Benedict XVI from June 2012

 

 

 

 

Pope's Message to Jewish Community of Rome

"I Send a Heartfelt Greeting of Peace and Well-Being"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the telegram that Pope Benedict XVI sent to Dr. Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome, on the occasion of the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah , Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

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Most Illustrious Dr. Riccardo Di Segni

Chief Rabbi of Rome

Jewish Community of Rome - High Temple

Lungotevere Cenci – 00186 Rome

On the joyful occasion of Rosh Hashanah 5773 and Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I send a heartfelt greeting of peace and well-being to you and the whole Jewish community of Rome, invoking from the Most High, copious blessings for the new year and hoping that Jews and Christians, growing in mutual esteem and friendship, will be able to witness in the world the values that spring from the adoration of the One God.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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VATICAN, SEPTEMBER 19, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in the Paul VI Hall. The Holy Father dedicated today’s audience to reflecting on his recent Apostolic Journey to Lebanon.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like briefly to return in mind and heart to the extraordinary days of my recent Apostolic Journey to Lebanon. It was a visit I greatly desired to make despite the difficult circumstances, seeing that a father should always be close to his children when they are facing serious problems. I was moved by the sincere desire to announce the peace that the Risen Lord left to his disciples, with the words: "My peace I give you - ????? ??????" (John 14:27). The principle purpose of my visit was the signing and consigning of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to representatives of the Catholic Communities of the Middle East as well as the other Churches and ecclesial communities, and also to Muslim leaders.

It was a moving ecclesial event and, at the same time, a provident occasion for dialogue in a country that is complex but emblematic for the entire region, thanks to its tradition of coexistence and of fruitful cooperation between the different religious and social elements present. Confronted by the sufferings and tragedies that continue in that area of the Middle East, I expressed my heartfelt closeness to the legitimate aspirations of those dear people, bringing them a message of encouragement and peace. I am thinking particularly of the terrible conflict plaguing Syria, which in addition to thousands of deaths, is causing a stream of refugees to pour out of the region in a desperate search for security and for a future; nor can I forget the plight in Iraq.

During my visit, the people of Lebanon and the Middle East -- Catholics, representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities and of the various Muslim communities -- lived with enthusiasm an important moment of mutual respect, understanding and brotherhood in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere, which constitutes a powerful sign of hope for all mankind. But above all, it was the encounter with the Catholic faithful of Lebanon and the Middle East, who were present in the thousands, which aroused sentiments of deep gratitude in my soul for the zeal of their faith and their witness.

I thank the Lord for this precious gift, which offers hope for the future of the Church in those areas: young people, adults and families motivated by the tenacious desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain anchored to the Gospel and to walk together in the Church. I renew my gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly for my visit: the Patriarchs and Bishops of Lebanon with their staff, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, consecrated persons and lay faithful, who have a precious and meaningful presence in Lebanese society. I was able to see firsthand that the Lebanese Catholic communities, through their two thousand year presence and their hopeful commitment, offer a significant and valued contribution to the daily lives of all of the country’s inhabitants.

A grateful and respectful thought goes to the Lebanese authorities, institutions and associations, to the volunteers and to all those who offered their prayerful support. I cannot forget the cordial welcome I received from the President of the Republic, Mr. Michael Sleiman, as well as from the various sectors of the country and from the people: it was a warm welcome, in accord with famous Lebanese hospitality. Muslims welcomed me with great respect and sincere regard: their constant and engaging presence gave me the opportunity to propose a message of dialogue and of collaboration between Christianity and Islam: it seems to me that the moment has come to join in giving a sincere and decisive testimony against divisions, against violence and against wars. The Catholics who came from neighboring countries fervently expressed their deep affection for the Successor of Peter.

After the beautiful ceremony upon my arrival at Beirut airport, the first meeting was particularly solemn: the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostlic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, in the Greek-Melkite Basilica of St. Paul at Harissa. On that occasion, I invited Middle Eastern Catholics to fix their gaze on Christ Crucified in order to find the strength -- even in difficult and painful contexts -- to celebrate the victory of love over hate, of forgiveness over revenge and of unity over division. I assured everyone that the universal Church is closer than ever, through the affection of prayer, to the Churches in the Middle East: though they are a "little flock" they should not fear, in the certainty that the Lord is always with them. The Pope does not forget them.

On the second day of my Apostolic Journey I met with representatives of the Institutions of the Republic and of the world of culture, the diplomatic Corps and religious leaders. To them, among other things, I indicated a way forward to promote a future of peace and solidarity: by working to ensure that cultural, social and religious differences arrive through sincere dialogue at a new fraternity, where what unites [them] is the shared sense of the greatness and dignity of every person, whose life must always be defended and protected. On the same day, I had a meeting with the leaders of the Muslim religious communities, which took place in a spirit of dialogue and mutual goodwill. I thank God for this meeting. The world today needs clear and powerful signs of dialogue and collaboration, and in this regard Lebanon was and must continue to be an example for Arab nations and for the rest of the world.

In the afternoon, at the residence of the Maronite Patriarch, I was greeted with uncontainable enthusiasm by thousands of young people from Lebanon and the surrounding countries. This gave rise to a joyful and prayerful moment that will remain indelibly impressed in so many hearts. I emphasized their good fortune in living in that part of the world where Jesus died and rose for our salvation, and where Christianity developed, and I exhorted them to be faithful to and to love for their native land, despite the difficulties caused by the lack of stability and security. In addition, I encouraged them to be steadfast in the faith, by trusting in Christ, the source of our joy, and to deepen their personal relationship with Him in prayer, and also to be open to the great ideals of life, of family, of friendship and of solidarity. As I looked upon young Christians and Muslims celebrating in great harmony, I encouraged them to build the future of Lebanon and the Middle East together, and together to oppose violence and war. Concord and reconciliation must be stronger than the forces of death.

On Sunday morning, there was the very intense and well-attended moment of the Holy Mass at Beirut’s City Center Waterfront, accompanied by the evocative songs that characterized the other celebrations as well. In the presence of numerous bishops and a great crowd of the faithful from every part of the Middle East, I wished to exhort everyone to live the faith and to bear witness to it without fear, in the knowledge that the vocation of the Christian and of the Church is to carry the Gospel to everyone without distinction, after the example of Jesus. In a context marked by bitter conflicts, I drew attention to the necessity of serving peace and justice, by becoming instruments of reconciliation and builders of communion. At the conclusion of the Eucharistic celebration, I had the joy of consigning the Apostolic Exhortation, which gathers together the conclusions of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the Middle East. Through the Eastern and Latin Patriarchs and Bishops, the priests, consecrated and lay faithful, this document is intended to reach all the faithful of that dear region, in order to support them in the faith and in communion, and to spur them on to the greatly anticipated new evangelization.

In the afternoon, at the See of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate, I then had the joy of a fraternal ecumenical meeting with the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs and representatives of those Churches, as well as the ecclesial communities.

Dear friends, the days spent in Lebanon were a splendid manifestation of faith and religious feeling and a prophetic sign of peace. The multitude of believers from all over the Middle East had the opportunity to reflect, to converse and above all to pray together, and to renew their commitment to root their lives in Christ. I am certain that the people of Lebanon, in its varied but well amalgamated religious and social makeup, will know how to bear witness with new momentum to true peace, which comes from trust in God. I hope that the various messages of peace and esteem that I wished to give may help governments of the region to take decisive steps forward toward peace and toward a better understanding of Christian-Muslim relations. For my part, I continue to accompany those beloved peoples in prayer that they may remain faithful to the commitments they have assumed. To the maternal intercession of Mary, who is venerated at so many and such ancient Lebanese shrines, I entrust the fruits of this pastoral visit, as well as the good intentions and just aspirations of the entire Middle East. Thank you.

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today I would like to reflect on my recent Apostolic Journey to Lebanon. It had as its first priority the consigning of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to the representatives of the Catholic Church from Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. I also had occasion to meet representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities from the region, as well as Muslim leaders. I was able to speak from the heart, to stand before the sufferings and the dramatic events in the Middle East, and to express my prayerful encouragement for the legitimate aspirations for peace there. I was deeply moved by the faith of the local Church, and I asked the faithful to keep their gaze fixed on Christ crucified, therein finding the strength amid trying circumstances to celebrate the victory of love over hate, of forgiveness over revenge, and of unity over division. I wish also to express my gratitude to the Muslim community, whose leaders welcomed me warmly, and to whom I proposed a message of dialogue and of collaboration. Finally, my thanks go once more to all who worked to make my Visit to Lebanon so memorable, and I assure all the dear people of the Middle East of my prayers and affection.

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On Prayer in the 2nd Part of the Book of Revelation

"There are no superfluous, useless prayers; not one of them is lost"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 12, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall at the general audience. The Holy Father today continued his reflection on prayer in the book of Revelation.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I spoke about prayer in the first part of Revelation. Today we move on to the second part of the book; and whereas in the first part, prayer is oriented toward the Church's inner life, in the second, attention is given to the entire world; the Church, in fact, journeys through history; she is part of it, in accordance with God's plan.

The assembly that listened to John's message presented by the reader rediscovered its duty to cooperate in the expansion of the Kingdom of God, as "priests of God and of Christ" (Revelation 20:6; cf. 1:5; 5:10) and it opens out to the world of men. And here, in the dialectical relationship that exists between them, two ways of living emerge: the first we may define as the "system of Christ," to which the assembly is happy to belong; and the second, the "worldly systems opposed to the kingdom and the covenant and activated through the influence of the Evil One," who by deceiving men wills to establish a world opposed to the one willed by Christ and by God (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Bible and Morality, Biblical Roots of Christian Conduct, 70). The assembly must therefore know how to interpret in depth the history it is living, by learning to discern events with faith in order to cooperate by its action in the growth of the Kingdom of God. And this work of interpretation and discernment, as well as action, is linked to prayer.

First, after the insistent appeal of Christ, who in the first part of Revelation said seven times: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Church" (cf. Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22), the assembly is invited to ascend to Heaven, to look upon reality through God's eyes; and here we discover three symbols, reference points from which we may begin to interpret history: the throne of God, the Lamb and the book (cf. Revelation 4:1 – 5:14).

The first symbol is the throne, upon which there is seated a person John does not describe, for he surpasses every human representation. He is only able to note the sense of beauty and joy he experiences in His presence. This mysterious figure is God, God Almighty who did not remain enclosed within His heaven but who drew close to man, entering into a covenant with him; God who makes his voice -- symbolized by thunder and lightning -- heard in history, in a mysterious but real way. There are various elements that appear around the throne of God, such as the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures that unceasingly render praise to the one Lord of history.

The first symbol, then, is the throne. The second symbol is the book, which contains the plan of God for events and for men. It is hermetically sealed with seven seals, and no one is able to read it. Faced with man's inability to scrutinize the plan of God, John experiences a deep sadness, which causes him to weep. But there is a remedy for man's dismay before the mystery of history: there is one who is able to open the book and shed light on it.

And here the third symbol appears: Christ, the Lamb immolated in the sacrifice of the Cross, but who stands as a sign of his Resurrection. And it is the Lamb, Christ who died and rose, who gradually opens the seals and unveils the plan of God, the deep meaning of history.

What do these symbols tell us? They remind us of the path to knowing how to interpret the facts of history and of our own lives. By raising our gaze to God's heaven in a constant relationship with Christ, by opening our hearts and our minds to him in personal and communal prayer, we learn to see things in a new way and to grasp their truest meaning. Prayer is like an open window that allows us to keep our gaze turned toward God, not only for the purpose of reminding us of the goal toward which we are directed, but also to allow the will of God to illumine our earthly journey and to help us to live it with intensity and commitment.

How does the Lord guide the Christian community to a deeper reading of history? First and foremost, by inviting it to consider with realism the present moment we are living. Therefore, the Lamb opens the four first seals of the book, and the Church sees the world in which it is inserted, a world in which various negative elements exist. There the evils that man commits, such as violence, which comes from the desire to possess, to prevail against one another to the point of killing one another (second seal); or injustice, as men fail to respect the laws that are given them (third seal). To these are added the evils that man must undergo, such as death, hunger and sickness (fourth seal). Faced with these oftentimes dramatic realities, the ecclesial community is invited to never lose hope, to believe firmly that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One collides with the true omnipotence, which is God's.

And the first seal the Lamb opens contains precisely this message. John narrates: "And I saw, and behold, a white horse, and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer" (Revelation 6:2). The power of God has entered into the history of man, [a power] which is not only capable of offsetting evil, but even of conquering it. The color white recalls the Resurrection: God drew so near to us that he descended into the darkness of death in order to illumine it with the splendor of his divine life: he took the world's evil upon himself in order to purify it with the fire of his love.

How do we grow in this Christian understanding of reality? Revelation tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and profound hope in each one of us and in our communities: it invites us to not allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good, to look to the Crucified and Risen Christ, who associates us in his victory. The Church lives in history, she is not closed in on herself; but rather, she courageously faces her journey amid difficulties and suffering, by forcefully affirming that ultimately, evil does not conquer the good, darkness does not dim the splendor of God.

This is an important point for us; as Christians we can never be pessimists; we know well that along life's journey we often encounter violence, falsehood, hate and persecution, but this does not discourage us. Above all, prayer teaches us to see the signs of God, of his presence and action; indeed, to be lights of goodness that spread hope and point out that the victory is God's.

This perspective leads us to offer thanksgiving and praise to God and to the Lamb: the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures together sing the "new song" that celebrates the work of Christ the Lamb, who "makes all things new" (Revelation 21:5). But this renewal is first and foremost a gift we must ask for. And here we find another element that should characterize prayer: the earnest entreaty to the Lord that his Kingdom come, and that man may have a heart that is docile to God's dominion, that it be his will that directs our lives and the life of the world.

In the vision contained in Revelation, this prayer of petition is represented by an important detail: "the twenty-four elders" and "the four living creatures" hold, together with the harp that accompanies their song, "golden bowls full of incense" (5:8b) that, as is then explained, "are the prayers of the saints" (5:8b); of those, that is, who have already reached God, but also of all of us who find ourselves on the journey.

And before the throne of God, we see an angel holding a golden censer in which he continually places grains of incense, i.e. our prayers, whose sweet aroma is offered together with the prayers that rise before God (Revelation 8:1-4). It is a symbolism that tells us how all of our prayers -- with all the limits, difficulty, poverty, aridity and imperfections they may have -- are as it were purified and reach the heart of God. We must be certain, therefore, that there are no superfluous, useless prayers; not one of them is lost. And they find a response -- even if it is oftentimes mysterious -- because God is Love and infinite Mercy. The angel -- St. John writes -- "took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on earth; and there were peals of thunder, loud noises, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake" (Revelation 8:5).

This image signifies that God is not indifferent to our prayers; he intervenes and makes his power felt and his voice heard on the earth, he makes the systems of Evil tremble and disrupts them. Often, when faced with evil, we feel incapable of doing anything, but prayer is the first and most effective response that we can give and that strengthens our daily commitment to spreading goodness. The power of God makes our weakness fruitful (cf. Romans 8:26-27).

I would like to conclude with some mention of the final dialogue (cf. Revelation 22:6-21). Jesus repeats several times: "Behold, I am coming soon" (Revelation 22:7,12). This statement does not merely indicate the future perspective of the end of time; it also speaks of the present: Jesus comes. He establishes his dwelling place in the one who believes in him and welcomes him. Then the assembly, guided by the Holy Spirit, repeats to Jesus the pressing invitation to come even closer: "Come" (Revelation 22:17a). It is like the "bride" (22:17) who ardently longs for the fullness of marriage. A third time the invocation is repeated: "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" (22:20b); and the reader concludes with an expression that manifests the meaning of this presence: "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints" (22:21).

Revelation, despite the complexity of its symbolism, involves us in a very rich prayer. Therefore, we too listen, praise, give thanks and contemplate the Lord, and ask his forgiveness. Its structure as a great communal liturgical prayer is also a forceful reminder to rediscover the extraordinary and transforming power of the Eucharist; in particular I would like to urge you to be faithful to Holy Mass on Sunday, the Lord's day, Sunday, the true center and heart of the week! The richness of prayer in Revelation makes us think of a diamond, which has a fascinating array of facets, but whose preciousness resides in the purity of its one central core. The evocative forms of prayer that we encounter in Revelation therefore make the unique and inexpressible preciousness of Jesus Christ shine forth. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on prayer in the Book of Revelation, we now turn to its teaching on the importance of prayer in the Church's pilgrimage through history. Prayer enables us to discern the events of history in the light of God's plan for the spread of his Kingdom. That plan is symbolized by the book closed with seven seals which only the Lamb, the crucified and risen Lord, can open. In prayer, we see that Christ's final victory over sin and death is the key to all history. While giving thanks for this victory, we continue to beg God's grace for our earthly journey. Amid life's evils, the Lord hears our prayers, strengthens our weakness, and enables us to trust in his sovereign power. The Book of Revelation concludes with Jesus' promise that he will soon come, and the Church's ardent prayer "Come, Lord Jesus!". In our own prayer, and especially in our celebration of the Eucharist, may we grow in the hope of Christ's coming in glory, experience the transforming power of his grace, and learn to discern all things in the light of faith.

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Papal Address to Bishops From Mission Territories

"Look upon today's world with faith, to understand it in depth"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 10, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday when he received in audience recently appointed bishops heading Mission Territories, who took part in a course of formation organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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Dear Brothers,

I am happy to meet with you, who are gathered in Rome for the course of formation for recently appointed bishops, promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. I cordially greet cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the dicastery, and I thank him for the kind words he addressed to me also in your name. I greet monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai and monsignor Protase Rugambwa, Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Congregation. To them and to all who contribute to the good outcome of the Seminary, I express my gratitude. This course is taking place in proximity of the Year of Faith, a precious gift of the Lord to his Church to help the baptized to be conscious of their faith and to communicate it to those who have yet to experienced its beauty.

The communities of which you are pastors in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania, although in difficult circumstances, are all involved in the first evangelization and in the endeavor of consolidating the faith. You perceive their joys and hopes, as well as their wounds and concerns, similarly to the Apostle Paul, who wrote: "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church" (Colossians 1:24). And he added: "For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me" (v. 29). May trust in the Lord always be firm in your heart; the Church is his, and it is He that guides her in difficult moments and in serenity. Your communities are almost all of recent foundation, and they present the merits and weaknesses connected with their brief history. They reflect a shared and joyful, lively and creative faith, but often not yet rooted. In them enthusiasm and apostolic zeal alternate with moments of instability and inconsistency. Emerging here and there are frictions and abandonments. However, they are Churches that are maturing thanks to pastoral action, but also to the gift of that communio sanctorum, which makes possible a true and proper osmosis of grace between the Churches of ancient tradition and those of recent constitution, as well as, and foremost, between the heavenly and the pilgrim Church. Registered for some time is a decrease of missionaries, balanced, however, by the increase of the diocesan and Religious clergy. The numerical growth of native priests also produces a new form of missionary cooperation: some young Churches have begun to send their priests to sister Churches deprived of clergy in the same country or in nations of the same Continent. It is a communion that must always animate the evangelizing action.

Therefore, the young Churches are a sign of hope for the future of the universal Church. In this context, dear Brothers, I encourage you not to spare effort and courage for a diligent pastoral work, remembering the gift of grace that was sown in you in your episcopal ordination, and which can be summarized in the tria munera of teaching, sanctifying and governing. Have at heart the missio ad gentes, the inculturation of the faith, the formation of candidates for the priesthood, the care of the diocesan clergy, of men and women Religious, and of the laity. The Church is born from the mission and grows with the mission. Make your own the interior appeal of the Apostle of the Gentiles: "Caritas Christi urget nos" (2 Corinthians 5:14). A correct inculturation of the faith will help you to incarnate the Gospel in the cultures of the peoples and to assume the good that lives in them. It is a long and difficult process which in no way must compromise the specificity and integrity of the Christian faith (cf. Encyclical Redemptoris missio, 52). The mission requires pastors configured to Christ by their sanctity of life, prudence and farsightedness, ready to spend themselves generously for the Gospel and to carry in their heart concern for all the Churches.

Watch over the flock, having a special attention for the priests. Guide them with your example, live in communion with them, be willing to listen to them and to receive them with paternal benevolence, appreciating their different capacities. Commit yourselves to ensuring to your priests specific and periodic meetings of formation. Make it so that the Eucharist is at the heart of their existence and the raison d’etre of their ministry. Look upon today’s world with faith, to understand it in depth, and have a generous heart, ready to enter into communion with the women and men of our time. Do not fail in your primary responsibility of men of God, called to prayer and to the service of his Word for the benefit of the flock. May it also be said of you what the priest Onias affirmed of the prophet Jeremiah: "This is a man who loves the brethren and prays much for the people and the holy city" (2 Maccabees 15:14). Keep your sight fixed on Jesus, the Pastor of pastors: today’s world needs persons who speak to God to be able to speak of God. Only in this way will the Word bear fruit (cf. Address to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, October 15, 2011).

Dear Brothers, your Churches know well the context of instability that affects in a worrying way the daily life of the people. The food, health and educational emergencies challenge the ecclesial communities and involve them in a direct way. Indeed, their attention and work are appreciated and praised. Added to natural calamities are cultural and religious discriminations, intolerance and factiousness, fruit of fundamentalisms that reveal erroneous anthropological views that lead to underestimate, if not ignore, the right to religious liberty, respect of the weakest, especially children, women and bearers of handicaps. Heavy, finally, are the <re-emerging> contrasts between ethnic groups and castes, which cause unjustifiable violence. Put your trust in the Gospel, in its renewing strength, in its capacity to reawaken consciences and to cause from within the rescue of persons and the creation of a new fraternity. The diffusion of the Word of the Lord makes the gift of reconciliation blossom and fosters the unity of peoples.

In the Message for the next World Mission Day I wish to remind that faith is a gift to be received in the heart and in life, and for which we must always thank the Lord. However faith is given so that it is shared; a talent given so that it bears fruit; a light which must not be kept hidden. Faith is the most important gift that has been given to us in life: we cannot keep it only for ourselves! "All have the right to know the value of such gift and to access it," says John Paul II in the encyclical Redemptoris missio (11). Reaffirming the priority of evangelization, the Servant of God Paul VI said: "Men will be able to save themselves also by other paths, thanks to the mercy of God, even if we do not proclaim the Gospel to them; however, will we be able to be saved if, because of negligence, fear, shame or in consequence of false ideas, we neglect to proclaim it?" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 80). May this question resound in our heart as an appeal to feel the absolute priority of the task of evangelization. Dear Brothers, I entrust you and your communities to Mary Most Holy, first disciple of the Lord and first evangelizer, having given to the world the Word of God made flesh. May she, the Star of evangelization, always

guide your steps. In this connection, I impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope's Address to Marian Congress

"The singular figure of the Mother of God must be developed and studied from diverse and complimentary perspectives"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when he received in audience participants of the 23rd International Mariological Congress.

The theme of the event was "Mariology since Vatican Council II: reception, outcomes and prospects."

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Dear brothers and sisters,

With great joy I welcome all of you here to Castel Gandolfo as we near the conclusion of the 23rd International Mariological Marian Congress. It is quite appropriate that you are reflecting on the topic "The Mariology from Council Vatican II: Receipt, result and perspectives" since we will soon be remembering and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of that great assembly on October 11, 1962.

I cordially greet Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who is the president of the congress; Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council of Culture and of the Council for Coordination Among the Pontifical Academies, and I greet the president and academic officials of the Pontifical International Marian Academy, to whom I am grateful for the organization of this important event. I greet the bishops, priests, religious, presidents and representatives of Marian societies who are present, as well as the mariology scholars and, finally, all those who are participating in the sessions of the congress.

Blessed John XXIII wanted the Vatican Ecumenical Council II to open precisely on October 11, on the same day in which the Council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary "Theotokos" Mother of God in 431 (cf. AAS 54, 1962, 67-68). On this occasion he began his address with significant and programmatic words: "Gaudet Mater Ecclesia quod, singulari Divinae providentiae munere, optatissimus iam dies illuxit, quo, auspice Deipara Virgine, cuius materna dignitas hodie festo ritu recolitur, hic ad Beati Petri sepulchrum Concilium Oecumenicum Vaticanum Secundum sollemniter initium capit." ["Mother Church rejoices because, through a special gift of divine Providence, there has now come the greatly desired day in which – under the protection of the Virgin Mother of God, whose maternal dignity is celebrated with joy today – here at the tomb of St. Peter, there solemnly begins the second Vatican Ecumenical Council."]

As you know, on October 11, to remember that extraordinary event, there will be the solemn opening of the Year of Faith, which I wished to announce with the motu proprio "Porta fidei," in which, presenting Mary as an exemplary model of faith, I invoke her special protection and intercession in the Church’s journey, entrusting to her, blessed because she believed, this time of grace. Today too, dear brothers and sisters, the Church rejoices in the liturgical celebration of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, the All Holy, dawn of our salvation.

The meaning of this Marian feast is explained to us by St. Andrew of Crete, who lived between the seventh and eighth centuries in his famous Homily for the Feast of the Nativity Mary in which the event is presented as a precious piece of the mosaic that is the divine plan for the salvation of humanity: "The mystery of the God who becomes man, the divinization of man assumed by the Word, represent the most supreme good that Christ has granted us, the revelation of the divine plan and the defeat of every presumptuous human self-sufficiency. God’s coming among men, as the brilliant light and clear and visible divine reality, is the great and marvelous divine gift bestowed upon us. Today’s celebration honors the birth of the Mother of God. But the true meaning and purpose of this event is the incarnation of the Word. In fact, Mary is born, nursed and raised to be the Mother of the King of the Ages, of God" (Discourse 1, PG 97, 806-807). This important and ancient witness brings us to the heart of the theme upon which you are reflecting and that Vatican Council II wanted to underscore in the title of chapter 8 of the dogmatic constitution on the Church "Lumen gentium": "The Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God in the Mystery of Christ and the Church." This is the "nexus mysteriorum" of the intimate connection among the mysteries of the Christian faith that the Council indicated as the horizon for the understanding of the individual elements and the different statements of the patrimony of the Catholic faith.

In the Council, in which I took part as an expert when I was a young theologian, I had a chance to see the various ways of dealing with the questions about the figure and role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation. In the second session of the Council a large group of the fathers asked that Our Lady be treated in the constitution on the Church, while a group of similar size supported the necessity of a specific document that adequately shed light on the dignity, the privileges and the singular role of Mary in the redemption wrought by Christ. With the vote on October 23, 1963, it was decided to opt for the first proposal and the schema of the dogmatic constitution on the Church was enriched with the chapter on the Mother of God, in which the figure of Mary – reinterpreted and reproposed in the context of the Word of God, the texts of the patristic and liturgical traditions, as well as a broad theological and spiritual reflection – appears in all of its beauty and singularity, well inserted in the fundamental mysteries of the Christian faith. Mary, whose faith is the focus, is situated in the mystery of the love and communion of the Most Holy Trinity; her cooperation in the divine plan of salvation and in the unique mediation of Christ is clearly affirmed and properly highlighted, making it thereby a model and point of reference for the Church, who recognizes herself, her vocation and her mission in Mary. Popular piety, ever turned toward Mary, is in the end nourished by biblical and patristic references. Naturally, the conciliar text does not exhaust all the issues connected with the figure of the Mother of God, but it constitutes the essential hermeneutic horizon for every subsequent reflection of a theological or more purely spiritual or pastoral character. Moreover, it represents a precious point of balance that is always necessary between theological rationality and believing affectivity. The singular figure of the Mother of God must be developed and studied from diverse and complimentary perspectives: while the "via veritas" (way of truth) is always valid, we not forsake the "via pulchritudinis" (way of beauty) and the "via amoris" (way of love) to discover and contemplate still more profoundly Mary’s crystalline and solid faith, her love for God, her indestructible hope.

For this reason, in the apostolic exhortation "Verbum Domini" I proposed that we follow the line traced by the Council (cf. 27). This is also an invitation that cordially address to you, dear friends and scholars. Offer your expert contribution of reflection and pastoral proposals, so that the upcoming Year of Faith might represent for all believers in Christ a true moment of grace in which the faith of Mary precedes us and accompanies us as a brightly burning lamp and as a model of the Christian fullness and maturity to which we can look with confidence and from which we can draw enthusiasm and joy to live our vocation as children of God, brothers of Christ and living members of his body that is the Church with ever greater commitment and consistency.

I entrust all of you and your research efforts to Mary’s maternal protection and I impart to you a special apostolic benediction. Thank you.

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Pope's Message on 10 Commandments

"God has given us the Commandments to educate us to liberty and genuine love"

ROME, SEPT. 10, 2012 - Here is a translation of the text of Benedict XVI's video message to those participating in the first leg of the "Ten Squares for Ten Commandments" event organized by Renewal in the Spirit and sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

The event opened Saturday in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to extend a cordial greeting to all of you taking part in the Squares of several Italian cities in this catechesis on the Ten Commandments and who adhere to the initiative "When Love Gives Meaning to Your Life." In particular I greet and thank the adherents of the Ecclesial Movement Renewal in the Holy Spirit, who organized this praiseworthy initiative, with the support of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and the Italian Episcopal Conference.

The Decalogue takes us back to Mount Sinai, when God entered in a particular way in the history of the Jewish people, and through this people in the history of the whole of humanity, giving the "Ten Words" that express his will and which are a sort of "ethical code" to build a society in which the covenant relationship with the Holy and Just God illumines and guides the relations between persons. And Jesus comes to bring these words to fulfillment, elevating them and summarizing them in the twofold Commandment of love: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind … You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (cf. Matthew 22:37-40).

However, we must ask ourselves: what meaning do these Ten Words have for us, in the present cultural context, in which secularism and relativism risk becoming the criteria of every choice and in this, our society, which seems to live as if God did not exist? We answer that God has given us the Commandments to educate us to liberty and genuine love, so that we can be truly happy. They are a sign of the love of God the Father, of his desire to teach us the correct discernment of good and evil, of the true and the false, of the just and the unjust. They are comprehensible to all precisely because they establish the fundamental values in concrete norms and rules, in putting them into practice man can walk on the path of true liberty, which renders him firm in the way that leads him to life and happiness. When, on the contrary, man ignores the Commandments in his existence, not only does he alienate himself from God and abandons the covenant with Him, but he also distances himself from life and from lasting happiness. Man left to himself, indifferent to God, proud of his own absolute autonomy, ends up by following the idols of egoism, of power, of dominion, polluting the relations with himself and with others, and following paths not of life but of death. The sad experiences of history, especially of the last century, remain a warning for the whole of humanity.

