it turns away from God, it becomes sterile, incapable of producing “that wine that gladdens the heart of man,” as Psalm 104 (15) sings. The true vineyard of God, the true vine, is Jesus, who with his sacrifice of love grants us salvation, opens to us the path to becoming part of this vineyard. And as Jesus remains in the love of God the Father, the disciples too, wisely pruned by the word of the Master (cf. John 15:2-4), if they remain profoundly united to him, become fruitful branches that produce an abundant harvest. St. Francis de Sales writes: “The branch united and joined to the trunk bears fruit not by its own virtue, but by virtue of the trunk: now, by charity we have been united to the Redeemer, as members to the head; this is why ... good works, taking their worth from him, merit eternal life” (“Treatise on Divine Love,” XI, 6).

On the day of our baptism the Church grafts us like branches onto the Paschal Mystery of Jesus; we are grafted onto his very Person. From this root we receive the precious lifeblood to participate in divine life. As disciples, we too, with the help of the Pastors of the Church, grow in the Lord’s vineyard, joined together by his love. “If the fruit we are to bear is love, its prerequisite is this ‘remaining,’ which is profoundly connected with the kind of faith that holds on to the Lord and does not let go” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” 262, San Francisco, 2008). Remaining always united to Jesus, relying on him, is indispensable, because without him we can do nothing (cf. 15:5). In a letter written to John the Prophet, a monk who lived in Gaza wilderness in the fifth century, a Christian asks this question: How can man’s freedom and the impossibility of doing anything without God go together? And John answers: If man inclines his heart toward the good and asks God for help, he receives the necessary help to do that which he does. Thus, man’s freedom and God’s power proceed together. This is possible because goodness comes from the Lord, but it is accomplished by his faithful (cf. Ep. 763, SC 468, Paris 2002, 206). The true “remaining” in Christ guarantees the effectiveness of prayer, as the Cistercian Blessed Guerric d’Igny says: “O Lord Jesus ... without you we can do nothing. You in fact are the true gardener, creator, cultivator and protector of your garden, which you sow with your word, water with your spirit, make grow with your power” (Sermo ad excitandam devotionem in psalmodia, SC 202, 1973, 522).

Dear friends, each of us is as a branch that lives only if it is made to grow in its union with the Lord every day by prayer, by participation in the Sacraments, by charity. He who loves Jesus, the true vine, produces fruits of faith for an abundant spiritual harvest. Let us supplicate the Mother of God that we might remain firmly grafted onto Jesus and each of our actions have in him its sole beginning and completion.

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

Dear brothers and sisters!

I would like first of all to recall that in less than a month the seventh International Meeting of Families will take place in Milan. I thank the Ambrosian diocese and the other Lombard dioceses who are working together for this ecclesial event promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Family, presided over by Cardinal Ennio Antonelli. I will also have the joy to participate, if it pleases God, and so for this I travel to Milan June 1-3.

[In English he said:]

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking visitors present for today’s Regina Caeli, and especially to the large group of pilgrims from Indonesia. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of himself as the true vine and he calls us to be fruit-bearing branches. I pray that God’s children all over the world will grow in unity and love, sustained and nourished by the divine life that he has planted deep within us. May God bless all of you!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday and a good month of May, in the spiritual company of Our Lady. Thank you! Have a good Sunday. I wish you all a good week.

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Papal Address to US Bishops
"Providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to a group of US bishops in Rome for their "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with affection in the Lord and I offer you my prayerful good wishes for a grace-filled pilgrimage ad limina Apostolorum. In the course of our meetings I have been reflecting with you and your Brother Bishops on the intellectual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization in the context of contemporary American society. In the present talk, I wish to address the question of religious education and the faith formation of the next generation of Catholics in your country.

Before all else, I would acknowledge the great progress that has been made in recent years in improving catechesis, reviewing texts and bringing them into conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Important efforts are also being made to preserve the great patrimony of America’s Catholic elementary and high schools, which have been deeply affected by changing demographics and increased costs, while at the same time ensuring that the education they provide remains within the reach of all families, whatever their financial status. As has often been mentioned in our meetings, these schools remain an essential resource for the new evangelization, and the significant contribution that they make to American society as a whole ought to be better appreciated and more generously supported.

On the level of higher education, many of you have pointed to a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel. Yet much remains to be done, especially in such basic areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines. The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church’s educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.

It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country. The deposit of faith is a priceless treasure which each generation must pass on to the next by winning hearts to Jesus Christ and shaping minds in the knowledge, understanding and love of his Church. It is gratifying to realize that, in our day too, the Christian vision, presented in its breadth and integrity, proves immensely appealing to the imagination, idealism and aspirations of the young, who have a right to encounter the faith in all its beauty, its intellectual richness and its radical demands.

Here I would simply propose several points which I trust will prove helpful for your discernment in meeting this challenge.

First, as we know, the essential task of authentic education at every level is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts. There is a constant need to balance intellectual rigor in communicating effectively, attractively and integrally, the richness of the Church’s faith with forming the young in the love of God, the praxis of the Christian moral and sacramental life and, not least, the cultivation of personal and liturgical prayer.

It follows that the question of Catholic identity, not least at the university level, entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus. All too often, it seems, Catholic schools and colleges have failed to challenge students to reappropriate their faith as part of the exciting intellectual discoveries which mark the experience of higher education. The fact that so many new students find themselves dissociated from the family, school and community support systems that previously facilitated the transmission of the faith should continually spur Catholic institutions of learning to create new and effective networks of support. In every aspect of their education, students need to be encouraged to articulate a vision of the harmony of faith and reason capable of guiding a life-long pursuit of knowledge and virtue. As ever, an essential role in this process is played by teachers who inspire others by their evident love of Christ, their witness of sound devotion and their commitment to that sapientia Christiana which integrates faith and life, intellectual passion and reverence for the splendor of truth both human and divine.

In effect, faith by its very nature demands a constant and all-embracing conversionto the fullness of truth revealed in Christ. He is the creative Logos, in whom all things were made and in whom all reality "holds together" (Col 1:17); he is the new Adam who reveals the ultimate truth about man and the world in which we live. In a period of great cultural change and societal displacement not unlike our own, Augustine pointed to this intrinsic connection between faith and the human intellectual enterprise by appealing to Plato, who held, he says, that "to love wisdom is to love God" (cf. De Civitate Dei, VIII, 8). The Christian commitment to learning, which gave birth to the medieval universities, was based upon this conviction that the one God, as the source of all truth and goodness, is likewise the source of the intellect’s passionate desire to know and the will’s yearning for fulfilment in love.

Only in this light can we appreciate the distinctive contribution of Catholic education, which engages in a "diakonia of truth" inspired by an intellectual charity which knows that leading others to the truth is ultimately an act of love (cf. Address to Catholic Educators, Washington, 17 April 2008). Faith’s recognition of the essential unity of all knowledgeprovides a bulwark against the alienation and fragmentation which occurs when the use of reason is detached from the pursuit of truth and virtue; in this sense, Catholic institutions have a specific role to play in helping to overcome the crisis of universities today. Firmly grounded in this vision of the intrinsic interplay of faith, reason and the pursuit of human excellence, every Christian intellectual and all the Church’s educational institutions must be convinced, and desirous of convincing others, that no aspect of reality remains alien to, or untouched by, the mystery of the redemption and the Risen Lord’s dominion over all creation.

During my Pastoral Visit to the United States, I spoke of the need for the Church in America to cultivate "a mindset, an intellectual culture which is genuinely Catholic" (cf. Homily at Nationals Stadium, Washington, 17 April 2008). Taking up this task certainly involves a renewal of apologetics and an emphasis on Catholic distinctiveness; ultimately however it must be aimed at proclaiming the liberating truth of Christ and stimulating greater dialogue and cooperation in building a society ever more solidly grounded in an authentic humanism inspired by the Gospel and faithful to the highest values of America’s civic and cultural heritage. At the present moment of your nation’s history, this is the challenge and opportunity awaiting the entire Catholic community, and it is one which the Church’s educational institutions should be the first to acknowledge and embrace.

In concluding these brief reflections, I wish to express once more my gratitude, and that of the whole Church, for the generous commitment, often accompanied by personal sacrifice, shown by so many teachers and administrators who work in the vast network of Catholic schools in your country. To you, dear Brothers, and to all the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, joy and peace in the Risen Lord.


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Pope's Address to New Swiss Guards
"In order to show love to ones brethren, it is necessary to draw it from the furnace of divine charity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2012.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he received in audience the 26 new Swiss Guards who on Sunday took their oaths at their swearing-in ceremony.

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Lord Commandant,

Reverend Chaplain,

Dear Officers and Members of the Swiss Guard,

Distinguished Guests,

Dear brothers and sisters!

I wish to extend my cordial greetings to you all. In particular, I wish to welcome the recruits, who today are surrounded by their parents, relatives and friends; I also wish to welcome representatives of the Swiss Civil Authority, who have come for this joyous occasion. You, dear Guards, have the privilege of working for several years in the heart of Christianity and of living in the “Eternal City.” Your family and loved ones, and all who have wished to share with you in these festive days, have combined their participation in the swearing-in ceremony with a pilgrimage to the Tombs of the Apostles. It is my hope that, here in Rome, all of you will have a unique experience of the universality of the Church and a strengthening and deepening of faith, especially through moments of prayer and through the meetings that characterize these days.

The roles that the Swiss Guard carries out constitute a direct service to the Supreme Pontiff and to the Apostolic See. The fact that young men choose to consecrate several years of their lives in total availability to the Successor of Peter and to his co-workers is therefore reason for deep appreciation. Your work follows the path of an unquestioned fidelity to the Pope, which became heroic during the “Sack of Rome” of 1527, when on the 6th of May your predecessors sacrificed their lives. The Swiss Guard special service could not have been accomplished then, nor could it be accomplished today in the absence of those features that distinguish every component of the Corps: steadfastness in the Catholic faith, fidelity and love for the Church of Jesus Christ, diligence and perseverance in daily tasks small and great, courage and humility, altruism and availability. These virtues must fill your hearts as you lend your service of honor and security at the Vatican.

Be attentive to one another, in order to support one another in daily work and to edify one another; and preserve a manner of evangelical charity toward those with whom you come in contact each day. In sacred Scripture, the call to the love of neighbor is tied to the commandment to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s strength (cf. Mark 12:29-31). In order to show love to one’s brethren, it is necessary to draw it from the furnace of divine charity, thanks to prolonged periods of prayer, to constant listening to the Word of God, and to a life wholly centered on the mystery of the Eucharist.

The secret efficacy of your work here in the Vatican, as well as of your every endeavor, is therefore constant reference to Christ. This is also the witness of not a few of your predecessors, who distinguished themselves not only by the manner in which they carried out their work, but also by their commitment to living a Christian life. Some were called to follow the Lord along the way of the priesthood and the consecrated life, and they responded with promptness and enthusiasm. Others have happily crowned a vocation to the married life with the Sacrament of Matrimony. I give thanks to God, the source of all good, for the various gifts and missions he entrusts to you, and I pray that you, too, who are now beginning your service, may respond fully to the call of Christ by following him with faithful generosity.

Dear friends! Profit by the time you spend here in Rome to grow in friendship with Christ, to increasingly love his Church and to advance toward the goal of every true Christian life: holiness.

May the Virgin Mary, whom we honor in a special way during the month of May, help you to experience ever more each day that profound communion with God, which for we who believe begins on earth and will be brought to completion in Heaven. We are called, in fact, as St. Paul reminds us, to be “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). With these sentiments, I assure you of my constant remembrance of you in prayer and I warmly impart to each one of you the Apostolic Blessing.


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Pope's Address at Sacred Heart Catholic University
"Love alone guarantees the humanity of research"

ROME, Italy, MAY 3, 2012 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he visited Rome's Sacred Heart Catholic University, to mark the 50th anniversary of the "Agostino Gemelli" faculty of medicine and surgery.

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Lord Cardinals, Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,

Illustrious Pro-Rector, Distinguished Authorities, Docents, Doctors,

Distinguished Health and University Staff,

Dear Students and Dear Patients!

With particular joy I meet with you today to celebrate the 50 years of the foundation of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the “Agostino Gemelli” Polyclinic. I thank the President of the Toniolo Institute, Cardinal Angelo Scola, and the Pro-Rector, Professor Franco Anelli, for the courteous words they addressed to me. I greet the Lord President of the Chamber, The Honorable Gianfranco Fini, the Lord Ministers, the Honorable Lorenzo Ornaghi and Honorable Renato Balduzzi, the numerous Authorities, as well as the Docents, the Doctors, the Staff and the Students of the Polyclinic and of the Catholic University. A special thought goes to you, dear patients.

In this circumstance I would like to offer some reflections. Ours is a time in which the experimental sciences have transformed the vision of the world and the very self-understanding of man. The many discoveries, the innovative technologies that succeed one another at a feverish rhythm, are reasons for motivated pride, but often they are not lacking in disquieting implications. In fact, projected on the background of the widespread optimism of scientific learning, is the shadow of a crisis of thought. Rich in means but not as much in ends, the man of our time often lives conditioned by reductionism and relativism, which lead to losing the meaning of things; almost dazzled by technical efficiency, he forgets the fundamental horizon of the question of meaning, thus relegating the transcendent dimension to irrelevance. On this background, thought becomes weak and an ethical impoverishment also gains ground, which clouds the normative references of value. What was the fertile European root of culture and progress seems to be forgotten. In it, the search for the absolute -- the quaerere Deum -- included the need to study further the natural sciences, the whole world of learning (cf. Address to the College of Bernardins of Paris, Sept. 12, 2008). In fact, scientific research and the question of meaning, also in their specific epistemological and methodological physiognomy, spring from only one source, the Logos that presides over the work of creation and guides the intelligence of history. An essential techno-practical mentality generates a risky imbalance between what is technically possible and what is morally good, with unforeseeable consequences.

Hence it is important that culture rediscover the meaning and dynamism of transcendence, in a word, that it open with determination the horizon of the quaerere Deum. The well-known Augustinian phrase comes to mind “You have created us for yourself [Lord], and our heart is restless until it rests in You” (The Confessions, I,1). It can be said that the very impulse to scientific research springs from nostalgia for God, who dwells in the human heart: at bottom, the man of science tends, even unconsciously, to reach that truth that can give meaning to life. However, no matter how passionate and tenacious human research is, it is not capable, on its own, to come to a safe conclusion, because “man is not able to clarify completely the strange faint light that rests on the question of the eternal realities … God must take the initiative to come to meet us and to address man” (J. Ratzinger, Benedict’s Europe in the Crisis of Cultures, Cantagalli, Rome, 2005, 124; Zenit translation). To restore to reason its native, integral dimension, it is necessary then to rediscover the source that scientific research shares with the search of faith, fides quaerens intellectum, in keeping with Anselm’s intuition. Science and faith have a fecund reciprocity, almost a complementary need of the intelligence of the real. However, the quaerere Deum of man would be lost in a confusion of paths if he was not met by a way of illumination and sure orientation, which is that of God himself who comes close to man with immense love: "In Jesus Christ God not only speaks to man but also seeks him out [...] It is a search which begins in the heart of God and culminates in the Incarnation of the Word." (John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 7).

A religion of the Logos, Christianity does not relegate faith to the realm of the irrational, but attributes the origin and meaning of reality to a creative Reason, which in the crucified God manifested itself as love and which invites us to undertake the path of the quaerere Deum: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Saint Thomas Aquinas comments here: “The point of arrival of this way is, in fact, the end of human desire. Now man desires two things primarily: in the first place, that knowledge of truth which is proper to his nature. In the second place, permanence in being, the common property of all things. One and the other are found in Christ. Hence, if you seek to know where to go, receive Christ because he is the way” (Esposizioni su Giovanni, chapter 14, lectio 2). Therefore, the Gospel of life illumines man’s arduous way, and in face of the temptation to absolute autonomy, it reminds that "man's life comes from God; it is his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life" (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 39). And it is precisely by following the way of faith that man is able to discern in the very realities of suffering and death that cut across his existence, a genuine possibility of goodness and life. In the Cross of Christ he recognizes the Tree of life, revelation of the passionate love of God for man. The care of those who suffer is then a daily encounter with the face of Christ, and the dedication of the intelligence and the heart is a sign of the mercy of God and of his victory over death.

Lived in its integrality, research is illumined by science and faith, and from these two “wings” it draws impulse and outburst, without ever losing the rightful humility, the sense of its own limit. In this way the search for God becomes fecund for the intelligence, ferment of culture, promoter of true humanism, a search that does not stop on the surface. Dear friends, allow yourselves always to be guided by the wisdom that comes from above, by a learning illumined by faith, remembering that wisdom calls for passion and the effort of research.

Inserted here is the irreplaceable task of the Catholic University, a place in which the educational relationship is placed at the service of the person in the construction of a qualified scientific competence, rooted in a patrimony of learning that the change of generations has distilled in wisdom of life; a place in which the relationship of care is not a job but a mission; where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first chair, and the face of suffering man the very Face of Christ: “you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). In its daily work of research, teaching and study, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart lies in this tradition which expresses its own potential for innovation: no progress, much less so on the cultural plane, is nourished by mere repetition, instead, it calls for an ever new beginning. Moreover, it requires that willingness to confront and dialogue that opens the intelligence and attests to the rich fecundity of the patrimony of the faith. Thus shape is given to a solid personality structure, where Christian identity penetrates daily living and is expressed from within an excellent professionalism.

The Catholic University, which has a particular relationship with the See of Peter, is called today to be an exemplary institution which does not restrict learning to the functionality of economic success, but widens the extension of the project in which the gift of intelligence investigates and develops the gifts of the created world, exceeding a productive and utilitarian vision of existence, because "the human being is made for gift, which expresses and makes present his transcendent dimension" (Caritas in veritate, 34). In fact this combination of scientific research and unconditional service to life delineates the Catholic physiognomy of the "Agostino Gemelli" Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, because the perspective of faith is interior -- not superimposed or juxtaposed -- to the acute and tenacious search of learning.

A Catholic Faculty of Medicine is the place where transcendent humanism is not a rhetorical slogan, but a rule lived by daily dedication. Dreaming of an authentic Catholic Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Father Gemelli – and with him so many others, such as Professor Brasca -- put at the center of care the human person in his fragility and greatness, in the ever new resources of a passionate research and no less awareness of the limit and mystery of life. This is why you wished to institute a new Athenaeum Center for life, which supports other already existing realities, such as, for example, the Paul VI International Scientific Institute. Therefore, I encourage care of life in all its phases.

I would now like to turn to all the patients present here at the “Gemelli,” to assure them of my prayer and affection and to tell them that they will always be followed with love so that in their faces, the suffering face of Christ is reflected.

It is in fact the love of God, which shines in Christ, which renders acute and penetrating the look of research and to grasp what no research is able to grasp. Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo had this very present, who affirmed how it is of man’s nature to read in others the image of God-love and his imprint on creation. Without love, science also loses its nobility. Love alone guarantees the humanity of research. Thank you for your attention.

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On Vocations
"The Lord always calls but often we do not hear him"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli on Sunday with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

A short while ago there concluded in St. Peter’s Basilica the Eucharistic celebration in which I ordained nine new priests for the Diocese of Rome. Let us thank God for this gift, a sign of his faithful and provident love for the Church! Let us spiritually gather around these new priests and pray that they fully welcome the Sacrament that has conformed them to Jesus Christ Priest and Shepherd. And let us pray that all young people be attentive to God’s voice that speaks interiorly to them in their heart and calls them to detach themselves from all things to serve him.

Today’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations is dedicated to this purpose. In fact, the Lord always calls but often we do not hear him. We are distracted by many things, by other more superficial voices; and then we fear hearing the Lord’s voice, because we think that it could take away our freedom. In reality, each of us is the fruit of love: certainly the love of our parents, but, more profoundly, the love of God. The Bible says: if even your mother does not want you, I want you, for I know you and love you (cf. 49:15). In the moment that I realize this, my life changes: it becomes a response to this love, greater than any other, and thus is my freedom fully realized.

The young men that I consecrated priests today are not different from other young men, but have been deeply touched by the beauty of God’s love, and have not been able to do less than answer with their whole lives. How did they encounter God’s love? They met it in Jesus Christ: in his Gospel, in the Eucharist and in the community of the Church. In the Church we discover that the life of each man is a story of love. Sacred Scripture shows us this clearly and the witness of the saints confirms it. St. Augustine’s expression, which in the “Confessions” he addresses to God, is exemplary: “Late have I loved you, O beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. You were within me, and I without… You were with me, and I was not with you… You called me, and your cry broke through my deafness” (X, 27.38).

Dear friends, let us pray for the Church, for every local community, that it may be like a watered garden in which all the seeds of vocation that God has abundantly sowed may germinate and grow. Let us pray that everywhere this garden may be cultivated, in the joy of everyone hearing himself called, in the variety of gifts; in particular that families be the first place in which God’s love “breathes,” that they be given interior strength even in the midst of the difficulties and trials of life. Those who experience God’s love in the family receive a priceless gift, which bears fruit in its time. May the Blessed Virgin Mary – model of free receptivity and obedience to the divine call, Mother of every vocation in the Church – obtain all of this for us.

[Following the Regina Caeli the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

I address a special greeting to the pilgrims gathered at St. Paul Outside the Walls, where Giuseppe Toniolo was beatified this morning. He lived between the 19th and 20th centuries, was a husband and father of seven children, a university professor and educator of young people, economist and sociologist, passionate servant of the communion of the Church. He realized the teachings of the encyclical “Rerum Novarum” of Pope Leo XIII; he promoted Catholic Action, the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, the Social Weeks of Italian Catholics and an institute of international law for peace. His message is one of great relevance, especially at this time: Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo indicated the way of the primacy of the human person and of solidarity. He wrote: “Beyond the same legitimate goods and interests of individual nations and states, there is an indissoluble element that leads all into unity, that is, the duty of human solidarity.”

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Pontiff's Address to Social Sciences Academy
"The notion of forgiveness needs to find its way into international discourse on conflict resolution"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2012 .- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, gathered in their 18th plenary assembly, focused on the theme "The Global Quest for Tranquillitatis Ordinis. Pacem in terris, Fifty Years Later."

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I am pleased to greet you and all who have gathered in Rome for the Eighteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. You have chosen to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Blessed John XXIII’s Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris by studying the contribution of this important document to the Church’s social doctrine. At the height of the Cold War, when the world was still coming to terms with the threat posed by the existence and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Pope John addressed what has been described as an "open letter to the world". It was a heartfelt appeal from a great pastor, nearing the end of his life, for the cause of peace and justice to be vigorously promoted at every level of society, nationally and internationally. While the global political landscape has changed significantly in the intervening half-century, the vision offered by Pope John still has much to teach us as we struggle to face the new challenges for peace and justice in the post-Cold-War era, amid the continuing proliferation of armaments.

"The world will never be the dwelling-place of peace, till peace has found a home in the heart of each and every human person, till all preserve within themselves the order ordained by God to be preserved" (Pacem in Terris, 165). At the heart of the Church’s social doctrine is the anthropology which recognizes in the human creature the image of the Creator, endowed with intelligence and freedom, capable of knowing and loving. Peace and justice are fruits of the right order that is inscribed within creation itself, written on human hearts (cf. Rom 2:15) and therefore accessible to all people of good will, all "pilgrims of truth and of peace". Pope John’s Encyclical was and is a powerful summons to engage in that creative dialogue between the Church and the world, between believers and non-believers, which the Second Vatican Council set out to promote. It offers a thoroughly Christian vision of man’s place in the cosmos, confident that in so doing it is holding out a message of hope to a world that is hungry for it, a message that can resonate with people of all beliefs and none, because its truth is accessible to all.

In that same spirit, after the terrorist attacks that shook the world in September 2001, Blessed John Paul II insisted that there can be "no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness" (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace). The notion of forgiveness needs to find its way into international discourse on conflict resolution, so as to transform the sterile language of mutual recrimination which leads nowhere. If the human creature is made in the image of God, a God of justice who is "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4), then these qualities need to be reflected in the conduct of human affairs. It is the combination of justice and forgiveness, of justice and grace, which lies at the heart of the divine response to human wrong-doing (cf. Spe Salvi, 44), at the heart, in other words, of the "divinely established order" (Pacem in Terris, 1). Forgiveness is not a denial of wrong-doing, but a participation in the healing and transforming love of God which reconciles and restores.

How eloquent, then, was the choice of theme for the 2009 Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops: "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace". The life-giving message of the Gospel has brought hope to millions of Africans, helping them to rise above the sufferings inflicted on them by repressive regimes and fratricidal conflicts. Similarly, the 2010 Assembly on the Church in the Middle East highlighted the themes of communion and witness, the oneness of mind and soul that characterizes those who set out to follow the light of truth. Historic wrongs and injustices can only be overcome if men and women are inspired by a message of healing and hope, a message that offers a way forward, out of the impasse that so often locks people and nations into a vicious circle of violence. Since 1963, some of the conflicts that seemed insoluble at the time have passed into history. Let us take heart, then, as we struggle for peace and justice in the world today, confident that our common pursuit of the divinely established order, of a world where the dignity of every human person is accorded the respect that is due, can and will bear fruit.

I commend your deliberations to the maternal guidance of Our Lady, Queen of Peace. To you, to Bishop Sánchez Sorondo, and to all the participants in the XVIII Plenary Session, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 27 April 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pope's Homily at Ordinations
"When the weight of the cross is the most heavy, know that this is the most precious hour for you"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday when he celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and ordained nine to the priesthood.

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Venerable Brothers,

Dear Ordinands,

Dear brothers and sisters!

The Roman tradition of celebrating priestly ordinations on this fourth Sunday of Easter, "Good Shepherd Sunday," contains a great richness of meaning, linked to the Word of God, the liturgical rite and the Easter Season in which they are situated. In particular, the figure of the shepherd, so relevant in Sacred Scripture and naturally very important for the definition of the priest, has, in the face of Christ, in the light of the mystery of his death and resurrection, its total truth and clarity. You too, dear ordinands, can always draw from this richness every day of your life, and in this way your priesthood will be continually renewed.

This year the Gospel passage is that central one in Chapter 10 of John, which begins with Jesus telling us, "I am the good shepherd," which is immediately followed by the first fundamental characteristic [of this shepherd]: "The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (John 10:11). Well, we are immediately led into the center of things, to the culmination of the revelation of God as shepherd of his people; Jesus is this center and culmination, precisely Jesus who dies on the cross and rises from the sepulcher on the third day, rises with all of his humanity, and in this way involves us, every man, in his passage from death to life. This event – Christ’s Passover – in which God’s work as shepherd is definitively realized, is a sacrificial event: this is why the Good Shepherd and the High Priest coincide in the person of Jesus, who gave his life for us.

But let us briefly comment on the first two readings and the responsorial psalm (Psalm 118). The passage from the Acts of the Apostles (4:8-11) presents us with the testimony of St. Peter before the leaders of the people and the elders of Jerusalem, after the miraculous healing of the cripple. Peter says with great frankness that "Jesus is the stone, rejected by you the builders, that has become the cornerstone"; and adds: "There is salvation in no one else; there is in fact no other name under heaven given to men in which we are saved" (4:11-12). The Apostle then interprets Psalm 118 in the light of the paschal mystery of Christ. The person at prayer in this Psalm gives thanks to God who has answered his cry for help and rescued him. This psalm says: "The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone. The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes" (118:22-23). This is exactly the experience of Jesus: being rejected by the leaders of his people and being rehabilitated by God, placed as the foundation of the new temple, of a new people who will give praise to the Lord with the fruits of justice (cf. Matthew 21:42-43). Thus, the first reading and the responsorial psalm, Psalm 118, powerfully recall the Easter context and with this image of the stone that was rejected and reinstituted they direct our gaze to Jesus dead and risen.

The second reading, taken from the First Letter of John (3:1-2), speaks to us instead of the fruit of Christ’s Passover: our becoming sons of God. In John’s words we still hear all of the amazement over this gift: not only are we called sons of God, we "truly are" (3:1). In effect, man’s filial condition is the fruit of Jesus’ salvific work: with his incarnation, with his death and resurrection and with the gift of the Holy Spirit, he inserted man into a new relation with God, his own relation with the Father. For this reason the risen Jesus says: "I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God" (John 20:17). It is an entirely real relation, but one that is not yet entirely manifested: it will be at the end, when – if God wishes – we will see his face unveiled (cf. 1 John 3:2).

Dear ordinands, this is where the Good Shepherd wants to lead us! This is where the priest is called to lead the faithful and all those entrusted to him: to the true life, to life "in abundance" (John 10:10). Let us turn, then, to the Gospel, and to the parable of the shepherd. Jesus insists on this essential characteristic of the true shepherd, who is Jesus himself: "laying down his life." He repeats it three times, and at the end concludes saying: "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father" (John 10:17-18). This is clearly the decisive trait of the shepherd as Jesus interprets him in the first person, according to the will of the Father who sent him. The biblical figure of the shepherd-king, which principally includes the task of ruling God’s people, of keeping them united and leading them. This whole royal function is fully realized in Jesus Christ in his sacrificial dimension, in the offering of his life. It is realized, in a word, in the mystery of the cross, that is, in the supreme act of humility and sacrificial love. Abbot Theodore the Studite says: "Through the cross, we Christ’s sheep, are gathered together in one fold and we are destined for the eternal dwellings" ("Discourse on the Adoration of the Cross," PG 99, 699).

The Rite of the Ordination of Priests, which we are celebrating, is oriented according to this perspective. For example, among the questions that touch on the "duties of the elect," the last, which has in a synthetic way the aspect of culmination says: "Do you resolve to be united ever more closely to Christ the High Priest, who offered Himself for us to the Father as a pure sacrifice, and with Him to consecrate yourself to God for the salvation of all men?" The priest in fact is he who is inserted in a singular way in the mystery of Christ’s sacrifice, with a personal union with him, to prolong his salvific mission. It is asked that this union, that occurs through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, become "ever more close" through the generous correspondence of the priest himself. For this reason, dear ordinands, in a short while you will respond to this question, "Yes, with God’s help, I do." Following this, at the moment of the anointing with the chrism, the celebrant says: "The Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father consecrated in the Holy Spirit and power, guard and preserve you, that you may sanctify his people and offer sacrifice." And then, at the handing over of the bread and wine: "Receive the offerings of the holy people for the eucharistic sacrifice. Know what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the cross of Christ the Lord." It is quite clear that, for the priest, celebrating Mass every day does not mean performing a ritual but undertaking a mission that fully and deeply engages his existence, in communion with the risen Christ who, in his Church, continues to realize this redeeming sacrifice.

This eucharistic-sacrificial dimension is inseparable from the pastoral dimension and constitutes the nucleus of truth and salvific power, on which the effectiveness of every activity depends. Naturally, we are not speaking only of effectiveness on a psychological or social level, but of the vital fecundity of the presence of God at a deep human level. Preaching itself, works, various gestures of the Church done in her numerous initiatives, would lose their salvific fruitfulness without the celebration of Christ's sacrifice. And this is entrusted to the ordained priests. In effect, the priest himself is called to live what Jesus experienced firsthand, that is, to give himself fully to preaching and healing man of every evil of body and spirit, and then, finally, to take everything up into the supreme gesture of "laying down one's life" for men, a gesture that has its sacramental expression in the Eucharist, perpetual memorial of the Passover of Jesus. It is only through this "gate" of the paschal sacrifice that the men and women of all times and places can enter into eternal life; it is along this "holy way" that they may make the exodus that leads them to the "promised land" of true freedom, to the "green pastures" of peace and joy without end" (cf. John 10:7, 9; Psalm 77:14, 20-21; Psalm 23:2).

Dear ordinands, may this Word of God illuminate your whole life. And when the weight of the cross is the most heavy, know that this is the most precious hour for you and for those entrusted to you: renewing with faith and with love your "Yes, with the help of God, I do," you will cooperate with Christ, the High Priest and Good Shepherd, to feed his sheep -- perhaps only the one that was lost, but for whom there is a great celebration in heaven! May the Virgin Mary, "Salus Popoli Romani," always keep watch over each of you and your path.

Amen.


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On Prayer and Ministry
Without prayer 'we risk suffocating in the middle of a thousand daily cares'

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2012 - 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 reflection on prayer in the Acts of the Apostles.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the last catechesis, I showed that from the beginning of her journey, the Church found herself having to face unforeseen situations, new questions and emergencies, which she sought to respond to in the light of faith, by allowing herself to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Today I would like to pause to reflect on another of these situations, on a serious problem that the first Christian community in Jerusalem had to face and resolve, as St. Luke tells us in the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, regarding the pastoral care of charity shown to those were alone and in need of help and assistance. The question is not of secondary importance for the Church and, at the time, it risked creating divisions within the Church; in fact, the number of the disciples was increasing, but the Hellenists began to murmur against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution (cf. Acts 6:1). Faced with this urgent need involving a fundamental aspect of the life of the community; i.e. charity shown to the weak, the poor, and the defenseless -- and justice -- the Apostles summon the whole group of the disciples.

At this time of pastoral emergency what stands out is the Apostles’ discernment. They are faced with the primary need to proclaim the Word of God according to the mandate of the Lord; but even though this is the primary demand placed upon the Church -- they consider with equal seriousness the duty of charity and of justice, that is, the duty of assisting widows and the poor, of lovingly providing for their brothers and sisters in situations of need, in order to respond to Jesus’ command: love one another as I have loved you (cf. John 15:12,17).

Therefore, the two realities they must live out within the Church -- the proclamation of the Word, the primacy of God, and concrete charity, justice -- are creating difficulties and a solution must be found, so that both may have their place, their necessary relation. The Apostles’ reflection is very clear; they say, as we heard: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4).

Two things appear: first, that from that moment in the Church, there is a ministry of charity. The Church must not only proclaim the Word, she must also make the Word, which is charity and truth, a reality. And the second point: these men were to be not only of good repute; they must be men filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom; that is, they cannot be only organizers who know how to “do”; they must “do so” in the spirit of faith by the light of God, in wisdom of heart. Therefore, also their role -- though primarily of a practical nature -- is still a spiritual role. Charity and justice are not only social actions; rather, they are spiritual activities realized in the light of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, we may say that the situation is handled with great responsibility on the part of the Apostles who make this decision: seven men are chosen; the Apostles pray, asking for the power of the Holy Spirit; and then they lay hands on them so that they might be dedicated in a special way to this service of charity. Thus, in the Church’s life, in the first steps she takes, what happened during Jesus’ public life, in the home of Martha and Mary in Bethania, is in a certain way reflected. Martha was wholly given over to the service of hospitality offered to Jesus and to His disciples; Mary, on the other hand, devotes herself to listening to the Word of the Lord (cf. Luke 10:38-42). In both cases, the moments of prayer and of listening to God, and daily activity, i.e. the exercise of charity, are not placed in opposition. Jesus’ reminder: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the better part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42), as well as the Apostles’ reflection: “We … will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4), demonstrate the priority that we must give to God.

I do not wish to enter now into an interpretation of this Martha-Mary pericope. At any rate, activity on behalf of one’s neighbor, for the other, should not be condemned; however, it should be emphasized that activity must also be penetrated interiorly by the spirit of contemplation. On the other hand, St. Augustine says that the reality of Mary is a vision of what shall belong to us heaven; therefore, on earth we can never have it completely, but a little taste of anticipation must nonetheless be present in all of our activities. The contemplation of God must also be present. We must not lose ourselves in pure activism, but should always allow ourselves to be penetrated, even in our activity, by the light of God’s Word and thereby learn true charity, true service of our neighbor, who doesn’t need many things -- certainly he has need of the necessities -- but who above all needs our heart’s affection, the light of God.

St. Ambrose, commenting on the episode of Martha and Mary, thus exhorts his faithful and also us: “Let us also seek to have what cannot be taken away from us, by offering diligent, undistracted attention to the Lord’s word: for it also happens that the seeds of the heavenly word are carried off if they are strewn along the path. Like Mary, stir up within yourself the desire to know: this is the greatest, most perfect work.” And he adds: “may the care of ministry not distract from the knowledge of heavenly words,” from prayer (Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam, VII, 85: PL 15, 1720).

The saints, then, have experienced a profound unity of life between prayer and action, between total love of God and love for the brethren. St. Bernard, who is a model of harmony between contemplation and industriousness, in the book De consideratione, addressed to Pope Innocent II in order to offer him a few reflections on his ministry, insists precisely upon the importance of interior recollection and of prayer in defending oneself from the dangers of excessive activity, whatever be the condition in which we find ourselves and the task we carry out. St. Bernard affirms that too many occupations, a frenetic life, often end in hardening the heart and in making the spirit suffer (cf. II, 3).

It is a precious reminder for us today, habituated as we are to evaluate everything based upon the criteria of productivity and efficiency. The passage from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us of the importance of work -- whence, undoubtedly, true ministry is born -- of the importance of commitment to daily activity responsibly carried out with dedication, but it also reminds us of our need for God, for His guidance, for His light, which gives us strength and hope. Without daily prayer faithfully lived out, our activity becomes empty, it loses its deep soul, it is reduced to mere activism, which in the end leaves us unsatisfied.

There is a beautiful invocation from the Christian tradition to be recited before each activity, which goes like this: “Actiones nostras, quæsumus, Domine, aspirando præveni et adiuvando prosequere, ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat, et per te coepta finiatur”, that is: “Inspire our actions, Lord, and accompany them by your help, so that our every word and act may always have its beginning in you and in you be brought to completion.” Every step of our lives, every action -- also of the Church -- must be carried out before God, in the light of His Word.

In last Wednesday’s catechesis I had emphasized the undivided prayer of the first Christian community in the face of trial and how, precisely in prayer, in meditation on Sacred Scripture, it was able to understand the events it was going through. When prayer is nourished by the Word of God we are able to see reality with new eyes, with the eyes of faith, and the Lord -- who speaks to the mind and heart -- gives new light on the journey at every moment and in every situation. We believe in the power of God’s Word and in prayer. Even the difficulties the Church was living through when faced with the problem of service to the poor -- to the question of charity -- were overcome through prayer, in the light of God, of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles did not merely ratify their choice of Stephen and the other men, but “after having prayed, they laid their hands upon them” (Acts 6:6). The Evangelist will record these acts again on the occasion of the election of Paul and Barnabas, where we read: “after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3). It again confirms that the practice of charity is a spiritual service. Both realities must go together.

With the laying on of hands, the Apostles confer a particular ministry upon seven men, so that they might be given the corresponding grace. The emphasis on prayer -- “after praying,” they say -- is important because it highlights the action’s spiritual dimension; it is not simply a matter of conferring a task, as happens in a social organization; rather, it is an ecclesial event in which the Holy Spirit appropriates to Himself seven men whom the Church has chosen by consecrating them in the Truth, who is Jesus Christ: He is the silent protagonist, present in the imposition of hands so that those who are chosen might be transformed by His power and sanctified in order to face the practical challenges, the challenges of pastoral life. And the emphasis on prayer reminds us, moreover, that it is only through and intimate relationship with God cultivated each day that a response to the Lord’s choice is born and that every ministry in the Church is entrusted.

Dear brothers and sisters, the pastoral problem that led the Apostles to choose and lay hands on seven men charged with the task of the service of charity, in order that they might dedicate themselves to prayer and to preaching the Word, indicates also to us the primacy of prayer and of God’s Word, which then also produces pastoral action. For Pastors, this is the first and most precious form of service paid to the flock entrusted to them. If the lungs of prayer and the Word of God fail to nourish the breath of our spiritual life, we risk suffocating in the middle of a thousand daily cares: prayer is the breath of the soul and of life. And there is another precious reminder that I would like to emphasize: in our relationship with God, in listening to His Word, in conversation with God, even when we find ourselves in the silence of a church or in our room, we are united in the Lord with so many brothers and sisters in faith, like an ensemble of instruments that, though retaining their individuality, offer to God one great symphony of intercession, of thanksgiving and of praise. Thank you.


[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on Christian prayer, we now consider the decision of the early Church to set aside seven men to provide for the practical demands of charity (cf. Acts 6:1-4). This decision, made after prayer and discernment, provided for the needs of the poor while freeing the Apostles to devote themselves primarily to the word of God. It is significant that the Apostles acknowledge the importance of both prayer and works of charity, yet clearly give priority to prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel. In every age the saints have stressed the deep vital unity between contemplation and activity. Prayer, nourished by faith and enlightened by God’s word, enables us to see things in a new way and to respond to new situations with the wisdom and insight bestowed by the Holy Spirit. In our own daily lives and decisions, may we always draw fresh spiritual breath from the two lungs of prayer and the word of God; in this way, we will respond to every challenge and situation with wisdom, understanding and fidelity to God’s will.

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On Recognizing the Risen Jesus
"The Lord assures us of his real presence among us through the Word and the Eucharist"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2012 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, the third Sunday of Easter, we meet in Luke’s Gospel the risen Jesus, who appears in the midst of the disciples (cf. Luke 24:36), who, incredulous and afraid, think they see a ghost (cf. Luke 24:37). "Our Lord is changed. He no longer lives as before. His existence ... is incomprehensible. And yet he is bodily, he does not leave behind ... the whole life that he has lived, the destiny that he has faced, his passion and his death. Everything is real. Although he has changed, he is still a tangible reality" ("Il Signore: Meditazioni sulla persona e vita di N.S. Gesù Cristo,” Milano: 1949, 433). Because the resurrection does not eliminate the signs of the crucifixion Jesus shows the Apostles his hands and feet. And to convince them, he asks for something to eat. So, the disciples “offered him a piece of roasted fish; he took it and ate it in their presence (Luke 24:42-43). St. Gregory the Great comments that “the fish roasted over the fire signifies nothing other than the passion of Jesus, the mediator between God and men. He, in fact, deigned to hide himself in the waters of the human race, he allowed himself to be ensnared by our death and was, so to speak, placed on the fire by the pains he endured in the time of his passion” (Hom. in Evang. XXIV, 5: CCL141, Turnhout 1999, 201).

Thanks to these very real signs, the disciples overcame their initial doubt and opened themselves to the gift of faith; this faith permitted them to understand the things written about the Christ “in the law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms” (Luke 24:44).

We read, in fact, that Jesus “open their mind to understand the Scriptures and said to them: ‘Thus it is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and in his name conversion and forgiveness of sins will be preached to all peoples…you are witnesses of this” (Luke 24:45-48). The Lord assures us of his real presence among us through the Word and the Eucharist. As the disciples of Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread (cf. Luke 24:35), we too encounter the Lord in the eucharistic celebration. St. Thomas Aquinas explains in this regard that “it is necessary to recognize according to the Catholic faith, that the whole Christ is present in this Sacrament… because the divinity has never left the body that he has assumed” (S.Th. III, q. 76, a. 1).

Dear friends, it is usually during Eastertide that the Church administers First Communion to children. Therefore, I exhort the parish priests, parents and catechists to prepare well for this feast of faith, with great fervor but also with sobriety. “This day remains rightly impressed on the memory as the first moment in which… the importance of the first encounter with Jesus is perceived” (Sacramentum caritatis, 19). May the Mother of God help us to listen attentively to the Word of the Lord and to worthily participate at the Table of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to become witnesses of the new humanity.

[Following the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to say that yesterday in Mexico María Inés Teresa of the Most Holy Sacrament, the foundress of the Congregation of Poor Clare Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament, was proclaimed blessed. We thank God for this exemplary sister of the land of Mexico, which I had the joy to visit not long ago and that I carry always in my heart.

Today in Italy we celebrate the special day of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart), which this year has the theme: “The Country’s Future is the Heart of Young People.” It is important that young people are formed in values and not only in scientific and technical knowledge. It was for this reason that Father Gemelli founded the Catholic University, which I hope will always be in step with the times but every faithful to its origins.

[In English he said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present for this Easter prayer to Our Lady. In today’s Gospel, the risen Lord opens the minds of the disciples to the meaning of his suffering and death, and sends them out to preach repentance. With courage and joy, may we too be authentic witnesses to Christ. God bless all of you!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you.

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Papal Message to Tourism Conference
"Traveling, which offers us the possibility of admiring the beauty of peoples, cultures and nature, can lead to God"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 23, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the 7th world congress on pastoral ministry in tourism. The event began today in Cancun, Mexico.

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To my Venerable Brothers

His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People,

and the Most Reverend Pedro Pablo Elizondo Cárdenas, Prelate-Bishop of Cancún-Chetumal

On the occasion of the VII World Congress on the Pastoral Care of Tourism which will take place in Cancún (Mexico) from 23 to 27 April, I am pleased to send you my cordial greeting which I extend to my Brother Bishops and to all those taking part in this important meeting. As you begin these days of reflection on the pastoral attention which the Church dedicates to the area of tourism, I wish to convey my spiritual closeness to the participants and my respectful greetings to the civil authorities and to the representatives of the international organizations that are also present at this event.

Tourism is certainly a phenomenon characteristic of our times, due both to the important dimensions that it has already achieved and in view of its potential for future growth. Like other human realities, it is called to be enlightened and transformed by the Word of God. For this reason, moved by pastoral solicitude and in view of the important influence tourism has on the human person, the Church has accompanied it from its first beginnings, encouraging its potential while at the same time pointing out, and striving to correct, its risks and deviations.

Tourism, together with vacations and free time, is a privileged occasion for physical and spiritual renewal; it facilitates the coming together of people from different cultural backgrounds and offers the opportunity of drawing close to nature and hence opening the way to listening and contemplation, tolerance and peace, dialogue and harmony in the midst of diversity.

Travelling reflects our being as homo viator; at the same time it evokes that other deeper and more meaningful journey that we are called to follow and which leads to our encounter with God. Travelling, which offers us the possibility of admiring the beauty of peoples, cultures and nature, can lead to God and be the occasion of an experience of faith, "for from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator" (Wis 13:5). On the other hand tourism, like every human reality, is not exempt from dangers or negative dimensions. We refer to evils that must be dealt with urgently since they trample upon the rights of millions of men and women, especially among the poor, minors and handicapped. Sexual tourism is one of the most abject of these deviations that devastate morally, psychologically and physically the life of so many persons and families, and sometimes whole communities. The trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation or organ harvesting as well as the exploitation of minors, abandoned into the hands of individuals without scruples and undergoing abuse and torture, sadly happen often in the context of tourism. This should bring all who are engaged for pastoral reasons or who work in the field of tourism, and the whole international community, to increase their vigilance and to foresee and oppose such aberrations.

In the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, I chose to situate the reality of international tourism in the context of integral human development. "We need, therefore, to develop a different type of tourism that has the ability to promote genuine mutual understanding, without taking away from the element of rest and healthy recreation" (no. 61). May your Congress, meeting precisely under the banner A tourism that makes a difference, contribute to the development of a pastoral approach that will lead steadily to that "different type of tourism".

I would like to highlight three areas which should receive full attention from the pastoral care of tourism. Firstly, we need shed light on this reality using the social teaching of the Church and promote a culture of ethical and responsible tourism, in such a way that it will respect the dignity of persons and of peoples, be open to all, be just, sustainable and ecological. The enjoyment of free time and regular vacations are an opportunity as well as a right. The Church, within its own sphere of competence, is committed to continue offering its cooperation, so that this right will become a reality for all people, especially for less fortunate communities.

Secondly, our pastoral action should never loose sight of the via pulchritudinis, "the way of beauty". Many of the manifestations of the historical and cultural religious patrimony are "authentic ways to God, Supreme Beauty; indeed they help us to grow in our relationship with him, in prayer. These are works that arise from faith and express faith" (General Audience, 31 August 2011). It is important to welcome tourists and offer them well-organized visits, with due respect for sacred places and the liturgical action, for which many of these works came into being and which continues to be their main purpose.

Thirdly, pastoral activity in the area of tourism should care for Christians as they enjoy their vacations and free time in such a way that these will contribute to their human and spiritual growth. Truly this is "an appropriate moment to let the body relax and to nourish the spirit with more time for prayer and meditation, in order to grow in personal relationship with Christ and become ever more conformed to his teachings" (Angelus, 15 July 2007).

The new evangelization, to which all are called, requires us to keep in mind and to make good use of the many occasions that tourism offers us to put forward Christ as the supreme response to modern man’s fundamental questions.

I therefore encourage you to ensure that pastoral activity in the field of tourism is integrated, as it ought in all justice, as part of the organic, ordinary pastoral activity of the Church. In this way, by the coordination of projects and efforts, we will respond in greater fidelity to the Lord’s missionary mandate.

With these sentiments, I entrust the fruits of this Congress to the powerful intercession of the Mary Most Holy under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe and, as a pledge of abundant divine favours, I cordially impart to all present the requested Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, April 18th 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Papal Message to Biblical Commission
"The Word of God is not confined to what is written"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 20, 2012 - Here is a translation of a message Benedict XVI addressed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.

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To the Venerable Brother

Cardinal William Levada

President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission

I am pleased to send you, Venerable Brother, to Cardinal Prosper Grech. O.S.A., to the Secretary and to all the Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission my cordial greeting on the occasion of the annual Plenary Assembly which is being held to address the important topic “Inspiration and Truth of the Bible.”

As we know, such a topic is essential for a correct hermeneutic of the biblical message. Precisely inspiration, as action of God, makes it possible to express the Word of God in human words. Consequently, the topic of inspiration is decisive for the appropriate approach to the Sacred Scriptures. In fact, an interpretation of the sacred texts that neglects or forgets their inspiration does not take into account their most important and precious characteristic, that is, their provenance from God. Moreover, in my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, I recalled that “The Synod Fathers also stressed the link between the theme of inspiration and that of the truth of the Scriptures. A deeper study of the process of inspiration will doubtless lead to a greater understanding of the truth contained in the sacred books.” (n. 19).

Because of the charism of inspiration, the books of Sacred Scripture have a direct and concrete force of appeal. However, the Word of God is not confined to what is written. If, in fact, the act of Revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle, the revealed Word has continued to be proclaimed and interpreted by the living Tradition of the Church. For this reason the Word of God fixed in the sacred texts is not an inert deposit inside the Church but becomes the supreme rule of her faith and power of life. The Tradition that draws its origin from the Apostles progresses with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and grows with the reflection and study of believers, with personal experience of the spiritual life and the preaching of Bishops (cf. Dei Verbum, 8, 21).

In studying the topic “Inspiration and Truth of the Bible,” the Pontifical Biblical Commission is called to offer its specific and qualified contribution to this necessary further reflection. In fact, it is essential and fundamental for the life and mission of the Church that the sacred texts are interpreted in keeping with their nature: Inspiration and Truth are constitutive characteristics of this nature. That is why your endeavor will be of real usefulness for the life and mission of the Church.

With good wishes to each one of you for the fruitful development of your works, I would like, finally, to express my heartfelt appreciation for the activity carried out by the Biblical Commission , committed to promoting knowledge, study and reception of the Word of God in the world. With such sentiments I entrust each one of you to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, who with the whole Church we invoke as Sedes Sapientiae, and I impart from my heart to you, Venerable Brother, and to all the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, April 18, 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On the Apostles' Response to Persecution
"In the face of trial, they pray, they get in touch with God"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 19, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the general audience Wednesday.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

After the great feasts we return to the catechesis on prayer. In the audience before Holy Week we reflected on the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, present in the midst of the apostles when they were awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit. An atmosphere of prayer accompanied the Church’s first steps. Pentecost is not an isolated episode since the presence and action of the Holy Spirit constantly guide and animate the path of the Christian community. In the Acts of the Apostles, in fact, St. Luke, besides narrating the great effusion of the Spirit in the cenacle 50 days after Easter (cf. Acts 2:1-13), refers to other great irruptions of the Holy Spirit which return in the Church’s history. And today I would like to reflect on that which has been called the “little Pentecost” that occurred at the culmination of a difficult period in the life of the nascent Church.

The Acts of the Apostles tell how after the healing of a paralytic at the Temple in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 3:1-10), Peter and John were arrested (cf. 4:1) because they announced Jesus’ resurrection to the whole people (cf. Acts 3:11-26). After a summary trial, they were freed, they went to their brothers and recounted what they suffered because of their witness to the risen Jesus. At that time, says St. Luke, “all together lifted their voice to God” (Acts 4:24). Here St. Luke reports the longest of the Church’s prayers that we find in the New Testament, at the end of which, as we have heard, “the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).

Before considering this beautiful prayer, let us note an important basic attitude: in the face of danger, difficulty, threats, the first Christian community does not try to conduct an analysis about how to react or seek strategies about how to defend itself, about what measures to adopt, but in the face of trial, they pray, they get in touch with God. And what characteristic does this prayer have? It is a single and concordant prayer of the whole community that, because of Jesus, confronts a situation of persecution. In the original Greek St. Luke uses the term “homothumadon” – “all together,” “in agreement” – a term that appears in other parts of the Acts of the Apostles to underscore this persevering and unanimous prayer (cf. Acts 1:14; 2:46). This concord is a fundamental element of the first community and it must always be fundamental for the Church. So it is not only the prayer of Peter and John, who found themselves in danger; it is the prayer of the whole community, because what the two apostles experience does not only touch them but the whole Church. In the face of persecutions endured for Jesus’ sake not only is the community not frightened and divided but is deeply united in prayer, as a single person, calling on the Lord. This I would say is the first wonder that occurs when the believers are tested because of their faith: their unity is strengthened rather than compromised because it is supported by an indestructible prayer. The Church must not fear the persecutions that it will undergo in its history but trust always, as Jesus did at Gethsemane in the presence, help and power of God, invoked in prayer.

Let us take a further step: what does the Christian community ask of God in this moment of trial? It does not ask for its life to be protected during persecution nor that the Lord harm those who imprisoned Peter and John; it only asks that it be granted to “proclaim in all boldness” the Word of God (cf. Acts 4:29), that is, it asks that it not lose the courage of faith, the courage to proclaim the faith. First, however, it tries to understand more deeply what has happened, it tries to interpret the events in the light of faith and it does this precisely through God’s Word, which permits us to decipher the world’s reality.

In offering up its prayers to the Lord, the community begins by recalling and invoking the greatness and immensity of God: “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 4:24). It is the invocation of the Creator: we know that everything comes from him, that everything is in his hands. This is the knowledge that gives the community certainty and courage: everything comes from him, everything is in his hands. It then acknowledges how God has acted in history – so it begins with creation and then continues through history – how he has been near to his people, showing himself to be a God who cares for man, who has not retreated, who does not abandon man, his creature; and here Psalm 2 is explicitly cited, in the light of which the difficult situation that the Church is currently experiencing is interpreted. Psalm 2 celebrates the enthronement of the king of Judah, but prophetically refers to the coming of the Messiah, against whom nothing can stir up rebellion, persecution, the tyranny of men “Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his Christ” (Acts 4:25). The Psalm about the Messiah already says this prophetically, and throughout history this rebellion of the powerful against the power of God is characteristic. Just reading Holy Writ, which is the Word of God, the community can say to God in its prayer: Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place” (Acts 4:27). What had happened was read in the light of Christ, who is the key for understanding persecution too; the cross, which is always the key to the resurrection. The opposition to Jesus, his passion and death, are reread through Psalm 2, as the realization of God’s plan for the world’s salvation. And here we also find the meaning of the experience of persecution through which the first Christian community is living; this first community is not a mere association but a community that lives in Christ; thus, what it experiences is part of God’s design. Just as it happened to Jesus, the first disciples too encounter opposition, incomprehension, persecution. In prayer, meditation on Sacred Scripture in the light of the mystery of Christ is an aid to interpreting the reality present in the history of salvation that God realizes in the world, always in his own way.

Precisely because of this the request that the first Christian community in Jerusalem formulates in its prayer to God does not ask to be defended, to be saved from trial, from suffering, it is not a prayer for success, but only to proclaim with “parresia,” that is, with boldness, with freedom, with courage, the Word of God (cf. Acts 4:29).