"When Love gives meaning to your life …" Jesus brings to fulfillment the way of the Commandments with his Cross and Resurrection; leads to the radical overcoming of egoism, of sin and of death, with the gift of himself out of love. Only the acceptance of the infinite love of God, trust in Him, following the way He traced, gives profound meaning to life and opens to a future of hope.

Dear friends, I hope that this initiative will arouse renewed commitment in witnessing that the way of love, traced by the Commandments and perfected by Christ, is the only one capable of rendering our life, that of others and of our communities fuller, better and happier. May the Virgin Mary support this path, while I impart my Blessing.

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 5, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall.

The Holy Father reflected on prayer in the first part of the Book of Revelation.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, after a summer holiday break, we resume the Audiences at the Vatican, and I would like to continue in that "school of prayer" that I am living together with you through these Wednesday catecheses.

Today I would like to speak about prayer in the Book of Revelation [also known as the Apocalypse], which as you know is the final book in the New Testament. It is a difficult book, but it contains great riches. It puts us in contact with the living and pulsating prayer of the Christian assembly, gathered together "on the Lord's day" (Revelation 1:10): Indeed, this is the underlying current in which the text moves.

A reader presents to the assembly a message that has been entrusted by the Lord to the Evangelist John. The reader and the assembly constitute, as it were, the two protagonists in the development of the book. From the outset, to them a festal greeting is addressed: "Blessed is he who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear" (1:3). A symphony of prayer flows from their unbroken dialogue, and it develops through a great variety of forms until the book's conclusion. In listening to the reader who presents the message, and in hearing and observing the assembly that responds, their prayer tends to become ours.

The first part of Revelation (1:4-3:22) presents -- through the attitude of the assembly that prays -- three successive stages. The first (1:4-8) consists of a dialogue -- the only case of its kind in the New Testament -- that takes place between the assembly that has just gathered and the reader, who addresses them with a greeting of blessing: "Grace to you and peace" (1:4). The reader proceeds to highlight the source of this greeting. It comes from the Trinity: from the Father, from the Holy Spirit, from Jesus Christ -- who together are involved in carrying out the creative and saving plan for humanity. The assembly listens, and when they hear the name of Jesus Christ there is a burst of joy, and they respond with enthusiasm, raising the following prayer of praise: "To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (1:5b-6).

The assembly, enveloped by Christ's love, feels liberated from the bondage of sin and proclaims itself the "kingdom" of Jesus Christ that belongs totally to Him. It recognizes the great mission entrusted to it through baptism, that of bringing the presence of God to the world. And it concludes its celebration of praise by looking once again directly at Jesus, and with growing enthusiasm it acknowledges that to him belong "glory and dominion" for having saved mankind. The final "amen" concludes the hymn of praise to Christ.

Already these first four verses contain a great wealth of pointers for us. They tell us that our prayer should consist, first and foremost, in listening to God who speaks to us. Inundated as we are with so many words, we are little accustomed to listen, and especially to placing ourselves in an interior and exterior state of silence, in order to be attentive to what God wants to tell us. These verses also teach us that our prayer, so often filled only with requests, should instead be filled with praise to God for his love, for the gift of Jesus Christ, who brought us strength, hope and salvation.

A new intervention by the reader then reminds the assembly, which is seized by the love of Christ, of their commitment to grasp the significance of his presence in their own lives. He says: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him" (1:7a). After being lifted up to heaven in a "cloud" -- a symbol of transcendence (cf. Acts 1:9) -- Jesus Christ will return in the same way as he went up into heaven (cf. Acts 1:11). Then all the peoples of the earth will acknowledge him, and as St. John exhorts in the Fourth Gospel, "they shall look on him whom they have pierced" (19:37). They will think of their own sins, the cause of his crucifixion, and as those who participated directly in it on Calvary "they will beat their breasts" (Luke 23:48), asking him for forgiveness in order to follow him in their lives and thus prepare for full communion with Him after his final return. The assembly reflects on this message and says: "Yes. Amen!" (Revelation 1:7b). With their "yes" they express their full acceptance of all that has been communicated to them, and they ask that this may truly become a reality. It is the prayer of the assembly that meditates on the love of God supremely manifest on the Cross and asks to live consistently as disciples of Christ.

Then there is God's response: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" (1:8). God, who reveals himself as the beginning and end of history, receives and takes to heart the assembly's prayer. He was, is, and will be present and active with his love in human events -- in the present and in the future, as in the past, until the final goal has been attained. This is God's promise. And here we find another important element: constant prayer reawakens in us the sense of the Lord's presence in our lives and in history, and his is a presence that sustains us, guides us and gives us great hope, even amid the darkness of certain human events. Furthermore, every prayer, even the one offered in the most radical solitude, is never isolated and is never barren; rather, it is the lifeblood that nourishes a more committed and coherent Christian life.

The second stage of the assembly's prayer (1:9-22) further deepens their relationship with Jesus Christ: the Lord makes himself seen, he speaks, he acts, and the community, ever closer to Him, listens, responds and receives. In the message presented by the reader, St. John recounts one of his own personal experiences of an encounter with Christ: he is on the island of Patmos on account of "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (1:9), and it is the "Lord's day" (1:10) Sunday, when the Resurrection is celebrated. And St. John is "taken by the Spirit" (1:10a). The Holy Spirit permeates him and renews him, expanding his capacity to receive Jesus, who invites him to write. The prayer of the assembly that is listening gradually assumes a contemplative attitude punctuated by the verbs "it sees," "it gazes": it contemplates, that is, all that the reader proposes to it, interiorizing it and making it its own.

John hears "a loud voice like a trumpet" (1:10b). The voice commands him to send a message "to the seven Churches" (1:11) located in Asia Minor, and through these to all the Churches of all times, together with their Pastors. The expression "voice, like a trumpet," which is taken from the book of Exodus (cf. 20:18), recalls the divine manifestation to Moses on Mount Sinai and it indicates the voice of God, who speaks from his heaven, from his transcendence. Here it is attributed to Jesus Christ the Risen One, who from the glory of God the Father speaks with the voice of God to the assembly gathered in prayer. Turning "to see the voice" (1:12) John catches sight of "seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a Son of man" (1:12-13) -- a particularly familiar expression for John which indicates Jesus himself. The golden lampstands, with their candles alight, indicate the Church of every age, in an attitude of prayer in the Liturgy: the Risen Jesus, the "Son of man," is in her midst and, clothed in the vestments of the High Priest of the Old Testament, he carries out the priestly role of mediator near the Father.

In John's symbolic message, there then follows a luminous manifestation of the Risen Christ, with characteristics belonging to God that hearken back to the Old Testament. He speaks of "hair … white as white wool, white as snow" (1:14), which is the symbol of God's eternity (Daniel 7:9) and of the Resurrection. A second symbol is that of fire, which in the Old Testament is often attributed to God in order to indicate two properties. The first is the jealous intensity of His love that animates His covenant with man (cf. Deuteronomy 4:24). And it is this same burning intensity of love that we read in the gaze of the Risen Jesus: "His eyes were like a flame of fire" (Revelation1:14a). The second is the unrelenting ability to overcome evil like a "devouring fire" (Deuteronomy 9:3). Thus, even "the feet" of Jesus, on the way to confronting and destroying evil, have the glow of "burnished bronze" (Revelation 1:15). Then, the voice of Jesus Christ, "like the sound of many waters" (1:15c), has the impressive roar "of the glory of the God of Israel" that moves toward Jerusalem, spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel (cf. 43:2).

Three more symbolic elements follow thereafter and reveal how much the Risen Jesus is doing for the Church: He holds her firmly in his right hand -- which is a very important image: Jesus holds the Church in his hand -- He speaks to her with the penetrating power of a sharp sword, and he reveals the splendor of His divinity to her: "His face was like the sun shining in full strength" (Revelation 1:16). John is so taken by this marvelous experience of the Risen One, that he feels himself failing and falls as though dead.

After this experience of revelation, the Apostle has before him the Lord Jesus, who speaks with him, reassures him, lays his hand on his head, discloses His identity as the Crucified and Risen One, and he entrusts him with the task of transmitting one of his messages to the Churches (cf. Revelation 1:17-18). How beautiful is this God before whom he falls as though dead. He is the friend of his life, and he lays his hand on his head. And so it will be for us as well: we are friends of Jesus. Therefore, the revelation of the Risen God, of the Risen Christ, will not be terrifying; rather, it will be an encounter with the friend. The assembly experiences with John the special moment of light before the Lord, united, however, with the experience of the daily encounter with Jesus, thereby tasting the richness of contact with the Lord, who fills every space of existence.

In the third and final stage of the first part of Revelation (2-3), the reader proposes a sevenfold message in which Jesus speaks in the first person. Addressed to the seven Churches located in Asia Minor around Ephesus, Jesus' address begins with the particular situations of each of the Churches, and then expands to include the Churches of every age. Jesus enters immediately into the heart of the situation of each Church, emphasizing lights and shadows and addressing them with a pressing invitation: "Repent" (2:5,16; 3:19c); "hold fast what you have" (3:11); "do the works you did at first" (2:5); "be zealous and repent" (3:19b) … This word of Jesus, if listened to in faith, immediately begins to be effective: The Church at prayer, in welcoming the Lord's Word, is transformed. All the Churches must place themselves in attentive listening to the Lord by opening themselves to the Spirit as Jesus insistently asks, seven times repeating this command: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches" (2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). The assembly hears the message and is moved to repentance, to conversion, to perseverance, to an increase in love, and to guidance for their journey.

Dear friends, Revelation presents to us a community united in prayer, for it is precisely in prayer that we increasingly experience the presence of Jesus with us and in us. The more and better we pray with constancy, with intensity, the more we become like him, and he truly enters into our lives and guides them, bestowing joy and peace. And the more we know, love and follow Jesus, the more we feel the need to take time out in prayer with him, thus receiving serenity, hope and strength in our lives. Thank you for your attention.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we consider the theme of prayer as found at the start of the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse. In some ways, it is a difficult book, but it contains many riches. Even the opening verses of the Book contain a great deal: they tell us that prayer means, above all, listening to the God who speaks to us. Today, amid the din of so many useless words, many people have lost the habit of listening, even to God's word. The opening lines of the Apocalypse teach us that prayer is not just more words, asking God to grant our various needs, but rather it must begin as praise to God for his love, and for his gift of Jesus Christ, who has brought us strength, hope and salvation. We are to welcome Jesus into our lives, to proclaim our "Yes!" to Christ and to nourish and deepen our Christian living. Constant prayer will reveal to us the meaning of God's presence in our lives and in history. Prayer with others, liturgical prayer in particular, will deepen our awareness of the crucified and risen Jesus in our midst. Thus, the more we know, love and follow Christ, the more we will want to meet him in prayer, for he is the peace, hope and strength of our lives.

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Papal Message to Envoy for Laity Conference in Africa

If "we see the heart of African peoples, we discover a great wealth of spiritual resources"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 5, 2012 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The cardinal is the Pope's representative at a conference for the laity under way in Yaounde, Cameroon.

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To the Lord Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko,

President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

I am happy to address my cordial thought to you, Venerable Brother, to the Cardinals, to the Bishops, to the Priests, to consecrated persons and, in a special way, to all the lay faithful gathered at Yaounde, from September 4-9, for the important Congress of the Catholic laity of Africa, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity with the support of the Episcopal Conference of Cameroon, on the subject: "Witnesses of Jesus Christ in Africa Today. Salt of the Earth … Light of the World (Matthew 5:13.14)." The subject recalls deliberately the postsynodal apostolic exhortation Africae munus, which has as a sub-title the same quotation mentioned in Saint Matthew’s Gospel: "You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world." Consigning personally this important document to the Bishops of Africa at Cotonou on November 20 of last year, I wished to offer some theological and pastoral guidelines for the Church’s journey in the Continent.

Your Congress appears as a significant stage to carry out what the Holy Spirit inspired in the Synodal Fathers during the Second Special Assembly for Africa, held in October of 2009 at Rome. At Cotonou I expressed the hope that the Exhortation Africae munus serve as a guide especially in the proclamation of the Gospel, through the commitment of the whole People of God. It is because of this that I learned with satisfaction of the initiative of the Pontifical Council to convoke a Congress dedicated to the African lay faithful, called in a special way in our times to ever more intense work in the Lord’s vineyard (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici, 2).

During my trips on the Continent, I affirmed on several occasions that Africa is called to be the "Continent of Hope." These were not circumstantial words, but indicated the luminous horizon that opens to the look of faith. Certainly, at first glance the problems of Africa appear grave and not easy to solve, not only because of the material difficulties, but also because of the spiritual and moral obstacles that the Church also encounters. It is true, moreover, that even the most valid traditional values of African culture are threatened today by secularization, which causes disorientation, lacerations in the personal and social fabric, exasperation of tribalism, violence, corruption in public life, humiliation and exploitation of women and children, the increase of misery and hunger. Added to this also is the shadow of fundamentalist terrorism, which recently has set its sights on the Christian communities of some African countries.

If, however, with a deeper look we see the heart of African peoples, we discover a great wealth of spiritual resources, precious for our time. The love of life and of the family, the sense of joy and of sharing, the enthusiasm of living the faith in the Lord, which I was able to observe in my African trips, are still imprinted in my heart. Never let the dismal relativist and nihilist mentality, which strikes various parts of our world, open a breach in your reality! Receive and spread with renewed force the message of joy and hope that Christ brings, a message able to purify and reinforce the great values of your cultures. Because of this, in the encyclical Spe salvi, I wished to present the Sudanese Saint Josephine Bakhita as a witness of hope (cf. no. 3), to show how the encounter with the God of Jesus Christ is able to transform profoundly every human being, even in the poorest conditions – Bakhita was a slave – to confer on him the supreme dignity of child of God. In fact "through knowledge of this hope she was "redeemed," she no longer felt a slave, but a free daughter of God" (Ibid.). And the discovery of Christian hope aroused in her a new, uncontainable desire: she felt she had to extend the liberation that she had received through the encounter with the God of Jesus Christ, that it had to be given also to others, to the greatest possible number of people. The hope, which was born for her and "redeemed" her, she could not keep for herself; this hope had to reach many, it had to reach all" (Ibid.).

The encounter with Christ gives the impetus to overcome even the difficulties that seem to be most insurmountable. It was the experience of Saint Bakhita, but it is also the experience of so many young Africans – thank God, the great majority of the population – who are called to live today in the faithful following of the Lord. To render Africa the "Continent of Hope" is a commitment that must guide the mission of the African lay faithful today, as also the Congress itself that you are holding.

In this perspective, your gathering constitutes a significant moment in the preparation of two ecclesial events of universal importance, now upon us: the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization and the "Year of Faith." At Cotonou, on consigning the Exhortation Africae munus, I reminded that "all those who have received the wonderful gift of faith, the gift of the encounter with the Risen Lord, also feel the need to proclaim it to others" (Homily during the Holy Mass at the "Stadium of Friendship," Cotonou-Benin, November 20, 2011). The mission, in fact, springs from faith, gift of God to be received, nurtured and deepened because "we cannot accept that the salt become insipid and the light be held hidden" (Motu proprio Porta fidei, 3). The priority of the faith naturally has a more logical than chronological meaning. In fact, the reception of this divine gift goes hand in hand with the impetus for the proclamation of the Gospel, in a sort of "virtuous circle," where faith moves the proclamation and the proclamation reinforces faith: "In fact, faith grows when it is lived as experience of a love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy" (Ibid., no. 7). Truly, "faith is reinforced by giving it!" in keeping with the unforgettable words of Blessed John Paul II (Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, 2).

Finally, I would like to recall some words of the Servant of God Paul VI, faithful interpreter of the Council: "for the Church, to evangelize is to take the Good News to all the strata of humanity and, with its influence, to transform from within, to render new humanity itself" (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 18). In this work of transformation of the whole of society, so urgent for the Africa of today, the lay faithful have an irreplaceable role: "Through her lay members, the Church is rendered present and active in the life of the world. The laity have a great role to play in the Church and in society. […] In fact, the lay faithful are "ambassadors of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20) in the public place, in the heart of the world" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Africae munus, 128). Women and men, young people, the elderly and children, families and entire societies, the whole of Africa today awaits the "ambassadors" of the Good News, faithful laity from the parishes, from Living Ecclesial Communities, from Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, enamored of Christ and of the Church, full of joy and gratitude for the Baptism they have received, courageous agents of peace and heralds of genuine hope.

Entrusting the Congress to the solicitous and maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as the prayer of your Congress recites, is "Our Lady of Africa, Queen of Peace and Star of the New Evangelization," I willingly impart to all the participants my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, August 20, 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pope's Homily From Mass With Former Students

"It is proper for the Church as for Israel to be full of gratitude and joy"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 5, 2012 - Here is a translation of the L'Osservatore Romano publication of Benedict XVI's homily of last Sunday. The Pope celebrated Mass for his former pupils -- the Ratzinger Schulerkreis -- gathered at Castel Gandolfo for their annual summer meeting. This year, they considered the theme of ecumenism.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Still resounding profoundly in me are the words with which, three years ago, Cardinal Schönborn gave us an exegesis on this Gospel: the mysterious correlation of the intimate with the external and what renders man impure, what contaminates him and what is pure. Hence, today I do not wish to offer an exegesis also of this same Gospel, or I will do so only marginally. I will try, instead, to say a word on the two Readings.

In Deuteronomy we see the "joy of the law": law not as constraint, as something that takes our liberty away, but as a present and gift. When other people look to this great people -- so says the Reading, so says Moses -- then they will say: What wise people! They will admire the wisdom of this people, the equity of the law and the closeness of the God who is by their side and who responds to them when He is called. This is Israel’s humble joy: to receive a gift from God. This is different from triumphalism, from pride of what comes from themselves: Israel is not proud of its law as Rome could be of Roman law as a gift to humanity, as France, perhaps, of the Napoleonic Code, as Prussia of the PreuBisches Landrecht, etc. – works of law which we recognize. But Israel knows: it did not make this law itself, it is not the fruit of its genius, it is a gift. God showed it what law is. God gave it wisdom. The law is wisdom. Wisdom is the art of being men, the art of being able to live well and of being able to die well. And one can live and die well only when the truth has been received and when the truth indicates the way. To be grateful for the gift that we did not invent, but which was given to us as gift, and to live in wisdom; to learn, thanks to God’s gift, to be men in an upright way.

The Gospel shows us, however, that there is a danger -- as is also said directly at the beginning of today’s passage of Deuteronomy: "do not add, do not take away anything." It teaches us that, with the passing of time, added to God’s gift are applications, works, human customs, which, growing, hide what is proper to the wisdom given by God, so as to become a real chain that must be broken, or of having the presumption: we invented it!

But let’s come to us, to the Church. According to our faith, in fact, the Church is Israel which has become universal, in which all become, through the Lord, children of Abraham; Israel became universal, in which the essential nucleus of the law persists, deprived of the particularities of time and of people. This nucleus is simply Christ himself, the love of God for us and our love for Him and for men. He is the living Torah, the gift of God for us, in whom we now receive all the wisdom of God. In being united with Christ, in "walking together" and "living " with Him, we ourselves learn how to be men in a just way, we receive the wisdom that is truth, we know how to live and die, because He himself is the Life and the Truth.

Hence, it is proper for the Church as for Israel to be full of gratitude and joy. "What people can say that God is so close to them? What people have received this gift?" We did not make it, it was given to us. Joy and gratitude for the fact that we can know Him, that we have received the wisdom of living well, which is what should characterize the Christian. In fact it was thus in the Christianity of the origins: being liberated from the darkness of going hesitantly, from ignorance -- what are these things? Why are they? How must I go forward? -- having become free, being in the light, in the fullness of truth. This was the fundamental awareness. A gratitude that radiated the surroundings and thus united men in the Church of Jesus Christ.

But the same phenomenon is also in the Church: human elements are added and lead either to presumption, to so-called triumphalism that boasts of itself instead of praising God, or to the chain that must be removed, broken and crushed. What must we do? What must we say? I think that we find ourselves precisely in this phase, in which we see in the Church only what is made by ourselves, and the joy of the faith is spoiled; which we do not believe any more and do not dare to say any more: He has indicated to us who is the truth, what truth is, He has shown us what man is, He has given us the justice of the upright life. We are concerned only with praising ourselves, and we fear being bound by regulations that hamper our liberty and the novelty of life.

If we read today, for example, in the Letter of James: "you were generated through a word of truth," which of us would dare to rejoice in the truth which has been given to us? The question arises immediately: but how can one have the truth? This is intolerance! Today the idea of truth and of intolerance are almost completely fused together, and thus we no longer quite dare to believe in truth or to speak of truth. It seems to be far away, it seems to be something to which it is best not to take recourse. No one can say: I have the truth -- this is the obedience that moves us -- and, rightly so, no one can have the truth. It is truth that possesses us, it is something living! We are not its possessors, rather, we are gripped by it. Only if we let ourselves be guided and moved by it, we remain in it, only if we are with it and in it, pilgrims of the truth, then it is in us and for us. I think that we have to learn again this "not-having-the-truth." As no one can say: I have children -- they are not a possession of ours, they are a gift, and as gift of God they are given to us for a task -- so we cannot say: I have the truth, but truth has come to us and drives us. We must learn to be moved by it, to be led by it. And then it will shine again: if it itself leads us and penetrates us.

Dear friends, we want to ask the Lord to make us this gift. Saint James says to us today in the Reading: you must not limit yourselves to listening to the Word, you must put it into practice. This is a warning against the intellectualization of the faith and of theology. One of my fears at this time, when I read so many intelligent things is that it becomes a game of the intellect in which "we pass the ball," in which everything is only an intellectual world that does not penetrate and form our life, and which, hence, does not introduce us into the truth. I think that these words of Saint James are addressed in fact to us as theologians: not only to listen, not only the intellect -- but to let ourselves be formed by truth, to let ourselves be guided by it! Let us pray to the Lord that this will come about, and that thus the truth will become powerful over us, and that it will gain force in the world through us.

The Church has put the word of Deuteronomy -- "where is there a God who is as close as our God is close to us, every time we invoke Him?" -- in the center of the Divine Office of Corpus Domini, and has thus given it a new meaning: where is there a people to which its God is so close as our God is to us? This has become a full reality in the Eucharist. Certainly, it is not only an external aspect: someone can be close to the tabernacle and, at the same time, be far from the living God. What counts is interior closeness! God has become so close that He himself is a man: this should always disconcert and surprise us anew! He is so close that He is one of us. He knows the human being, the "taste" of the human being, He know him from within, has tested him with his joys and sufferings. He is close to me as man, close "within call"-- so close that he hears me and that I can know: He hears me and listens to me, even if perhaps it is not as I imagine it.

Allowing myself to be filled again by this joy: where is there a people to which God is so close as our God is to us? So close as to be one of us, to touch me from within. Yes, to enter into me in the Holy Eucharist, and that that is also disconcerting. On this process, Saint Bonaventure once used in his Communion prayers a formulation that shakes one, almost frightens one. He says: my Lord, how did it possibly come into your mind to enter into the filthy latrine of my body? Yes, He enters into our misery, he does so knowingly and does so to penetrate us, to cleanse and renew us so that, through us, in us, truth will be in the world and salvation brought about. Let us ask the Lord forgiveness for our indifference, for our misery that makes us think only of ourselves, for our egoism which does not seek the truth, but which follows our own habits, and which perhaps often makes Christianity seem like a system of habits. Let us ask Him to enter into our souls forcefully, that He make himself present in us and through us – and thus that joy is born also in us: God is here, and He loves me, He is our salvation! Amen.

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On the Law of God
"It leads man out of the slavery of egoism and brings him into the 'land' of true freedom and life"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 3, 2012.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday the theme of God’s Law, of his commandment emerges. This is an essential element both in the Jewish and Christian religions. In the latter the Law of God finds its complete fulfillment in love (cf. Romans 13:10). God’s Law is his Word that guides man on his life’s journey, it leads him out of the slavery of egoism and brings him into the "land" of true freedom and life. For this reason in the Bible the Law is not seen as a burden, an oppressive limitation, but as a precious gift of the Lord, the witness of his paternal love, of his will to be near his people, of being their ally and writing a history of love with them. This is how the pious Israelite prays: "In your decrees is my delight, / I will not forget your word. (...) Lead me in the way of your commandments, / because in them is my happiness" (Psalms 119:16, 35). In the Old Testament, Moses is the one who transmits the Law to the people in God’s name. After the long journey in the desert, on the threshold of the Promised Land, Moses proclaimed: "Now, Israel, listen to the laws and precepts that I shall teach you that you might put them into practice so that you might live and enter into the possession of the land that the Lord, God of your fathers, is going to give you" (Deuteronomy 4:1).

And here is the problem: when the people establish themselves in the land and are the depository of the Law, they are tempted to place their certainty and their joy in something that is no longer the Word of the Lord: in possessions, in power, other "divinities" that are not in fact real, that are idols. Certainly the Law of God remains, but it is no longer the most important thing, the rule of life; it becomes rather a veneer, a shell, while life follows others paths, other rules, interests that are often the self-centered ones of the individual and group. And thus religion loses its authentic meaning, which is to live a life of listening to God to do his will – which is the truth of our being – and thus to live well, in true freedom. Religion is reduced to practices of secondary importance that satisfy the human need of feeling right with God. And this is a grave danger in every religion, which Jesus encountered in his time, but which, unfortunately, is also a phenomenon in Christianity. Thus, Jesus’ words against the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel must make us think too. Jesus made the words of the prophet Isaiah his own: "This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines that are the precepts of men" (Mark 7:6-7; cf. Isaiah 29:13). He then concludes: "Neglecting God’s commandment, you observe the traditions of men" (Mark 7:8).

Also in his Letter, the Apostle James warns against the danger of false religiosity. He writes to the Christians: "Be those who put the Word into practice and not only hearers of it, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). May the Virgin Mary, to whom we now turn in prayer, help us to listen with an open and sincere heart to the Word of God, so that it might direct our thoughts, choices, actions every day.

[Following the recitation of 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 for this Angelus. The Gospel of today’s liturgy spurs all of us to a greater harmony between the faith we treasure in our hearts and our outward behavior. By God’s grace, may we be purified inside and out, so as to live integrally our commitment to Christ and to his message. God bless all of you!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

Have a good Sunday everyone!

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On the Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

"The Truth is the Truth; there is no compromise"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 29, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in the main square at Castel Gandolfo. Today the Holy Father reflected on the figure of St. John the Baptist, whose martyrdom we celebrate today.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

This final Wednesday of the month of August marks the liturgical memorial of the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. In the Roman calendar, he is the only saint for whom we celebrate both his birth (June 24th) and his death by martyrdom. Today's memorial dates back to the dedication of a crypt of Sebaste, in Samaria, where by the mid 4th century his head was already being venerated. The cult then spread to Jerusalem, to the Churches of the East and to Rome under the title of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist. In the roman martyrology, reference is made to a second-century discovery of this precious relic, which was transported for the occasion to the Church of St. Sylvester in Campo Marzio, Rome.

These little historical references help us to understand how ancient and deep the veneration of St. John the Baptist truly is. In the Gospels his role in relation to Jesus is quite prominent. In particular, St. Luke recounts his birth, his life in the desert and his preaching, and in today's Gospel St. Mark speaks to us about his dramatic death. John the Baptist begins his preaching under the emperor Tiberius, in 27-28 A.D., and the clear invitation he addresses to the people who come out to hear him is to prepare the way to welcome the Lord, to make straight the paths of their lives through a radical conversion of heart (cf. Luke 3:4).

But the Baptist does not limit himself to preaching repentance and conversion; rather, in recognizing Jesus as "the Lamb of God" who has come to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29), he has the deep humility to point to Jesus as the One truly sent by God, and he steps aside so that Christ might increase, be heard and followed.

As a last act, the Baptist bears witness with his blood to his fidelity to God's commandments, without giving up or turning back, thus fulfilling his mission to the end. St. Bede, a 9th century monk, in his Homilies says: St. John, for Christ, gave up his life, even though [his persecutor] had not demanded that he should deny Jesus Christ, but only that he should keep silent about the truth (cf. Hom. 23: CCL 122, 354). And he did not keep silent about the truth, and thus he died for Christ who is the Truth. For love of the truth, he did not give in to compromises with those who were powerful, nor was he afraid to address strong words to the one who lost his way to God.

Now we see this great figure -- this force -- in his passion, in his resistance against the powerful. We ask: where does this life come from, this interiority, which is so strong, so principled, so consistent, which is spent so totally for God and in preparing the way for Jesus? The answer is simple: from his relationship with God, from prayer, which is the guiding thread of his entire life. John is the divine gift long besought by his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:13); a great gift, humanly unhoped-for since both of them were advanced in years and Elizabeth was barren (cf. Luke 1:7); but nothing is impossible for God (cf. Luke 1:36). The announcement of this birth occurred precisely in a place of prayer, in the temple of Jerusalem; indeed, it took place when, to Zechariah, there fell the great privilege of entering the temple's most sacred place, in order to offer incense to the Lord (cf. Luke 1:8-20). Even the Baptist's birth is marked by prayer: the hymn of joy, praise and thanksgiving that Zechariah raises to the Lord and that we recite each morning in Lauds -- the "Benedictus" -- extols God's action in history and prophetically points to the mission of his son John: to go before the Son of God made flesh in order to prepare the way for him (Luke 1:67-79).

The entire life of Jesus' precursor was nourished by his relationship with God, especially during the time he spent in the wilderness (cf. Luke 1:80); the wilderness, a place of temptation, but also a place where man feels his own poverty, for there he is deprived of all support and material security, and he comes to understand that the only secure reference point is God himself.

But John the Baptist is not only a man of prayer, of constant contact with God; he is also a guide in this relationship. The Evangelist Luke, in relating the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples -- the "Our Father" -- notes that the request made by the disciples was formulated with these words: "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples" (cf. Luke 11:1).

Dear brothers and sisters, celebrating the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist also reminds us -- Christians in our own times -- that we cannot give into compromise when it comes to our love for Christ, for his Word, for his Truth. The Truth is the Truth; there is no compromise. The Christian life requires, as it were, the "martyrdom" of daily fidelity to the Gospel; the courage, that is, to allow Christ to increase in us and to direct our thoughts and actions. But this can only occur in our lives if our relationship with God is strong. Prayer is not time lost, nor does it steal space away from our activities, even those that are apostolic; it is exactly the opposite: only if we are able to have a life of faithful, constant, trusting prayer, will God himself give us the ability and strength to live in happiness and peace, to overcome difficulties and to courageously bear witness to him. May St. John the Baptist intercede for us, that we might always maintain the primacy of God in our lives. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Indonesia, Japan and Malta. Today, the Church celebrates the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. John, whose birth we celebrate on the twenty-fourth of June, gave himself totally to Christ, by preparing the way for him through the preaching of repentance, by leading others to him once he arrived, and by giving the ultimate sacrifice. Dear friends, may we follow John's example by allowing Christ to penetrate every part of our lives so that we may boldly proclaim him to the world. May God bless all of you!

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On Believing in Jesus, Bread of Life

"In those words is foretold the paschal mystery of Jesus"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 27, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On recent Sundays we have meditated on the "bread of life" sermon that Jesus gives in the synagogue at Capernaum after having fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Today, the Gospel presents the reaction of some of Jesus’ disciples to the sermon, a reaction that Christ himself consciously provoked. First of all, John the Evangelist – who was present with the other Apostles – reports that "for this reason many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him" (John 6:66). Why? Because they did not believe in the words of Jesus when he said: I am the bread that has come down from heaven, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever (cf. John 6:51, 54). These are words that are truly unacceptable, incomprehensible to them. This revelation remains incomprehensible to them, as I said, because they understood it only in a material way, while in those words is foretold the paschal mystery of Jesus in which he would give himself up for the salvation of the world.

Seeing that many of his disciples left, Jesus turns to the Apostles saying: "Do you also wish to go?" (John 6:67). As in other cases, it is Peter who answers in the name of the Twelve: "Lord, to whom shall we go?" – We too can repeat: "To whom shall we go?" – "You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have known that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). We have a beautiful commentary from Augustine on this passage: "See how Peter, by the gift of God and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, understood him. How else than because he believed? You have the words of eternal life. For you have eternal life in the ministration of your body and blood. And we have believed and have known. Not have known and believed, but believed and known. For we believed in order to know; for if we wanted to know first, and then to believe, we should not be able either to know or to believe. What have we believed and known? That you are Christ, the Son of God; that is, that you are that very eternal life, and that you give in your flesh and blood only that which you are" (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 27, 9).

In the end, Jesus knew that even among the Twelve there was one who did not believe: Judas. Judas too could have left like the other disciples did; perhaps he should have left had he wanted to be honest. Instead he stayed with Jesus. He stayed not because of faith, not because of love, but with the secret plan to get back at the Master. Why? Because Judas felt that Jesus had betrayed him and he decided to betray Jesus in turn. Judas was a zealot and wanted a victorious Messiah who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus frustrated these expectations. The problem is that Judas did not leave and his gravest fault was falsity, which is the sign of the devil. Because of this Jesus said to the Twelve: "One among you is a devil!" (John 6:70). Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, who helps us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, to be ever more sincere with him and with everyone.

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Papal Message to Catholic Action

Laity "should be considered not as 'collaborators' with the clergy, but as persons truly 'co-responsible' for the being and activity of the Church"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 24, 2012 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the 6th Assembly of the International Catholic Action Forum. The message, dated Aug. 10, was released by the Vatican on Thursday. The five-day assembly is under way through Sunday.

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To the Venerable Brother

Msgr. Domenico Sigalini

General Assistant of the International Catholic Action Forum

On the occasion of the Sixth Ordinary Assembly of the this International Catholic Action Forum, I wish to extend my cordial greetings to you, and to all those who are participating in this meaningful gathering, especially the Coordinator of the Secretariat, Emilio Inzaurraga, the National Presidents and Spiritual Assistants. A special thought goes to the Bishop of Iasi, Monsignor Petru Gherghel and to his diocese, which is hosting this ecclesial event during which you are being called upon to reflect on "eccesial and social co-responsibility". It is highly significant and timely subject for the laity on the eve of the approaching Year of Faith and Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.

Co-responsibility requires a change in mentality, particularly with regard to the role of the laity in the Church, who should be considered not as "collaborators" with the clergy, but as persons truly "co-responsible" for the being and activity of the Church. It is important, therefore, that a mature and committed laity be united, who are able to make their own specific contribution to the Church’s mission, in accordance with the ministries and tasks each one has in the life of the Church, and always in cordial communion with the bishops.

In this regard, the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium describes the nature of the relationships between laity and Pastors with the adjective "familiar": "A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility; a renewed enthusiasm; a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill is mission for the life of the world" (n. 37).

Dear friends, it is important to deepen and to live out this spirit of profound communion in the Church, which characterized the early Christian community, as the book of the Acts of the Apostles attests: "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (4:32). Feel the commitment to work for the Church’s mission to be your own: through prayer, through study, through active participation in ecclesial life, through an attentive and positive gaze at the world, in the continual search for the signs of the times. Never tire of becoming more and more refined, through a serious and daily commitment to formation, through the aspects of your particular vocation as lay faithful, who are called to be courageous and credible witnesses in every sphere of society, so that the Gospel might be the light that brings hope in difficult situations, in troubles and in the darkness that men today so often find along the path of life.

To guide others to an encounter with Christ by announcing his message of salvation with language and ways understandable in our own day marked by rapidly transforming social and cultural advances, is the great challenge of the new evangelization. I encourage you to continue generously in your service to the Church, by fully living out your charism, whose fundamental feature is that of adopting the apostolic goal of the Church as a whole, in a fruitful balance between the universal and local Church, and in a spirit of intimate union with the Successor of Peter and of active co-responsibility with one’s own Pastors (cf. Vatican II decree on the lay apostolate Apostolicam actuorsitatem, 20). At this stage in history, work in the light of the Church’s social teaching to become a laboratory of "globalization of solidarity and charity", in order to grow with the entire Church in the co-responsibility of offering a future of hope to humanity, by having the courage to make even demanding proposals.

Your Catholic Action Associations boast a long and fruitful history, written by courageous witnesses of Christ and the Gospel, some of whom were recognized by the Church as blesseds and saints. In their train, you are called today to renew your commitment to walk along the path of holiness, by preserving an intense life of prayer, encouraging and respecting personal paths of faith and by esteeming the riches of each person, with the accompaniment of the priests who assist you and of leaders who are capable of educating you in ecclesial and social co-responsibility. May your lives be "transparent"; may they be guided by the Gospel and enlightened by an encounter with Christ, whom you love and follow without fear. Adopt and share the pastoral decisions of the dioceses and parishes, by promoting occasions to meet and sincere collaboration with the other elements of the ecclesial community, by building relationships of esteem and communion with priests, for the sake of a living, ministerial and missionary community. Cultivate authentic personal relationships with everyone, beginning with families, and offer your availability to participate at all levels of social, cultural and political life, by always setting your sights on the common good.

With these brief thoughts, while I assure you of my affectionate remembrance of you, your families and your associations in prayer, from my heart I send to all the participants in the Assembly the Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all whom you meet in your daily apostolate.

From Castel Gandolfo, 10 August 2012

Benedictus PP. XVI

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On the Queenship of Mary: "She is queen precisely by loving us"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, AUG. 22, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held at Castel Gandolfo. The Holy Father focused his meditation on today's liturgical memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today marks the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoked under the title: "Queen." It is a feast of recent institution, even though it is ancient in its origin and devotion: It was established by the Venerable Pius XII in 1954, at the conclusion of the Marian Year; its date was set at May 31 (cf. Lett. Enc. Ad caeli Reginam, 11 Octobris 1954: AAS 46 [1954], 625-640). On this occasion, the Pope stated that Mary is Queen above every other creature on account of the elevation of her soul and the excellence of the gifts she received. She never ceases to bestow all the treasures of her love and care on humanity (cf. Speech in honor of Queen Mary, 1 November 1954). Now, following the post-conciliar reform of the liturgical calendar, it has been placed eight days after the Solemnity of the Assumption, in order to emphasize the close bond between Mary's queenship and her glorification in body and soul next to her Son. In the Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Church, we read: "Mary was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son" (Lumen Gentium, 59).

This is the root of today's feast: Mary is Queen because of her unique association to her Son, both during her earthly journey as well as in heavenly glory. The great saint of Syria, Ephrem of Syria, said regarding the queenship of Mary that it derives from her maternity: She is Mother of the Lord, of the King of kings (cf. Is 9:1-6), and she points to Jesus as our life, salvation and our hope. The Servant of God Paul VI recalled in his apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus: "In the Virgin Mary everything is relative to Christ and dependent upon Him. It was with a view to Christ that God the Father from all eternity chose her to be the all-holy Mother and adorned her with gifts of the Spirit granted to no one else" (n. 25).

But now we may ask ourselves: What does it mean that Mary is Queen? Is it merely a title along with others, the crown, an ornament like others? What does it mean? What is this queenship? As already noted, it is a consequence of her being united with her Son, of her being in heaven, i.e. in communion with God. She participates in God's responsibilities over the world and in God's love for the world. There is the commonly held idea that a king or queen should be person with power and riches. But this is not the kind of royalty proper to Jesus and Mary. Let us think of the Lord: The Lordship and Kingship of Christ is interwoven with humility, service and love: it is, above all else, to serve, to assist, to love. Let us recall that Jesus was proclaimed king on the Cross, with this inscription written by Pilate: "King of the Jews" (cf. Mark 15:26). In that moment on the Cross it is revealed that He is king. And how is he king? By suffering with us, for us, by loving us to the end; it is in this way that he governs and creates truth, love and justice. Or let us also think of another moment: at the Last Supper, he bends down to wash the feet of his disciples. Therefore, the kingship of Jesus has nothing to do with that which belongs to the powerful of the earth. He is a king who serves his servants; he showed this throughout his life. And the same is true for Mary. She is queen in God's service to humanity. She is the queen of love, who lives out her gift of self to God in order to enter into His plan of salvation for man. To the angel she responds: Behold the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Luke 1:38), and in the Magnificat she sings: God has looked upon the lowliness of His handmaid (cf. Luke 1:48). She helps us. She is queen precisely by loving us, by helping us in every one of our needs; she is our sister, a humble handmaid.

Thus we have arrived at the point: How does Mary exercise this queenship of service and love? By watching over us, her children: the children who turn to her in prayer, to thank her and to ask her maternal protection and her heavenly help, perhaps after having lost their way, or weighed down by suffering and anguish on account of the sad and troubled events of life. In times of serenity or in the darkness of life we turn to Mary, entrusting ourselves to her continual intercession, so that from her Son we may obtain every grace and mercy necessary for our pilgrimage along the paths of the world. To Him who rules the world and holds the destinies of the universe in His hands we turn with confidence, through the Virgin Mary. For centuries she has been invoked as the Queen of heaven; eight times, after the prayer of the holy Rosary, she is implored in the Litany of Loreto as Queen of the Angels, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, of all Saints and of Families. The rhythm of this ancient invocation, and daily prayers such as the Salve Regina, help us to understand that the Holy Virgin, as our Mother next to her Son Jesus in the glory of Heaven, is always with us, in the daily unfolding of our lives.

The title of Queen is therefore a title of trust, of joy and of love. And we know that what she holds in her hands for the fate of the world is good; she loves us, and she helps us in our difficulties.

Dear friends, devotion to Our Lady is an important element in our spiritual lives. In our prayer, let us not neglect to turn trustfully to her. Mary will not neglect to intercede for us next to her Son. In looking to her, let us imitate her faith, her complete availability to God's plan of love, her generous welcoming of Jesus. Let us learn to live by Mary. Mary is the Queen of heaven who is close to God, but she is also the Mother who is close to each one of us, who loves us and who listens to our voice. Thank you for your attention.

 

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

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, especially the groups from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Japan and the United States of America. I also greet the young altar servers from Malta and their families. Today the Church celebrates the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. May the prayers of Our Lady guide us along our pilgrimage of faith, that we may share in her Son’s victory and reign with him in his eternal Kingdom. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings!

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Pope's Message to Rimini Meeting

"Not only my soul, but even every fiber of my flesh is made to find its peace, its fulfillment in God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 21, 2012 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, sponsored by the Catholic Communion and Liberation Movement in Rimini, Italy. The message is dated Aug. 10. The meeting is under way through Saturday.

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To the Venerable Brother

Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi

Bishop of Rimini

I wish to extend my cordial greetings to you, to the organizers and to all the participants in the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, now in its XXXIII year. The theme chosen this year – "The nature of man is a relationship with the infinite" – is particularly significant in view of the approaching start of the Year of Faith, which I have willed to proclaim to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

To speak of man and of his yearning for the infinite means, first and foremost, to recognize his constitutive relationship with the Creator. Man is a creature of God. Today this word – creature – seems almost passé: we prefer to think of man as a self-fulfilled being and master of his own destiny. The consideration of man as a creature seems "uncomfortable," because it implies an essential reference to something else, or better, to Someone else – whom man cannot control – who enters in order to define his identity in an essential way; a relational identity, whose first element is the original and ontological dependence on He who wanted us and created us. Yet this dependence, from which modern and contemporary man attempts to break free, not only does not hide or diminish, but luminously reveals the greatness and supreme dignity of man, who is called into life in order to enter into relationship with Life itself, with God.

To say "the nature of man is a relationship with the infinite" means, then, to say that every person is created so that he may enter into dialogue with the Infinite. At the beginning of the history of the world, Adam and Eve are the fruit of an act of God’s love, made in His image and likeness, and their lives and their relationship with the Creator overlapped: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). And original sin has its ultimate root precisely in our first parents avoiding this constitutive relationship, in wanting to take God’s place, in believing they could get along without Him. Even after sinning, however, the aching desire for this dialogue remains in man, like a signature imprinted with fire in his soul and body by the Creator himself.

Psalm 63 [62] helps us to enter into the heart of this discourse: "O God, my God, for Thee I long at break of day; my soul thirsts for Thee, my body longs for Thee, as desert, arid land, without water" (verse 2). Not only my soul, but even every fiber of my flesh is made to find its peace, its fulfillment in God. And this tension cannot be erased from man’s heart: even when he rejects or denies God, the thirst for the infinite that abides in man does not disappear. Instead, he begins a desperate and sterile search for "false infinites" that can satisfy him at least for the moment. The heart’s thirst and the body’s longing of which the psalmist speaks cannot be eliminated; thus, man unknowingly stretches out in search of the Infinite, but in misguided directions: in drugs, in sexuality lived in a disordered manner, in all-encompassing technologies, in success at any cost, and even in deceptive forms of religiosity. Even the good things that God has created as paths that lead to Him, often run the risk of being absolutized and thus become idols that replace the Creator.

To acknowledge that one is made for the infinite means journeying along a path of purification from what we have called "false infinites", a path of conversion of heart and of mind. It is necessary to eradicate all the false promises of the infinite that seduce and enslave man. To truly find himself and his identity, to live up to his being, man must turn and recognize that he is a creature, who is dependent on God. The possibility of living a truly free and full life is linked to the acknowledgement of this dependence – which in its depths is the joyous discovery of being God’s children. It is interesting to note how St. Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, sees the opposite of slavery not so much in freedom as in filiation, in having received the Holy Spirit who makes us adopted sons and who allows us to cry out to God" "Abbà! Father" (cf. 8:15). The Apostle to the Gentiles speaks of a "bad" slavery: that of sin, of the law, of the passions of the flesh. To this, however, he does not contrast autonomy, but rather "slavery to Christ" (cf. 6:16-22), indeed he himself calls himself "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ" (1:1). The fundamental point, then, is not to eliminate dependence, which is constitutive of man, but to direct it towards the One who alone is able to make us truly free.

At this point, however, a question arises. Is it not perhaps structurally impossible for man to live up to his own nature? And is not this thirst for the infinite, which he feels without ever being able to wholly satisfy it, really a condemnation? This question takes us directly to the heart of Christianity. The Infinite itself, in fact, to make himself a response that man might experience, assumed a finite form. From the Incarnation, from the moment when the Word became flesh, He eliminated the unbridgeable distance between the finite and the infinite: the eternal and infinite God left His heaven and entered into time, He immersed himself in human finitude. Nothing, then, is banal or insignificant along the path of life and of the world. Man is made for an infinite God who became flesh, who assumed our humanity in order to draw us to the heights of his divine being.

Thus do we discover the truest dimension of human existence, that to which the Servant of God Luigi Giussani continually referred: life as vocation. Everything, every relationship, every joy, as well as every difficulty, finds its ultimate meaning in being an opportunity for a relationship with the Infinite, a voice of God that continually calls to us and invites us to lift our gaze, to find the complete fulfillment of our humanity in belonging to Him. "You have made us for Yourself – wrote St. Augustine – and our hearts are restless until they rest in You" (Confessions I, 1,1). We need not be afraid of what God asks of us, through the circumstance of our lives, were it even the dedication of ourselves in a special form of following and imitating Christ, in the priesthood or religious life. The Lord, in calling some to live totally for Him, calls everyone to recognize the essence of our own nature as human beings: we are made for the Infinite. And God has our happiness at heart, and our complete human fulfillment. Let us ask, then, to enter in and to remain in the gaze of faith that characterized the saints, in order that we might be able to discover the good seed that the Lord scatters along the path of our lives and joyfully adhere to our vocation.

In the hopes that these brief thoughts may be of assistance to all those who are taking part in the Meeting, I assure you of my closeness in prayer, and I hope that your reflection during these days might introduce everyone to the certainty and joy of faith.

To you, Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, to the leaders and the organizers of the event, as well as to all those here present, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.

From Castel Gandolfo, 10 August 2012

Benedictus PP XVI

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On the Meaning of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish

"Let us allow ourselves once again to be astonished by Christ's words"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 20, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday's Gospel (cf. John 6:51-58) is the concluding part and culmination of Jesus' discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, after he had the previous day fed thousands of people with only five loaves and two fish. Jesus reveals the meaning of that miracle; namely, that the time of the promise has been fulfilled: God the Father, who fed the Israelites with manna in the desert, now sent him, the Son, as the true Bread of life, and this bread is his flesh, his life, offered in sacrifice for us.

It is a matter, then, of receiving him in faith, of not being scandalized by his humanity, and of "eating his flesh and drinking his blood" (cf. John 6:54), in order to have the fullness of life. It is clear that this discourse is not offered to draw approval. Jesus knows this and he delivers it deliberately; and, in fact, it was a critical moment, a turning point in his public mission. The people, and his own disciples, were enthusiastic about him when he was performing miraculous signs; and even the multiplication of the loaves and the fish was a clear revelation that he was the Messiah, so much so that immediately afterward the crowd would have liked to carry Jesus away in triumph and proclaim him king of Israel. But this was not the will of Jesus, who precisely with this lengthy discourse, dampens the enthusiasm of many and provokes much dissent.

Indeed, in explaining the image of the bread, he states that he was sent to offer his very life, and that whoever wishes to follow him must unite himself to him in a deep and personal way, by participating in his sacrifice of love. For this reason, Jesus at the Last Supper would institute the Sacrament of the Eucharist: so that his disciples might have his charity within themselves -- this is decisive -- and as one body with him, prolong in the world the mystery of salvation.

In listening to this discourse, the people understood that Jesus was not a Messiah as they wanted, one who aspired to an earthly throne. He did not look for a consensus to conquer Jerusalem: indeed, He willed to go up to the Holy City in order to share the fate of the prophets: to give His life for God and for the people. The loaves, broken for thousands of people, would not result in a triumphal procession but would foreshadow the sacrifice of the Cross, in which Jesus would become Bread, his body and blood offered in expiation. Jesus offered the discourse in order to disillusion the crowds and, above all, to provoke a decision in His disciples. In fact, many among them, from that time on, no longer followed Him.

Dear friends, let us allow ourselves once again to be astonished by Christ's words: He, the grain of wheat thrown into the furrows of history, is the first fruits of a new humanity, freed from the corruption of sin and death. And let us rediscover the beauty of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which expresses all of God's humility and holiness: He makes himself little -- God becomes little -- a fragment of the universe, to reconcile all things in His love. May the Virgin Mary, who gave the world the Bread of life, teach us to always live in profound union with him.

 

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

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. In the Gospel of today's liturgy, Jesus presents himself as the living bread come down from heaven. May we always hunger for the gift of his presence in the Eucharistic sacrifice, wherein Jesus gives us his very self as food and drink to sustain us on our pilgrim journey to the Father. God bless all of you!

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Pope’s Message Following Death of His Holiness, Abuna Paulos

ROME, AUG. 17, 2012 - Here is the telegram sent by Pope Benedict XVI to members of the Holy Synod upon hearing of the passing of His Holiness, Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church.

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Having learned with sadness of the death of His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the members of the Holy Synod, and to the clergy, religious and faithful of the patriarchate.

I still recall with satisfaction his visits to the Vatican, and in particular the address he delivered to the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on October 6, 2009 and the important observations he made on that occasion.

I am also grateful for his commitment to promoting greater unity through dialogue and cooperation between the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

As the Patriarchate mourns the death of His Holiness, I willingly offer an assurance of my prayers for the repose of his soul, and for all who mourn him.

BENEDICTUS PP.XVI

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Angelus Address on Feast of the Assumption

"Marys Assumption Into Heaven is the Mystery of the Passover of Christ Fully Realized in Her"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 16, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Wednesday, Feast of the Assumption of Mary, before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the heart of the month of August the Church in the East and the West celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary Most Holy into heaven. In the Catholic Church, the dogma of the Assumption – as we know – was proclaimed during the Holy Year of 1950 by Venerable Pius XII. The celebration of this mystery of Mary, however, has roots in the faith and worship of the Church’s first centuries, in that deep devotion to the Mother of God that progressively developed in the Christian community.

Already at the end of the fourth century and the beginning of the fifth, we have the witness of various authors who affirm that Mary is in God’s glory with her entire being, soul and body, but it is in the fourth century that in Jerusalem the Feast of the Mother of God, the Theotokos, consolidated with the Council of Ephesus in 431, was transformed into the feast of the dormition, the passage, the transit, the assumption of Mary; it became the celebration of the moment in which Mary left the scene of this world, glorified in soul and body in heaven, in God.

To understand the Assumption we must look to Easter, the great mystery of our salvation, which marks the passage of Jesus to the glory of the Father through the passion, death, and resurrection. Mary, who gave birth to the Son of God in the flesh, is the creature who is most deeply inserted in this mystery, redeemed from the first moment of her life, and associated in a special way with the passion and glory of her Son. Thus, Mary’s Assumption into heaven is the mystery of the Passover (Pasqua) of Christ fully realized in her. She is intimately united to her risen Son, victor over sin and death, fully conformed to him. But the Assumption is a reality that touches us too because it points to our destiny in a luminous way, the destiny of humanity in history. In Mary, in fact, that reality of glory to which each of us and the whole Church is called.

The passage of the Gospel of St. Luke that we read in the liturgy of this solemnity shows us the journey that the Virgin of Nazareth took to be in the glory of God. It is the account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39-56), in which Our Lady is proclaimed blessed among all women and blessed because she believed in the fulfillment of the words of the Lord that were spoken to her. And in the song of the "Magnificat," which elevates her to God in joy, the depth of her faith shines through. She places herself among the "poor" and the "lowly," who do not trust in their own strength, but give themselves over to God, who make room for his action, which is capable of doing great things precisely in weakness. If the Assumption opens us up to the bright future that awaits us, it also powerfully invites us to entrust ourselves to God, to follow his Word, to seek and do his will every day: this is the path that makes us "blessed" on our earthly pilgrimage and opens the gates of heaven to us.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council states: "Mary, assumed into heaven ... by her constant intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and worries, until they are led into the happiness of their true home" (Lumen gentium, 62). Let us invoke the Holy Virgin, may she be the star that guides our steps in meeting her Son on our journey to reach the glory of heaven, the eternal joy.

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

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer, including the groups from Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady. May the example and prayers of Mary, Queen of Heaven, inspire and sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith, that we may rejoice with her in the glory of the resurrection and the fulfillment of her Son’s promises. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I hope that you will pass this solemn and popular Marian feast in serenity and in faith.

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Pope's Homily on Solemnity of the Assumption

"Mary is the Dawn and Splendor of the Church Triumphant"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 16, 2012 - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on the feast of the Assumption at the parish church of St. Thomas of Villanova in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

On November 1, 1950, the Venerable Pope Pius XII proclaimed as dogma that the Virgin Mary "having ended the course of earthly life, was assumed into heavenly glory in soul and body." This truth of faith was known by the Tradition, affirmed by the Fathers of the Church, and it was above all a relevant of the veneration that the Church offered the Mother of Christ. Precisely this element of veneration was the moving force, so to speak, that determined the formulation of this dogma: the dogma appears as act of praise and exaltation with respect to the Holy Virgin. This also emerges text itself of the apostolic constitution, where it is stated that the dogma is proclaimed "to honor the Son, for the glorification of the Mother and to the joy of the whole Church." In this way what was already celebrated in the worship and devotion of the People of God as the highest and most stable glorification of Mary was expressed in dogmatic form: the act of the proclamation of her Assumption was presented almost as a liturgy of faith. And in the Gospel that we heard, Mary herself prophetically speaks some words that point in this direction: "From this day forth, all generations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). It is a prophecy for the whole history of the Church. The "Magnificat," which we find in Luke’s Gospel, indicates that the praise of the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, intimately united to Christ her son, regards the Church of all times and places. The evangelist’s report of these words presupposes that the glorification of Mary was already present at that time and that he saw it as a duty and task of the Christian community for all generations. Mary’s words tell us that it is a duty of the Church to recall Our Lady’s greatness in faith. This solemnity is, then, an invitation to praise God and to look to Our Lady’s greatness since we know who God is by gazing about the faces of those who are his.

But why is Mary glorified by the Assumption into heaven? St. Luke, as we have heard, sees the root of Mary’s exaltation and praise in Elizabeth’s words: "Blessed is she who believed" (Luke 1:45). And the "Magnificat," this song to the living God who acts in history is a hymn of faith and love that flows from the heart of the Virgin. She lived with exemplary fidelity and treasured in the depths of her heart God’s words to his people, the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, making them the content of her prayer: in the "Magnificat" God’s Word becomes Mary’s word, the light of her path, making her open even to receiving the Word of God made flesh in her womb. Today’s Gospel passage recalls this presence of God in history and in the very unfolding of events; in particular it is a reference to the second Book of Samuel, chapter 6 (6:1-5), in which David transports the Ark of the Holy Covenant. The parallel that the evangelist makes is clear: Mary awaiting the birth of the Son, Jesus, is the Holy Ark. Mary is God’s "visit" that brings joy. Zachariah, in his song of praise, will say this explicitly: "Blessed be the Lord, God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68). Zachariah’s house had experienced God’s visit with the birth of John the Baptist, but above all with the presence of Mary, who bears the Son of God in her womb.

But we now ask ourselves: what does Mary’s Assumption do for our journey, our life? The first answer is: in the Assumption we see that in God there is space for man, God himself is the mansion with many rooms of which Jesus speaks (cf. John 14:2); God is the house of man; in God there is the space of God. And Mary, uniting herself, and united to God, does not distance herself from us, she does not enter an unknown galaxy, but those who go to God comes near to us because God is near to us, and Mary, united to God, participates in God’s presence, very near to us, to each one of us. There is a beautiful line that St. Gregory the Great says of St. Benedict but that we can also apply to Mary: St. Gregory the Great says that heart of St. Benedict became so large that whole of creation was able to enter into this heart. This is even more true of Mary: Mary, completely united to God, has a heart that is so immense that the whole of creation can enter into this heart, and the ex-votos that are in every part of the world show this. Mary is near, she can hear, she can help, she is near to all of us. There is space for man in God, and God is near, and Mary, united to God, is very near, she has a heart that is great like the heart of God.

But there is another aspect: not only is there space for man in God; in man there is space for God. We also see this in Mary, the Holy Ark that bears the presence of God. In us there is space for God and this presence of God in us – so important for bringing light to the world’s sadness, its problems – this presence is realized in faith: in faith we open the gates of our being so that God may enter into us, so that God can be the power that gives a light and a path to our being. There is space in us, let us open ourselves us as Mary did, saying: "Thy will be done, I am the Lord’s servant." Opening up to God, we lose nothing. On the contrary: our life becomes rich and great.

And thus, faith and hope and love combine. Today there are many things said about a better world in the future: it would be our hope. Whether and when this better world will come, we do not know, I do not know. It is certain that a world that distances itself from God does not become better, but worse. Only the presence of God can guarantee a good world too. But let us take this aside. One thing, one hope is certain: God awaits us, he attends to us, we are not headed for a void, we are expected. God awaits us and passing to the other world we will find the Mother’s goodness, we will find our loved ones, we will find Eternal Love. God awaits us: this is our great joy and our great hope that is born precisely from this feast. Mary visits us, and she is the joy of our life and joy is hope.

So, what, then, should be said? Great heart, presence of God in the world, space of God in us and space of God for us, hope, being awaited: this is the symphony of this feast, the instruction that we are given by meditating on this solemnity. Mary is the dawn and splendor of the Church triumphant; she is the consolation and hope of the people still on pilgrimage, says today’s preface. Let us entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession, so that she obtain from the Lord the strengthening of our faith in eternal life; may she help us to live well and with hope the time offered to us by God. A Christian hope, that is not only a nostalgia for heaven, but a living and active desire of God here in the world, desire of God that makes us pilgrims who are unwearied, nourishing in courage in us and the power of faith, which at the same time is the courage and power of love. Amen.

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On Man's Hunger for Jesus, The True Bread From Heaven

"This bread requires the hunger of the inner man."

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 12, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The reading of the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John, which accompanies us in the liturgy during these Sundays, led us last Sunday to reflect on the multiplication of the loaves, with which the Lord satisfied the hunger of a crowd of five thousand. And we reflected on Jesus’ invitation to all those whom he had fed, to labor for a food which endures to eternal life.

Jesus wants to help them understand the profound meaning of the miracle He worked: in miraculously satisfying their physical hunger, He disposes them to receive the announcement that He is the bread which came down from heaven (cf. John 6:41) that satisfies in a definitive way. The Jewish people, too, during their lengthy sojourn in the desert, experienced a bread that came down from heaven -- manna --, which kept them alive until their arrival in the Promised Land. Now, Jesus speaks of himself as the true bread which came down from heaven that is able to sustain life, not for a moment or for a short while, but forever. He is the food that gives eternal life, because He is the Only-begotten Son of God, who abides in the bosom of the Father and has come to give man life in abundance, to introduce man into the very life of God.

In Jewish thought, it was clear that the true bread from heaven that nourished Israel was the Law, the word of God. The people of Israel clearly recognized that the Torah was the fundamental and lasting gift of Moses, and that the basic element that distinguished it from other peoples consisted in their knowing the will of God and, therefore, the right path of life. Now Jesus, in revealing himself as the bread of heaven, testifies that He is God’s Word in Person, the Word incarnate, through whom man may make God’s will his food (cf. John 4:34), which directs and sustains life.