The community then adds that this proclamation be accompanied by the hand of God, that healings, signs, wonders might occur (cf. Acts 4:30), that is, that God’s goodness be visible, as a power that transforms reality, that changes hearts, minds and men’s lives and brings the radical newness of the Gospel.

At the end of the prayer, St. Luke observes, “the place where they were gathered trembled and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the Word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). The place trembled, that is, the faith has the power to transform the world. The same Spirit that spoke in Psalm 2 in the Church’s prayer, breaks forth in the house where the disciples are and fills the heart of everyone who has called on the Lord. This is the fruit of the united prayer that the Christian community lifts up to God: the effusion of the Spirit, gift of the Risen One, that supports and guides the free and courageous proclamation of the Word of God, who drives the Lord’s disciples to leave the house without fear to bring the good news to the ends of the earth.

We too, dear brothers and sisters, must know how to bring the events of our daily lives into our prayer, to find their deeper meaning. And like the first Christian community, we too, letting ourselves be enlightened by God’s Word through meditation on Holy Scripture, can learn to see that God is present in our lives, present even and precisely in difficult moments, and that everything – even things that are incomprehensible – is part of the superior design of love in which the final victory over evil, over sin and over death is truly that of goodness, of grace, of life, of God.

As with the first Christian community, prayer helps us to interpret personal and collective history according to the right and faithful perspective, that of God. And we too want to renew the request for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that warms the heart and illumines the mind, to see how the Lord realizes what we plead for according to his will of love and not according to our ideas. Guided by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, we will be able to face every situation of life with serenity, courage and joy and boast with St. Paul “in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces patience, patience proved virtue and proved virtue hope”: that hope that “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been bestowed upon us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Thank you.

[Following his address, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the General Chapter of the Brothers of Saint Gabriel. I also greet the group from the Faculty of Canon Law of Saint Paul’s University in Ottawa, Canada. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, including those from England, Ireland, Finland, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Trinidad, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.

[In Italian he said:]

I would like to express my cordial gratitude for all of the well-wishes I have received for the seventh anniversary of my election, and for my birthday. I ask you to sustain me always with your prayers, so that, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can persevere in my service to Christ and the Church.

[...]

My thoughts go out also to the sick, to the newlyweds and to the young people present, especially the many students who have come from various regions. Dear children and young people, to you too, like the first disciples, the risen Christ says: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Respond to these words with joy and love! May the resurrection of Christ be an inexhaustible source of comfort and hope to you dear ones who are sick. And may you, dear newlyweds, be witnesses of the Risen One with your conjugal love.

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Pope's Homily at Birthday Mass

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

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Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 11 Audience: On Easter's Spiritual Joy
"Sadness and the wounds themselves become sources of joy"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, April 11.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

After the solemn celebrations of Easter, our meeting today is pervaded by spiritual joy; even if the skies above are grey, in our hearts we carry the joy of Easter and the certainty of the Resurrection of Christ, who has definitively triumphed over death. First, I wish to renew my cordial Easter greetings to each one of you: in every home and heart, may the joyous announcement of Christ’s Resurrection resound, bringing new hope.

In this catechesis, I would like to show the transformation that Easter brought about in Jesus’ disciples. Let us begin with the evening of the day of the Resurrection. The disciples are locked in the house where they are staying for fear of the Jews (cf. John 20:19). Fear grips their hearts and prevents them from going out to encounter others, to encounter life. The Master is gone. The memory of His Passion fuels their uncertainty. However, Jesus has at heart those who are His own, and He is about to fulfill the promise He had made during the Last Supper: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18); and He says this also to us, even when times are grey: “I will not leave you orphans”.

The disciple’s anxious situation changes radically with Jesus’ arrival. He enters in through closed doors, He stands in their midst and He gives them the peace that puts them at ease: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19b). It is a common greeting, yet now it acquires a new meaning, for it effects an interior transformation; it is the Easter greeting, which overcomes all of the disciples’ fears. The peace that Jesus brings is the gift of salvation, which He had promised during His farewell discourse: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). On this day of Resurrection, He gives it in full, and for the community it becomes a source of joy, certainty of victory and security in relying on God. “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27b), He says also to us.

After this greeting, Jesus shows His disciples the wounds in His hands and His side (John 20:20), the signs of what had gone before and what shall never be erased: His glorious humanity will be forever “wounded”. This act is intended to confirm the new reality of Christ’s Resurrection: the Christ who now stands in the midst of His disciples is a real person, the same Jesus who just three days prior was nailed to the Cross. Thus it is that, in the brilliant light of the Resurrection, in the encounter with the Risen One, the disciples grasp the salvific meaning of His passion and death. Then do they pass from sadness and fear to the fullness of joy. Sadness and the wounds themselves become sources of joy. The joy born in their hearts comes from “seeing the Lord” (John 20:20). He again says to them: “Peace be with you” (verse 21).

At this point, it is evident that it is not only a greeting. It is a gift, the gift that the Risen One wills to make to His friends, and at the same time it is a handing on: this peace, which Christ obtained by His blood, is for them but it is also for everyone, and the disciples will have to carry it throughout the world. In fact, He adds: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (ibid.).

The Risen Jesus returned among His disciples in order to send them out. He completed His work in the world; now it is their turn to sow faith in hearts, so that the Father -- known and loved -- may gather together all of His scattered children. However, Jesus knows that His followers are still very much afraid, always. Therefore, He breathes on them and regenerates them in His Spirit (cf. John 20:22); this act is the sign of the new creation. Indeed, a new world begins by the gift of the Holy Spirit, which comes from the Risen Christ. With the sending out of the disciples on mission, the journey of the people of the new covenant is inaugurated, the people who believe in Him and in His work of salvation, the people who bear witness to the truth of His Resurrection. This newness of a life that never dies -- which Easter brings -- is intended to be spread everywhere, so that the thorns of sin that wound man’s heart may give way to the buds of Grace, to the presence of God and of His love, which conquers sin and death.

Dear friends, today too the Risen One enters into our homes and into our hearts, even though at times the doors are shut. He enters, bestowing joy and peace, life and hope, gifts that we need for our human and spiritual rebirth. Only He can roll back those sepulchral stones that we often place over our sentiments, our relationships and our behavior; stones that sanction death: divisions, hatred, resentments, jealousies, mistrust and indifference. He alone, the Living One, can give life meaning and enable the one who is weary and sad, discouraged and deprived of hope, to continue on the journey.

This is what the two disciples experienced, who were making their way on Easter day from Jerusalem to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35). They talk about Jesus, but their “saddened faces” (cf. Verse 17) express disappointed hopes, uncertainty and melancholy. They had left their native land to follow Jesus with His friends, and they had discovered a new reality, where forgiveness and love were no longer merely words but concretely touched their lives. Jesus of Nazareth had made all things new; He had transformed their lives. But now He was dead and everything seemed to have come to and end.

Suddenly, however, there were no longer two but rather three persons walking. Jesus draws near to the two disciples and walks with them, but they are unable to recognize Him. Certainly, they had heard rumors of His Resurrection; in fact, they refer to it: “Some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive” (verses 22-23). And yet, this had not been enough to convince them, since “Him they did not see” (verse 24). Then Jesus, patiently, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (verse 27). The Risen One explains Sacred Scripture to the disciples, offering the fundamental key to their reading; namely, He himself and His paschal mystery: to Him do the scriptures testify (cf. John 5:39-47). The meaning of everything -- of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms -- suddenly is opened and made clear before their eyes. Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:45).

In the meantime, they reached the village, probably the home one of the two. The wayfaring stranger “appeared to be going further” (verse 28), but then he stopped, for they ardently asked him, “Stay with us” (verse 29). We too, again and again, should ardently ask the Lord: “Stay with us”.

“When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” (verse 30). The reference to the actions performed by Jesus at the Last Supper is evident: “And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (verse 31). The presence of Jesus -- first by His words, then by the act of the breaking of the bread -- enables the disciples to recognize Him, and they are able to hear in a new way all that they had already experienced on their walk with Him: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?” (verse 32). This episode indicates to us two privileged “places” where we can encounter the Risen One, who transforms our lives: the hearing of the Word in communion with Christ, and the breaking of the Bread; two “places” that are profoundly united since “Word and Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other: the Word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist” (Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 54-55).

Following this encounter, the two disciples “rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said: ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’” (verses 33-34). In Jerusalem they hear the news of Jesus’ Resurrection, and in turn they recount their own experience, inflamed by love for the Risen One, who opened their hearts to an uncontainable joy. They were -- as St. Peter says -- “born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Indeed, enthusiasm for the faith, love for the community and the need to announce the good news were reborn in them. The Master is risen, and with Him all of life flourishes; to bear witness to this event becomes for them an insuppressible need.

Dear friends, may the Easter season be for us all the propitious occasion to joyously and enthusiastically rediscover the sources of faith, the presence of the Risen One among us. It means following the same path along which Jesus had the two disciples of Emmaus walk, through the rediscovery of the Word of God and the Eucharist; in other words, it means walking with the Lord and allowing Him to open our eyes to the true meaning of the Scripture and to His presence in the breaking of the bread. The summit of this journey, today as it was then, is Eucharistic Communion: in Holy Communion, Jesus feeds us with His Body and His Blood in order to be present in our lives, to make us new, enlivened by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the experience of the disciples invites us to reflect on Easter’s meaning for us. Let us allow ourselves to be encountered by the Risen Jesus! He, living and true, is always present among us; He walks with us in order to guide our lives and to open our eyes. Let us trust in the Risen One, who has the power to give life, and to give us rebirth as children of God, capable of believing and of loving. Faith in Him transforms our lives; it frees them from fear, gives them sure hope and enlivens them by what gives full meaning to life, God’s love. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our General Audience today is marked by the spiritual joy of Easter, born of the Christ’s victory over sin and death. When the risen Lord appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room and showed them his saving wounds, their lives were changed. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ gave them the peace which the world cannot give (cf. Jn 14:27) and sent them forth to bring that peace to the world. The mission of the disciples inaugurates the journey of the Church, the People of the New Covenant, called to bear witness in every age to the truth of the resurrection and the new life which it brings. Today too, the Lord enters our hearts and our homes with his gifts of joy and peace, life and hope. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, may we recognize his presence among us in his word and in the breaking of the bread. During this Easter season, let us resolve to walk in the company of the risen Christ and allow our lives to be transformed by faith in him and by the power of his resurrection.

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I offer a warm welcome to the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Irish College, together with their families and friends. Dear young deacons, may you conform your lives ever more fully to the Lord and work generously for the building up of the Church in your country. I also welcome the distinguished delegation from the NATO Defense College, with prayerful good wishes for their service to the cause of peace. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. Happy Easter!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, my thoughts go to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Dear young people, especially you who have come from the diocese of Cremona, may you be increasingly more aware that only the Lord Jesus can respond completely to your desire for happiness and to your search for what is truly good for your lives; dear sick, especially you who belong to UNITALSI of Teano-Calvi, there is greater comfort in your suffering than the Resurrection of Christ; and you, dear newlyweds, may you live your marriage in concrete adherence to Christ and to the teachings of the Gospel.

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REGINA CAELI
On Encountering the Risen Christ
"Let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Every year, celebrating Easter, we relive the experience of Jesus’ first disciples, the experience of the encounter with the risen Christ: John’s Gospel says that they saw him appear in their midst, in the cenacle, the evening of the day itself of the resurrection, “the first of the week,” and then “eight days later” (cf. John 20:19, 26). That day, eventually called “the Lord’s Day,” is the day of the assembly, of the Christian community that reunites for its proper worship, to wit, the Eucharist, the new worship that was distinct from Jewish Sabbath worship from the very beginning. In fact, the celebration of the Lord’s Day is powerful proof of Christ’s resurrection, because only an extraordinary and shocking event could have induced the first Christians to found a form of worship that was different from the Jewish Sabbath.

Then as now, Christian worship is not merely a commemoration of past events, nor a special mystical interior experience, but it is essentially an encounter with the risen Lord, who lives in God, beyond space and time, and who nevertheless makes himself truly present in the midst of the community, speaks to us in sacred Scriptures and breaks the Bread of eternal life for us. Through these signs we live what the disciples experienced, that is, the fact of seeing Christ and at the same time of not recognizing him; of touching his body, a true body, free of every earthly bond.

What the Gospel says is important, namely, that Jesus, in the two appearances to the apostles gathered in the cenacle, repeatedly says “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19; 21:26). The traditional greeting of “Shalom,” “peace,” becomes something new here: it becomes that gift of peace that only Jesus can give, because it is the fruit of his radical victory over evil. The “peace” that Jesus offers to his disciples is the fruit of the love of God that led him to die on the cross, to shed all of his blood, as the meek and humble Lamb, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is why Blessed John Paul II wanted to call the Sunday after Easter Divine Mercy Sunday, with a definite picture: the pierced side of Christ from which blood and water flow according to the Apostle John’s eyewitness testimony (cf. John 19:34-37). But Jesus has now risen and from him as living there flow the Easter Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist: those who draw near to him with faith receive the gift of eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us welcome the gift of peace that the risen Jesus offers us, let us allow our heart to be filled with his mercy! In this way, with the power of the Holy Spirit, who raised Christ from the dead, we too can bring these Easter gifts to others. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of Mercy, obtain this for us.

[Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father addressed those present in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

I would like to greet the pilgrims who participated in the Holy Mass presided over by the Cardinal Vicar Agostino Vallini in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia – welcome! This church is the privileged place of the worship of Divine Mercy, where St. Faustina Kowalska and Blessed John Paul II are venerated in a special way. I hope that all of you will be witnesses of the merciful love of Christ. Thank you for your presence.

[Speaking in English, the Holy Father said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today. In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears to his disciples and overcomes the doubts of Thomas. Through his Divine Mercy, may we always believe that Jesus is the Christ and, believing, may we have life in his name. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

Have a good Sunday!

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Benedict XVI's Last Supper Homily
"Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, held in St. John Lateran on Thursday evening.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.

On the way, he sang with his apostles Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his "exodus" to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God "Abba". The word means – as they add – "Father". Yet it is not the usual form of the word "father", but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a "child", the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him.

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. "No one has ever seen God", says Saint John. The one "who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known" (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God "Abba", went on to say: "Everything is possible for you. You can do all things" (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives.

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he "threw himself on the ground" (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail.

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father.

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: "Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want" (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly "like God" – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this "yes" to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.

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Pontiff's Address at End of Via Crucis
"At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christs cross"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the end of the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum. The meditations this year were written by a married couple and focused on the family.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once more in meditation, prayer and song, we have recalled Jesus’s journey along the way of the cross: a journey seemingly hopeless, yet one that changed human life and history, and opened the way to “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. Rev 21:1). Especially today, Good Friday, the Church commemorates with deep spiritual union the death of the Son of God on the cross; in his cross she sees the tree of life, which blossoms in new hope.

The experience of suffering and of the cross touches all mankind; it touches the family too. How often does the journey become wearisome and difficult! Misunderstandings, conflicts, worry for the future of our children, sickness and problems of every kind. These days too, the situation of many families is made worse by the threat of unemployment and other negative effects of the economic crisis. The Way of the Cross which we have spiritually retraced this evening invites all of us, and families in particular, to contemplate Christ crucified in order to have the force to overcome difficulties. The cross of Christ is the supreme sign of God’s love for every man and woman, the superabundant response to every person’s need for love. At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ’s cross. There we can find the courage and strength to press on; there we can repeat with firm hope the words of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:35,37).

In times of trial and tribulation, we are not alone; the family is not alone. Jesus is present with his love, he sustains them by his grace and grants the strength needed to carry on, to make sacrifices and to overcome every obstacle. And it is to this love of Christ that we must turn when human turmoil and difficulties threaten the unity of our lives and our families. The mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection inspires us to go on in hope: times of trouble and testing, when endured with Christ, with faith in him, already contain the light of the resurrection, the new life of a world reborn, the passover of all those who believe in his word.

In that crucified Man who is the Son of God, even death itself takes on new meaning and purpose: it is redeemed and overcome, it becomes a passage to new life. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24). Let us entrust ourselves to the Mother of Christ. May Mary, who accompanied her Son along his way of sorrows, who stood beneath the cross at the hour of his death, and who inspired the Church at its birth to live in God’s presence, lead our hearts and the hearts of every family through the vast mysterium passionis towards the mysterium paschale, towards that light which breaks forth from Christ’s resurrection and reveals the definitive victory of love, joy and life over evil, suffering and death. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Homily at the Chrism Mass
"A priest never belongs to himself"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 5, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at the Holy Thursday chrism Mass.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be "consecrated in truth" (Jn 17:19), as Jesus besought the Father for us in his high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives – do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? This question places the Lord before us and us before him. "Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?" After this homily, I shall be addressing that question to each of you here and to myself as well. Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfilment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another – of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: he was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided "translations" on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a "translation" of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such "translations" of Jesus’ way into historical figures. We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as "gift and mystery". The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.

Dear friends, I would like briefly to touch on two more key phrases from the renewal of ordination promises, which should cause us to reflect at this time in the Church’s life and in our own lives. Firstly, the reminder that – as Saint Paul put it – we are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1) and we are charged with the ministry of teaching, the munus docendi, which forms a part of this stewardship of God’s mysteries, through which he shows us his face and his heart, in order to give us himself. At the meeting of Cardinals on the occasion of the recent Consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word. The Year of Faith, commemorating the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, should provide us with an occasion to proclaim the message of faith with new enthusiasm and new joy. We find it of course first and foremost in sacred Scripture, which we can never read and ponder enough. Yet at the same time we all experience the need for help in accurately expounding it in the present day, if it is truly to touch our hearts. This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored.

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: "My teaching is not mine" (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. In this regard I am always reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: what is so much mine as myself? And what is so little mine as myself? I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with him who called us to be his ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself. The Curé of Ars was no scholar, no intellectual, we know that. But his preaching touched people’s hearts because his own heart had been touched.

The last keyword that I should like to consider is "zeal for souls": animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word "soul" is virtually banned because – ostensibly – it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalizes the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs – we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.

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Pope's Holy Saturday Homily
"With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Easter Vigil.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God", as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: "Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God" (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world. Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: "God said, ‘let there be light!’" (Gen 1:3). The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light. The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day. The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven. In this way he deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them. No, they are not gods. They are shining bodies created by the one God. But they are preceded by the light through which God’s glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.

What is the creation account saying here? Light makes life possible. It makes encounter possible. It makes communication possible. It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible. And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible. Evil hides. Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness. It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act. To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence only through denial. It is a "no".

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: "Let there be light". The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. "Let there be light", says God, "and there was light": Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.

Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other "lights", that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.

Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. "Whoever is close to me is close to the fire," as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whoseraison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1).Amen.

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Pontiff's Urbi et Orbi Greeting
"With him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the message Benedict XVI gave today at noon when he gave the solemn 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!

"Surrexit Christus, spes mea" – "Christ, my hope, has risen" (Easter Sequence).

May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. She ran to the other disciples and breathlessly announced: "I have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20:18). We too, who have journeyed through the desert of Lent and the sorrowful days of the Passion, today raise the cry of victory: "He has risen! He has truly risen!"

Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus "my hope": he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. "Christ my hope" means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.

But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience: "Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign". The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance: "The tomb the living did enclose, I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting, shroud with grave-clothes resting".

Dear brothers and sisters! If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then he, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And he is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may he grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may he help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of all its citizens.

Happy Easter to all!

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On the Trip to Mexico and Cuba
"When God is excluded, the world becomes a place inhospitable to man"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 4, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square. He offered a review of his recent apostolic trip to Mexico and Cuba, as well as giving a reflection on the Sacred Triduum.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

The emotions evoked within me during my recent Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba are still alive, and today I wish to focus upon this journey. Thanksgiving to the Lord arises spontaneously from my soul: in His providence, He willed that I should go for the first time as the Successor of Peter to these two countries, which indelibly preserve the memory of the visits of Blessed John Paul II. The bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico and of other Latin American countries, the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See, and the fourth centenary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre in the Republic of Cuba served as the occasions for my pilgrimage. Through it, I wanted to embrace the entire Continent, inviting everyone to live together in hope and in the concrete commitment to journey united toward a better future. I am grateful to the Presidents of Mexico and Cuba, who welcomed me with deference and courtesy, as well as to the other authorities. I offer heartfelt thanks to the Archbishops of León, Santiago de Cuba and Havana and to the other venerable brothers in the episcopate who received me with great affection, as well as to their collaborators and all those who so generously gave their very best for this, my pastoral visit. They were unforgettable days of joy and hope that will remain impressed upon my heart!

The first stop was León, in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico’s geographic centre. Here a large and jubilant crowd gave me an extraordinary and lively welcome as a sign of the warm embrace of an entire people. From the outset of the welcoming ceremony, I was able to grasp the faith and warmth of the priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful. In the presence of members of the Institutions, of numerous Bishops and representatives of society, I recalled the need to recognize and protect the fundamental rights of the human person, among which religious freedom stands out in a particular way, and I assured my closeness to all those who suffer due to social ills, old and new conflicts, and corruption and violence.

With deep gratitude, I remember the endless lines of people along the streets who accompanied me with enthusiasm. In those hands outstretched as a sign of their greeting and affection, in those happy faces, and in those shouts of joy I grasped the tenacious hope of Christians in Mexico, a hope still burning in their hearts despite difficult moments of violence, which I did not fail to grieve over, and to whose victims I addressed my heartfelt thoughts, some of whom I was able personally to comfort. The same day, I met with many children and adolescents, who are the nation’s and the Church’s future. Their inexhaustible happiness, expressed in loud songs and music as well as in their looks and gestures, expressed the deeply felt desire of all the youth of Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean to be able to live in peace, serenity and harmony, in a more just and reconciled society.

The disciples of the Lord must augment the joy of being Christians, the joy of belonging to His Church. This joy gives rise to the energies needed to serve Christ in situations of difficulty and suffering. I recalled this truth before the immense crowd that gathered for the Sunday Eucharistic celebration in León’s Bicentenario Park. I exhorted everyone to trust in the goodness of Almighty God, who is able to change unbearable and dark situations from within, from their heart. The Mexican people responded with their ardent faith, and yet again I recognized consoling signs of hope for the Continent in their firm commitment to the Gospel.

The final event of my Visit to Mexico, which also took place in Leon, was the celebration of Vespers in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Light with bishops of Mexico and representatives from the Episcopate of [Latin] America. I expressed my closeness to their commitment amid the various challenges and difficulties, as well as my gratitude to all those who sow the Gospel in situations that are complex and often beset by limitations. I encouraged them to be zealous pastors and sure guides, by arousing everywhere a sincere communion and a heartfelt adherence to the teaching of the Church. I then left the beloved Mexican land, where I experienced a special devotion and affection for the Vicar of Christ. Before departing, I urged the Mexican people to remain faithful to the Lord and to His Church, firmly anchored to their Christian roots.

The following day, the second leg of my apostolic journey began with the arrival in Cuba, where I went especially to support the mission of the Catholic Church, committed to the joyful proclamation of the Gospel despite the poverty of resources and the difficulties still to be overcome in order that religion might carry out its own proper spiritual and formative service within society’s public square. I wished to emphasize this upon my arrival in Santiago de Cuba, the Island’s second city, not failing however to highlight the good relations existing between the State and the Holy See, which aim at serving the living and constructive presence of the local Church. I also assured them that the Pope carries the concerns and aspirations of all Cubans in his heart, especially of those who suffer from limitations placed upon their freedom.

The first Holy Mass that I had the joy of celebrating on Cuban soil was placed within the context of the fourth centenary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba. It was a moment of great spiritual intensity, with the attentive and prayerful participation of thousands of persons -- a sign of a Church that comes from difficult situations, but with a lively witness of charity and of active presence in people’s lives. I invited Cuban Catholics, who with the entire population hope for a better future, to give renewed vigor to their faith, and to contribute -- with the courage of forgiveness and understanding -- to the building up of an open and renewed society, where there is always space for God, because when God is excluded, the world becomes a place inhospitable to man.

Before leaving Santiago de Cuba, I went to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charity in El Cobre, so dear to the Cuban people. The pilgrimage to the image of Our Lady of Charity gave rise to great spiritual enthusiasm in the families of the Island, representing a significant event in the New Evangelization and an occasion to rediscover the faith. I especially recommended to the Holy Virgin all those who suffer and young Cubans.

The second leg of Cuba was Havana, the island’s capital. Young people, in particular, were the main participants in the exuberant welcome I received en route to the Nunciature, where I had the opportunity to meet with the country’s bishops in order to speak about the challenges the Cuban Church is called to face, in the awareness that people look to her with growing confidence. The following day, I presided over the Holy Mass in Havana’s main square, which was filled with people. I reminded everyone that Cuba and the world are in need of change, but these changes will occur only if each person opens himself to the integral truth about man -- which is the essential prerequisite for attaining freedom -- and decides to sow reconciliation and fraternity to those around him, by founding his life upon Jesus Christ: He alone is able to dispel the darkness of error, by helping us to defeat evil and all that oppresses us. I also wished to reiterate that the Church does not seek privileges, but asks rather to be able to proclaim and to celebrate the faith, also publicly, by bringing the Gospel’s message of hope and peace to every sphere of society. While appreciating the steps taken thus far in this direction by the Cuban authorities, I stressed the need to continue on this path of increasingly greater religious freedom.

Upon leaving Cuba, tens of thousands of Cubans came to greet me along the way, despite the heavy rain. During the farewell ceremony, I recalled that, in the present hour, the various sectors of Cuban society are called to a sincere collaborative effort and to a patient dialogue for the good of the country. In this perspective, my presence on the Island as a witness of Jesus Christ was intended to encourage people to open the doors of their hearts to Him, who is the source of hope and power for good. Therefore, I said farewell to the Cubans by exhorting them to revive the faith of their fathers and to build a better future.

This trip to Mexico and Cuba - thanks be to God - had the desired pastoral success. May the Mexican and Cuban people reap abundant fruits from it, to build -- in ecclesial communion and with evangelic courage -- a future of peace and fraternity.

Dear friends, tomorrow afternoon, with the Holy Mass in Coena Domini, we enter into the Easter Triduum -- the summit of the entire liturgical year -- in order to celebrate the central Mystery of the faith: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. In the Gospel of St. John, this culminating moment in Jesus’ mission is called his “hour” and opens with the Last Supper. The Evangelist introduces it in this way: “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Jesus’ entire life is directed to this hour, which is characterized by two aspects that illuminate one another: it is the hour of “passage” (metabasis) and it is the hour of “love (agape) unto the end”. In fact, it is precisely divine love, the Spirit with which Jesus is filled, that makes Jesus himself “pass” through the abyss of evil and death into the new “space” of the Resurrection. It is agape, love, which brings about this transformation, such that Jesus passes beyond the limits of the human condition marked by sin, and overcomes the barrier that keeps man a prisoner, separated from God and from eternal life. In faithfully participating in the liturgical celebrations of the Easter Triduum, we are invited to live out this transformation actualized by agape. Each of us was loved by Jesus “to the end”; that is, to the total gift of Himself on the Cross, when he cried out: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Let us allow ourselves to be touched by this love, let us allow ourselves to be transformed, so that the Resurrection may truly be realized in us. Therefore, I invite you to live the Easter Triduum intensely, and I wish all of you a Holy Easter! Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My recent Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba sought to confirm the people of those countries, and all the peoples of Latin America, in their faith and in the hope which makes it possible to build a just and harmonious social order. At the liturgies in León, marked by an outpouring of devotion and spiritual joy, I encouraged the Mexican people to let their deep Christian roots inspire their efforts to overcome violence and to work for a better future. In Cuba, I wished to reaffirm the Church in her public witness to the Gospel and to support the aspirations of all Cubans to a renewed, reconciled and free society. From Santiago de Cuba, I went as a pilgrim to the shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre and then to Havana, where I prayed for a rebirth of faith, openness to God’s love and respect for the truth about our human dignity and freedom revealed in Christ. In these days, as we prepare to celebrate the saving events of Christ’s Passover from death to life in the sacred Triduum, may we open our hearts to God’s reconciling love revealed on the Cross. Let us allow that love to transform our lives, and enable us to celebrate with joy the mystery of the resurrection.

I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the student groups from England, Ireland and the United States of America. I also greet the participants in the International Gathering of University Students. May your pilgrimage to Rome bear spiritual fruit in a deeper love of Christ and his Church. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace. A happy and blessed Easter to all of you!

[The Pope offered the following appeal:]

Today marks the international Day to raise awareness regarding the problem of anti-personnel landmines, to whose victims and their families I express my closeness. I offer my encouragement to all those who work to free humanity from these terrible and treacherous devices, which - as Blessed John Paul II said on the occasion of the enforcement of the convention on their ban - “impede men from walking together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death” (Angelus, February 28, 1999).

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[He concluded with these greetings:]

Lastly, I offer my cordial greeting to the young, to the sick and to newlyweds. May the contemplation of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you increasingly steadfast in your Christian witness. May you, dear sick, draw from the Cross of Christ daily support to overcome moments of trial and distress. May you, dear newlyweds, receive from the Paschal Mystery, which we contemplate in these days, encouragement to make your family a place of faithful and fruitful love.

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Pope's Address to WYD Pilgrims
"Christ needs you by his side to extend and build his Kingdom of charity"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 3, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday to a group of youth from Madrid, on a pilgrimage to Rome to thank the Pope for World Youth Day held in their city last summer.

* * *

Lord Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Young People,

Friends All,

I am grateful for the kind words that the Lord Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela addressed to me, making himself the interpreter of the sentiments of all those here present, and I greet him with profound affection, as well as the Lord Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Madrid and the Lord Bishop of San Sebastian, responsible for the Youth Pastoral Department in the Spanish Episcopal Conference.

I am pleased to welcome to the See of Peter, those of you who are part of this pilgrimage, which you organized with eagerness, to thank the Pope for his trip to Spain on the occasion of the World Youth Day, held the last month of August.

I cordially greet the authorities, organizers, sponsors and volunteers , but, in a very special way, the young people, who are the protagonists and principal recipients of this pastoral initiative vigorously stimulated by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, of whom today we remember his transit to Heaven.

I also have very present all the bishops of Spain and the episcopal delegates of youth, who collaborated so much in the dioceses for the happy outcome of that significant ecclesial event. And I cannot fail to mention the members of Consecrated Life and so many other persons and institutions that made a valuable and generous contribution to the culmination of this very end.

Whenever I remember the 26th World Youth Day lived in Madrid, my heart fills with gratitude to God for the experience of grace of those unforgettable days. From <the moment> of my arrival, shows of welcome and hospitality succeeded one another and multiplied, together with the faith and joy of the young people, who became eloquent signs of the Risen Christ.

Dear friends, that splendid meeting can only be understood in the light of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. He does not cease to infuse encouragement in hearts, and continually brings us out to the public square of history, as at Pentecost, to give witness of the wonders of God. You are called to cooperate in this exciting task and it is worthwhile to give oneself to it without reservations. Christ needs you by his side to extend and build his Kingdom of charity. This will be possible if you hold him as the best of friends and confess him by leading a life according to the Gospel, with courage and fidelity.

Someone might think that this has nothing to do with him or that it is an enterprise that exceeds his capacities and talents. But it is not so. No one is extra in this adventure. That is why you must not fail to ask yourselves what the Lord is calling you to do and how you can help him. You all have a personal vocation that he has desired to propose to you for your happiness and holiness. When one sees oneself conquered by the fire of his look, no sacrifice seems too great to follow him and to give him the best of oneself. So did the saints do always, spreading the light of the Lord and the power of his love, transforming the world until converting it into a welcoming home for all, where God is glorified and his children are blessed.

Dear young people, like those Apostles of the first hour, you also must be missionaries of Christ among your relatives, friends and acquaintances, in your study and work environments, among the poor and the sick. Speak of his love and goodness with simplicity, free of complexes and fears. Christ himself will give you the strength for it. On your part, listen to him and have a frequent and sincere exchange with him. Tell him with confidence about your yearnings and aspirations, also about your sorrows and those of persons you see lacking in consolation and hope. Evoking those splendid days, I wish to exhort you likewise not to spare any effort so that those around you will discover him personally and meet him, who is alive and with his Church.

Yesterday, with the solemnity of Palm Sunday, we began Holy Week, in which we follow Christ’s steps to the celebration of the Paschal Mystery. We acclaim him as Messiah and Son of David, waving, like the children and young people of Jerusalem, the palms of salvation and jubilation. At the same time, we contemplate the sorrowful Passion and his humiliation unto death. I invite you, during these holy days, to unite yourselves fully to our Redeemer, recalling that solemn Via Crucis of the World Youth Day. In it we prayed, moved by the beauty of those sacred images, which expressed profoundly the mysteries of our faith. I encourage you also to bear your cross, the cross of the pain and sins of the world, so that you understand better Christ’s love for humanity. Thus you will feel called to proclaim that God loves man and sent his Son, not to condemn him, but to have him attain a full and meaningful life.

Dear friends, I am sure that you are already thinking of going to Rio de Janeiro, where many young people of the whole world will again congregate, in what will undoubtedly be one more milestone of the journey of the Church, always young, which wishes to widen the horizon of the new generations with the treasure of the Gospel, force of life for the world. As we now go forward with our eyes fixed on the imminent dawn of Easter, may the celebration of the World Youth Day in Brazil be a new and joyful experience of the Risen Christ, who leads the whole of humanity to the clarity of life that proceeds from God.

May Mary Most Holy, who remained silent at the foot of the cross with her Son and waited patiently for the fulfillment of his promises, be always for you Mother of mercy, life, sweetness and hope. Thank you, many thanks for your festive and jovial presence, dear young people. I bless you from the depth of my heart.

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On Palm Sunday
"May we be moved again by Christ's passion and death, (and) put our sins behind us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2012 - Immediately after concluding the Holy Mass for Palm Sunday, Benedict XVI recited the Angelus with those present in St. Peter’s Square. Here is a translation of his remarks prior to the Angelus.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the conclusion of this celebration I would like to address a greeting to all of those present: to the lord cardinals, to my brother bishops, to the priests, to the religious and to all of the faithful. I address a special greeting to the organizing committee of the last Word Youth Day in Madrid and to the committee that is organizing the next one in Rio de Janeiro; and to the delegates to the international meeting on World Youth Days sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, here represented by its president, Cardinale Ri?ko, and by its secretary Monsignor Clemens.

[Following these opening remarks in Italian, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, today is Palm Sunday: as we remember Our Lord’s welcome into Jerusalem, I am pleased to greet all of you, especially the many young people who have come here to pray with me. This Holy Week, may we be moved again by Christ’s passion and death, put our sins behind us and, with God’s grace, choose a life of love and service to our brethren. God’s blessings upon you!

[He finished his pre-Angelus remarks in Italian saying:]

Dear friends, I pray that the true joy inhabit your hearts, that joy that comes from love and that does not disappear in the hour of sacrifice. I wish everyone a good Holy Week and a good Easter! Thank you.

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Pope's Message to Prisoners for Way of the Cross
"3 times Jesus got back up and continued on the way to Calvary"

ROME, APRIL 2, 2012 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to prisoners detained in Rome's Rebibbia prison for the Way of the Cross they celebrated there last Friday, led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the Diocese of Rome.

Some 300 prisoners, the chaplain, Caritas volunteers, seminarians who offer daily service inside the prison and numerous faithful from various parishes attended the Way of the Cross. The Pope made a pastoral visit to the jail last Dec. 18.

* * *

Dear brothers!

I was happy to hear that, in preparation for Easter, you will be conducting a Via Crucis at the prison of Rebibbia that will be presided over by my Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, with the participation of the prisoners, the prison workers and the faithful from various parishes of the city. I feel particularly close to this event because there is always alive in my soul the memory of the visit I made to the prison of Rebibbia shortly before last Christmas; I remember the faces that I met and the words that I listened to, and they left a deep mark in me. So, I join spiritually in your prayer, and thus I can give continuity to my presence with you and for this I thank your chaplains in particular.

I know that this Via Crucis also intends to be a sign of reconciliation. In effect, as one of the prisoners said during our meeting, prison serves to pick oneself up after having fallen, to be reconciled with oneself, with others and with God. One can then enter again into society. When, in the Via Crucis, we see Jesus who falls to the ground – 1, 2, 3 times – we understand that he shared our human condition, the weight of our sins made him fall; but 3 times Jesus got back up and continued on the way to Calvary; and so, with his help, we too can get back up from our falls, and maybe help another, a brother, to get back to his feet.

But what gave Jesus the strength to go forward? It was the certainty that the Father was with him. Even if in his heart that was all the bitterness of abandonment, Jesus knew that the Father loved him, and precisely this immense love, this infinite mercy of the heavenly Father and was greater than the violence and the injuries that he endured. Even if everyone despised him and no longer treated him as a man, Jesus, in his heart, had the firm certainty of always being a son, the Son loved by God the Father.

This, dear friends, is the great gift that Jesus bestowed upon us in his Via Crucis: he revealed to us that God is infinite love, he is mercy, and he bore completely the weight of our sins so that we might get up again and reconcile and rediscover peace. Therefore we too are not afraid to walk our “via crucis,” to carry our cross together with Jesus. He is with us. And Mary is with us too, his and our mother. She remains faithful, at the foot of our own cross also, and she prays for our resurrection, that we might firmly believe that, even in the blackest night, the light of God’s love is the last word.

With this hope, based on faith, my wish for all of you is that you live Easter in the peace and in the joy that Christ has obtained for us with his blood, and with great affection I impart to you the apostolic benediction, extending it from my heart to your families and your loved ones.

From the Vatican, March 22, 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Benedict XVI's Palm Sunday Homily
"The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily from Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Palm Sunday is the great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes his way towards the culmination of his earthly existence. He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which he will reign for ever, drawing to himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had set out towards Jerusalem in company with the Twelve, and that little by little a growing crowd of pilgrims had joined them. Saint Mark tells us that as they were leaving Jericho, there was a "great multitude" following Jesus (cf. 10:46).

On the final stage of the journey, a particular event stands out, one which heightens the sense of expectation of what is about to unfold and focuses attention even more sharply upon Jesus. Along the way, as they were leaving Jericho, a blind man was sitting begging, Bartimaeus by name. As soon as he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing, he began to cry out: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mk 10:47). People tried to silence him, but to no avail; until Jesus had them call him over and invited him to approach. "What do you want me to do for you?", he asked. And the reply: "Master, let me receive my sight" (v. 51). Jesus said: "Go your way, your faith has made you well." Bartimaeus regained his sight and began to follow Jesus along the way (cf. v. 52). And so it was that, after this miraculous sign, accompanied by the cry "Son of David", a tremor of Messianic hope spread through the crowd, causing many of them to ask: this Jesus, going ahead of us towards Jerusalem, could he be the Messiah, the new David? And as he was about to enter the Holy City, had the moment come when God would finally restore the Davidic kingdom?

The preparations made by Jesus, with the help of his disciples, serve to increase this hope. As we heard in today’s Gospel (cf. Mk 11:1-10), Jesus arrives in Jerusalem from Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, that is, the route by which the Messiah was supposed to come. From there, he sent two disciples ahead of him, telling them to bring him a young donkey that they would find along the way. They did indeed find the donkey, they untied it and brought it to Jesus. At this point, the spirits of the disciples and of the other pilgrims were swept up with excitement: they took their coats and placed them on the colt; others spread them out on the street in Jesus’ path as he approached, riding on the donkey. Then they cut branches from the trees and began to shout phrases from Psalm 118, ancient pilgrim blessings, which in that setting took on the character of messianic proclamation: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!" (v. 9-10). This festive acclamation, reported by all four evangelists, is a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation: it expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited his people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come. And everyone is there, growing in expectation of the work that Christ will accomplish once he has entered the city.

But what is the content, the inner resonance of this cry of jubilation? The answer is found throughout the Scripture, which reminds us that the Messiah fulfils the promise of God’s blessing, God’s original promise to Abraham, father of all believers: "I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves" (Gen 12:2-3). It is the promise that Israel had always kept alive in prayer, especially the prayer of the Psalms. Hence he whom the crowd acclaims as the blessed one is also he in whom the whole of humanity will be blessed. Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things.

Here we find the first great message that today’s feast brings us: the invitation to adopt a proper outlook upon all humanity, on the peoples who make up the world, on its different cultures and civilizations. The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing: a wise and loving look, capable of grasping the world’s beauty and having compassion on its fragility. Shining through this look is God’s own look upon those he loves and upon Creation, the work of his hands. We read in the Book of Wisdom: "But thou art merciful to all, for thou canst do all things, and thou dost overlook men’s sins, that they may repent. For thou lovest all things that exist and hast loathing for none of the things which thou hast made ... thou sparest all things, for they are thine, O Lord who lovest the living" (11:23-24, 26).

Let us return to today’s Gospel passage and ask ourselves: what is really happening in the hearts of those who acclaim Christ as King of Israel? Clearly, they had their own idea of the Messiah, an idea of how the long-awaited King promised by the prophets should act. Not by chance, a few days later, instead of acclaiming Jesus, the Jerusalem crowd will cry out to Pilate: "Crucify him!", while the disciples, together with others who had seen him and listened to him, will be struck dumb and will disperse. The majority, in fact, was disappointed by the way Jesus chose to present himself as Messiah and King of Israel. This is the heart of today’s feast, for us too. Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God? It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne. We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude. So we must ask ourselves: what are our true expectations? What are our deepest desires, with which we have come here today to celebrate Palm Sunday and to begin our celebration of Holy Week?

Dear young people, present here today, this, in a particular way, is your Day, wherever the Church is present throughout the world. So I greet you with great affection! May Palm Sunday be a day of decision for you, the decision to say yes to the Lord and to follow him all the way, the decision to make his Passover, his death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives. It is the decision that leads to true joy, as I reminded you in this year’s World Youth Day Message – "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4). So it was for Saint Clare of Assisi when, on Palm Sunday 800 years ago, inspired by the example of Saint Francis and his first companions, she left her father’s house to consecrate herself totally to the Lord. She was eighteen years old and she had the courage of faith and love to decide for Christ, finding in him true joy and peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, may these days call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their "Hosanna!", and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love. But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us. The early Church Fathers saw a symbol of all this in the gesture of the people who followed Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, the gesture of spreading out their coats before the Lord. Before Christ – the Fathers said – we must spread out our lives, ourselves, in an attitude of gratitude and adoration. As we conclude, let us listen once again to the words of one of these early Fathers, Saint Andrew, Bishop of Crete: "So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ ... so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet ... let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death. Today let us too give voice with the children to that sacred chant, as we wave the spiritual branches of our soul: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel’" (PG 97, 994). Amen!

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Papal Message for Palm Sunday World Youth Day 2012
"Joy is at the heart of Christian experience"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2012 Here is the text of Benedict XVI's message for the diocesan-level World Youth Day, traditionally celebrated each Palm Sunday, and thus to be held this Sunday. The Vatican released the message today.

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE TWENTY-SEVENTH WORLD YOUTH DAY
2012

“Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4)

Dear young friends,

I am happy to address you once more on the occasion of the 27th World Youth Day. The memory of our meeting in Madrid last August remains close to my heart. It was a time of extraordinary grace when God showered his blessings on the young people gathered from all over the world. I give thanks to God for all the fruits which that event bore, fruits which will surely multiply for young people and their communities in the future. Now we are looking forward to our next meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, whose theme will be: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19).

This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from Saint Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith.

The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world, a joy that is authentic and enduring, the joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born (cf. Lk 2:10). Not only did God speak, not only did he accomplish great signs throughout the history of humankind, but he drew so near to us that he became one of us and lived our life completely. In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope! I would like to reflect with you on this joy and on how to find it, so that you can experience it more deeply and bring it to everyone you meet.

1. Our hearts are made for joy

A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. Far more than immediate and fleeting feelings of satisfaction, our hearts seek a perfect, full and lasting joy capable of giving “flavour” to our existence. This is particularly true for you, because youth is a time of continuous discovery of life, of the world, of others and of ourselves. It is a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans.

Each day is filled with countless simple joys which are the Lord’s gift: the joy of living, the joy of seeing nature’s beauty, the joy of a job well done, the joy of helping others, the joy of sincere and pure love. If we look carefully, we can see many other reasons to rejoice. There are the happy times in family life, shared friendship, the discovery of our talents, our successes, the compliments we receive from others, the ability to express ourselves and to know that we are understood, and the feeling of being of help to others. There is also the excitement of learning new things, seeing new and broader horizons open up through our travels and encounters, and realizing the possibilities we have for charting our future. We might also mention the experience of reading a great work of literature, of admiring a masterpiece of art, of listening to or playing music, or of watching a film. All these things can bring us real joy.

Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. Many young people ask themselves: is perfect joy really possible? The quest for joy can follow various paths, and some of these turn out to be mistaken, if not dangerous. How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?

2. God is the source of true joy

Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, he is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love him. God created us in his image out of love, in order to shower his love upon us and to fill us with his presence and grace. God wants us to share in his own divine and eternal joy, and he helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive”.

God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in him. We see in the Gospel how the events at the beginning of Jesus’ life are marked by joy. When the Archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she is to be the mother of the Saviour, his first word is “Rejoice!” (Lk 1:28). When Jesus is born, the angel of the Lord says to the shepherds: “Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Saviour has been born for you, who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). When the Magi came in search of the child, “they were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Mt 2:10). The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God who became one of us. This is what Saint Paul means when he writes to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). Our first reason for joy is the closeness of the Lord, who welcomes me and loves me.

An encounter with Jesus always gives rise to immense inner joy. We can see this in many of the Gospel stories. We recall when Jesus visited Zacchaeus, a dishonest tax collector and public sinner, he said to him: “Today I must stay at your house”. Then, Saint Luke tells us, Zacchaeus “received him with joy” (Lk 19:5-6). This is the joy of meeting the Lord. It is the joy of feeling God’s love, a love that can transform our whole life and bring salvation. Zacchaeus decides to change his life and to give half of his possessions to the poor.

At the hour of Jesus’ passion, this love can be seen in all its power. At the end of his earthly life, while at supper with his friends, Jesus said: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love... I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:9,11). Jesus wants to lead his disciples and each one of us into the fullness of joy that he shares with the Father, so that the Father’s love for him might abide in us (cf. Jn17:26). Christian joy consists in being open to God’s love and belonging to him.

The Gospels recount that Mary Magdalene and other women went to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid after his death. An angel told them the astonishing news of Jesus’ resurrection. Then, the Evangelist tells us, they ran from the sepulchre, “fearful yet overjoyed” to share the good news with the disciples. Jesus met them on the way and said: “Peace!” (Mt28:8-9). They were being offered the joy of salvation. Christ is the One who lives and who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and he will remain with us until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious.

This deep joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who makes us God’s sons and daughters, capable of experiencing and savouring his goodness, and calling him “Abba”, Father (cf. Rm 8:15). Joy is the sign of God’s presence and action within us.

3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts

At this point we wonder: “How do we receive and maintain this gift of deep, spiritual joy?”

One of the Psalms tells us: “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart's desire” (Ps 37:4). Jesus told us that “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44). The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow him and to stake our whole life on him. Dear young people, do not be afraid to risk your lives by making space for Jesus Christ and his Gospel. This is the way to find inner peace and true happiness. It is the way to live fully as children of God, created in his image and likeness.

Seek joy in the Lord: for joy is the fruit of faith. It is being aware of his presence and friendship every day: “the Lord is near!” (Phil 4:5). It is putting our trust in God, and growing in his knowledge and love. Shortly we shall begin the “Year of Faith”, and this will help and encourage us. Dear friends, learn to see how God is working in your lives and discover him hidden within the events of daily life. Believe that he is always faithful to the covenant which he made with you on the day of your Baptism. Know that God will never abandon you. Turn your eyes to him often. He gave his life for you on the cross because he loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy. Christians can never be sad, for they have met Christ, who gave his life for them.

To seek the Lord and find him in our lives also means accepting his word, which is joy for our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote: “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart” (Jer 15:16). Learn to read and meditate on the sacred Scriptures. There you will find an answer to your deepest questions about truth. God’s word reveals the wonders that he has accomplished throughout human history, it fills us with joy, and it leads us to praise and adoration: “Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us kneel before the Lord who made us” (Ps 95:1,6).

The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ. This is a very important moment for all the Lord’s disciples because his sacrifice of love is made present. Sunday is the day when we meet the risen Christ, listen to his word, and are nourished by his body and blood. As we hear in one of the Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Ps 118:24). At the Easter Vigil, the Church sings the Exultet, a hymn of joy for the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death: “Sing, choirs of angels! ... Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour ... Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!” Christian joy is born of this awareness of being loved by God who became man, gave his life for us and overcame evil and death. It means living a life of love for him. As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a young Carmelite, wrote: “Jesus, my joy is loving you” (P 45, 21 January 1897).

4. The joy of love

Dear friends, joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf.Gal 5:23). Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta drew on Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) when she said: “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy gives more”. As the Servant of God Paul VI wrote: “In God himself, all is joy because all is giving” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975).

In every area of your life, you should know that to love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. This applies most of all to friendship. Our friends expect us to be sincere, loyal and faithful because true love perseveres even in times of difficulty. The same thing can be said about your work and studies and the services you carry out. Fidelity and perseverance in doing good brings joy, even if not always immediately.

If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. Make every effort to study conscientiously, to develop your talents and to put them at the service of others even now. Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. May your entire life be guided by a spirit of service and not by the pursuit of power, material success and money.

Speaking of generosity, I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. Dear young people, do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that he fills with joy all those who respond to his invitation to leave everything to be with him and to devote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others. In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family and to be signs of Christ’s love for the Church.

Let me remind you of a third element that will lead you to the joy of love. It is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities. There is a close bond between communion and joy. It is not by chance that Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) is written in the plural, addressing the community as a whole, rather than its individual members. Only when we are together in the communion of fellowship do we experience this joy. In the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christian community is described in these words: “Breaking bread in their homes, they ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46). I ask you to make every effort to help our Christian communities to be special places of sharing, attention and concern for one another.

5. The joy of conversion

Dear friends, experiencing real joy also means recognizing the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. The messages it sends push a consumerist mentality and promise false happiness. Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness. How many people are surrounded by material possessions yet their lives are filled with despair, sadness and emptiness! To have lasting joy we need to live in love and truth. We need to live in God.

God wants us to be happy. That is why he gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. How often, on the other hand, do we see that choosing to build our lives apart from God and his will brings disappointment, sadness and a sense of failure. The experience of sin, which is the refusal to follow God and an affront to his friendship, brings gloom into our hearts.

At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in his mercy never abandons us; he always offers us the possibility of returning to him, being reconciled with him and experiencing the joy of his love which forgives and welcomes us back.

Dear young people, have frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the sacrament of joy rediscovered. Ask the Holy Spirit for the light needed to acknowledge your sinfulness and to ask for God’s forgiveness. Celebrate this sacrament regularly, with serenity and trust. The Lord will always open his arms to you. He will purify you and bring you into his joy: for there is joy in heaven even for one sinner who repents (cf. Lk 15:7).

6. Joy at times of trial

In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. We wonder whether following the Lord and putting our trust in him will always bring happiness.

We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) experienced many trials during his short life, including a romantic experience that left him deeply hurt. In the midst of this situation he wrote to his sister: “You ask me if I am happy. How could I not be? As long as faith gives me strength, I am happy. A Catholic could not be other than happy... The goal for which we were created involves a path which has its thorns, but it is not a sad path. It is joy, even when it involves pain” (Letter to his sister Luciana, Turin, 14 February 1925). When Blessed John Paul IIpresented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life” (Address to Young People, Turin, 13 April 1980).

Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano (1971-1990), who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. At the age of eighteen, while suffering greatly from cancer, Chiara prayed to the Holy Spirit and interceded for the young people of the movement to which she belonged. As well as praying for her own cure, she asked God to enlighten all those young people by his Spirit and to give them wisdom and light. “It was really a moment of God’s presence. I was suffering physically, but my soul was singing” (Letter to Chiara Lubich, Sassello, 20 December 1989). The key to her peace and joy was her complete trust in the Lord and the acceptance of her illness as a mysterious expression of his will for her sake and that of everyone. She often said: “Jesus, if you desire it, then I desire it too”.

These are just two testimonies taken from any number of others which show that authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life. We know that the crucified and risen Christ is here with us and that he is a faithful friend always. When we share in his sufferings, we also share in his glory. With him and in him, suffering is transformed into love. And there we find joy (cf. Col 1:24).

7. Witnesses of joy

Dear friends, to conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. Joy has to be shared. Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away. Saint John said: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; we are writing this so that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:3-4).

Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in his hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to him. Show the world that this is true!

Be enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow. Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious. You will receive a hundredfold: the joy of salvation for yourselves, and the joy of seeing God’s mercy at work in the hearts of others. And when you go to meet the Lord on that last day, you will hear him say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant... Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).

May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany you on this journey. She welcomed the Lord within herself and proclaimed this in a song of praise and joy, the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46-47). Mary responded fully to God’s love by devoting her life to him in humble and complete service. She is invoked as “Cause of our Joy” because she gave us Jesus. May she lead you to that joy which no one will ever be able to take away from you!

From the Vatican, 15 March 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pontiff's Letter for Year of St. Clare
"Those who do the Lords will and confide in him not alone do not lose anything"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message to the bishop of Assisi regarding the year of St. Clare.

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

With joy I learned that, in this diocese, as also among the Franciscans and Poor Clares of the whole world, St. Clare is being remembered with a Year of St. Clare (“Anno Clariano”), on the eighth centenary of her “conversion” and consecration. This event, whose dating vacillates between 1211 and 1212, completed “in a feminine way,” so to speak, the grace that had arrived in the community a few years earlier with the conversion of the son of Pietro di Bernardone. And, just as it happened with Francis, so also there was hidden in Clare’s decision the budding of a new fraternity, the Order of St. Clare that, having grown into a healthy tree, continues in the silence of the cloisters to sow the good seed of the Gospel and to serve the cause of the Kingdom of God.

This happy circumstance compels me to return to Assisi in spirit, to reflect with you, dear brother, and the community entrusted to you, and, just as much, with the sons of St. Francis and the daughters of St. Clare, on the meaning of that event. It also speaks to our generation, and is alluring above all to young people, to whom my affectionate thoughts turn on the occasion of World Youth Day, celebrated this year, according to custom, in the particular Churches precisely on this day of Palm Sunday.

The saint herself speaks of her radical choice for Christ in terms of “conversion” in her Testament (cf. FF 2825). I would like to begin from this aspect, almost in a sense taking up again the thread of the speech I gave on June 17, 2007 about Francis’ conversion when I had the joy to visit this diocese. The story of Clare’s conversion centers on the liturgical feast of Palm Sunday. In fact she writes in her biography: “The solemn day of the Palms was near, when the young woman went to the man of God to ask him about her conversion, when and how to act. She was ordered by father Francis to go among the crowds on Palm Sunday dressed elegantly and ornately, and then, going out of the city on that night, to covert her worldly joy into the sorrow of Passion Sunday. Sunday having arrived, the young woman, resplendent in a festive light, went with the other ladies into the church. Here it happened, with worthy portentousness, that while the others ran to receive the palms, Clare, through modesty, stood motionless and the bishop, descending the steps, came to her and placed a palm in her hands” (Legenda Sanctae Clarae virginis, 7: FF 3168).