To doubt Jesus’ divinity, then, as do the Jews in today’s gospel passage, means placing oneself in opposition to the word of God. Indeed, they affirm: He is the son of Joseph! We know his father and mother! (John 6:42). They do not go beyond his earthly origins, and for this reason they refuse to welcome Him as the Word of God made flesh. St. Augustine, in his Tractates on the Gospel of John, comments thus: "They were far off from that heavenly bread, and knew not how to hunger after it. They had the jaws of their heart languid … this bread, indeed, requires hunger, the hunger of the inner man" (26.1). And we have to ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, hunger for God’s Word, hunger to know the true meaning of life.

Only he who is drawn by God the Father, who listens to Him and allows himself to be instructed by Him is able to believe in Jesus, to encounter Him and to be nourished by Him, and thus find true life, the path of life, justice, truth, love. St. Augustine adds: "The Lord … says that He is the bread which came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe in Him. For, to eat the living bread means to believe in Him. [To eat the living bread means to believe in Him, and] he that believes, eats; he is sated invisibly, as invisibly he is reborn [to a deeper, truer life], he is reborn from within, in his innermost heart he becomes a new man" (ibid).

Invoking Most Holy Mary, let us ask her to guide us to an encounter with Jesus, so that our friendship with Him may be ever more intense; let us ask her to introduce us into the full communion of love with her Son, the true bread which came down from heaven, so that we may be renewed by Him in the intimate recesses of our being.

Appeal following the Angelus:

Dear brothers and sisters,

My thoughts go in this moment to the peoples of Asia, especially to those of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China, who have been severely hit by violent rains, as well as to the people of North-west Iran, who have been struck by a violent earthquake. These events have caused numerous deaths and injuries, thousands of displaced persons and extensive damage. I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer for all those who have lost their lives, and for all the people who are being tried by such devastating calamities. May our solidarity and our support not be lacking to these, our brothers and sisters.

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Pope's Address at Conclusion of Concert

"Music is the Expression of the Spirit, of The Interior Place of the Person"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, AUG. 11, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on Saturday at the conclusion of a concert held in his honor.

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Venerable Brothers,

Dear Friends!

At the end of this beautiful "panorama" of vocal and instrumental music, it remains for me to say from my heart to the musicians a "Vergelt’s Gott" [the Lord reward you]. With this evening’s program you have given us an idea of the multiplicity of the musical creativity and of the breadth of harmony. Music is not a succession of sounds; it is a rhythm and, at the same time, it is cohesion and harmony; it has its structure and its depth. We were able to enjoy all this in a wonderful way not only in the choral music with the vocal ensemble, performed with expressive force by the Cantico vocal group directed by Mrs. Edeltraud Appl, but also in the stupendous instrumental passages which we were able to hear in the performance of Mr. Thomas Beckmann, of his consort Kayoko and of Mr. Kasahara. We all listened enraptured, to say the least, to the warm sound and the great breadth of the timbres of the cello. Music is the expression of the spirit, of the interior place of the person, created for all that is true, good and beautiful. It is no accident that music often accompanies our prayer. It makes our senses and spirit resound when, in prayer, we encounter God.

Today, in the liturgy, we remember Saint Clare. In a hymn to the Saint one reads: "From the clarity of God you have received light. You gave it space, it grew in you, and spread in the world; it lightens our hearts.

This is the underlying attitude that fills man and woman with peace: openness to divine claritas, the splendid beauty and vital strength of the Creator, which encourages us and makes us overcome ourselves. Today we found this claritas in a wonderful way, and it illuminated us! Thus it is only a consequence that the artists, beginning from their profound experience of beauty, commit themselves to the good and offer in turn help and support to the needy. They transmit the good they have received as a gift, and this spreads in the world. And thus the human being grows, becomes transparent and aware of the presence and action of his Creator, something which certainly Mr. Beckmann and all those who together with him are involved in the charitable work "Gemeinsam gegen die Kalte" ["Together against the Cold"] will be able to confirm. We have understood that this "Gemeinsam gegen die Kalte" does not respond to an objective that is imposed from outside, but comes from the depth of this music which overcomes the cold that is within us and opens the heart. A wish you all from my heart success in your musical commitment for many years, together with the abundant Blessing of God for your charitable endeavor. To all the performers again a heartfelt thank you for this beautiful evening. Let us put everything under the Blessing of God! I impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.

My heartfelt thank you. Good night.

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On the Prayer of St. Dominic

"The day he dedicated to his neighbor, but the night he gave to God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 8, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held at Castel Gandolfo. This morning the Holy Father reflected on the prayer of St. Dominic.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Dominic de Guzmán, priest and founder of the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans. In a previous catechesis, I presented this illustrious figure and the fundamental contribution he made to the renewal of the Church of his time. Today I wish to highlight an essential aspect of his spirituality: his life of prayer. St. Dominic was a man of prayer. In love with God, he had no other aspiration than the salvation of souls, especially those who had fallen into the snares of the heresies of his day. An imitator of Christ, he radically embodied the three evangelical counsels, uniting to the proclamation of the Word a witness of a life of poverty. Under the Holy Spirit's guidance, he advanced along the way of Christian perfection. At each moment, prayer was the force that renewed and rendered his apostolic works increasingly fruitful.

Blessed Jordan of Saxony (who died in 1237), his successor as head of the Order, writes: "During the day, no one showed himself more sociable than he … Conversely, by night, there was none more assiduous than he in keeping watch in prayer. The day he dedicated to his neighbor, but the night he gave to God" (P. Filippini, San Domenico visto dai suoi contemporanei, Bologna 1982, pg. 133). In St. Dominic we can see an example of the harmonious integration between contemplation of the divine mysteries and apostolic activity. According to the testimonies of the persons closest to him, "he always spoke with God or of God." This observation points to his deep communion with the Lord and, at the same time, to his constant commitment to leading others to this communion with God.

He left behind no writings on prayer, but the Dominican tradition has collected and handed on his living experience in a work titled: The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic. This book was composed between the year 1260 and 1288 by a Dominican friar. It helps us to understand something of the saint's interior life, and it also helps us, as different as we are, to learn something about how to pray.

According to St. Dominic, then, there are nine ways of prayer, and each of these -- which he always carried out in the presence of Jesus Crucified -- express a bodily and a spiritual attitude that, intimately interpenetrating, favors recollection and fervor. The first seven ways follow an ascending line, as steps on a journey toward communion with God, with the Trinity: St. Dominic prays standing, bowed down to express humility; prostrate on the ground to ask pardon for his sins; kneeling in penance to participate in the sufferings of the Lord; with arms outstretched gazing at the crucifix to contemplate Supreme Love, his gaze turned toward heaven, feeling drawn to the world of God. Thus, there are three forms: standing, kneeling, and lying prostrate on the ground -- but always with one's gaze turned to the Crucified Lord.

The two final ways, which I would like briefly to consider, correspond to two forms of piety the saint normally practiced. First, there was personal meditation, where prayer acquires a still more intimate, fervent and comforting dimension. At the end of the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and following the celebration of the Mass, St. Dominic prolonged his colloquy with God, without placing any limits on time. Seated quietly, he would recollect himself in an attitude of listening, reading a book or gazing upon the Crucifix. He lived these moments in his relationship with God so intensely that even outwardly his reactions of joy and tears could be perceived. Thus, through meditation, he assimilated the realities of the faith. Witnesses recount that at times he entered into a kind of ecstasy, his face transfigured; but immediately afterward, he would humbly resume his daily activities, recharged by the power that came to him from above.

Then, there was his prayer during journeys between one friary and another; he recited Lauds, the Midday hour and Vespers with his companions, and as he crossed valleys and hills he contemplated the beauty of creation. From his heart there flowed a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God for so many gifts, especially for the greatest wonder: the redemption wrought by Christ.

Dear friends, St. Dominic reminds us that prayer, that personal contact with God, is at the heart and origin of the witness of faith that every Christian must give within family life, at work, in social commitments, and even in times of relaxation. Only this real relationship with God gives us the strength to live each event intensely, especially the most painful moments. This saint also reminds us of the importance of exterior attitudes in our prayer: kneeling, standing before the Lord, fixing one's gaze on the Crucified, pausing to recollect oneself in silence are not secondary; rather, they help us to place ourselves interiorly, with the whole of our person, in relation to God. I would like to recall once again the need in our spiritual lives to find quiet moments for prayer each day, to have a little time to speak with God. We should take this time especially during the summer holidays, and make a little time to speak with God. It will also be a way of helping those around us to enter into the luminous rays of the presence of God, who brings the peace and love that we all need. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Macau, Japan and the United States. Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers. In his life, Saint Dominic was able to combine constant prayer and zealous activity in the service of the Lord and his Church. By his example and intercession, may all of us rediscover the importance and beauty of daily prayer, and bear joyful witness to our faith in Christ the Saviour!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Prayer According to St. Alphonsus Liguori
"He who prays is saved. He who prays not is damned!"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 1, 2012 .- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held at Castel Gandolfo. This morning the Holy Father resumed his Wednesday audiences after a customary pause in July by reflecting on St. Alphonsus Liguori's teaching on prayer.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today marks the liturgical memorial of St. Alphonsus Maria de' Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church, founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer -- the Redemptorists -- patron saint of scholars and moral theology and of confessors. St. Alphonsus is one of the most popular saints of the 18th century because of his simple, straightforward style and his teaching on the sacrament of Penance: In a period of great rigorism -- the result of the influence of Jansenism -- he recommended to confessors to administer this sacrament by revealing the joyous embrace of God the Father, who in His infinite mercy never tires of welcoming back the repentant son.

Today's memorial offers us the occasion to consider St. Alphonsus' teachings on prayer, which are extremely valuable and filled with spiritual inspiration. He considered his treatise, Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, which dates back to 1759, to be the most useful of all his writings. In fact, he there describes prayer as "the necessary and sure means of obtaining salvation, and all the graces we need to attain it" (Introduction).

This sentence sums up the Alphonsian understanding of prayer. First, in saying that it is a means, he reminds us of the end to be attained: God created out of love in order to be able to give us the fullness of life; but because of sin, this goal, this abundance of life has, so to say, drifted away -- we all know this -- and only God's grace can make it available. To explain this basic truth, and to enable us to understand in a straightforward way how real the risk is of man's "being lost," St. Alphonsus coined a famous, very elementary maxim, which states: "He who prays is saved. He who prays not is damned!" Commenting on this lapidary statement, he added: "To save one's soul without prayer is most difficult, and even impossible … but by praying our salvation is made secure, and very easy" (Chapter II, Conclusion). And he goes on to say: "If we do not pray, we have no excuse, for the grace of prayer is given to everyone … if we are not saved, the whole fault will be ours, because we did not pray" (ibid.).

In saying that prayer is a necessary means, St. Alphonsus wanted us to understand that in every situation in life, we cannot manage without praying, especially in times of trial and difficulty. We must always knock at the Lord's door with trust, knowing that in all things He takes care of His children, of us. We are invited, therefore, not to be afraid of turning to Him and of presenting our requests to Him with trust, in the certainty of obtaining what we need.

Dear friends, this is the central question: What is truly necessary in my life? With St. Alphonsus I respond: "Health and all the graces we need for this" (ibid.); naturally, he means not only bodily health, but above all also that of the soul, which Jesus gives to us. More than anything else, we need His liberating presence, which truly makes our lives fully human and therefore full of joy. And it is only through prayer that we are able to welcome Him and His grace, which by enlightening us in each situation, enables us to discern the true good, and by strengthening us, makes our will effective; that is, it enables it to do the good that is known. Often we recognize the good, but we are unable to do it. Through prayer, we arrive at the point of being able to carry it out.

The Lord's disciple knows that he is always exposed to temptation, and he never fails to ask God for help in prayer in order to conquer it. St. Alphonsus recalls the example of St. Phillip Neri -- very interesting -- who "used to say to God from the first moment he awoke in the morning, 'Lord, keep Thy hands over Philip this day; for if not, Philip will betray Thee'" (III, 3). A great realist! He asks God to keep His hand upon him. We, too, in the awareness of our own weakness, should humbly ask God's help, relying on the richness of His mercy.

In another passage, St. Alphonsus says: "We are so poor that we have nothing; but if we pray we are no longer poor" (II, 4). And in the wake of St. Augustine, he invites every Christian to not be afraid of obtaining from God, through prayer, the strength he does not possess and that he needs to do the good, in the certainty that the Lord does not withhold His help from whoever prays with humility (cf. III, 3).

Dear friends, St. Alphonsus reminds us that our relationship with God is essential for our lives. Without a relationship with God, our fundamental relationship is missing. And a relationship with God develops by talking with God in daily personal prayer, and by participating in the Sacraments; and so it is that this relationship can grow in us, and that the divine presence that directs our path, enlightens it and makes it secure and serene can also grow in us, even amid difficulty and danger. Thank you.

[In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England and the United States. Today the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Alphonsus de' Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists, a great moral theologian and a master of prayer. Saint Alphonsus teaches us the beauty of daily prayer, in which we open our minds and hearts to the Lord's presence and receive the grace to live wisely and well. By his example and intercession, may you and your families come to know God's saving love and experience his abundant blessings!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Eucharist
"It Is Not the Eucharistic Food That is Changed Into Us, But Rather We Who Are Mysteriously Transformed By It"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 30, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

This Sunday we begin the reading of chapter 6 of John’s Gospel. The chapter opens with the episode of the multiplication of loaves, which Jesus then comments on in the synagogue in Capernaum, indicating himself as the “bread” that gives life. Jesus’ actions parallel those of the Last Supper: “He took the bread and, after giving thanks, he gave them to those who were seated.” Thus it is stated in the Gospel (John 6:11). The emphasis on the theme of “bread,” which is then shared, and on giving thanks (6:11, in Greek – “eucharistesas”), recalls the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the world.

The evangelist observes that the feast of Passover is near at this point (cf. 6:4). The focus turns to the cross, the gift of love, and to the Eucharist, the perpetuation of this gift: Christ makes himself the bread of life for men. St. Augustine comments on it in this wise: “Who, if not Christ, is the bread of heaven? But so that men might eat the bread of angels, the Lord of the angels became man. If he had not done this, we would not have his body; not having his body, we would not eat the bread of the altar” (Sermon 130, 2). The Eucharist is the permanent grand meeting of man with God, in which the Lord becomes our food, gives himself to transform us into himself.

In the scene of the multiplication of the loaves a young boy is also depicted, who, presented with the problem of feeding many people, puts what little he has at the disposal of the others: 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (cf. John 6:8). The miracle does not produce its effect out of nothing: God is able to multiply our little gesture of love and make us participate in his gift. The crowd is struck by the marvel: it sees in Jesus the new Moses, worthy of power, and in the new manna, the future secured, but they stop at the material element, which they have eaten, and the Lord, “knowing that they wanted to come to take him to make him king, he retreated again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Jesus is not an earthly king who exercises dominion, but a king who serves, who condescends to man to satisfy not only material hunger but above all the profound hunger for direction, for meaning, for truth, the hunger for God.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord to make us rediscover the importance of nourishing ourselves not only with bread, but with truth, with love, with Christ, with the body of Christ, faithfully participating in the Eucharist with keen understanding, to be ever more intimately united with him. In fact, It is not the eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself; he draws us into himself (Sacramentum caritatis, 70). At the same time, we wish also to pray that no one ever lacks the bread that is necessary for a worthy life, and inequalities be overcome, not with the weapons of violence but with sharing and love.

We entrust ourselves to the Virgin Mary, while we invoke her maternal intercession for us and our loved ones.

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On Mary Magdalene
"In what consists this profound healing that God works through Jesus? It consists in a true, complete peace"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 23, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The Word of God this Sunday reproposes to us a fundamental and always fascinating theme of the Bible: it reminds us that God is the Shepherd of humanity. This means that God wants life for us, he wants to guide us to good pastures, where we can be nourished and find repose; he does not want us to be lost and die but to reach the goal of our journey, which is precisely the fullness of life. This is what every father and mother wants for their own children: goodness, happiness, completeness. In today’s Gospel Jesus presents himself as the Shepherd of the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He sees the people as a shepherd sees his sheep. For example, this Sunday’s Gospel says that after Jesus "disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things" (Mark 6:34). Jesus incarnates God the Shepherd with his manner of preaching and his deeds, caring for the sick and sinners, those who are "lost" (cf. Luke 19:20), to bring them back to safety in the mercy of the Father.

Among the lost sheep whom Jesus brought back to safety there is a woman named Mary, who came from the town of Magdala (whence the surname Magdalene), which is on the Sea of Galilee. Today is her liturgical memorial on the Church’s calendar. The Evangelist Luke tells us that Jesus chased seven demons out of her (cf. Luke 8:2), that is, he saved her from total enslavement to the evil one.

In what consists this profound healing that God works through Jesus? It consists in a true, complete peace, the fruit of reconciliation of the person with himself and in his relationships: with God, with other people, and with the world. In effect, the evil one always seeks to ruin God’s work, sowing division in the human heart between body and soul, between man and God, in interpersonal, social and international relationships and also between man and creation. The evil one sows war; God creates peace. Indeed, as St. Paul says, Christ "is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh" (Ephesians 2:14).

To accomplish this work of radical reconciliation Jesus, the Good Shepherd, had to become the Lamb: "the Lamb of God ... who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). Only in this way was he able to realize the stupendous promise of the Psalm: "Only goodness and kindness follow me / all the days of my life; / and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord / for years to come" (Psalm 22/23:6).

Dear friends, these words make our hearts vibrate, because they express our most profound desire, they speak of that for which we are made: life, eternal life! They are the words of those who, like Mary Magdalene, have experienced God in their lives and know his peace. They are words that are true more than ever upon the lips of the Virgin Mary, who already lives forever in the pastures of heaven, where she has been led by the one who is the Lamb and the Shepherd. Mary, Mother of Christ our peace, pray for us!

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

Dear brothers and sisters!

In a few days the 30th Olympic Games will take place. The Olympics are the greatest sporting event in the world, in which athletes of many nations participate and which, because of this, have great symbolic value. Thus, the Catholic Church looks upon them with special sympathy and attention. Let us pray that, according to God’s will, the London games be a true experience of fraternity among the peoples of the earth.

[In English he said:]

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present and I pray that your stay in Rome will bring many blessings. I was deeply shocked by the senseless violence which took place in Aurora, Denver, and saddened by the loss of life in the recent ferry disaster near Zanzibar. I share the distress of the families and friends of the victims and the injured, especially the children. Assuring all of you of my closeness in prayer, I impart my blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the risen Lord.


In a few days from now, the Olympic Games are due to begin in Great Britain. I send greetings to the organizers, athletes and spectators alike, and I pray that, in the spirit of the Olympic Truce, the good will generated by this international sporting event may bear fruit, promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the world. Upon all those attending the London Olympic Games, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish all of you a good Sunday and a good week.

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Papal Message to the 11th International Gathering of the Teams of Our Lady
"Be The Smiling and Sweet Face of the Church"

BRASILIA, Brazil, JULY 23, 2012 - Here is a translation of the message that the pope’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, sent in the name of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, to the participants of the 11th International Meeting of the Teams of Our Lady, taking place in Brasilia, Brazil, from July 21-26 on the theme: “Dare the Gospel.”

* * *

Most Reverend Eminence,

Informed of the 11th International Gathering of the Teams of Our Lady, the Supreme Pontiff requested me to send you, through this means, his paternal greeting to the participants and to all the couples of the Movement born of the far-sighted pastoral intuition of the Servant of God Henri Caffarel, priest, whose mission has not seen diminish, with the passing of time, its timeliness and urgency, rather in a certain way it has increased in the light of the problems and difficulties that marriage and the family experience today, surrounded by an atmosphere of growing secularization.

In this context, the couples of the Teams of Our Lady proclaim, not so much with words but above all with their life, the fundamental truths about human love and its most profound meaning: “A man and a woman who love one another, the smile of a child, the peace of a home: here is an exhortation without words, but extraordinarily persuasive, in which every man can already anticipate, as by transparency, the reflection of another love and its infinite appeal” (Paul VI, To the Couples of Our Lady’s Teams, May 4, 1970).

Of course this idea might seem too lofty. It is for this reason that the Movement encourages its members to drink constantly from the sources of grace of the sacrament of marriage and of participation in the Sunday Eucharist; so that beyond the resources of the grace of the sacraments, it proposes to them, with great wisdom, a “method rich in commitments and simple and concrete suggestions to live day by day the incarnated spirituality of Christian spouses. Among them, it stresses the “duty to sit down together,” that is, the commitment to hold periodically a time of personal dialogue between the spouses, during which each one presents to the other, with total sincerity and in a climate of mutual listening, the most important problems and situations in the life of the couple. In our world so marked by individualism, activism, speed and distraction, sincere and constant dialogue between spouses is essential to avoid the emergence, growth and hardening of misunderstandings that, unfortunately, often end up in irremediable breaks that no help can repair. Hence, cultivate this valuable habit of sitting together to talk and to listen to each other, to understand one another again and again in face of the surprises and difficulties of the long journey.

In three months’ time we shall be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II that, in many of its documents, offered the Church of our time a renewed vision of the value of human love, of conjugal and family life; on that occasion we will begin the Year of Faith, to rediscover all the vivacity and joy of the proclamation of the faith in our world and in our time. His Holiness Benedict XVI invites Christian couples to be “the smiling and sweet face of the Church,” the best and most convincing messengers of the beauty of love sustained and nourished by faith, gift of God offered with abundance and generosity to all, so that every day they can discover the meaning of their life

As sign of ecclesial gratitude, of encouragement for the new challenges we meet, and as a guarantee of grace and light of the Most High for the works of the 11th International Gathering of the Teams of Our Lady, the Holy Father grants to all the participants and their families his implored Apostolic Blessing.

I take advantage of this occasion to express, to your Most Revered Eminence, my sentiments of fraternal esteem in Christ the Lord.

Vatican, July 5, 2012

Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone
Secretary of State of His Holiness

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On St. Bonaventure
"The work of Christ and of the Church never regresses but always progresses"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 16, 2012.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On the liturgical calendar, July 15 is the memorial of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, Franciscan, doctor of the Church, and successor to St. Francis of Assisi in the leadership of the Order of Friars Minor. He wrote the first official biography of the Little Poor Man (Poverello), and at the end of his life he was also the bishop of this Diocese of Albano. In one of his letters Bonaventure wrote: “I confess before God that what made me love the life of blessed Francis the most was that it reflected the beginnings and growth of the Church (Epistula de tribus quaestionibus, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Introduzione generale, Roma 1990, p. 29). These words immediately send us back to today’s Gospel, of this Sunday, that presents us with Jesus’ first sending of the 12 Apostles on mission. “Jesus called the 12 to himself,” writes St. Mark, “and sent them out two by two … and he instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a staff – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic” (Mark 6:7-9). Francis of Assisi, after his conversion, practiced this Gospel to the letter, becoming a most faithful witness to Jesus; and associated in a singular way with the mystery of the cross, he was transformed into “another Jesus,” as Bonaventure, in fact, presents him.

At the inspirational center of St. Bonaventure’s life and theology is Jesus Christ. We find this centrality of Christ in the second reading of today’s Mass (Ephesians 1:3-14), the celebrated hymn of St. Paul to the Ephesians, which begins thus: “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus, who has blessed us with every spiritual benediction in heaven in Christ.” In four passages that each begin with the phrase “in him,” referring to Jesus Christ, the Apostle then shows how this plan of blessing is realized. “In him” the Father has chosen us before the creation of the world; “in him” we have redemption through his blood; “in him” we have become heirs, predestined to be “the praise of his glory”; “in him” those who believe in the Gospel receive the seal of the Holy Spirit. This hymn of St. Paul contains the vision of history that St. Bonaventure helped to spread in the Church: all of history has Christ as its center, Christ, who also guarantees newness and renewal in every age. In Jesus, God has said and given everything, but since he is an inexhaustible treasure, the Holy Spirit never ceases to reveal and actualize his mystery. Hence the work of Christ and of the Church never regresses but always progresses.

Dear friends, let us invoke Mary Most Holy – who tomorrow we celebrate as the Virgin of Mount Carmel – that she might help us, with St. Francis and St. Bonaventure, to respond generously to the Lord’s call, to announce his Gospel of salvation with words and, above all else, with our life.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. 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, Jesus gives the twelve authority to preach and cast out demons. Relying on his power alone, their efforts bear fruit. Let us continue to strive to keep our lives rooted in Christ so that we too may be effective instruments of the Gospel. May God bless you!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

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Pope's Message to the Bishop of Avila
"We are invited today to that radicalism and fidelity by this illustrious daughter of the diocese of Avila"

ROME, JULY 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to the bishop of Avila, Spain, Bishop Jesús Garcia Burillo, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the convent of Saint Joseph in Avila and the beginning of the Carmelite Reform promoted by Saint Teresa of Jesus.

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To the Venerable Brother

Monsignor Jesus GARCIA BURILLO
Bishop of Avila

1. Resplendens stella. “A star that would give of itself great splendor” (Book of Life, 32, 11). With these words the Lord encouraged Saint Teresa of Jesus to found in Avila the convent of Saint Joseph, beginning of the reform of Carmel, whose 450th anniversary will be observed next August 24. On the occasion of this happy circumstance, I wish to unite myself to the joy of the beloved Avila diocese, of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, of the People of God pilgrimaging in Spain and of all those in the universal Church who have found in Teresian spirituality a sure light to discover that man obtains the true renewal of life through Christ. Enamored of the Lord, this illustrious woman wished to please Him in everything. In fact, a saint is not one who carries out great feats based on the excellence of his human qualities, but one who allows Christ to penetrate their soul, to act through their person, He being the real protagonist of all their actions and desires, who inspires every initiative and sustains every silence.

2. To let oneself be led by Christ in this way is possible only for one who has an intense life of prayer. In the words of the Saint of Avila, this consists of “friendship, being very often alone with Him whom we know loves us” (Book of Life 8, 5). The reform of Carmel, whose anniversary fills us with inner joy, was born of prayer and tends to prayer. On promoting a radical return to the original Rule, moving away from the mitigated Rule, Saint Teresa of Jesus wished to foster a way of life that favored a personal encounter with the Lord, for which it is necessary “to be in solitude and to gaze at Him within oneself, and not to be surprised by such a good guest” (Way of Perfection 28, 2). The convent of Saint Joseph was born precisely so that her daughters would have the best conditions to find God and establish a profound and intimate relationship with Him.

3. Saint Teresa proposed a new way of being a Carmelite in a world which was also new. Those were “harsh times” (Book of Life 33, 5). And in such times, said this Teacher of the spirit, it is necessary “to be strong friends of God to support the weak” (Ibid., 15, 5). And she insisted eloquently: “The world is burning, they want to sentence Christ again, they want to knock down his Church. No, my Sisters, it is not the time to treat with God matters of little importance”! (Way of Perfection 1, 5). Is not this luminous and challenging reflection, made more than four centuries ago by the mystic Saint, familiar to us in the circumstance in which we are living?

The ultimate end of the Teresian Reform and of the creation of new convents, in the midst of a world lacking in spiritual values, was to protect with prayer the apostolic task; to propose a way of evangelical life that would be a model for those seeking the way of perfection, stemming from the conviction that all genuine personal and ecclesial reform is affected by reproducing increasingly in ourselves the “way” of Christ (cf. Galatians 4:19). The Saint and her daughters had no other commitment. Neither did her Carmelite sons, who did no more than try “to advance in all the virtues” (Book of Life 31, 18). In this connection, Teresa wrote: Our Lord “appreciates more a soul won, through his mercy, by our industry and prayer than all the services we can render Him” (Book of the Foundations, 1, 7). In face of forgetfulness of God the Holy Doctor encouraged praying communities, which with their prayer protect those proclaiming the Name of Christ everywhere, supplicating for the needs of the Church, and taking to the Savior’s heart the clamor of all peoples.

4. Today also, as in the 16th century, amid rapid transformations, it is necessary that confident prayer be at the heart of the apostolate, so that the message of the Redeemer Jesus Christ will resound with crystal clarity and forceful dynamism. It is urgent that the Word of life vibrate harmoniously in souls, with sonorous and attractive notes.

In this passionate task, the example of Teresa of Avila is of great help to us. We can affirm that, in her time, the Saint evangelized without lukewarmness , with ardor that was never extinguished, with methods that were far removed from inertia, with expressions haloed with light. This keeps all its freshness in the present circumstance, centered also following the dictate of the Avila mystic, on contemplation of the Most Sacred Humanity of Christ as the only way to attain the glory of God (cf. Book of Life 22, 1; The Abodes [Las Moradas]6, 7). Thus genuine families will be able to be formed, which discover in the Gospel the fire of their abode, living and united Christian communities, cemented on Christ as their cornerstone and thirsting for a life of fraternal and generous service. Also to be desired is that incessant prayer promote the urgent cultivation of vocational pastoral care, stressing particularly the beauty of consecrated life, which must be properly supported as the treasure that it is of the Church, as torrent of Graces, both in its active as well as in its contemplative dimension.

The strength of Christ will also lead to redoubling initiatives so that the people of God recover their vigor in the only way possible: making room in our interior for the sentiments of the Lord Jesus (cf. Philippians 2, 5), seeking in every circumstance a radical living of his Gospel. This means, above all, to allow the Holy Spirit to make us friends of the Master and to configure us with Him. It also means accepting his mandate in everything, and adopting in ourselves criteria such as humility in conduct, giving up the superfluous, not wronging others, acting with simplicity and lowliness of heart. Thus, those around us will perceive the joy that stems from our adherence to the Lord, putting nothing before his love, always being ready to give a reason for our hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) and living, as Teresa of Jesus, in filial obedience to our Holy Mother the Church.

5. We are invited today to that radicalism and fidelity by this illustrious daughter of the diocese of Avila. Taking up her beautiful legacy, at this moment of history, the Pope calls all the members of that particular Church, but in an intimate way young people, to take seriously the common vocation to sanctity. Following in Teresa of Jesus’ footprints, allow me to say to those who have the future before them: aspire also to belong totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus. Fear not to tell Our Lord as she did: “I am yours, for you I was born, what do you want me to do?” (Poem 2). And I ask Him to enable you to respond to his calls illumined by divine grace, with “determined determination,” to offer the “little” that is in you, trusting that God never abandons those who leave everything for His glory (cf. Way of Perfection 21, 2; 1, 2).

6. Saint Teresa knew how to honor the Most Holy Virgin with great devotion, whom she invoked under the sweet name of Carmel. I place under her maternal protection the apostolic endeavors of the Church in Avila so that, rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit, she will find the appropriate ways to proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm and courage. May Mary, Star of evangelization, and her chaste spouse Saint Joseph intercede so that the “star” that the Lord lighted in the universe of the Church with the Teresian reform, will continue to radiate the great brilliance of the love and truth of Christ to all men. With this yearning, Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, I send you this message, which I pray you to make known to the flock entrusted to your pastoral vigilance, and very especially to the beloved Discalced Carmelites of the convent of Saint Joseph of Avila, that they may perpetuate in time the spirit of their Founder, and of whose fervent prayer for the Successor of Peter I have grateful certainty. To them, to you and to all the faithful of Avila I impart with affection the Apostolic Blessing, pledge of copious heavenly favors.

Vatican, July 16, 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pope Benedict XVI's Homily in Frascati
"Be united among yourselves and at the same time open"

ROME, JULY 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the translation of Benedict XVI’s homily from Sunday during the celebration of the Eucharist in the Diocese of Frascati.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I am very glad to be with you today to celebrate this Eucharist and to share the joys and hopes, burdens and commitments, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I greet the Lord Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my secretary of state and titular bishop of this diocese. I greet your bishop, Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli, and the mayor of Frascati, thanking them for the courteous words of welcome with which they received me in your name. I am glad to greet the lord minister, the presidents of the region and of the province, the mayor of Rome, the other mayors who are present and all of the distinguished officials.

And I am very happy to celebrate this Mass today with your bishop. As he mentioned, he was for more than 20 years he was a very faithful and capable co-worker of mine in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he worked most of all in the section on catechism and catechesis with great silence and discretion: he contributed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and to the Compendium of the Catechism. In this great symphony of the faith his voice too was quite present.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus takes the initiative of sending the 12 Apostles on mission (cf. Mark 6:7-13). In effect, the term “apostles” means “those sent.” Their vocation will be fully realized after Christ’s resurrection, with the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Nevertheless, it is very important that from the very beginning Jesus wanted to involve them in his action: it is a kind of “apprenticeship” in view of the responsibility that awaits them. The fact that Jesus calls some disciples to collaborate directly in his mission manifests an aspect of his love, that is, that he does not scorn the help that other men can bring to his work; he knows their limits, their weaknesses, but he does not disdain them, indeed, he confers on them the dignity of being his envoys. Jesus sends them out two by two and gives them instructions, which the evangelist sums up in a few phrases. The first touches on their spirit of detachment: the disciples must not be attached to money and comfort. Jesus then warns the disciples that they will not always receive a favorable reception: sometimes they will be rejected; on the contrary, they might be persecuted. But this must not bother them: they must speak in Jesus’ name and preach the Kingdom of God without being anxious for success. They will leave success to God.

The first reading that was proclaimed presents the same perspective to us, showing us that those sent by God are not always warmly welcomed. This is the case with the prophet Amos, who was sent by God to prophesy in the sanctuary of Bethel, a sanctuary of the kingdom of Israel (cf. Amos 7:12-15). Amos preaches with great energy against injustices, denouncing the abuses of power of the king and the higher-ups, abuses of power that offend the Lord and make acts of worship pointless. This is why Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, orders Amos to leave. Amos responds that he was not the one to choose this mission, rather the Lord made his a prophet and sent him precisely there, to the kingdom of Israel. Thus, whether he is accepted or rejected, he will continue to prophesy, preaching what God says and not what men want to hear. And this remains the mandate of the Church: do not preach what the powerful wish to hear. The criterion of prophets is the truth and justice even if this goes against human applause and human power.

Similarly, in the Gospel, Jesus warns the 12 that in some places they might be rejected. In such cases they must go elsewhere, after having performed the gesture before the people of shaking the dust of that place from their feet, a sign that expresses detachment in 2 senses: moral detachment – as if to say, you have received the proclamation and you were the ones who rejected it – and material detachment – we wanted nothing and we want nothing from you (cf. Mark 6:11). The other instruction that is very important in the Gospel passage is that the 12 cannot simply preach conversion: along with preaching there must be, according to the orders and example of Jesus, curing of the sick. Cure of the physically and spiritually sick. He speaks of the concrete healings of illnesses and of the casting out of dealings, that is, the purifying of the human mind, cleaning, cleaning the eyes of the soul that have been darkened by ideologies and so cannot see God, they cannot see truth and justice. This double physical and spiritual healing is always the mandate of Christ’s disciples. So, the apostolic mission must always carry these 2 aspects of preaching the word of God and manifesting his goodness with gestures of charity, service and dedication.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank God that he has sent me today to re-announce to you this Word of salvation! A word that is at the foundation of the life and action of the Church, even this Church that is in Frascati! Your bishop informed me of the pastoral project that is very close to his heart, which is, in substance, a project of formation, directed first of all to formers: forming formers. This is precisely what Jesus did with his disciples: he instructed them, he prepared them, he formed them also through missionary “apprenticeship,” so that they would be able to take on apostolic responsibility in the Church. In the Christian community, this is always the first service that the leaders offer, beginning with parents, who carry out the educational mission of their children in the Christian family; we think of parish priests, who are responsible for formation in the community, and of all priests in different fields of work: all have education as a priority; and the lay faithful, beyond the already mentioned duty of parents, are involved in the service of forming youth and adults, as leaders in Catholic Action and other ecclesial movements, or as working in various civil and social spheres, always with great attention to the formation of persons.

The Lord calls everyone, distributing different gifts to different stations of life in the Church. He calls people to the priesthood and to the consecrated life, and he calls people to matrimony and to engagement in the Church herself and in society. It is important that the wealth of gifts be fully welcomed, especially by young people, who feel the joy of responding to the Lord with their whole self, giving themselves either in the priesthood and the consecrated life or in marriage, 2 ways of life that mutually complement and illuminate each other, reciprocally enrich each other and enrich the community. Virginity for the Kingdom of God and marriage are both vocations, those in both stations are called by God to respond with their life for their whole life. God calls: we must listen, welcome, respond. Like Mary: let it be done to me according to your word (cf. Luke 1:38).

Here too, in the diocesan community of Frascati, the Lord sows his gifts generously, he calls people to follow him and to continue his mission today. Here too there is need of a new evangelization, and for this reason I propose that you live intensely the Year of Faith that will begin in October, 50 years after the close of Vatican Council II. The Council documents contain an enormous wealth for the formation of new Christian generations, for the formation of our conscience. So, read them, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in this way rediscover the beauty of being Christians, of being Church, of living the great “we” that Jesus formed around himself to evangelize the world: the “we” of the Church, which is never closed but ever open and directed toward the proclamation of the Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters of Frascati! Be united amongst yourselves and at the same time open, missionaries. Remain firm in the faith, rooted in Christ thought the Word and the Eucharist; be people who pray, to be always connected to Christ, like branches on the vine, and at the same time go, bring his message to everyone, especially to the little ones, the poor, the suffering. In every community love each other, do not be divided but live as brothers, so that the world believe that Jesus is alive in his Church and the Kingdom of God is near. The patron saints of the Diocese of Frascati are the 2 apostles Philip and James, 2 of the 12. To their intercession I entrust the journey of your community, that it renew itself in the faith and give clear witness with works of charity. Amen.

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Pope's Address at Conclusion of Concert
"Music is harmony of differences"

ROME, JULY 12, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Wednesday at the conclusion of a concert held in his honor.

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Mr. President,

Venerable Brothers,

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,

We lived through a moment of truly intense and enriching listening for our spirit, and for this we thank the Lord. I wish to express muy heartfelt gratitude to Maestro Daniel Barenboim and to all the musicians of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which during their summertournee have kindly wished to offer me this concert, on the day of the feast of Saint Benedict. Thus they have enabled me not only to enjoy live their excellent performance, but also to participate more directly in their initiated 13 years ago now, in fact, by you, Maestro, together with the late Mr. Edward Said.

I greet cordially the President of the Italian Republic, Honorable Giorgio Napolitano, whom I thank for his presence and for having encouraged this initiative. And my “thank you” goes also to Cardinal Ravasi, who introduced the concert with three beautiful and significant quotations. To the other Authorities and to all of you, dear friends, I extend my greeting.

You can imagine how happy I am to receive an Orchestra such as this one, which was born from the conviction, more than that, from the experience that music unites persons, beyond any division; because music is harmony of differences, as happens every time that a concert begins with the “rite” of tuning. From the multiplicity of timbres of diverse instruments, a symphony can emerge. However, this does not happen magically or automatically! It is realized only thanks to the commitment of the Director and of every individual musician. A patient, toilsome commitment that requires time and sacrifices, in an effort to listen to one another mutually, avoiding excessive prominence and fostering the best success of the whole.

While I express these thoughts, my mind turns to the great symphony of peace among peoples, which has never been altogether finished. My generation, as well as that of Maestro Barenboim’s parents, lived through the tragedy of World War II and the Shoa. And it is very significant that you, Maestro, after having reached the highest goals of a musician, wished to give life to a project such as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra: a group in which Israeli, Palestinian and musicians of other Arab countries play together; persons of Jewish, Muslim and Christian religion.

The numerous outstanding recognitions that you and this Orchestra have received demonstrate, at the same time, your professional excellence and ethical and spiritual commitment. We felt it also this evening, listening to the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Also in this choice, in this approach we can see an interesting meaning for us. These two famous Symphonies express two aspects of life: drama and peace, man’s struggle against an adverse destiny and the cheering immersion in the bucolic environment.

Beethoven worked on these two works, in particular on their completion, almost contemporaneously. So much so that they were performed for the first time together – as this evening – in the memorable concert of December 22, 1808, at Vienna. The message I would like to draw today is this: To attain peace one must be committed, leaving violence and arms to one side, committed to personal and community conversion, with dialogue, with the patient search for possible understandings

Hence we thank from our heart Maestro Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for having given us witness of this way. To each of them, the wish and prayer to continue to spread the hope of peace in the world through the universal language of music.

Thank you and good evening to all!

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Pope's Address in Remembering Vatican II
"I was there, a theologian of no great importance ... But it was a great gift for me"

NEMI, Italy, JULY 10, 2012 - Here is a translation of the brief, unscripted address Benedict XVI gave Monday when he made a private visit to the "Ad Gentes Centre" of the Missionaries of the Divine Word, located in the village of Nemi, close to his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

In that building, then called the International Centre of the Society of the Divine Word, the Vatican Council II Commission on Missions met in 1965.

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I am really pleased to have the possibility to see this House in Nemi again after 47 years. I have a beautiful memory of it, perhaps the most beautiful memory of the whole Council. I was living in the center of Rome, in the Santa Maria dell Anima College, with all the noise: all this is also beautiful. But to be here surrounded by green, to have this breath of nature and also this freshness of the air, was already in itself a lovely thing. And then there was the company of so many great theologians, with the important and beautiful task to prepare a decree on the mission.

I remember first of all the General of that time, Father Schutte, who had suffered in China, he was condemned and then expelled. He was full of missionary dynamism, of the need to give a new thrust to the missionary spirit. And I was there, a theologian of no great importance, very young, invited I know not why. But it was a great gift for me.

Then there was Fulton Sheen, who fascinated us in the evening with his talks; Father Congar and great <missiologists> of Leuven. For me it was a spiritual enrichment, a great gift. It was a decree without great controversies. There was this controversy, which I never really understood, between the school of Leuven and that of Munster: is the principal aim of the mission the implantation Ecclesiae or the Evangelii proclamation? However, everything converged in the unique dynamism of the need to take the light of the Word of God, the light of the love of God to the world and to give new joy to this proclamation.

And thus a new and beautiful decree was born in those days, accepted almost unanimously by all the Conciliar Fathers, and, for me, it is also a very good complement to Lumen Gentium, because you find in it a Trinitarian ecclesiology, which stems above all from the classic idea of the bonum diffusivum sui, the good that has need to communicate itself, to give itself: it cannot remain in itself, the good thing, goodness itself is essentially communicatio. And this appears already in the Trinitarian mystery, in the interior of God, and it is diffused in the history of salvation and in our need to give to others the good we have received.

Thus, with these memories I have often thought of these days at Nemi which are in me, as I said, an essential part of the experience of the Council. And I am happy to see that your Society is flourishing – the Father General spoke of 6,000 members in so many countries, of so many nations. Clearly the missionary dynamism is alive, and it is alive only if there is the joy of the Gospel, if we are in the experience of the good that comes from God and which must and wants to communicate itself. Thank you for your dynamism. I wish every blessing and much inspiration from the Lord for this Chapter: may the inspired forces themselves of the Holy Spirit, which have accompanied you almost visibly these days, be present again among you and help you find the way for your Company as for the mission of the Gospel ad gentes for the forthcoming years. Thank you all. May the Lord bless you. Pray for me, as I pray for you. Thank you!

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On a Prophet in His Own Land
"Christ's miracles are not exhibitions of power but signs of God's love"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 9, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

[Immediately following the Holy Father’s opening salutation, the Dresden Boys’ Choir began singing.]

We thank the children of Dresden who sang so well.

I would like briefly to reflect on the Gospel of this Sunday, a text in which we find the celebrated dictum “Nemo propheta in patria,” that is, no prophet is gladly accepted among his own people, who watched him grow up (cf. Mark 6:4). In effect, after Jesus left Nazareth after about 30 years and had already for some time been preaching and healing elsewhere, he returned to his town and began to teach in the synagogue. His fellow townsmen “were stupefied” by his wisdom and, knowing him as “Mary’s son,” the “carpenter” who had lived with them, instead of welcoming him with faith they were scandalized by him (cf. Mark 6:2-3).

This is an understandable reaction since familiarity on a human level makes it hard to go further and open up to the divine dimension. It is difficult for them to believe that this carpenter would be the Son of God. Jesus himself brings up the example of the prophets of Israel, who in their own country were objects of scorn, and he identifies with them. Because of this spiritual closedness, in Nazareth Jesus was “not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them (Mark 6:5). In fact, Christ’s miracles are not exhibitions of power but signs of God’s love, which actualizes itself where it meets man’s faith, it is a reciprocity. Origen writes: “In the same way that some bodies are attracted to each other, as the magnet to iron … so also faith exerts an attraction on divine power” (Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, 10, 19).

It seems therefore that Jesus is able to have some success in Nazareth despite the poor reception he receives. However, at the end of the account, we find an observation that states the contrary. The evangelist writes that Jesus “marveled at their lack of faith” (Mark 6:6). Jesus’ surprise corresponds to the stupor of his fellow townsmen, who are scandalized. Even Jesus is in a certain sense scandalized! Although he knows that no prophet is gladly accepted in his homeland, he regards the closure of his people’s hearts as strange, inscrutable: how is it possible that they do not recognize the light of Truth? Why do they not open themselves to the goodness of God who wanted to share our humanity? In effect, the man Jesus of Nazareth is the transparency of God, in him God lives fully. And while we, we too, always seek other signs, other mighty deeds, we do not see that he is the true Lord, God made flesh, he is the greatest miracle of the universe: all of God’s love enclosed within a human heart, in the countenance of a man.

The Virgin Mary is she who truly understood this reality, blessed because she believed (cf. Luke 1:45). Mary is not scandalized by her Son: her wonder over him is full of faith, full of love and joy, in seeing him at the same time so human and so divine. Let us therefore learn from her, our Mother in the faith, to recognize the perfect revelation of God in the humanity of Christ.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted in various languages the pilgrims gathered at the apostolic palace at Castel Gandolfo. In Italian he said:]

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On Healing, Physical and Spiritual
'What we must ask for insistently is a more solid faith so that the Lord might renew our life"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 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 the evangelist Mark presents us with the account of two miraculous healings of women: the daughter of the synagogue leader and the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage (cf. Mark 5:21-43). They are two episodes that can be interpreted at two different levels; the purely physical level: Jesus looks upon human suffering and heals the body; and the spiritual level: Jesus has come to heal the human heart and to grant salvation to those who believe in him. In the first episode, in fact, upon hearing that the little daughter of Jarius is dead, Jesus tells the head of the synagogue: “Do not be afraid, just have faith!” (5:36), brings him with him to the daughter and exclaims: “Little girl, I say to you: get up!” (5:41). And she got up and began to walk. St. Jerome comments on these words, underscoring Jesus’ salvific power: “Little girl, stand up through me: not by your own merit but by my grace. Stand up through me: the healing did not depend on your virtues” (Homilies on Mark, 3). The second episode, that of the woman with the hemorrhage, again manifests how Jesus came to liberate human beings in their totality. In fact, the miracle takes place in two stages: first there is the physical healing but this is closely linked to the deeper healing, that which grants God’s grace to those who welcome him in faith. Jesus says to the woman: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be healed of the evil that afflicts you!” (Mark 5:34).

These two stories of healing are an invitation for us to overcome the purely horizontal and materialistic vision of life. We rightly ask God for so many healings from our problems, from concrete necessities. But what we must ask for insistently is a more solid faith so that the Lord might renew our life, and a firm trust in his love, in his providence that does not abandon us.

Jesus, who is attentive to human suffering, turns our thoughts also to all those who help the sick to carry their cross, especially doctors, health care workers and those who oversee religious assistance in places of care. They are “resources of love,” who bring serenity and hope to the suffering. In the encyclical “Deus caritas est” I observed that, in this precious service, first of all there must be professional competence – it is a first fundamental necessity – but is not enough by itself. In fact, we are dealing with human beings here, who need humanity and the attentive heart. “Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a ‘formation of the heart’: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to the other” (n. 31).

Let us ask the Virgin Mary to accompany us on our journey of faith and our commitment of concrete love, especially those who are in need, as we invoke her maternal intercession for our brothers who live with bodily and spiritual suffering.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In English he said:]

I welcome the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, Jesus restores life to a little girl in response to the faith-filled prayer of her father. In this miracle may we see an invitation to grow in our own faith, to trust in the Lord’s promise of abundant life, and to pray for all those in need of his healing touch. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a peaceful month of July and a good vacation to all. Have a good vacation and a good Sunday!

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Papal Greeting to Metropolitan Archbishops
The Church is "called to make Christ known and proclaim the Gospel to all continents in various languages"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2012 - Here is a translation of the brief address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the 43 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he had imposed the pallium on Friday, and their delegations.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to greet all of you, who have come to Rome, to the tomb of the Apostles, with your metropolitan archbishops, upon whom I had the joy to bestow the pallium yesterday in the Vatican Basilica during the course of a solemn celebration commemorating the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. In this meeting of ours we wish, as it were, to continue the climate of profound ecclesial communion, which we experienced yesterday. In fact, the presence of the metropolitan archbishops, who come from different parts of the world, manifests the visible universality of the Church, called to make Christ known and proclaim the Gospel to all continents in various languages.

I greet each of you with affection, venerable and esteemed metropolitan brothers, and with you I greet your relatives, friends and the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, who are your crown in these significant days. I also greet the dioceses from which you hail.

[Following this general greeting the Holy Father then addressed each group in the appropriate language. In English he said:]

My thoughts turn in the first place to you, dear pastors of the Church

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking Metropolitan Archbishops upon whom I conferred the Pallium yesterday. From the United States of America: Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver. From Papua New Guinea: Archbishop Francesco Panfilo of Rabaul. From the Philippines: Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, Archbishop Jose Advincula of Capiz, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, Archbishop John Du of Palo. From Bangladesh: Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka. From the Antilles: Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port of Spain. From Zambia: Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama. From India: Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta. From Pakistan: Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi. From Australia: Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane. From Korea: Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo Jung of Seoul. From Nigeria: Archbishop Alfred Martins of Lagos. I also welcome their family members, their relatives, friends and the faithful of their respective Archdioceses who have come to Rome to pray with them and to share their joy.

[Concluding the audience in Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, bring back to your communities the experience of intense spirituality and authentic evangelical unity of these days so that it touch the heart of believers and reverberate through the whole society, leaving traces of good. May the intercession of the heavenly Mother of God and the Apostles Peter and Paul obtain for the Christian people the capacity to make the words of truth that the Lord Jesus left us as a gift shine in the world through the tenacious and limpid witness of individuals. With these sentiments I bestow from my heart the Apostolic Benediction.

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Pope's Homily on Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
"The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Friday, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica concelebrated with 43 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he imposed the pallium.

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Your Eminences,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered around the altar for our solemn celebration of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal Patrons of the Church of Rome. Present with us today are the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, who have just received the Pallium, and to them I extend a particular and affectionate greeting. Also present is an eminent Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and I welcome them with fraternal and heartfelt gratitude. In an ecumenical spirit, I am also pleased to greet and to thank the Choir of Westminster Abbey, who are providing the music for this liturgy alongside the Cappella Sistina. I also greet the Ambassadors and civil Authorities present. I am grateful to all of you for your presence and your prayers.

In front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as is well known, there are two imposing statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, easily recognizable by their respective attributes: the keys in the hand of Peter and the sword held by Paul. Likewise, at the main entrance to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, there are depictions of scenes from the life and the martyrdom of these two pillars of the Church. Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ. In Rome, their bond as brothers in the faith came to acquire a particular significance. Indeed, the Christian community of this City considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome. A further parallel comes to mind, still on the theme of brothers: whereas the first biblical pair of brothers demonstrate the effects of sin, as Cain kills Abel, yet Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them. Only by following Jesus does one arrive at this new brotherhood: this is the first and fundamental message that today’s solemnity presents to each one of us, the importance of which is mirrored in the pursuit of full communion, so earnestly desired by the ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome, as indeed by all Christians.

In the passage from Saint Matthew’s Gospel that we have just heard, Peter makes his own confession of faith in Jesus, acknowledging him as Messiah and Son of God. He does so in the name of the other Apostles too. In reply, the Lord reveals to him the mission that he intends to assign to him, that of being the "rock", the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (cf. Mt 16:16-19). But in what sense is Peter the rock? How is he to exercise this prerogative, which naturally he did not receive for his own sake? The account given by the evangelist Matthew tells us first of all that the acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity made by Simon in the name of the Twelve did not come "through flesh and blood", that is, through his human capacities, but through a particular revelation from God the Father. By contrast, immediately afterwards, as Jesus foretells his passion, death and resurrection, Simon Peter reacts on the basis of "flesh and blood": he "began to rebuke him, saying, this shall never happen to you" (16:22). And Jesus in turn replied: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me ..." (16:23). The disciple who, through God’s gift, was able to become a solid rock, here shows himself for what he is in his human weakness: a stone along the path, a stone on which men can stumble – in Greek, skandalon. Here we see the tension that exists between the gift that comes from the Lord and human capacities; and in this scene between Jesus and Simon Peter we see anticipated in some sense the drama of the history of the papacy itself, characterized by the joint presence of these two elements: on the one hand, because of the light and the strength that come from on high, the papacy constitutes the foundation of the Church during its pilgrimage through history; on the other hand, across the centuries, human weakness is also evident, which can only be transformed through openness to God’s action.

And in today’s Gospel there emerges powerfully the clear promise made by Jesus: "the gates of the underworld", that is, the forces of evil, will not prevail, "non praevalebunt". One is reminded of the account of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, when entrusting him with his mission: "Behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you - non praevalebunt -, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you!" (Jer 1:18-19). In truth, the promise that Jesus makes to Peter is even greater than those made to the prophets of old: they, indeed, were threatened only by human enemies, whereas Peter will have to be defended from the "gates of the underworld", from the destructive power of evil. Jeremiah receives a promise that affects him as a person and his prophetic ministry; Peter receives assurances concerning the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself.

Let us move on now to the symbol of the keys, which we heard about in the Gospel. It echoes the oracle of the prophet Isaiah concerning the steward Eliakim, of whom it was said: "And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" (Is 22:22). The key represents authority over the house of David. And in the Gospel there is another saying of Jesus addressed to the scribes and the Pharisees, whom the Lord reproaches for shutting off the kingdom of heaven from people (cf. Mt 23:13). This saying also helps us to understand the promise made to Peter: to him, inasmuch as he is the faithful steward of Christ’s message, it belongs to open the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to judge whether to admit or to refuse (cf. Rev 3:7). Hence the two images – that of the keys and that of binding and loosing – express similar meanings which reinforce one another. The expression "binding and loosing" forms part of rabbinical language and refers on the one hand to doctrinal decisions, and on the other hand to disciplinary power, that is, the faculty to impose and to lift excommunication. The parallelism "on earth ... in the heavens" guarantees that Peter’s decisions in the exercise of this ecclesial function are valid in the eyes of God.

In Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, dedicated to the life of the ecclesial community, we find another saying of Jesus addressed to the disciples: "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 18:18). Saint John, in his account of the appearance of the risen Christ in the midst of the Apostles on Easter evening, recounts these words of the Lord: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23). In the light of these parallels, it appears clearly that the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins. And this grace, which defuses the powers of chaos and evil, is at the heart of the Church’s mystery and ministry. The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sayings concerning the authority of Peter and the Apostles make it clear that God’s power is love, the love that shines forth from Calvary. Hence we can also understand why, in the Gospel account, Peter’s confession of faith is immediately followed by the first prediction of the Passion: through his death, Jesus conquered the powers of the underworld, with his blood he poured out over the world an immense flood of mercy, which cleanses the whole of humanity in its healing waters.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I mentioned at the beginning, the iconographic tradition represents Saint Paul with a sword, and we know that this was the instrument with which he was killed. Yet as we read the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we discover that the image of the sword refers to his entire mission of evangelization. For example, when he felt death approaching, he wrote to Timothy: "I have fought the good fight" (2 Tim 4:7). This was certainly not the battle of a military commander but that of a herald of the Word of God, faithful to Christ and to his Church, to which he gave himself completely. And that is why the Lord gave him the crown of glory and placed him, together with Peter, as a pillar in the spiritual edifice of the Church.

Dear Metropolitan Archbishops, the Pallium that I have conferred on you will always remind you that you have been constituted in and for the great mystery of communion that is the Church, the spiritual edifice built upon Christ as the cornerstone, while in its earthly and historical dimension, it is built on the rock of Peter. Inspired by this conviction, we know that together we are all cooperators of the truth, which as we know is one and "symphonic", and requires from each of us and from our communities a constant commitment to conversion to the one Lord in the grace of the one Spirit. May the Holy Mother of God guide and accompany us always along the path of faith and charity. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.

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Papal Address to Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
"We Wish to Praise the Lord For the Rediscovery of the Profound Fraternity That Binds Us"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2012 .- Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address to the Members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who arrived in Rome, as is tradition, on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.

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“O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:4)

Dear Brothers in Christ,

On this joyful occasion of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the City and of the Church of Rome, I am particularly pleased to receive you with the words of the Psalm which will be sung in the solemn Eucharistic liturgy in honor of these two great Apostles and Martyrs. Expressing to you a warm welcome, I ask you to refer to His Holiness Bartholomew I and to the Holy Synod my sentiments of fraternal affection and heartfelt gratitude for having sent this year, worthy representatives to take part in this celebration of ours, and to give a cordial greeting to the clergy, to the monks and to all the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Your presence here in Rome, on the occasion of the liturgical feast of Saints Peter and Paul, gives us a special opportunity to raise our song of praise for the wonders that divine grace, from which every good comes, accomplished in the life of the two Apostles, rendering them worthy of entering triumphantly into heavenly glory, after having passed by the regenerating cleansing of martyrdom. Moreover, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul gives us the possibility to thank the Lord together for the extraordinary works that He has accomplished and continues to accomplish, through the Apostles, in the life of the Church. It is their preaching, sealed with the testimony of martyrdom, the firm and perennial foundation on which the Church is built, and it is in the fidelity to the deposit of the faith transmitted by them, that we find the roots of the communion we already experience among us.

Venerable brothers, in our meeting today, while we entrust to the intercession of the glorious Apostles and Martyrs Peter and Paul our prayer, so that the Lord, rich in mercy, will grant us to arrive soon the blessed day in which we will be able to share the Eucharistic table, we raise our voices in a hymn of praise to God for the path of peace and reconciliation that He gives us to follow together. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Vatican II Ecumenical Council, which will be celebrated solemnly next October 11. It is in fact in concomitance with this Council, at which, as you well know, some representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate were present in the capacity of fraternal Delegates, that a new and important phase began of relations between our Churches. We wish to praise the Lord first of all for the rediscovery of the profound fraternity that binds us, and also for the path followed in these years by the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church as a whole, with the hope that in the present phase progress will also be made.

Recalling the anniversary of Vatican Council II, it seems fitting to me to recall the figure and activity of the unforgettable Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, of whom will be observed in a few days the 40th anniversary of his death. Patriarch Athenagoras, together with Blessed Pope John XXIII and the Servant of God Paul VI, animated by that passion for the unity of the Church springing from faith in Christ the Lord, were promoters of courageous initiatives that opened the way to renew relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Catholic Church. It is a motive of particular joy for me to see how His Holiness Bartholomew I follows, with renewed fidelity and fecund creativity, the path traced by his Predecessors the Patriarchs Athenagoras and Dimitrios, distinguishing himself at the international level for his openness to the dialogue between Christians and for his commitment to the service of proclaiming the Gospel in the contemporary world.

Eminence, dear members of the Delegation, thank you once again for your presence here in our midst. I assure you of my prayer that the Lord may grant health and strength to His Holiness Bartholomew I and that He may give prosperity and peace to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. May God Almighty give us the gift of an ever fuller communion according to His will, so that “with one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32) we will always be able to exalt His name.

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On Prayer in St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians
"To learn the mind of Christ is the way of Christian life"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in the Paul VI Audience Hall. Pope Benedict today continued his catecheses on prayer by reflecting on the Christological hymn contained in St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Our prayer is made up, as we have seen over the past Wednesdays, of silences and words, of song and gesture involving the whole person: from the mouth to the mind, from the heart to the whole body. It is a characteristic we find in Jewish prayer, especially in the Psalms. Today I would like to speak about one of the Christian tradition’s most ancient songs and hymns, which St. Paul puts before us in what, in a certain sense, is his spiritual testament: The Letter to the Philippians. It is, in fact, a letter that the Apostle dictated while in prison, perhaps in Rome. He feels death approaching, for he states that his life will be offered as a libation (cf. Philippians 2:17).

Despite this situation of grave danger to his physical safety, throughout the entire text St. Paul expresses joy in being a disciple of Christ, in being able to go to meet Him, so much so that he sees death not as loss but as gain. In the Letter’s final chapter, there is a forceful invitation to joy, a fundamental characteristic of being Christian and of our prayer. St. Paul writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). But how can one rejoice in the face of an already imminent death sentence? Whence, or better, from whom does St. Paul draw the serenity, the strength and the courage to meet martyrdom and the shedding of his blood?

We find the answer at the heart of the Letter to the Philippians, in what the Christian tradition calls carmen Christo, the hymn for Christ, or more commonly, the “Christological hymn”; a hymn in which all attention is centered upon the “sentiments” of Christ; that is, on his way of thinking and on his concrete and lived attitude. This prayer begins with an exhortation: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). These sentiments are presented in the verses that follow: love, generosity, humility, obedience to God, the gift of self. It is not only and not simply a matter of following Jesus’ example, as something moral, but of involving the whole of one’s existence in his way of thinking and acting. Prayer must lead to an ever more profound knowledge and loving union with the Lord, in order to think, to act and to love like Him, in Him and for Him. To practice this, to learn the mind of Christ, is the way of Christian life.