About 6 years had passed since Francis had set out upon the path of sanctity. In the words of the crucifix of San Damiano – “Go, Francis, repair my house” – and in the embrace of the lepers, the suffering face of Christ, he found his vocation. It manifested itself in the liberating gesture of divesting himself of his garments in the presence of Bishop Guido. Faced with the choice between the idol of money proposed by his earthly father and God’s love that promised to fill his heart, he had no doubts, and with great spirit exclaimed: “From now on I can freely say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven,’ not father Pietro di Bernardone” (Vita Seconda, 12: FF 597). Francis’ decision disconcerted the city. The first years of his new life were marked by hardship, bitterness and incomprehension. But many began to think. The young Clare, an adolescent at the time, was moved by that witness. Gifted with a strong religious sense, she was conquered by the existential “turn” of the man who had been the “king of the parties.” She found a way to meet him and she let herself be caught up in his ardor for Christ. The biographer sketches the young convert instructing his new disciple: “The father Francis exhorted her to despise the world, demonstrating, with lively speech, that hope directed to this world is arid and leads to disappointment, and he put into her ears the sweet union with Christ” (Vita Sanctae Clarae Virginis, 5: FF 3164).

According to the Testament of St. Clare, even before receiving his other companions, Francis prophesied the journey of his first spiritual daughter and her sisters. In fact, while he was restoring the church of San Damiano, where the crucifix spoke to him, he announced that that place would be inhabited by women who would glorify God by the saintly tenor of their life (cf. FF 2826; cfr Tommaso da Celano, Vita seconda, 13: FF 599). The original crucifix is now found in the Basilica of St. Clare. Those large eyes of Christ that fascinated Francis would become Clare’s “mirror.” It is not by chance that the mirror theme would become so dear to Clare and, in the fourth letter to Agnes of Prague, she would write: “Look into this mirror every day, O queen, bride of Jesus Christ, and continuously look upon your face therein” (FF 2902). In the years in which she met with Francis to learn from him about the path to God, Clare was a pretty girl. The Poverello of Assisi showed to her a higher beauty, which cannot be measured by the mirror of vanity, but that develops into an authentic life, following in the footsteps of Christ crucified. God is the true beauty! Clare’s heart was illumined by this splendor, and this gave her the courage to let her locks be cut and begin a penitential life. For her, as for Francis, this decision was marked by much difficulty. If some of her relatives understood her immediately – and indeed her mother Ortolana and 2 of her sisters followed her in her choice of life – others reacted violently. Her flight from her house the night between Palm Sunday and Monday of Holy Week was adventurous. In the succeeding days she was followed into the places that Francis had prepared for her and there were attempts, even forceful ones, to make her go back on her decision.

Clare was prepared for this fight. And if Francis was her guide, as a paternal support she was also helped by Bishop Guido, as more than one clue suggests. This is how we can explain the prelate’s gesture when he offered her the palm, as if to bless her courageous decision. Without the bishop’s support it would have been hard for her to follow the plan devised by Francis that she put into action, whether her consecration in the Chapel of the Portiuncula in the presence of Francis and his friars, or in the hospitality that she received in the following days in the monastery of San Paolo delle Abbadesse and in the community of Sant’Angelo in Panzo, before her definitive arrival at San Damiano. The events of Clare’s life, like those of Francis’, manifest a particular ecclesial trait. In these events there meet an enlightened shepherd and a son and daughter of the Church who entrust themselves to his judgment. Institution and charism and interact stupendously. Love and obedience to the Church, so marked in Franciscan-Claretian spirituality, sink their roots into the beautiful experience of the Christian community of Assisi, which not only gave birth to the faith of Francis and his “little shoot,” but also accompanied them along the path of sanctity.

Francis well understood the reason for suggesting to Clare that she leave her house at the beginning of Holy Week. The whole of Christian life, and therefore the life of special consecration, are a fruit of the paschal mystery and a participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. Sadness and glory are interwoven in the liturgy of Palm Sunday like theme that will be further developed in the days that follow through the darkness of the Passion to the light of Easter. Clare, with her decision, revives this mystery. She gets the plan, so to speak, on Palm Sunday. She then enters into the drama of the Passion, giving up her hair, and with it giving up her entire self to be the bride of Christ in humility and in poverty. Francis and his companions are now her family. Soon her sisters will arrive, even from far away, but the first buds, as in the case of Francis, will sprout in Assisi. And Clare would always remain linked to her city, especially showing her commitment even in difficult circumstances, when her prayers saved Assisi from violence and devastation. She said at that time to her sisters: “Every day we have received from this city many good things, dear sisters; it would be quite wicked if we were not to assist now in this time of need” (Legenda Sanctae Clarae Virginis 23: FF 3203).

In its profound meaning, Clare’s “conversion” is a conversion to love. She will no longer have the refined habits of the Assisi nobility but the elegance of a soul that spends itself in the praise of God and gift of self. In the little space of the monastery of San Damiano, in the school of Jesus contemplated with spousal affection in the Eucharist, the features of a community ruled by love for God and by prayer, by care and by service. It is in this context of profound faith and of great humanity that Clare is formed into the sure interpreter of the Franciscan ideal, imploring that “privilege” of poverty, that is, the renunciation of possessing even communal goods, which for a long time left the sovereign pontiff himself perplexed, although in the end he recognized the heroism of her sanctity.

How can we not propose Clare, and Francis, to young people today? The time that separates us from the event of these 2 saints has not diminished their power of attraction. On the contrary, we can see their relevance in the face of the illusions and delusions that mark the contemporary condition of young people. Never before has a time inspired so much dreaming among the youth, with the thousand attractions of a life in which everything seems possible and licit. And yet, how much dissatisfaction is present, how often the pursuit of happiness, of realization ends up setting out on roads that lead to false paradises, such as those of drugs and unbridled sexuality! The current situation of difficulty in finding dignified work and of forming a unified and happy family, also adds clouds to the horizon. There is no lack, however, of young people, in our times too, who accept the invitation to give themselves to Christ and to face the journey of life with courage, responsibility and hope, even making the choice to leave everything to follow him in total service to him and to our brothers. The story of Clare, together with that of Francis, is an invitation to reflect on the meaning of existence and to seek in God the secret of true joy. It is a concrete proof that those who do the Lord’s will and confide in him not alone do not lose anything, but find the real treasure that is able to confer meaning on everything.

To you, venerable brother, to this Church that has the honor of bearing Francis and Clare, and the Poor Clares, who daily show forth the beauty and fecundity of the contemplative life, in support of the journey of the People of God, and to the Franciscans all over the world, to many young people who are seeking and in need of light, I offer this brief reflection. I hope that it will contribute to an ever new rediscovery of these 2 luminous figures in the firmament of the Church. With a particular thought for the daughters of St. Clare of the Protomonastery, of the other monasteries of Assisi and around the world, from my heart I impart to all my apostolic blessing.

From the Vatican, April 1, 2012, Palm Sunday

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On Journeying With Jesus Through the Desert

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 19, 2012.- Here is 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!

In our journey toward Easter, we have arrived at the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is a journey with Jesus through the “desert,” that is, a time in which to listen carefully to God’s voice and also to unmask the temptations that speak within us. The cross is outlined against the horizon of this desert. Jesus knows that it is the culmination of his mission: in effect, the cross of Christ is the apex of love, which bestows salvation upon us. Jesus himself tells us this in today’s Gospel: “Just as Moses raised up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be raised up, that whoever believes in him might have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). The reference is to the episode in which, during the exodus from Egypt, the Hebrews were attacked by poisonous serpents, and many died; so, God commanded Moses to fashion a serpent of bronze and place it upon a pole: if someone was bitten by a snake, looking upon the bronze serpent, he was healed (cf. Numbers 21:4-9). Jesus too will be raised up on the cross so that whoever is in danger of death because of sin, turning with faith toward him who died for us, he might be saved. “God indeed,” writes St. John, “did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

St. Augustine comments: “The doctor, in what regards him, comes to heal the sick person. If someone does not follow the doctor’s prescriptions, he is the one who harms himself. The Savior came into the world … if you do not want to be saved by him, it is you who will judge yourself” (“Tractates on the Gospel of John,” 12, 12: PL 35, 1190). Thus, if God’s merciful love is infinite, he who even sent his only Son as a ransom for our life, [then] our responsibility is likewise great: each of us, in fact, must recognize that we are sick so that we may be healed; each of us must confess his sin so that God’s forgiveness, already given upon the cross, might have an effect in our heart and our life. St. Augustine further writes: God condemns your sins: and if you also condemn them, you are united to God … And when your own deeds will begin to displease you, from that time your good works begin, as you find fault with your wicked deeds” (ibid., 13: PL 35, 1191). Sometimes man loves darkness more than light because he is attached to his sins. But it is only in opening himself to the light, and only in sincerely confessing his faults to God, that he finds true peace and truth joy. It is thus important to approach the Sacrament of Penance regularly, especially during Lent, to receive the Lord’s forgiveness and to intensify our journey of conversion.

Dear friends, tomorrow we will celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph. I thank from my heart everyone who will remember me in prayer on my name day. In particular, I ask you to pray for the apostolic voyage to Mexico and Cuba, which will begin next Friday. We entrust it to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so loved and venerated in these two countries that I am preparing to visit.

[Following the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Yesterday was the conclusion, in Marseilles, of the sixth World Water Forum and next Thursday will be observed the World Water Day, which this year underscores the fundamental link between such a precious and limited resource and food security. I hope that these initiatives contribute to guaranteeing equal, secure and adequate access to water for everyone, promoting in this way the rights to life and nourishment of every human being, and a responsible and solidary use of the goods of the earth, for the benefit of present and future generations.

[In English he said:]

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. This Sunday, we reach the mid-way point of our Lenten journey. As we continue on our way, we keep our eyes fixed upon our goal, when we will accompany our Lord on the path to Calvary, so as to rise with him to new life. May Christ, the light of the world, shine upon you and fill you with his blessings!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Have a good Sunday, everyone!

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On the Praying Presence of Mary
"Mary prays in and with the Church at every decisive moment of salvation history"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2012 .- 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, today beginning a series of reflections on prayer in the Acts of the Apostles.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

With today’s catechesis, I would like to begin to speak about prayer in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Letters of St. Paul. St. Luke, as we know, has given us one of the four Gospels, dedicated to the earthly life of Jesus; but he has also left us what has been called the first book on the history of the Church; i.e., the Acts of the Apostles. In both of these books, one of the recurring elements is prayer, from that of Jesus to that of Mary, the disciples, the women and the Christian community.

The beginning of the Church’s journey is rhythmically marked by the action of the Holy Spirit, who transforms the Apostles into witnesses of the Risen One to the shedding of their blood, and also by the rapid spread of the Word of God to the East and to the West. However, before the proclamation of the Gospel is spread abroad, Luke recounts the episode of the Ascension of the Risen One (cf. Acts 1:6-9). The Lord delivers to the disciples the program of their lives, which are devoted to evangelization. He says: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) In Jerusalem, the Apostles who were now eleven due to the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, were gathered together at home in prayer, and it is precisely in prayer that they await the gift promised by the Risen Christ, the Holy Spirit.

Within this context of expectancy -- between the Ascension and Pentecost -- St. Luke mentions for the last time Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and His brethren (verse 14). He had dedicated the beginning of His Gospel to Mary, from the announcement of the Angel to the birth and infancy of the Son of God made man. With Mary the earthly life of Jesus begins, and with Mary the Church’s first steps are also taken; in both instances, the atmosphere is one of listening to God and of recollection. Today, therefore, I would like to consider this praying presence of the Virgin in the midst of the disciples who would become the first nascent Church.

Mary quietly followed her Son’s entire journey during His public life, even to the foot of the Cross; and now she continues in silent prayer to follow along the Church’s path. At the Annunciation in the home of Nazareth, Mary welcomes the angel of God; she is attentive to his words; she welcomes them and responds to the divine plan, thereby revealing her complete availability: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (cf. Luke 1:38). Because of her inner attitude of listening, Mary is able to interpret her own history, and to humbly acknowledge that it is the Lord who is acting.

In visiting her relative Elizabeth, she breaks forth into a prayer of praise and joy, and of celebration of the divine grace that filled her heart and her life, making her the Mother of the Lord (Luke 1:46-55). Praise, thanksgiving, joy: in the canticle of the Magnificat, Mary looks not only to what God has wrought in her, but also to what he has accomplished and continually accomplishes throughout history. In a famous commentary on the Magnificat, St. Ambrose summons us to have the same spirit of prayer. He writes: “May the soul of Mary be in us to magnify the Lord; may the spirit of Mary be in us to exult in God” (Expositio Evangelii secundum Lucam 2, 26: PL 15, 1561).

Also in the Cenacle in Jerusalem, in the “upper room where [the disciples of Jesus] were staying” (cf. Acts 1:13), in an atmosphere of listening and prayer, she is present, before the doors are thrown open and they begin to announce the Risen Lord to all peoples, teaching them to observe all that Lord had commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). The stages in Mary’s journey -- from the home of Nazareth to that in Jerusalem, through the Cross where her Son entrusts to her the Apostle John -- are marked by her ability to maintain a persevering atmosphere of recollection, so that she might ponder each event in the silence of her heart before God (cf. Luke 2:19-51) and in meditation before God, also see the will of God therein and be able to accept it interiorly.

The presence of the Mother of God with the Eleven following the Ascension is not, then, a simple historical annotation regarding a thing of the past; rather, it assumes a meaning of great value, for she shares with them what is most precious: the living memory of Jesus, in prayer; and she shares this mission of Jesus: to preserve the memory of Jesus and thereby to preserve His presence.

The final mention of Mary in the two writings of St. Luke is made on the sabbath day: the day of God’s rest after Creation, the day of silence after the Death of Jesus and of expectation of His Resurrection. The tradition of remembering Holy Mary on Saturday is rooted in this event. Between the Ascension of the Risen One and the first Christian Pentecost, the Apostles and the Church gather together with Mary to await with her the gift of the Holy Spirit, without whom one cannot become a witness. She who already received Him in order that she might give birth to the incarnate Word, shares with the whole Church in awaiting the same gift, so that “Christ may be formed” (Galatians 4:19) in the heart of every believer.

If the Church does not exist without Pentecost, neither does Pentecost exist without the Mother of Jesus, since she lived in a wholly unique way what the Church experiences each day under the action of the Holy Spirit. St. Chromatius of Aquilea comments on the annotation found in the Acts of the Apostles in this way: “The Church was united in the upper room with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. One, therefore, cannot speak of the Church unless Mary, the Mother of the Lord, is present … The Church of Christ is there where the Incarnation of Christ from the Virgin is preached, and where the Apostles who are the brothers of the Lord preach, there one hears the Gospel” (Sermon 30, 1: SC 164, 135).

The Second Vatican Council wished to emphasize in a particular way the bond that is visibly manifest in Mary and the Apostles praying together, in the same place, in expectation of the Holy Spirit. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium affirms: “since it has pleased God not to manifest solemnly the mystery of the salvation of the human race before He would pour forth the Spirit promised by Christ, we see the apostles before the day of Pentecost ‘persevering with one mind in prayer with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren’ (Acts 1:14) and Mary by her prayers imploring the gift of the Spirit, who had already overshadowed her in the Annunciation” (n. 59). The privileged place of Mary is the Church, where “she is hailed as a pre-eminent and singular member of the Church, and as its type and excellent exemplar in faith and charity” (Ibid, n. 53).

Venerating the Mother of Jesus in the Church therefore means learning from her to become a community that prays: this is one of the essential marks in the first description of the Christian community as delineated in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2:42). Often, prayer is dictated by difficult situations, by personal problems that lead us to turn to the Lord for light, comfort and help. Mary invites us to expand the dimensions of prayer, to turn to God not only in times of need and not only for ourselves, but also in an undivided, persevering, faithful way, with “one heart and soul” (cf. Acts 4:32).

Dear friends, human life passes through various phases of transition, which are often difficult and demanding and which require binding choices, renunciation and sacrifice. The Mother of Jesus was placed by the Lord in the decisive moments of salvation history, and she always knew how to respond with complete availability -- the fruit of a profound bond with God that had matured through assiduous and intense prayer. Between the Friday of the Passion and the Sunday of the Resurrection, the beloved disciple, and with him the entire community of disciples, was entrusted to her (cf. John 19:26). Between Ascension and Pentecost, she is found with and in the Church in prayer (cf. Acts 1:14). As Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mary exercises her maternity until the end of history. Let us entrust every phase of our personal and ecclesial lives to her, not the least of which is our final passing. Mary teaches us the necessity of prayer, and she shows us that it is only through a constant, intimate, loving bond with her Son that we may courageously leave “our home,” ourselves, in order to reach the ends of the earth and everywhere announce the Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world. Thank you.

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now begin a new chapter on prayer in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul. Today I wish to speak of the figure of Mary, who with the Apostles in the Upper Room prayerfully awaits the gift of the Holy Spirit. In all the events of her life, from the Annunciation through the Cross to Pentecost, Mary is presented by Saint Luke as a woman of recollected prayer and meditation on the mystery of God’s saving plan in Christ. In the Upper Room, we see Mary’s privileged place in the Church, of which she is the “exemplar and outstanding model in faith and charity” (Lumen Gentium, 53). As Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mary prays in and with the Church at every decisive moment of salvation history. Let us entrust to her every moment of our own lives, and let her teach us the need for prayer, so that in loving union with her Son we may implore the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the Gospel to all the ends of the earth.

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On the Cleansing of the Temple
"Violence never serves humanity, but dehumanizes"

ROME, MARCH 12, 2012 - 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!

The Gospel of this third Sunday of Lent refers – in the account given by John – to the celebrated episode in which Jesus casts the animal merchants and money changers out of the temple of Jerusalem (cf. John 2:13-25). The event, reported by all of the evangelists, occurs around the time of the feast of Passover and leaves a tremendous impression on both the crowds and the disciples. How should we interpret this gesture of Jesus? First of all it must be noted that it does not provoke any response from the guardians of public order because it was seen as a typical prophetic action: the prophets, in fact, in the name of God, often denounced abuses and sometimes they did this with symbolic acts. If there is a problem, it is their authority. This is why the Jews asked Jesus: “What sign do you give us to do these things?” (John 2:18). Show us that you truly act in God’s name.

The casting of the merchants out of the temple has also been interpreted in a political and revolutionary way, connecting Jesus to the movement of the zealots. They were “zealous” for God’s law and ready to use violence to make it respected. In Jesus’ time they were awaiting a Messiah that would liberate Israel from Roman rule. But Jesus disappointed this hope, so much so that some disciples abandoned him and Judas Iscariot betrayed him. In reality, it is impossible to interpret Jesus as violent: violence is against the Kingdom of God, it is an instrument of the antichrist. Violence never serves humanity, but dehumanizes. Let us hear Jesus’ words as he performs this deed: “Take these things away and do not make my Father’s house into a marketplace!” And the disciples recall that in a Psalm it is written: “I am consumed by zeal for your house” (69:10). This Psalm is a plea for help in a situation of extreme danger when one is at the mercy of his enemies’ hatred: the situation that Jesus will face in the passion. The zeal for the Father and his house will lead him to the cross: his is a zeal of love that he will pay for personally, not a zeal that serves God through violence. In fact, the “sign” that Jesus will give will be precisely his death and resurrection. “Destroy this temple,” he says, “and in three days I will raise it up.” And St. John observes: “He was speaking of the temple of his body” (John 2:20-21). With Easter Jesus initiates a new form of worship, the worship performed by love, and a new temple which he is himself, the risen Christ, through whom every believer can worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23).

Dear friends, the Holy Spirit began building this temple in the womb of the Virgin Mary. By her intercession, we pray that every Christian may become a living stone in this spiritual edifice.

[In English he said:]

I greet the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, including the Neo-catechumenal Community from Bristol. In today’s Gospel Jesus foretells his resurrection and points to the temple which is his body, the Church. May our meditation on these mysteries deepen our union with the Lord and his Church. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings!

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Pope's Homily at Visit From Anglican Primate
Celebrating the birthplace of the link between Christianity in Britain and the Church of Rome

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2012 - Here is a non-official Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily from Saturday when he presided at Vespers in the Roman monastery of San Gregorio al Celio, in a ceremony marking the thousandth anniversary of the foundation of the mother house of the Camaldolese Order of St. Benedict, the Feast of the Transit of St, Gregory, and the visit to Rome of His Grace Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and primate of the Anglican Communion.

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Your Grace,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear Monks and Nuns of Camaldoli,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It gives me great joy to be here today in this Basilica of San Gregorio al Celio for Solemn Vespers on the liturgical commemoration of the death of Saint Gregory the Great. With you, dear Brothers and Sisters of the Camaldolese family, I thank God for the thousand years that have passed since the foundation of the Sacred Hermitage of Camaldoli by Saint Romuald. I am delighted to be joined on this occasion by His Grace Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. To you, my dear Brother in Christ, and to each one of you, dear monks and nuns, and to everyone present, I extend cordial greetings.

We have listened to two passages from Saint Paul. The first, taken from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, is particularly appropriate for the current liturgical season of Lent. It contains the Apostle’s exhortation to seize the favourable moment for receiving God’s grace. The favourable moment is naturally when Jesus Christ came to reveal and to bestow upon us the love that God has for us, through his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection. The "day of salvation" is the same reality that Saint Paul in another place describes as the "fullness of time", the moment when God took flesh and entered time in a completely unique way, filling it with his grace. It is for us, then, to accept this gift, which is Jesus himself: his person, his word, his Holy Spirit. Moreover, in the first reading, Saint Paul tells us about himself and his apostolate – how he strives to remain faithful to God in his ministry, so that it may be truly efficacious and may not prove instead a barrier to faith. These words make us think of Saint Gregory the Great, of the radiant witness that he offered the people of Rome and the whole Church by a blameless ministry full of zeal for the Gospel. Truly, what Saint Paul wrote of himself applies equally to Gregory: the grace of God in him has not been fruitless (cf. 1 Cor 15:10). This, indeed, is the secret for the lives of every one of us: to welcome God’s grace and to consent with all our heart and all our strength to its action. This is also the secret of true joy and profound peace.

The second reading was taken from the Letter to the Colossians. We heard those words – always so moving for their spiritual and pastoral inspiration – that the Apostle addressed to the members of that community in order to form them according to the Gospel, saying to them: "whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col 3:17). "Be perfect", the Master said to his disciples; and now the Apostle exhorts his listeners to live according to the high measure of Christian life that is holiness. He can do this because the brothers he is addressing are "chosen by God, holy and beloved". Here too, at the root of everything, is the grace of God, the gift of the call, the mystery of the encounter with the living Jesus. But this grace demands a response from those who have been baptized: it requires the commitment to be reclothed in Christ’s sentiments: tenderness, goodness, humility, meekness, magnanimity, mutual forgiveness, and above all, as a synthesis and a crown, agape, the love that God has given us through Jesus, the love that the Holy Spirit has poured into our hearts. And if we are to be reclothed in Christ, his word must dwell among us and in us, with all its richness and in abundance. In an atmosphere of constant thanksgiving, the Christian community feeds on the word and causes to rise towards God, as a song of praise, the word that he himself has given us. And every action, every gesture, every service, is accomplished within this profound relationship with God, in the interior movement of Trinitarian love that descends towards us and rises back towards God, a movement that finds its highest expression in the eucharistic sacrifice.

This word also sheds light upon the happy circumstances that bring us together today, in the name of Saint Gregory the Great. Through the faithfulness and benevolence of the Lord, the Congregation of Camaldolese monks of the Order of Saint Benedict has completed a thousand years of history, feeding daily on the word of God and the Eucharist, as their founder Saint Romuald taught them, according to the triplex bonum of solitude, community life and evangelization. Exemplary men and women of God, such as Saint Peter Damian, Gratian – author of the Decretum – Saint Bruno of Querfurt and the five brother martyrs, Rudolph I and II, Blessed Gherardesca, Blessed Giovanna da Bagno and Blessed Paolo Giustiniani; men of art and science like Brother Maurus the Cosmographer, Lorenzo Monaco, Ambrogio Traversari, Pietro Delfino and Guido Grandi; illustrious historians like the Camaldolese Annalists Giovanni Benedetto Mittarelli and Anselmo Costadoni; zealous pastors of the Church, among whom Pope Gregory XVI stands out, have revealed the horizons and the great fruitfulness of the Camaldolese tradition.

Every phase of the long history of the Camaldolese has produced faithful witnesses of the Gospel, not only in the hidden life of silence and solitude and in the common life shared with the brethren, but also in humble and generous service towards others. Particularly fruitful was the hospitality offered by Camaldolese guest-houses. In the days of Florentine humanism, the walls of Camaldoli witnessed the famousdisputationes, in which great humanists such as Marsilio Ficino and Cristoforo Landino took part. In the turbulent years of the Second World War, those same cloisters were the setting for the birth of the famous Codex of Camaldoli, one of the most significant sources of the Constitution of the Italian Republic. Nor were the years of the Second Vatican Council any less productive, for at that time individuals of high calibre emerged among the Camaldolese, enriching the Congregation and the Church and promoting new initiatives and new houses in the United States of America, Tanzania, India and Brazil. In all this activity, a guarantee of fruitfulness was the support of monks and nuns praying constantly for the new foundations from the depths of their "withdrawal from the world", lived at times to a heroic degree.

On 17 September 1993, during his meeting with the monks of the Sacred Hermitage of Camaldoli, Blessed John Paul II commented on the theme of their imminent General Chapter, "Choosing hope, choosing the future", with these words: "Choosing hope and the future in the last analysis implies choosing God ... It means choosing Christ, the hope of every human being." And he continued, "This particularly occurs in that form of life which God himself brought about in the Church, inspiring Saint Romuald to found the Benedictine family of Camaldoli, with its characteristic complementarity of hermitage and monastery, solitary life and cenobitic life in harmony with each other." Moreover, my blessed Predecessor emphasized that "choosing God also means humbly and patiently cultivating, according to God’s design, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue", always on the basis of fidelity to the original charism received from Saint Romuald and transmitted through a thousand years of varied tradition.

Encouraged by the visit from the Successor of Peter, and by his words, all of you Camaldolese monks and nuns have pursued your path, constantly seeking the right balance between the eremitical and the cenobitic spirit, between the need to dedicate yourselves totally to God in solitude, the need to support one another in communal prayer, and the need to welcome others so that they can draw upon the wellsprings of spiritual life and evaluate the events of the world with a truly Gospel-formed conscience. In this way you seek to attain that perfecta caritas that Saint Gregory the Great considered the point of arrival of every manifestation of faith, a commitment that finds confirmation in the motto of your coat of arms: "Ego Vobis, vos mihi", a synthesis of the covenant formula between God and his people, and a source of the perennial vitality of your charism.

The Monastery of San Gregorio al Celio is the Roman setting for our celebration of the millennium of Camaldoli in company with His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury who, together with us, recognizes this Monastery as the birthplace of the link between Christianity in Britain and the Church of Rome. Today’s celebration is therefore marked by a profoundly ecumenical character which, as we know, is part and parcel of the modern Camaldolese spirit. This Roman Camaldolese Monastery has developed with Canterbury and the Anglican Communion, especially since the Second Vatican Council, links that now qualify as traditional. Today, for the third time, the Bishop of Rome is meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury in the home of Saint Gregory the Great. And it is right that it should be so, because it was from this Monastery that Pope Gregory chose Augustine and his forty monks and sent them to bring the Gospel to the Angles, a little over 1,400 years ago. The constant presence of monks in this place, over such a long period, is already in itself a testimony of God’s faithfulness to his Church, which we are happy to be able to proclaim to the whole world. We hope that the sign of our presence here together in front of the holy altar, where Gregory himself celebrated the eucharistic sacrifice, will remain not only as a reminder of our fraternal encounter, but also as a stimulus for all the faithful – both Catholic and Anglican encouraging them, as they visit the glorious tombs of the holy Apostles and Martyrs in Rome, to renew their commitment to pray constantly and to work for unity, and to live fully in accordance with the "ut unum sint" that Jesus addressed to the Father.

This profound desire, that we have the joy of sharing, we entrust to the heavenly intercession of Saint Gregory the Great and Saint Romuald.

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Papal Address on Sacrament of Confession
"The new evangelization, thus, also begins in the confessional!"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2012 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Friday when he received in audience some 1,300 priests and deacons participating in an annual course regarding confession and matters of conscience, organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary.

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Dear friends,

I am very happy to meet with you on the occasion of the annual course on the internal forum organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. I address a cordial greeting to Cardinal Manuel Monteiro de Castro, the Major Penitentiary, who, for the first time in this vesture has presided over your study sessions, and I thank him for the cordial remarks he addressed to me. I also salute Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, regent of the Penitentiary, the personnel of this body and each one of you, who, with your presence, remind everyone of the importance that the Sacrament of Reconciliation has for the life of faith, demonstrating both the permanent necessity of an adequate theological, spiritual and canonical education for confessors and, above all, the constitutive bond between sacramental celebration and proclamation of the Gospel.

The Sacraments and the proclamation of the Word, in fact, must never be conceived as separate, but, on the contrary, “Jesus says that the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the goal of his mission; this proclamation, however, is not only a ‘discourse’ but at the same time includes his action; the signs and miracles that Jesus works show that the Kingdom comes as a present reality and in the end coincides with his very Person, with his gift of himself. [...] The priest represents Christ, the One sent by the Father, he continues his mission, through the ‘word’ and the ‘sacrament,’ in this totality of body and soul, of sign and word” (General Audience, May 5, 2010). Precisely this totality, that sinks its roots down into the mystery itself of the Incarnation, suggests to us that the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is itself a proclamation and thus a path that must be traveled in the work of the new evangelization. In what sense, then, is sacramental Confession a “path” for the new evangelization?

In the first place this is so because the new evangelization draws its lifeblood from the sanctity of the sons and daughters of the Church, from the daily journey of personal and communal conversion to an ever more profound conformity to Christ. And there is a close connection between sanctity and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, testified to by all of the saints of history. The true conversion of hearts, which is an opening up to the transformative and renewing action of God, it is the “engine” of every reform and it translates itself into a true evangelizing force. In Confession the contrite sinner, by the gratuitous action of divine Mercy, is justified, forgiven and sanctified, he abandons the old man and puts on the new man. Only he who has let himself be deeply renewed by divine Grace can bear, and therefore proclaim, the newness of the Gospel in himself. Blessed John Paul II, in the apostolic letter “Novo Millennio ineunte,” stated: “I am also asking for renewed pastoral courage in ensuring that the day-to-day teaching of Christian communities persuasively and effectively presents the practice of the Sacrament of Reconciliation” (n. 37). I would like to repeat this request, in the awareness that the new evangelization must make the face of Christ known to the man of our time “as ‘mysterium pietatis,’ the one in whom God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us fully with himself. It is this face of Christ that must be rediscovered through the Sacrament of Penance” (ibid.).

In an age of educational emergency, in which relativism questions the possibility itself of an education understood as a progressive introduction to the knowledge of truth, to a deep sensitivity to reality, and so as a progressive introduction to the relationship with the Truth that is God, Christians are called to proclaim vigorously the possibility of an encounter between the man of today and Jesus Christ, in which God drew so near that we could see and hear him. From this perspective the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is necessitated by a consideration of one’s concrete existential condition, helps in a singular way that “opening of the heart” that permits us to turn our gaze toward God that he might enter into our life. The certainty that he is near and that in his mercy he assists man, even when he is in sin, to heal his infirmities with the grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is always a light of hope for the world.

Dear priests and dear deacons who are preparing for the priesthood, in administering this sacrament, you are given or will be given the possibility of being instruments of an ever renewed encounter of men with God. Those who come to you precisely in their condition as sinners, will experience a profound desire in themselves: the desire to change, the request for mercy and, definitively, the desire that, through the sacrament, there occur the encounter with Christ and his embrace. You will therefore be collaborators and protagonists in as many possible “new beginnings” as there are penitents who come to you, knowing that the authentic meaning of every “newness” does not consist so much in the abandonment or the denial of the past, as in welcoming Christ and opening up to his Presence, ever new and able to transform, to enlighten all the regions of shadow and to continually open a new horizon. The new evangelization, thus, also begins in the confessional! It begins, that is, from the meeting between man’s inexhaustible plea, the sign of mystery of creation in him, and God’s mercy, the only adequate response to the human need of the infinite. If the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be this, if in it the faithful will really experience that mercy that Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, has bestowed upon us, then they themselves will become credible witnesses of that sanctity, which is the goal of the new evangelization.

All of this, dear friends, if it is true for the lay faithful, will have even greater relevance for each of us. The minister of the Sacrament of Reconciliation collaborates in the new evangelization, first renewing in himself the consciousness of being a penitent and of needing to ask sacramental forgiveness, that there be renewed that encounter with Christ, which, begun in Baptism, found a specific and definitive configuration in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. This is my wish for each one of you: that the newness of Christ always be the center and the reason of your priestly existence, that those who meet you might, through your office, proclaim with Andrew and John: “We have met the Messiah” (John 1:41). In this way, every Confession, from which every Christian will emerge renewed, will represent a step forward in the new evangelization. May Mary, Mother of Mercy, Refuge of us sinners and Star of the new evangelization accompany your journey. I thank you from my heart and gladly impart to you my apostolic benediction.

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Benedict XVI's Address to US Bishops
"There is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of bishops from the United States, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection on the occasion of your visit ad limina Apostolorum. As you know, this year I wish to reflect with you on certain aspects of the evangelization of American culture in the light of the intellectual and ethical challenges of the present moment.

In our previous meetings I acknowledged our concern about threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently, so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions. In this talk I would like to discuss another serious issue which you raised with me during my Pastoral Visit to America, namely, the contemporary crisis of marriage and the family, and, more generally, of the Christian vision of human sexuality. It is in fact increasingly evident that a weakened appreciation of the indissolubility of the marriage covenant, andthe widespread rejection of a responsible, mature sexual ethic grounded in the practice of chastity, have led to grave societal problems bearing an immense human and economic cost.

Yet, as Blessed John Paul II observed, the future of humanity passes by way of the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). Indeed, "the good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded on marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 29).

In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons, essentially rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation. Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage. Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.

In our conversations, some of you have pointed with concern to the growing difficulties encountered in communicating the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family in its integrity, and to a decrease in the number of young people who approach the sacrament of matrimony. Certainly we must acknowledge deficiencies in the catechesis of recent decades, which failed at times to communicate the rich heritage of Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament, the vocation of Christian spouses in society and in the Church, and the practice of marital chastity. This teaching, stated with increasing clarity by the post-conciliar magisterium and comprehensively presented in both the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, needs to be restored to its proper place in preaching and catechetical instruction.

On the practical level, marriage preparation programs must be carefully reviewed to ensure that there is greater concentration on their catechetical component and their presentation of the social and ecclesial responsibilities entailed by Christian marriage. In this context we cannot overlook the serious pastoral problem presented by the widespread practice of cohabitation, often by couples who seem unaware that it is gravely sinful, not to mention damaging to the stability of society. I encourage your efforts to develop clear pastoral and liturgical norms for the worthy celebration of matrimony which embody an unambiguous witness to the objective demands of Christian morality, while showing sensitivity and concern for young couples.

Here too I would express my appreciation of the pastoral programs which you are promoting in your Dioceses and, in particular, the clear and authoritative presentation of the Church’s teaching found in your 2009 Letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan. I also appreciate all that your parishes, schools and charitable agencies do daily to support families and to reach out to those in difficult marital situations, especially the divorced and separated, single parents, teenage mothers and women considering abortion, as well as children suffering the tragic effects of family breakdown.

In this great pastoral effort there is an urgent need for the entire Christian community to recover an appreciation of the virtue of chastity. The integrating and liberating function of this virtue (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338-2343) should be emphasized by a formation of the heart, which presents the Christian understanding of sexuality as a source of genuine freedom, happiness and the fulfilment of our fundamental and innate human vocation to love. It is not merely a question of presenting arguments, but of appealing to an integrated, consistent and uplifting vision of human sexuality. The richness of this vision is more sound and appealing than the permissive ideologies exalted in some quarters; these in fact constitute a powerful and destructive form of counter-catechesis for the young.

Young people need to encounter the Church’s teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing "apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom" (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that "if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great" (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).

Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.

I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.

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On the Silence of Jesus
An Attentive, Silent, Open Heart Is More Important Than Many Words

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2012 - 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 concluded his series of reflections on the prayer of Jesus by today considering His silence.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In a previous series of catecheses I spoke about the prayer of Jesus, and I would not wish to conclude this reflection without briefly pausing to consider the theme of Jesus’ silence, which is so important in our relationship with God.

In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, I made reference to the role that silence assumes in the life of Jesus, especially on Golgotha: “Here we find ourselves before the "word of the cross" (1 Corinthians 1:18). The word is muted; it becomes mortal silence, for it has "spoken" exhaustively, holding back nothing of what it had to tell us (n. 12). Faced with this silence of the cross, St. Maximus the Confessor places upon the lips of the Mother of God this touching phrase: "Wordless is the Word of the Father, who made every creature which speaks; lifeless are the eyes of the one at whose word and whose nod all living things move". (The Life of Mary, no. 89: Marian texts of the first millennium, 2, Rome 1989, p. 253).

The cross of Christ not only portrays the silence of Jesus as His final word to the Father; it also reveals that God speaks through the silence: “The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word. Hanging from the wood of the cross, he lamented the suffering caused by that silence: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46). Advancing in obedience to his very last breath, in the obscurity of death, Jesus called upon the Father. He commended himself to him at the moment of passage, through death, to eternal life: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46)” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 21). The experience of Jesus on the cross speaks deeply of the situation of the man who prays and of the culmination of prayer: after having heard and acknowledged God’s Word, we must also measure ourselves by God’s silence, which is an important expression of the same divine Word.

The interplay of word and silence that marks the prayer of Jesus during his entire earthly life -- especially on the cross -- also touches our own lives of prayer, in two ways. The first concerns our welcoming of God’s Word. Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order that this word may be heard. And this is especially difficult in our own day. In fact, ours is not an age which fosters recollection; indeed, at times one has the impression that people have a fear of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the barrage of words and images that mark and fill our days. For this reason, in the already mentioned Exhortation Verbum Domini, I recalled the necessity of our being educated in the value of silence: “Rediscovering the centrality of God's word in the life of the Church also means rediscovering a sense of recollection and inner repose. The great patristic tradition teaches us that the mysteries of Christ all involve silence. Only in silence can the word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence” (n. 21).

This principle – that without silence we neither hear nor listen nor receive the word – applies above all to personal prayer, but it also pertains to our liturgies: in order to facilitate an authentic listening, they must also be rich in moments of silence and unspoken receptivity. St. Augustine’s observation forever holds true: Verbo crescente, verba deficient -- “When the Word of God increases, the words of men fail” (cf. Sermon 288; 5: PL 38, 1307; Sermon 120,2: PL 38,677). The Gospels often present Jesus -- especially at times of crucial decisions -- withdrawing alone to a place set apart from the crowds and from his own disciples, in order to pray in the silence and to abide in his filial relationship with God. Silence is capable of excavating an interior space in our inmost depths so that God may abide there, so that his Word may remain in us, so that love for him may be rooted in our minds and in our hearts and animate our lives. The first way, then: to learn silence, [to learn] the openness to listening that opens us to the other, to the Word of God.

However, there is a second important element in the relation of silence with prayer. For in fact there exists not only our silence, which disposes us to listening to God’s Word; often in our prayer, we find ourselves before the silence of God; we experience a sense of abandonment; it seems to us that God is not listening and that He does not respond. But this silence of God - as Jesus also experienced - is not a sign of His absence. The Christian knows well that the Lord is present and that he is listening, even in the darkness of suffering, rejection and solitude. Jesus reassures the disciples and each one of us that God knows well our needs at every moment of life. He teaches the disciples: “In praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8): an attentive, silent, open heart is more important than many words.

God knows us intimately, more deeply than we know ourselves, and He loves us: and knowing this should suffice. In the Bible, Job’s experience is particularly significant in this regard. This man quickly loses everything: family, wealth, friends, health; it seems that God’s attitude towards him is precisely one of abandonment, of total silence. And yet Job, in his relationship with God, speaks with God, cries out to God; in his prayer, despite everything, he preserves his faith intact and, in the end, he discovers the value of his experience and of God’s silence. And thus, in the end, turning to his Creator, he is able to conclude: “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee” (Job 42:5): nearly all of us know God only through hearsay, and the more we are open to His silence and to our silence, the more we begin to know Him truly. This supreme confidence, which opens way to a profound encounter with God, matures in silence. St Francis Severio prayed, saying to the Lord: I love you, not because you can give me heaven or condemn me to hell, but because you are my God. I love You, because You are You.

As we approach the conclusion of our reflections on the prayer of Jesus, a number of the teachings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church come to mind: “The drama of prayer is fully revealed to us in the Word who became flesh and dwells among us. To seek to understand his prayer through what his witnesses proclaim to us in the Gospel is to approach the holy Lord Jesus as Moses approached the burning bush: first to contemplate him in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray in order to know how he hears our prayer” (n. 2598).

And how does Jesus teach us to pray? In the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we find a clear answer: “Jesus teaches us to pray not only with the Our Father” -- certainly the central act in his teaching on how we are to pray -- “but also when [He himself] prays. In this way he teaches us, in addition to the content, the dispositions necessary for every true prayer: purity of heart that seeks the Kingdom and forgives one’s enemies, bold and filial faith that goes beyond what we feel and understand, and watchfulness that protects the disciple from temptation” (n. 544).

In surveying the Gospels, we saw how the Lord is the interlocutor, friend, witness and teacher of our prayer. In Jesus the newness of our dialogue with God is revealed: filial prayer, which the Father awaits from His children. And we learn from Jesus how constant prayer helps us to interpret our lives, to make decisions, to recognize and accept our vocation, to discover the talents that God had given us, to daily fulfill His Will, which is the only path to attaining fulfillment in our lives.

The prayer of Jesus indicates to us who are often preoccupied by the efficiency of our work and the concrete results we achieve that we need to stop and to experience moments of intimacy with God, “detaching ourselves” from the daily din in order to listen, to go to the “root” that supports and nourishes life. One of the most beautiful moments in the prayer of Jesus is precisely the moment when he -- in order to face the disease, distress and limitations of his interlocutors -- turns to his Father in prayer, thus teaching those around him where the source of hope and salvation is to be sought.

I already recalled the moving example of Jesus’ prayer at the tomb of Lazarus. The Evangelist John recounts: “So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 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.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” (John 11:41-43).

But Jesus reaches the heights of the depth of his prayer to the Father during his Passion and Death, when he pronounces his supreme “yes” to the plan of God and reveals how the human will finds its fulfillment precisely in adhering fully to the divine will, rather than the opposite. In Jesus’ prayer, in his cry to the Father on the Cross, “all the troubles, for all time, of humanity enslaved by sin and death, all the petitions and intercessions of salvation history are summed up … Here the Father accepts them and, beyond all hope, answers them beyond all hope, answers them by raising his Son. Thus is fulfilled and brought to completion the drama of prayer in the economy of creation and salvation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2606).

Dear brothers and sisters, with trust let us ask the Lord to enable to live out the journey of our filial prayer, by learning day by day from the Only Begotten Son made man for us how to turn to God. The words of St. Paul on the Christian life apply also to our own prayer: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In concluding this series of catecheses on the prayer of Jesus, I would like to speak of the importance of silence in our relationship with God. In Christ’s own life and prayer, and especially in his experience of the Cross, we see a constant interplay of word and silence. Jesus’ mortal silence on the Cross is his final word to the Father, his supreme prayer. To hear God’s word requires the cultivation of outward and inward silence, so that his voice can resound within our hearts and shape our lives. But Jesus teaches us that God also speaks to us, especially at times of difficulty, through his silence, which invites us to deeper faith and trust in his promises. Jesus is our great teacher of prayer; from his prayer we learn to speak with confidence to our heavenly Father as his beloved sons and daughters. In this filial dialogue we are also taught to recognize God’s many gifts and to obey his will, which gives meaning and direction to our lives.

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On Preparing for the Passion
"We all have need of interior light to overcome life's trials"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2012 - 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, the second of Lent, is the Sunday of the Transfiguration of Christ. In fact, the Lenten itinerary, after having invited us to follow Jesus in the desert, to face and conquer the temptations with him, proposes that we climb the “mountain” of prayer, to contemplate the glorious light of God upon his human face. The episode of Christ’s transfiguration is testified to in a unified way by the evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke. There are two essential elements: first of all, Jesus ascends a high mountain with his disciples Peter, James and John and there “he was transfigured before them" (Mark 9:2), his face and his vesture radiate a glistening light while next to him appeared Moses and Elijah; secondly, a cloud descended upon the top of the mountain and from it came a voice that said: “This is my Son, my beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). So, the light and the voice: the divine light that shone upon Jesus’ face, and the voice of the heavenly Father that witnesses to him and commands that he be heard.

The mystery of the Transfiguration must not be detached from the context of the journey that Jesus is undertaking. He is now decisively set on the accomplishment of his mission, knowing full well that to reach the resurrection he must pass through the passion and death on the cross. He spoke about this openly with the disciples, who did not understand it however; indeed, they rejected this prospect, because they did not think as God thinks but as men do (cf. Mark 16:23). This is why Jesus takes three of them with him up the mountain and reveals his divine glory, the splendor of Truth and Love. Jesus wants this light to illumine their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of his passion and death, when the scandal of the cross will be too much for them. God is light, and Jesus wants to provide his most intimate friends with an experience of this light that lives in him. Thus, after this event, he will be an interior light in them, able to protect them from the assaults of darkness. Even in the darkest night Jesus is the lamp that never goes out. St. Augustine, summing up this mystery with a very beautiful expression, says: “That which is for the eyes of our body the sun that we see, [Christ] is for the eyes of the heart” (Sermo 78, 2: PL 38, 490).

Dear brothers and sisters, we all have need of interior light to overcome life’s trials. This light comes from God, and it is Christ who bestows it, he, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity (cf. Colossians 2:9). Let us climb the mountain of prayer together with Jesus and, contemplating his countenance full of love and truth, let ourselves be filled interiorly by his light. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, our guide in the journey of faith, to help us to live this experience in the time of Lent, finding every day some moment for silent prayer and for listening to the Word of God.

[Following the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer, especially students from the United States of America. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured, and shows his disciples that his Passion will lead to the Resurrection. By God’s grace, may our Lenten observance lead to a renewal of his radiance within us. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

[And concluding in Italian he said:]

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

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Benedict XVI's Homily From Visit to Roman Parish
"We are in the heart of God, this is our great confidence"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday when he visited the Roman parish of San Giovanni Battista de La Salle.

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Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of San Giovanni Battista de La Salle!

Before all else I would like to say thank you with my whole heart for this very cordial and warm welcome. I thank the good pastor for his kind words. And thank you for this family spirit that I find here. We are truly family in God and the fact that you see the Pope as a father too is for me something beautiful and encouraging! But we must also see that the Pope is not the ultimate instance [of fatherhood]: the ultimate instance is the Lord and we look to the Lord to grasp, to understand – insofar as it is possible – something of the message of this second Sunday of Lent.

Today’s liturgy prepares us both for the mystery of the Passion – we heard this in the first reading – and for the joy of the Resurrection.

The first reading points us to the episode in which God tests Abraham (cf. Genesis 22:1-8). He had one son, Isaac, born to him in his old age. He was the child promised to Abraham, the son who was also supposed to bring salvation to the nations. But one day Abraham received the command to offer him up as a sacrifice. The elderly patriarch found himself faced with a prospect that for him, a father, was certainly the greatest he could imagine. Nevertheless, he does not hesitate one moment and, after having made the necessary preparations, departs with Isaac for the place to which he had been ordered to travel. And we can imagine this journey to the top of the mountain, what must have been going on in his heart and in the heart of his son. He built the altar, gathered wood and, having bound the boy, raised the knife to kill him. Abraham puts himself totally in God’s hands, ready even to sacrifice his own son and, with his son, the future, because without his son the promise of the land was pointless, it is nothing. And sacrificing his son, he sacrifices himself, his whole future, the whole promise. It is truly a most radical act of faith. In this very moment he is stopped by an order from on high: God does not want death but life, the true sacrifice does not give death, but it is life, and Abraham’s obedience became the source of a great blessing from thence forward, even to today. Let us move on but we can meditate on this mystery.

In the second reading St. Paul says that God himself made a sacrifice: he gave us his own Son, he gave him to us upon the cross to conquer sin and death, to conquer the devil and to overcome all of the wickedness that exists in the world. And this extraordinary mercy of God arouses the admiration of the Apostle and a profound confidence in the power of God’s love for us; in fact St. Paul writes: “Will [God], who did not spare his only Son but delivered him up for us, not give us everything together with him?” (Romans 8:32). If God gives himself in his Son, he gives us everything. And Paul insists on the power of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ against every other power that can infect our life. Paul asks himself: “Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?” (8:33-34). We are in the heart of God, this is our great confidence. This creates love and in love we go to God. If God gave his own Son for us all, then no one can accuse us, no one can condemn us, no one can separate us from his immense love. Precisely the supreme sacrifice of death upon the cross, that the Son of God accepted and willingly chose, becomes the source of our justification, of our salvation. And let us remember that in the Holy Eucharist this act of the Lord is ever present, it remains eternally in his heart, and this act of his heart draws us, it unites us with itself.

Finally, the Gospel tells us about the episode of the transfiguration (cf. Mark 9:2-10): Jesus manifests himself in his glory before the sacrifice of the cross and God the Father proclaims him his favored Son, his beloved, and invites the disciples to listen to him. Jesus climbs a high mountain and brings three disciples with him – Peter, James and John – who will be particularly close to him in his extreme agony on another mountain, the Mount of Olives. Not long ago Jesus had announced his passion and Peter was not able to understand why the Lord, the Son of God, spoke of suffering, of rejection, of death, of the cross, indeed, he was decisively opposed to this prospect. Now Jesus takes the three disciples with him to help them understand that the path to glory, the path of the luminous love that conquers the darkness, passes through the total gift of self, passes through the scandal of the cross. And the Lord must continually take us with him too, at least to help us begin to see that this is the necessary way. The transfiguration is an anticipatory moment of light that helps us as well to look upon Jesus’ passion with the eyes of faith. It is certainly a mystery of suffering, but it is also the “blessed passion” because it is – in its core – a mystery of God’s extraordinary love; it is the definitive exodus that opens for us the gates to freedom and the newness of the Resurrection, of salvation from evil. We need this for our daily journey, which is often marked by the darkness of evil!

Dear brothers and sisters! As I already said, I am very happy to be with you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day. I cordially greet the cardinal vicar, the auxiliary bishop of the sector, your pastor, Don Giampaolo Perugini, whom I thank, once more, for the kind words that he addressed to me on your behalf and also for the nice presents you have given me. I greet the parochial vicars. And I greet the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Heart of Mary Immaculate, who have been present here for so many years and are especially responsible for the life of this parish, which was housed in their convent for the first three years of its life. I also extend my greetings to the Brothers of the Christian Schools, naturally affectionate toward this parish that bears the name of their founder. Furthermore, I greet those who are active in the Parish: I am speaking of the catechists, the members of the associations and movements, and the various parish groups. I would finally like to acknowledge all of the residents of this quarter, particularly the elderly, the sick, persons who are alone and those in difficulty.

Coming among you today I observed the particular position of this church, placed in the highest point of the quarter with a narrow belfry, almost like a finger or arrow pointed toward heaven. I think that this is an important indication: similar to the three apostles of the Gospel, we too need to climb the mountain of the transfiguration to receive God’s light so that his countenance might shine upon ours. And it is in personal and communal prayer that we encounter the Lord, not as an idea or a moral proposal, but as a person who wants to enter into relationship with us, who wants to become a friend and wants to renew our life to make it like his. And this encounter is not only a personal event; this church of yours situated in the highest point of the quarter, reminds you that the Gospel must be communicated, announced to all. We do not await others to bring different messages, which do not lead to true life; you yourselves must become Christ’s missionaries to your brothers where they live, work, study or just pass their free time. I know of the many significant efforts of evangelization that you are undertaking, especially through the oratory called “Stella polare” (polar star) – I am also happy to wear this shirt [a t-shirt of the oratory] – where competent and generous volunteers, with the involvement of families, promote gatherings of young people through sports activities, without however neglecting cultural formation, through art and music, and above all provide formation for having a relationship with God, Christian values and an ever more conscious participation in the Sunday eucharistic celebration.

I am glad that the sense of belonging to the parish community has grown more and more and solidified over the course of the years. Faith must be lived together and the parish is a place in which one learns how to live his faith within the “we” of the Church. And I would like to encourage you so that the shared responsibility for pastoral work grows, in the perspective of an authentic communion among all the groups present, which are called to walk together, to live complementarity in diversity, to witness to the “we” of the Church, of the family of God. I know of the work you put into preparing young people for the sacraments of the Christian life. May the upcoming “Year of Faith” be a propitious occasion also for this parish to cause the experience of catechesis in the great truths of the Christian faith to grow and solidify in a way that allows the whole quarter to know and reflect upon the Credo of the Church, and to overcome that “religious illiteracy,” which is one of greatest problems of our day.

Dear friends! Yours is a young community – you see it – made up of young families, and –thanks be to God – there are so many children and young people who belong to it. In this connection I would like to recall the task of the family and of the whole Christian community to educate in the faith, helped in this by the theme of the current pastoral year, by the pastoral directives of the Italian Bishops Conference and without forgetting the always relevant teaching of St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle. In particular, dear families, you are the environment in which the first steps of faith are taken; may you be the community in which one learns to know and love the Lord always, the community in which we enrich each other to live a truly adult faith.

I would like, finally, to remind all of you of the importance and the centrality of the Eucharist in personal and communal life. May the Holy Mass be at the center of your Sunday, which must be rediscovered and lived as the day of God and the community, a day to praise and celebrate him who died and rose for our salvation, a day to live together in the joy of an open community ready to welcome every person who is alone or in difficulty. Gathered around the Eucharist, in fact, we sense more easily that the mission of every Christian community is that of bringing the message of God’s love to all men. This is why it is important that the Eucharist be always at the heart of the life of the faithful, as it is today.

Dear brothers and sisters! From Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Lenten journey leads us to Golgotha, the mountain of supreme sacrifice of love of the one Priest of the new and eternal covenant. In that sacrifice is contained the greatest force for transformation in human history. Taking upon himself every consequence of evil and sin, Jesus rose on the third day as conqueror of death and the Evil One. Lent prepares us to personally participate in this great mystery of faith, which we will celebrate in the Triduum of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Let us entrust our Lenten journey and that of the whole Church to the Virgin Mary. May she who followed her Son Jesus to the cross, help us to be faithful disciples of Christ, mature Christians, to be able to participate together with her in the fullness of Easter joy. Amen!

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On Temptation
"It Is With Patience and With True Humility That We Become Stronger Than Every Enemy"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2012 - 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!

On this Sunday of Lent we meet Jesus who, after having received baptism in the Jordan River from John the Baptist (cf. Mark 1:9), undergoes temptation in the desert (cf. Mark 1:12-13). St. Mark's narration is concise, lacking the details that we read in the other two gospels of Matthew and Luke. The desert of which he speaks has different meanings. It can indicate a condition of abandonment and solitude, the "place" of man's weakness where there are no footholds or certainties, where temptation is the strongest. But it can also mean a place of refuge and rest, as it was for the people of Israel, who had escaped from Egyptian slavery, where one can experience God's presence in a special way. Jesus "remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan" (Mark 1:13). St. Leo the Great comments that "the Lord wished to face the tempter's attack to defend us with his help and to instruct us with his example" (Tractatus XXXIX, 3 De ieiunio quadragesimae: CCL 138/A, Turnholti 1973, 214-215).

What can this episode teach us? As we read in the book "The Imitation of Christ," "as long as he lives man is never entirely free from temptation ... but it is with patience and with true humility that we become stronger than every enemy" (Liber I, c. XIII, Città del Vaticano 1982, 37), the patience and humility of following the Lord every day, learning to build our life not apart from him or as if he did not exist, but in him and with him, because he is the font of true life. The temptation to remove God, to create order in ourselves and the world by ourselves, counting on our own resources, is always present in human history.