Now I would like to consider briefly some of the elements of this dense hymn, which summarizes the entire divine and human itinerary of the Son of God and encompasses the whole of human history: from being in the condition of God, to the Incarnation, to death on the cross and to exaltation in the glory of the Father, the conduct of Adam and of man from the beginning is also implied. This hymn to Christ commences with his being “en morphe tou Theou”, the Greek text says; that is, from being “in the form of God” or better still, in the condition of God. Jesus, true God and true man, does not live out his “being like God” in order to prevail and to impose his supremacy; he does not look upon it as a possession, a privilege, or a treasure to be jealously guarded. Indeed, “he strips himself”, he empties himself -- assuming, the Greek text reads, “morphe doulos”, the “form of a slave”, the human reality marked by suffering, poverty and death; he likened himself fully to men, except in sin, so as to act as a servant dedicated to the service of others. In his regard, the 4th century Eusebius of Cesarea states: “He took upon himself the hardships of the members who suffer. He made our humble maladies his own. He suffered and toiled for our sake: this, in conformity with his great love for humanity” (The Evangelical Demonstration, 10,1,22).

St. Paul continues on by outlining the “historical” framework wherein Jesus’ self-abasement was realized: “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death” (Philippians 2:8). The Son of God truly became man and walked a path of complete obedience and fidelity to the Father’s will, even to the supreme sacrifice of his life. Still more, as the Apostle specifies, “unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). On the cross, Jesus Christ reached the greatest level of humiliation, since crucifixion was the punishment reserved for slaves and not for those who were free: “mors turpissima crucis” -- [most shameful death of the cross], writes Cicero (cf. In Verrem, V, 64, 165).

In the Cross of Christ, man is redeemed and Adam’s experience is reversed: Adam, created in the image and likeness of God, sought to be like God by his own strength, to put himself in God’s place, and thus did he lose the original dignity given him. Jesus, instead, was “in the condition of God”, but he humbled himself, he immersed himself in the human condition in total fidelity to the Father, in order to redeem the Adam within us and to restore to man the dignity he had lost. The Fathers emphasize that He became obedient, thus restoring to human nature, through his humanity and obedience, what had been lost through Adam’s disobedience.

In prayer, in our relationship with God, we open our minds, hearts and wills to the action of the Holy Spirit in order to enter into this same dynamic of life. As St. Cyril of Alexandria affirms, whose feast we celebrate today: “The work of the Spirit seeks to transform us by means of grace into the perfect copy of his humiliation” (Festal Letter 10, 4). Human logic, instead, often looks for self-realization through power, domination, and powerful means. Man continues to want to construct the tower of Babel by his own power, in order to reach the heights of God unaided, to be like God. The Incarnation and the Cross remind us that full realization resides in conforming one’s human will to the Father’s, in being emptied of egoism in order to be filled with love, with the charity of God, and thus to become truly capable of loving others. Man does not find himself by remaining closed in within himself, by affirming himself. Man finds himself only by going out of himself; we only find ourselves if we go out of ourselves. And if Adam wanted to imitate God, this in itself was not bad, but he erred in his idea about God. God is not one who wills only greatness. God is love, who gives himself first in the Trinity, and then in creation. And to imitate God means going out of oneself; it means giving oneself in love.

In the second part of this “Christological hymn” contained in the Letter to the Philippians, the subject changes; no longer is it Christ, but rather God the Father. St. Paul emphasizes that it is precisely on account of his obedience to the will of the Father that “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). He who humbled himself profoundly by taking on the condition of a slave is highly exalted; he is raised above all things by the Father, who bestows on him the name “Kyrios”, “Lord”, i.e. supreme dignity and lordship. Before this new name, in fact, which is the very name of God in the Old Testament, “every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess: ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’, to the glory of God the Father” (Verses 10-11).

The Jesus who is exalted is he who was present at the Last Supper, who lays aside his garments, girds himself with a towel, bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and asks them: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:12-14). This is always important to remember in our prayer and in our lives: “The ascent to God occurs precisely in the descent of humble service, in the descent of love, for love is God’s essence, and is thus the power that truly purifies man and enables him to perceive God and to see him” (Jesus of Nazareth, New York 2007, p.95).

The hymn from the Letter to the Philippians here offers us two important lessons for our prayer. The first is in the invocation “Lord” addressed to Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father: He is the only Lord of our lives, amid the many “rulers” who want to direct and guide them. For this reason, it is necessary to have a scale of values in which primacy is given to God, so that with St. Paul we affirm: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8). Encountering the Risen One made him understand that He is the only treasure for which it is worth spending one’s entire life.

The second lesson is the prostration, the “bending of every knee” in heaven and on earth that recalls an expression of the Prophet Isaiah, where he points to the adoration that every creature owes to God (cf. 45:23). Genuflection before the Most Blessed Sacrament or falling to ones knees in prayer expresses precisely this attitude of adoration before God, also with the body. Hence the importance of making this gesture not through force of habit or hastily, but with deep awareness. When we kneel before the Lord we confess our faith in Him, we acknowledge that He is the only Lord of our lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, in our prayer let us fix our gaze on the Crucified; let us remain in adoration more often before the Eucharist so as to allow our lives to enter into the love of God, who humbly condescended in order to raise us to himself. At the beginning of this catechesis, we asked ourselves how St. Paul could rejoice in the face of his imminent martyrdom and the shedding of his blood. This was possible only because the Apostle never removed his gaze from Christ, to the point of being conformed to him even in death, “in the hope of attaining the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:11). Like St. Francis before the Crucifix, let us also say: “Oh most High and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Give me a right faith, certain hope and perfect charity, judgment and knowledge that I may carry out your true and holy will. Amen. (cf. Prayer before the Crucifix: FF [276]).


[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As part of our continuing reflection on prayer in the letters of Saint Paul, we now turn to the great “Christological hymn” found in the Letter to the Philippians (2:6-11). Paul, a prisoner for the Gospel, exhorts his hearers to that deep joy which is the fruit of our imitation of God’s Son, who humbled himself and took on our human nature. Christ’s complete obedience to the will of the Father, even to death on the cross, reverses the sin of Adam and restores our original dignity. Therefore God highly exalted him and gave him the name of “Lord”. At the name of Jesus, then, every knee must bend in heaven, on earth and under the earth (vv. 9-11). As Jesus’ exaltation took place through his abasement, so in our lives and in our prayer we discover that, by lowering ourselves in humility and love, we are lifted up to God. May we more frequently bend the knee in praise and worship of Christ’s divinity and his Lordship over all creation. In our prayer, may we be ever more faithful witnesses of his sovereignty in our every thought, word and deed.

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Pope's Address to Earthquake Victims
"In all the fear and anguish, there is above all the certainty that God is with us"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during his visit to the region of northern Italy recently struck by earthquakes.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Thank you for your welcome!

From the first days of the earthquake that struck you, I have always been close to you with my prayer and concern. However, when I saw that the tests became even harder, I felt ever more intensely the need to come in person among you. And I thank the Lord who has granted this to me!

With great affection I am now with you, gathered here, and I embrace with my mind and heart all the regions, all the peoples who have suffered damages from the quake, especially the families and communities that mourn the deceased: may the Lord receive them in his peace. I would have liked to visit all the communities, to make myself present in a personal and concrete way, but you know well how difficult it would have been. At this moment, however, I would like everyone, in every region, to feel how the Pope’s heart is close to your heart to console you, but above all to encourage and support you. I greet the Lord Minister Representative of the Government, the Head of the Department of Civil Protection, and the Honorable Vasco Errani, President of the Emilia-Romagna Region, to whom I give my heartfelt thanks for the words he addressed to me in the name of the institutions and of the civil community. I wish to thank, then, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop of Bologna, for the affectionate expressions he addressed to me, and from which emerges the strength of your hearts, which did not break, but are profoundly united in faith and in hope. I greet and thank brother bishops and priests, the representatives of the different religious and social realities, the Forces of Order, the volunteers: it is important to offer a concrete testimony of solidarity and unity. I am grateful for this great testimony, above all of the volunteers!

As I was saying to you, I felt the need to come among you, even if for a brief moment. Also when I was in Milan, at the beginning of this month for the World Meeting of Families, I would have liked to come to visit you, and my thought often went to you. I knew in fact that, in addition to suffering the material consequences, you were tested in spirit, by the protraction of the shocks, also strong, as well as by the loss of some symbolical buildings of your regions, and among these, particularly, so many churches. Here at Rovereto di Novi, in the collapse of the church, which I have just seen, Father Ivan Martini lost his life. Rendering homage to his memory, I address a particular greeting to you, dear priests, and to all brothers, who are demonstrating, as has already happened in other difficult hours of the history of these lands, your generous love for the people of God.

As you know, we priests – but also the Religious and not a few laymen – pray every day with the so-called “Breviary” which contains the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church which spans the day. We pray with the Psalms, according to an order which is the same for the whole Catholic Church, throughout the world. Why do I say this to you? Because in these days, while praying Psalm 46, I found this expression which touched me: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2-3).

How many times have I read these words? Innumerable times! I have been a priest for 61 years! And yet at certain moments, such as this one, they strike me intensely, because they touch on life, they give voice to an experience that you are now living, and that all those who pray share. But – look – these words of the Psalm not only strike me because they use the image of the earthquake, but above all because of what they affirm regarding our interior attitude in face of the ravages of nature: an attitude of great security, based on the stable, immovable rock that God is. We “will not fear though the earth should change” – says the Psalmist – because “God is our refuge and strength,” He is “a very present help in trouble.”

Dear brothers and sisters, these words seem to contrast with the fear that is inevitably felt after an experience as that which you went through. An immediate reaction, which can be imprinted more profoundly, if the phenomenon is prolonged. But, in reality, the Psalm does not refer to this type of fear, which is natural, and the security it affirms is not that of supermen who are not touched by normal feelings. The security of which it speaks is that of faith, by which, yes, there can be fear, anguish – Jesus also felt these, as we know – but, in all the fear and anguish, there is above all the certainty that God is with us; as the child who knows that he can always count on his mother and father, because he feels loved, wanted, no matter what happens. This is how we are in respect to God: small, fragile, but safe in his hands, that is, entrusted to his Love which is solid as a rock. This Love we see in Christ crucified, is at the same time is the sign of pain, of suffering, of love. It is the revelation of God-Love, in solidarity with us to extreme humiliation.

On this rock, with this firm hope, one can construct, one can reconstruct. On the ruins of the post-War – not only material – Italy was certainly reconstructed thanks also to the help received, but above all thanks to the faith of so many people animated by the spirit of true solidarity, of the will to give a future to families, a future of liberty and peace. You are people whom all Italians esteem for your humanity and sociability, for your laboriousness united to jovialness. All this has now been put to a hard test by this situation, but it must not and cannot affect what you are as a people, your history and your culture. Remain faithful to your vocation of fraternal and solidaristic people, and face everything with patience and determination, rejecting the temptations that unfortunately are connected to these moments of weakness and need.

The situation you are living has brought to light an aspect that I would like you to have very present in your heart: you are not and will not be alone! In these days, amid so much destruction and so much grief, you saw and felt how many people were moved to express their closeness, solidarity, affection; and this through so many concrete signs and aid. My presence in your midst is one of these signs of love and hope. Looking at your lands I have been profoundly moved in face of so many wounds, but I have also seen so many hands that want to care for you; I have seen that life begins again, that it wishes to begin again with strength and courage, and this is the most beautiful and luminous sign.

From this place I would like to make a strong appeal to institutions, to every citizen to be, also in the difficulties of the moment, as the Good Samaritan of the Gospel who does not pass by indifferently before one who is in need but, with love, bends down, helps him, stays with him, taking charge to the end of the needs of the other (cf. Luke 10:29-37). The Church is close to you and will be close to you with her prayer and with the concrete aid of her organizations, in particular Caritas, which will be committed also in the reconstruction of the community fabric of the parishes.

Dear friends, I bless you one and all, and bear you with great affection in my heart.

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On the Birth of St. John the Baptist
"Let us heed his voice today, and make room for the Lord in our hearts"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 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, June 24, we celebrate the solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. Apart from the Virgin Mary, the Baptist is the only saint whose birth is celebrated by the liturgy and it does so because this birth is closely connected with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. From his mother’s womb, in fact, John is the precursor of Jesus: his miraculous conception, which is announced to Mary by the angel as sign that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), occurred six months before the great miracle that gives us salvation, the union of God with man by the work of the Holy Spirit.

The four Gospels give great prominence to the figure of John the Baptist, who, as the prophet who concludes the Old Testament and inaugurates the New one, points to Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One of the Lord. In effect, it will be the same Jesus to speak of John in these terms: “He is the one of whom it is written: Behold, I send my messenger before you, before you to prepare the way. In truth I say to you: among the men born of women there is none greater than John the Baptist; but the smallest in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:10-11).

John’s father, Zachariah – the husband of Elizabeth, Mary’s relative – was a priest of the Old Testament worship. He did not immediately believe in the announcement of a paternity that, by now, he could not hope for, and so remained mute until the day of the child’s circumcision. He and his wife gave the child the name indicated by God, John, which means “the Lord makes grace.” Animated by the Holy Spirit, Zachariah spoke thus of his son’s mission: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High before you will go before the Lord and prepare his way, to give his people the knowledge of salvation in the remission of their sins” (Luke 1:76-77). All this was manifested 30 years later, when John began baptizing in the Jordan River, calling the people to prepare themselves, with this gesture of penance, for the imminent coming of the Messiah, whom God had revealed to him during his sojourn in the desert of Judea. This was why he was called the “Baptist,” that is, the “Baptizer” (cf. Matthew 3:1-6).

When one day, Jesus came from Nazareth to be baptized himself, John refused at first but then agreed and saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus and heard the voice of the heavenly Father that proclaimed him his Son (cf. Matthew 3:13-17). But the Baptist’s mission was not yet complete: shortly afterward, he was also asked to precede Jesus in violent death: John was decapitated in King Herod’s prison, and in this way bore full witness to the Lamb of God, whom he was the first to recognize and publicly point to.

Dear friends, the Virgin Mary helped her elderly relative Elizabeth to bring her pregnancy with John to term. May she help all to follow Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, whom the Baptist announced with great prophetic humility and ardor.

[After reciting the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today in Italy is the Pope’s Charity Day. I thank all of the parish communities, families and individual faithful for their constant and generous support, which helps many of our brothers in difficulty. In this regard, I remind you that the day after tomorrow, if it please God, I will make a brief visit to the areas struck by the recent earthquake in northern Italy. I wish it to be a sign of the solidarity of the whole Church [with them] and so I invite everyone to accompany me with prayer.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus. This Sunday, we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, the great saint who prepared the way for our Lord. John was a voice, crying in the wilderness, calling God’s people to repentance. Let us heed his voice today, and make room for the Lord in our hearts. May God bless all of you.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good feast day, a good Sunday, a good week. Thank you!

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Papal Address to Italian Agricultural Organization
"The Church is never indifferent to the quality of people's lives, to their working conditions"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he received in audience members of the Italian agricultural organization "Coldiretti," which is celebrating its national conference on the theme "Family agriculture for sustainable development."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am happy to receive you on the occasion of your congress, which has as its theme: “Family Agriculture for Sustainable Development.” This meeting gives me the opportunity to express to the National Confederation of Agricultural Owner-Occupiers (Coldiretti) my appreciation for its commitment in favor of families who live and work in the Italian countryside. I greet you all with affection beginning with the national president, Dr. Sergio Marini, whom I thank for the words with which he made himself spokesman of your sentiments. I greet, then, the national ecclesiastical adviser, the National Council and the other directors of your meritorious Confederation.

Society, the economy <and> work do not only represent secular environments, much less so one foreign to the Christian message, but are places to fecund with the spiritual wealth of the Gospel. The Church, in fact, is never indifferent to the quality of people’s lives, to their working conditions, and she sees the need to take care of man and the contexts in which he lives and produces, so that they will always be genuine human and humanizing places. To this end, the Servant of God Paul VI observed that “the Church has always given special attention to the people of the countryside, opening the way to their human and moral elevation and helping them to fulfill their mission with dignity and awareness of its spiritual and social value” (Address to Direct Cultivators, April 19, 1972).

In her solicitude, the Church is also very happy to involve the various aggregations, such as yours, which inspire their action in the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Through it, in fact, the Church “makes the message of the freedom and redemption wrought by Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom, present in human history; … bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace, in conformity with divine wisdom” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 63).

In fact in the Coldiretti, Catholic teaching on social ethics has had one of its most fertile “laborers,” thanks to the intuition and farsighted wisdom of its founder Paolo Bonomi, who worked in the light of the Gospel of charity and in the wake of the Social Teaching of the Church. He was a person who was very attentive to the promotion of farmers, able to offer them clear guidelines and criteria, which remain essentially valid in our days. Be worthy inheritors of such an ideal rich patrimony! It is up to you, today, to remain faithful to the values acquired, to engage in courageous dialogue with the changing conditions of society. Requested of you, moreover, is a new awareness and a further effort of responsibility in meetings with the agricultural world. You must all feel involved in this mission. Each one must be committed in the role he covers, to support the legitimate interests of the categories he represents, working always with patience and farsightedness, for the purpose of valuing the most noble and qualifying aspects of the human person, the sense of duty, the ability to share and sacrifice, solidarity, observance of the just needs of rest and corporal and even more so, spiritual regeneration.

I know well how much you have at heart to continue in your service of evangelical witness in the agricultural and fishing environment, highlighting those values which make of labor activity a precious instrument for the realization of a more just and human coexistence. I am thinking of respect of the dignity of the person, the search for the common good, honesty and transparency in the management of services, food security and the protection of the environment and the landscape, the promotion of the spirit of solidarity. I encourage you to continue in this work, you yourselves becoming increasingly the ferment of good life, salt of the earth and light of the world (cf. Matthew 5:13-14).

The enduring economic-financial crisis, with the consequent unknowns, puts agricultural and fishing entrepreneurs before unheard and certainly difficult challenges, which you are called to address as Christians, cultivating a renewed and profound sense of responsibility, giving proof of solidarity and sharing. Considering, then, that at the base of the present economic difficulty there is a moral crisis, do your utmost with solicitude so that ethical urgencies maintain the primacy over every other exigency. In fact, the remedy must be taken where the root of the crisis is, fostering the rediscovery of those spiritual values from which ideas, projects and works then spring. As I reminded in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate, “we must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future” (n. 21). On this ethical terrain, it is for the family, the school, the labor union and every other political, cultural and civic institution to carry out an important endeavor of collaboration and connection, of stimulation and promotion, above all in regard to young people. They are charged with objectives and hopes, they seek with generosity to build their future and expect from adults valid examples and serious proposals. We cannot disappoint their expectations!

Dear friends, may your solicitude be to do your utmost not only so that agricultural enterprises and direct cultivators are opportunely protected, but also so that valid social policies are carried out in favor of the person and his professionalism, considering especially the crucial role of the family for the whole society. I encourage you to persevere in your educational and social work, carrying forward with generosity your projects of solidarity, particularly in dealing with the weakest and less guaranteed. Through your social action you witness the novelty of the Gospel, and because of this you are in need of a constant reference to Christ, in prayer, to obtain the necessary spiritual energy to give new vigor to your commitment. From my side, I manifest to you the affection and support of the Church and, while I entrust to the Lord the daily joys and toil of all those who work in the agricultural and fishing sector, I impart from my heart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families, and to all the members.

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Pope's Address to Bishops of Colombia on Ad Limina Visit
"... to recover in the baptized a sense of belonging to the Church and to awaken in them the aspiration to share with others the joy of following Christ"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2012 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to a first group of prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate:

I receive you with great joy, Pastors of the Church of God that journeys in Colombia, who have come to Rome for your ad limina visit and thus tighten the bonds that unite you to this Apostolic See. As Successor of Peter, this is a precious opportunity to reiterate to you my affection and cordiality. I am grateful for the kind words addressed to me in your name by monsignor Rubén Salazar Gómez, archbishop of Bogota and president of the Episcopal Conference, presenting me with the realities that concern you, as well as the challenges that the communities over which you preside in the faith must face. I know the efforts you have made in recent years, both within the Episcopal Conference as well as in your particular Churches, to implement initiatives geared to fomenting a current of renewed and fruitful evangelization. In fact, Colombia is not a stranger to the consequences of forgetfulness of God. Whereas years ago it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural fabric, widely accepted in its reference to the content of the faith and all that was inspired in it, today it does not seem to be so in vast sectors of the society, given the crisis of spiritual and moral values which negatively affects many of your compatriots. Hence, it is indispensable to revive in all the faithful their awareness of being disciples and missionaries of Christ, nourishing the roots of their faith, strengthening their hope and invigorating their testimony of charity.

To this effect, you have molded your evangelizing desires on the Global Plan of the Episcopal Conference (2012-2020), the result of a conscious discernment of the hour the Church is living in Colombia. I want to encourage you to continue following, with tenacity and perseverance, the guidelines set out in it. Do so by strengthening the communion to which Bishops are called in the exercise of their mission as, by agreeing on pastoral approaches and uniting wills, the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to you will bear copious fruits. With this same objective, take advantage of the reflections of the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, as well as the proposals of the “Year of Faith” which I have called, to illustrate your teaching with them and to irrigate your apostolate beneficially.

Growing religious pluralism is a factor that calls for serious consideration. The ever more active presence of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities, not only in Colombia, but also in many regions of Latin America, cannot be ignored or underestimated. In this connection, it is evident that the people of God are called to purify themselves and to revitalize their faith, allowing themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to thus give new thrust to your pastoral action, as “many times sincere people who leave our Church do not do so because of what ‘non-Catholic’ groups believe but, fundamentally, because of what they live; not for doctrinal but for existential reasons; not for strictly dogmatic but for pastoral reasons; not because of theological but methodological problems of our Church” (5th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate, Conclusive Document, n. 225). Hence, it is about being better believers, more pious, affable and welcoming in our parishes and communities, so that no one will feel distant or excluded. Catechesis must be promoted, giving special attention to young people and adults; homilies must be carefully prepared, as well as promoting the teaching of Catholic doctrine in schools and universities. And all this to recover in the baptized a sense of belonging to the Church and to awaken in them the aspiration to share with others the joy of following Christ and of being members of his Mystical Body.

It is also important to appeal to the ecclesial tradition, to promote Marian spirituality and to take care of the rich devotional diversity. To facilitate a serene and open exchange with other Christians, without losing one’s own identity, can also help to improve relations with them and to overcome mistrust and unnecessary confrontations. Moved by apostolic zeal and looking to the common good, do not fail to individualize all that hinders the right progress of Colombia, going out to meet those who are deprived of liberty because of the iniquitous violence. Contemplation of the lacerated face of Christ on the Cross will drive you also to redouble measures and programs tending to support lovingly and to assist all those who are being tried, particularly all those who are victims of natural disasters, the poorest, peasants, the sick and afflicted, multiplying solidaristic initiatives and works of love and mercy in their favor. Do not forget either those who must emigrate from their homeland, because they have lost their work or are keen to find it; those who see their fundamental rights trampled and are forced to leave their homes and abandon their families under the threat of the dark hand of terror and criminality; or those who have fallen into the ill-fated trade of drugs and arms. I wish to encourage you to continue on this path of generous and fraternal service, which is not the result of human calculation but is born of the love of God and of one’s neighbor, source where the Church finds her strength to carry out her task, giving to others what she herself has learned from the sublime example of her Founder.

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, if the grace of God does not precede and sustain him, man soon weakens in his objectives to transform the world. Hence, for the light from on High to continue to make fruitful the prophetic and charitable commitment of the Church in Colombia, you must insist on fostering in your faithful their personal encounter with Jesus Christ, so that they pray without faltering, meditate assiduously on the Word of God and participate more worthily and fervently in the sacraments, celebrated in keeping with the canonical norms and liturgical books. All this will be a propitious way for an ideal itinerary of Christian Initiation, inviting all to conversion and sanctity and will cooperate towards the very necessary ecclesial renewal.

On ending this meeting, I pray to the Almighty that the Name of Our Lord Jesus is glorified in you, and you in Him (cf. 2 TSs1:12). While placing you under the protection of Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira, heavenly Patroness of Colombia, I am happy to impart the implored Apostolic Blessing, as pledge of peace and joy in Jesus Christ, Redeemer of man.

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Papal Address to Aid Groups for Eastern Churches
"Every effort should be made, including by the international community, to bring Syria out of the present situation of violence and crisis"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 21, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address today to members of the Committee of Aid Agencies for Eastern Churches (ROACO).

* * *

Dear Cardinals, Your Beatitudes,

Venerable Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear Members and friends of ROACO,

I am very happy to welcome and greet you in this regular gathering. I extend greetings to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches and President of ROACO and I thank him for the kind words that he addressed to me. I also thank the Archbishop Secretary, the Under-Secretary, the other officials and all those present. I renew my gratitude to the institutions represented here, to the Churches from Europe and America that support them and to the many benefactors. I assure you of my prayers to the Lord, in the consoling certainty that he "loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7).

Above all it is my hope that you will persevere in "that movement of charity which, by Papal mandate, the Congregation oversees, so that the Holy Land and other Eastern regions may receive material and spiritual support in an ordered and just way so as to meet the demands of their ordinary ecclesial life and other special needs" (Address to the Congregation for Eastern Churches, 9 June 2007). In these words I expressed myself five years ago while visiting the Dicastery for Eastern Churches and I now wish to reiterate firmly that same exhortation so as to underline the urgent needs of the present moment.

The present economic and social situation, all the more sensitive on account of its global dimensions, continues to create problems in economically developed areas of the world, and, more seriously, spills over into less affluent regions, seriously compromising their present and their future. The East, the motherland of ancient Christian traditions, is especially affected by this process, which engenders uncertainty and instability that also has an impact on the Church and in the ecumenical and interreligious fields. These factors tend to reopen the endemic wounds of history and they have a damaging effect on dialogue and peaceful cohabitation among peoples. They also weaken authentic respect for human rights, especially the right to personal and community religious freedom. This right should be guaranteed in its public profession, not only in terms of worship, but also in relation to the pastoral, educational, charitable and social activities that are indispensable for its effective exercise.

The representatives of the Holy Land, including the Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Antonio Franco, the Vicar of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Father Custodian, all regular participants in ROACO, are joined this year by the two Major Archbishops, His Beatitude Cardinal George Alencherry of the SyroMalabar Church of India and His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine. Also present are the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, and the Bishop President of Caritas Syria. This gives me the opportunity to open up the gaze of the Church of Rome to the universal dimension that is so deeply rooted and constitutes one of the essential marks of the mystery of the Church. It also gives me the opportunity to reaffirm my closeness to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in Syria, especially innocent children and the defenceless. May our prayer, our commitment and our active brotherhood in Christ, as an oil of consolation, help them not to lose sight of the light of hope in this moment of darkness, and obtain from God wisdom of heart for all in positions of responsibility so that bloodshed and violence, that only bring pain and death, may cease and give way to reconciliation, harmony and peace. Every effort should be made, including by the international community, to bring Syria out of the present situation of violence and crisis, which has already lasted a long time and risks becoming a wider conflict that would have highly negative consequences for the country and the whole region. I also issue an urgent and heartfelt appeal, in view of the extreme need of the population, that the necessary humanitarian assistance be guaranteed, and extended to the many persons who have been forced to leave their homes, some of them becoming refugees in neighbouring countries. The precious gift of human life must always be defended.

Dear friends of ROACO, the Year of Faith, which I have instituted to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, will offer fruitful suggestions to Aid to the Eastern Churches, that are a providential witness to what we read in the Word of God: that faith without works withers and dies (cf. Jas 2:17). May you always be eloquent signs of the charity that flows from the heart of Christ and presents the Church to the world in her true mission and identity by placing her at the service of God who is Love. Today in the Latin Rite we celebrate Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, whom I ask to sustain our thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit and to pray with us so that the Lord may also raise up in our days exemplary agents of charity towards others. May the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God always accompany the Eastern Churches in their homeland and in the diaspora, bringing them encouragement and hope for a renewed service to the Gospel. May she also watch over the coming journey which – God willing – I will make to Lebanon for the solemn closing of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. I look forward to offering the Lebanese Church and Nation my paternal and fraternal embrace. In the meantime I am pleased to impart to your Organizations, to all present, to your dear ones, and to the communities entrusted to your care, my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

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On Prayer of Praise and Thanks
"In prayer we must accustom ourselves to being with God"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2012.- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Very often, our prayer is a request for help in time of need. And this is normal for man, for we need help, we need others, we need God. Thus, it is normal for us to ask something of God, to look to Him for help; and we must bear in mind that the prayer that the Lord taught us -- the “Our Father” -- is a prayer of petition, and with this prayer the Lord teaches us the priorities of our prayer; He cleanses and purifies our desires and in this way cleanses and purifies our hearts. Therefore, though in itself it is normal for us to ask for something in prayer, it should not exclusively be so. There is also reason to give thanks, and if we are attentive we see that we receive so many good things from God: He is so good to us that it is fitting, indeed necessary, to say thank you. And it should also be a prayer of praise: if our heart is open, despite all problems, we see the beauty of His creation, the goodness shown forth in His creation. Therefore, we must not only ask; we must also praise and give thanks: only in this way is our prayer complete.

In his letters, St. Paul not only speaks about prayer; he also refers to prayers -- certainly of petition, but also prayers of praise and blessing for all that God has done and continues to accomplish in human history. Today I would like to consider the first chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, which begins precisely with a prayer that is a hymn of blessing, an expression of thanksgiving and of joy. St. Paul blesses God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for in him He has made known to us “the mystery of his will” (Ephesians 1:9). Truly, there is reason to give thanks if God makes known to us what is hidden: his will with us, for us; “the mystery of his will”.

“Mysterion”: a term that recurs frequently in sacred Scripture and the liturgy. For now, I do not wish to enter into a discussion on philology, but in common language the term indicates what cannot be known, a reality we cannot grasp with our own intelligence. The hymn that opens the Letter to the Ephesians takes us by the hand and leads us towards a deeper meaning of this term and the reality it points to. For believers, “mystery” is not so much the unknown; rather, it is the merciful will of God, His loving plan, which is fully revealed in Jesus Christ and which offers us the possibility to “comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18-19). God’s “hidden mystery” has been revealed, and it is that God loves us, and that he loves us from the beginning, from all eternity.