Jesus proclaims that "the time is accomplished and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15), announces that in him something new is happening: God addressed man in an unexpected way, with a unique and concrete nearness, full of love; God becomes incarnate and enters into the world of man to take sin upon himself, to conquer evil and being man and the world back to God. But this announcement is accompanied by the request to correspond to a great gift. Jesus, in fact, adds: "convert and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15); it is the invitation to have faith in God and every day to convert our life to his will, orienting every action and thought of ours to the good. The time of Lent is the propitious moment to renew and strengthen our relationship with God, through daily prayer, gestures of penance, works of fraternal charity.

We supplicate Mary Most Holy with fervor that she accompany us on our Lenten path with her protection and help us to impress in our heart and in our life the words of Jesus Christ, to convert ourselves to him. I also entrust to your prayers the week of retreat that I will be begin this evening with my collaborators in the Roman Curia.

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

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present for this moment of prayer. In these first days of Lent, I invite you to embrace the spirit of this holy season, through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. As we do so, may the Lord accompany us, so that, at the end of Lent, we may worthily celebrate his victory on the cross. God bless all of you abundantly!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good Lent.

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Pope's Address to Life Academy on Infertility
"Where Science Cannot Find an Answer, the Answer That Brings Light Comes From Christ"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when he received some 200 scientists and members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is currently celebrating its 18th general assembly on the theme: "The diagnosis and treatment of infertility."

* * *

Lord Cardinals,

venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to meet with you on the occasion of the XVIII General Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. I salute and thank all of you for your generous service in defense and on behalf of life, in particular, Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, for the words that you spoke to me also on your behalf. The shape that you have given your work manifests that confidence that the Church has always placed in the possibility of human reason and in a scientific undertaking rigorously conducted, which always keep the moral aspect in view. The topic that you chose this year, "Diagnosis and Therapy of Infertility," besides being humanly and socially relevant, possesses a special scientific value and expresses the concrete possibility of a fruitful dialogue between ethics and biomedical research. With respect to the problem of a couple's infertility, in fact, you have chosen attentively to recall and to consider the moral dimension, researching paths toward a correct diagnostic evaluation and a therapy that corrects the causes of infertility. This approach is guided not only by the desire to give the couple a child but to restore to the couple their fertility and all of the dignity of being responsible for their procreative choices, of working together with God in the generation of a new human being. The pursuit of a diagnosis and of a therapy represents the most scientifically correct approach to the question of infertility, but also that which is most respectful of the integral humanity of the subjects involved. In fact, the union of the man and woman in that community of life that is matrimony constitutes the only dignified "place" in which a new human being, which is always a gift, may be called into existence.

Thus, it is my desire to encourage intellectual honesty in your work, which is the expression of a science that keeps the spirit of the pursuit of truth alive, in the service of man's authentic good, and that avoids the danger of being a merely functional practice. The human and Christian dignity of procreation, in fact, does not consist in a "product," but in its connection with the conjugal act, the expression of the love of the husband and wife, of their union that is not only biological but also spiritual. The instruction "Donum vitae" reminds us in this regard, that by its "intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman" (n. 126). The legitimate parental aspirations of an infertile couple must, for this reason, with the help of science, find a response that fully respects their dignity as persons and spouses. The humility and precision with which you deal with these questions -- seen as obsolete by some of your colleagues fascinated by artificial fertility technologies -- merits encouragement and support. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the encyclical "Fides et Ratio," I recalled how "easy gain or, worse still, the arrogance of taking the Creator's place, sometimes play a decisive role. This is a form of the hubris of reason, which can take on dangerous characteristics for humanity itself" (Discorso ai Partecipanti al Congresso Internazionale promosso dalla Pontificia Università Lateranense, October 2008: AAS 100 [2008], 788-789). Indeed, scientism and the logic of profit seem today to dominate the field of infertility and human procreation to the point of limiting other areas of research.

The Church pays much attention to the suffering of infertile couples, it cares for them and, because of this, encourages medical research. The science, nevertheless, is not always able to respond to the desires of many couples. I would like again to remind the spouses who experience infertility that their vocation to marriage is not frustrated because of this. The husband and wife, because of their baptismal and matrimonial vocations themselves, are always called to work together with God in creating a new humanity. The vocation to love, in fact, is a vocation to the gift of self and this is a possibility that cannot be impeded by any organic condition. Therefore, where science cannot find an answer, the answer that brings light comes from Christ.

I would like to encourage all of who have gathered here for these study days and who work in a medical and scientific context where the dimension of truth is often obscured: Continue to follow the path that you have taken of a science that is intellectually honest and that always ardently seeks the good of man. In your intellectual pursuits do not disdain dialogue with the faith. I address to you the anxious appeal of the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est": "if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness [...] Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly" (n. 28). On the other hand, it is precisely the cultural matrix created by Christianity -- rooted in the affirmation of the existence of Truth and of the intelligibility of the real in the light of the Supreme Truth -- that made the development of modern scientific reason possible in the Europe of the Middle Ages, a knowledge that in the previous cultures had not progressed beyond embryonic form.

Illustrious scientists and all of you members of the Academy committed as you are to the promotion of life and the dignity of the human person, keep always in view also the fundamental cultural role that you play in society and the influence that you have in forming public opinion. My predecessor, Blessed John Paul II observed that scientists, "precisely because they know more, are called to serve more" (Discorso alla Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze, November 11, 2002: AAS 95 [2003], 206). People trust you, who serve life, they trust in your commitment to helping those who are in need of comfort and hope. Never give into the temptation of reducing the good of persons to a mere technical problem! The indifference of conscience before the true and the good represents a dangerous threat to authentic scientific progress.

I would like to conclude renewing the greeting that the Second Vatican Council addressed to men of thought and science: "Happy are those who, possessing the truth, continue to seek it, to renew it, more deeply to understand it, to give it to others" (Messaggio agli uomini di pensiero e di scienza, 8 dicembre 1965: AAS 58 [1966], 12). It is with these wishes that I impart to all of you who are here and to your loved ones the Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope's Address on Receiving Peter's Pence
"Charitable Service Becomes a Privileged Form of Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the "Circolo di San Pietro," who gave him, as they traditionally do every year, the "Peter's Pence" collection raised annually in parishes and religious institutes of the Diocese of Rome.

* * *

Dear Members of St. Peter's Circle!

I am happy to receive you in this meeting which is taking place close to the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, a circumstance that offers you the occasion to manifest the particular fidelity to the Apostolic See that has always distinguished your meritorious Circle. I greet you all with heartfelt cordiality. I greet the General President, Duke Leopold Torlonia, thanking him for the affectionate and devoted words that he has addressed to me, interpreting all your sentiments, and I greet the ecclesiastical Assistant.

We have just begun our Lenten journey and, as I reminded in my recent Message (cf. L'Osservatore Romano, February 8, 2012, p. 8), this liturgical season invites us to reflect on the heart of the Christian life: charity. Lent is a propitious time so that, with the help of the Word of God and of the Sacraments, we are renewed in faith and love, both at the personal as well as the community level. It is a journey marked by prayer and sharing, by silence and fasting, in the hope of living the paschal joy. The Letter to the Hebrews exhorts with these words: "let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24).

Dear friends, today as yesterday, the testimony of faith touches men's hearts in a particular way; the New Evangelization, especially in a cosmopolitan city like Rome, requires great openness of spirit and wise availability to all. Well placed in this connection is the network of welfare interventions that you carry out every day in favor of all those who are in need. I am pleased to recall the generous work you do in the kitchens, in the night shelter, in the Family House, in the multi-functional Center, as well as your silent witness, that much more eloquent, however, as you give support to the sick and their relatives in the Fondazione Roma Hospice, not forgetting your missionary commitment in Laos and long-distance adoptions.

We know that the authenticity of our fidelity to the Gospel is also verified on the basis of the care and concrete solicitude that we manifest toward our neighbor, especially toward the weakest and marginalized. Care of the other entails desiring the good for him, under all aspects: physical, moral and spiritual. Even if contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil, it is necessary to confirm forcefully that good exists and conquers. Hence responsibility toward one's neighbor means to wish and to do good to the other, desiring that he open himself to the logic of the good; to be interested in one's brother means to open one's eyes to his needs, overcoming the hardness of heart that renders one blind to the sufferings of others. In this way charitable service becomes a privileged form of evangelization, in the light of the teaching of Jesus, who will hold as if done to himself whatever we have done for our brothers, especially the one among them who is little and neglected (cf. Matthew 25:40). We must harmonize our heart with the heart of Christ, so that the loving support given to the other is translated into participation and conscious sharing of his sufferings and hopes, thus rendering visible on one hand the infinite mercy of God toward every man, which shines on the face of Christ, and on the other our faith in Him. The encounter with the other and the opening of our heart to his need are occasions of salvation and blessedness.

Dear members of Saint Peter's Circle, as every year you have come today to give me the offering for the Pope's charity, which you collected in the parishes of Rome. It represents a concrete help offered to the Successor of Peter, so that he can respond to the innumerable requests that come to him from all parts of the world, especially from poor countries. My heartfelt thanks for all the activity you carry out generously and with a spirit of sacrifice, which is born from your faith, from your relationship with the Lord cultivated every day. Faith, charity and witness continue to be the guidelines of your apostolate. And, then, how can we not remember your presence during the liturgical celebrations in St. Peter's Basilica? It turns that much more to your honor, in as much as with it you manifest the constant dedication and devoted fidelity that unite you to the See of the Apostle Peter. May the Lord give you merit and fill your Circle with blessings; may he help each one of you to realize your Christian vocation in the family, in your work and within your Association.

Dear friends, in renewing my appreciation for the service you render the Church, I entrust you, together with your families, to the maternal help of the Virgin Mary Salus Populi Romani and of the Saints your Protectors. On my part, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer for you, for all who work by your side in the different initiatives and for those you meet in your daily apostolate, while I impart to all with affection a special Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope's Ash Wednesday Homily
"God's Unthinkable Nearness ... Opens the Passage to the Resurrection"

ROME, FEB. 23, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Wednesday evening, when he celebrated Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina. He had just presided over the traditional penitential procession from the church of St. Anselm on Rome's Aventine Hill to the basilica.

* * *

Venerable Brothers,

Dear brothers and sisters!

With this day of penance and fasting -- Ash Wednesday -- we begin a new journey toward the Easter of Resurrection: the journey of Lent. I would like to pause briefly to reflect on the liturgical sign of ashes, a material sign, an element of nature, which becomes a sacred symbol in the liturgy, a very important symbol on this day in which we start our Lenten journey. Historically, in the Jewish culture, the practice of sprinkling ashes upon one's head as a sign of penance was common and was often combined with the wearing of sackcloth or rags. For us Christians, however, this is the only time that we use ashes but it has a special ritual and spiritual relevance.

First of all, ashes are one of those material signs that bring the cosmos into the liturgy. The principal signs are of course those of the sacraments: water, oil, bread and wine, which become true and proper sacramental material through which the grace of Christ reaches us. But in the case of ashes there is a non-sacramental sign that is, nonetheless, always connected to the prayer and sanctification of the Christian people: a particular blessing of the ashes -- which we will perform shortly -- is, in fact, specified before they are applied to the person's forehead. There are two possible formulas for this blessing. In the first the ashes are defined as an "austere symbol"; in the second a blessing is requested directly upon them and reference is made to the text of the Book of Genesis, which may also accompany the imposition of the ashes: "Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return" (cf. Genesis 3:19).

Let us pause a moment over this passage of Genesis. It concludes the judgment pronounced by God after original sin: God curses the serpent, who made the man and woman fall into sin; then he punishes the woman, announcing to her the pains of birth and an unbalanced relationship with her husband; finally he punishes the man, he tells him of the toil of labor and curses the soil. "May the soil be cursed because of you" (Genesis 3:17), because of your sin. So, the man and the woman are not directly cursed as, however, the serpent is. Still because of Adam's sin the soil is cursed, the soil from which Adam was formed. Let us re-read the magnificent account of the creation of man from the earth: "Then the Lord God made the man from the dust of the soil and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and man became a living being. Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there put the man he had made" (Genesis 2:7-8); thus the words of the Book of Genesis.

This is why the sign of ashes brings us back to the vast canvas depicting creation, in which it is said that the human being is a singular unity of matter and divine breath, as suggested by the image of the dust formed by God and the divine breath breathed into the nostrils of the new creature. We can see how in the account of Genesis the symbol of dust undergoes a negative transformation because of sin. While before the fall the soil is a potentiality that is completely good, fed by a spring of water (Genesis 2:6) and able, by God's handiwork, to bring forth "every sort of tree, fair to behold and pleasant to eat of" (Genesis 2:9), after the fall and the consequent divine malediction, it produces "thorns and thistles" and only through "toil" and "sweat of the brow" gives up its fruits to man (cf. Genesis 3:17-18). The dust of the earth no longer reminds us only of God's creative gesture, wholly open to life, but becomes a sign of an inescapable destiny of death: "You are dust and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).

It is evident in the biblical text that the earth participates in man's fate. Speaking of this in one of his homilies, St. John Chrysostom says: "See how after his disobedience everything is imposed upon [man] in a way contrary to his previous manner of life" (Homilies on Genesis 17, 9: PG 53, 146). This cursing of the soil has a medicinal purpose for man, who must from the earth's "resistance" be helped to keep himself within his limits and recognize his nature (cf. ibid.). Another ancient commentary expresses itself in this way in a beautiful summary: "Adam was made pure by God for his service. All of the creatures were given to him to serve him. But when evil reached him and conversed with him, he heard it by his external sense. Then it penetrated into his heart and took over his whole being. When he was thus captured, the creation that had helped and served him, was captured with him" (Pseudo-Macarius, Homilies 11, 5: PG 34, 547).

We said a little bit ago, quoting St. John Chrysostom, that the cursing of the soil has a "medicinal" purpose. That means that God's intention, which is always beneficent, is deeper than malediction. The latter, in fact, is not due to God but to sin, but God cannot fail to do it because he respects man's freedom and its consequences, even the negative ones. Therefore, in the punishment, and also in the malediction of the soil, there remains a good intention that comes from God. When he says to man, "You are dust and to dust you shall return!" together with the just punishment he also intends to announce a path of salvation, which will travel through the earth, through that "dust," that "flesh" that will be assumed by the Word.

It is in accord with this salvific perspective that the verse of Genesis is taken up by the Ash Wednesday liturgy: as an invitation to penance, to humility and to an awareness of our mortal condition, but not to end up in desperation, but rather to welcome, precisely in this mortality of ours, God's unthinkable nearness, which, beyond death, opens the passage to the resurrection, to paradise finally rediscovered. In this sense we are given orientation by a text of Origen, who says: "That which was at first flesh, of the earth, a man of dust (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:47), and which was dissolved through death and again made dust and ashes -- in fact it is written 'You are dust and to dust you shall return' -- was raised up once more from the earth. Afterward, by the merits of the soul that inhabits the body, the person advances toward the glory of a spiritual body" (On the Principles, 3, 6, 5: Sch, 268, 248).

The "merits of the soul," of which Origen speaks, are necessary; but Christ's merits are fundamental, the efficaciousness of his Paschal Mystery. St. Paul offered us a summary formulation in the second Letter to the Corinthians, today's second reading: "He who did not know sin God made sin for our benefit, that in him we might become the justice of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). The possibility for us of divine pardon depends essentially on the fact that God himself, in the person of his Son, wanted to share our condition, but not the corruption of sin. And the Father raised him with the power of his Holy Spirit; and Jesus, the new Adam, became, as St. Paul says, "life-giving spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45), the first fruits of the new creation. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead can transform our hearts from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (cf. Ezekiel 36:26).

We invoked him a moment ago with the Psalm "Miserere": "Create in me, O God, a pure heart, / renew in me a firm spirit. / Do not banish me from your presence / and do not deprive me of your holy spirit" (Psalm 50:12-13). That God who banished our first parents from Eden, sent his Son to our earth devastated by sin, he did not spare him, that we, prodigal sons, might return, contrite and redeemed by his mercy, to our true homeland. May it be so for each one of us, for all believers, for every man who humbly recognizes his need of salvation. Amen.

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On the 40 Days of Lent
"Time Spent in the Desert Can Be Transformed Into a Time of Grace"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in the Paul VI Hall. Today the Pope reflected on the liturgical season of Lent.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In this Catechesis, I would like to reflect briefly upon the season of Lent, which begins today with the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday. It is a journey of 40 days that will lead us to the Easter Triduum -- the memorial of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, the heart of the mystery of our salvation. In the first centuries of the Church’s life, this was the time when those who had heard and received the announcement of Christ began, step by step, their journey of faith and conversion on the way to receiving the sacrament of Baptism. It was a time of drawing near to the living God and an initiation into the faith, which was gradually to be accomplished through an inner transformation on the part of the catechumens; that is, on the part of those who desired to become Christians and to be incorporated into Christ and the Church.

Later on, also penitents and then all the faithful were invited to live out this journey of spiritual renewal and to increasingly conform their own lives to Christ’s. The participation of the entire community in the various stages of the Lenten journey underlines an important dimension of Christian spirituality: It is the redemption not of some, but of all, made possible thanks to the death and resurrection of Christ. For this reason, both those who were making the journey of faith as catechumens in order to receive Baptism, as well as those who had distanced themselves from God and from the community of faith and who were seeking reconciliation, and also those who were living the faith in full communion with the Church -- everyone together knew that the time preceding Easter was a time of metanoia; that is, of a change of heart, of penance. It is the season that identifies our human life and all of history as a process of conversion set in motion now so as to meet the Lord at the end of time.

Using an expression that has become customary in the Liturgy, the Church calls the season we have entered today “Lent”; that is, the season of 40 days; and with a clear reference to Sacred Scripture, she thereby introduces us into a precise spiritual context. Forty, in fact, is the symbolic number that the Old and New Testaments use to represent the salient moments in the life and faith of Israel. It is a number that expresses the time of waiting, of purification, of return to the Lord, of knowledge that God is faithful to His promises. This number does not represent an exact chronological period of time, marked by the sum of its days. Rather, it indicates a patient perseverance, a long trial, a sufficient length of time to witness the works of God and a time when it is necessary to decide to accept one’s responsibilities without further delay. It is a time for mature decisions.

The number 40 first appears in the story of Noah. This just man, on account of the flood, spends 40 days and 40 nights in the ark, together with his family and the animals that God had told him to take with him. And he waits another 40 days, after the flood, before touching down upon dry land, saved from destruction (cf. Genesis 7:4,12; 8:6). Then, the next stage: Moses remains on Mount Sinai, in the presence of the Lord, for 40 days and 40 nights, to receive the Law. He fasts the entire time (cf. Exodus 24:18). For 40 years, the Hebrew people journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, a fitting time to experience the faithfulness of God. “And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness … your clothing did not wear out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these forty years,” Moses says in Deuteronomy at the end of the 40 years of migration (Deuteronomy 8:2,4). The years of peace Israel enjoys under the Judges are 40 (cf. Judges 3:11,30); but once this time has passed, they begin to forget God’s gifts and to return to sin. The prophet Elijah takes 40 days to reach Horeb, the mountain where he encounters God (cf. 1 Kings 19:8). For 40 days, the inhabitants of Ninevah do penance in order to obtain God’s pardon (cf. Genesis 3:4). Forty is also the number of years of the reign of Saul (cf. Acts 13:21), of David (cf. 2 Samuel 5:4-5) and of Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 11:41), the first three kings of Israel.

The Psalms also reflect the biblical significance of the 40 years; for example, Psalm 95, the passage we just heard: “O that today you would hearken to His voice! Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, ‘They are a people who err in heart, and they do not regard my ways’” (verses. 7c-10).

In the New Testament, before beginning His public ministry, Jesus retires into the desert for 40 days, neither eating nor drinking (cf. Matthew 4:2); His nourishment is the Word of God, which He uses as a weapon to conquer the devil. The temptations of Jesus recall those which the Jewish people faced in the desert, but which they were unable to overcome. For 40 days, the Risen Jesus instructs His disciples before ascending into Heaven and sending the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:3).

With the recurring number of 40, a spiritual atmosphere is described which remains relevant and valid. And the Church, precisely through these days of Lent, intends to preserve their enduring value and to make their efficacy present for us. The Christian Liturgy during Lent seeks to promote a path of spiritual renewal in light of this long biblical experience, above all for the sake of learning to imitate Jesus, who during the 40 days He spent in the desert, taught us to conquer temptation with the Word of God.

The 40 years of Israel’s wandering in the desert presents ambivalent attitudes and situations. On the one hand, it is the season of first love with God, and between God and His people, when He speaks to their hearts, pointing out to them the path to follow. God, as it were, had taken up His abode with Israel; He went before them in a cloud and a column of fire; each day, He provided for their nourishment by making manna descend from the heavens and by making water gush forth from the rock. Therefore, the years Israel passed in the desert can be seen as the time of their being especially chosen by God and of their clinging to Him: the time of first love.

On the other hand, the Bible also portrays another image of Israel’s wandering in the desert: It is also the time of the greatest temptation and peril, when Israel murmurs against her God and wishes to return to paganism and to build her own idols, out of the need she feels to worship a God who is closer and more tangible. It is also the time of rebellion against the great and invisible God.

This ambivalence, a time of special closeness to God -- the time of first love -- as well as a time of temptation -- the temptation to return to paganism -- we surprisingly rediscover in Jesus’ earthy sojourn; naturally, however, without any compromise with sin. After His baptism of penance in the Jordan -- when He takes upon Himself the destiny of God’s Servant, who renounces himself and lives for others and takes his place among sinners in order to take upon himself the sin of the world -- Jesus goes into the desert and remains there for 40 days in profound union with the Father, thus repeating the history of Israel, all the rhythms of the 40 days or years I mentioned. This dynamic is a constant during the earthly life of Jesus, who always seeks moments of solitude in order to pray to His Father and to remain in intimate communion, in intimate solitude with Him, in exclusive communion with Him, then to return among the people. But in this time of “desert” and of special encounter with the Father, Jesus is exposed to danger and is assailed by temptation and the seduction of the Evil One, who proposes another Messianic way, one distant from God’s design, for it passes by way of power, success, and domination and not by way of the total gift of the Cross. These are the alternatives: a Messianism of power, of success, or a Messianism of love, of self-gift.

This situation of ambivalence also characterizes the condition of the Church as she journeys in the “desert” of the world and of history. In this “desert,” we who believe certainly have the opportunity to have a profound experience of God, who strengthens the spirit, confirms faith, nourishes hope and inspires charity. It is an experience that makes us sharers in Christ’s victory over sin and death through His Sacrifice of love on the Cross. But the “desert” is also a negative aspect of the reality that surrounds us: aridity; the poverty of words of life and values; secularism and cultural materialism, which enclose people within the worldly horizons of an existence bereft of all reference to the transcendent. This is also the environment in which even heaven above us is obscured, for it is covered by the clouds of egoism, misunderstanding and deception. Despite this, also for the Church today, time spent in the desert can be transformed into a time of grace, for we have the certainty that God can make the living water that quenches thirst and brings refreshment gush forth even from the hardest rock.

Dear brothers and sisters, we can find in these 40 days that lead us to the Easter of Resurrection the renewed hope that enables us to accept every difficulty, affliction and trial with patience and with faith, in the knowledge that out of the darkness the Lord will make a new day to dawn. And if we have been faithful to Jesus by following Him along the way of the Cross, the radiant world of God, the world of light, of truth and of joy will be restored to us: It will be the new dawn created by God Himself. I wish a blessed journey of Lent to you all!

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert, a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the crucified and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter.

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On Peter's Mission
"To Feed the Flock of Christ, Keeping It United in Faith and Charity"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2012 - 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. He had just celebrated a Mass with the 22 new cardinals.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday is particularly festive here in the Vatican because of the consistory that occurred yesterday in which I created 22 new cardinals. I had the joy this morning to concelebrate the Eucharist in St. Peter's Basilica at the tomb of the apostle whom Jesus called to be the "rock" on which he would build the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18). I therefore invite all of you also to add your prayer for these venerable brothers who are now more committed to collaborate with me in leading the universal Church and to give testimony to the Gospel even to the point of sacrificing their own lives. This is the meaning of the red color of their garb: the color of blood and love. Some of them work in Rome, in the service of the Holy See, others are shepherds of important diocesan Churches; others are distinguished and appreciated for long years of study and teaching. Now they are part of the College that assists the Pope most closely in his office of communion and evangelization: We welcome them with joy, recalling what Jesus said to his Apostles: "He who wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all. Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life for the ransom of many" (Mark 10:44-45).

This ecclesial event takes place against the background of the liturgical feast of the Chair of St. Peter, anticipated today since Feb. 22, the date of that feast, will be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The chair reserved for the bishop is the "cathedra," from which is derived the word "cathedral," the name given to the church in which the bishop presides at the liturgy and teaches the people. The Cathedra of St. Peter, represented in the apse of the Vatican Basilica by a monumental sculpture of Bernini, is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to feed the flock of Christ, keeping it united in faith and charity. Already at the beginning of the second century, St. Ignatius of Antioch attributed to the Church in Rome a singular primacy, greeting her, in his letter to the Romans, as she who "presides in charity." This special task of service falls to the Roman community and its bishop because of the fact that in this city the Apostles Peter and Paul spilled their blood besides numerous other martyrs. We return thus to the witness of blood and of charity. The Chair of Peter, therefore, is indeed a sign of authority, but that of Christ, based on faith and love.

Dear friends, let us entrust the new cardinals to the maternal protection of Mary Most Holy, that she might always assist them in their ecclesial service and sustain them in trials. Mary, Mother of the Church, help me and those who tirelessly work with me for the unity of the People of God and to proclaim to all peoples the message of salvation, humbly and courageously accomplishing the service of truth in charity.

[Following the Angelus the Holy Father addressed those present in St. Peter's Square in various languages. In English he said:]

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially those accompanying the new Cardinals. In today's Gospel, Jesus grants healing and life in body and soul in response to faith. May we too believe and trust in Christ, and seek from him both forgiveness of sin and the power to live a new life of grace. Upon all of you I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday, a good week. Have a good Sunday everyone!

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Pope's Reflection During Consistory
"Serving God and Others, Self-Giving: This is the Logic Which Authentic Faith Imparts"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the reflection Benedict XVI gave Saturday during the consistory during which 22 new cardinals were created.

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«Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam»

Venerable Brothers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With these words the entrance hymn has led us into the solemn and evocative ritual of the ordinary public Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals, with the placing of the biretta, the handing over of the ring and the assigning of a titular church. They are the efficacious words with which Jesus constituted Peter as the solid foundation of the Church. On such a foundation the faith represents the qualitative factor: Simon becomes Peter – the Rock – in as much as he professed his faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. In the proclamation of Christ the Church is bound to Peter and Peter is placed in the Church as a rock; although it is Christ himself who builds up the Church, Peter must always be a constitutive element of that upbuilding. He will always be such through faithfulness to his confession made at Caesarea Philippi, in virtue of the affirmation, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".

The words Jesus addressed to Peter highlight well the ecclesial character of today’s event. The new Cardinals, in receiving the title of a church in this city or of a suburban Diocese, are fully inserted in the Church of Rome led by the Successor of Peter, in order to cooperate closely with him in governing the universal Church. These beloved Brothers, who in a few minutes’ time will enter and become part of the College of Cardinals, will be united with new and stronger bonds not only to the Roman Pontiff but also to the entire community of the faithful spread throughout the world. In carrying out their particular service in support of the Petrine ministry, the new Cardinals will be called to consider and evaluate the events, the problems and the pastoral criteria which concern the mission of the entire Church. In this delicate task, the life and the death of the Prince of the Apostles, who for love of Christ gave himself even unto the ultimate sacrifice, will be an example and a helpful witness of faith for the new Cardinals.

It is with this meaning that the placing of the red biretta is also to be understood. The new Cardinals are entrusted with the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, an absolute and unconditional love for his brothers and sisters, even unto shedding their blood, if necessary, as expressed in the words of placing the biretta and as indicated by the colour of their robes. Furthermore, they are asked to serve the Church with love and vigour, with the transparency and wisdom of teachers, with the energy and strength of shepherds, with the fidelity and courage of martyrs. They are to be eminent servants of the Church that finds in Peter the visible foundation of unity.

In the Gospel we have just heard proclaimed there is offered a model to imitate and to follow. Against the background of the third prediction of the Passion, death and resurrection of the Son of Man, and in profound contrast to it, is placed the scene of the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who are still pursuing dreams of glory beside Jesus. They ask him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory" (Mk 10:37). The response of Jesus is striking, and he asks an unexpected question: "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?" (Mk 10:38). The allusion is crystal clear: the chalice is that of the Passion, which Jesus accepts as the will of God. Serving God and others, self-giving: this is the logic which authentic faith imparts and develops in our daily lives and which is not the type of power and glory which belongs to this world.

By their request, James and John demonstrate that they do not understand the logic of the life to which Jesus witnesses, that logic which – according to the Master – must characterize the disciple in his spirit and in his actions. The erroneous logic is not the sole preserve of the two sons of Zebedee because, as the evangelist narrates, it also spreads to "the other ten" apostles who "began to be indignant at James and John" (Mk 10:41). They were indignant, because it is not easy to enter into the logic of the Gospel and to let go of power and glory. Saint John Chrysostom affirms that all of the apostles were imperfect, whether it was the two who wished to lift themselves above the other ten, or whether it was the ten who were jealous of them ("Commentary on Matthew", 65, 4: PG 58, 619-622). Commenting on the parallel passages in the Gospel of Luke, Saint Cyril of Alexandria adds, "The disciples had fallen into human weakness and were discussing among themselves which one would be the leader and superior to the others… This happened and is recounted for our advantage… What happened to the holy Apostles can be understood by us as an incentive to humility" ("Commentary on Luke", 12, 5, 24: PG 72, 912). This episode gives Jesus a way to address each of the disciples and "to call them to himself", almost to pull them in, to form them into one indivisible body with him, and to indicate which is the path to real glory, that of God: "You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" (Mk 10:42-44).

Dominion and service, egoism and altruism, possession and gift, self-interest and gratuitousness: these profoundly contrasting approaches confront each other in every age and place. There is no doubt about the path chosen by Jesus: he does not merely indicate it with words to the disciples of then and of today, but he lives it in his own flesh. He explains, in fact, "For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). These words shed light upon today’s public Consistory with a particular intensity. They resound in the depths of the soul and represent an invitation and a reminder, a commission and an encouragement especially for you, dear and venerable Brothers who are about to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals.

According to biblical tradition, the Son of man is the one who receives power and dominion from God (cf. Dan 7:13f). Jesus interprets his mission on earth by combining the figure of the Son of man with that of the suffering Servant, described in Isaiah (cf. 53:1-12). He receives power and the glory only inasmuch as he is "servant"; but he is servant inasmuch as he welcomes within himself the fate of the suffering and the sin of all humanity. His service is realized in total faithfulness and complete responsibility towards mankind. In this way the free acceptance of his violent death becomes the price of freedom for many, it becomes the beginning and the foundation of the redemption of each person and of the entire human race.

Dear Brothers who are to be enrolled in the College of Cardinals, may Christ’s total gift of self on the Cross be for you the foundation, stimulus and strength of a faith operative in charity. May your mission in the Church and the world always be "in Christ" alone, responding to his logic and not that of the world, and may it be illumined by faith and animated by charity which comes to us from the glorious Cross of the Lord. On the ring which I will soon place on your finger, are represented Saints Peter and Paul, and in the middle a star which evokes the Mother of God. Wearing this ring, you are reminded each day to remember the witness which these two Apostles gave to Christ even unto martyrdom here in Rome, their blood making the Church fruitful. The example of the Virgin Mother will always be for you an invitation to follow her who was strong in faith and a humble servant of the Lord.

As I bring these brief reflections to a close, I would like to extend warm greetings and thanks to all present, especially to the official Delegations from various countries and to the various diocesan groups. The new Cardinals, in their service, are called to remain faithful to Christ at all times, letting themselves be guided only by his Gospel. Dear brothers and sisters, pray that their lives will always reflect the Lord Jesus, our sole shepherd and teacher, source of every hope, who points out the path to everyone. And pray also for me, that I may continually offer to the People of God the witness of sound doctrine and guide holy Church with a firm and humble hand.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Homily Sunday With New Cardinals
"The Petrine Ministry Is Therefore a Primacy of Love in the Eucharistic Sense"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday, at a Mass in St. Peter's with those elevated to the College of Cardinals on Saturday.

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Dear Cardinals,

Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter, we have the joy of gathering around the altar of the Lord together with the new Cardinals whom yesterday I incorporated into the College of Cardinals. It is to them, first of all, that I offer my cordial greetings and I thank Cardinal Fernando Filoni for the gracious words he has addressed to me in the name of all. I extend my greetings to the other Cardinals and all the Bishops present, as well as to the distinguished authorities, ambassadors, priests, religious and all the faithful who have come from different parts of the world for this happy occasion, which is marked by a particular character of universality.

In the second reading that we have just heard, Saint Peter exhorts the "elders" of the Church to be zealous pastors, attentive to the flock of Christ (cf. 1 Pet 5:1-2). These words are addressed in the first instance to you, my dear venerable brothers, who have already shown great merit among the people of God through your wise and generous pastoral ministry in demanding dioceses, or through presiding over the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, or in your service to the Church through study and teaching. The new dignity that has been conferred upon you is intended to show appreciation for the faithful labour you have carried out in the Lord’s vineyard, to honour the communities and nations from which you come and which you represent so worthily in the Church, to invest you with new and more important ecclesial responsibilities and finally to ask of you an additional readiness to be of service to Christ and to the entire Christian community. This readiness to serve the Gospel is firmly founded upon the certitude of faith. We know that God is faithful to his promises and we await in hope the fulfilment of these words of Saint Peter: "And when the chief shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory" (1 Pet 5:4).

Today’s Gospel passage presents Peter, under divine inspiration, expressing his own firm faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah. In response to this transparent profession of faith, which Peter makes in the name of the other Apostles as well, Christ reveals to him the mission he intends to entrust to him, namely that of being the "rock", the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (cf. Mt 16:16-19). This new name of "rock" is not a reference to Peter’s personal character, but can be understood only on the basis of a deeper aspect, a mystery: through the office that Jesus confers upon him, Simon Peter will become something that, in terms of "flesh and blood", he is not. The exegete Joachim Jeremias has shown that in the background, the symbolic language of "holy rock" is present. In this regard, it is helpful to consider a rabbinic text which states: "The Lord said, ‘How can I create the world, when these godless men will rise up in revolt against me?’ But when God saw that Abraham was to be born, he said, ‘Look, I have found a rock on which I can build and establish the world.’ Therefore he called Abraham a rock." The prophet Isaiah makes reference to this when he calls upon the people to "look to the rock from which you were hewn ... look to Abraham your father" (51:1-2). On account of his faith, Abraham, the father of believers, is seen as the rock that supports creation. Simon, the first to profess faith in Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the resurrection, now, on the basis of his renewed faith, becomes the rock that is to prevail against the destructive forces of evil.

Dear brothers and sisters, this Gospel episode that has been proclaimed to us finds a further and more eloquent explanation in one of the most famous artistic treasures of this Vatican Basilica: the altar of the Chair. After passing through the magnificent central nave, and continuing past the transepts, the pilgrim arrives in the apse and sees before him an enormous bronze throne that seems to hover in mid air, but in reality is supported by the four statues of great Fathers of the Church from East and West. And above the throne, surrounded by triumphant angels suspended in the air, the glory of the Holy Spirit shines through the oval window. What does this sculptural composition say to us, this product of Bernini’s genius? It represents a vision of the essence of the Church and the place within the Church of the Petrine Magisterium.

The window of the apse opens the Church towards the outside, towards the whole of creation, while the image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows God as the source of light. But there is also another aspect to point out: the Church herself is like a window, the place where God draws near to us, where he comes towards our world. The Church does not exist for her own sake, she is not the point of arrival, but she has to point upwards, beyond herself, to the realms above. The Church is truly herself to the extent that she allows the Other, with a capital "O", to shine through her – the One from whom she comes and to whom she leads. The Church is the place where God "reaches" us and where we "set off" towards him: she has the task of opening up, beyond itself, a world which tends to become enclosed within itself, the task of bringing to the world the light that comes from above, without which it would be uninhabitable.

The great bronze throne encloses a wooden chair from the ninth century, which was long thought to be Saint Peter’s own chair and was placed above this monumental altar because of its great symbolic value. It expresses the permanent presence of the Apostle in the Magisterium of his successors. Saint Peter’s chair, we could say, is the throne of truth which takes its origin from Christ’s commission after the confession at Caesarea Philippi. The magisterial chair also reminds us of the words spoken to Peter by the Lord during the Last Supper: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:32).

The chair of Peter evokes another memory: the famous expression from Saint Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Romans, where he says of the Church of Rome that she "presides in charity" (Salutation, PG 5, 801). In truth, presiding in faith is inseparably linked to presiding in love. Faith without love would no longer be an authentic Christian faith. But the words of Saint Ignatius have another much more concrete implication: the word "charity", in fact, was also used by the early Church to indicate the Eucharist. The Eucharist is theSacramentum caritatis Christi, through which Christ continues to draw us all to himself, as he did when raised up on the Cross (cf. Jn 12:32). Therefore, to "preside in charity" is to draw men and women into a eucharistic embrace – the embrace of Christ – which surpasses every barrier and every division, creating communion from all manner of differences. The Petrine ministry is therefore a primacy of love in the eucharistic sense, that is to say solicitude for the universal communion of the Church in Christ. And the Eucharist is the shape and the measure of this communion, a guarantee that it will remain faithful to the criterion of the tradition of the faith.

The great Chair is supported by the Fathers of the Church. The two Eastern masters, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Athanasius, together with the Latins, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, represent the whole of the tradition, and hence the richness of expression of the true faith of the holy and one Church. This aspect of the altar teaches us that love rests upon faith. Love collapses if man no longer trusts in God and disobeys him. Everything in the Church rests upon faith: the sacraments, the liturgy, evangelization, charity. Likewise the law and the Church’s authority rest upon faith. The Church is not self-regulating, she does not determine her own structure but receives it from the word of God, to which she listens in faith as she seeks to understand it and to live it. Within the ecclesial community, the Fathers of the Church fulfil the function of guaranteeing fidelity to sacred Scripture. They ensure that the Church receives reliable and solid exegesis, capable of forming with the Chair of Peter a stable and consistent whole. The sacred Scriptures, authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium in the light of the Fathers, shed light upon the Church’s journey through time, providing her with a stable foundation amid the vicissitudes of history.

After considering the various elements of the altar of the Chair, let us take a look at it in its entirety. We see that it is characterized by a twofold movement: ascending and descending. This is the reciprocity between faith and love. The Chair is placed in a prominent position in this place, because this is where Saint Peter’s tomb is located, but this too tends towards the love of God. Indeed, faith is oriented towards love. A selfish faith would be an unreal faith. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ and enters into the dynamic of love that finds its source in the Eucharist, discovers true joy and becomes capable in turn of living according to the logic of this gift. True faith is illumined by love and leads towards love, leads on high, just as the altar of the Chair points upwards towards the luminous window, the glory of the Holy Spirit, which constitutes the true focus for the pilgrim’s gaze as he crosses the threshold of the Vatican Basilica. That window is given great prominence by the triumphant angels and the great golden rays, with a sense of overflowing fulness that expresses the richness of communion with God. God is not isolation, but glorious and joyful love, spreading outwards and radiant with light.

Dear brothers and sisters, the gift of this love has been entrusted to us, to every Christian. It is a gift to be passed on to others, through the witness of our lives. This is your task in particular, dear brother Cardinals: to bear witness to the joy of Christ’s love. We now entrust your ecclesial service to the Virgin Mary, who was present among the apostolic community as they gathered in prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). May she, Mother of the Incarnate Word, protect the Church’s path, support the work of the pastors by her intercession and take under her mantle the entire College of Cardinals. Amen!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address to European, African Bishops
"May the Family Be at the Center of Your Attention as Pastors"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday when he received participants in the Second Symposium of European and African Bishops, which began Monday. The prelates examined the theme of "Evangelization today: pastoral communion and cooperation between Africa and Europe." The symposium concluded today with a pilgrimage to the Italian shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello.

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Lord Cardinals,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to receive you at the end of the Symposium of Bishops of Africa and Europe and I greet you all with great affection, in particular Cardinal Peter Erdo, president of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, and Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, president of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, thanking them for the kind expressions with which they opened our meeting. I express my heartfelt appreciation to all those who promoted the days of study, during which you addressed the topic of evangelization today in your lands, in the light of the reciprocal communion and pastoral collaboration that was established during the first symposium in the year 2004.

With you I thank God for the spiritual fruits that have flowed from the relationships of friendship and cooperation between the ecclesial communities of your Continents in the course of these years. Beginning from different cultural, social and economic environments, you have valued the common apostolic tension to proclaim to your people Jesus Christ and his Gospel, in the style of "exchange of gifts." Continue on this fruitful path of active fraternity and unity of intentions, widening ever more the horizons of evangelization. For the Church in Europe, in fact, the meeting with the Church in Africa is always a moment of grace because of the hope and joy with which the African ecclesial communities live and communicate the faith, as I have been able to see in my apostolic journeys. Moreover, it is beautiful to see how the Church in Africa, though living amid so many difficulties and with the need of peace and reconciliation, is willing to share her faith.

In the relations between the Church in Africa and the Church in Europe, you must take care to have present the fundamental bond between faith and charity, so that they illumine one another in their truth. Charity fosters openness and encounter with the man of today, in his concrete reality, to take to him Christ and his love for every person and every family, especially for those who are poorest and alone. "Caritas Christi urget nos"(2 Corinthians 5:14); it is in fact the love of Christ that fills hearts and drives to evangelize. The divine Teacher, today as then, sends his disciples on the roads of the world to proclaim his message of salvation to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 7).

The challenges you have before you today are demanding. I am thinking, in the first place, of religious indifference, which leads many people to live as if God does not exist or to be content with a vague religiosity, incapable of contending with the question of truth and the duty of coherence. Today, above all in Europe, but also in some parts of Africa, the weight is felt of the secularized environment, often hostile to the Christian faith. Another challenge for the proclamation of the Gospel is hedonism, which has contributed to making the crisis of values penetrate daily life, the structure of the family, and the very way of interpreting the meaning of existence. Symptom of a situation of grave social unease is also the spread of phenomena such as pornography and prostitution. You are well aware of these challenges, which stir your pastoral conscience and your sense of responsibility. They must not discourage you but, rather, constitute an occasion to renew your commitment and hope, hope that is born from the awareness that the night is far gone, the day is at hand (cf. Romans 13:12), because the Risen Christ is always with us. In the societies of Africa and Europe not a few good forces are present, many of which lead to the parishes and are distinguished for their commitment to personal holiness and the apostolate. I hope that, with your help, they will be able to become increasingly living and vital cells of the New Evangelization.

May the family be at the center of your attention as Pastors: it, the domestic Church, is also the most solid guarantee for the renewal of society. In the family, which guards usages, traditions, customs, rites permeated by faith, the most adequate terrain is found for the flowering of vocations. Today's consumerist mentality can have negative repercussions on the awakening and care of vocations; hence the need to pay particular attention to the promotion of priestly vocations and special consecrations. The family is also the formative fulcrum of youth. Europe and Africa need generous young people, who are able to take responsible charge of their future, and all the Institutions must have very present that the future is enclosed in these young people and that it is important to do everything possible so that their path is not marked by uncertainty and darkness. Dear Brothers, follow with special care their human and spiritual growth, encouraging also initiatives of volunteer work that can have educational value.

The cultural dimension assumes an important role in the formation of the new generations. You know well how much the Church esteems and promotes every genuine form of culture, to which she offers the richness of the Word of God and of the grace that flows from the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The Church respects every discovery of truth, because all truth comes from God, but she knows that the gaze of faith fixed on Christ opens the mind and heart of man to the First Truth, which is God. Thus culture nourished by faith leads to true humanization, whereas false cultures end by leading to de-humanization: we have had sad examples in Europe and Africa. Culture, therefore, must be a constant concern in your pastoral action, always having very present that the light of the Gospel is inserted in the cultural fabric elevating it and making it fertilize the riches.

Dear friends, your Symposium has offered you the occasion to reflect on the problems of the Church in the two Continents. They are certainly never lacking and at times considerable; but, on the other hand, they are also the proof that the Church is alive, that she is growing, and is not afraid to fulfill her evangelizing mission. Because of this, she is in need of prayer and of the commitment of all the faithful; in fact, evangelization is an integral part of the vocation of all the baptized, which is a vocation to holiness. Christians who have a lively faith are open to the action of the Holy Spirit becoming witnesses with the word and life of the Gospel of Christ. Entrusted to Pastors, however, is a particular responsibility. Hence, "Your own holiness must be outstanding, to the benefit of those entrusted to your pastoral care, those whom you must serve. Your life of prayer will nourish your apostolate from within. The bishop must be someone in love with Christ. The moral authority and the prestige that uphold the exercise of your juridical power can only come from the holiness of your life" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus, 100).

I entrust your spiritual proposals and your pastoral projects to the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization, while imparting from my heart to you, to the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Europe and to all your priests and faithful, a special Apostolic Blessing.

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On the 3 Last Words of Jesus Dying on the Cross
"We Shall Never Fall Outside the Hands of God, Those Hands That Created Us"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2012- 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 reflection on the prayer of Jesus dying on the Cross, today focusing on the three last words of Jesus as recounted in the Gospel of St. Luke.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In our school of prayer last Wednesday, I spoke about the prayer of Jesus on the Cross taken from Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Now I would like to continue to meditate upon the prayer of Jesus on the Cross as death was imminent, and today I wish to consider the narrative we find in the Gospel of St. Luke. The Evangelist has handed down to us three words of Jesus on the Cross, two of which -- the first and the third -- are prayers addressed explicitly to the Father. The second, on the other hand, consists in the promise made to the so-called good thief crucified with Him; in fact, in responding to the robber’s plea, Jesus reassures him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). In Luke’s account, the two prayers that the dying Jesus addresses to the Father and His welcome of the plea addressed to Him by the repentant sinner are thus evocatively interwoven. Jesus calls upon the Father and harkens to the prayer of this man who is often called latro poenitens, the “repentant robber."

Let us consider Jesus’ three prayers. He pronounces the first immediately after being nailed to the Cross, while the soldiers are dividing His garments as a sad recompense for their service. In a certain sense, the process of crucifixion is brought to a conclusion by this act. St. Luke writes: “And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide His garments” (23:33-34). The first prayer Jesus addresses to the Father is one of intercession: He begs forgiveness for his executioners. Jesus puts into practice what He had taught in the Sermon on the Mount, when He said: “But I say to you that hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27), and He had also promised to all those who learn to forgive: “Your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (v. 35). Now from the Cross, He not only forgives His executioners but also addresses Himself to the Father directly, interceding on their behalf.

The attitude of Jesus finds a moving “imitation” in the account of the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Stephen, in fact, already near the end, “knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he died” (Acts 7:60): This was his last word. The comparison between Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness and that of the proto-martyr is significant. St. Stephen addresses himself to the Risen Lord and asks that his murder -- an act clearly defined by the expression “this sin” -- not be held against those who were stoning him. On the Cross, Jesus turns to the Father and not only begs forgiveness for those who crucified Him but also offers an interpretation of what is happening. According to His words, in fact, the men who are crucifying Him “know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He makes their ignorance -- their “not knowing” -- the motive for His plea for forgiveness to the Father, since this ignorance leaves open the path to conversion, as is the case with the words the centurion will pronounce at Jesus’ death: “Truly, this man was just” (v. 47); He was the Son of God. “It remains a source of comfort for all times and for all people that both in the case of those who genuinely did not know (His executioners) and in the case of those who did know (the people who condemned Him), the Lord makes their ignorance the motive for His plea for forgiveness: He sees it as a door that can open us to conversion” (Jesus of Nazareth, II, p. 208).

The second word of Jesus on the Cross reported by St. Luke is a word of hope; it is the response to the prayer of one of the two men crucified with Him. The good thief, in the presence of Jesus, returns to himself and repents; he realizes that he stands before the Son of God who truly makes the face of God visible, and he begs: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power” (v. 42). Jesus’ response goes well beyond what was asked of Him; indeed, He says: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (v. 43). Jesus knows He will enter directly into fellowship with the Father and reopen to man the way to paradise with God. Thus, through this response, He gives the firm hope that God’s mercy can reach us even in our final moments and that, even after a misspent life, sincere prayer will encounter the open arms of the good Father who awaits the return of His son.

But let us pause to consider the last words of the dying Jesus. The Evangelist recounts: “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ And having said this He breathed his last” (vv. 44-46). Several aspects of this narrative differ as compared with the scene offered by Mark and Matthew. The three hours of darkness in Mark are not described, while in Matthew they are connected to a series of varying apocalyptic events: the earth quakes, tombs are opened, the dead are raised (cf. Matthew 27:51-53). In Luke, the hours of darkness are caused by the sun’s eclipse, but in that moment the veil of the temple is also torn in two. Thus, the Lucan account presents two somewhat parallel signs, one in the heavens and the other in the temple. The heavens are dimmed and the earth crumbles, while in the temple -- the place of the presence of God -- the veil that protects the sanctuary is torn in two. The death of Jesus is explicitly portrayed as a cosmic and liturgical event; in particular, it marks the beginning of a new worship, in a temple not built by men, for it is the very Body of the dead and risen Jesus that gathers the peoples together and unites them in the Sacrament of His Body of Blood.

The prayer of Jesus in this moment of suffering -- “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” -- is a loud cry of extreme and total trust in God. This prayer expresses His full awareness that He has not been abandoned. The initial invocation -- “Father” -- recalls His first recorded words at the age of twelve. At that time, He had remained for three days in the temple of Jerusalem, whose veil is now torn in two. And when His parents had shown Him their concern, He responded: “How is it that you sought me?” Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). From beginning to end, what completely determines Jesus’ feelings, His words, His actions, is His unique relationship with the Father. On the Cross, He fully lives in love His filial relationship with God -- this is what inspires His prayer.

The words pronounced by Jesus after the invocation “Father” take up an expression from Psalm 31: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31:6). These words, however, are not a simple quotation; rather, they reveal a firm decision: Jesus “delivers Himself over” to the Father in an act of total surrender. These words are a prayer of “entrustment” filled with trust in God’s love. The prayer of Jesus as He faces death is dramatic, as it is for every man, but at the same time, it is imbued by that profound serenity that is born of His trust in the Father and His will to deliver Himself up entirely to Him. In Gethsemane, when He had entered into the final struggle, and into more intense prayer, and was about to be “delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44), His sweat became “like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground”(Luke 22:44). But His heart was fully obedient to the Father’s will, and for this reason “an angel from heaven” came to comfort Him (cf. Luke 22:42-43). Now, in His final moments, Jesus addresses the Father by speaking of the hands into which He truly delivers over His entire life. Prior to their departure on their journey toward Jerusalem, Jesus had insisted with His disciples: “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44). Now, as life is about to leave Him, He seals His final decision in prayer: Jesus allowed Himself to be “delivered into the hands of men,” but it is into the hands of the Father that He commits His spirit; thus -- as the Evangelist John affirms -- it is finished, the supreme act of love is taken to the end, to the very limit and even beyond that limit.

Dear brothers and sisters, the words of Jesus on the Cross in the final moments of His earthly life offer challenging pointers for our prayer, but they also open it to a serene confidence and to a steadfast hope. Jesus, who asks the Father to forgive those who are crucifying Him, invites us to the difficult act of praying even for those who wrong us, who have harmed us, by learning how to forgive always, so that God’s light might illumine their hearts; and He invites us in our prayer to live in the same attitude of mercy and of love that God shows in our regard: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us,” as we daily say in the “Our Father.” At the same time, Jesus who in the final moment of death entrusts Himself entirely into the hands of God the Father, communicates to us the certainty that, however difficult our trials may be, however difficult our problems, however burdensome our suffering, we shall never fall outside the hands of God, those hands that created us, that sustain us and that accompany us on the path of life, for they are guided by an infinite and faithful love. Thank you.

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we turn once more to the prayer of Jesus on the Cross. Saint Luke relates three “last words” of the crucified Lord. In his prayer: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34), Jesus intercedes for his executioners and shows the depths of his reconciling love for sinful humanity.; In his words to the Good Thief: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43), he offers sure hope to all those who repent and put their trust in him. His final cry: “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46), expresses Jesus’ trust-filled surrender to God’s will, born of that unique relationship to the Father which had shaped his own life of prayer. From the Cross, Jesus teaches us to forgive and love our enemies, to pray for their conversion, and to commend ourselves into the Father’s hands, trusting that they will continue to sustain us amid the sufferings of this life until they embrace us in heaven.

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On Jesus, the 'Leper'
"Every Barrier Between God and Human Impurity ... Is Torn Down"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Last Sunday we saw that Jesus, in his public life, healed many sick people, revealing that God wants man to live, that he wants him to have life in abundance. The Gospel this Sunday (Mark 1:40-45) shows Jesus in contact with the malady considered at that time to be the most grave; those who suffered from it were considered "impure" and were excluded from social relationships. We are speaking of leprosy. A special law (cf. Leviticus 13-14) reserved the task of declaring persons with leprosy impure; and it was also the task of the priest to certify a healing and to permit their re-entrance into normal life.

As Jesus was preaching among the villages of Galilee, a leper met him and said to him: "If you wish it, you may heal me!" Jesus did not flee from contact with him, rather, moved by intimate participation in his condition, he reaches out his hand and touches him -- going beyond what the law permitted -- and said to him. "I do wish it. Be healed!" In that gesture and in those words of Christ there is the whole history of salvation, there is incarnated the will of God to heal us of the evil that disfigures us and destroys our relationships. In that contact between Jesus' hand and the leper, every barrier between God and human impurity, between the Sacred and its opposite, is torn down, not to deny evil and its negative power but to demonstrate that God's love is stronger than evil, even the most contagious and horrible. Jesus took our infirmities upon himself, he made himself a "leper" so that we might be healed.

A splendid existential comment on this Gospel is the celebrated experience of St. Francis of Assisi, which he presents at the beginning of his Testament: "The Lord told to me, Friar Francis of Assisi, to begin to do penance in this way: when I was in my sins, seeing lepers seemed to me something too terrible; and the Lord himself led me among them and had mercy on them. And after I left them, what had seemed terrible to me became sweet to the soul and body. And then I stayed and left the world behind." Jesus was present in those lepers whom Francis met when he was still "in his sins," as he says; and when Francis drew near to one of them and, overcoming his own disgust, embraced him, Jesus healed Francis of his leprosy, that is, of his pride, and he converted him to the love of God. This is the victory of Christ, who is our profound healing and our resurrection and new life!

Dear friends, let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, whom we celebrated yesterday, remembering her appearances at Lourdes. Our Lady entrusted to St. Bernadette a message that is always relevant: the invitation to prayer and penance. Through his Mother it is always Jesus who comes to meet us, to free us from every sickness of body and soul. Let us allow ourselves to be touched and purified by him, and let us be merciful with our brothers!

Dear brothers and sisters!

I am following with much apprehension the tragic episodes of growing violence in Syria. In recent days they have claimed many victims. I remember the victims in prayer, among whom there are children, the wounded and those who suffer the consequences of a conflict that is becoming ever more worrisome. Moreover, I renew the call to put an end to the violence and bloodshed. Finally, I invite everyone -- and first of all the political authorities in Syria -- to prioritize the path of dialogue, of reconciliation and of commitment to peace. It is urgent to respond to the legitimate aspirations of the different groups within the country as well as to the wishes of the international community, concerned with the common good of the whole society and the region.