Let us, then, pause briefly to consider this solemn and profound prayer. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). St. Paul uses the verb “euloghein”, which generally translates the Hebrew word “barak”: it means to praise, to glorify and to thank God the Father as the source of every good and of salvation, as he who “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing”.

The Apostle thanks and praises, but he also reflects on the motives that move man to this praise by presenting the fundamental elements of the divine plan and its stages. First and foremost, we bless God the Father because – as St. Paul writes – He “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and immaculate before him in love” (Verse 4). What makes us holy and immaculate is charity. God called us into existence, to sanctity. And this choice precedes even the creation of the world. We have always been in His plan, in His thoughts. With the prophet Jeremiah we too may affirm that before forming us in our mother’s womb he knew us (cf. Jeremiah 1:5); and knowing us, He loved us. The vocation to holiness, that is to communion with God, belongs to the eternal plan of this God, a plan that extends through history and encompasses all men and women of the world, for it is a universal call. God excludes no one; His plan is one of love. St. John Chysostom affirms: “God has himself made us holy, but we are called to remain holy. He who lives by faith is holy” (Homily on the Letter to the Ephesians 1:1:4).

St. Paul continues: God has predestined us, he has chosen us to be “adopted sons through Jesus Christ”, to be incorporated into His Only begotten Son. The Apostle emphasizes the gratuity of God’s marvelous plan for humanity. God chooses us not because we are good, but because he is good. Antiquity had a saying about goodness: bonum est diffusivum sui: the good communicates itself; it belongs to the very essence of the good to communicate itself, to extend itself. And thus, because God is goodness and is the communication of goodness, he creates because he wills to communicate his goodness to us and to make us good and holy.

At the heart of the prayer of blessing, the Apostle illustrates the way in which the Father’s plan of salvation is realized in Christ, in his beloved Son. He writes: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). The sacrifice of the Cross of Christ is the one and unrepeatable event by which the Father has luminously shown his love for us, not only in words, but in a concrete way. God is so concrete and his love is so concrete that it enters into history, and becomes man in order to feel what it is, and how to live in the created world, and he accepts the path of the suffering of the Passion, undergoing even death. So concrete is God’s love that he participates not only in our being but even in our suffering and death.

Through the sacrifice of the Cross, we become “God’s property”, since the blood of Christ redeems us from our sins, cleanses us of evil and draws us out of the bondage of sin and death. St. Paul invites us to consider the depth of God’s love, which transforms history, which transformed his own life from that of a persecutor of Christians into that of a tireless Apostle of the Gospel. Echoing once again the reassuring words of the Letter to the Romans: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? … For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, not 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 8:31-32;38-39). This certainty … that God is for us: no creature can separate us because His love is stronger. This needs to become a part of our being and part of our consciousness as Christians.

Finally, the divine blessing concludes with an allusion to the Holy Spirit who has been poured out into our hearts -- the Paraclete we have received as a seal of promise: “He,” says St. Paul, “is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14). The Redemption has not yet been concluded, we hear – rather, it will finally attain its full completion once those whom God has acquired have been entirely saved. We are still on the journey of redemption, whose essential reality was given through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are on the way towards definitive redemption, towards the full liberation of God’s children. And the Holy Spirit is the certainty that God will bring to completion his plan of salvation, when he restores “to Christ, the one head, all things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). On this point, St. John Chrysostom comments: “God has chosen us for faith and has impressed in us the seal of the inheritance of future glory” (Homilies on the Letter to the Ephesians 1:11-14). We must accept that the journey of redemption is also our own, for God wants free creatures, who freely say “yes”; but it is first and foremost his journey. We are in his hands and our freedom is to take to the road opened by him. In taking to this road of redemption together with Christ, we feel that the Redemption is being fully realized.

The vision St. Paul presents to us in this great prayer of blessing leads us to contemplate the action of the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, who chose us before the creation of the world; He thought of us and created us; the Son, who has redeemed us by his blood; and the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of our redemption and future glory. Through constant prayer, and through a daily relationship with God, we too, like St. Paul, learn to discern ever more clearly the signs of this plan and of this action: in the beauty of the Creator which shines forth from his creatures (cf. Ephesians 3:9), as St. Francis of Assisi sings: “Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures” (FF 263). Precisely now, during the summer holidays, it is important to be attentive to the beauty of creation and to see the face of God shine forth in this beauty. In their lives, the saints luminously show forth what the power of God can do in man’s weakness. And it can do so also in us. In the whole history of salvation, in which God makes himself close to us and patiently awaits us, he understands our infidelities, he encourages our efforts and he guides us.

In prayer we learn to see the signs of this merciful plan in the Church’s journey. Thus it is that we grow in the love of God and open the door [of our hearts] so that the Most Holy Trinity may come and abide in us, enlighten and warm us and guide our lives. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23), Jesus says as he promises the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will teach them all things. St. Ireneaus once said that, in the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit accustomed himself to being in man. In prayer we must accustom ourselves to being with God. This is very important, that we learn to be with God; in this way, we see that it is beautiful to be with him, which is redemption.

Dear friends, when prayer nourishes our spiritual lives we become capable of holding what St. Paul calls “the mystery of faith” with a clear conscience (cf. 1 Timothy 3:9). Prayer, as a way of “accustoming oneself” to being together with God, produces men and women animated not by egoism, by the desire to possess, by the thirst for power, but by gratuity, by the desire to love, by the thirst to serve -- animated, that is, by God; and it is only in this way that we can bring light to the darkness of the world.

I wish to conclude this catechesis with the epilogue of the Letter to the Romans. With St. Paul, let us also give glory to God for he has told us everything about himself in Jesus Christ and has given us the Comforter, the Spirit of truth. At the end of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory for evermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25-27). Thank you.

[In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As part of our continuing reflection on prayer in the letters of Saint Paul, we now turn to the great prayer of praise and blessing found at the beginning of the Letter to the Ephesians. Paul blesses the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for making known to us "the mystery of his will" (Eph 1:9), his eternal plan for our salvation. Before the creation of the world, God "chose us in Christ" (1:4) to be his adopted children and to receive a glorious inheritance. Through the blood of Christ’s cross, he showed the depth of his merciful love, forgave our sins and reconciled us to himself. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, he gave us the seal and pledge of our definitive redemption in the fullness of time. Paul’s prayer invites us to contemplate the unfolding of God’s saving plan in history and to discern the signs of its presence in our own lives and in the life of the Church. In our own prayer, may we praise the mystery of our election in Christ, and open our hearts and lives ever more fully to the transforming presence of the Blessed Trinity.

I offer a warm welcome to the Forum of Interreligious Harmony from Indonesia. My greeting also goes to the participants in the Vatican Observatory Summer School. I likewise greet the "Wounded Warriors" group from the United States. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from Scotland, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!


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On the Lord's Kingdom
"Our diminutive power ... if it is joined to God's, fears no obstacle, because the Lord's victory is certain"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 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,

Today’s liturgy proposes two brief parables of Jesus: that of the seed that grows by itself and that of the mustard seed (cf. Mark 4:26-34). Through images taken from the agricultural world, the Lord presents the mystery of the Word and Kingdom of God, and he indicates the reasons for our hope and our commitment.

In the first parable the attention is on the dynamism of planting seeds: the seed that is put in the ground germinates and grows by itself while the farmer sleeps and while he is awake. The man sows the seeds in the hope that his work will not be without fruit. The farmer’s trust in the power of the seed and in the goodness of the soil is what sustains him in his daily toils. This parable recalls the mystery of creation and of the redemption, of God’s fecund work in history. He is the Lord of the Kingdom, man is his humble collaborator, who contemplates and rejoices God’s creative action and awaits its fruits with patience. The final harvest turns our mind to God’s conclusive intervention at the end of time, when he will fully realize his Kingdom. The present time is the time of planting, and the growth of the seed is assured by the Lord. Every Christian, then, knows well that he must do all that he can but that the final result depends on God: this knowledge sustains him in daily toil, especially in difficult situations. On this matter St. Ignatius writes: “Act as if everything depended on you, knowing that in reality everything depends on God” (cf. Pedro de Ribadeneira, “Vita di S. Ignazio di Loyola,” Milano 1998).

The second parable also uses the image of planting. Here, however, it is a specific seed, the mustard seed, considered to be the smallest of all seeds. Although it is so mall, it is full of life; as it breaks open a sprout emerges that is able to break through the soil, enter into the light of the sun and grow into “the largest of all the plants in the garden” (cf. Mark 4:32): the weakness and the power of the seed, its destruction is its power. This is how the Kingdom of God is: a reality that is small on a human scale, made up of those who are poor in their hearts, those who do not rely on their own strength, but that of the love of God; it is made up of those who are not important in the world’s eyes. But it is precisely through such as these that Christ’s power shows forth and transforms what is apparently insignificant.

The image of the seed is especially dear to Jesus, because it expresses the mystery of the Kingdom of God well. In today’s two parables the seeds represent a “growth” and a “contrast”: the growth occurs through a dynamism in the seed itself and the contrast is between the littleness of the seed and the greatness of what it produces. The message is clear: the Kingdom of God, even if it demands our cooperation, is first of all a gift of the Lord, grace that precedes man and his works. Our diminutive power, apparently impotent in the face of the world’s problems, if it is joined to God’s, fears no obstacle, because the Lord’s victory is certain. It is the miracle of God’s love that makes every good seed cast upon the soil germinate and grow. And the experience of this love makes us optimists, despite the difficulties, the suffering and evil that we meet. The seed sprouts and grows, because it makes the love of God grow. May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed the seed of the divine Word as “good soil,” strengthen this faith and this hope in us.

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

Wednesday, June 20, is the United Nations World Refugee Day. Its purpose is to draw the international community’s attention to the situations of so many persons, especially families, who are forced to flee their homelands because of armed conflicts and grave forms of violence. I assure my prayers and the solicitude of the Holy See for these brothers and sisters who are so afflicted while I desire that their rights always be respected and that they can reunite soon with their loved ones.

Today in Ireland is the last day of the International Eucharistic Congress, which, over the course of the past week, made Dublin into the city of the Eucharist, where many persons were recollected in prayer in the presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar. Jesus wished to remain with us in the mystery of the Eucharist to bring us into communion with him and among ourselves. Let us entrust to Mary Most Holy the fruits of these days of reflection and prayer.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. In today’s Gospel, the Lord teaches us that God’s kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed which becomes the largest of shrubs. Let us fervently pray that God may take our weak but sincere desires and transform them into great works of love for him and our neighbor. Upon each of you and your loved ones, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday. A good Sunday, a good week to everyone.

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Pope Benedict XVI's Message at Closing Mass
"You are the Heirs to a Church That has Been a Mighty Force for Good in the World"

DUBLIN, Ireland, JUNE 17, 2012 .- Here is the statement given today at the Closing Mass of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress by Pope Benedict XVI.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With great affection in the Lord, I greet all of you who have gathered in Dublin for the
Fiftieth International Eucharistic Congress, especially Cardinal Brady, Archbishop Martin, the
clergy, religious and faithful of Ireland, and all of you who have come from afar to support the Irish Church with your presence and prayers.

The theme of the Congress – Communion with Christ and with One Another – leads us to
reflect upon the Church as a mystery of fellowship with the Lord and with all the members of his body. From the earliest times the notion of koinonia or communio has been at the core of the Church’s understanding of herself, her relationship to Christ her founder, and the sacraments she celebrates, above all the Eucharist. Through our Baptism, we are incorporated into Christ’s death, reborn into the great family of the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ; through Confirmation we receive the seal of the Holy Spirit; and by our sharing in the Eucharist, we come into communion with Christ and each other visibly here on earth. We also receive the pledge of eternal life to come.

The Congress also occurs at a time when the Church throughout the world is preparing to
celebrate the Year of Faith to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Second Vatican Council, an event which launched the most extensive renewal of the Roman Rite ever known.

Based upon a deepening appreciation of the sources of the liturgy, the Council promoted the full and active participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic sacrifice. At our distance today from the Council Fathers’ expressed desires regarding liturgical renewal, and in the light of the universal Church’s experience in the intervening period, it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and irregularities.

The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery. Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ’s love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow. Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and “active participation” has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal. In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.

The Eucharist is the worship of the whole Church, but it also requires the full engagement of each individual Christian in the Church’s mission; it contains a call to be the holy people of God, but also one to individual holiness; it is to be celebrated with great joy and simplicity, but also as worthily and reverently as possible; it invites us to repent of our sins, but also to forgive our brothers and sisters; it binds us together in the Spirit, but it also commands us in the same Spirit to bring the good news of salvation to others.

Moreover, the Eucharist is the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, his body and
blood given in the new and eternal covenant for the forgiveness of sins and the transformation of the world. Ireland has been shaped by the Mass at the deepest level for centuries, and by its power and grace generations of monks, martyrs and missionaries have heroically lived the faith at home and spread the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness well beyond your shores. You are the heirs to a Church that has been a mighty force for good in the world, and which has given a profound and enduring love of Christ and his blessed Mother to many, many others. Your forebears in the Church in Ireland knew how to strive for holiness and constancy in their personal lives, how to preach the joy that comes from the Gospel, how to promote the importance of belonging to the universal Church in communion with the See of Peter, and how to pass on a love of the faith and Christian virtue to other generations. Our Catholic faith, imbued with a radical sense of God’s presence, caught up in the beauty of his creation all around us, and purified through personal penance and awareness of God’s forgiveness, is a legacy that is surely
perfected and nourished when regularly placed on the Lord’s altar at the sacrifice of the Mass.

Thankfulness and joy at such a great history of faith and love have recently been shaken in an appalling way by the revelation of sins committed by priests and consecrated persons against people entrusted to their care. Instead of showing them the path towards Christ, towards God, instead of bearing witness to his goodness, they abused people and undermined the credibility of the Church’s message. How are we to explain the fact that people who regularly received the Lord’s body and confessed their sins in the sacrament of Penance have offended in this way?

It remains a mystery. Yet evidently, their Christianity was no longer nourished by joyfulencounter with Jesus Christ: it had become merely a matter of habit. The work of the Council was really meant to overcome this form of Christianity and to rediscover the faith as a deep personal friendship with the goodness of Jesus Christ. The Eucharistic Congress has a similar aim. Here we wish to encounter the Risen Lord. We ask him to touch us deeply. May he who breathed on the Apostles at Easter, communicating his Spirit to them, likewise bestow upon us his breath, the power of the Holy Spirit, and so help us to become true witnesses to his love, witnesses to the truth. His truth is love. Christ’s love is truth.

My dear brothers and sisters, I pray that the Congress will be for each of you a spiritually fruitful experience of communion with Christ and his Church. At the same time, I would like to invite you to join me in praying for God’s blessing upon the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2016 in the city of Cebu! To the people of the Philippines I send warm greetings and an assurance of my closeness in prayer during the period of preparation for this great ecclesial gathering. I am confident that it will bring lasting spiritual renewal not only to them but to all the participants from across the globe. In the meantime, I commend everyone taking part in the present Congress to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of God, and to Saint Patrick, the great patron of Ireland; and, as a token of joy and peace in the Lord, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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On St. Paul the Apostles Experience of Contemplative Prayer
"As our union with the Lord grows and our prayer intensifies, we too come to focus on the essential"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 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 today continued his reflection on the lessons taught by the prayer life of St. Paul.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Daily encounter with the Lord and frequenting the Sacraments allow our minds and hearts to be opened to his presence, to his words, to his action. Prayer is not only the soul’s breath but -- to use an image -- it is also the oasis of peace from which we draw the water that nourishes our spiritual lives and transforms our existence. And God draws us to himself; he causes us to ascend the mountain of holiness and offers us light and consolation along the way so that we might grow ever closer to Him.

This is the personal experience St. Paul refers to in Chapter 12 of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, which I wish to consider today. In defending the legitimacy of his apostolate, he lists not so much the communities he founded nor the kilometers he travelled; he does not limit himself to recalling the difficulties and the opposition he faced for the sake of announcing the Gospel; but rather, he appeals to his relationship with the Lord, a relationship so intense that at times it was marked by moments of ecstasy and of deep contemplation (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1); therefore, he boasts not in what he has done, in his own strength, in his activities and successes; but rather, he boasts in what God has done in him and through him. With great restraint, in fact, he recounts the experience of being caught up to God’s heaven. He recalls how fourteen years before the sending of the letter “he was caught up – so he says – to the third heaven” (Verse 2).

Using the language and the ways of one who recounts what cannot be recounted, St. Paul speaks of the event in the third person; he affirms that a man was caught up into the “garden” of God, into paradise. His contemplation is so deep and intense that the Apostle fails even to remember the content of the revelation received. But the time and circumstances are present to him, of the moment when the Lord seized him so completely and drew him to himself, as he had done on the road to Damascus at the moment of his conversion (cf. Philippians 3:12).

St. Paul goes on to say that it is in order not to be filled with pride on account of the grandeur of the revelation received that he carries a thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7), a suffering, and he implores the Risen One to be delivered from the messenger of the Evil One, from this painful thorn in his flesh. Three times – he says – he besought the Lord to remove this trial from him. And it is in this situation, in deep contemplation of God when “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (Verse 4), that he receives an answer to his plea. The Risen One addresses a clear and reassuring word to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (Verse 9).

Paul’s commentary on these words may astonish us, but they reveal how he understood what it truly means to be an apostle of the Gospel. He exclaims, in fact: “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (Verses 9b-10); that is, he boasts not in his activity, but in the action of Christ, which acts precisely through his weakness.

Let us reflect a moment more on this event, which occurred during the years when St. Paul lived in silence and contemplation before commencing his journeys across the West to proclaim Christ, for this attitude of profound humility and trust before God’s self-revelation is also fundamental for our prayer and for our lives, for the way we relate to God and to our own weakness.

First, what is the weakness of which St. Paul speaks? What is this “thorn” in his flesh? We don’t know, and he doesn’t say, but his attitude makes us understand that all the difficulties we meet in following Christ and witnessing to his Gospel can be overcome by opening ourselves in faith to the Lord’s action. St. Paul is well aware of being a “useless servant” (2 Corinthians 4:7) in whom God places the riches and power of his grace. In this moment of intense contemplative prayer, St. Paul understands clearly how to face and live every event, especially suffering, difficulty and persecution: when he experiences his own weakness, the power of God is manifested, which neither abandons us nor leaves us alone but which becomes our support and strength.

Certainly, Paul would have preferred to be delivered from this “thorn”, from this suffering; but God says: “No, this is necessary for you. You shall have grace sufficient to resist and to do what must be done”. This is true also for us. The Lord may not deliver us from evil, but he helps us to mature through suffering, difficulty and persecution. Faith, then, tells us that if we remain in God, “though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day” (cf. Verse 16). The Apostle communicates to the Christians of Corinth and also to us that “this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (Verse 17). In reality, humanly speaking, the weight of difficulty was not light, it was exceedingly heavy; but compared with God’s love, with the grandeur of being loved by God, it seemed light in knowing that the weight of glory will be without measure.

Therefore, as our union with the Lord grows and our prayer intensifies, we too come to focus on the essential, and we understand that it is not through the power of our resources, our virtue, or our abilities that the Kingdom of God shall come; rather, it is God who works marvels precisely through our weakness, through our inadequacy for the task at hand. We must therefore have the humility not to trust in ourselves alone but to work -- with the Lord’s help -- in the Lord’s vineyard, entrusting ourselves to Him as fragile “earthen vessels”.

St. Paul speaks of two particular revelations that radically changed his life. The first -- we know -- is the disturbing question on the road of Damascus: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4), a question that led him to discover and to encounter Christ living and present, and to sense his call to be and apostle of the Gospel. The second are the words the Lord addressed to him in the experience of contemplative prayer we are reflecting on: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. Only faith and reliance on the action of God, on the goodness of God, which never abandons us, is the guarantee of not working in vain. Thus, the Lord’s grace was the force that accompanied St. Paul in his tremendous efforts to spread the Gospel, and his heart entered into the heart of Christ, and thus became capable of leading others towards Him who died and rose for us.

In prayer, then, we open our souls to the Lord so that he might come and abide in our weakness, transforming it in strength for the Gospel. And the Greek word St. Paul uses to describe this indwelling of the Lord in his fragile humanity is deeply significant; he uses episkenoo, which we may render as “to pitch his own tent”. The Lord continues to pitch his tent in us, in our midst; this is the Mystery of the Incarnation. The same divine Word who came to dwell in our humanity, wills to abide in us, to pitch his tent in us, to enlighten and transform our lives and the world.

The intense contemplation of God that St. Paul experienced recalls that of the disciples on Mount Tabor, when, seeing Jesus transfigured and resplendent with light, Peter says to him: “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5). “For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid,” St. Mark adds (Verse 6). To contemplate the Lord is at once fascinating and terrifying: fascinating because He draws us to himself and steals our hearts towards heaven, carrying them to the heights where we experience the peace, the beauty of his love; terrifying, for it lays naked our human weakness, our inadequacies, the struggle to conquer the evil that threatens our lives -- that thorn that we too carry in our flesh. In prayer, in daily contemplation of the Lord, we receive the strength of God’s love and we sense the truth of St. Paul’s words to the Christians of Rome when he writes: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, now 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 a world in which we risk trusting only in the efficiency and power of human resources, in this world we are called to rediscover and bear witness to the power of God that is communicated through prayer, and by which we grow each day in greater conformity of our lives to Christ’s, who – he affirms – “was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God” (2 Corinthians 13:4).

Dear friends, during the last century, Albert Schweitzer, a protestant theologian and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, stated that “Paul is a mystic and nothing other than a mystic”; that is, he is truly a man so enamored by Christ and so united to Him as to be able to say: Christ lives in me. The mysticism of St. Paul is based not only on the exceptional events he experienced but also on a daily and intense relationship with the Lord, who always sustained him with his grace. Mysticism did not distance him from reality; on the contrary, it gave him the strength to live each day for Christ and to build up the Church unto the end of the world of that time. Union with God does not distance us from the world; rather, it gives us the strength truly to remain in the world, to do all that needs to be done in the world. In our prayer lives too, then, we may experience moments of particular intensity, when we feel the presence of the Lord to be more alive, but constancy and fidelity to one’s relationship with God is important, above all in times of aridity, difficulty, suffering, and of God’s apparent absence. Only when we are gripped by the love of Christ will we be able to face every adversity like Paul, convinced that we can do all things in Him who strengthens us (cf. Philippians 4:13). Therefore, the more space we give to prayer, the more we come to see that our lives will be transformed and enlivened by the concrete strength of God’s love. So it happened, for example, to Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who discovered in the contemplation of Jesus and precisely during long periods of aridity the ultimate reason and incredible strength to recognize him in the poor and abandoned, despite her fragile figure. In our lives, the contemplation of Christ does not distance us from reality -- as I already said – rather, it makes us ever more involved in human affairs, since the Lord, in drawing us to himself in prayer, allows us to become present and close all of our brothers and sisters in his love. Thank you.

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. 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 testimony to his own experience of contemplative prayer. Defending the legitimacy of his apostolate, Paul appeals above all to his profound closeness to the Lord in prayer, marked by moments of ecstasy, visions and revelations (cf. 2 Cor 12:1ff.). Yet he speaks too of a trial which the Lord sent him lest he become conceited: a mysterious thorn in the flesh (v. 7). Paul therefore willingly boasts of his weakness, in order that the power of Christ might dwell in him (v. 10). Through this experience of mystical prayer, Paul realized that God’s Kingdom comes about not by our own efforts but by the power of God’s grace shining through our poor earthen vessels (cf. 2 Cor 4:7). We see that contemplative prayer is both exalting and troubling, since we experience both the beauty of God’s love and the sense of our own weakness. Paul teaches us the need for daily perseverance in prayer, even at times of dryness and difficulty, for it is there that we experience the life-changing power of God’s love.

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Pope's Address on Baptism at Opening of Rome's Ecclesial Congress
"By living the truth, the truth becomes life"

ROME, JUNE 12, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address given Monday evening by Benedict XVI in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, at the opening of the Ecclesial Congress that concludes the pastoral year of the Diocese of Rome.

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Eminence,

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood and the Episcopate,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy for me to be here, in the Cathedral of Rome, with the representatives of my diocese, and I thank the Cardinal Vicar from my heart for his good words.

We just heard that the last words of the Lord on this earth to his disciples were: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Matthew 28:19). Make disciples and baptize. Why is it not sufficient for the disciple to know Jesus' doctrines, to know Christian values? Why is it necessary to be baptized? This is the subject of our reflection, to understand the reality, the profundity of the Sacrament of Baptism.

A first door opens if we read these words of the Lord carefully. The choice of the word "in the name of the Father" in the Greek text is very important: the Lord says "eis"and not "en," that is not "in the name" of the Trinity – as we say that a vice-prefect speaks "in the name" of the prefect, an ambassador speaks "in the name" of the government: no. He says: "eis to onoma," namely, an immersion in the name of the Trinity, a being inserted in the name of the Trinity, an interpretation of God's being and of our being, a being immersed in the God Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, just as in marriage, for example, two persons become one flesh, they become a new, single reality, with a new, single name.

The Lord has helped us to understand this reality still better in his colloquy with the Sadducees about the resurrection. The Sadducees acknowledged from the canon of the Old Testament only five Books of Moses and in these the resurrection does not appear; that is why they denied it. The Lord, precisely from these five Books demonstrates the reality of the resurrection and says: "And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' (cf. Matthew 22:31-32). Hence, God takes these three and, precisely in his name, they become the name of God. To understand who this God is these persons must be seen who became the name of God, a name of God, they are immersed in God. And thus we see that whoever is in the name of God, whoever is immersed in God, is alive, because God – says the Lord – is a God not of the dead but of the living, and if he is the God of these, he is God of the living; the living are alive because they are in the memory, in the life of God. And this happens precisely in our being baptized: we become inserted in the name of God, so that we belong to this name and His name becomes our name and we also will be able, with our testimony – as the three of the Old Testament -- to be witnesses of God, sign of who this God is, name of this God.

Hence, to be baptized means to be united to God: we belong to God in one single new existence, we are immersed in God himself. Thinking of this, we can immediately see some consequences.

The first is that God is no longer very far from us, this is not a reality to be discussed – whether He is or is not -- but we are in God and God is in us. The priority, the centrality of God in our life is a first consequence of Baptism. To the question "Is there God?", the answer is: "He is and He is with us; centered in our life is this closeness of God, this being in God himself, which is not a distant star, but is the environment of my life." This is the first consequence which, therefore, should tell us that we ourselves must keep in mind this presence of God, to really live in his presence.

A second consequence of what I have said is that we do not make ourselves Christians. To become Christian is not something that follows from my decision: "I now make myself Christian." Certainly, my decision is also necessary, but above all it is an action of God with me: I do not make myself Christian, I am assumed by God, taken in hand by God and thus, by saying "yes" to this action of God, I become Christian. To become Christian is, in a certain sense, passive: I do not make myself Christian, but God makes me his man, God takes me in hand and realizes my life in a new dimension. Just as I do not make myself live, but life is given to me; I am born not because I make myself man, but I am born because the human being was given to me. Thus also my Christian being is given to me, it is passive for me, which becomes active in our, in my life. And this fact of the passive, of not making oneself Christian, but of being made Christian by God, implies already somewhat the mystery of the Cross: only by dying to my egoism, coming out of myself, can I be Christian.

A third element which opens immediately in this vision is that, naturally, being immersed in God, I am united to my brothers and sisters, because all the others are in God and if I am drawn out of my isolation, if I am immersed in God, I am immersed in communion with the others. To be baptized is never a solitary act of "mine", but is always necessarily a being united with all the others, a being in unity and solidarity with the whole Body of Christ, with the whole community of his brothers and sisters. This fact that Baptism inserts me in community, breaks my isolation. We must keep this present in our being Christians.

And, finally, we return to Christ's Word to the Sadducees: God is "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" (cf. Matthew 22:32) and, therefore, they are not dead; if they are of God they are alive. It means that with Baptism, with the immersion in the name of God, we also are already immersed in immortal life, we are alive forever. In other words, Baptism is a first stage of the Resurrection: immersed in God, we are already immersed in the indestructible life, the Resurrection begins. As Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being "name of God" are alive. So we, inserted in the name of God, are alive in immortal life. Baptism is the first step of the Resurrection, the entering into the indestructible life of God.

Thus, in a first moment, with the baptismal formula of Saint Matthew, with the last word of Christ, we have already seen somewhat the essential of Baptism. Now we look at the sacramental rite, to be able to understand yet more precisely what Baptism is.

This rite, as the rite of almost all the Sacraments, is made up of two elements: of matter – water – and of the word. This is very important. Christianity is not something purely spiritual, something only subjective, of feeling, of the will, of ideas, but it is a cosmic reality. God is the Creator of all matter, matter enters in Christianity, and only in this great context of matter and spirit together are we Christians. Hence, it is very important that matter be part of our Faith, that the body be part of our faith; faith is not purely spiritual, but God thus inserts us in the whole reality of the cosmos and transforms the cosmos, draws it to himself. And with this material element – water – not only does a fundamental element of the cosmos enter, a fundamental matter created by God, but also the whole symbolism of religions, because in all religions water is something to talk about. The journey of religions, this seeking of God in different ways – even if mistaken but always seeking God – becomes assumed in the Sacrament. The other religions, with their journey to God, are present, are assumed, and thus the synthesis of the world is made; the whole search for God which is expressed in the symbols of religions, and above all – naturally – the symbolism of the Old Testament, which in this way, with all its experiences of salvation and of the goodness of God, becomes present. We will return to this point.

The other element is the word, and this word presents itself in three elements: renunciations, promises, invocations. Important, therefore, is that these words not be just words, but that they be a path of life. Realized in these is a decision, present in these words is our whole baptismal journey – be it pre-baptismal or post baptismal; hence, with these words, and also with the symbols, Baptism extends to the whole of our life. This reality of the promises, of the renunciations, of the invocations is a reality that lasts for the whole of our life because we are always on the baptismal journey, on the catechumenal journey, through these words and the realization of these words. The Sacrament of Baptism is not an act of an hour, but it is a reality of our whole life, it is a journey of our whole life. In reality, behind it is also the doctrine of the two lives, which was fundamental in early Christianity: a life to which we say "no" and a life to which we say "yes."