[After the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father addressed the crowds in various languages. In English he said:]

I am pleased to welcome all of you to Saint Peter's Square on this cold morning, especially the students and staff of Sion-Manning School from London. At Mass today, the Gospel tells us of how our Lord willingly cured a leper. May we not be afraid to go to Jesus, beg him to heal our sinfulness, and bring us safely to eternal life. God bless you and your loved ones!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week! Have a good week! I hope to see you next Sunday without snow! Best wishes, have a good Sunday!

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Pope's Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations
"The Source of Every Perfect Gift Is God Who Is Love"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be marked April 29, the Fourth Sunday of Easter.

The message is dated Oct. 18; the Vatican released it today.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The 49th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will be celebrated on 29 April 2012, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, prompts us to meditate on the theme: Vocations, the Gift of the Love of God.

The source of every perfect gift is God who is Love – Deus caritas est: "Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him" (1 Jn 4:16). Sacred Scripture tells the story of this original bond between God and man, which precedes creation itself. Writing to the Christians of the city of Ephesus, Saint Paul raises a hymn of gratitude and praise to the Father who, with infinite benevolence, in the course of the centuries accomplishes his universal plan of salvation, which is a plan of love. In his Son Jesus – Paul states – "he chose us, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him in love" (Eph 1:4). We are loved by God even "before" we come into existence! Moved solely by his unconditional love, he created us "not … out of existing things" (cf. 2 Macc 7:28), to bring us into full communion with Him.

In great wonderment before the work of God’s providence, the Psalmist exclaims: "When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him?" (Ps 8:3-4). The profound truth of our existence is thus contained in this surprising mystery: every creature, and in particular every human person, is the fruit of God’s thought and an act of his love, a love that is boundless, faithful and everlasting (cf. Jer 31:3). The discovery of this reality is what truly and profoundly changes our lives. In a famous page of the Confessions, Saint Augustine expresses with great force his discovery of God, supreme beauty and supreme love, a God who was always close to him, and to whom he at last opened his mind and heart to be transformed: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace." (X, 27.38). With these images, the Saint of Hippo seeks to describe the ineffable mystery of his encounter with God, with God’s love that transforms all of life.

It is a love that is limitless and that precedes us, sustains us and calls us along the path of life, a love rooted in an absolutely free gift of God. Speaking particularly of the ministerial priesthood, my predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, stated that "every ministerial action - while it leads to loving and serving the Church - provides an incentive to grow in ever greater love and service of Jesus Christ the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church, a love which is always a response to the free and unsolicited love of God in Christ" (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 25). Every specific vocation is in fact born of the initiative of God; it is a gift of the Love of God! He is the One who takes the "first step", and not because he has found something good in us, but because of the presence of his own love "poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5).

In every age, the source of the divine call is to be found in the initiative of the infinite love of God, who reveals himself fully in Jesus Christ. As I wrote in my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, "God is indeed visible in a number of ways. In the love-story recounted by the Bible, he comes towards us, he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path. Nor has the Lord been absent from subsequent Church history: he encounters us ever anew, in the men and women who reflect his presence, in his word, in the sacraments, and especially in the Eucharist" (No. 17).

The love of God is everlasting; he is faithful to himself, to the "word that he commanded for a thousand generations" (Ps 105:8). Yet the appealing beauty of this divine love, which precedes and accompanies us, needs to be proclaimed ever anew, especially to younger generations. This divine love is the hidden impulse, the motivation which never fails, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Dear brothers and sisters, we need to open our lives to this love. It is to the perfection of the Father’s love (cf. Mt 5:48) that Jesus Christ calls us every day! The high standard of the Christian life consists in loving "as" God loves; with a love that is shown in the total, faithful and fruitful gift of self. Saint John of the Cross, writing to the Prioress of the Monastery of Segovia who was pained by the terrible circumstances surrounding his suspension, responded by urging her to act as God does: "Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and there you will draw out love" (Letters, 26).

It is in this soil of self-offering and openness to the love of God, and as the fruit of that love, that all vocations are born and grow. By drawing from this wellspring through prayer, constant recourse to God’s word and to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, it becomes possible to live a life of love for our neighbours, in whom we come to perceive the face of Christ the Lord (cf. Mt 25:31-46). To express the inseparable bond that links these "two loves" – love of God and love of neighbour – both of which flow from the same divine source and return to it, Pope Saint Gregory the Great uses the metaphor of the seedling: "In the soil of our heart God first planted the root of love for him; from this, like the leaf, sprouts love for one another." (Moralium Libri, sive expositio in Librum B. Job, Lib. VII, Ch. 24, 28; PL 75, 780D).

These two expressions of the one divine love must be lived with a particular intensity and purity of heart by those who have decided to set out on the path of vocation discernment towards the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life; they are its distinguishing mark. Love of God, which priests and consecrated persons are called to mirror, however imperfectly, is the motivation for answering the Lord’s call to special consecration through priestly ordination or the profession of the evangelical counsels. Saint Peter’s vehement reply to the Divine Master: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you" (Jn 21:15) contains the secret of a life fully given and lived out, and thus one which is deeply joyful.

The other practical expression of love, that towards our neighbour, and especially those who suffer and are in greatest need, is the decisive impulse that leads the priest and the consecrated person to be a builder of communion between people and a sower of hope. The relationship of consecrated persons, and especially of the priest, to the Christian community is vital and becomes a fundamental dimension of their affectivity. The Curé of Ars was fond of saying: "Priests are not priests for themselves, but for you" (Le cure d’Ars. Sa pensée – Son cœur, Foi Vivante, 1966, p. 100).

Dear brother bishops, dear priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, catechists, pastoral workers and all of you who are engaged in the field of educating young people: I fervently exhort you to pay close attention to those members of parish communities, associations and ecclesial movements who sense a call to the priesthood or to a special consecration. It is important for the Church to create the conditions that will permit many young people to say "yes" in generous response to God’s loving call.

The task of fostering vocations will be to provide helpful guidance and direction along the way. Central to this should be love of God’s word nourished by a growing familiarity with sacred Scripture, and attentive and unceasing prayer, both personal and in community; this will make it possible to hear God’s call amid all the voices of daily life. But above all, the Eucharist should be the heart of every vocational journey: it is here that the love of God touches us in Christ’s sacrifice, the perfect expression of love, and it is here that we learn ever anew how to live according to the "high standard" of God’s love. Scripture, prayer and the Eucharist are the precious treasure enabling us to grasp the beauty of a life spent fully in service of the Kingdom.

It is my hope that the local Churches and all the various groups within them, will become places where vocations are carefully discerned and their authenticity tested, places where young men and women are offered wise and strong spiritual direction. In this way, the Christian community itself becomes a manifestation of the Love of God in which every calling is contained. As a response to the demands of the new commandment of Jesus, this can find eloquent and particular realization in Christian families, whose love is an expression of the love of Christ who gave himself for his Church (cf. Eph 5:32). Within the family, "a community of life and love" (Gaudium et Spes, 48), young people can have a wonderful experience of this self-giving love. Indeed, families are not only the privileged place for human and Christian formation; they can also be "the primary and most excellent seed-bed of vocations to a life of consecration to the Kingdom of God" (Familiaris Consortio, 53), by helping their members to see, precisely within the family, the beauty and the importance of the priesthood and the consecrated life. May pastors and all the lay faithful always cooperate so that in the Church these "homes and schools of communion" may multiply, modelled on the Holy Family of Nazareth, the harmonious reflection on earth of the life of the Most Holy Trinity.

With this prayerful hope, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all of you: my brother bishops, priests, deacons, religious men and women and all lay faithful, and especially those young men and women who strive to listen with a docile heart to God’s voice and are ready to respond generously and faithfully.

From the Vatican, 18 October 2011

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

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On the Prayer of Jesus Dying on the Cross
"In Extreme Anguish, Prayer Becomes a Cry"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2012 - 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 today on the prayer of Jesus dying on the Cross.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to reflect with you on the prayer of Jesus as death was imminent, by considering what St. Mark and St. Matthew tell us. The two Evangelists give an account of the prayer of the dying Jesus not only in Greek, the language in which their accounts were written, but also -- on account of the importance of those words -- in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic. In this way, they have handed down not only the substance but even the sound this prayer had on the lips of Jesus: We truly listen to the words of Jesus as they were. At the same time, they described for us the attitude of the bystanders present at the Crucifixion, who failed to understand -- or who did not will to understand -- this prayer.

St. Mark, as we just heard, writes: “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloì, Eloì, lamà sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”(15:34). In the structure of the narrative, the prayer -- the cry of Jesus -- is raised at the climax of the three hours of darkness that fell upon the whole land from midday until 3:00 in the afternoon. These three hours of darkness are the continuation of an earlier span of time, also of three hours, which began with Jesus’ Crucifixion. The Evangelist Mark informs us, in fact, that “it was the third hour when they crucified Him” (cf. 15:25). Taken as a whole, the account’s temporal indications reveal that Jesus’ six hours on the cross are divided into two chronologically equal parts.

In the first three hours, from 9:00 until midday, we find the mockery of various groups of persons, who demonstrate their skepticism and affirm their unbelief. St. Mark writes: “Those who passed by derided Him” (15:29); “so also the chief priests mocked Him to one another with the scribes (15:31); “those who were crucified with Him also reviled Him” (15:32). In the three hours that follow thereafter -- from noon “until three in the afternoon” -- the Evangelist speaks only of the darkness that has descended over the whole land; darkness alone occupies the scene, without any reference to the movement of persons or to words. As Jesus draws closer to death, there is only darkness that falls “over the whole land.”

Even the cosmos takes part in this event: Darkness envelops persons and things, but even in this moment of darkness, God is present; He does not abandon. In the biblical tradition, darkness has an ambivalent meaning: It is a sign of the presence and action of evil, but also of a mysterious presence and action of God, who is capable of vanquishing all darkness. In the Book of Exodus, for example, we read: “And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Lo, I am coming to you in a thick cloud’” (19:9); and again: “The people stood afar off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was” (20:21). And in the discourses of Deuteronomy, Moses recounts: “The mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud and gloom” (4:11); you “heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire” (5:23). In the scene of Jesus’ Crucifixion, darkness covers the earth, and it is into the darkness of death that the Son of God is plunged in order to bring life by His act of love.

Returning to the narrative of St. Mark, in the face of the insults hurled by the various classes of persons, in the face of the darkness that descends over all things, in the moment when He faces death, Jesus -- by the cry of His prayer -- reveals that together with the weight of the suffering and death in which there is seeming abandonment and the absence of God, He has utter certainty of the closeness of the Father, who approves this supreme act of love, the total gift of Himself, even though He does not hear His voice from on high, as He had in other moments. In reading the Gospels, we become aware that in other important moments of His earthly life, Jesus had seen signs joined to the Father’s presence and approval of His path of love -- even the clarifying voice of God.

Thus, in the event that follows after the Baptism in the Jordan, as the heavens were rent, the word of the Father was heard: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Then, in the Transfiguration, the sign of the cloud was joined by the word: “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him” (Mark 9:7). Instead, as death approaches the Crucified One, silence descends, no voice is heard, but the Father’s loving gaze remains fixed upon the Son’s gift of love.

But what meaning does the prayer of Jesus have, the cry He sends forth to the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -- doubt regarding His mission or the Father’s presence? Does this prayer perhaps not contain the keen awareness of having been abandoned? The words Jesus addresses to the Father are the beginning of Psalm 22, in which the psalmist manifests before God the tension between feeling left alone, and the sure awareness of God’s presence among His people. The psalmist prays: “O my God, I cry by day, but thou does not answer; and by night, but find no rest. Yet thou art holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel” (Verses 2,3). The psalmist speaks of a “cry” in order to express all the suffering of his prayer before a seemingly absent God: In extreme anguish, prayer becomes a cry.

And this also happens in our relationship with the Lord: When faced with the most difficult and painful situations, when it seems that God is not listening, we need not fear entrusting to Him the entire weight of what we carry in our hearts; we need not fear crying out to Him in our suffering; we must be convinced that God is near, even when He appears to be silent.

In repeating from the Cross the opening words of the psalm: “Eloì, Eloì, lamà sabachthani?” -- “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46); in crying out in the words of the psalm, Jesus is praying in the moment of man’s final rejection, in the moment of abandonment. However, He is praying the psalm in the awareness that God the Father is present, even in this hour when He feels the human drama of death. But a question arises in us: How is it possible that so powerful a God does not intervene to rescue His Son from this terrible trial?

It is important to understand that Jesus’ prayer is not the cry of one who goes to meet death in despair, nor is it the cry of one who knows he has been abandoned. In that moment, Jesus makes His own the whole of Psalm 22, the great psalm of the suffering people of Israel, and so He is taking upon Himself not only the tribulation of His people, but also of all people who suffer under the oppression of evil -- and, at the same time, He brings all of this before the heart of God Himself, in the certainty that His cry will be heard in the Resurrection: “The cry of extreme anguish is at the same time the certainty of an answer from God, the certainty of salvation -- not only for Jesus Himself, but for ‘many’” (Jesus of Nazareth II, p. 214).

The prayer of Jesus contains the utmost confidence and abandonment into God’s hands, even in His apparent absence, even when He seemingly remains in silence, in accordance with a plan incomprehensible to us. Thus, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “In the redeeming love that always united Him to the Father, He assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that He could say in our name from the Cross: ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’” (n. 603). His is a suffering in communion with us and for us that is born of love and already includes redemption, the victory of love.

The persons present under the Cross of Jesus fail to understand this, and they take His cry to be a plea addressed to Elijah. In a frenzied scene, they seek to quench His thirst in order to prolong His life and verify whether Elijah will truly come to His assistance. But a loud cry brings the earthy life of Jesus, and their desire, to an end. In the final moment, Jesus allows His heart to express its suffering; and yet, at the same time, He allows the sense of the Father’s presence to emerge together with His consent to His plan of salvation for mankind.

We too find ourselves again and again faced with the “here and now” of suffering, of the silence of God -- we so often express it in our prayer -- and yet, we also find ourselves before the “here and now” of the Resurrection, of the response of a God who took our sufferings upon Himself, so that He might carry them together with us, and give us the sure hope that they will be overcome (cf. Encyclical Letter, Spe salvi, 35-40).

Dear friends, in prayer let us bring our daily crosses to God, in the certainty that He is present and listens to us. The cry of Jesus reminds us that in prayer we must overcome the barriers of our “I” and of our problems in order to open ourselves to the needs and sufferings of others. The prayer of the dying Jesus on the Cross teaches us to pray with love for all our brothers and sisters who are feeling the burden of daily life, who are living through difficult moments, who are in pain, who receive no word of comfort; let us bring all of this before the heart of God, so that they may feel the love of God, who never abandons us. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I want to reflect with you on the cry of Jesus from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This cry comes after a three-hour period when there was darkness over the whole land. Darkness is an ambivalent symbol in the Bible – while it is frequently a sign of the power of evil, it can also serve to express a mysterious divine presence. Just as Moses was covered in the dark cloud when God appeared to him on the mountain, so Jesus on Calvary is wrapped in darkness. Even though the Father appears to be absent, in a mysterious way his loving gaze is focussed upon the Son’s loving sacrifice on the Cross. It is important to realize that Jesus’ cry of anguish is not an expression of despair: on the contrary, this opening verse of Psalm twenty-two conveys the entire content of the psalm, it expresses the confidence of the people of Israel that despite all the adversity they are experiencing, God remains present among them, he hears and answers his people’s cry. This prayer of the dying Jesus teaches us to pray with confidence for all our brothers and sisters who are suffering, that they too may know the love of God who never abandons them.


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Pope's Message for Lent 2012
"We Must Not Remain Silent Before Evil"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for Lent 2012. The message is dated Nov. 3 and was released today.

Ash Wednesday falls this year on Feb. 22.

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"Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works"

(Heb 10:24)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: charity. This is a favourable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.

This year I would like to propose a few thoughts in the light of a brief biblical passage drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews: "Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works". These words are part of a passage in which the sacred author exhorts us to trust in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who has won us forgiveness and opened up a pathway to God. Embracing Christ bears fruit in a life structured by the three theological virtues: it means approaching the Lord "sincere in heart and filled with faith" (v. 22), keeping firm "in the hope we profess" (v. 23) and ever mindful of living a life of "love and good works" (v. 24) together with our brothers and sisters. The author states that to sustain this life shaped by the Gospel it is important to participate in the liturgy and community prayer, mindful of the eschatological goal of full communion in God (v. 25). Here I would like to reflect on verse 24, which offers a succinct, valuable and ever timely teaching on the three aspects of Christian life: concern for others, reciprocity and personal holiness.

1. "Let us be concerned for each other": responsibility towards our brothers and sisters.

This first aspect is an invitation to be "concerned": the Greek verb used here is katanoein, which means to scrutinize, to be attentive, to observe carefully and take stock of something. We come across this word in the Gospel when Jesus invites the disciples to "think of" the ravens that, without striving, are at the centre of the solicitous and caring Divine Providence (cf. Lk 12:24), and to "observe" the plank in our own eye before looking at the splinter in that of our brother (cf. Lk 6:41). In another verse of the Letter to the Hebrews, we find the encouragement to "turn your minds to Jesus" (3:1), the Apostle and High Priest of our faith. So the verb which introduces our exhortation tells us to look at others, first of all at Jesus, to be concerned for one another, and not to remain isolated and indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters. All too often, however, our attitude is just the opposite: an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for "privacy". Today too, the Lord’s voice summons all of us to be concerned for one another. Even today God asks us to be "guardians" of our brothers and sisters (Gen 4:9), to establish relationships based on mutual consideration and attentiveness to the well-being, the integral well-being of others. The great commandment of love for one another demands that we acknowledge our responsibility towards those who, like ourselves, are creatures and children of God. Being brothers and sisters in humanity and, in many cases, also in the faith, should help us to recognize in others a true alter ego, infinitely loved by the Lord. If we cultivate this way of seeing others as our brothers and sisters, solidarity, justice, mercy and compassion will naturally well up in our hearts. The Servant of God Pope Paul VI stated that the world today is suffering above all from a lack of brotherhood: "Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations" (Populorum Progressio, 66).

Concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual. Contemporary culture seems to have lost the sense of good and evil, yet there is a real need to reaffirm that good does exist and will prevail, because God is "generous and acts generously" (Ps 119:68). The good is whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion. Responsibility towards others thus means desiring and working for the good of others, in the hope that they too will become receptive to goodness and its demands. Concern for others means being aware of their needs. Sacred Scripture warns us of the danger that our hearts can become hardened by a sort of "spiritual anesthesia" which numbs us to the suffering of others. The Evangelist Luke relates two of Jesus’ parables by way of example. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite "pass by", indifferent to the presence of the man stripped and beaten by the robbers (cf.Lk 10:30-32). In that of Dives and Lazarus, the rich man is heedless of the poverty of Lazarus, who is starving to death at his very door (cf. Lk 16:19). Both parables show examples of the opposite of "being concerned", of looking upon others with love and compassion. What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of "showing mercy" towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy. "The upright understands the cause of the weak, the wicked has not the wit to understand it" (Prov 29:7). We can then understand the beatitude of "those who mourn" (Mt 5:5), those who in effect are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.

"Being concerned for each other" also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten:fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: "Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more" (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction - elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included "admonishing sinners" among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: "If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way" (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even "the upright falls seven times" (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.

2. "Being concerned for each other": the gift of reciprocity.

This "custody" of others is in contrast to a mentality that, by reducing life exclusively to its earthly dimension, fails to see it in an eschatological perspective and accepts any moral choice in the name of personal freedom. A society like ours can become blind to physical sufferings and to the spiritual and moral demands of life. This must not be the case in the Christian community! The Apostle Paul encourages us to seek "the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support one another" (Rom 14:19) for our neighbour’s good, "so that we support one another" (15:2), seeking not personal gain but rather "the advantage of everybody else, so that they may be saved" (1 Cor 10:33). This mutual correction and encouragement in a spirit of humility and charity must be part of the life of the Christian community.

The Lord’s disciples, united with him through the Eucharist, live in a fellowship that binds them one to another as members of a single body. This means that the other is part of me, and that his or her life, his or her salvation, concern my own life and salvation. Here we touch upon a profound aspect of communion: our existence is related to that of others, for better or for worse. Both our sins and our acts of love have a social dimension. This reciprocity is seen in the Church, the mystical body of Christ: the community constantly does penance and asks for the forgiveness of the sins of its members, but also unfailingly rejoices in the examples of virtue and charity present in her midst. As Saint Paul says: "Each part should be equally concerned for all the others" (1 Cor 12:25), for we all form one body. Acts of charity towards our brothers and sisters – as expressed by almsgiving, a practice which, together with prayer and fasting, is typical of Lent – is rooted in this common belonging. Christians can also express their membership in the one body which is the Church through concrete concern for the poorest of the poor. Concern for one another likewise means acknowledging the good that the Lord is doing in others and giving thanks for the wonders of grace that Almighty God in his goodness continuously accomplishes in his children. When Christians perceive the Holy Spirit at work in others, they cannot but rejoice and give glory to the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:16).

3. "To stir a response in love and good works": walking together in holiness.

These words of the Letter to the Hebrews (10:24) urge us to reflect on the universal call to holiness, the continuing journey of the spiritual life as we aspire to the greater spiritual gifts and to an ever more sublime and fruitful charity (cf. 1 Cor 12:31-13:13). Being concerned for one another should spur us to an increasingly effective love which, "like the light of dawn, its brightness growing to the fullness of day" (Prov 4:18), makes us live each day as an anticipation of the eternal day awaiting us in God. The time granted us in this life is precious for discerning and performing good works in the love of God. In this way the Church herself continuously grows towards the full maturity of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13). Our exhortation to encourage one another to attain the fullness of love and good works is situated in this dynamic prospect of growth.

Sadly, there is always the temptation to become lukewarm, to quench the Spirit, to refuse to invest the talents we have received, for our own good and for the good of others (cf. Mt 25:25ff.). All of us have received spiritual or material riches meant to be used for the fulfilment of God’s plan, for the good of the Church and for our personal salvation (cf. Lk 12:21b; 1 Tim 6:18). The spiritual masters remind us that in the life of faith those who do not advance inevitably regress. Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the invitation, today as timely as ever, to aim for the "high standard of ordinary Christian living" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). The wisdom of the Church in recognizing and proclaiming certain outstanding Christians as Blessed and as Saints is also meant to inspire others to imitate their virtues. Saint Paul exhorts us to "anticipate one another in showing honour" (Rom 12:10).

In a world which demands of Christians a renewed witness of love and fidelity to the Lord, may all of us feel the urgent need to anticipate one another in charity, service and good works (cf. Heb 6:10). This appeal is particularly pressing in this holy season of preparation for Easter. As I offer my prayerful good wishes for a blessed and fruitful Lenten period, I entrust all of you to the intercession of the Mary Ever Virgin and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 3 November 2011

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On the Paradox of Illness
"Jesus Christ Came to Conquer Evil at Its Root"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2012 - 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!

This Sunday's Gospel presents to us Jesus who heals the sick: first Simon Peter's mother-in-law, who was sick in bed with fever and he, taking her by the hand, healed her and made her able to get up; then all the sick of Capernaum, suffering in the body, mind and spirit and he "healed many … and drove out many demons" (Mark 1:34). The four evangelists are in agreement in testifying that freeing of people from sicknesses and infirmities of every type constituted, together with preaching, Jesus's principal activity in his public life. In effect, the sicknesses are a sign of the action of evil in the world and in man, while the healings show that the Kingdom of God, God himself, is near. Jesus Christ came to conquer evil at its root, and the healings are an anticipation of his victory, obtained by his death and resurrection.

One day Jesus said: "The healthy have no need of a doctor but only the sick" (Mark 2:17). He is speaking here of sinners, whom he came to save. It is nevertheless true that sickness is a typically human condition in which we have a powerful experience of our lack of self-sufficiency, that we need others. In this sense we can say, with a paradox, that sickness becomes a salutary occasion in which we can experience the attention of others and give attention to others! Nevertheless, it is always a trial that can also become long and difficult. When healing does not take place and the sufferings continue, we can be crushed, isolated, and then our existence can sink into the depths and become dehumanized. How should we respond to this attack of evil?

Certainly we can use the appropriate cures -- medicine has made gigantic strides in these decades and we are grateful -- but the Word of God teaches us that there is a decisive and basic attitude with which to face sickness and it is that of faith in God, in his goodness. Jesus always repeats it to the people he heals: your faith has saved you (cf. Mark 5:34, 36). Even in the face of death, faith can make possible what is humanly impossible.

But faith in what? In the love of God. This is the true response that can radically defeat evil. As Jesus confronted the evil one with the force of love that came to him from the Father, so we too can confront and win out in the trial of sickness, keeping our heart immersed in God's love. We all know people who were able to endure terrible sufferings because God gave them a profound serenity. I think of the recent example of Blessed Chiara Badano, cut down in the flower of youth by an inescapable evil: those who went to visit her received the light of confidence from her! Nevertheless, in sickness we all need human warmth: serene and sincere nearness count more than words in helping a sick person.

Dear friends, next Saturday, Feb. 11, the commemoration of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, is the World Day of the Sick. Let us do what the people of Jesus' time did: In a spiritual way let us bring all of the sick to him, confident that he wants to and can heal them. And we invoke the intercession of the Madonna, especially for situations of great suffering and isolation. Mary, Health of the Sick, pray for us!

[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in several languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today in Italy the Day of Life is celebrated, which was started to defend nascent life and was extended to all the phases and conditions of human existence. This year the bishops' message proposes the theme: "Young People Open to Life." I join with the bishops of the Church in Italy in affirming that true youthfulness is realized in welcoming life in love and service. I am glad for yesterday's gathering in Rome promoted by the schools of obstetrics and gynecology of the Roman universities for reflecting on the "Promotion and Protection of Nascent Human Life," and I greet Monsignor Lorenzo Leuzzi, the instructors and the young people present today in St. Peter's Square. Welcome! Thank you for your presence!

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Pope's Feb. 2 Homily for Day of Consecrated Life
"Old and New Testament Join Together in a Marvelous Way in Giving Thanks for the Gift of the Light"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 6, 2012 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave last Thursday at vespers on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which is also the World Day of Consecrated Life.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 40 days after Jesus' birth, shows us Mary and Joseph, who in obedience to the Mosaic Law travel to the temple of Jerusalem to offer the child, as the first born, to the Lord and ransom him by a sacrifice (cf. Luke 2:22-24). It is one of the cases in which the liturgical time reflects historical time, because today it has been precisely 40 days since the Solemnity of the Birth of the Lord; the theme of Christ the Light, which has characterized the cycle of Christmas feasts and culminates in the Solemnity of Epiphany, is taken up again and prolonged in today's feast.

The ritual gesture of Jesus' parents, which takes place in the form of the humble discretion that characterizes the Incarnation of the Son of God, is received in a unique way by the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. By divine inspiration they recognize in that child the Messiah announced by the prophets. In the meeting between the venerable old Simeon and Mary, the young mother, the Old and the New Testament join together in a marvelous way in giving thanks for the gift of the Light, which shown in the darkness and prevented it from taking over: Christ the Lord, light to enlighten the nations and the glory of his people Israel (cf. Luke 2:32).

On the day in which the Church recalls the presentation of Jesus in the temple, we celebrate the Day of Consecrated Life. In effect, the Gospel episode to which we refer constitutes a significant icon of the self-donation of those who have been called to represent, in the Church and in the world, the characteristic traits of Jesus: virgin, poor, obedient, the Consecrated One of the Father. Thus in today's feast we celebrate the mystery of consecration: the consecration of Jesus, the consecration of Mary, the consecration of all those who place themselves in the following of Jesus for the love of the Kingdom of God.

Following the ideas of Blessed John Paul II, who celebrated it for the first time in 1997, the day dedicated to the consecrated life has some particular purposes. It intends to respond first of all to the need to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of this state of life, which pertains to the sanctity of the Church. To each consecrated person today is dedicated the prayer of the whole Community, who gives thanks to God the Father, giver of every good gift, for the gift of this vocation, and with faith calls upon him once more. Moreover, this occasion aims to increase more and more the recognition of the value of the witness of those who have chosen to follow Christ through the practice of the evangelical counsels by promoting knowledge and esteem for the consecrated life among the People of God. Finally, the Day of Consecrated Life intends to be, above all for you, dear brothers and sisters, who have embraced this state in the Church, a precious occasion to renew the decisions and revive the sentiments that have inspired and inspire your gift of yourselves to the Lord. This we wish to do today; this is a task that you are called to accomplish every day of your life.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, I have, as you know, called for the Year of Faith, which will open in October. All of the faithful, but in a special way the members of the institutes of consecrated life, have welcomed this initiative as a gift, and I hope that they will live the Year of Faith as a favorable time for interior renewal -- for which one always feels the need -- with a deepening of the essential values and of the demands of their consecration. During the Year of Faith you, who have accepted the call to follow Christ more closely through the profession of the evangelical counsels, are called to deepen still further your relationship with God. The evangelical counsels, accepted as an authentic rule of life, reinforce the faith, hope and charity that unite us to God. This profound nearness to the Lord, which must be the element that has priority and that characterizes your existence, will bring you to a renewed commitment to him and it will have a positive influence on your particular presence and the form of your apostolate among the People of God, through the contribution of your charisms, in fidelity to the magisterium, with the goal of being witnesses of faith and grace, credible witnesses for the Church and the world of today.

The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the means that it will judge adequate, will suggest directions and do its best to ensure that this Year of Faith constitutes for all of you a year of renewal and fidelity, so that all consecrated men and women engage in the new evangelization with enthusiasm. While I address my cordial greeting to the prefect of that dicastery, Monsignor João Braz de Aviz -- whom I have chosen to be among those whom I will make cardinals at the next consistory -- I gladly welcome this moment to thank him and his collaborators in the precious service that they give to the Holy See and to the whole Church.

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On the Prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane
"Nowhere Else in Sacred Scripture Do We Gain So Deep an Insight Into the Inner Mystery of Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2012 - 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 today on the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to speak about the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, in the Garden of Olives. The setting of the gospel account of this prayer is particularly significant. Jesus sets out for the Mount of Olives after the Last Supper, while he is praying together with his disciples. The Evangelist Mark relates: “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (14:26). This likely alludes to the singing of some of the Hallel Psalms. These are hymns of thanksgiving to God for the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery, and a plea for help in the face of ever new and present tribulations and threats. The path to Gethsemane is strewn with expressions of Jesus, which make us feel the impending fate of his death and foretell the imminent scattering of the disciples.

Having reached the grove on the Mount of Olives, also on this night Jesus prepares himself for personal prayer. But this time something new occurs: He seems not to want to be alone. On many occasions, Jesus withdrew apart from the crowds and from his own disciples, remaining in “a lonely place” (cf. Mark 1:35) or going up into the hills, as St. Mark says (cf. Mark 6:46). At Gethsemane, however, he invites Peter, James and John to remain closer to him. They are the disciples whom he called to be with him on the Mount of the Transfiguration (cf. Mark 9:2-13).

This closeness of the three during the prayer in Gethsemane is significant. On that night also, Jesus will pray to the Father “alone,” since his relationship with Him is wholly unique and singular: it is the relationship of the Only Begotten Son. Indeed, it could be said that especially on that night no one can truly draw near to the Son, who presents himself to the Father in his absolutely unique, exclusive identity.

Jesus, however, though arriving “alone” at the place where he will stop to pray, wills that at least three of his disciples remain nearby, in a closer relationship with him. It is a spatial closeness, a request for solidarity in the moment when he feels death approaching. But above all, it is a closeness in prayer that in some way expresses their being with him at the time he is preparing to accomplish the Father’s will unto the end; and it is an invitation to every disciple to follow him on the way of the Cross. The Evangelist Mark relates: “And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch’” (14:33-34).

In the word he addresses to the three, Jesus once again expresses himself in the language of the Psalms: “My soul is very sorrowful” is an expression from Psalm 43 (cf. Psalm 43:5). Steadfast determination “unto death” further recalls a situation that many of those who were sent by God in the Old Testament experienced and expressed in their prayer. Not infrequently, in fact, following the mission God entrusted to them meant encountering hostility, rejection and persecution. Moses feels in a dramatic way the trial he undergoes as he guides the people of Israel in the desert, and he says to God: “I am not able to carry the weight of this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me; If you deal with me thus, kill me at once if I find favor in your sight” (Numbers 11:14-15). Nor is it easy for the Prophet Elijah to carry out his service to God and to His people. The First Book of Kings relates: “He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers’”(19:4).

Jesus’ words to the three disciples he wills to remain close by during the prayer in Gethsemane reveal the fear and anguish he feels in that “Hour”; they reveal his experience of an ultimate, profound solitude precisely at the time God’s plan is being realized. And in Jesus’ fear and anguish, all of man’s horror in the face of his own death, the certainty of its relentlessness and the perception of the weight of evil that laps against our lives are recapitulated.

After the invitation addressed to the three to remain and watch in prayer, Jesus “alone” turns to the Father. The Evangelist Mark tells us that, “going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him” (14:35). Jesus falls face to the ground: It is the prayer posture that expresses obedience to the Father’s will -- a total, trusting abandonment to Him. It is a gesture that is repeated at the beginning of the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, as well as at monastic professions and diaconal, priestly and episcopal ordinations in order to express in prayer, and also in a bodily way, the complete entrustment of oneself to God, and reliance on Him. Jesus continues by asking the Father that, if it were possible, this hour might pass from him. This is not only the fear and anguish of a man faced with death; it is the inner turmoil of the Son of God, who sees the terrible flood of evil that he must take upon himself in order to overcome it, to deprive it of its power.

Dear friends, in prayer we too must be capable of bringing before God our struggles, the suffering of certain situations, of certain days, the daily undertaking of following him, of being Christians, and also the weight of evil that we see within ourselves and around us, so that he may give us hope, that he may make us feel his closeness and give us a little light on the path of life.

Jesus continues his prayer: “Abba! Father! All things are possible to thee; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). In this appeal, there are three revealing passages. At the beginning, we have the double use of the word that Jesus uses to address himself to God: “Abba! Father!” (Mark 14:36a). We are well aware that the Aramaic word Abba was used by a child to address his father, and that it therefore expresses Jesus’ relationship with God the Father, a relationship of tenderness, affection, trust and abandonment. In the central part of the appeal there is a second element: the awareness of the Father’s omnipotence -- “All things are possible to thee” -- that introduces a request in which the drama of Jesus’ human will in the face of death and evil again appears: “Remove this chalice from me.” But there is a third expression in Jesus’ prayer, and it is the decisive one in which his human will adheres fully to the divine will. Jesus, in fact, concludes by saying forcefully: “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36c).

In the unity of the divine Person of the Son, the human will attains fulfillment in the total abandonment of the “I” to the “You” of the Father, who is called Abba. St. Maximus the Confessor affirms that, from the moment of the creation of man and woman, the human will was ordered to the divine will, and that it is precisely in its “yes” to God that the human will is made fully free and attains fulfillment.

Unfortunately, due to sin, this “yes” to God was transformed into opposition: Adam and Eve thought that “no” to God was the pinnacle of freedom, their being fully themselves. On the Mount of Olives, Jesus draws the human will back to its full “yes” to God; in Him the natural will is fully integrated in the orientation the Divine Person gives to it. Jesus lives his life in accordance with the center of his Person: his being the Son of God. His human will is drawn into the “I” of the Son, who abandons Himself totally to the Father.

Thus, Jesus tells us that it is only in conforming one’s own will to the divine will that the human being attains his true greatness, that he becomes “divine”; it is only by going out of himself -- only in his “yes” to God -- that the desire of Adam and of us all is fulfilled -- that of being completely free. This is what Jesus accomplishes in Gethsemane: by placing the human will within the divine will the true man is born, and we are redeemed.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church concisely teaches: “The prayer of Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane and his last words on the Cross reveal the depth of his filial prayer. Jesus brings to completion the loving plan of the Father and takes upon himself all the anguish of humanity and all the petitions and intercessions of the history of salvation. He presents them to the Father who accepts them and answers them beyond all hope by raising his Son from the dead” (n. 543). Truly, “nowhere else in sacred Scripture do we gain so deep an insight into the inner mystery of Jesus as in the prayer on the Mount of Olives” (Jesus of Nazareth II, 157).

Dear brothers and sisters, every day in the prayer of the Our Father we ask the Lord: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We recognize, that is, that there is a will of God with us and for us, a will of God for our lives, which more and more each day must become the reference point for our will and for our being. Furthermore, we recognize that “heaven” is where the will of God is done, and that “earth” becomes “heaven” -- i.e., the place of the presence of love, of goodness, of truth and of divine beauty -- only if on earth the will of God is done.

In Jesus’ prayer to the Father on that terrible and wondrous night of Gethsemane, “earth” became “heaven”; the “earth” of his human will, shaken by fear and anguish, was assumed by the divine will, so that the will of God might be accomplished on earth. And this is important for our prayer as well: We must learn to entrust ourselves more and more to divine Providence, to ask God to conform our wills to His. It is a prayer that we must make daily, because it is not always easy to entrust ourselves to God’s will, to repeat the “yes” of Jesus, the “yes” of Mary.

The Gospel accounts of Gethsemane painfully reveal that the three disciples chosen by Jesus to remain close to him were unable to keep watch with Him, to share in His prayer, in His adherence to the Father, and that they were overcome by sleep. Dear friends, let us ask the Lord to grant us the ability to keep watch with Him in prayer; to follow the will of God each day, even if it speaks of the Cross; and to experience an ever greater intimacy with the Lord -- in order that a little of God's "heaven" might be brought to this "earth.” Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane, the Garden of Olives, following the Last Supper. As the Lord prepares to face his death, he prays alone, as the eternal Son in communion with the Father. Yet he also desires the company of Peter, James and John; their presence is an invitation to every disciple to draw near to Jesus along the way of the Cross. Christ’s prayer reveals his human fear and anguish in the face of death, and at the same time shows his complete obedience to the will of the Father. His words, “not what I want, but what you want” (Mk 14:36), teach us that only in complete abandonment to God’s will do we attain the full measure of our humanity. In Christ’s “yes” to the Father, Adam’s sin is redeemed and humanity attains true freedom, the freedom of the children of God. May our contemplation of the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemane help us better to discern God’s will for us and for our lives, and sustain our daily petition that his will be done, “on earth as it is in heaven”.

* * *

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On Authority as Service
God "Cannot Will Anything if Not Our Good"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2012 - 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.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday's Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) presents us Jesus, who on the Sabbath preaches in the synagogue of Capernaum the little city on the Sea of Galilee where Peter and his brother Andrew lived. His teaching, which caused the people to wonder, was followed by the liberation of "a man possessed by an unclean spirit" (1:23), who recognizes in Jesus the "Holy One of God," that is, the Messiah. In a short time his fame spread through the whole region in which he traveled proclaiming the Kingdom of God and healing all types of sick people: word and deed. St. John Chrysostom observes how the Lord "adapts his discourse to what is beneficial to his listeners, proceeding from prodigies to words and passing again from teaching his doctrine to miracles" (Hom. in Matthæum 25, 1: PG 57, 328).

The word Jesus addresses to men immediately opens up access to the Father's will and to the truth about themselves. This is not how it went with the scribes, who had to make an effort to interpret the sacred Scriptures with countless reflections. Moreover, Jesus joined the efficaciousness of the word to the signs of liberation from evil. St. Augustine observed that "commanding demons and casting them out is not a human but a divine work"; in fact, the Lord "relieved men of all sickness and every infirmity. Who, seeing his power … would still have doubted that he was the Son, the Wisdom and the Power of God?" (Oratio de Incarnatione Verbi 18.19: PG 25, 128 BC.129 B). Divine authority is not a power of nature. It is the power of God's love that creates the universe and, incarnating itself in the Only Begotten Son, descending into our humanity, it heals the world corrupted by sin. Romano Guardini writes: "Jesus' whole existence is the translation of power into humility … it is sovereignty that here abases itself in the form of servant" ("Power and Responsibility," Regnery, 1961).

Often for man authority means possession, power, dominance, success. For God, instead, authority means service, humility, love; it means entering into the logic of Jesus who stoops to wash the feet of his disciples (cf. John 13:5), who seeks man's true good, who heals wounds, who is capable of a love so great that he gives his life, because he is Love. In one of her letters, St. Catherine of Siena writes: "It is necessary that we see and know, in truth, with the light of faith, that God is the Supreme and Eternal Love, and he cannot will anything if not our good" (Ep. 13 in: Le Lettere, vol. 3, Bologna 1999, 206).

Dear friends, next Thursday, Feb. 2, we will celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the World Day of Consecrated Life. Let us call with confidence upon Mary Most Holy, that she guide our hearts to draw always upon divine mercy, which liberates and frees our humanity, filling it with grace and benevolence, with the power of love.

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today in Vienna, Hildegard Burjan will be beatified. She was a laywoman and a mother, who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries and is the foundress of the Society of the Sisters of Caritas Socialis (Social Charity). Let us praise the Lord for this beautiful witness of the Gospel!

This Sunday is World Leprosy Day. In greeting the Italian Association of the Friends of Raoul Follereau, I would like to add my encouragement to all persons affected by this disease and to all those who help them and those who in various ways work to eliminate poverty and marginalization, true causes of the persistence of this disease.

I would also like to mention the International Day of Intercession for Peace in the Holy Land. In profound communion with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custody of the Holy Land, let us pray for the gift of peace for that land blessed by God.

[In English he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. In this Sunday's Gospel we hear how the unclean spirit recognizes Jesus as the "Holy One of God". Let us pray that, despite the distractions of life and the apparent progress of evil, we may continue to put our faith in the Lord Jesus who is "the way, the truth and the life". I wish all of you a good Sunday. May God bless you!

[Again in Italian he said:]

And I greet with affection the Italian speaking pilgrims, in particular the faithful from Taranto, Bari and Civitavecchia, and the many young people of Catholic Action of Rome with their teachers and families. Dear young people, again this year you have participated in the "Caravan of Peace." I thank you and I encourage you to bring the peace of Jesus everywhere. Two of you are here beside me. Let us now listen to Noemi's message:

[Noemi read the message. The Holy Father responded:]

Thank you, Noemi, you did very well! And now we will release the doves that the children brought with them, as a sign of peace for the City of Rome and for the whole world.

[The Holy Father and one of the children released two doves. One returned to the Pope's window sill while the other flew back inside the window of his apartment. In Italian the Holy Father said:]

They want to stay in the Pope's house!

Have a good Sunday, everyone! Have a good Sunday!

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Pope's Address to Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
"The Center of True Ecumenism Is ... the Faith in Which Man Encounters the Truth"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday at the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

* * *

Lord Cardinals,

venerable brothers in the episcopate and priesthood,

dear brothers and sisters!

It is always a joy for me to meet with you on the occasion of your plenary session and to express my appreciation for the service that you undertake for the Church and especially for the Successor of Peter in his office of confirming the brethren in faith (cf. Luke 22:32). I thank Cardinal Levada for his cordial address of greeting in which he recalled some important tasks discharged by the dicastery in recent years. And I am particularly grateful to the Congregation for its work with the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in preparing the Year of Faith, recognizing in it a propitious moment for re-proposing to all the gift of faith in the risen Christ, the luminous teaching of Vatican Council II and the precious doctrinal synthesis offered by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

As we know, in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of being extinguished, like a flame that has lost its fuel. We are facing a profound crisis of faith, a loss of the religious sense, that constitutes the Church's greatest challenge today. The renewal of faith, then, must be the priority in the work of the whole Church in our time. It is my wish that the Year of Faith contribute, with the cordial collaboration of all of the People of God, to making God present again in this world and to opening to men the way to faith, to entrusting themselves to that God who loved us to the end (cf. John 13:1), in Jesus Christ crucified and risen. The theme of the unity of Christians is closely connected to this task. I would therefore like to reflect on some doctrinal aspects that regard the Church's ecumenical path, which has been the object of deep reflection during this plenary session, coinciding with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In fact, the spirit of ecumenical work must begin with that "spiritual ecumenism," with that "soul of the whole ecumenical movement" ("Unitatis redintegratio," 8), which is found in the spirit of prayer that "all may be one" (John 17:21).

The consistency of the ecumenical task with the teaching of Vatican II and with the whole tradition has been one of the areas to which the Congregation, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has given its attention. Today we can observe that many good fruits have been produced from ecumenical dialogues but we must also note that the risk of a false irenicism and of an indifferentism, that is completely alien to the mind of Vatican II, require our vigilance. This indifferentism is caused by the opinion, which continues to spread, that truth is not accessible to man and that it is thus necessary to limit ourselves to finding rules for a praxis that would be capable of improving the world. And in this way the faith would be replaced by a moralism without any deep foundation. The center of true ecumenism is instead the faith in which man encounters the truth that is revealed in the Word of God. Without the faith the whole ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of "social contract" that is agreed to because of a common interest, a "praxeology" aimed at creating a better world. The logic of Vatican II is completely different: the pursuit of the complete unity of Christians is a dynamism animated by the Word of God, by the divine Truth that speaks to us in this Word.

The crucial problem, which cuts across ecumenical dialogues, is therefore the question of the structure of revelation -- the relation between sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church and the office of the successors of the Apostles as witness to the true faith: and here the theme of ecclesiology, which is a part of this issue, is implicit: how God's truth reaches us. The discernment between Tradition with a capital "T" and traditions, among other things, is fundamental here. I do not wish to enter into details but only to make an observation. An important step in such a discernment was accomplished in the preparation and application of provisions for groups of faithful coming from Anglicanism, who desire to enter into full communion with the Church, into the unity of the common and essential divine Tradition, maintaining their own spiritual, liturgical and pastoral traditions, which are in conformity with the Catholic faith (cf. "Anglicanorum coetibus," art. III). There exists, in fact, a spiritual richness in the different Christian confessions, which is the expression of the one faith and a gift to share and discover together in the Tradition of the Church.

Today, then, one of the fundamental questions has to do with the problem of the appropriate methods in various ecumenical dialogues. These too must reflect the priority of faith. Knowing the truth is the right of every interlocutor in true dialogue. It is the demand of charity itself for our brother. In this sense, it is necessary even to face controversial questions and to do so with courage, always in the spirit of fraternity and reciprocal respect. It is important, moreover, to offer a correct interpretation of that "order or 'hierarchy' of truths in Catholic doctrine" spoken of by the decree "Unitatis redintegratio" (n. 11), which does not in any way mean reducing the deposit of faith, but making its internal organic structure emerge. The study documents produced by various ecumenical dialogues also have great relevance. Such texts cannot be ignored since they constitute an important fruit, even if provisional, of common reflection that has developed over the years. Nonetheless, their proper significance must be recognized as contributions offered to the competent Authority of the Church, who alone is called to judge them in a definitive way. To ascribe to such texts a binding or almost conclusive weight in thorny questions of dialogue without the necessary evaluation by the ecclesial Authority would, in the final analysis, not help the path toward full unity in the faith.

A last question that I would like finally to mention is the issue of morality, which is a new challenge for the ecumenical journey. In dialogues we cannot ignore the great moral questions about human life, the family, sexuality, bioethics, freedom, justice and peace. It will be important to speak on these topics with one voice, drawing from the foundation of Scripture and the living tradition of the Church. This tradition helps us to decipher the language of the Creator in his creation. Defending fundamental values of the great tradition of the Church, we defend man, we defend creation.

In concluding these reflections, I hope for the Congregation's close and fraternal collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity with the goal of effectively promoting the re-establishment of complete unity among Christians. Division among Christians, in fact, "is not only openly opposed to the will of Christ, but it is also a scandal to the world and damages the holiest of causes: the preaching of the Gospel to every creature" ("Unitatis redintegratio," 1). Unity is therefore not only the fruit of faith but also a means and almost a presupposition of proclaiming the faith in an ever more credible way to those who do not yet know the Savior. Jesus prayed: "As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they also be one in us, that the world believe that you have sent me" (John 17:21).

In renewing my gratitude for your service, I assure you of my constant spiritual nearness and from my heart impart to you the Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.

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Pope's Address to 3 Regional Seminaries of Italy
"The World Awaits Saints: This Above All"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday to superiors and seminarians from three Italian regional pontifical seminaries in Assisi, Catanzaro and Naples.

* * *
Lord Cardinals, venerable Brothers, and dear Seminarians!

I am very happy to receive you on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Seminaries Campano, Calabro and Umbro. I greet my confreres in the episcopate and the priesthood, the three rectors with their collaborators and instructors, and above all I greet you, dear seminarians!

The birth of these three regional seminaries, should be understood in the broader work of augmenting the formation of candidates for the priesthood carried forward by Pope St. Pius X in continuity with Leo XIII. To meet the growing demand for formation the route taken was the combining of diocesan seminaries into new regional seminaries together with the reform of theological studies, which produced a noticeable raising of the qualitative level, thanks to the acquisition of a basic common culture for everyone and to a sufficiently long and well-structured period of study. The Society of Jesus played an important role in this. The Jesuits, in fact, were entrusted with the direction of five regional seminaries, including the one in Catanzaro, from 1926 to 1941, and in Posillipo, from its foundation to today. But it was not only the academic formation that proved beneficial. The promotion of a common life among young seminarians hailing from different diocesan realities led to a noteworthy human enrichment. The case of the Campano Seminary in Posillipo was singular. Beginning in 1935 it was opened to all of the southern regions after it was given permission to grant academic degrees.

In the current historical and ecclesial context the experience of the regional seminaries is still quite suitable and valid. Because of relationships with theological faculties and institutes it is possible to have access to high-level courses of study, which provides training that is adequate to the complex cultural and social situation in which we live. Moreover, the interdiocesan character [of these seminaries] manifests an efficacious "palestra" of communion that is developed in the encounter with different sensibilities harmonized in the one service of the Church of Christ. In this sense, the regional seminaries furnish an incisive and concrete contribution to the path of communion among dioceses, fostering awareness, capacity for collaboration and enrichment of ecclesial experiences between future priests, between formators and among the bishops themselves of the particular Churches. The regional dimension, furthermore, presents a valid mediation between the lines of the universal Church and the demands of local realities, avoiding the danger of particularism.

Your regions, dear friends, are rich with great spiritual and cultural patrimonies but are also experiencing their share of social problems. I am thinking, for example of Umbria, the homeland of St. Francis and St. Benedict! Impregnated with spirituality, it is ever the destination of pilgrimages. At the same time this small region suffers like others, but still more than they, from an unfavorable economic situation. In Campania and Calabria the vitality of the local Church, strengthened by a still lively religious sense thanks to solid traditions and devotions, must translate this into a renewed evangelization. In these areas, the witness of the ecclesial communities must come to grips with serious social and cultural crises such as lack of jobs, above all for young people, and the phenomenon of organized crime.

Today’s cultural context demands a solid philosophical-theological formation for future priests. As I wrote in my letter to seminarians at the close of the Year for Priests, it is not only a question of learning obviously useful things but of knowing and understanding the structure of the faith in its totality -- which is not a summary of theses but an organism, an organic vision -- so that it becomes an answer to the questions of men, who change in externals from generation to generation but who remain fundamentally the same (cf. n. 5). What is more, the study of theology must always have an intense connection with the life of prayer. It is important that the seminarian well understands that the object that he applies himself to is in fact a "Subject" who calls to him, that Lord who spoke to him, inviting him to spend his life in service to God and to his brothers. In this way, in the seminarian of today, and the priest of tomorrow, there can be realized that unity of life desired by the conciliar document "Presbyterorum Ordinis" (n. 14), which finds its visible expression in pastoral charity, "the interior principle, the virtue that animates and guides the spiritual life of the priest insofar as he is configured to Christ the head" (John Paul II, post-synodal exhortation "Pastores dabo vobis," 23). The harmonious integration of ministry, with its multiple activities, and spiritual life is indispensable. "It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated" (Letter to Seminarians, 6). These are the reasons why so much attention is given to the human dimension of the formation of candidates for the priesthood. It is in fact in our humanity that we present ourselves before God to be authentic men of God in the eyes of our brothers. Indeed, he who wants to become a priest must above all be a "man of God," as St. Paul writes to his pupil Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11). Thus, the most important thing in the journey toward the priesthood and during the whole priestly life is a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ (Letter to Seminarians, 1).

Blessed John XXIII, in receiving the superiors and students of the Campano Seminary on the 50th anniversary of the founding, on the threshold of Vatican Council II, expressed this firm conviction in this way: "In view of the mission with which you will be entrusted for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, this is the purpose of your education: forming the mind, sanctifying the will. The world awaits saints: this above all. Before cultured, eloquent, up-to-date priests, there is a need of holy priests who sanctify (sacerdoti santi e santificatori)."

These words still have resonance today because in the whole Church, as well as in the regions from which you come, there is much more than ever the need for workers of the Gospel, credible witnesses and those who promote sanctity with their own lives. May each one of you respond to this call! For this I assure you of my prayer and I entrust you to the maternal guidance of Blesses Virgin Mary, imparting a special Apostolic Blessing from my heart. Thank you.

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Vatican Message for World Leprosy Day
Seeking the Transformation of Leprosy From a Threat to a Memory

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 27, 2012 - Here is a message from Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, for the 59th World Leprosy Day, which will be marked Sunday.

The message is titled: "In the Fight Against Hansen's Disease the Commitment of All Men of Good Will in Required."

* * *

People treated for, and cured of, leprosy can, and must, express all of the riches of their dignity and spirituality, as well as full solidarity towards others, above all those who have been equally afflicted and have been marked indelibly by this infection! All the forces involved in the fight against Hansen’s disease must at the same time continue their work tenaciously so that the successes that have been obtained are made definitive and always improved, reducing as much as possible relapses and new cases.

Mycobacterium Leprae, in fact, has not as yet been eradicated, even though the official number of new cases of the infection continues to decrease and at the present time are about 200,000, according to the estimates of the World Health Organisation for the years 2010-2011. In addition to supporting the free distribution of those drugs and medicines that are required, one should, therefore, further promote speedy diagnosis and perseverance in receiving therapies. It is of fundamental importance, furthermore, that the work directed towards sensitising and training communities and families that run the risk of contagion be strengthened.

The gospel phrase ‘Stand and go; your faith has saved you’ (Lk 17:19), chosen by the Holy Father Benedict XVI as the theme for the twentieth World Day of the Sick which will be held on 11 February of this year throughout the world, constitutes an exploration and a call that touches in a particular way those who have been afflicted by this infection; in this passage from St. Luke, indeed, we are told about ten lepers who were healed by Jesus, readmitted to the community and reintegrated into the social and occupational fabric.

As is emphasised by the Holy Father in his Message for this year, ‘help us to become aware of the importance of faith for those who, burdened by suffering and illness, draw near to the Lord. In their encounter with him they can truly experience that he who believes is never alone! God, indeed, in his Son, does not abandon us to our anguish and sufferings, but is close to us, helps us to bear them, and wishes to heal us in the depths of our hearts (cf. Mk 2:1-12).

The faith of the lone leper who, on seeing that he was healed, full of amazement and joy, and unlike the others, immediately went back to Jesus to express his gratitude, enables us to perceive that reacquired health is a sign of something more precious than mere physical healing, it is a sign of the salvation that God gives us through Christ; it finds expression in the words of Jesus: your faith has saved you. He who in suffering and illness prays to the Lord is certain that God's love will never abandon him, and also that the love of the Church, the extension in time of the Lord's saving work, will never fail’.

This love, which is also expressed through individual action and through Church institutions and volunteer organisations, amongst which the Raoul Follereau Foundation and the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta, as well as the successes that have been obtained hitherto in terms of a strong reduction in the number of people infected by this disease, certainly do not exempt governments and international organisations from increasing the attention they pay to, and their work to combat, the spread of leprosy, or from their responsibilities as regards prevention, in educational and hygiene/health-care terms, and the ‘readmission’ of people who have been cured, as well as support for all the victims of infection.

On the other hand, those who have been cured and have followed the difficult pathway of social reintegration can communicate their gratitude in a practical way as well, becoming themselves witnesses, contributing to the dissemination of the criteria of prevention and the swift identification of this disease, as well as providing moral support for those people who have been infected; and, where possible, in addition, cooperating with institutions and ad hoc initiatives so that the necessary therapies are completed and then followed by the social reintegration of those who have been cured. Those who have attained a cure can in this way communicate all their interior riches and experience and at the same time, in helping their neighbour, all their dignity and profundity as people touched by suffering and involved in working for the health of the community to which they belong.

This will amount to a further and relevant contribution to progress in the fight against Hansen’s disease which for millennia has constituted a terrible scourge and involved automatic exclusion from society. Indeed, only the involvement of everyone – and at all levels – will allow the transformation of leprosy from being a threat and a scourge into being a memory, however frightening, of the past.

To Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, we entrust our brothers and sisters who are afflicted by leprosy so that her maternal compassion and nearness may accompany them always, in the daily events of life as well.

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Pope's Address to Conclude Week of Prayer for Unity
"Patient Waiting Does Not Entail Passivity" but a "Response to Every Possibility of Communion"

ROME, JAN. 26, 2012 .- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Wednesday evening at Vespers on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The celebration closed the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

It is with great joy that I address a warm greeting to all of you who are gathered in this basilica on the liturgical fest of the Conversion of St. Paul to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in this year in which we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II, which Blessed John XXIII announced here in this basilica on Jan. 25, 1959. The theme offered for our meditation during the Week of Prayer that we are concluding today is: "We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).

The meaning of this mysterious transformation, of which the second short reading this evening speaks, is marvelously shown in the event of St. Paul. Following the extraordinary happening on the road to Damascus, Saul, who distinguished himself by the zeal with which he persecuted the young Church, was transformed into an indefatigable apostle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the event of this extraordinary evangelizer it is clear that such a change is not the result of a long interior reflection nor the fruit of a personal effort. It is first of all the work of the grace of God operating in its inscrutable way. This is why Paul, writing to Corinth some years after his conversion, states, as we heard in the first reading of these vespers: "By the grace of God … I am what I am, and his grace in me has not been ineffective" (1 Corinthians 15:10). Moreover, considering the event of St. Paul we understand that the transformation that he experienced in his existence was not limited to the ethical dimension -- as a conversion from immorality to morality -- nor to the intellectual dimension -- as change in his way of seeing reality -- but it is a matter rather of a radical renewal in his own being, similar in many aspects to a rebirth. Such a transformation has its foundation in the participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is delineated as a gradual journey of conformation to Christ. In light of this awareness, St. Paul, when he will later be called to defend the legitimacy of his apostolic vocation and the Gospel that he proclaimed, will say: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And this life that I live in the body I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20).

The personal experience lived by St. Paul allowed him to await with a reasonable hope for the fulfillment of this mystery of transformation, which will affect all those who have believed in Jesus Christ and all humanity and the whole of creation as well. In the second short reading that was proclaimed this evening, St. Paul, after having developed a long argument aimed at reinforcing hope of the resurrection in the faithful, using the traditional images of the contemporary apocalyptic literature, describes in a few lines the great day of the final judgment in which the destiny of humanity is met: "In an instant, the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet ... the dead will rise uncorrupted and we will be transformed" (1 Corinthians 15:52). On that day, all believers will be conformed to Christ and all that is mortal will be transformed by his glory: "It is necessary, in fact," says St. Paul, "that this corruptible body be clothed in incorruptibility and that this mortal body be clothed in immortality" (15:53). Then the triumph of Christ will finally be complete, because, St. Paul continues, showing how the ancient prophecies of the Scriptures will be realized, death will be definitively vanquished and, with it, sin that brought death into the world and the Law that determines sin without giving the power to overcome it: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Death is the sting of sin and the Law is the power of sin" (15:54-56). St. Paul tells us, thus, that every man, through baptism in the death and resurrection of Christ, participates in the victory of him who first defeated death, opening a path of transformation that is manifested from thence in a newness of life and that will reach its goal in the fullness of time.

It is quite significant that the passage concludes with a thanksgiving: "May thanks be given to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (15:57). The canticle of victory over death becomes a canticle of gratitude lifted up to the Victor. We too this evening, celebrating the evening praises of God, would like to join our voices, our minds and our hearts to this hymn of thanksgiving for what divine grace has worked in the Apostle of the Gentiles and through the wondrous salvific design of God the Father has accomplished in us through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we lift up our prayer, we are confident that we too will be transformed and conformed to Christ's image. This is particularly true for the prayer for the unity of Christians. When we in fact implore the gift of unity of Christ's disciples, we make our own the desire expressed by Jesus Christ in the prayer to the Father on the eve of his passion and death: "that all may be one" (John 17:21). For this reason, the prayer for the unity of Christians is nothing other than a participation in the realization of the divine plan for the Church, and the active commitment to the re-establishment of unity is a duty and a great responsibility for all.

Despite experiencing in our days the painful situation of division, we Christians can and must look to the future with hope insofar as the victory of Christ means the overcoming of all that prevents us from sharing the fullness of life with him and with others. Jesus Christ's resurrection confirms that the goodness of God defeats evil; love overcomes death. He accompanies us in the struggle against the destructive force of sin that damages humanity and the entire creation of God. The presence of the risen Christ calls all of us Christians to act together in the cause of the good. United to Christ we are called to share his mission, which is that of bringing hope where injustice, hatred and desperation dominate. Our divisions dim the luminousness of our witness to Christ. The goal of complete unity that we await in active hope and that we pray for with confidence, is not a secondary victory but has importance for the good of the human family.

In today's dominant culture the idea of victory is often associated with an immediate success. In the Christian perspective, however, victory is a long -- and in the eyes of us men -- not an always linear process of transformation and growth in the good. It happens in God's timeframes, not ours, and it demands of us a profound faith and patient perseverance. If it is true that the Kingdom of God definitively irrupts in history in the resurrection of Jesus, it is still not fully realized. The final victory will happen only with the Lord's second coming, which we await with patient hope. Even our expectation of the Church's visible unity must be patient and confident. Our daily prayer and efforts for the unity of Christians have their meaning only in such a disposition. The attitude of patient waiting does not entail passivity or resignation but a prompt and attentive response to every possibility of communion and fraternity that the Lord grants us.

In this spiritual climate I would like to offer some special greetings, in the first place to Cardinal Monterisi, archpriest of this basilica, to the abbot and the community of Benedictine monks who host us. I greet Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and to all the members of this dicastery. I offer my cordial and fraternal greetings to his Eminence the Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and the Reverend Canon Richardson, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and ecclesial Communities gathered here this evening.

I entrust to the intercession of St. Paul all of those who with their prayer and their work commit themselves to the cause of the unity of Christians. Even if we can at times have the impression that the road toward complete re-establishment of communion is still very long and full of obstacles, I invite everyone to renew their determination to continue, with courage and generosity, the unity willed by God, following St. Paul's example, who, in the face of difficulties of every sort always maintained firm confidence in God, who brings his work to completion. After all, along this journey there are not lacking positive signs of a rediscovered fraternity and of a shared sense of responsibility before the great problems that afflict humanity. All of this is reason for joy and great hope and must encourage us to continue our commitment to arrive together at the final goal, knowing that our toil is not in vain in the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58). Amen.

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On the Priestly Prayer of Jesus
"Love Is True Glory, Divine Glory"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2012 - 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 priestly prayer of Jesus presented in Chapter 17 of St. John’s Gospel.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In today’s Catechesis we will focus our attention on the prayer that Jesus addresses to the Father in the “Hour” of his exaltation and of his glorification (cf. John 1:26). As the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms: “Christian Tradition rightly calls this prayer the ‘priestly’ prayer of Jesus. It is the prayer of our High Priest, inseparable from his sacrifice, from his passing over (Passover) to the Father to whom he is wholly ‘consecrated’” (No. 2747).

Jesus’ prayer can be understood in its extraordinary depth of richness if we consider it against the backdrop of the Jewish feast of expiation, Yom Kippur. On that day, the High Priest makes expiation first for himself, then for the priestly class and lastly for the entire community of the people. The purpose is to restore to the people of Israel, after the transgressions of one year, the awareness of reconciliation with God, the awareness of being the chosen people, a “holy people” among the other nations. Jesus’ prayer, presented in Chapter 17 of the Gospel according to John, adopts the structure of this feast. Jesus on that night turns to the Father as he is offering himself. He, priest and victim, prays for himself, for the apostles and for all those who will believe in Him, for the Church throughout the ages (cf. John 17:20).

The prayer that Jesus offers for himself is the request for his own glorification, for his “exaltation” in this, his “Hour.” In reality, it is more than a request and declaration of his full availability to enter freely and generously into God the Father’s plan, which is to be accomplished in his being handed over in death and resurrection. This “Hour” begins with Judas’ betrayal (cf. John 13:31) and will culminate in the Risen Jesus’ ascension to the Father (John 20:17). Jesus comments on Judas’ departure from the cenacle with these words: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified” (John 13:31). Not by chance does He begin the priestly prayer, saying: “Father, the hour has come: glorify the Son that the Son may glorify thee” (John 17:1). The glorification that Jesus asks for himself as High Priest is an entrance into the fullness of obedience to the Father, an obedience that leads him into the fullness of His Sonship: “And now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made” (John 17:5). This availability and this request form the first act of Jesus’ new priesthood, which is a total self-giving on the Cross, and it is precisely on the Cross -- in the supreme act of love -- that he is glorified, because love is true glory, divine glory.

The second moment of this prayer is the intercession Jesus makes for the disciples who were with Him. They are those of whom Jesus can say to the Father: “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word” (John 17:6). “To manifest God’s name to men” is the realization of a new presence of the Father among His people, among humanity. This “manifestation” is not only a word; in Jesus, it is reality; God is with us, and thus the name -- His presence with us, his being one with us -- is “realized.” Therefore, this manifestation finds its fulfillment in the Incarnation of the Word. In Jesus, God enters into human flesh: He makes himself close in a unique and new way. And this presence has its summit in the sacrifice that Jesus offers in His Passover of death and resurrection.

At the center of this prayer of intercession and expiation for the disciples, is the request for consecration; Jesus says to the Father: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth. As thou didst send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth” (John 17:16-19). I ask: what does it mean to “consecrate” in this case? First and foremost, it needs to be said that, strictly speaking, only God is “Consecrated” or “Holy.” To consecrate therefore means to transfer a reality -- a person or a thing -- to God’s ownership. And in this, two complementary aspects are present: on the one hand, the removal from common things, a segregation, a “setting apart” from the realm of man’s personal life, in order to be given totally to God; and on the other hand, this segregation, this transfer to the sphere of God, signifies “sending,” mission: precisely on account of its being given to God, the reality, the consecrated person exists “for” others; he is given to others.

To give oneself to God means no longer existing for oneself, but for all. He is consecrated who, like Jesus, is separated from the world and set apart for God in view of a task, and this is precisely why he is fully available to all. For the disciples, [the task] will be to continue the mission of Jesus, to be given to God so as to be on mission for all. On Easter evening, the Risen One appearing to his disciples will say to them: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21).

The third act of this priestly prayer extends our gaze to the end of time. In it, Jesus turns to the Father in order to intercede on behalf of all those who will be brought to faith through the mission inaugurated by the apostles and continued throughout history: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word.” Jesus prays for the Church throughout the ages, he prays also for us (John 17:20). The Catechism of the Catholic Church comments: “Jesus fulfilled the word of the Father completely; his prayer, like his sacrifice, extends until the end of time. The prayer of this hour fills the end-times and carries them toward their consummation” (No. 2749).

The central petition of Jesus’ priestly prayer dedicated to his disciples throughout the ages is for the future unity of all those who will believe in Him. This unity is not a product of the world. It comes exclusively from the divine unity and arrives to us from the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Jesus invokes a gift that comes from Heaven, and that has its real and perceptible effect on earth. He prays “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21).

On the one hand, Christian unity is a hidden reality present in the hearts of believers. But at the same time, it must become visible in history with complete clarity; it must become visible, so that the world may believe; it has a very practical and concrete end -- it must become visible so that all may truly be one. The unity of the future disciples, being a unity with Jesus -- whom the Father sent into the world -- is also the original source of the Christian mission’s efficacy in the world.

We can say that the founding of the Church is accomplished in Jesus’ priestly prayer … it is precisely here, in the act of the Last Supper, that Jesus creates the Church. “For what else is the Church, if not the community of disciples who receive their unity through faith in Jesus Christ as the one sent by the Father and are drawn into Jesus’ mission to lead the world toward the recognition of God -- and in this way to save it?” Here we find a true definition of the Church. “The Church is born from Jesus’ prayer. But this prayer is more than words; it is the act by which he ‘sanctifies’ himself, that is to say, he ‘sacrifices’ himself for the life of the world” (cf. Jesus of Nazareth, Vol. II p. 101ff).

Jesus prays that his disciples may be one. It is in virtue of such unity, received and cherished, that the Church can journey “in the world” without being “of the world” (cf. John 17:6) and live out the mission entrusted to her, so that the world may believe in the Son and in the Father who sent him. The Church becomes, then, the place where the very mission of Christ continues: to lead the “world” out of alienation from God and itself, out of sin, in order that it may return to being God’s world.

Dear brothers and sisters, we have taken in a portion of the great richness of Jesus’ priestly prayer, which I invite you to read and to ponder, so that it may guide us in conversation with the Lord, that it may teach us to pray. Then we, too, in our prayer may ask God to help us to enter more fully into the plan that He has for each one of us. Let us ask Him to grant that we may be “consecrated” to Him, that we may increasingly belong to Him, so that we may love others more and more -- those who are close to us and those who are far away; let us ask Him to grant that we may always be able to open our prayer to the dimensions of the world, not closing it in to the request for help for our own problems, but remembering our neighbor before the Lord and learning the beauty of interceding for others. Let us ask Him for the gift of visible unity among all believers in Christ -- we have earnestly invoked this during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity -- let us pray that we may always be ready to respond to whomever asks us the reason for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the priestly prayer which Jesus offered at the Last Supper (cf. Jn 17:1-26). Against the backdrop of the Jewish feast of expiation Yom Kippur, Jesus, priest and victim, prays that the Father will glorify him in this, the hour of his sacrifice of reconciliation. He asks the Father to consecrate his disciples, setting them apart and sending them forth to continue his mission in the world. Christ also implores the gift of unity for all those who will believe in him through the preaching of the apostles. His priestly prayer can thus be seen as instituting the Church, the community of the disciples who, through faith in him, are made one and share in his saving mission. In meditating upon the Lord’s priestly prayer, let us ask the Father for the grace to grow in our baptismal consecration and to open our own prayers to the needs of our neighbours and the whole world. Let us also pray, as we have just done in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, for the gift of the visible unity of all Christ’s followers, so that the world may believe in the Son and in the Father who sent him.

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I offer a warm welcome to the students of the Bossey Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies in Switzerland, and I offer prayerful good wishes for their work. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, an affectionate thought to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which today we conclude, offers us the possibility of reflection on our belonging to Christ and to the Church. Dear young people, trust in the teachings of the Church, which are aimed at your integral growth. Dear sick, offer your sufferings for the cause of the unity of Christ’s Church. And you, dear newlyweds, educate your children according to the logic of gratuitous love, after the model of God’s love for mankind.

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Pope's Message for World Mission Day
"Faith Is a Gift That Is Given to Us to Be Shared"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2012 .- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Mission Day, which will be celebrated this Oct. 21. The text was released by the Vatican today.

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"Called to Make the Word of Truth Shine" (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 6)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The celebration of World Mission Day has an altogether particular meaning this year. The observance of the 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Ad gentes, the opening of the Year of Faith and the Synod of Bishops on the subject of the New Evangelization concur in reaffirming the will of the Church to commit herself with greater boldness and ardor in the mission ad gentes, so that the Gospel will reach the ends of the earth.

The Ecumenical Second Vatican Council, with the participation of Catholic bishops from all corners of the earth, was a luminous sign of the universality of the Church, bringing together, for the first time, such a large number of Conciliar Fathers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania. Missionary bishops and native bishops, pastors of communities spread among non-Christian populations, who brought to the Conciliar sessions the image of a Church present in all the continents and who made themselves interpreters of the complex reality of the then so-called "Third World." Rich in the experience stemming from being pastors of young churches in the process of formation and animated by passion for the spread of the Kingdom of God, they contributed in an important way to reaffirming the necessity and urgency of the evangelization ad gentes, and hence to put at the center of ecclesiology the missionary nature of the Church.

Missionary Ecclesiology

This vision has not diminished today, rather, it has gone through a profound theological and pastoral reflection and, at the same time, it is proposed again with renewed urgency because the number of those who still do not know Christ has grown. "The men who await Christ are still an immense number," said Blessed John Paul II in the Encyclical Redemptoris missio on the permanent validity of the missionary mandate, and he added: "We cannot be at peace when thinking of the millions of our brothers and sisters, also redeemed by the Blood of Christ, who live in ignorance of the love of God" (n. 86). In convoking the Year of Faith, I also wrote that Christ "today as then, sends us to the paths of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth" (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 7); a proclamation that, as the Servant of God Paul VI also expressed, in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, "is not an optional contribution for the Church: it is the duty that is incumbent upon her by the mandate of the Lord Jesus, so that men will be able to believe and be saved. Yes, this message is necessary. It is unique. It is irreplaceable" (n. 5). Hence we are in need of taking up again the same apostolic impetus of the first Christian communities, which, small and vulnerable, with their proclamation and witness, were able to spread the Gospel in the whole then-known world.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Vatican Council II and the successive Magisterium of the Church insist especially on the missionary mandate that Christ entrusted to his disciples, which must be the commitment of all the People of God: bishops; priests; deacons; men and women religious; and laity. The task of proclaiming the Gospel in every part of the earth corresponds primarily to bishops, directly responsible for the evangelization of the world, be it as members of the Episcopal College or as pastors of particular Churches. In fact, they "were consecrated not only for a diocese, but for the salvation of the whole world" (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris mission, 63), "messengers of faith who bring new disciples to Christ" (Ad gentes, 20) and render "visible the missionary spirit and ardor of the People of God, so that the whole diocese becomes missionary" (Ibid., 38).

The Priority of Evangelization

The mandate to preach the Gospel is not exhausted, therefore, by a Pastor in caring for that portion of the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care, or in the sending of a fidei donum priest, layman or laywoman. It should involve the whole activity of the particular Church, all her sectors, in short, all her being and action. Vatican II indicated this clearly and the successive Magisterium confirmed it forcefully. This requires the constant adaptation of lifestyles, pastoral plans and diocesan organization to this fundamental dimension of being Church, especially in our world in constant change. And this is also true for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as for the Ecclesial Movements: all the components of the great mosaic of the Church must feel strongly drawn in by the Lord's mandate to preach the Gospel, so that Christ is proclaimed everywhere. We, Pastors, men and women religious and all the faithful in Christ, must follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who, "a prisoner for Christ on behalf of you Gentiles" (Ephesians 3:1), worked, suffered and fought to have the Gospel reach the Gentiles (cf. Ephesians 1:24-29), not sparing energy, time and means to make Christ's Message known.

The mission ad gentes should be, also today, the constant horizon and paradigm of every ecclesial activity, because the very identity of the Church is constituted by faith in the Mystery of God, who revealed himself in Christ to bring us salvation, and by the mission to witness and proclaim him to the world, until his return. Like St. Paul, we should care for those who are far away, those who still do not know Christ and have not experienced God's paternity, in the awareness that "the missionary cooperation must be extended today to new forms including not only economic aid but also direct participation in evangelization" (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 82). The celebration of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization will be propitious occasions to re-launch missionary cooperation, especially in this latter dimension.

Faith and Proclamation

The eagerness to proclaim Christ drives us also to read history to perceive the problems, aspirations and hopes of humanity that Christ must heal, purify and fill with his presence. His message, in fact, is always timely, it is set in the very heart of history and is able to answer the profoundest concerns of every man. Because of this, in all her components the Church must be aware that "the immense horizon of the ecclesial mission, the complexity of the present situation require a renewed modality today, to be able to communicate the Word of God effectively" (Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 97). Above all, this calls for a renewed adherence of personal and community faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "at a time of profound change as that which humanity is experiencing" (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 8).

One of the obstacles to the impetus of evangelization is, in fact, the crisis of faith, not only in the Western world, but in a good part of humanity, which nevertheless is hungry and thirsty for God and must be invited and led to the bread of life and the living water, as the Samaritan woman who went to Jacob's well and talked with Christ.

As the Evangelist John recounts, this event of this woman is particularly significant (cf. John 4:1-30): she meets Jesus, who asks her for a drink, but then speaks to her about a new water, able to satiate thirst for ever. At first the woman does not understand, she remains at the material level, but slowly she is led by the Lord to undertake a path of faith that leads her to recognize him as the Messiah. And regarding this, Saint Augustine says: "after having received the Lord Christ in her heart, what else could [this woman] do but abandon her jar and run to proclaim the Good News?" (Homily, 15, 30). The meeting with Christ as a living person who satiates the thirst of the heart cannot but lead to the desire to share with others the joy of this presence and to make it known so that all can experience it. It is necessary to renew the enthusiasm to communicate the faith so as to promote a New Evangelization of the communities and countries of ancient Christian tradition, which are losing their connection with God, in order to rediscover the joy of believing. The concern to evangelize must never be left on the margin of ecclesial activity and of the personal life of the Christian, but it must be strongly characterized, by the awareness of being recipients and, at the same time, missionaries of the Gospel. The main point of the proclamation is always the same: the Kerygma of the dead and risen Christ for the salvation of the world; the Kerygma of the absolute and total love of God for every man and every women, which culminated in the sending of the Eternal and Only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, who did not disdain to assume the poverty of our human nature, loving and rescuing it from sin and death by offering himself on the cross.

In this plan of love realized by Christ, faith in God is above all a gift and mystery to be received in the heart and in life and for which to be always grateful to the Lord. But faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it will bear fruit; it is a light that must not be kept hidden, but illumine the whole house. It is the most important gift that has been given to us in our lives and we cannot keep it for ourselves.

The Proclamation Becomes Charity

"Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" said the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:16). This word resounds forcefully for every Christian and for every Christian community in all the Continents. Even for churches in mission territories, churches that are young in the main, of recent foundation, doing missionary activity has become a connatural dimension, even if they themselves are still in need of missionaries. So many priests, men and women religious, from every part of the world, numerous laymen and, in fact, whole families leave their countries, their local communities and go to other churches to witness and proclaim the Name of Christ, in whom humanity finds salvation. It is an expression of profound communion, sharing and charity between the churches, so that every man can hear and hear again the proclamation that heals and approach the Sacraments, sources of true life.

Together with this lofty sign of faith which is transformed into charity, I recall and thank the Pontifical Missionary Works, an instrument for cooperation in the universal mission of the Church in the world. Through their action the proclamation of the Gospel becomes also an intervention in aid of neighbors, justice for the poorest, possibility of instruction in the most isolated villages, medical care in remote places, emancipation from poverty, rehabilitation of the marginalized, support for the development of peoples, the overcoming of ethnic divisions, respect for life in every phase.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invoke upon the work of evangelization ad gentes, and in particular upon its workers, the effusion of the Holy Spirit, so that the Grace of God will make it advance more decisively in the history of the world. With Blessed John Henry Newman, I would like to pray: "O Lord, accompany your missionaries in the lands of evangelization, put the right words on their lips, make their toil fruitful." May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, accompany all missionaries of the Gospel.

From the Vatican, January 6, 2012, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

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Papal Message for 2012 Communications Day
"When Messages and Information Are Plentiful, Silence Becomes Essential"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Communications Day 2012.

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Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we draw near to World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

The process of communication nowadays is largely fuelled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers. In our time, the internet is becoming ever more a forum for questions and answers – indeed, people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware. If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.

Ultimately, this constant flow of questions demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import, that can offer meaning and hope to their lives. Men and women cannot rest content with a superficial and unquestioning exchange of skeptical opinions and experiences of life – all of us are in search of truth and we share this profound yearning today more than ever: "When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals" (Message for the 2011 World Day of Communications).

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives. It is hardly surprising that different religious traditions consider solitude and silence as privileged states which help people to rediscover themselves and that Truth which gives meaning to all things. The God of biblical revelation speaks also without words: "As the Cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word …. God’s silence prolongs his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence" (Verbum Domini, 21). The eloquence of God’s love, lived to the point of the supreme gift, speaks in the silence of the Cross. After Christ’s death there is a great silence over the earth, and on Holy Saturday, when "the King sleeps and God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages" (cf.Office of Readings, Holy Saturday), God’s voice resounds, filled with love for humanity.

If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. "We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God’s silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born" (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration with Members of the International Theological Commission, 6 October 2006). In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation "to communicate that which we have seen and heard" so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.

In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, divine revelation is fulfilled by "deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them" (Dei Verbum, 2). This plan of salvation culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. He has made known to us the true face of God the Father and by his Cross and Resurrection has brought us from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of the children of God. The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church’s mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.

Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world. To Mary, whose silence "listens to the Word and causes it to blossom" (Private Prayer at the Holy House, Loreto, 1 September 2007), I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2012, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Christian Unity
Unity "Demands Our Daily Commitment"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2012 - 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!

This Sunday falls in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which is celebrated from the 18th to the 25th of January. I cordially invite everyone to join themselves to the prayer that Jesus addressed to the Father on the eve of his passion: "That they may be one so that the world may believe" (John 17:21).

This year in particular our meditation during the week of prayer for unity turns to a passage from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians with which the motto was formed: "We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). We are called to contemplate the victory of Christ over sin and over death, that is, his resurrection, as an event that radically transforms those who believe in him and opens to them the way to an incorruptible and immortal life. Recognizing and welcoming the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ sustains Christians even in the pursuit of full unity with each other.

This year the aids for the week of prayer for unity were prepared by a Polish group. In fact, Poland has known a long history of courageous struggles against various adversities and has repeatedly given proof of great determination, animated by faith. For this reason the words of the theme mentioned above [for this week of prayer] have a resonance and special incisiveness for Poland. In the course of the centuries the Polish Christians have spontaneously intuited a spiritual dimension in their desire for freedom and understood that the true victory can occur only if it is accompanied by a profound interior transformation. They remind us that our search for unity can be conducted in a realistic manner if change first of all happens in us and if we let God act, if we let ourselves be transformed in Christ's image, if we enter into the new life of Christ, which is the true victory. The visible unity of all Christians is always a work that comes from above, from God, a work that requires the humility to recognize our weakness and to accept the gift. However, to use the expression that Blessed Pope John Paul II repeated often, every gift also becomes a task. The unity that comes from God therefore demands our daily commitment to open ourselves up to each other in charity.

For many decades, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has constituted a central element in the Church's ecumenical activity. The time that we dedicate to prayer for the full communion of Christ's disciples permits us to understand more deeply how we will be transformed by his victory, by the power of his resurrection. Next Wednesday, as is customary, we will conclude the week of prayer with the solemn celebration of vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, at which representatives of the other Christian Churches and Communities will also be present. Many people will attend the gathering to renew together our prayer to the Lord, who is the source of unity. We entrust it now, with filial confidence, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

In these days various countries of the Far East celebrate with joy the lunar new year. In the present situation of global financial and social crisis I wish for all these peoples that the new year be concretely marked by justice and peace, that it bring relief to those who are suffering, and that young people especially, with their enthusiasm and idealistic drive, might offer a new hope to the world.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Angelus. This week, Christians throughout the world mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are confident that, as Saint Paul says, "We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58). Let us renew our prayer for the unity of all of Christ's followers, and deepen our resolve to be one in him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God's blessings of peace and joy.

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Papal Address to Roman Rota
"Christian Maturity Leads One to an Ever Greater Love of the Law"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2012 - Here is a translation of an address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to members of the Roman Rota.

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Dear members of the Roman Rota!

It is a joy for me to receive you today in our annual meeting on the occasion of the beginning of the judicial year. I offer my greeting to the College of Prelate Auditors, beginning with the dean, Monsignor Antoni Stankiewicz, whom I thank for his words. A cordial greeting also to the other officials, to the lawyers, to the other collaborators and to everyone present. In this context I renew my esteem for the delicate and valuable ministry that you undertake in the Church; it is a task that requires an ever renewed commitment insofar as it impacts the "salus animarum" of the People of God.

In this year's gathering I would like to begin with a reference to an important ecclesial event that we will enter upon in a few months; I am speaking of the "Year of Faith," which, following in the footsteps of my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, I wish to call for the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. That great pontiff, as I wrote in my letter of indiction, first established such a period of reflection "fully conscious of the grave difficulties of the time, especially with regard to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation."[1]

Acknowledging a similar exigency, passing to the ambit that touches more directly on your service to the Church, today I would like to consider a primary aspect of the judicial office, namely, the interpretation of canonical law with respect to its application.[2] The connection with the topic that I have mentioned -- the right interpretation of faith -- is not to be reduced to a mere semantic agreement given that canon law has in the truths of faith its foundation and its meaning, and that the "lex agendi" (rule of acting) cannot but reflect the "lex credendi" (rule of believing). The question of the interpretation of canon law, moreover, constitutes quite a vast and complex matter, and because of this I will limit myself to a few observations.

First of all, the hermeneutics of canon law is tightly connected to the very conception of the law of the Church.

If we tend to identify canon law with the system of canon laws, the knowledge of what is juridical in the Church would consist essentially in understanding the legal texts set down. At first glance this approach would seem to turn the law into something merely human. But the impoverishment of this view is obvious: with the practical overlooking of natural law and divine positive law and the vital relationship of every right with the communion and mission of the church, the work of the interpreter is deprived of living contact with ecclesial reality.

In recent times some currents of thought have warned against excessive attachment to the Church's laws, beginning with the Codices, regarding it as a manifestation of legalism. Consequently, there have been proposals for hermeneutic approaches that are more in keeping with the theological bases and also the pastoral intention of the canonical norm, leading to juridical creativity in which the individual situation becomes the decisive factor for grasping the authentic meaning of the legal precept in the concrete case. Mercy, equity and "oikonomia," which is so dear to Eastern tradition, are some of the concepts that one has recourse to in such an interpretive approach. It is worth noting immediately that this position does not overcome the positivism that it denounces, limiting itself to replacing the one positivism with another in which the human interpretive work comes to prominence as the protagonist in determining what is lawful. There is a lack of a sense of an objective law to be discovered since it is subjected to considerations that pretend to be theological and pastoral, but that are, in the end, exposed to the danger of arbitrariness. Thus legal hermeneutics is rendered vacuous: at bottom there is no interest in understanding the law's disposition from the moment that it can be dynamically adapted to any situation, even one opposed to the law's letter. Certainly there is in this case a reference to vital phenomena but their intrinsic juridical dimension is not understood.

There is another route, one in which the adequate understanding of canon law opens the way to an interpretive effort that inserts itself into the pursuit of the truth about law and justice in the Church. As I wished to explain at my country's Federal Parliament, in the Reichstag in Berlin,[3] true law is inseparable from justice. Obviously the principle also holds for canon law in the sense that it cannot be shut up in a merely human normative system but must be connected to a just order of the Church in which a superior law reigns. In this perspective human law loses the primacy that it wants to give itself since law is no longer simply identified with it. But human law is, nevertheless, valued inasmuch as it is an expression of justice, first of all to the extent that it follows divine law but also in that it is a legitimate determination of human law.

In this way a legal hermeneutics that is authentically juridical is made possible in the sense that, when it puts itself in harmony with the proper meaning of the law, it can pose the crucial question about what is just in each case. It is important to note that, in this regard, to grasp the proper meaning of the law it is always necessary to look to the reality that is subject to its discipline and to do this not only when the law expresses what is largely a matter of something declared by divine law but also when it introduces that which is the product of human rules. These also must be interpreted in the light of what is regulated, which always contains a core of natural and divine positive law with which every norm must be in harmony to be rational and truly lawful.

In this realistic perspective, the interpretive work, which is occasionally arduous, acquires a meaning and a direction. The use of the interpretive methods foreseen by the Code of Canon Law in canon 17, beginning with "the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context," is no longer a mere logical exercise. It is a matter of a task that is enlivened by an authentic contact with the whole reality of the Church, that seeks to penetrate the true meaning of the letter of the law. Something occurs that is similar to what I have said about the interior process of St. Augustine in biblical hermeneutics: "transcending the letter made the letter itself credible."[4] Thus we confirm that even in legal hermeneutics the juridical truth to be loved, sought and served provides the authentic horizon.

It follows that interpretation of canon law must occur in the Church. It is not a question of a mere external, environmental circumstance: it is a return to the very "humus" of canon law and the realities it regulates. The dictum "sentire cum Ecclesiae" (thinking or feeling with the Church) is also relevant to disciplinary matters by reason of the doctrinal foundations that are always present and at work in the Church's legal norms. In this way, there must also be applied to canon law that hermeneutic of renewal in continuity, of which I spoke in reference to Vatican II, which is so closely connected to current canonical legislation. Christian maturity leads one to an ever greater love of the law and a desire that it be faithfully applied.

These basic attitudes apply to all categories of interpretation: from scientific research on canon law, to the work of legal workers in judicial or administrative matters, to the daily pursuit of just solutions in the life of the faithful and of communities. We must have a spirit of docility to accept the laws, seeking to study the Church's legal tradition with honesty and dedication so as to be able to identify with it and with the juridical regulations coming from bishops (pastori), especially the pontifical laws and magisterium on canonical questions, which is binding of itself in what it teaches about law.[6] Only in this way can the cases be discerned in which the concrete circumstances demand an equitable solution to achieve the justice that the general human norm was unable to foresee; and only in this way too can we be capable of manifesting in a spirit of communion what can serve to improve the legislative asset.

These reflections acquire a peculiar relevance in the sphere of the laws regarding the constitutive act of matrimony and its consummation and the reception of sacred orders, and to those pertaining to the respective processes. Here the harmony with the true meaning of the Church's law becomes a question of broad and profound practical importance in the life of persons and communities and requires special attention. In particular all those legally binding means must be applied that aim at securing that unity of interpretation and application of laws that is required by justice: the pontifical magisterium specifically concerns this area, above all the papal allocutions to the Roman Rota; the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota, about whose relevance I have already had a chance to speak to you;[7] and the norms and declarations of the other dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Such hermeneutic unity in what is essential does not in any way render superfluous the functions of local tribunals, which are the first called to respond to the complex real situations that arise in every cultural context. Each one of them, in fact, must proceed with a sense of genuine reverence for the truths about the law, seeking to practice the communion in discipline as an essential aspect of the Church's unity in an exemplary way when they apply judicial and administrative principles.

Coming to the conclusion of this moment of encounter and reflection, I would like to recall the recent innovation -- to which Monsignor Stankiewicz referred -- in virtue of which the competency over procedures of dispensation from marriages that are ratified but not consummated and the cases of the nullity of sacred ordination have been transferred to this Apostolic Tribunal.[8] I am certain that there will be a generous response to this new ecclesial task.

In encouraging your precious work, which requires faithful, daily and committed effort, I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "Speculum iustitiae" (Mirror of Justice) and I gladly impart to you the apostolic blessing.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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[1] Motu proprio "Porta fidei," October 11, 2011, 5: "L'Osservatore Romano," October 17-18, 2011, p. 4.
[2] Cf. canon 16, § 3 CIC; canon 1498, § 3 CCEO.
[3] Cf. Speech at Federal Parliament in the Reichstag Building, September 22, 2011: "L'Osservatore Romano," September 24, 2011, pp. 6-7.

[4] Cf. Post-synodal Exhortation "Verbum Domini," September 30, 2010, 38: AAS 102 (2010), p. 718, n. 38.
[5] Cf. Speech to the Roman Curia, December 22, 2005: AAS 98 (2006), pp. 40-53.
[6] Cf. John Paul II, Allocution to the Roman Rota, January 29, 2005, 6: AAS 97 (2005), pp. 165-166.

[7] Cf. Allocution to the Roman Rota, January 26, 2008: AAS 100 (2008), pp. 84-88.
[8] Cf. Motu proprio "Quaerit semper," August 30, 2011: "L'Osservatore Romano," September 28, 2011, p. 7.

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Papal Address to Seminary of Diocese of Rome
"Faith Has Its Own Intellectual and Rational Dimension That Is Essential"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the community from a seminary of the Diocese of Rome, the Almo Collegio Capranica, for the feast of St. Agnes, patron of the college.

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Your Eminence,
Your Excellency, Dear Brothers!

It is always a joy for me to meet the community of the Almo Collegio Capranica, which for over five centuries has been one of the seminaries of the Diocese of Rome. I greet you all with affection, and of course in particular Cardinal Martino and the rector, Msgr. Ermenegildo Manicardi. And I thank your Eminence for the kind words. On the occasion of the feast of St. Agnes, patroness of the College, I would like to offer some reflections that her figure suggest to me.

St. Agnes is one of the famous Roman maidens, who illustrated the genuine beauty of faith in Christ and friendship with Him. Her dual status as Virgin and Martyr reflect the fullness of holiness's dimensions. This is a fulness of holiness that is requested also of you by your Christian faith and the special priestly vocation with which the Lord has called you and binds you to Him. Martyrdom, for St Agnes, meant the generous and free acceptance of giving her own young life, in its entirety and without reservation, that the Gospel might be preached as truth and beauty that illuminate life. In the martyrdom of Agnes, received courageously in the stadium of Domitian, there shines forever the beauty of belonging to Christ without hesitation, relying on Him. Even today, for anyone who steps into Piazza Navona, the effigy of the saint from atop the gable of the church of St. Agnes in Agony, reminds him that our city is based also on the friendship with Christ and witness to his Gospel, of many of its sons and daughters. Their generous surrender to Him and to the good of their brothers is a primary component of the spiritual physiognomy of Rome.

In martyrdom, Agnes also seals the other crucial element of her life, virginity for Christ and for the Church. The total gift of martyrdom is prepared, in fact, by the conscious, free and mature choice of virginity, a witness to the will to belong totally to Christ. If martyrdom is a final heroic act, virginity is the result of a long friendship with Jesus that has matured in the constant hearing of His Word, in the dialogue of prayer, in the Eucharistic encounter. Agnes, still young, learned that being a disciple of the Lord means loving Him by putting all her life at His disposal. This dual qualification -- Virgin and Martyr -- calls to mind in our reflection that a credible witness of the faith must be a person who lives for Christ, with Christ and in Christ, transforming their lives according to the higher needs of Grace.

The formation of the priest, too, requires integrity, completeness, ascetic exercise, heroic constancy and fidelity in all the aspects that constitute it; deep down there should be a solid spiritual life animated by an intense relationship with God on the personal and community level, with particular care shown in liturgical celebrations and the frequenting of the Sacraments. The priestly life requires a growing desire for holiness, a clear sensus Ecclesiae and an openness to a fraternity without exclusions or partiality. The path of holiness of the priest forms part also of his choice to develop, with the help of God, his intelligence and his own commitment, a real strong personal culture, fruit of passionate and constant study. Faith has its own intellectual and rational dimension that is essential. For a seminarian and a young priest still struggling with academic study, it means assimilating the synthesis between faith and reason that is peculiar to Christianity. The Word of God became flesh, and the priest, the true priest of the Incarnate Word, must become more transparent, luminous and profound, to the eternal Word which is given to us. He who is mature also in this, his global cultural training, can be a more effective educator and promoter of that worship "in spirit and truth" of which Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:23). Such adoration, which is formed by listening to the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to become, especially in the Liturgy, the "rationabile obsequium" of which the Apostle Paul speaks, a cult in which the man himself in his totality as a being endowed with reason, becomes adoration, glorification of the living God, and that can be achieved not by conforming to this world but being transformed by Christ, renewing the way we think, to discern the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).

Dear students of the Capranica College, your commitment to the path of holiness, also with a solid cultural background, is the original intention of this institution, founded 555 years ago by Cardinal Domenico Capranica. Always have a deep sense of history and tradition of the Church! Being in Rome is a gift which should make you especially sensitive to the depth of the Catholic tradition. You touch it with your hands already in the history of the building that houses you. In addition, you live these years of training in a special closeness with the Successor of Peter, which enables you to perceive with particular clarity the size of the universal Church and the desire that the Gospel may reach all peoples. Here you have the opportunity to broaden your horizons with experiences of internationality; here, above all, you breathe Catholicism. Take advantage of what is offered, for future service to the Diocese of Rome, or your dioceses of origin! By friendship, which springs from living together, learn about the different situations of the nations and Churches around the world and learn to form in yourselves a Catholic view. Prepare yourselves to be close to every person you meet, not allowing any culture to be a barrier to the Word of life, which you proclaim also with your life.

Dear friends, the Church expects much from the young priests in the work of evangelization and new evangelization. I encourage you so that in the daily fatigue, rooted in the beauty of authentic tradition, deeply united to Christ, you are able to bring it into your communities with truth and joy. With the intercession of Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, and Mary Most Holy, Star of the Evangelization, may your commitment today contribute to the fruitfulness of your ministry. I cordially impart to you and your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.

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Pope's Address to Neocatechumenal Way
"The Church Has Recognized in the Way a Special Gift That the Holy Spirit Has Given Our Time"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Neocatechumenal Way.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

This year I have the joy to meet you and share with you this moment of sending out for the mission. A special greeting to Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernández and Father Mario Pezzi, and an affectionate greeting to you all: priests, seminarians, families, formators and members of the Neocatechumenal Way. Your presence today is a visible testimony of your joyful commitment to living the faith, in communion with the whole Church and with the Successor of Peter, and to be courageous heralds of the Gospel.

In the passage we heard from St. Matthew, the apostles received a clear mandate from Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19). At first they doubted, in their hearts there was still uncertainty, wonder before the event of the Resurrection. And it is Jesus himself, the Risen one -- the Evangelist underlines -- who draws close to them, makes his presence felt, sends them to teach all that he has communicated to them, giving a certainty that accompanies every preacher of Christ: "And behold I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). They are words that resonate strongly in your hearts. You have sung Resurrexit, expressing faith in the Living One, the One who, in a supreme act of love has conquered sin and death and gives to man, to us, the warmth of the love of God, the hope of being saved, a future of eternity.

In these decades of life of the Way, one of your strong commitments has been to proclaim the Risen Christ, responding with generosity to his words, often abandoning personal and material safety, even leaving your own countries, facing new and not always easy situations. Bringing Christ to the people and bringing people to Christ: this is what breathes life into each work of evangelization. You do it in a way that helps those who have already received the baptism of faith discover the beauty of the life of faith, the joy of being Christians. The "following of Christ" requires the personal adventure of looking for him, of going with him, and always involves going out of the closed-ness of one's ego, breaking down the individualism that often characterizes the society of our time, to replace selfishness with the community of the new man in Jesus Christ. And this happens in a deep personal relationship with him, in listening to his word, in walking the path that he has shown us, but it also happens inseparably with believing with his Church, with the saints, in whom one always discovers again and again the true face of the Bride of Christ.

It is a commitment -- we know -- that is not always easy. Sometimes you are present in places where there is need for a first proclamation of the Gospel, the mission ad gentes; often, however, in areas that, despite having known Christ, have become indifferent to faith: secularism has eclipsed the sense of God there, and eclipsed Christian values. Here, your commitment and your testimony is like yeast that, with patience, in time, with sensus Ecclesiae, causes the dough to rise. The Church has recognized in the Way a special gift that the Holy Spirit has given our time, and the approval of the Statutes and of the "Catechetical Directory" are a sign of this. I encourage you to offer your original contribution to the cause of the Gospel. In your valuable work, seek always a deep communion with the Apostolic See and with the Pastors of particular Churches, to which you belong: the unity and harmony of the body of the Church are an important witness to Christ and his Gospel in the world we live in.

Dear families, the Church thanks you; it needs you for the new evangelization. The family is an important cell for the ecclesial community, where one is formed in human and Christian life. With great joy I see your children, many children who look to you, dear parents, to your example. One hundred families are leaving for 12 missions ad gentes. I invite you not to be afraid: he who carries the Gospel is never alone. I greet with affection the priests and seminarians: love Christ and the Church, communicate the joy of having met him and the beauty of having given Him everything. I also greet the itinerants, directors and all the communities of the Way. Continue to be generous with the Lord: He will sustain you with his consolation!

A while ago I was reading the decree with which the celebrations which are in the "Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way" are approved; celebrations which are not strictly liturgical, but are part of the itinerary of growth in faith. It is another element that shows you how the Church accompanies you with a patient discernment that includes your richness, but also looks to the communion and harmony of the whole Corpus Ecclesiae.

This gives me the opportunity to offer a brief thought on the value of the liturgy. The Second Vatican Council defines it as the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body the Church (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). At first glance this might seem strange, because it seems that the work of Christ refers to the historical redemptive action of Jesus, his Passion, Death and Resurrection. In what sense, then, is the liturgy the work of Christ? The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus are not only historical events; they reach into and penetrate history, but also transcend it and are always present in the heart of Christ. In the liturgical action of the Church there is the active presence of the Risen Christ who makes present and effective for us today the same Paschal Mystery; it draws us into this act of gift of Self that in his heart is always present, and causes us to participate in this presence of the Paschal Mystery. This work of the Lord Jesus, who is the real content of the Liturgy, the entering into the presence of the Paschal Mystery, is also the work of the Church, which, as his body, is a single entity with Christ -- Totus Christus caput et corpus -- says St. Augustine. In the celebration of the sacraments, Christ immerses us in the Paschal Mystery for us to pass from death to life, from sin to new life in Christ.

This applies most especially for the celebration of the Eucharist, which, being the summit of Christian life, is also the cornerstone of its rediscovery, to which the Neocatechumenate tends. As your Statutes read, "The Eucharist is essential to the Neocatechumenate, as a post-baptismal catechumenate, lived in small communities" (art. 13 §1). Precisely in order to promote the rapprochement to the wealth of the sacramental life by people who have strayed from the Church, or have not received adequate training, the Neocatechumenals may celebrate the Eucharist in small communities, after the first Vespers of Sunday, according to the provisions of the diocesan bishop (cf. Statutes, art. 13 §2). But every Eucharistic celebration is an action of the one Christ together with his one Church and therefore essentially open to all those who belong to this Church. This public character of the Holy Eucharist is expressed in the fact that every celebration of Holy Mass is ultimately directed by the Bishop as a member of the Episcopal College, responsible for a particular local church (cf. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen Gentium, 26). The celebration in small communities, regulated by the liturgical books, which should be followed faithfully, and with the particular features approved in the Statutes of the Way, has the task of helping those who are undergoing the Neocatechumenal itinerary to receive the grace of being inserted into the saving mystery of Christ, which makes possible a Christian witness capable of assuming the traits of radicality. At the same time, the gradual growth in faith of the individual and of the small communities should promote their integration into the life of the larger ecclesial community, that finds in the liturgical celebration of the parish, in which and for which the Neocatechumenate is implemented (cf. Statutes, art. 6), its ordinary form. But even during the way it is important not to separate from the parish community, right in the celebration of the Eucharist which is the true place of the unity of all, where the Lord embraces us in the various states of our spiritual maturity and unites us in the one bread that makes us one body (cf. 1 Corinthian 10:16f).

Courage! The Lord does not fail to accompany you and I assure you of my prayers and I thank you for the many signs of closeness. I also ask you to remember me, too, in your prayers. May the Holy Virgin Mary with her maternal gaze assist you and may my Apostolic Blessing sustain you, which I extend to all the members of the Way. Thank you!

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Papal Address to Ecumenical Group From Finland
"There Is a Need for Christians to Arrive at a Profound Agreement on Matters of Anthropology"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a delegation from Finland, who are on an annual ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome for today's feast of St. Henry, the patron of Finland.

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Dear Bishop Sippo,
Dear Bishop Häkkinen,
Distinguished friends from Finland,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the members of the Finnish delegation, on the occasion of your annual ecumenical pilgrimage to Rome in order to celebrate once more today’s feast of Saint Henrik, the patron saint of Finland. In remembering our patron Saints we give thanks for the action of the Holy Spirit, informing and transforming the lives of those who have left us an outstanding example of fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel.

The annual visit of an ecumenical delegation from Finland testifies to the growth of communion among the Christian traditions represented in your country. It is my profound hope that this communion may continue to grow, bearing rich fruit among Catholics, Lutherans and all other Christians in your beloved homeland. Our deepened friendship and common witness to Jesus Christ – especially before today’s world, which so often lacks true direction and longs to hear the message of salvation – must hasten our progress towards the resolution of our remaining differences, and indeed of all matters on which Christians are divided.

In recent times, ethical questions have become one of the points of difference among Christians, especially with regard to the proper understanding of human nature and its dignity. There is a need for Christians to arrive at a profound agreement on matters of anthropology, which can then help society and politicians to make wise and just decisions regarding important questions in the area of human life, family and sexuality.

In this regard, the recent ecumenical bilateral dialogue document in the Finnish-Swedish context not only reflects a rapprochement between Catholics and Lutherans over the understanding of justification, but it urges Christians to renew their commitment to imitate Christ in life and action. We trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to make possible what may still seem beyond our reach: a widespread renewal of holiness and public practice of Christian virtue, after the example of the great witnesses who have gone before us.

In this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the second reading from today’s suggested texts recalls the patience of faithful believers like Abraham (Heb 6:15) who were rewarded for their faith and trust in God. The realization that God lovingly intervenes in our history teaches us not to place undue emphasis on what we can accomplish through our own efforts. Our longing for the full, visible unity of Christians requires patient and trustful waiting, not in a spirit of helplessness or passivity, but with deep trust that the unity of all Christians in one Church is truly God’s gift and not our own achievement. Such patient waiting, in prayerful hope, transforms us and prepares us for visible unity not as we plan it, but as God grants it.

It is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will help to deepen the fraternal relations that exist between Lutherans and Catholics in Finland. Let us thank God for all that he has granted us so far and let us pray that he may fill us with the Spirit of truth to guide us towards ever greater love and unity. Upon you and all your fellow-citizens, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

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Benedict XVI's Address to US Bishops on 'Ad Limina' Visit
"The Legitimate Separation of Church and State Cannot Be Taken to Mean That the Church Must Be Silent"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of Washington, D.C., and surrounding regions, who are at the Vatican for their "ad limina" visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection and I pray that this pilgrimage of spiritual renewal and deepened communion will confirm you in faith and commitment to your task as Pastors of the Church in the United States of America. As you know, it is my intention in the course of this year to reflect with you on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.

One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a "language" which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

In this regard, I would mention with appreciation your efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics involved in political life and to help them understand their personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God’s gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights. As the Council noted, and I wished to reiterate during my Pastoral Visit, respect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion (cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 36). There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.

Dear Brother Bishops, in these brief remarks I have wished to touch upon some of the pressing issues which you face in your service to the Gospel and their significance for the evangelization of American culture. No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society. The hope which these "signs of the times" give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love. With great affection I commend all of you, and the flock entrusted to your care, to the prayers of Mary, Mother of Hope, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
"The Unity for Which We Pray Requires Interior Conversion, Both Communal and Personal"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2012.- 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 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which for more than a century has been celebrated by Christians of all Churches and ecclesial Communities, in order to invoke that extraordinary gift for which the Lord Jesus Himself prayed during the Last Supper, before His Passion: "that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21). The practice of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was introduced in 1908 by Father Paul Wattson, founder of an Anglican religious community that subsequently entered the Catholic Church. The initiative received the blessing of Pope St. Pius X and was then promoted by Pope Benedict XV, who encouraged its celebration throughout the Church with the Brief, Romanorum Pontificum, promulgated Feb. 25, 1916.

The octave of prayer was developed and perfected in the 1930s by Abbé Paul Couturier of Lyon, who promoted prayer "for the unity of the Church as Christ wills, and in accordance with the instruments He wills." In his later writings, Abbé Couturier sees this Week as a way of allowing the prayer of Christ to "enter into and penetrate the entire Christian Body"; it must grow until it becomes "an immense, unanimous cry of the whole People of God" who ask God for this great gift. And it is precisely during the Week of Christian Unity that the impetus given by the Second Vatican Council toward seeking full communion among all of Christ’s disciples each year finds one of its most forceful expressions. This spiritual gathering, which unites Christians of all traditions, increases our awareness of the fact that the unity to which we tend will not be the result of our efforts alone, but will rather be a gift received from above, a gift for which we must constantly pray.

Each year, the booklets for the Week of Prayer are prepared by an ecumenical group from a different region of the world. I would like to pause to consider this point. This year, the texts were proposed by a mixed group comprised of representatives of the Catholic Church and of the Polish Ecumenical Council, which includes the country’s various Churches and ecclesial Communities. The documentation was then reviewed by a committee made up of members of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and of the Faith and Order Commission of the Council of Churches. This work, carried out together in two stages, is also a sign of the desire for unity that animates Christians, and of the awareness that prayer is the primary way of attaining full communion, since it is in being united with the Lord that we move toward unity.

The theme of the Week this year -- as we heard -- is taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “We Will All Be Changed By the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ” -- His victory will transform us. And this theme was suggested by the large ecumenical Polish group I just mentioned, which -- in reflecting on their own experience as a nation -- wanted to underscore how strong a support the Christian faith is in the midst of trial and upheaval, like those that have characterized Poland’s history. After ample discussion, a theme was chosen that focuses on the transforming power of faith in Christ, particularly in light of the importance it has for our prayer for the visible unity of Christ’s Body, the Church. This reflection was inspired by the words of St. Paul who, addressing himself to the Church of Corinth, speaks about the perishable nature of what belongs to our present life -- which is also marked by the experience of the “defeat” that comes from sin and death -- compared to what brings us Christ’s victory over sin and death in His paschal mystery.

The particular history of the Polish nation, which knew times of democratic coexistence and of religious liberty -- as in the 16th century -- has been marked in recent centuries by invasions and defeat, but also by the constant struggle against oppression and by the thirst for freedom. All of this led the ecumenical group to reflect more deeply on the true meaning of "victory" -- what victory is -- and "defeat." Compared with "victory" understood in triumphalistic terms, Christ suggests to us a very different path that does not pass by way of force and power. In fact, He affirms: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Christ speaks of a victory through suffering love, through mutual service, help, new hope and concrete comfort given to the least, to the forgotten, to those who are rejected. For all Christians, the highest expression of this humble service is Jesus Christ Himself -- the total gift He makes of Himself, the victory of His love over death on the Cross, which shines resplendent in the light of Easter morning.

We can take part in this transforming “victory” if we allow ourselves to be transformed by God -- but only if we work for the conversion of our lives, and if this transformation leads to conversion. This is the reason why the Polish ecumenical group considered particularly fitting for their own reflection the words of St. Paul: “We will all be changed by the victory of Christ, Our Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).

The full and visible unity of Christians for which we long demands that we allow ourselves to be ever more perfectly transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. The unity for which we pray requires interior conversion, both communal and personal. It is not simply a matter of kindness and cooperation; above all, we must strengthen our faith in God, in the God of Jesus Christ, who has spoken to us and who made Himself one of us; we must enter into new life in Christ, which is our true and definitive victory; we must open ourselves to one another, cultivating all the elements of that unity that God has preserved for us and gives to us ever anew; we must feel the urgency of bearing witness before the men of our times to the living God, who made Himself known in Christ.

The Second Vatican Council put the ecumenical pursuit at the center of the Church’s life and work: “The Sacred Council exhorts all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism” (Unitatis redintegratio, 4). Blessed John Paul II stressed the essential nature of this commitment, saying: “This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ’s mission. Nor is it some secondary attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the very essence of this community (Ut unum sint, 9). The ecumenical task is therefore a responsibility of the whole Church and of all the baptized, who must make the partial, already existing communion between Christians grow into full communion in truth and charity. Therefore, prayer for unity is not limited to this Week of Prayer but rather must become an integral part of our prayer, of the life of prayer of all Christians, in every place and in every time, especially when people of different traditions meet and work together for the victory, in Christ, over all that is sin, evil, injustice, and that violates human dignity.

From the time the modern ecumenical movement was born over a century ago, there has always been a clear recognition of the fact that the lack of unity among Christians prevents the Gospel from being proclaimed more effectively, because it jeopardizes our credibility. How can we give a convincing witness if we are divided? Certainly, as regards the fundamental truths of the faith, much more unites us than divides us. But divisions remain, and they concern even various practical and ethical questions -- causing confusion and distrust, and weakening our ability to hand on Christ’s saving Word. In this regard, we do well to remember the words of Blessed John Paul II, who in the Encyclical Ut unum sint, speaks of the damage caused to Christian witness and to the proclamation of the Gospel by the lack of unity (cf. no. 98,99). This is a great challenge for the new evangelization, which can be more fruitful if all Christians together announce the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and give a common response to the spiritual thirst of our times.

The Church's journey, like that of all peoples, is in the hands of the Risen Christ, who is victorious over the death and injustice that He bore and suffered on behalf of all mankind. He makes us sharers in His victory. Only He is capable of transforming us and changing us -- from being weak and hesitant -- to being strong and courageous in working for good. Only He can save us from the negative consequences of our divisions. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite everyone to be more intensely united in prayer during this Week for Unity, so that common witness, solidarity and collaboration may grow among Christians, as we await the glorious day when together we may profess the faith handed down by the Apostles, and together celebrate the Sacraments of our transformation in Christ. Thank you.

In English:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which begins today invites all the Lord’s followers to implore the gift of unity. This year’s theme – We Will All Be Changed By The Victory Of Our Lord Jesus Christ – was chosen by representatives of the Catholic Church and the Polish Ecumenical Council. Poland’s experience of oppression and persecution prompts a deeper reflection on the meaning of Christ’s victory over sin and death, a victory in which we share through faith. By his teaching, his example and his paschal mystery, the Lord has shown us the way to a victory obtained not by power, but by love and concern for those in need. Faith in Christ and interior conversion, both individual and communal, must constantly accompany our prayer for Christian unity. During this Week of Prayer, let us ask the Lord in a particular way to strengthen the faith of all Christians, to change our hearts and to enable us to bear united witness to the Gospel. In this way we will contribute to the new evangelization and respond ever more fully to the spiritual hunger of the men and women of our time.

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© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Role of Spiritual Guides
Helping Those Called to "Recognize the Voice of God and Follow It"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 16, 2012.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before and after praying the midday Angelus on Sunday with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In the biblical readings of this Sunday -- the second in Ordinary Time -- the theme of vocation emerges: in the Gospel it is the call of the first disciples by Jesus; in the first reading it is the call of the Prophet Samuel. In both accounts there comes to the forefront the importance of the figure who plays the role of mediator, helping the persons called to recognize the voice of God and follow it.

In the case of Samuel, it is Eli, a priest of the temple of Silo, where in ancient times the ark of the covenant was kept before it is was transported to Jerusalem. One night Samuel, who was still a boy and had lived in the service of the temple from the time that he was small, heard a call three times in a row while he was sleeping, and ran to Eli. But Eli had not called him. The third time Eli understood and told Samuel: if you are called again respond: "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening" (1 Samuel 3:9). And so it happened and from then on Samuel learned how to recognize God's words and became his faithful prophet.

In the case of the disciples of Jesus, John the Baptist was the mediating figure. In fact, John had a large circle of disciples, and among these were the two pairs of brothers, Simon and Andrew and John and James, fishermen from Galilee. To two of them the Baptist points out Jesus the day after his baptism in the Jordan River. He indicates him to them saying: "Behold the lamb of God!" (John 1:36), which was the equivalent of saying: "Behold the Messiah!" And those two followed Jesus, remained with him for some time and were convinced that he was truly the Christ. Immediately they told the others this and thus was formed the first nucleus of what would become the college of the apostles.

In the light of these two texts, I would like to underscore the decisive role of the spiritual guide in the journey of faith and, in particular, in the response to the vocation of special consecration for the service of God and his people. The very Christian faith in itself presupposes proclamation and witness: in fact they consist in adhering to the good news that Jesus of Nazareth is dead and risen, that he is God. And thus the call to follow Jesus closely, renouncing a family of one's own to dedicate oneself to the great family of the Church, normally passes through the witness and the suggestion of an "older brother," usually a priest. But this is not to forget the fundamental role of parents, who with their genuine and joyful faith and their marital love show their children that it is beautiful and possible to build a whole life on the love of God.

Dear friends, let us pray to the Virgin Mary for all teachers, especially priests and parents, that they have complete awareness of the importance of their spiritual role to help young people not only in human growth but also in answering God's call and saying: "Speak Lord, your servant is listening."

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we celebrate the World Day of the Migrant and the Refugee. Millions of persons are involved in the phenomenon of migrations, but they are not numbers! They are men and women, children, young people and old people who seek a place where they can live in peace.

In my message for this World Day of the Migrant and the Refugee, I called attention to the theme "Migrations and new evangelization," stressing that migrants are not only recipients but also protagonists of the proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world. In this context I am happy to welcome the representatives of the migrant communities of Rome who are present in St. Peter's Square today. Welcome!

I would also like to recall that from the 18th to the 25th of this month of January there takes place the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I invite all, at the personal and community level, to join spiritually and, where possible, practically, in calling upon God for the gift of full unity among Christ's disciples.

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On Our Lord's Prayer at the Last Supper
"When Trial Comes Upon the Disciples, Jesus' Prayer Sustains Their Weakness"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2012 - 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 catecheses on prayer, reflecting today on Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

On our journey of reflection on the prayer of Jesus as presented in the Gospels, I would like to meditate today on the particularly solemn moment of His prayer at the Last Supper.

The temporal and emotional backdrop to the banquet in which Jesus takes leave of His friends is the imminence of His death, which He feels already to be near at hand. For a long time, Jesus had spoken about His Passion and had sought to increasingly draw His disciples into this perspective. The Gospel according to Mark states that from the time of their departure on the journey to Jerusalem -- in the villages of the far-off Caesarea Philippi -- Jesus had begun “to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31). Moreover, on the very day He was preparing to bid the disciples farewell, the life of the people of Israel was marked by the approaching feast of Passover; i.e. of the memorial of Israel’s liberation from Egypt. This liberation -- experienced in the past, and awaited anew in the present and for the future -- was relived in the family celebrations of the Passover.

The Last Supper takes place within this context, but with a fundamental newness. Jesus looks to His Passion, Death and Resurrection fully aware of them. He wills to experience this Supper with His disciples, but with a wholly unique character, different from all other banquets: It is His Supper, in which He gives Something totally new: Himself. Thus it is that Jesus celebrates His Passover and anticipates His Cross and Resurrection.

This newness is emphasized for us by the chronology of the Last Supper account in John’s Gospel, which does not describe it as the Passover meal precisely because Jesus intends to inaugurate something new, to celebrate His Passover -- certainly linked to the events of the Exodus. And for John, Jesus died on the Cross at the very moment when, in the temple of Jerusalem, the Passover lambs were being immolated.

What, then, is the heart of this Supper? The actions of the breaking of bread, of distributing it to those who are His own, and of sharing the chalice of wine -- with the words that accompany them and within the context of prayer in which they occur: It is the institution of the Eucharist; it is the great prayer of Jesus and the Church. But let us look more closely at this moment.

First of all, the New Testament tradition of the institution of the Eucharist (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25; Luke 22:14-20; Mark 14:22-25; Matthew 26:26-29), pointing to the prayer that introduces the actions and words of Jesus over the bread and wine, uses two parallel and complementary words. Paul and Luke speak of eucharistía/thanksgiving: “He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them” (Luke 22:19). Mark and Matthew, on the other hand, emphasize the aspect of eulogia/blessing: “He took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” (Mark 14:22). Both of the Greek words eucaristeìn and eulogein indicate the Jewish berakah; that is, the Jewish tradition’s great prayer of thanksgiving that inaugurated the major feasts.

The two different Greek words indicate the two intrinsic and complementary directions of this prayer. The berakah, in fact, is first and foremost thanksgiving and praise that ascends to God for the gift received: In Jesus’ Last Supper, it is bread made from the wheat that God brings forth from the earth, and wine produced from the mature fruit of the vine. This prayer of praise and thanksgiving raised to God returns as a blessing that descends from God on the gift and enriches it. Thus, thanksgiving and praise of God become blessing, and the offering given to God returns to man blessed by the Almighty. The words of the institution of the Eucharist belong within this context of prayer; in them, the praise and blessing of the berakah become the blessing and transformation of the bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Before the words of institution come the actions: the breaking of bread and the offering of wine. The breaking of bread and the passing of the chalice is in the first instance the function of the head of the family, who welcomes the members of his family to his meal; but these are also gestures of hospitality, of welcoming the stranger who is not part of the household to table fellowship and communion. These very gestures, in the meal with which Jesus takes leave of those who are his own, acquire an entirely new depth: He gives a visible sign of welcome to the meal in which God gives Himself. Jesus offers and communicates Himself in the form of bread and wine.

But how can this be? How can Jesus, in that moment, give Himself? Jesus knows that His life is about to be taken from Him through the torture of the Cross, the death penalty of men who are not free, what Cicero defined as the mors turpissima crucis -- [the most shameful death of the cross]. With the gift of the bread and wine that He offers at the Last Supper, Jesus anticipates His Death and Resurrection by bringing to fulfillment what he had said in the Good Shepherd discourse: “I lay down my life, that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18). He therefore offers in anticipation the life that will be taken from Him, and in this way He transforms His violent death into a free act of self-giving for others and to others. The violence suffered is transformed into an active, free and redemptive sacrifice.

Once again, in prayer -- begun in accordance with the ritual forms of the biblical tradition -- Jesus reveals His identity and His determination to accomplish unto the end His mission of total love, of offering in obedience to the Father’s Will. The profound originality of His gift of Himself to those who are His own through the memorial of the Eucharist is the summit of the prayer that marks the farewell supper with His disciples.

In contemplating Jesus’ actions and words on that night, we see clearly that His intimate and constant relationship with the Father is the locus where He accomplishes the act of leaving to His disciples, and to each one of us, the Sacrament of love, the “Sacramentum caritatis”. Twice in the Cenacle do the words resound: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). He celebrates His Passover by giving Himself, by becoming the true Lamb that brings to fulfillment the whole of ancient worship. For this reason St. Paul, speaking to the Christians in Corinth, affirms: “Christ, our paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

The Evangelist Luke has preserved another precious element of the events of the Last Supper that allows us to see the moving depth of Jesus’ prayer on that night for those who are His own, His attentiveness to each one. Beginning with the prayer of thanksgiving and blessing, Jesus comes to the Eucharistic gift -- the gift of Himself -- and as He bestows the decisive sacramental reality, he turns to Peter. At the end of the supper, He says to him: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).

When trial comes upon the disciples, Jesus’ prayer sustains their weakness, their struggle to comprehend that God’s way passes through the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection, anticipated in the offering of the bread and wine. The Eucharist is the food of pilgrims that becomes strength also for whoever is tired, exhausted and disoriented. And the prayer is especially for Peter, so that once converted, he might confirm his brothers in faith. The Evangelist Luke records that it was Jesus’ gaze that sought out Peter’s face at the very moment he consummated his triple denial, in order to give him the strength to continue on his journey after Him: “Immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned and fixed his gaze upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word that the Lord had spoken to him” (Luke 22:60-61).

Dear brothers and sisters, in participating in the Eucharist we experience in an extraordinary way the prayer that Jesus offered, and continually offers, for each one of us in order that evil -- which we all encounter in life -- may not have the power to overcome us, and so that the transforming power of Christ’s Death and Resurrection may act in us. In the Eucharist, the Church responds to Jesus’ command: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24-26); she repeats the prayer of thanksgiving and blessing and, with this, the words of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Lord’s Body and Blood.

Our celebrations of the Eucharist are a being drawn into that moment of prayer, a uniting ourselves again and again to Jesus’ prayer. From her earliest days, the Church has understood the words of consecration as part of her praying together with Jesus; as a central part of the praise filled with thanksgiving through which the fruit of the earth and of men’s hands are given to us anew by God in the form of Jesus’ Body and Blood, as God’s gift of Himself in His Son’s self-emptying love (cf. Jesus of Nazareth, II, pg. 128). In participating in the Eucharist, in nourishing ourselves on the Flesh and Blood of the Son of God, we unite our prayer to that of the paschal Lamb on His last night, so that our lives might not be lost, despite our weakness and infidelity, but might be transformed.

Dear friends, let us ask the Lord that, after having worthily prepared ourselves, also through the Sacrament of Penance, our participation in His Eucharist, which is indispensible for Christian life, might always be the summit of our prayer. Let us ask that, by being united deeply to His own offering to the Father, we too may transform our crosses into a free and responsible sacrifice of love to God and to our brothers and sisters. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now turn to the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, when our Lord instituted the Eucharist, the sacrament of his Body and Blood. Jesus’ gift of himself anticipates his sacrifice on the Cross and his glorious Resurrection. The Eucharist is the supreme prayer of Jesus and of his Church. At the Last Supper, with its overtones of the Passover and the commemoration of Israel’s liberation, Jesus’ prayer echoes the Hebrew berakah, which includes both thanksgiving and the gift of a blessing. His act of breaking the bread and offering the cup on the night before he died becomes the sign of his redemptive self-oblation in obedience to the Father’s will: he thus appears as the true paschal lamb who brings the ancient worship to fulfilment. Jesus’ prayer also invokes strength for his disciples, especially Peter (cf. Lk 22:31-32). May our celebration of the Eucharist, in obedience to Christ’s command, unite us more deeply to his prayer at the Last Supper and enable us, in union with him, to offer our lives ever more fully in sacrifice to the Father.

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On Being Children
"Each One of Us Is Willed, Is Loved by God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2012 - 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!

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This morning I conferred the sacrament of baptism on 16 children, and in connection with this I would like to propose a brief reflection on our being children ("figli") of God. First of all let us begin with our simply being children: this is the fundamental condition that we all have in common. Not all of us are parents but we are all certainly children. Coming into the world is never a choice, we are not asked if we want to be born. But during life, we can freely develop an attitude toward this life: we can receive it as a gift and, in a certain sense, "become" that which we already are: we can become children. This transformation marks a point of maturity in our being and in our relationship with our parents, which fills us with gratitude. It is a transformation that renders us, too, capable of being parents ourselves, not biologically but morally.

We are children in our relationship to God also. God is at the origin of the existence of every creature, and he is Father of every human being in a unique way: God has with him or her a special, personal relationship. Each one of us is willed, is loved by God. And in this relationship with God as well we can, so to say, be "reborn," that is, become what we are. This happens through faith, through a profound and personal "yes" to God as origin and foundation of our existence. With this "yes" I receive life as a gift of the Father who is in heaven, a Parent whom I do not see but in whom I believe and in the depths of my heart feel to be my Father and the Father of all my brothers in humanity, an immensely good and faithful Father.

Upon what is this faith in God the Father based? It is based upon Jesus Christ: his person and his story reveal the Father to us, he makes him known to us, insofar as this is possible in this world. Believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, leads us to be "reborn from above," that is, from God, who is Love (cf. John 3:3). And let us recall again that no one makes himself a human being: we are born without our doing anything, the passivity of our being born precedes the activity of our doing. The same is true in regard to being Christian: no one can make himself a Christian by his own will alone; being Christian also precedes our doing: we must be reborn in a new birth. St. John: "To those who received him he gave the power to become children of God" (John 1:12). This is the meaning of the sacrament of baptism; baptism is this new birth that precedes our doing. With our faith we can encounter Christ, but only he can make us Christians and give our will, our desire, an answer, the dignity, the power -- which we do not have ourselves -- of becoming children of God.

Dear friends, this Sunday of the Lord's baptism concludes the Christmas season. Let us give thanks to God for this great mystery, which is a source of regeneration for the Church and the whole world. God made himself the son of man so that man might become son of God. Let us restore, therefore, the joy of being children: as men and as Christians; born and reborn to a new divine existence: born from the love of a father and a mother, and reborn in the love of God, through baptism. We ask the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of all those who believe in him, to help us live truly as children of God, not by words, or not by words alone, but by deeds. St. John further writes: "This is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, according to the precept that he gave us" (1 John 3:23).

[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the faithful in various languages. In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. In today's feast, the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father bears witness to his only-begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit anoints him for his imminent public ministry. Let us ask for the courage to be always faithful to the life of communion with the Holy Trinity which we received in Baptism. May God bless all of you abundantly!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and, again, every good thing for the year that has just begun. Have a good Sunday and a happy New Year. Best wishes! Thank you!

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Pope's New Year's Address to Diplomatic Corps
"Education Is a Crucial Theme for Every Generation"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the New Year's address Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

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Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is always a particular pleasure for me to receive you, the distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, in the splendid setting of this Sala Regia, and personally to offer you my cordial good wishes for the New Year. Before all else, I thank your Dean, Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza, and the Vice-Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the respectful sentiments which they expressed on your behalf, and I offer a special greeting to all those taking part in our meeting for the first time. Through you my good wishes extend to all the nations which you represent and with which the Holy See maintains diplomatic relations. It is a joy for us that Malaysia joined this community in the past year. The dialogue which you maintain with the Holy See favours the exchange of views and information, as well as cooperation in areas of common interest which are bilateral or multilateral in nature. Your presence today evokes the important contribution which the Church makes to your societies in areas such as education, health care and social services. A sign of the cooperation existing between the Catholic Church and States is seen in the Accords reached in 2011 with Azerbaijan, Montenegro and Mozambique. The first has already been ratified; I trust that this will also be the case with the two others, and that those currently under negotiation will soon be concluded. The Holy See also desires to establish a fruitful dialogue with international and regional organizations, and in this context I note with satisfaction that the member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have accepted the appointment of an Apostolic Nuncio accredited to that organization. Nor can I fail to mention that last December the Holy See strengthened its longstanding cooperation with the International Organization for Migration by becoming a full member. This is a sign of the commitment of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, alongside the international community, in the search for suitable solutions to this phenomenon which presents a number of aspects ranging from the safeguarding of the dignity of persons to concern for the common good of both the communities which receive them and those from which they come.

In the course of the year just ended, I personally met many Heads of State and Government, as well as the distinguished representatives of your nations who took part in the ceremony of the Beatification of my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II. Representatives of your countries were also graciously present for the celebrations marking the sixtieth anniversary of my priestly ordination. To all of them, and to those whom I met during my Apostolic Journeys to Croatia, San Marino, Spain, Germany and Benin, I renew my gratitude for the kindness which they showed me. My thoughts also turn in a special way to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean which in 2011 celebrated the bicentenary of their independence. On 12 December last, they emphasized their bond with the Catholic Church and with the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles by taking part, alongside distinguished representatives of the ecclesial community and institutional authorities, in the solemn celebration held in Saint Peter’s Basilica, during which I announced my intention to visit Mexico and Cuba in the near future. Finally, I wish to greet South Sudan, which last July became a sovereign state. I am happy that this was achieved peacefully. Sadly, tensions and clashes have ensued in recent months, and I express my hope that all may unite their efforts to enable the people of Sudan and South Sudan to experience at last a period of peace, freedom and development.

Your Excellencies,

Today’s meeting traditionally takes place at the end of the Christmas season, during which the Church celebrates the coming of the Saviour. He comes in the dark of night and so his presence is immediately a source of light and joy (cf. Lk 2:9-10). Truly the world is gloomy wherever it is not brightened by God’s light! Truly the world is dark wherever men and women no longer acknowledge their bond with the Creator and thereby endanger their relation to other creatures and to creation itself. The present moment is sadly marked by a profound disquiet and the various crises – economic, political and social – are a dramatic expression of this.

Here I cannot fail to address before all else the grave and disturbing developments of the global economic and financial crisis. The crisis has not only affected families and businesses in the more economically advanced countries where it originated, creating a situation in which many people, especially the young, have felt disoriented and frustrated in their aspirations for a serene future, but it has also had a profound impact on the life of developing countries. We must not lose heart, but instead resolutely rediscover our way through new forms of commitment. The crisis can and must be an incentive to reflect on human existence and on the importance of its ethical dimension, even before we consider the mechanisms governing economic life: not only in an effort to stem private losses or to shore up national economies, but to give ourselves new rules which ensure that all can lead a dignified life and develop their abilities for the benefit of the community as a whole.

I would like next to point out that the effects of the present moment of uncertainty are felt particularly by the young. Their disquiet has given rise in recent months to agitation which has affected various regions, at times severely. I think first and foremost of North Africa and the Middle East, where young people, among others, who are suffering from poverty and unemployment and are fearful of an uncertain future, have launched what has developed into a vast movement calling for reforms and a more active share in political and social life. At present it is hard to make a definitive assessment of recent events and to understand fully their consequences for the stability of the region. Initial optimism has yielded to an acknowledgment of the difficulties of this moment of transition and change, and it seems evident to me that the best way to move forward is through the recognition of the inalienable dignity of each human person and of his or her fundamental rights. Respect for the person must be at the centre of institutions and laws; it must lead to the end of all violence and forestall the risk that due concern for popular demands and the need for social solidarity turn into mere means for maintaining or seizing power. I invite the international community to dialogue with the actors in the current processes, in a way respectful of peoples and in the realization that the building of stable and reconciled societies, opposed to every form of unjust discrimination, particularly religious discrimination, represents a much vaster horizon than that of short-term electoral gains. I am deeply concerned for the people of those countries where hostilities and acts of violence continue, particularly Syria, where I pray for a rapid end to the bloodshed and the beginning of a fruitful dialogue between the political forces, encouraged by the presence of independent observers. In the Holy Land, where tensions between Palestinians and Israelis affect the stability of the entire Middle East, it is necessary that the leaders of these two peoples adopt courageous and farsighted decisions in favour of peace. I was pleased to learn that, following an initiative of the Kingdom of Jordan, dialogue has been resumed; I express my hope that it will be maintained, and that it will lead to a lasting peace which guarantees the right of the two peoples to dwell in security in sovereign states and within secure and internationally recognized borders. For its part, the international community must become more creative in developing initiatives which promote this peace process and are respectful of the rights of both parties. I am also following closely the developments in Iraq, and I deplore the attacks that have recently caused so much loss of life; I encourage the nation’s leaders to advance firmly on the path to full national reconciliation.

Blessed John Paul II stated that "the path of peace is at the same time the path of the young",1 inasmuch as young people embody "the youth of the nations and societies, the youth of every family and of all humanity".2 Young people thus impel us to take seriously their demand for truth, justice and peace. For this reason, I chose them as the subject of my annual World Day of Peace Message, entitled Educating Young People in Justice and Peace. Education is a crucial theme for every generation, for it determines the healthy development of each person and the future of all society. It thus represents a task of primary importance in this difficult and demanding time. In addition to a clear goal, that of leading young people to a full knowledge of reality and thus of truth, education needs settings. Among these, pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman. This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and States; hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue. It is in the family that we become open to the world and to life and, as I pointed out during my visit to Croatia, "openness to life is a sign of openness to the future".3 In this context of openness to life, I note with satisfaction the recent sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union forbidding patenting processes relative to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe condemning prenatal selection on the basis of sex.

More generally, and with particular reference to the West, I am convinced that legislative measures which not only permit but at times even promote abortion for reasons of convenience or for questionable medical motives compromise the education of young people and, as a result, the future of humanity.

Continuing our reflection, a similarly essential role in the development of the person is played by educational institutions: these are the first instances which cooperate with the family and they can hardly function properly unless they share the same goals as the family. There is a need to implement educational policies which ensure that schooling is available to everyone and which, in addition to promoting the cognitive development of the individual, show concern for a balanced personal growth, including openness to the Transcendent. The Catholic Church has always been particularly active in the field of education and schooling, making a valued contribution alongside that of state institutions. It is my hope that this contribution will be acknowledged and prized also by the legislation of the various nations.

In this perspective. it is clear that an effective educational programme also calls for respect for religious freedom. This freedom has individual, collective and institutional dimensions. We are speaking of the first of human rights, for it expresses the most fundamental reality of the person. All too often, for various reasons, this right remains limited or is flouted. I cannot raise this subject without first paying tribute to the memory of the Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, whose untiring battle for the rights of minorities ended in his tragic death. Sadly, we are not speaking of an isolated case. In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes. At times they are forced to leave the countries they have helped to build because of persistent tensions and policies which frequently relegate them to being second-class spectators of national life. In other parts of the world, we see policies aimed at marginalizing the role of religion in the life of society, as if it were a cause of intolerance rather than a valued contribution to education in respect for human dignity, justice and peace. In the past year religiously motivated terrorism has also reaped numerous victims, especially in Asia and in Africa; for this reason, as I stated in Assisi, religious leaders need to repeat firmly and forcefully that "this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction".4 Religion cannot be employed as a pretext for setting aside the rules of justice and of law for the sake of the intended "good". In this context I am proud to recall, as I did in my native country, that the Christian vision of man was the true inspiration for the framers of Germany’s Basic Law, as indeed it was for the founders of a united Europe. I would also like to bring up several encouraging signs in the area of religious freedom. I am referring to the legislative amendment whereby the public juridical personality of religious minorities was recognized in Georgia; I think too of the sentence of the European Court of Human Rights upholding the presence of the crucifix in Italian schoolrooms. It is also appropriate for me to make particular mention of Italy at the conclusion of the 150th anniversary of her political unification. Relations between the Holy See and Italy experienced moments of difficulty following the unification. In the course of time, however, concord and the mutual desire for cooperation, each within its proper domain, prevailed for the promotion of the common good. I hope that Italy will continue to foster a stable relationship between Church and State, and thus serve as an example to which other nations can look with respect and interest.

On the continent of Africa, to which I returned during my recent visit to Benin, it is essential that cooperation between Christian communities and Governments favour progress along the path of justice, peace and reconciliation, where respect is shown for members of all ethnic groups and all religions. It is painful to realize that in different countries of the continent this goal remains distant. I think in particular of the renewed outbreak of violence in Nigeria, as we saw from the attacks against several churches during the Christmas period, the aftermath of the civil war in Côte d’Ivoire, the continuing instability in the Great Lakes region and the humanitarian emergency in the countries of the Horn of Africa. I once again appeal to the international community to make every effort to find a solution to the crisis which has gone on for years in Somalia.

Finally I would stress that education, correctly understood, cannot fail to foster respect for creation. We cannot disregard the grave natural calamities which in 2011 affected various regions of South-East Asia, or ecological disasters like that of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Environmental protection and the connection between fighting poverty and fighting climate change are important areas for the promotion of integral human development. For this reason, I hope that, pursuant to the XVII session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change recently concluded in Durban, the international community will prepare for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development ("Rio + 20") as an authentic "family of nations" and thus with a great sense of solidarity and responsibility towards present and future generations.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The birth of the Prince of Peace teaches us that life does not end in a void, that its destiny is not decay but eternal life. Christ came so that we might have life and have it in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). "Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well".5 Inspired by the certainty of faith, the Holy See continues to offer its proper contribution to the international community in accordance with the twofold desire clearly enunciated by the Second Vatican Council, whose fiftieth anniversary takes place this year: to proclaim the lofty grandeur of our human calling and the presence within us of a divine seed, and to offer humanity sincere cooperation in building a sense of universal fraternity corresponding to this calling.6 In this spirit I renew to all of you, and to your families and your staff, my most cordial good wishes for the New Year. Thank you for your attention.

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1 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter Dilecti Amici (31 March 1985), 15.

2 Ibid., 1.

3 Homily at the Mass for the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families, Zagreb (5 June 2011).

4 Address for the Day of Reflection, Dialogue and Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World, Assisi (27 October 2011).

5 Spe Salvi, 2.

6 Cf. Gaudium et Spes, 3.

[Original text: French]

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Homily for Feast of Jesus' Baptism
"Prayer Is the First Condition for Educating"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2012 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily Sunday, celebrated in Rome as the feast of the baptism of Our Lord.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

It is always a joy to celebrate this Holy Mass with the baptism of children on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I greet all of you with affection, dear parents, godfathers and godmothers, and all of you relatives and friends! You have come -- you have said this aloud -- so that these newborns might have the gift of the grace of God, the seed of eternal life. You parents wished for this. You thought about baptism before your little boy or little girl was born. Your responsibility as Christian parents made you think immediately of the sacrament that marks the entrance into divine life, in the community of the Church. We can say that this was your first educative decision for your children as witnesses of faith: the fundamental decision!

The task of parents, helped by the godmother and the godfather, is that of educating your son or daughter. Educating is very demanding, sometimes it is quite hard on our always limited human capacities. But educating becomes a marvelous mission if it is done in collaboration with God, who is the first and true educator of every man.

In the first reading that we heard, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God addresses his people precisely as an educator. He warns them against the danger of quenching their thirst and satiating their hunger with what will not do so: "Why," he asks, "do you spend your money on what is not bread, your earnings on what does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2). God wants to give us good things to drink and eat, things that will be good for us; while we sometimes use our resources badly, we use them for what is useless, indeed, for what is harmful. God wants to give us above all himself and his Word: he knows that distancing ourselves from him we will soon find ourselves in difficulty, like the prodigal son of the parable, and most importantly we will lose our human dignity. And for this reason he assures us that he is infinite mercy, that his thoughts and his ways are not as ours -- how fortunate for us! -- and that we can always return to him, to the house of the Father. Moreover, he assures us that if we welcome his Word, it will bear good fruit in our life, like the rain that waters the earth (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11).

To this word that the Lord has addressed to us through the Prophet Isaiah, we have answered with the refrain of the Psalm: "With joy we will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation." As adult persons we have a duty to draw from good sources, for our own good and for that of those entrusted to our responsibility, especially you, dear parents, godfathers and godmothers, for the good of these children. And what are "the springs of salvation?" They are the Word of God and the sacraments. Adults are the first ones who need to nourish themselves from these sources so that they can guide the younger people in their growth. The parents have to give much but to be able to give they also for their part have to receive, otherwise they will be emptied, they will run out. The parents are not the springs, as we priests are not the springs either: we are rather like channels through which the lifeblood of God's love must past. If we stop receiving from the ultimate source, we too will first of all feel the negative effects and we will no longer be able to educate others. Because of this we have committed ourselves, saying: "With joy we will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation."

And we now come to the second reading and the Gospel. They tell us that the first and principal education comes through witness. The Gospel speaks to us of John the Baptist. John was a great educator of his disciples, because he lead them to Jesus, to whom he bore witness. He did not exalt himself, he did not want to hold onto the disciples for himself. And yet John was a great prophet, his fame was quite widespread. When Jesus came on the scene John stood back and pointed to Jesus: "One mightier than I is coming after me ... I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit" (Mark 1:7-8). The true educator does not bind people to himself, he is not possessive. He wants the child, or the disciple, to learn to know the truth and establish a personal relationship with it. The educator does his duty to the end, he does not withdraw his attentive and faithful presence; but his objective is that the learner hears the voice of the truth speak to his heart and follows it on a personal journey.

Let us return again to the theme of witnessing. In the second reading the Apostle John writes: "It is the Spirit who bears witness" (1 John 5:6). He is referring to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, who bears witness to Jesus, testifying that he is the Christ, the Son of God. This is also seen in the scene of the baptism in the Jordan River: the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove, revealing that he is the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father (cf. Mark 1:10). John underscores this aspect as well in his Gospel when Jesus says to his disciples: "When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you too will bear witness to me, because you have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:26-27). This is a great comfort to us in educating others in the faith because we know that we are not alone and that our witness is supported by the Holy Spirit.

It is very important for you parents and also for you godfathers and godmothers to believe strongly in the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit, to call upon him and welcome him in you through prayer and the sacraments. He is the one in fact who enlightens the mind, who makes the heart of the educator burn so that he or she knows how to transmit the knowledge of the love of Christ. Prayer is the first condition for educating, because in praying we create the disposition in ourselves of letting God have the initiative, of entrusting our children to him, who knows them before we do and better than us, and knows perfectly what their true good is. And, at the same time, when we pray we open ourselves to the inspirations of God to do our part better, which in any case is our duty and we must accomplish. The sacraments, especially Eucharist and Penance, permit us to perform the educative action in union with Christ, in communion with him and continually renewed by his forgiveness. Prayer and the sacraments obtain that light for us that allows us to be both tender and strong, kind and firm, to be silent and to speak when the time is right, to rebuke and correct justly.

Dear friends, let us therefore together call upon the Holy Spirit, that he might descend abundantly upon these children, consecrate them in the image of Jesus Christ, and accompany them on the journey of their life. We entrust them to the maternal guidance of Mary Most Holy, that they might grow in age, wisdom and grace and become true Christians, faithful and joyful witnesses of God's love. Amen.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Vatican Note on Upcoming Year of Faith
"The Foundation of Christian Faith Is the Encounter With an Event, a Person"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2012 .- Here is a note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, containing proposals for ways to live the upcoming Year of Faith, from the universal to the personal level. Benedict XVI called the Year of Faith for Oct. 11 through Nov. 24, 2013.

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CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
Note with pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith

Introduction

With the Apostolic Letter of 11 October 2011, Porta fidei, Pope Benedict XVI declared a Year of Faith. This year will begin on 11 October 2012, on the 50thanniversary of the opening of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, and will conclude on 24 November 2013, the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King.

This year will be a propitious occasion for the faithful to understand more profoundly that the foundation of Christian faith is "the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction."1 Founded on the encounter with the Risen Christ, faith can be rediscovered in its wholeness and all its splendor. "In our days too faith is a gift to rediscover, to cultivate and to bear witness to" because the Lord "grants each one of us to live the beauty and joy of being Christians."2

The beginning of the Year of Faith coincides with the anniversaries of two great events which have marked the life of the Church in our days: the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, called by Blessed Pope John XXIII (11 October 1962), and the twentieth of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, given to the Church by Blessed Pope John Paul II (11 October 1992).

The Council, according to Pope John XXIII, wanted "to transmit doctrine, pure and whole, without attenuations or misrepresentations," in such a way that "this sure and immutable teaching, which must be respected faithfully, is elaborated and presented in a way which corresponds to the needs of our time."3 In this regard, the opening words of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium remain of primary importance: "Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, (cfr. Mk 16:15) to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church."4 Beginning with the light of Christ, which purifies, illuminates and sanctifies in the celebration of the sacred liturgy (cfr. Constitution,Sacrosanctum Concilium) and with His divine word (cfr. Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum), the Council wanted to elaborate on the intimate nature of the Church (cfr. Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium) and its relationship with the contemporary world (cfr. Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes). Around these four Constitutions, the true pillars of the Council, are arranged the Declarations and Decrees which address some of the major challenges of the day.

After the Council the Church – under the sure guidance of the Magisterium and in continuity with the whole Tradition – set about ensuring the reception and application of the teaching of the Council in all its richness. To assist in the correct reception of the Council, the Popes have frequently convoked the Synod of Bishops,5 first instituted by the Servant of God, Paul VI, in 1965, providing the Church with clear guidance through the various post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortations. The next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in October 2012, will have as its theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI has worked decisively for a correct understanding of the Council, rejecting as erroneous the so-called "hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture" and promoting what he himself has termed "the ‘hermeneutic of reform’, of renewal in the continuity of the one subject-Church which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God."6

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in this same vein, is both an "authentic fruit of Vatican Council II"7 and a tool for aiding in its reception. The Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of 1985, convoked on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council and to measure its reception, suggested the preparation of a Catechism in order to offer the People of God a compendium of all Catholic doctrine and a sure point of reference for local catechisms. Pope John Paul II accepted this proposal as a desire which "fully responds to a real need of the universal Church and of the particular Churches."8 Compiled in collaboration with the entire Episcopate of the Catholic Church, this Catechism "truly expresses what could be called the symphony of the faith."9

The Catechism includes "the new and the old (cfr. Mt 13:52), because the faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light. To respond to this twofold demand, the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the one hand repeats the old, traditional order already followed by the Catechism of St Pius V, arranging the material in four parts: the Creed, the Sacred Liturgy, with pride of place given to the sacraments, the Christian way of life, explained beginning with the Ten Commandments, and finally, Christian prayer. At the same time, however, the contents are often expressed in a new way in order to respond to the questions of our age."10 This Catechismis "a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith."11 The content of faith finds " 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."12

The Year of Faith is intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord in the world of today - capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the "door of faith." This "door" opens wide man’s gaze to Jesus Christ, present among us "always, until the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). He shows us how "the art of living" is learned "in an intense relationship with him."13 "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."14

At the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI,15 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in consultation with the competent Dicasteries of the Holy See and with the contribution of the Committee for the Preparation of the Year of Faith,16 has drawn up this Note, with some recommendations for living this time of grace, without precluding other initiatives which the Holy Spirit will inspire among Pastors and faithful in various parts of the world.

Recommendations

"I know him in whom I have believed" (2 Tm 1:12). These words of St Paul help us to understand that faith is "first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed."17 Faith which is a personal trust in the Lord and the faith which we profess in the Creed are inseparable; they focus on each other and they require each other. There exists a profound bond between the lived faith and its contents. The faith of the Witnesses and Confessors is also the faith of the Apostles and Doctors of the Church.

Thus, the following recommendations for the Year of Faith desire to aid both the encounter with Christ through authentic witnesses to faith, and the ever-greater understanding of its contents. These proposals are intended as examples to encourage a ready response to the invitation of the Holy Father to live fully this Year as a special "time of grace."18 The joyous rediscovery of faith can also contribute to consolidate the unity and communion among the different bodies that make up the wider family of the Church.

I. On the level of the Universal Church

1. The main ecclesial event at the beginning of the Year of Faith will be the XIII General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops, convoked by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2012, dedicated to The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. During this Synod, on 11 October 2012, there will be a solemn celebration of the beginning of the Year of Faith, in remembrance of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.

2. In the Year of Faith pilgrimages of the faithful to the See of Peter are to be encouraged, to profess faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in unity with him who today is called to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith (cfr. Lk 22:32). It is also important to promote pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the place which first saw the presence of Jesus, the Savior, and Mary, his Mother.

3. During this Year, it will be helpful to invite the faithful to turn with particular devotion to Mary, model of the Church, who "shines forth to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues."19 Therefore, every initiative that helps the faithful to recognize the special role of Mary in the mystery of salvation, love her and follow her as a model of faith and virtue is to be encouraged. To this end it would be proper to organize pilgrimages, celebrations and gatherings at the major Marian shrines.

4. The next World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, will offer a special occasion for the young to experience the joy which comes from faith in the Lord Jesus and communion with the Holy Father, in the greater family of the Church.

5. It is hoped that many symposia, conferences and large gatherings will be held, even at the international level, to encourage encounters with authentic witness to the faith and to promote understanding of the contents of Catholic doctrine. Noting how, still today, the Word of God continues to grow and spread, it will be important to give witness that "all the anguish and all the longing of the human heart finds fulfilment"20 in Christ Jesus and that faith "becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life."21 Some conferences should be particularly dedicated to the rediscovery of the teachings of Vatican Council II.

6. The Year of Faith will offer a special opportunity for all believers to deepen their knowledge of the primary documents of the Second Vatican Council and their study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is especially true for candidates for priesthood, particularly during the propedeutic year or in their first years of theological studies, for novices in Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as for those in a period of discernment for joining an Ecclesial Association or Movement.

7. This Year will provide an auspicious time for a more attentive reception of the homilies, catechesis, addresses and other speeches and documents of the Holy Father. Pastors, consecrated persons and the lay faithful are invited to renew their efforts in effective and heart-felt adherence to the teaching of the Successor of Peter.

8. During the Year of Faith, in cooperation with the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, various ecumenical initiatives are to be planned, aimed at "the restoration of unity among all Christians" which "is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council."22 In particular, there will be a solemn ecumenical celebration in which all of the baptized will reaffirm their faith in Christ.

9. A Secretariat to coordinate all of the different initiatives promoted by various Dicasteries of the Holy See, or other events relevant to the Universal Church, will be established within the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. This Secretariat should be informed timely of the main events and can also suggest appropriate initiatives. The Secretariat will open a dedicated website with the goal of making available useful information regarding living out the Year of Faithmore effectively.

10. At the conclusion of this Year, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, there will be a Eucharist celebrated by the Holy Father, in which a solemn renewal of the profession of faith will take place.

II. On the level of Episcopal Conferences23

1. Episcopal Conferences, in light of the specific mission of the Bishops as teachers and "heralds of the faith,"24 can dedicate a day of study to the topic of faith, its personal witness and its transmission to new generations.

2. The republication in paperback and economical editions of the Documents of Vatican Council II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium is to be promoted, as is the wider distribution of these texts through electronic means and modern technologies.

3. A renewed effort to translate the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church into languages which lack a translation is desirable. Initiatives of charitable support to enable translations into the local languages of mission countries, where the local Churches cannot afford the expense, are to be encouraged. This should be done under the guidance of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

4. Pastors should work to promote television and radio transmissions, films and publications focusing on the faith, its principles and content, as well as on the ecclesial significance of the Second Vatican Council. This should be done using the new styles of communication, especially on the popular level, making these things available to a wider public.

5. The Saints and the Blessed are the authentic witnesses of the faith.25 It is, therefore, opportune that Episcopal Conferences work toward the dissemination of a knowledge of the local Saints of their territory, also by modern means of social communication.

6. The contemporary world is sensitive to the relationship between faith and art. It is, therefore, recommended that Episcopal Conferences maximize the catechetical potential – possibly with ecumenical cooperation – of the artistic patrimony of the region entrusted to their pastoral care.

7. Educators in centers of theological studies, seminaries and Catholic universities should be encouraged in their teaching to demonstrate the relevance within their various disciplines of the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the implications derived from them.

8. It would be useful to arrange for the preparation of pamphlets and leaflets of an apologetic nature (cfr. 1 Pt 3:15), which should be done with the help of theologians and authors. Every member of the faithful would then be enabled to respond better to the questions which arise in difficult contexts – whether to do with sects, or the problems related to secularism and relativism, or to questions "arising from a changed mentality which, especially today, limits the field of rational certainties to that of scientific and technological discoveries,"26 or to other specific issues.

9. It is hoped that local catechisms and various catechetical supplements in use in the particular Churches would be examined to ensure their complete conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.27 Should a catechism or supplement be found to be not totally in accord with the Catechism, or should some lacunae be discovered, new ones should be developed, following the example of those Conferences which have already done so.

10. The Year of Faith will also be an appropriate time to examine, in collaboration with the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Ratio of formation for future priests, ensuring that the contents of the Catechism for the Catholic Church are presentin their theological studies.

III. At the Diocesan level

1. It is hoped that each particular Church would have a celebration of the opening of the Year of Faith and a solemn conclusion to it, in which to "profess our faith in the Risen Lord in our cathedrals and in the churches of the whole world."28

2. It would be desirable that each Diocese in the world organize a study day on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, particularly for its priests, consecrated persons and catechists. On this occasion, for example, the Eastern Catholic Eparchies could hold a meeting with their priests to give witness to their specific experience and liturgical tradition in the one faith in Christ. Also, in this way, young particular Churches in mission territories would be able to give renewed witness to that joy of faith which is so often particular to them.

3. Each Bishop could devote a pastoral letter of his own to the topic of faith, keeping in mind the specific pastoral circumstances of the portion of the faithful entrusted to him, reminding them of the importance of the Second Vatican Council and of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

4. It is hoped that in each Diocese, under the leadership of the Bishop, catechetical events will be organized, especially for the youth and those searching for a sense of life, helping them to discover the beauty of ecclesial faith, promoting encounters with meaningful witnesses to the faith.

5. It would be appropriate for each particular Church to review the reception of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its own life and mission, particularly in the realm of catechesis. This would provide the opportunity for a renewal of commitment on the part of the catechetical offices of the Dioceses which - supported by the Commissions for Catechesis of the Episcopal Conferences – have the duty to care for the theological formation of catechists.

6. The continuing education of the clergy can be focused during this Year of Faith on the documents of Vatican Council II and on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, treating such themes as "the proclamation of the Risen Christ", "the Church - sacrament of salvation", "the mission of evangelization in the world today", "faith and disbelief", "faith, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue", "faith and eternal life", "the hermeneutic of reform in continuity" and "the Catechism in ordinary pastoral care."

7. Bishops are invited to organize penitential celebrations, particularly during Lent, in which all can ask for God’s forgiveness, especially for sins against faith. ThisYear also provides an appropriate occasion in which all can approach the Sacrament of Penance with greater faith and more frequently.

8. It is hoped that there will be a renewed creative dialogue between faith and reason in the academic and artistic communities, through symposia, meetings and days of study, especially at Catholic universities, in order to demonstrate that "there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth."29

9. It is also important to promote encounters with those persons who, "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,"30 taking as an example the dialogues of the Courtyard of the Gentiles, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture.

10. The Year of Faith can be an opportunity to pay greater attention to Catholic schools, which are a perfect place to offer to students a living witness to the Lord and to nurture their faith. This can be done by making use of good catechetical tools, like the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Youcat.

IV. At the level of the parish/community/association/movement

1. In preparation for the Year of Faith, all of the faithful are invited to read closely and meditate upon Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei.

2. The Year of Faith "will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist."31 In the Eucharist, mystery of faith and source of the new evangelization, the faith of the Church is proclaimed, celebrated and strengthened. All of the faithful are invited to participate in the Eucharist actively, fruitfully and with awareness, in order to be authentic witnesses of the Lord.

3. Priests should devote greater attention to the study of the documents of Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, drawing from them resources for the pastoral care of their parishes – catechesis, preaching, Sacramental preparation. They should also offer cycles of homilies on the faith or on certain specific aspects such as, for example, "the encounter with Christ", "the fundamental contents of the Creed", and "faith and the Church."32

4. Catechists should hold more firmly to the doctrinal richness of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and, under the direction of their pastors, offer guidance in reading this precious document to groups of faithful, working toward a deeper common understanding thereof, with the goal of creating small communities of faith, and of giving witness to the Lord Jesus.

5. It is hoped that there will be a renewed commitment in parishes to the distribution of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and of other resources appropriate for families, which are true domestic churches and the primary setting for the transmission of the faith. This might be done, for example, during the blessing of homes, the Baptism of adults, Confirmations and Marriages. This can contribute to the deepening of Catholic teaching "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."33

6. The promotion of missions and other popular programs in parishes and in the workplace can help the faithful to rediscover the gift of Baptismal faith and the task of giving witness, knowing that the Christian vocation "by its very nature is also a vocation to the apostolate."34

7. During this time, members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life are asked to work towards the new evangelization with a renewed union to the Lord Jesus, each according to their proper charism, in fidelity to the Holy Father and to sound doctrine.

8. Contemplative communities, during the Year of Faith, should pray specifically for the renewal of the faith among the People of God and for a new impulse for its transmission to the young.

9. Associations and Ecclesial Movements are invited to promote specific initiatives which, through the contribution of their proper charism and in collaboration with their local Pastors, will contribute to the wider experience of the Year of Faith. The new Communities and Ecclesial Movements, in a creative and generous way, will be able to find the most appropriate ways in which to offer their witness to the faith in service to the Church.

10. All of the faithful, called to renew the gift of faith, should try to communicate their own experience of faith and charity35 to their brothers and sisters of other religions, with those who do not believe, and with those who are just indifferent. In this way, it is hoped that the entire Christian people will begin a kind of mission toward those with whom they live and work, knowing that they "have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man."36

Conclusion

Faith "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."37 Faith is both a personal and a communal act: it is a gift from God that is lived in the communion of the Church and must be communicated to the world. Every initiative for the Year of Faith should be designed to aid in the joyous rediscovery of the faith and its renewed transmission. The recommendations provided here have the goal of inviting all of the members of the Church to work so that this Year may be a special time in which we, as Christians, may share that which is most dear to us: Christ Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, Universal King, "leader and perfecter of faith" (Hb 12: 2).

Given in Rome, at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on 6 January 2012, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

William Cardinal Levada
Prefect

Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.
Titular Archbishop of Thibica
Secretary

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1 BENEDICT XVI, Enc. Letter, Deus caritas est, 25 December 2005, n. 1.

2 ID., Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 10 January 2010.

3 JOHN XXIII, Address of the solemn opening of the Ecumenical Vatican Council II, 11 October 1962.

4 CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 1.

5 The Ordinary Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops have treated the following topics: The preservation and strengthening of the Catholic Faith, its integrity, vigor, development, historical and doctrinal coherence (1967), The ministerial priesthood and justice in the world (1971), Evangelization in the modern world (1974), Catechesis in our time (1977), The Christian Family (1980), Penance and reconciliation in the mission of the Church (1983), The vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world (1987), The formation of priests in actual circumstances (1991), Consecrated life and its mission in the Church and in the world (1994), The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world (2001), The Eucharist: source and summit of the life and mission of the Church (2005), The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church (2008=.

6 BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 22 December 2005.

7 ID., Porta fidei, n. 4.

8 JOHN PAUL II, Address on the closing of the Second Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 7 December 1985, n. 6. The same Pope, in the initial phase of this Synod, during the Angelus of 24 November 1985, said: "Fatih is the principal foundation, it is the cornerstone, the essential criterion of the renewal willed by the Council. From faith come custom, the stile of life and practical direction in every circumstance."

9 ID., Apostolic Constitution, Fidei depositum, 11 October 1992, n. 2.

10 Ibid., n. 3.

11 Ibid., n. 4.

12 BENEDICT XVI, Porta fidei, n. 11.

13 ID., Address to the participants in the meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, 15 October 2011.

14 ID., Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 7.

15 Cfr. ibid., n. 12.

17 Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 150.

18 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 15.

19 CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 65.

20 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 13.

21 Ibid., n. 6.

22 CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Decree, Unitatis redintigratio, n. 1.

23 The following recommendations made for Episcopal Conferences are also offered, in an analogous way, to the Synods of Bishops of Patriarchal and Major Archepiscopal Churches, as well as to the Assemblies of Hierarchs of the other Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris.

24 CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen gentium, n. 25.

25 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 13.

26 Ibid., n. 12.

27 JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Constitution, Fidei depositum, n. 4.

28 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 8.

29 Ibid., n. 12.

30 Ibid., n. 10.

31 Ibid., n. 9.

32 Cfr., BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, 30 September 2010, nn. 59-60, and 74.

33 ID., Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 8.

34 CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Decree, Apstolicam actuositatem, n. 2.

35 Cfr. BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 14.

36 CONC. ECUM. VAT. II, Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes, n. 1.

37 BENEDICT XVI, Apostolic Letter, Porta fidei, n. 15.

[Original text: English]

16 This Committee, formed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to the mandate of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, includes among its members: Cardinals William Levada, Francis Arinze, Angelo Bagnasco, Ivan Dias, Francis E. George, Zenon Grocholewski, Marc Ouellet, Mauro Piacenza, Jean-Pierre Ricard, Stanis?aw Ry?ko and Christoph Schönborn; Archbishops Luis F. Ladaria, and Salvatore Fisichella; Bishops Mario Del Valle Moronta Rodríguez, Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Raffaello Martinelli.

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On Christmas and Epiphany
"Christmas Is Joy Because We See -- and at Last We Are Sure -- That God Is Man's Good"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave last Wednesday during the general audience held in Paul VI Audience Hall. The Pope reflected on the feasts of Christmas and the Epiphany.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to welcome you in this first General Audience of the new year, and with all my heart I offer you and your families my affectionate good wishes: May God, who in the birth of Christ His Son filled the whole world with joy, dispose your endeavors and days in His peace.

We are in the liturgical season of Christmas, which begins on the evening of December 24thwith the vigil and concludes with the celebration of the Lord’s Baptism. It is a brief span of days, but it is dense in celebrations and in mysteries and centers around the two great solemnities of the Lord: Christmas and Epiphany. The very name of these two feasts points to their respective features. Christmas celebrates the historical fact of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The Epiphany, which originated as a feast in the East, points to an event but above all to an aspect of the Mystery: God reveals Himself in Christ’s human nature; and this is the meaning of the Greek word epiphaino -- to become visible.

Within this perspective, the Epiphany recalls a plurality of events whose object is the manifestation of the Lord: particularly the adoration of the Magi, who recognize in Jesus the awaited Messiah, but also the Baptism in the river Jordan with its theophany -- the voice of God from heaven -- and the miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana, as the first “sign” wrought by Christ.

A most beautiful antiphon from the Liturgy of the Hours unites these three events around the theme of the marriage between Christ and the Church: “Today the Church hath been joined to her heavenly Spouse, for Christ hath washed away her sins in the Jordan; the Magi hasten with gifts to the royal nuptials, and the guests are gladdened with wine made from water,” (Antiphon from Lauds). We could almost say that, in the feast of Christmas, it is the hiddenness of God in the humility of the human condition, in the Child of Bethlehem, which is underscored. The Epiphany, instead, emphasizes His Self-manifestation, God’s appearing by means of this same humanity.

In this Catechesis, I would like briefly to recall a number of themes proper to the celebration of the Lord’s Birth, so that each one of us may drink from the inexhaustible fount of this mystery and bear life-giving fruit.

First of all, we ask ourselves: what is the first reaction to the extraordinary action of God, who becomes a babe, who becomes man? I think that the first reaction can be none other than joy. “Let us all rejoice in the Lord, for our Savior has been born in the world”: thus begins the Mass during the Night of Christmas; and we just heard the words of the angel to the shepherds: “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy” (Luke 2:10). [Joy] is the theme that opens the Gospel, and it is the theme that concludes it, since the Risen Jesus will reproach the Apostles precisely for being sad (cf. Luke 24:17) -- something incompatible with the fact that He remains Man forever.

But let us go one step further: where does this joy come from? I would say that it is born of the heart’s wonder in seeing how close God is to us, how God thinks of us, how God acts in history; it is a joy, then, that comes from contemplating the face of that humble Child, because we know that it is the Face of God present to humanity forever -- for us and with us. Christmas is joy because we see -- and at last we are sure -- that God is man’s good, his life and his truth; and He lowers Himself to man in order that He might raise man to Himself: God becomes close enough to see and touch.

The Church contemplates this ineffable mystery, and the liturgical texts for this season are imbued with wonder and joy; it is this joy that all the songs of Christmas express. Christmas is the point where heaven and earth unite, and the various expressions we hear throughout these days emphasize the grandeur of what has occurred: what was far off -- God seems so very far away -- has drawn near; “He who was inaccessible willed to be accessible: abiding before all time He began to be in time: the Lord of the universe, He veiled His immeasurable majesty and took on the form of a servant," exclaims St. Leo the Great (Sermon 2 on Christmas, 2.1). In that Child, needy in every way as infants are, what God is: eternity, power, holiness, life, joy, is joined to what we are: weakness, sin, suffering and death.

The theology and spirituality of Christmas use a particular expression to describe this event. They speak of an admirabile commercium; that is, a wondrous exchange between divinity and humanity. St. Athanasius of Alexandria affirms: “The Son of God became man so that we might become God” (De Incarnatione, 54,3:PG 25,192), but it is above all with St. Leo the Great and his celebrated Homilies on Christmas that this reality becomes the object of a profound meditation. The holy Pontiff affirms in fact: “If we have recourse to that unutterable condescension of the Divine Mercy, whereby the Creator of men deigned to become man, by it we shall be raised to the nature of Him whom we adore in ours” (Sermon 8 on Christmas: CCL 138,139).

The first act of this wondrous exchange is wrought in Christ’s own humanity. The Word assumed our humanity and, in exchange, human nature was raised to the divine dignity. The second act of the exchange consists in our real and intimate participation in the divine nature of the Word. St. Paul says: “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Christmas, then, is the feast in which God becomes so close to man that He shares in the very act of being born, in order to reveal to man his most profound dignity: that of being a child of God. And thus, man’s dream beginning in [the Garden of] Paradise -- we want to be like God -- is realized in an unexpected way -- not through the greatness of man, who cannot make himself like God, but by the humility of God who comes down, and in His humility enters into us and raises us to the true greatness of His being. The Second Vatican Council said in this regard: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (Gaudium et Spes, 22); otherwise, he remains an enigma: what is the meaning of this creature who is man? We can only see the light regarding our own being, be happy to be men and live with confidence and joy, by seeing that God is with us.

And where is this marvelous exchange made present in a real way, so that it might be at work in our lives and make them the lives of the true children of God? It becomes very concrete in the Eucharist. When we participate in the Holy Mass, we present to God what is ours: bread and wine, the fruit of the earth, so that He might receive and transform them, giving us His very self and making Himself our food in order that, by receiving His Body and His Blood, we might participate in His divine life.

Lastly, I would like to consider one other aspect of Christmas. When the angel of the Lord appears to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ Birth, the Evangelist Luke notes that “the glory of the Lord shone around them” (2:9); and the Prologue of John’s Gospel speaks of the Word made flesh as the true light coming into the world, the light that enlightens every man (cf. John 1:9). The Christmas liturgy is pervaded by light. The coming of Christ dispels the world’s darkness; it fills the holy Night with a heavenly radiance and sheds forth upon the faces of men the splendor of God the Father. Even today. Enveloped by the light of Christ, we are earnestly invited by the Christmas liturgy to allow our minds and hearts to be enlightened by the God who has shown us the splendor of His Face. The first Preface of Christmas proclaims: “In the mystery of the Word made flesh a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind, so that, as we recognize in him God made visible, we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible”. In the mystery of the Incarnation, God, after having spoken and intervened in history through messengers and signs, “appeared”; He went forth from His own inaccessible light to enlighten the world.

On the Solemnity of the Epiphany, January 6, which we will celebrate in just a few days, the Church sets forth for us a very meaningful passage from the prophet Isaiah: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (60:1-3).

It is an invitation addressed to the Church -- the Community of Christ -- but also to each one of us, to become even more keenly aware of the mission and responsibility of witnessing and carrying the new light of the Gospel to the world. At the beginning of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution Lumen Gentium we find the following words: “Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature, to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church” (n. 1).

The Gospel is the light that should not be hidden, that should be placed upon a lamp stand. The Church is not the light; rather, she receives the light of Christ; she welcomes it, that she may be enlightened by it and spread it abroad in all its splendor. And this must also happen in our personal lives. Once more, I quote St. Leo the Great who said on the Holy Night: “Recognize, O Christian, your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base condition by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God” (Sermon 1 on Christmas, 3,2: CCL 138,88).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christmas is to stop and to contemplate that Child, [to contemplate] the mystery of God who becomes man in humility and poverty; but above all, it is to welcome again that Child, who is Christ the Lord, into our very selves, so that we might live by His very life, so that His sentiments, His thoughts, His actions might be our sentiments, our thoughts, our actions. To celebrate Christmas, then, is to manifest the joy, the newness and the light that this Birth brings to the whole of our existence, such that we too become heralds of the joy, the true newness and the light of God to others. Once more, I wish you all a Christmas season blessed by the presence of God!

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Christmas season, the Church celebrates the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God and his revelation as the Saviour of the world. From the witness of Scripture and the Church’s tradition, we see that our first reaction to the birth of Jesus should be one of joy, in the knowledge that God has assumed our humanity in order to make us sharers in his own divine life. The contemplation of this “wondrous exchange”, which we experience most powerfully in the Eucharist, invites us to recognize our lofty dignity as God’s adopted sons and daughters. The liturgy teaches us that Christmas is a feast of light, for Christ, the light of the world and the radiance of the Father’s glory, has brought us from darkness into his Kingdom of light and called us to bring the light of the Gospel to every creature. During this Christmas season, may we welcome the Newborn Saviour into our hearts and may our lives be transformed by his gifts of joy, newness and light.

* * *

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors present, including the pilgrimage groups from Wales, Australia and the United States. I offer a special greeting to the priests and seminarians of the Pontifical College Josephinum. My welcome also goes to the La Salette Brothers taking part in a programme of spiritual renewal. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy, peace and prosperity for the year which has just begun. Happy New Year!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian he said:]

Lastly, my thoughts go to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Dear young people, may you know how to look upon each day as God’s gift to be welcomed with gratitude and to be lived aright. Dear sick, may the new year bring you consolation in body and spirit. And may you, dear newlyweds, make every effort to imitate the Holy Family of Nazareth, by living out an authentic communion of love and of life.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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Jan. 1: On Peace
"We Begin the New Year 2012 by Fixing Our Gaze on the Face of God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Jan. 1 before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The triple biblical blessing rings out in the liturgy on this first day of the year. “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26). We can contemplate the Face of God he himself made visible, he revealed himself in Jesus; he is the visible image of the invisible God. And this is also thanks to the Virgin Mary, whose greatest title we celebrate today; the title with which she plays a unique role in the history of salvation, as Mother of God. In her womb the Son of the Most High took our flesh and we can contemplate his glory (cf. Jn 1:14), and feel his presence as God-with-us.

Thus we begin the New Year 2012 by fixing our gaze on the Face of God, who is revealed in the Child of Bethlehem, and on his Mother Mary who accepted the divine plan with humble abandonment. Thanks to her generous “yes”, the true light that enlightens every man appeared in the world (cf. Jn 1:9) and the way of peace was reopened to us.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, by now a felicitous custom, we are celebrating the 45th World Day of Peace. In the Message I addressed to Heads of State, Representatives of Nations and to all people of good will whose theme is “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace”, I wished to recall the need to offer the future generations suitable educational curricula for an integral formation of the person which includes the moral and spiritual dimension (cf. n. 3).

I wished to underline in particular the importance of teaching the values of justice and peace. Young people today look to the future with a certain apprehension, drawing attention to certain aspects of their life that need to be addressed, for example: “they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world, they see how difficult it is to form a family and to find stable employment; they wonder if they can really contribute to political, cultural and economic life in order to build a society with a more human and fraternal face” (n. 1).

I ask you all to have the patience and perseverance to seek justice and peace, to cultivate the taste for what is just and true (cf. n. 5). Peace is never a good fully achieved, but a goal for which we must all strive and for which we must all work.

Let us therefore pray, despite the difficulties that sometimes make our way arduous, that this profound aspiration may be expressed in concrete gestures of reconciliation, justice and peace. Let us also pray that the leaders of nations may renew their readiness and commitment to accept and encourage this irrepressible longing of humanity. Let us entrust these wishes to the intercession of the Mother of the “King of Peace”, so that the year which is beginning may be a time of hope and of peaceful coexistence for the whole world.

After the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I have received many greetings in these days: I thank everyone with affection, especially for the gift of prayer. I would like to address a respectful greeting to H.E. the President of the Italian Republic, while I offer to the entire Italian people all my best wishes for peace and prosperity in the year that has just begun.

I express my appreciation of the numerous initiatives of prayer for peace and of reflection on the theme I proposed in my Message for today’s World Day. I recall in particular the [Italian] National March that took place in Brescia yesterday evening, as well as those promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome this morning and in other cities of the world. I also greet the young people of theOpera Don Orione and the families of the Movimento dell’Amore Familiare who spent this past night at a prayer vigil in St Peter’s Square.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for the Angelus, as we cross the threshold of a new year. As today marks the World Day of Peace, I invite all of you to join me in praying earnestly for peace throughout the world, for reconciliation and forgiveness in areas of conflict, and for a more just and equitable distribution of the world’s resources. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom we honour today as Mother of God, always guide and protect us, helping us to grow in love for her Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. May God bless all of you!

A Happy New Year to everyone!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Light of the Gospel
"The Church, Thanks to the Word of God, Sees Through the Fog"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus on the feast of the Epiphany. He also announced the names of 22 new cardinals.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, on the solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, I ordained two new bishops in St. Peter's Basilica. So, please forgive me for being late. This feast of Epiphany is a very ancient feast, which has its origin in the Christian East and underscores the mystery of Jesus Christ's manifestation to all peoples, who are represented by the Magi who came to worship the King of the Jews newly born in Bethlehem, as we are told by the Gospel of St. Matthew (cf. 2:1-12). That "new light" that shone forth on Christmas night (cf. Preface for Christmas I), today begins to cast its rays upon the world, as the image of the star suggests, a celestial sign that drew the attention of the Magi and guided them on their journey to Judea.

The whole period of Christmas and Epiphany is characterized by the theme of light, linked also to the fact that, in the northern hemisphere, after the winter solstice the days begin to get longer and the nights shorter. But Christ's word holds true for all peoples, regardless of geographical location: "I am the light of the world; whoever follows me does not walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). Jesus is the sun that has risen upon the horizon of humanity to illuminate everyone's personal existence to lead us all together to the goal of our pilgrimage, to the land of freedom and peace where we will live in full communion with God and each other forever.

The proclamation of this mystery of salvation was entrusted to Christ and his Church. As St. Paul writes: "It was revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit that the nations are called in Christ Jesus to share in the same inheritance, to form the same body and to be participants in the same promise through the Gospel" (Ephesians 3:5-6). Isaiah's invitation to the holy city of Jerusalem can be applied to the Church: "Arise, clothe yourself in light for your light is coming, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. Behold, darkness covers the earth, thick clouds envelop the nations; but the Lord shines upon you, his glory will be upon you" (Isaiah 60:1-2). And it is thus, as the prophet says, that the world with all of its resources is unable to give humanity the light to guide it on its journey. We see this in our own day too: Western civilization seems to have lost its orientation, it gropes about blindly. But the Church, thanks to the Word of God, sees through the fog. She does not have technological solutions, but keeps her gaze fixed on the goal and offers the light of the Gospel to all men of good will, of all nations and cultures.

This is the also the mission of the pontifical representatives to international organizations. This morning, in fact, as I said, I had the joy of conferring episcopal ordination on two new apostolic nuncios. Let us entrust their service and work of evangelization to the Virgin Mary.

* * *

Announcement of the Consistory for the Creation of New Cardinals

And now with great joy, I announce that on Feb. 18, I will hold a consistory in which I create 22 new members of the College of Cardinals.

As is well known, the cardinals have the task of helping the Successor of Peter in carrying out his ministry of confirming our brothers in the faith and in being the principle and foundation of the unity of the communion of the Church.

Here are the names of the new cardinals:

1. Monsignor Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples;

2. Monsignor Manuel Monteiro de Castro, major penitentiary;

3. Monsignor Santos Abril y Castelló, archpriest of the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore;

4. Monsignor Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People;

5. Monsignor Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Vatican City State and President of the its Government;

6. Monsignor Franceso Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts;

7. Monsignor João Bráz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Religious

8. Monsignor Edwin Frederick O'Brien, grand master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre

9. Monsignor Domenico Calcagno, president of the Apostolic Patrimony of the Holy See

10. Monsignor Giuseppe Versaldi, president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See

11. His Beatitude George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church (India)

12. Monsignor Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto (Canada);

13. Monsignor Dominik Duka, Archbishop of Prague (Czech Republic);

14. Wim Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht (Holland);

15. Monsignor Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence (Italy);

16. Monsignor Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York (United States);

17. Thomas Woelki, Archbishop of Berlin (Federal Republic of Germany);

18. Monsignor John Tong Hon, Bishop of Hong Kong (People's Republic of China);

Furthermore, I decided to elevate to the dignity of the cardinalate a venerable prelate, who is the shepherd and father of a Church, and three meritorious ecclesiastics, who are distinguished by their service to the Church.

They are:

1. His Beatitude Lucian Mures,an, Major Archbishop of Fa(ga(ras, and Alba Iulia (Romania);

2. Monsignor Julien Ries, priest of the Diocese of Namur (Belgium) and emeritus professor of the history of religions at the Catholic University of Louvain;

3. Father Prosper Grech, O.S.A., emeritus professor at various Roman universities and consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith;

4. Father Karl Becker, S.J., emeritus professor of the Pontifical Gregorian University, consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The new cardinals come from various parts of the world, as you have heard, and they carry out different ministries in service of the Holy See or in direct contact with the faithful as fathers or shepherds of particular Churches.

I would like to invite everyone to pray for these men who have been newly nominated to the College of Cardinals, imploring the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, that they might know how to bear witness with courage and dedication to their love for Christ and for his Church.

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to direct the most cordial greetings to the Eastern Churches who, following the Julian calendar, celebrate the holy feast of Christmas tomorrow. May every family and every community be filled with light and peace of Christ the Savior!

I also note that Epiphany is the Missionary Day of Children too, promoted by the Pontifical Work of Holy Childhood. Children throughout the world, gathered in groups, form themselves in a missionary attitude and support many projects of solidarity for other children their age. Dear children and young people! May your heart be open to the world, like the heart of Jesus, but also be attentive to those who live near you, always ready to lend a hand.

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today we celebrate the Epiphany, in which the Lord is made known to the nations. Let us give thanks for the gift of faith and support the world-wide mission of the Church by bearing generous witness, in word and deed, to Jesus our Saviour. I wish you a pleasant stay in Rome. God bless all of you!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a happy feast of the Epiphany! Happy feast day to all of you!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Benedict XVI's Message for World Day of the Sick
"He Who Believes Is Never Alone"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of the Sick, celebrated each Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Vatican released the text Tuesday; it is dated last Nov. 20.

* * *

"Stand up and go; your faith has saved you" (Lk 17:19)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the World Day of the Sick, which we will celebrate on 11 February 2012, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, I wish to renew my spiritual closeness to all sick people who are in places of care or are looked after in their families, expressing to each one of them the solicitude and the affection of the whole Church. In the generous and loving welcoming of every human life, above all of weak and sick life, a Christian expresses an important aspect of his or her Gospel witness, following the example of Christ, who bent down before the material and spiritual sufferings of man in order to heal them.

1. This year, which involves the immediate preparations for the Solemn World Day of the Sick that will be celebrated in Germany on 11 February 2013 and will focus on the emblematic Gospel figure of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:29-37), I would like to place emphasis upon the "sacraments of healing", that is to say upon the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which have their natural completion in Eucharistic Communion.

The encounter of Jesus with the ten lepers, narrated by the Gospel of Saint Luke (cf. Lk 17:11-19), and in particular the words that the Lord addresses to one of them, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you" (v. 19), help us to become aware of the importance of faith for those who, burdened by suffering and illness, draw near to the Lord. In their encounter with him they can truly experience that he who believes is never alone! God, indeed, in his Son, does not abandon us to our anguish and sufferings, but is close to us, helps us to bear them, and wishes to heal us in the depths of our hearts (cf. Mk 2:1-12).

The faith of the lone leper who, on seeing that he was healed, full of amazement and joy, and unlike the others, immediately went back to Jesus to express his gratitude, enables us to perceive that reacquired health is a sign of something more precious than mere physical healing, it is a sign of the salvation that God gives us through Christ; it finds expression in the words of Jesus: your faith has saved you. He who in suffering and illness prays to the Lord is certain that God’s love will never abandon him, and also that the love of the Church, the extension in time of the Lord’s saving work, will never fail. Physical healing, an outward expression of the deepest salvation, thus reveals the importance that man – in his entirety of soul and body – has for the Lord. Each sacrament, for that matter, expresses and actuates the closeness of God himself, who, in an absolutely freely-given way, "touches us through material things … that he takes up into his service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and himself" (Homily, Chrism Mass, 1 April 2010). "The unity between creation and redemption is made visible. The sacraments are an expression of the physicality of our faith, which embraces the whole person, body and soul" (Homily, Chrism Mass, 21 April 2011).

The principal task of the Church is certainly proclaiming the Kingdom of God, "But this very proclamation must be a process of healing: ‘bind up the broken-hearted’ (Is 61:1)" (ibid.), according to the charge entrusted by Jesus to his disciples (cf. Lk 9:1-2; Mt 10:1,5-14; Mk 6:7-13). The tandem of physical health and renewal after lacerations of the soul thus helps us to understand better the "sacraments of healing".

2. The sacrament of Penance has often been at the centre of the reflection of the Church’s Pastors, specifically because of its great importance in the journey of Christian life, given that "The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace, and joining with him in an intimate friendship" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1468). The Church, in continuing to proclaim Jesus’ message of forgiveness and reconciliation, never ceases to invite the whole of humanity to convert and to believe in the Gospel. She makes her own the call of the Apostle Paul: "So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). Jesus, during his life, proclaimed and made present the mercy of the Father. He came not to condemn but to forgive and to save, to give hope in the deepest darkness of suffering and sin, and to give eternal life; thus in the sacrament of Penance, in the "medicine of confession", the experience of sin does not degenerate into despair but encounters the Love that forgives and transforms (cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 31).

God, "rich in mercy" (Eph 2:4), like the father in the Gospel parable (cf. Lk 15:11-32), does not close his heart to any of his children, but waits for them, looks for them, reaches them where their rejection of communion imprisons them in isolation and division, and calls them to gather around his table, in the joy of the feast of forgiveness and reconciliation. A time of suffering, in which one could be tempted to abandon oneself to discouragement and hopelessness, can thus be transformed into a time of grace so as to return to oneself, and like the prodigal son of the parable, to think anew about one’s life, recognizing its errors and failures, longing for the embrace of the Father, and following the pathway to his home. He, in his great love, always and everywhere watches over our lives and awaits us so as to offer to every child that returns to him the gift of full reconciliation and joy.

3. From a reading of the Gospels it emerges clearly that Jesus always showed special concern for sick people. He not only sent out his disciples to tend their wounds (cf. Mt 10:8; Lk 9:2; 10:9) but also instituted for them a specific sacrament: the Anointing of the Sick. The Letter of James attests to the presence of this sacramental act already in the first Christian community (cf. 5:14-16): by the Anointing of the Sick, accompanied by the prayer of the elders, the whole of the Church commends the sick to the suffering and glorified Lord so that he may alleviate their sufferings and save them; indeed she exhorts them to unite themselves spiritually to the passion and death of Christ so as to contribute thereby to the good of the People of God.

This sacrament leads us to contemplate the double mystery of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus found himself dramatically confronted by the path indicated to him by the Father, that of his Passion, the supreme act of love; and he accepted it. In that hour of tribulation, he is the mediator, "bearing in himself, taking upon himself the sufferings and passion of the world, transforming it into a cry to God, bringing it before the eyes and into the hands of God and thus truly bringing it to the moment of redemption" (Lectio Divina, Meeting with the Parish Priests of Rome, 18 February 2010). But "the Garden of Olives is also the place from which he ascended to the Father, and is therefore the place of redemption … This double mystery of the Mount of Olives is also always ‘at work’ within the Church’s sacramental oil … the sign of God’s goodness reaching out to touch us" (Homily, Chrism Mass, 1 April 2010). In the Anointing of the Sick, the sacramental matter of the oil is offered to us, so to speak, "as God’s medicine … which now assures us of his goodness, offering us strength and consolation, yet at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing, the resurrection (cf. Jas 5:14)" (ibid.).

This sacrament deserves greater consideration today both in theological reflection and in pastoral ministry among the sick. Through a proper appreciation of the content of the liturgical prayers that are adapted to the various human situations connected with illness, and not only when a person is at the end of his or her life (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1514), the Anointing of the Sick should not be held to be almost "a minor sacrament" when compared to the others. Attention to and pastoral care for sick people, while, on the one hand, a sign of God’s tenderness towards those who are suffering, on the other brings spiritual advantage to priests and the whole Christian community as well, in the awareness that what is done to the least, is done to Jesus himself (cf. Mt 25:40).

4. As regards the "sacraments of healing", Saint Augustine affirms: "God heals all your infirmities. Do not be afraid, therefore, all your infirmities will be healed … You must only allow him to cure you and you must not reject his hands" (Exposition on Psalm 102, 5; PL 36, 1319-1320). These are precious instruments of God’s grace which help a sick person to conform himself or herself ever more fully to the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. Together with these two sacraments, I would also like to emphasize the importance of the Eucharist. Received at a time of illness, it contributes in a singular way to working this transformation, associating the person who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ to the offering that he made of himself to the Father for the salvation of all. The whole ecclesial community, and parish communities in particular, should pay attention to guaranteeing the possibility of frequently receiving Holy Communion, to those people who, for reasons of health or age, cannot go to a place of worship. In this way, these brothers and sisters are offered the possibility of strengthening their relationship with Christ, crucified and risen, participating, through their lives offered up for love of Christ, in the very mission of the Church. From this point of view, it is important that priests who offer their discreet work in hospitals, in nursing homes and in the homes of sick people, feel they are truly "’ministers of the sick’, signs and instruments of Christ's compassion who must reach out to every person marked by suffering" (Message for the XVIII World Day of the Sick, 22 November 2009).

Becoming conformed to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, which can also be achieved through the practice of spiritual Communion, takes on a very particular meaning when the Eucharist is administered and received as Viaticum. At that stage in life, these words of the Lord are even more telling: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day" (Jn 6:54). The Eucharist, especially as Viaticum, is – according to the definition of Saint Ignatius of Antioch – "medicine of immortality, the antidote for death" (Letter to the Ephesians, 20: PG 5, 661); the sacrament of the passage from death to life, from this world to the Father, who awaits everyone in the celestial Jerusalem.

5. The theme of this Message for the Twentieth World Day of the Sick, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you", also looks forward to the forthcoming Year of Faith which will begin on 11 October 2012, a propitious and valuable occasion to rediscover the strength and beauty of faith, to examine its contents, and to bear witness to it in daily life (cf. Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, 11 October 2011). I wish to encourage sick people and the suffering always to find a safe anchor in faith, nourished by listening to the Word of God, by personal prayer and by the sacraments, while I invite pastors to be increasingly ready to celebrate them for the sick. Following the example of the Good Shepherd and as guides of the flocks entrusted to them, priests should be full of joy, attentive to the weakest, the simple and sinners, expressing the infinite mercy of God with reassuring words of hope (cf. Saint Augustine, Letter 95, 1: PL 33, 351-352).

To all those who work in the field of health, and to the families who see in their relatives the suffering face of the Lord Jesus, I renew my thanks and that of the Church, because, in their professional expertise and in silence, often without even mentioning the name of Christ, they manifest him in a concrete way (cf. Homily, Chrism Mass, 21 April 2011).

To Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Sick, we raise our trusting gaze and our prayer; may her maternal compassion, manifested as she stood beside her dying Son on the Cross, accompany and sustain the faith and the hope of every sick and suffering person on the journey of healing for the wounds of body and spirit!

I assure you all of a remembrance in my prayers, and I bestow upon each one of you a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 20 November 2011, Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King.

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

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Pope's Homily at Mass for Feast of Epiphany
"Not Only Are We Restless for God: God's Heart Is Restless for Us"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at Mass for the feast of the Epiphany. During the Mass, he conferred episcopal ordination on Monsignor Charles John Brown, apostolic nuncio to Ireland, and Monsignor Marek Solczynski, apostolic nuncio to Georgia and Armenia.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Epiphany is a feast of light. "Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you" (Is 60:1). With these words of the prophet Isaiah, the Church describes the content of the feast. He who is the true light, and by whom we too are made to be light, has indeed come into the world. He gives us the power to become children of God (cf. Jn 1:9,12). The journey of the wise men from the East is, for the liturgy, just the beginning of a great procession that continues throughout history. With the Magi, humanity’s pilgrimage to Jesus Christ begins – to the God who was born in a stable, who died on the Cross and who, having risen from the dead, remains with us always, until the consummation of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). The Church reads this account from Matthew’s Gospel alongside the vision of the prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading: the journey of these men is just the beginning. Before them came the shepherds – simple souls, who dwelt closer to the God who became a child, and could more easily "go over" to him (Lk 2:15) and recognize him as Lord. But now the wise of this world are also coming. Great and small, kings and slaves, men of all cultures and all peoples are coming. The men from the East are the first, followed by many more throughout the centuries. After the great vision of Isaiah, the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians expresses the same idea in sober and simple terms: the Gentiles share the same heritage (cf. Eph3:6). Psalm 2 puts it like this: "I shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession" (v. 8).

The wise men from the East lead the way. They open up the path of the Gentiles to Christ. During this holy Mass, I will ordain two priests to the episcopate, I will consecrate them as shepherds of God’s people. According to the words of Jesus, part of a shepherd’s task is to go ahead of the flock (cf. Jn 10:4). So, allowing for all the differences in vocation and mission, we may well look to these figures, the first Gentiles to find the pathway to Christ, for indications concerning the task of bishops. What kind of people were they? The experts tell us that they belonged to the great astronomical tradition that had developed in Mesopotamia over the centuries and continued to flourish. But this information of itself is not enough. No doubt there were many astronomers in ancient Babylon, but only these few set off to follow the star that they recognized as the star of the promise, pointing them along the path towards the true King and Saviour. They were, as we might say, men of science, but not simply in the sense that they were searching for a wide range of knowledge: they wanted something more. They wanted to understand what being human is all about. They had doubtless heard of the prophecy of the Gentile prophet Balaam: "A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Num24:17). They explored this promise. They were men with restless hearts, not satisfied with the superficial and the ordinary. They were men in search of the promise, in search of God. And they were watchful men, capable of reading God’s signs, his soft and penetrating language. But they were also courageous, yet humble: we can imagine them having to endure a certain amount of mockery for setting off to find the King of the Jews, at the cost of so much effort. For them it mattered little what this or that person, what even influential and clever people thought and said about them. For them it was a question of truth itself, not human opinion. Hence they took upon themselves the sacrifices and the effort of a long and uncertain journey. Their humble courage was what enabled them to bend down before the child of poor people and to recognize in him the promised King, the one they had set out, on both their outward and their inward journey, to seek and to know.

Dear friends, how can we fail to recognize in all this certain essential elements of episcopal ministry? The bishop too must be a man of restless heart, not satisfied with the ordinary things of this world, but inwardly driven by his heart’s unrest to draw ever closer to God, to seek his face, to recognize him more and more, to be able to love him more and more. The bishop too must be a man of watchful heart, who recognizes the gentle language of God and understands how to distinguish truth from mere appearance. The bishop too must be filled with the courage of humility, not asking what prevailing opinion says about him, but following the criterion of God’s truth and taking his stand accordingly – "opportune – importune". He must be able to go ahead and mark out the path. He must go ahead, in the footsteps of him who went ahead of us all because he is the true shepherd, the true star of the promise: Jesus Christ. And he must have the humility to bend down before the God who made himself so tangible and so simple that he contradicts our foolish pride in its reluctance to see God so close and so small. He must devote his life to adoration of the incarnate Son of God, which constantly points him towards the path.

The liturgy of episcopal ordination interprets the essential features of this ministry in eight questions addressed to the candidates, each beginning with the word "Vultis? – Do you want?" These questions direct the will and mark out the path to be followed. Here I shall briefly cite just a few of the most important words of this presentation, where we find explicit mention of the elements we have just considered in connection with the wise men of today’s feast. The bishops’ task is praedicare Evangelium Christi, it is custodire et dirigere, it is pauperibus se misericordes praebere, it is indesinenter orare. Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going ahead and leading, guarding the sacred heritage of our faith, showing mercy and charity to the needy and the poor, thus mirroring God’s merciful love for us, and finally, praying without ceasing: these are the fundamental features of the episcopal ministry. Praying without ceasing means: never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light. Only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God. Only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.

The restless heart of which we spoke earlier, echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to "catch" his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us. Dear friends, this was the task of the Apostles: to receive God’s unrest for man and then to bring God himself to man. And this is your task as successors of the Apostles: let yourselves be touched by God’s unrest, so that God’s longing for man may be fulfilled.

The wise men followed the star. Through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history. To be sure – the language of creation alone is not enough. Only God’s word, which we encounter in sacred Scripture, was able to mark out their path definitively. Creation and Scripture, reason and faith, must come together, so as to lead us forward to the living God. There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs. Dear friends: you followed the star Jesus Christ when you said "yes" to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. And no doubt smaller stars have enlightened and helped you not to lose your way. In the litany of saints we call upon all these stars of God, that they may continue to shine upon you and show you the path. As you are ordained bishops, you too are called to be stars of God for men, leading them along the path towards the true light, towards Christ. So let us pray to all the saints at this hour, asking them that you may always live up to this mission you have received, to show God’s light to mankind.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Dec. 28: On the Holy Family's Prayer
"Learn More and More to Say With Your Whole Existence: 'Father'"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave Dec. 28 during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall. The Pope continued with his series of catecheses on prayer, reflecting on prayer in the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today's meeting takes place within the Christmas atmosphere, imbued with intimate joy in the Savior's birth. We have just celebrated this mystery, and its echo resounds in the liturgies throughout these days. It is a mystery of light that men of every age may relive in faith and prayer. It is precisely through prayer that we are enabled to draw near to God with intimacy and depth. For this reason, bearing in mind the theme of prayer that I am developing at this time in the catecheses, today I would like to invite you to reflect on the place of prayer in the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The home of Nazareth, in fact, is a school of prayer where we learn to listen, to ponder and to penetrate the profound meaning of the manifestation of the Son of God, drawing our example from Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

The address of the Servant of God Paul VI during his visit to Nazareth remains memorable [in this regard]. The Pope said that, in the school of the Holy Family, "we come to understand the need for a spiritual discipline, if we wish to follow the teaching of the Gospel and become disciples of Christ." And he added: "First, it teaches us silence. Oh! That there would be reborn in us the esteem for silence, that wonderful and indispensable atmosphere of the spirit: while we are deafened by so many noises, sounds and clamorous voices in the frantic and tumultuous times of modern life. Oh! Silence of Nazareth, teach us to be resolute in good thoughts, intent upon the interior life, ready to listen well to the secret inspirations of God and the exhortations of the true masters" (Address at Nazareth, Jan. 5, 1964).

We can glean several insights on the Holy Family's prayer and relationship with God from the Gospel accounts of Jesus' childhood. We may begin with the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. St. Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph, "when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, brought the child up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord" (2:22). Like every observant Jewish family, Jesus' parents go up to the temple to consecrate the firstborn son to God and to offer sacrifice. Moved by fidelity to the law's prescriptions, they set off from Bethlehem and go up to Jerusalem with Jesus, who is now forty days old. Instead of a one-year-old lamb, they present the offering of simple families; that is, two young pigeons. The Holy Family's pilgrimage is one of faith, of the offering of gifts, a symbol of prayer, and of encounter with the Lord, whom Mary and Joseph already see in the son Jesus.

The contemplation of Christ has in Mary its matchless model. The face of the Son belongs to her in a special way, since it was in her womb that He was formed, taking from her also a human resemblance. No one has dedicated himself to the contemplation of Jesus as devotedly as did Mary. Her heart's gaze focuses upon Him already at the moment of the Annunciation, when she conceived Him through the power of the Holy Spirit; in the months that follow, little by little she feels His presence, until the day of His birth, when her eyes are able to gaze with maternal tenderness upon the face of her Son, while she wraps Him in swaddling clothes and lays Him in the manger.

The memories of Jesus -- fixed in her mind and in her heart -- marked every moment of Mary's life. She lives with her eyes on Christ and she treasures His every word. St. Luke says: "For her part [Mary] kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (2:19) and in this way he describes Mary's attitude before the Mystery of the Incarnation, an attitude that will extend throughout her entire life: to keep all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke is the evangelist who makes Mary's heart known to us, her faith (cf. 1:45), her hope and obedience (cf. 1:38), above all her interiority and prayer (cf. 1:46-56) and her free adherence to Christ (cf. 1:55). And all this proceeds from the gift of the Holy Spirit who descends upon her (cf. 1:35) as He will descend upon the Apostles according to Christ's promise (cf. Acts 1:8).

The image of Mary given us by St. Luke presents Our Lady as a model for every believer who keeps and confronts Jesus' words and actions, a confrontation that always involves a growth in the knowledge of Jesus. In the wake of Blessed Pope John Paul II (cf. Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae) we may say that the prayer of the rosary draws its model from Mary, since it consists in contemplating Christ's Mysteries in spiritual union with the Mother of the Lord.

Mary's ability to live by the gaze of God is, as it were, contagious. The first to experience this was St. Joseph. His humble and sincere love for his betrothed, and the decision to unite his life to Mary's, also attracted and introduced him who was already a "just man" (Matthew 1:19) into unique intimacy with God. In fact, with Mary -- and above all, with Jesus -- he enters into a new way of relating to God, of welcoming Him into his own life, of entering into His plan of salvation, by fulfilling His will. After having trustingly followed the Angel's instructions -- "do not fear to take Mary your wife" (Matthew 1:20) -- he took Mary to himself and shared his life with her; he truly gave himself totally to Mary and to Jesus, and this led him toward the perfect response to the vocation he had received.

The Gospel, as we know, has not preserved any of Joseph's words: His is a silent but faithful, constant and active presence. We may imagine that he also, like his spouse, and in intimate harmony with her, lived the years of Jesus' childhood and adolescence savoring, as it were, His presence in their family. Joseph completely fulfilled his paternal role in every respect. Certainly, he educated Jesus in prayer, together with Mary. He, in a particular way, would have taken [Jesus] with him to the synagogue for the Sabbath rituals, as well as to Jerusalem, for the great feasts of the people of Israel. Joseph -- according to Hebrew tradition -- would have guided family prayer both in daily life -- in the morning, in the evening, at meals -- as well as in the major religious celebrations. Thus, in the rhythm of the days spent in Nazareth, between their simple dwelling and Joseph's workshop, Jesus learned to alternate prayer and work, and also to offer to God the struggle of earning the bread the family needed.

And lastly, another episode that sees the Holy Family of Nazareth gathered together in prayer: Jesus, we heard -- at the age of 12 -- went with his parents to the temple in Jerusalem. As St. Luke emphasizes, this episode occurs within the context of the pilgrimage: "His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom" (2:41-42).

The pilgrimage is a religious expression that is at once nourished by prayer, and [in turn] nourishes it. Here we are speaking of the Passover pilgrimage, and the Evangelist has us observe that Jesus' family takes part in it each year so that they might participate in the rituals in the Holy City. The Hebrew family, like the Christian family, prays in the intimacy of the home, but also prays together with the community -- seeing themselves as part of the pilgrim people of God -- and the pilgrimage expresses precisely the People of God being on a journey. The Passover is the center and summit of it all, and involves the family dimension as well as that of the liturgical and public cult.

In the episode of the 12-year-old Jesus, Jesus' first words are also recorded: "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (2:49). After searching for three days, His parents find him in the temple sitting in the midst of the teachers while he listens to them and asks them questions (cf. 2:46). When asked why He did this to His father and mother, He responds that He only did what a Son should do: that is, be near the Father. In this way, He indicates who the true Father is, what the true home is, that He did nothing strange or disobedient. He remained where the Son had to be, that is, close to the Father, and He emphasizes who His Father is.

The word "Father" dominates the focus of this response and the whole Christological mystery appears. This word, therefore, opens the mystery; it is the key to the mystery of Christ, who is the Son, and it also opens the key to our mystery as Christians -- we who are sons in the Son. At the same time, Jesus teaches us how to be sons -- precisely by being with the Father in prayer. The Christological mystery, the mystery of Christian existence, is intimately bound to, and founded upon prayer. Jesus will one day teach His disciples to pray, telling them: when you pray, say "Father." And, naturally, do not say it only with a word, say it with your lives, learn more and more to say with your whole existence: "Father" -- thus will you be true sons in the Son, true Christians.

Here, when Jesus is still fully a part of the life of the Family of Nazareth, it is important to note the resonance that hearing the word "Father" from Jesus' mouth would have had in the hearts of Mary and Joseph, [to hear Him] reveal and emphasize who the Father is, and to hear this word spoken from His mouth in the awareness of the Only Begotten Son, who on this account willed to remain for three days in the temple, which is the "Father's house."

From then on, we may imagine, life in the Holy Family was filled even more with prayer, since from the heart of the Child Jesus -- and then from the adolescent and young man -- this profound sense of relationship with God the Father unceasingly poured forth and was reflected in the hearts of Mary and Joseph. This episode shows us the true situation, the atmosphere of being with the Father. Thus, the Family of Nazareth is the first model of the Church, in which -- gathered around the presence of Jesus and thanks to His mediation -- everyone lives the filial relation with God the Father, which also transforms human interpersonal relationships.

Dear friends, on account of the various aspects I have briefly traced out in the light of the Gospel, the Holy Family is the icon of the domestic Church, which is called to pray together. The family is the domestic Church and must be the first school of prayer. In the family, children -- from the most tender age -- can learn to perceive the sense of God, thanks to their parents' teaching and example: to live in an atmosphere marked by the presence of God. An authentically Christian education cannot prescind from the experience of prayer. If we do not learn how to pray within the family, it will be difficult to fill this void. And for this reason, I would like to address to you the invitation to rediscover the beauty of praying together as a family in the school of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In this way, will you truly become but one heart and mind, a true family. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

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In English, he said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our continuing catechesis on prayer leads us, during this Christmas season, to reflect on the place of prayer in the life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. In the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we learn to contemplate the mystery of God's presence and to grow as faithful disciples of Christ. The Gospels present Mary as the supreme model of prayerful medition on the mysteries of Christ's life; in praying the Rosary, in fact, we unite ourselves to her contemplation of those mysteries in faith and hope. Saint Joseph fulfilled his vocation as the father of the Holy Family by teaching Jesus the importance of quiet fidelity to work, prayer and observance of the precepts of the Law. Jesus' unique relationship with his heavenly Father was reflected in the prayer life of the Holy Family and stands at the heart of all Christian prayer. May the example of the Holy Family inspire all Christian families to be schools of prayer, where parents and children alike come to know that closeness to God which we joyfully celebrate in these days of Christmas.

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I offer a warm welcome to the students and teachers from the Oak International Academies. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present, including the pilgrimage groups from Ireland, and the United States, I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in Christ our Newborn Saviour!

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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In Italian he said:

Lastly, I address an affectionate thought to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. The feast of the Holy Family, which we will soon celebrate, is a propitious occasion to rethink our relationships and our affections. Dear young people, look to the Holy Family and imitate them, by allowing yourselves to be formed by God's love, the model of human love. Dear sick, with Mary's help entrust yourselves always to the Lord, who knows your sufferings and who, uniting them with His own, offers them for the salvation of the world. And you, dear newlyweds, who wish to build your homes on the rock of God's Word, make your homes, in imitation of the home of Nazareth, a welcoming place, full of love, understanding and forgiveness.

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Dec. 26: On the Feast of St. Stephen
"The True Imitation of Christ Is Love"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Dec. 26, the feast of St. Stephen, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the day after the solemn liturgy of the Lord’s Birth, we are celebrating the Feast of St Stephen, a deacon and the Church’s first martyr. The historian Eusebius of Caesarea describes him as the “perfect martyr” (Die Kirchengeschichte v. 2,5: GCS II, I, Lipsia 1903, 430), because in the Acts of the Apostles it is written that “Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (6:8). St Gregory of Nyssa commented: “he was a good man and full of the Holy Spirit. He was sustained by the goodness of his will to serve the poor and curbed enemies by the Spirit's power of the truth” (Sermo in Sanctum Stephanum II: GNO X, 1, Leiden 1990, 98). A man of prayer and of evangelization, Stephen, whose name means “crown”, received from God the gift of martyrdom. Indeed, “full of the Holy Spirit ... he saw the glory of God” (Acts 7:55) and while he was being stoned he prayed: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). Then, he fell to his knees and prayed for forgiveness for those who accused him: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60).

This is why the Eastern Church sings in her hymns: “The stones became steps for you and ladders for the ascent to heaven... and you joyfully drew close to the festive gathering of the angels” (MHNAIA t. II, Rome 1889, 694, 695).

After the generation of the Apostles, martyrs acquired an important place in the esteem of the Christian community. At the height of their persecution, their hymns of praise fortified the faithful on their difficult journey and encouraged those in search of the truth to convert to the Lord. Therefore, by divine disposition, the Church venerates the relics of martyrs and honours them with epithets such as: “teachers of life”, “living witnesses”, “breathing trophies” and “silent exhortations” (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 5: PG 36, 500 C).

Dear friends, the true imitation of Christ is love, which some Christian writers have called the “secret martyrdom”. Concerning this St Clement of Alexandria wrote: “those who perform the commandments of the Lord, in every action ‘testify’, by doing what he wishes, and consistently naming the Lord’s name; (Stromatum IV, 7,43,4: SC 463, Paris 2001, 130). Today too, as in antiquity, sincere adherence to the Gospel can require the sacrifice of life and many Christians in various parts of the world are exposed to persecution and sometimes martyrdom. However, the Lord reminds us: “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Mt 10:22).

To Mary Most Holy, Queen of Martyrs, let us address our supplication to preserve the desire for good in its wholeness, especially the good of those who oppose us. Today let us entrust the Church’s deacons in particular to divine mercy so that, illuminated by St Stephen’s example, they may collaborate, in accordance with their mission, in the task of evangelization (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 94).

After the Angelus:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. Today we celebrate St Stephen, the first Christian martyr. May his example inspire us to be courageous in living our faith in Christ our Saviour and ready to forgive those who harm us. I pray that your stay in Rome may renew your love of Christ and his Church and I wish you all a blessed Christmas Season!

I wish you all happy celebrations. Many thanks!

Appeal asking for an end to violence in the world:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Holy Christmas awakens within us even more forcefully the prayer to God that the hands of the violent who sow death may be prevented, and that justice and peace may prevail throughout the world. Yet our earth continues to be bathed in innocent blood. I learned with deep sorrow the news of the attacks which this year too have brought mourning and grief to several Churches in Nigeria on the Day of Jesus’ Birth. I would like to express my sincere and affectionate closeness to the Christian community and to all who are affected by this absurd act, and I ask you to pray the Lord for the many victims. I appeal for the restoration of safety and serenity, with the joint efforts of the various members of society. At this time I wish to say forcefully once again: violence is a way that leads only to suffering, destruction and death; respect, reconciliation and love are the only way to achieve peace.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Homily on Feast of Mary, Mother of God
"In Order to be Blessed, We Have to Stand in God's Presence"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave this morning at Mass for the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On the first day of the year, the liturgy resounds in the Church throughout the world with the ancient priestly blessing that we heard during today's first reading: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace" (Num 6:24-26). This blessing was entrusted by God, through Moses, to Aaron and his sons, that is, to the priests of the people of Israel. It is a triple blessing filled with light, radiating from the repetition of the name of God, the Lord, and from the image of his face. In fact, in order to be blessed, we have to stand in God's presence, take his Name upon us and remain in the cone of light that issues from his Face, in a space lit up by his gaze, diffusing grace and peace.

This was the very experience that the shepherds of Bethlehem had, who reappear in today's Gospel. They had the experience of standing in God's presence, they received his blessing not in the hall of a majestic palace, in the presence of a great sovereign, but in a stable, before a "babe lying in a manger" (Lk 2:16). From this child, a new light issues forth, shining in the darkness of the night, as we can see in so many paintings depicting Christ's Nativity. Henceforth, it is from him that blessing comes, from his name – Jesus, meaning "God saves" – and from his human face, in which God, the almighty Lord of heaven and earth, chose to become incarnate, concealing his glory under the veil of our flesh, so as to reveal fully to us his goodness (cf. Tit 3:4).

The first to be swept up by this blessing was Mary the virgin, the spouse of Joseph, chosen by God from the first moment of her existence to be the mother of his incarnate Son. She is the "blessed among women" (Lk 1:42) – in the words of Saint Elizabeth's greeting. Her whole life was spent in the light of the Lord, within the radius of his name and of the face of God incarnate in Jesus, the "blessed fruit of her womb". This is how Luke's Gospel presents her to us: fully intent upon guarding and meditating in her heart upon everything concerning her son Jesus (cf. Lk 2:19, 51). The mystery of her divine motherhood that we celebrate today contains in superabundant measure the gift of grace that all human motherhood bears within it, so much so that the fruitfulness of the womb has always been associated with God's blessing. The Mother of God is the first of the blessed, and it is she who bears the blessing; she is the woman who received Jesus into herself and brought him forth for the whole human family. In the words of the liturgy: "without losing the glory of virginity, [she] brought forth into the world the eternal light, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Preface I of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Mary is the mother and model of the Church, who receives the divine Word in faith and offers herself to God as the "good soil" in which he can continue to accomplish his mystery of salvation. The Church also participates in the mystery of divine motherhood, through preaching, which sows the seed of the Gospel throughout the world, and through the sacraments, which communicate grace and divine life to men. The Church exercises her motherhood especially in the sacrament of Baptism, when she generates God's children from water and the Holy Spirit, who cries out in each of them: "Abba, Father!" (Gal 4:6). Like Mary, the Church is the mediator of God's blessing for the world: she receives it in receiving Jesus and she transmits it in bearing Jesus. He is the mercy and the peace that the world, of itself, cannot give, and which it needs always, at least as much as bread.

Dear friends, peace, in the fullest and highest sense, is the sum and synthesis of all blessings. So when two friends meet, they greet one another, wishing each other peace. The Church too, on the first day of the year, invokes this supreme good in a special way; she does so, like the Virgin Mary, by revealing Jesus to all, for as Saint Paul says, "He is our peace" (Eph 2:14), and at the same time the "way" by which individuals and peoples can reach this goal to which we all aspire. With this deep desire in my heart, I am glad to welcome and greet all of you who have come to Saint Peter's Basilica on this 45th World Day of Peace: Cardinals, Ambassadors from so many friendly countries, who more than ever on this happy occasion share with me and with the Holy See the desire for renewed commitment to the promotion of peace in the world; the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, who with the Secretary and the officials of the Dicastery work in a particular way towards this goal; the other Bishops and Authorities present; the representatives of ecclesial Associations and Movements and all of you, brothers and sisters, especially those among you who work in the field of educating the young. Indeed – as you know – the role of education is what I highlighted in my Message for this year.

"Educating Young People in Justice and Peace" is a task for every generation, and thanks be to God, after the tragedies of the two great world wars, the human family has shown increasing awareness of it, as we can witness, on the one hand, from international statements and initiatives, and on the other, from the emergence among young people themselves, in recent decades, of many different forms of social commitment in this field. For the ecclesial community, educating men and women in peace is part of the mission received from Christ, it is an integral part of evangelization, because the Gospel of Christ is also the Gospel of justice and peace. But the Church, in recent times, has articulated a demand that affects everyone with a sensitive and responsible conscience regarding humanity's future; the demand to respond to a decisive challenge that consists precisely in education. Why is this a "challenge"? For at least two reasons: in the first place, because in the present age, so strongly marked by a technological mentality, the desire to educate and not merely to instruct cannot be taken for granted, it is a choice; in the second place, because the culture of relativism raises a radical question: does it still make sense to educate? And then, to educate for what?

Naturally now is not the time to address these fundamental questions, which I have tried to answer on other occasions. Instead I would like to underline the fact that, in the face of the shadows that obscure the horizon of today's world, to assume responsibility for educating young people in knowledge of the truth, in fundamental values and virtues, is to look to the future with hope. And in this commitment to a holistic education, formation in justice and peace has a place. Boys and girls today are growing up in a world that has, so to speak, become smaller, where contacts between different cultures and traditions, even if not always direct, are constant. For them, now more than ever, it is indispensable to learn the importance and the art of peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, dialogue and understanding. Young people by their nature are open to these attitudes, but the social reality in which they grow up can lead them to think and act in the opposite way, even to be intolerant and violent. Only a solid education of their consciences can protect them from these risks and make them capable of carrying on the fight, depending always and solely on the power of truth and good. This education begins in the family and is developed at school and in other formative experiences. It is essentially about helping infants, children and adolescents to develop a personality that combines a profound sense of justice with respect for their neighbour, with a capacity to address conflicts without arrogance, with the inner strength to bear witness to good, even when it involves sacrifice, with forgiveness and reconciliation. Thus they will be able to become people of peace and builders of peace.

In this task of educating young generations, a particular responsibility lies with religious communities. Every pathway of authentic religious formation guides the person, from the most tender age, to know God, to love him and to do his will. God is love, he is just and peaceable, and anyone wishing to honour him must first of all act like a child following his father's example. One of the Psalms says: "The Lord does deeds of justice, gives judgment for all who are oppressed ... The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy" (Ps 102:6,8). In God, justice and mercy come together perfectly, as Jesus showed us through the testimony of his life. In Jesus, "love and truth" have met, "justice and peace" have embraced (cf. Ps 84:11). In these days, the Church is celebrating the great mystery of the Incarnation: God's truth has sprung from the earth and justice looks down from heaven, the earth has yielded its fruit (cf. Ps 84:12,13). God has spoken to us in his Son Jesus. Let us hear what God has to say: "a voice that speaks of peace" (Ps 84:9). Jesus is a way that can be travelled, open to everyone. He is the path of peace. Today the Virgin Mary points him out to us, she shows us the Way: let us walk in it! And you, Holy Mother of God, accompany us with your protection. Amen.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Vespers Homily at Threshold of New Year
"There Is No More Room for Anxiety ... Now There Is Room for Unlimited Trust in God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2012.- Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening at Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

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Dear Cardinals,

Brother Bishops and Priests,

Distinguished Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We have come together in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and to give thanks to the Lord at the end of the year by singing the Te Deum together. I thank all of you for choosing to join me for this occasion that is always so poignant and significant. In the first place I greet the Cardinals, my brother Bishops and Priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and members of the lay faithful representing the entire ecclesial community of Rome. In a particular way I greet the Authorities present, beginning with the Mayor of Rome, and I thank him for the gift of a chalice, a gift that is renewed every year, in accordance with a fine tradition. I hope and pray that all will remain committed to making this City ever more in tune with the values of faith, culture and civilization that form an integral part of its vocation and its thousands of years of history.

Another year is drawing to a close, as we await the start of a new one: with some trepidation, with our perennial desires and expectations. Reflecting on our life experience, we are continually astonished by how ultimately short and ephemeral life is. So we often find ourselves asking: what meaning can we give to our days? What meaning, in particular, can we give to the days of toil and grief? This is a question that permeates history, indeed it runs through the heart of every generation and every individual. But there is an answer: it is written on the face of a Child who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, and is today the Living One, risen for ever from the dead. From within the fabric of humanity, rent asunder by so much injustice, wickedness and violence, there bursts forth in an unforeseen way the joyful and liberating novelty of Christ our Saviour, who leads us to contemplate the goodness and tenderness of God through the mystery of his Incarnation and Birth. The everlasting God has entered our history and he remains present in a unique way in the person of Jesus, his incarnate Son, our Saviour, who came down to earth to renew humanity radically and to free us from sin and death, to raise us to the dignity of God's children. Christmas not only recalls the historical fulfilment of this truth that concerns us directly, but in a mysterious and real way, gives it to us afresh.

How evocative it is, at this close of a year, to listen again to the joyful message addressed by Saint Paul to the Christians of Galatia: "when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). These words penetrate the heart of the history of us all and illumine it, or rather, they save it, because since the Day of the Lord's Nativity, the fullness of time has reached us. So there is no more room for anxiety in the face of time that passes, never to return; now there is room for unlimited trust in God, by whom we know we are loved, for whom we live and to whom our life is directed as we await his definitive return. Since the Saviour came down from heaven, man has ceased to be the slave of time that passes to no avail, marked by toil, sadness and pain. Man is son of a God who has entered time so as to redeem it from meaninglessness and negativity, a God who has redeemed all humanity, giving it everlasting love as a new perspective of life.

The Church lives and professes this truth and intends to proclaim it today with fresh spiritual vigour. In tonight's celebration we have special reasons to praise God for his mystery of salvation, active in the world through the ministry of the Church. We have so many reasons to thank the Lord for what our ecclesial community, at the heart of the universal Church, is accomplishing in the service of the Gospel in this City. In that regard, together with the Vicar General, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Auxiliary Bishops, parish priests and the whole diocesan presbyterate, I would like to thank the Lord especially for the promising communal project aimed at tayloring day-to-day pastoral work to the demands of our time, through the programme "Belonging to the Church and Pastoral Co-responsibility". The aim is give first priority to evangelization, so as to make the participation of the faithful in the sacraments more responsible and more fruitful, so that every person can speak of God to modern man and proclaim the Gospel incisively to those who have never known it or have forgotten it.

In the Diocese of Rome, as elsewhere, the most urgent pastoral challenge facing us is the quaestio fidei. Christ's disciples are called to reawaken in themselves and in others the longing for God and the joy of living him and bearing witness to him, on the basis of what is always a deeply personal question: why do I believe? We must give primacy to truth, seeing the combination of faith and reason as two wings with which the human spirit can rise to the contemplation of the Truth (cf. Fides et Ratio, Prologue); we must ensure that the dialogue between Christianity and modern culture bears fruit; we must see to it that the beauty and contemporary relevance of the faith is rediscovered, not as an isolated event, affecting some particular moment in our lives, but as a constant orientation, affecting even the simplest choices, establishing a profound unity within the person, so that he becomes just, hard-working, generous and good. What is needed is to give new life to a faith that can serve as a basis for a new humanism, one that is able to generate culture and social commitment.

Within this framework, at the Diocesan Conference held last June, the Diocese of Rome launched a programme which sets out to explore more deeply the meaning of Christian initiation and the joy of bringing new Christians into the faith. To proclaim faith in the Word made flesh is, after all, at the heart of the Church's mission, and the entire ecclesial community needs to rediscover this indispensable task with renewed missionary zeal. Young generations have an especially keen sense of the present disorientation, magnified by the crisis in economic affairs which is also a crisis of values, and so they in particular need to recognize in Jesus Christ "the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history" (Gaudium et Spes, 10).

Parents are the first educators in faith of their children, starting from a most tender age, and families must therefore be supported in their educational mission by appropriate initiatives. At the same time it is desirable that the baptismal journey, the first stage along the formative path of Christian initiation, in addition to fostering conscious and worthy preparation for the celebration of the Sacrament, should devote adequate attention to the years following Baptism, with appropriate programmes that take account of the life conditions that families must address. I therefore encourage parish communities and other ecclesial groupings to engage in continuing reflection on ways to promote a better understanding and reception of the sacraments, by which man comes to share in the very life of God. May the Church of Rome have no shortage of lay faithful who are ready to make their own contribution to building living communities that allow the Word of God to burst forth in the hearts of those who have not yet known the Lord or have moved away from him. At the same time, it is appropriate to create opportunities to encounter the City, giving rise to fruitful dialogue with those who are searching for Truth.

Dear friends, ever since God sent his only-begotten Son, so that we might obtain adoptive sonship (cf. Gal 4:5), we can have no greater task than to be totally at the service of God's plan. And so I would like to encourage and thank all the faithful from the Diocese of Rome who feel a responsibility to restore our society's soul. Thank you, Roman families, the first and fundamental cells of society! Thank you, members of the many Communities, Associations and Movements that are committed to animating the Christian life of our City.

Te Deum laudamus! We praise you, O God! The Church suggests that we should not end the year without expressing our thanks to the Lord for all his benefits. It is in God that our last hour must come to a close, the last hour of time and history. To overlook this goal of our lives would be to fall into the void, to live without meaning. Hence the Church places on our lips the ancient hymn Te Deum. It is a hymn filled with the wisdom of many Christian generations, who feel the need to address on high their heart's desires, knowing that all of us are in the Lord's merciful hands.

Te Deum laudamus! This is also the song of the Church in Rome, for the wonders that God has worked and continues to work in her. With hearts full of thanksgiving, let us prepare to cross the threshold of 2012, remembering that the Lord is watching over us and guarding us. To him this evening we wish to entrust the whole world. Let us place in his hands the tragedies of this world and let us also offer him our hopes for a brighter future. And let us place these prayers in the hands of Mary, Mother of God, Salus Populi Romani.

© Copyright 2011 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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