We begin with the first part, the renunciations. There are three and I take first of all the second: "Do you renounce the seductions of evil so as not to let yourselves be dominated by sin?" What are these seductions of evil? In the early Church, and also for centuries, there was the expression: "Do you renounce the pomp of the devil?", and today we know what was intended with this expression "pomp of the devil." The pomp of the devil were above all the great bloody spectacles, in which cruelty became amusement, in which to kill men became something spectacular: spectacle, the life and death of a man. These bloody spectacles, this amusement of evil is the "pomp of the devil," where he appears with seeming beauty and, in reality, appears with all his cruelty. However, beyond this immediate meaning of the word "pomp of the devil," they wished to speak of a type of culture, of a way of life, of a way of living, in which truth does not count but appearance, truth is not sought but the effect, the sensation and, under the pretext of truth, in reality, men were destroyed, a desire to destroy and create only themselves as victorious. Hence, this renunciation was very real: it was renouncing a type of culture which is an anti-culture, against Christ and against God. They decided against a culture that, in the Gospel of Saint John, is called "kosmos houtos," "this world." With "this world," naturally, John and Jesus are not speaking of God's creation, of man as such, but they are speaking of a certain creature that is dominated and imposes itself as if this were the world, and as if this were the way to live that is imposed. I now let each one of you to reflect on this "pomp of the devil," on this culture to which we say "no." To be baptized means, in fact, essentially a being emancipated, a being liberated from this culture. We know also today a type of culture in which truth does not count; even if they wish to have the whole truth appear, only the sensation counts, and the spirit of calumny and of destruction. A culture that does not seek the good, whose moralism is in reality a mask to confuse, to create confusion and destruction. Against this culture, in which the lie is presented in the guise of truth and of information, against this culture which seeks only well-being and denies God, we say "no." We know well also from so many Psalms this opposition of a culture which seems untouchable by all the evils of the world, puts self above all, above God, whereas, in reality, it is a culture of evil, a dominion of evil. And so, the decision of Baptism, of this part of the catechumenal journey which lasts our whole life, is in fact this "no," said and realized again every day, also with the sacrifices that opposition to a culture dominant in many areas, even if it imposed itself as if it were the world, this world: it is not true. And there are so many who really desire the truth.

So we pass to the first renunciation: "Do you renounce sin to live in the freedom of the children of God?" Today liberty and Christian life, observance of God's commandments, go in opposite directions; to be Christian is as a slavery; liberty is to emancipate oneself from the Christian faith, to emancipate oneself -- in a word – from God. The word sin seems to many almost ridiculous, because they say: "How! We cannot offend God! God is so great, what does God care if I make a small mistake? We cannot offend God, his interest is too great to be able to be offended by us." It seems true, but it is not true. God made himself vulnerable. In the crucified Christ we see that God is vulnerability, the love of God is the interest of man. The love of God means that our first concern must be not to wound, to destroy his love, not to do anything against his love because otherwise we live also against ourselves and against our liberty. And, in reality, this seeming liberty in the emancipation from God becomes immediately slavery of so many dictatorships of time, which must be followed to be to be held to the stature of the time.

And finally: "Do you renounce Satan?" This tells us that there is a "yes" to God and a "no" to the power of the Evil One who coordinates all these activities and wants to make himself god of this world, as Saint John again says. However, he is not God, he is only the adversary, and we do not subject ourselves to his power; we say "no" because we say "yes," a fundamental "yes," the "yes" of love and of truth. These three renunciations, in the ancient Baptismal rite, were accompanied by three immersions: immersion in water as symbol of death, of a "no" which is really the death of a type of life and resurrection to another life. We will return to this. Then, the confession in three questions: "Do you believe in God the Almighty Father, Creator; in Christ and, in fine, in the Holy Spirit and the Church?" This formula, these three parts, were developed from the word of the Lord "baptize in the name of the Farther, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"; these words are concretized and deepened: what does it mean to believe in being baptized in the Holy Spirit, that is all the action of God in history, in the Church, in the communion of Saints. Thus, the positive formula of Baptism is also a dialogue: it is not simply a formula. Above all the confession of faith is not only something to understand, an intellectual thing, something to memorize – certainly, it is also this – it also touches the intellect, it also touches our living, above all. And this seems very important to me. It is not an intellectual thing, a pure formula. It is a dialogue of God with us, an action of God with us, it is a response of ours, it is a journey. The truth of Christ can be understood only if his life is understood. Only if we accept Christ as the way do we really begin to be on the way of Christ and we can also understand the truth of Christ. Truth that is not lived does not open itself; only lived truth, truth accepted as the way of living, as a path, opens also as truth in all its richness and profundity. Therefore, this formula is a way, it is the expression of our conversion, of an action of God. And we really want to keep this present also in our whole life: that we are in communion in our journey with God, with Christ. And in this way, we are in communion with truth: living the truth, the truth becomes life and by living this life we also find the truth.

Now we pass to the material element: water. It is very important to see the two meanings of water. On one hand, water makes one think of the sea, especially the Red Sea, of the death of the Red Sea. Represented in the sea is the force of death, the need to die to come to a new life. This seems very important to me. Baptism is not just a ceremony, a ritual introduced a long time ago, nor is it only a cleansing, a cosmetic operation. It is much more than a cleansing: it is death and life, it is death of a certain existence and rebirth, resurrection to a new life. This is the profundity of being Christian: it is not only something that is added, but it is a new birth. After having gone through the Red Sea, we are new. Thus the sea, in all the experiences of the Old Testament, became for Christians symbol of the Cross. Because only through death, a radical renunciation in which one dies to a certain type of life, can the rebirth be realized and a new life can really be exercised. This is a part of the symbolism of water: it symbolizes – especially in the immersions of antiquity – the Red Sea, death, the Cross. Only from the Cross does one attain the new life and this happens every day. Without this death always renewed, we cannot renew the real vitality of the new life of Christ.

But the other symbol is that of the source. Water is the origin of all life; in addition to the symbolism of death, it also has the symbolism of the new life. Every life comes also from water, from water that comes from Christ like the true new life that accompanies us to eternity.

In the end the question remains – only a <small> word – of the Baptism of children. Is it right to do it, or would it be more necessary to first undertake the catechumenal way to arrive at a truly realized Baptism? And the other question that is always asked is: "But can we impose on a child which religion he should or should not live? Should we not let the child choose?" These questions show that we no longer see in the Christian faith the new life, the true life, but we see a choice among others, even a burden that should not be imposed without having the assent of the individual. The reality is different. Life itself is given to us without our being able to choose if we wish to live or not; no one can be asked: "do you want to be born or not?" Life itself comes to us necessarily without our previous consent, it is given to us thus and we cannot first say "yes or no, I want or do not want to live." And, in reality, the real question is: "Is it right to give life in this world without having had the consensus – do you want to live or not? Can one really anticipate life, give life without the individual having had the possibility to decide?" I would say: it is possible and right only if, with life, we can also give the guarantee that life, with all the problems of the world, is good, that it is good to live, that there is a guarantee that this life is good, is protected by God and is a real gift. Only the anticipation of the meaning justifies the anticipation of life. And because of this Baptism as guarantee of God's goodness, as anticipation of the meaning, of the "yes" of God who protects this life, also justifies the anticipation of life. Hence, the Baptism of children is not against liberty; in fact it is necessary to give this, to justify also the gift -- otherwise debatable – of life. Only the life that is in the hands of God, in the hands of Christ, immersed in the name of the Trinitarian God, is certainly a good that can be given without scruples. And thus we are grateful to God who has given us this gift, who has given us himself. And our challenge is to live this gift, to really live, in a post-baptismal journey, the renunciations of the "yes" and to live always in the great "yes" of God, and so live well. Thank you.

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On Corpus Christi
"No one knew more and better than Mary how to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of faith"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 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, in Italy and in many other countries, Corpus Domini is celebrated, that is, the solemn feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Eucharist. It is an ever living tradition on this day to hold solemn processions with the Most Holy Sacrament along streets and in the piazzas. In Rome this procession already took place at the diocesan level on Thursday, the exact date of this celebration, which every year renews in Christians the joy and gratitude for the eucharistic presence of Jesus in our midst.

The feast of Corpus Domini is a great act of public worship of the Eucharist, the Sacrament in which the Lord remains present even outside the time of the liturgy, to be with us always as the hours and days pass by. Already St. Justin, who has left us one of the most ancient testimonies to the eucharistic liturgy, states that after the distribution of communion to those present, the consecrated bread was brought by the deacons to those who were absent (cf. Apologia, 1, 65). Thus the most sacred place in churches is the place where the Eucharist is reserved. I cannot in this regard not think without emotion of the numerous churches that have been gravely damaged by the recent earthquake in Emilia Romagna and of the fact that the eucharistic Body of Christ too, in the tabernacle, has remained under the rubble. I pray for the communities with affection who must gather with their priests for Holy Mass outdoors or in tents; I thank them for their witness and for what they are doing for all those affected by the disaster. It is a situation that once again brings to the fore the importance of being united in the Lord’s name and the power that comes from the eucharistic Bread, which is also called the “bread of pilgrims.” The capacity to share life and goods, to bear each others’ burdens, to be hospitable and welcoming are also born and renewed from the sharing of this Bread.

The solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord also reproposes the value of eucharistic adoration to us. The Servant of God Paul VI observed that the Catholic Church professes the worship of the Eucharist “not only during the Mass but also outside of it by taking the greatest possible care of consecrated Hosts, by exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and by carrying them about in processions to the joy of great numbers of the people” (Mysterium Fidei, 56). The prayer of adoration can be accomplished both personally, pausing before the tabernacle in recollection, and communally, with Psalms and songs too, but always privileging the silence in which we listen interiorly to the Lord who is living and present in the Sacrament. The Virgin Mary is also the teacher of this prayer, because no one knew more and better than her how to contemplate Jesus with the eyes of faith and welcome the intimate resonances of his human and divine presence in the heart. By her intercession may an authentic and deep faith in the eucharistic Mystery spread and grow in every ecclesial community.

[After praying the Angelus the Holy Father spoke to those present in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

I would like to recall that next Thursday, June 14, is World Blood Donor Day, promoted by the World Health Organization. I express my keen appreciation for those who practice this form of solidarity, which is indispensable for the life of many sick people.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present for this Angelus prayer. Today’s Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the Lord’s saving presence in the Most Holy Eucharist. At the Last Supper, on the night before his death on the Cross, Jesus instituted the Eucharist as the sacrament of the new and eternal covenant between God and man. May this sacrifice of forgiveness and reconciliation strengthen the Church in faith, unity and holiness. Upon all of you I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

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Papal Greeting to Bishops of Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea
"When the Church voices her concern in the public square, she does so legitimately and in order to contribute to the common good"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2012 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I offer you a warm fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum, and I thank Archbishop John Ribat for his kind words on behalf of the whole of the Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. This gathering is a privileged opportunity to express our communion in the one Church of Christ. Through you I send warm greetings to the priests, the men and women religious and all those entrusted to your pastoral care. Please assure them of my prayers for their continued growth in faith, hope and charity.

I would like to commend your efforts to "tend the flock of God that is your charge" (1 Pet 5:2). The attention you give to those under your pastoral care has been particularly noteworthy in the way you provide for the basic needs of the poor, the marginalized and the sick – especially those suffering from HIV/AIDS – through the work of your diocesan agencies. Another important part of your pastoral ministry is exercised when you speak publicly as an objective moral voice on behalf of those in need. When the Church voices her concern in the public square, she does so legitimately and in order to contribute to the common good, not proposing concrete political solutions, but rather helping to "purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles" (Address at Westminster Hall, 17 September 2010). Such principles are accessible to all through right reason and are necessary for the just ordering of civil society. In view of this, I encourage you to continue to dialogue and to work with the civil authorities so that the Church may be free to speak and to provide services for the common good in a manner fully consonant with Gospel values.

I note from your reports that you are initiating various pastoral efforts which have as their common element the evangelization of culture. This is of great importance since the human person can "achieve true and full humanity only by means of culture" (Gaudium et Spes, 53). We also observe the essential role of culture in salvation history, since the Triune God gradually revealed himself in time, culminating in the sending of his only Son, who himself was born into a particular culture. On the other hand, while acknowledging the respective contribution of each culture and at times calling upon its resources in fulfilling her mission, the Church has been sent to preach the Gospel to all nations, transcending man-made boundaries. In the work of evangelization then, my Brother Bishops, continue to apply the eternal truths of the Gospel to the customs of the people whom you serve, in order to build upon the positive elements already present and to purify others when necessary. In this way, you play your part in the Church’s mission to lead people of every nation, race and language to Jesus Christ the Saviour in whom we find revealed the fullness and truth of humanity (cf. ibid).

When speaking about this aspect of evangelization, the family has a key role to play, since it is the basic unit of human society and the first place where faith and culture are appropriated. Although society has recognized the important role of the family throughout history, particular attention needs to be given at the present time to the religious, social and moral goods of fidelity, equality and mutual respect that must exist between husband and wife. The Church tirelessly proclaims that the family is based on the natural institution of marriage between a man and a woman, and in the case of baptized Christians, it is a covenant which has been raised by Christ to the supernatural level of a sacrament, through which husband and wife participate in the love of God as they become one flesh, pledging to love and respect each other while remaining open to God’s gift of children. In this regard, I commend your efforts to give pastoral priority to the evangelization of marriage and the family in accordance with Catholic moral teaching. As you continue the centenary celebrations of the birth of Blessed Peter To Rot, who shed his blood in defence of the sanctity of marriage, I encourage all married couples to look to his example of courage and thus help others to see the family as a gift from God and the privileged environment where children "are enabled to be born with dignity, and to grow and develop in an integral manner" (Homily, 9 July 2006).

The work of evangelization involves all members of the Church of Christ. Mindful that Bishops, like the Apostles, "are sent to their Dioceses as the prime witnesses to the Risen Christ" (Ecclesia in Oceania, 19), make every effort to provide proper formation and catechetical programmes for the clergy, men and women religious, and the lay faithful so that they may be strong and joyful witnesses of the faith they profess as members of the Catholic Church. A properly catechized laity and well formed clergy and religious, "like a wise man who built his house upon the rock" (Mt 7:24), will be equipped to resist the temptations of the secular world and will be wise enough not to be deceived by attempts to convert them to overly simplistic versions of Christianity that are often based solely on false promises of material prosperity. While recognizing the importance of developing and maintaining formal programmes, I encourage you to remember that a key element for effective formation and catechetical programmes is the example of holy witnesses who, by "doing the will of God in everything ... wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of neighbour" (Lumen Gentium, 40). These witnesses and those they teach, with your guidance and support, will help to ensure that the Church in your countries will continue to be an effective instrument of evangelization, attracting those who do not yet know Christ and inspiring those who have become lukewarm in their faith.

Finally, my Brother Bishops, it is my hope that your visit to the Successor of Peter and to the tombs of the Apostles will strengthen your resolve to be protagonists of the new evangelization, especially during the upcoming Year of Faith. I also pray that your efforts will bear fruit, so that the kingdom of God may continue to grow in the portion of the Lord’s vineyard entrusted to your pastoral care. Commending you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and assuring you of my affection and prayers for you and your people, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope's Address to Airport Chaplains
"Even in chance encounters, people are able to recognize a man of God"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to participants in the 15th World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members.

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Your Eminence,
Dear Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members,
Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to welcome you at the beginning of the XV World Seminar for Catholic Civil Aviation Chaplains and Chaplaincy Members, promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People on the topic "The New Evangelization in the Field of Civil Aviation". I extend a warm greeting to the President of the Dicastery, Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, and I thank him for the words which he has addressed to me. I greet affectionately all of you who are taking part in these days of prayer, study and exchange, with a view to reaffirming and deepening the spiritual motives that inspire you to continue your specific ecclesial service with renewed zeal and enthusiasm.

I am pleased to hear that during this Seminar, with the assistance of expert speakers, you intend to reflect on new methods and new forms of evangelization in your area of ministry. Dear friends, always be conscious that you are called to embody in the world’s airports the Church’s mission of bringing God to man and leading man to the encounter with God. Airports are places that increasingly reflect the globalized reality of our time. Here one finds people of a wide variety of nationalities, cultures, religions, social status and age. One also comes across all manner of difficult human situations that demand increasing attention. I think, for example, of people waiting anxiously as they seek to pass through border controls without the necessary documentation, either as immigrants or asylum seekers. I think of the inconvenience caused by anti-terrorism security measures. Airport communities also reflect the crisis of faith that affects many people, with the result that the content of Christian doctrine and the values that it teaches are no longer regarded as points of reference, even in countries with a long tradition of ecclesial life. This is the human and spiritual environment in which you are called to proclaim the Good News with renewed vigour by your words, by your presence, by your example and by the witness you bear. Be assured that even in chance encounters, people are able to recognize a man of God, and that often a small seed falling on good soil can bring forth abundant fruit.

In airports, moreover, you have daily contact with a great many men and women who work in an environment marked by continuous mobility and constant technological development, both of which tend to obscure the centrality of the human person. Often more attention is paid to efficiency and productivity than to the love of neighbour and the solidarity that should always characterize human relations. Here too, your presence is of great value and importance: it is a living witness to a God who is close to human beings, and it serves as a reminder never to show indifference to those one meets, but to treat them generously and lovingly. I encourage you to be radiant signs of this charity of Christ which brings serenity and peace.

Dear friends, make sure that every person, of whatever nationality or social background, can find in you a welcoming heart, able to listen and understand. Through your Christian and priestly lives, may everyone experience something of the love that comes from God, drawing them to a renewed and deeper relationship with Christ, who speaks without fail to those who open up to him trustfully, especially in prayer. Hence the importance of airport chapels as places of silence and spiritual solace.

In this pastoral service, your model and protector is the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom you venerate under the title of Our Lady of Loreto, the patron saint of all who travel by air, in accordance with the tradition that attributes to the angels the transportation of Mary’s house from Nazareth to Loreto. But there is another "flight", of far greater significance for humanity, to which that Holy House bears witness, namely the journey of the Archangel Gabriel, who brought to Mary the joyful news that she was to be the Mother of the Son of the Most High (cf. Lk 1:26-32). In this way the Eternal One entered into time, God became man and came to dwell among us (cf. Jn 1:14). It is the manifestation of God’s infinite love for his creation. While we were still sinners, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us with his death and resurrection. He did not remain "on high" but became immersed in the joys and anxieties of the men and women of his time and of all time, sharing in their lot and restoring their hope.

This is the mission of the Church, to proclaim Jesus Christ, the one Saviour of the world, "a mission", in the words of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, "which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent" (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14). Indeed, in our own times, we too "feel the urgent need to give a fresh impetus and new approaches to the work of evangelization in a world in which the breaking down of frontiers and the new processes of globalization are bringing individuals and peoples even closer. This is both because of the development of the means of social communication and because of the frequency and ease with which individuals and groups can move about today." (Message for the 2012 World Day of Migrants and Refugees).

Dear brothers and sisters, may your daily encounter with the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist and in personal prayer give you the enthusiasm and the strength to be heralds of the newness of the Gospel, which transforms hearts and makes all things new. Be assured of my remembrance in prayer, that you may be effective instruments in assisting those entrusted to your pastoral care to cross the "porta fidei", accompanying them in their encounter with Christ, who is living and active among us. With these sentiments, I willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all who share in your ministry and to all who belong to the vast world of civil aviation.

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Pope's Address to Future Vatican Diplomats
"Faithfulness to Peter ... also gives rise to a special faithfulness towards those to whom you are sent"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. The academy prepares the priests who enter into the Vatican's diplomatic service.

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Dear Brother Bishop,
Dear Priests,

First of all, I thank Archbishop Beniamino Stella for the courteous words which he has addressed to me in the name of all present, and for the valued work that he carries out. With great affection I greet the entire community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. I am pleased to receive you once again this year, as the academic year draws to a close and as, for some of you, the day is approaching when you will depart for service in Papal Representations throughout the world. The Pope also counts on you for assistance in fulfilling his universal ministry. I encourage you to be confident and to prepare diligently for the mission which awaits you, trusting in the faithfulness of the One who has known you from the beginning and has called you into communion with his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 1:9).

God’s faithfulness is the key to, and the source of, our own faithfulness. I would like today to remind you of precisely this virtue, which well expresses the unique bond existing between the Pope and his direct collaborators, both in the Roman Curia and in the Papal Representations: for many, it is a bond grounded in the priestly character that they have received, which is then specified in the particular mission entrusted to each in the service of the Successor of Peter.

In the Bible, faithfulness is above all a divine attribute: God reveals himself as the one who remains ever faithful to his Covenant with his people, despite their unfaithfulness. As the Faithful One, God sees to the fulfilment of his loving plan; thus, he is trustworthy and true. His way of acting makes it possible in turn for men and women to be faithful. In our case, the virtue of faithfulness is profoundly linked to the supernatural gift of faith; it becomes the expression of that steadfastness proper to those who have made God the foundation of their entire lives. In faith we find the sole guarantee of our standing firm (cf. Is 7:9b); only on this foundation can we in turn be truly faithful: first to God, then to his family, the Church our Mother and Teacher, and within the Church to our own vocation, to the history in which the Lord has set us.

Dear friends, with this in mind, I encourage you to cultivate a personal bond with the Vicar of Christ as a part of your spirituality. Certainly, this is something which ought to apply to every Catholic, and even more to every priest. Yet for those who work in the Holy See, it is of particular importance, since they spend much of their energy, their time and their daily ministry in the service of the Successor of Peter. This entails a serious responsibility, but also a special gift which as time goes on should make you grow in closeness to the Pope, a closeness marked by interior trust, a natural idem sentire, which is exactly expressed by the word "faithfulness".

Faithfulness to Peter, who sends you forth, also gives rise to a special faithfulness towards those to whom you are sent. The Representatives of the Roman Pontiff and their collaborators are called upon to interpret his solicitude for all the Churches, as well as the affectionate concern with which he follows the journey of each people. You should therefore cultivate a relationship of profound esteem and benevolence, and indeed true friendship, towards the Churches and the communities to which you will be sent. You are also bound to faithfulness in their regard, a faithfulness concretely manifested each day by your diligence and devotion to your work, by your presence among them at moments of joy, sadness and even tragedy, by your coming to know their culture, their journey as a Church, and by your appreciation of all that God’s grace has accomplished in every people and nation.

This represents a valuable contribution to the Petrine ministry, about which the Servant of God Paul VI once said: "By entrusting to his Vicar the power of the keys and by making him the rock and foundation of his Church, the Eternal Pastor also gave him the mandate to ‘confirm his brethren’: he does this not only by leading them and keeping them united in his name, but also by supporting and comforting them, certainly by his words, but also in some way by his presence" (Apostolic Letter Sollicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum, 24 June 1969: AAS 61 (1969), 473-474).

Thus you will also encourage and help the particular Churches to grow in faithfulness to the Roman Pontiff and to find in the principle of communion with the universal Church a sure direction for their own pilgrimage through history. Not least, you will also help the Successor of Peter to be faithful to the mission he has received from Christ, enabling him to know better the flock entrusted to his care and to be present to it more effectively by his words, his closeness, his affection. Here I can only mention with gratitude the assistance that I receive every day from my many collaborators in the Roman Curia and in Papal Representations, as well as the support that comes to me from the prayers of countless brothers and sisters worldwide.

Dear friends, to the extent that you are faithful, you will also be worthy of faith. We know too that the faithfulness proper to the Church and to the Holy See is no "blind" loyalty, for it is enlightened by our faith in the One who said: "You are Peter, and on on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18). Let us all be committed to following this path, so that one day we may hear the words of the Gospel parable: "Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master" (cf. Mt 25:21).

With these sentiments, I renew my greeting to Archbishop Stella and his collaborators, to the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Child Jesus, and to the entire community of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and I cordially impart my blessing.

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Pope's Corpus Christi Homily
"It is a mistake to oppose celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition"

ROME, JUNE 7, 2012 - This evening in Rome, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. He then led the traditional procession to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.

Here is a translation of the Pope's homily.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This evening I would like to meditate with you on two interconnected aspects of the Eucharistic Mystery: the worship of the Eucharist and its sacredness. It is important to take it up again to preserve it from incomplete visions of the Mystery itself, such as those which were proposed in the recent past.

First of all, a reflection on the value of Eucharistic worship, in particular adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is the experience that we will also live after the Mass, before the procession, during its development and at its end. A unilateral interpretation of Vatican Council II has penalized this dimension, restricting the Eucharist in practice to the celebratory moment. In fact, it was very important to recognize the centrality of the celebration, in which the Lord convokes his people, gathers them around the twofold table of the Word and the Bread of life, nourishes them and unites them to Himself in the offering of the Sacrifice. This assessment of the liturgical assembly, in which the Lord works and realizes his mystery of communion, remains of course valid, but it must be placed in the right balance. In fact – as often happens – the stressing of one aspect ends up by sacrificing another. In this case, the accentuation placed on the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment of adoration, as act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the Sacrament of the altar. This imbalance has also had repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful. In fact, concentrating the whole relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus only at the moment of Holy Mass risks removing his presence from the rest of time and the existential space. And thus, perceived less is the sense of the constant presence of Jesus in our midst and with us, a concrete, close presence among our homes, as “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, of the territory with its various expressions and activities. The Sacrament of the Charity of Christ must permeate the whole of daily life.

In reality, it is a mistake to oppose celebration and adoration, as if they were in competition with one another. It is precisely the contrary: the worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament is as the spiritual “environment” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this interior attitude of faith and adoration, can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in the Holy Mass is truly and fully acted when the community is able to recognize that, in the Sacrament, He dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offering them to the Father.

In this connection, I am pleased to stress the experience we will also live together this evening. At the moment of adoration, we are all on the same plane, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common and ministerial priesthoods are united in Eucharistic worship. It is a very beautiful and significant experience, which we have experienced several times in Saint Peter’s Basilica, and also in the unforgettable vigils with young people – I recall, for example, those of Cologne, London, Zagreb, Madrid. It is evident to all that these moments of Eucharistic vigil prepare the celebration of the Holy Mass, prepare hearts for the encounter, so that it is more fruitful. To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament, is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied in a complementary way with the celebration of the Eucharist, listening to the Word of God, singing, approaching together the table of the Bread of life. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go together. To really communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to hear him and to look at him with love. True love and true friendship always live of the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter is lived profoundly, in a personal not a superficial way. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, even sacramental communion itself can become, on our part, a superficial gesture. Instead, in true communion, prepared by the colloquy of prayer and of life, we can say to the Lord words of confidence as those that resounded a short while ago in the Responsorial Psalm: “O Lord, I am thy servant; I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid. / Thou hast loosed my bonds./ I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving /and call on the name of the Lord” (Psalm 115:16-17).

Now I would like to pass briefly to the second aspect: the sacredness of the Eucharist. Also here we heard in the recent past of a certain misunderstanding of the authentic message of Sacred Scripture. The Christian novelty in regard to worship was influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 60s and 70s of the past century. It is true, and it remains always valid, that the center of worship is now no longer in the rites and ancient sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his paschal mystery. And yet, from this fundamental novelty it must not be concluded that the sacred no longer exists, but that it has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, incarnate divine Love. The Letter to the Hebrews, which we heard this evening in the Second Reading, speaks to us precisely of the novelty of the priesthood of Christ, “high priest of the good things that have come” (Hebrews 9:11), but it does not say that the priesthood is finished. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15), established in his blood, which purifies our “conscience from dead works” (Hebrews 9:14). He did not abolish the sacred, but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new worship, which is, yes, fully spiritual but which however, so long as we are journeying in time, makes use again of signs and rites, of which there will be no need only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be a temple (cf. Revelation 21:22). Thanks to Christ, the sacred is more true, more intense and, as happens with the Commandments, also more exacting! Ritual observance is not enough, but what is required is the purification of the heart and the involvement of life.

I am also pleased to stress that the sacred has an educational function, and its disappearance inevitably impoverishes the culture, in particular, the formation of the new generations. If, for example, in the name of a secularized faith, no longer in need of sacred signs, this citizens' processions of the Corpus Domini were abolished, the spiritual profile of Rome would be “leveled,” and our personal and community conscience would be weakened. Or let us think of a mother or a father that, in the name of a de-sacralized faith, deprived their children of all religious rituals: in reality they would end up by leaving a free field to so many surrogates present in the consumer society, to other rites and other signs, which could more easily become idols. God, our Father, has not acted thus with humanity: he has sent his Son into the world not to abolish, but to give fulfillment also to the sacred. At the height of this mission, in the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood, the Memorial of his Paschal Sacrifice. By so doing, he put himself in the place of the ancient sacrifices, but he did so within a rite, which he commanded the Apostles to perpetuate, as the supreme sign of the true sacred, which is Himself. With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, we celebrate today and every day the Eucharistic Mystery and we adore it as the center of our life and heart of the world. Amen.

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On Healing, Physical and Spiritual
'What we must ask for insistently is a more solid faith so that the Lord might renew our life"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 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 the evangelist Mark presents us with the account of two miraculous healings of women: the daughter of the synagogue leader and the woman who suffered from a hemorrhage (cf. Mark 5:21-43). They are two episodes that can be interpreted at two different levels; the purely physical level: Jesus looks upon human suffering and heals the body; and the spiritual level: Jesus has come to heal the human heart and to grant salvation to those who believe in him. In the first episode, in fact, upon hearing that the little daughter of Jarius is dead, Jesus tells the head of the synagogue: “Do not be afraid, just have faith!” (5:36), brings him with him to the daughter and exclaims: “Little girl, I say to you: get up!” (5:41). And she got up and began to walk. St. Jerome comments on these words, underscoring Jesus’ salvific power: “Little girl, stand up through me: not by your own merit but by my grace. Stand up through me: the healing did not depend on your virtues” (Homilies on Mark, 3). The second episode, that of the woman with the hemorrhage, again manifests how Jesus came to liberate human beings in their totality. In fact, the miracle takes place in two stages: first there is the physical healing but this is closely linked to the deeper healing, that which grants God’s grace to those who welcome him in faith. Jesus says to the woman: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be healed of the evil that afflicts you!” (Mark 5:34).

These two stories of healing are an invitation for us to overcome the purely horizontal and materialistic vision of life. We rightly ask God for so many healings from our problems, from concrete necessities. But what we must ask for insistently is a more solid faith so that the Lord might renew our life, and a firm trust in his love, in his providence that does not abandon us.

Jesus, who is attentive to human suffering, turns our thoughts also to all those who help the sick to carry their cross, especially doctors, health care workers and those who oversee religious assistance in places of care. They are “resources of love,” who bring serenity and hope to the suffering. In the encyclical “Deus caritas est” I observed that, in this precious service, first of all there must be professional competence – it is a first fundamental necessity – but is not enough by itself. In fact, we are dealing with human beings here, who need humanity and the attentive heart. “Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a ‘formation of the heart’: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to the other” (n. 31).

Let us ask the Virgin Mary to accompany us on our journey of faith and our commitment of concrete love, especially those who are in need, as we invoke her maternal intercession for our brothers who live with bodily and spiritual suffering.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in various languages. In English he said:]

I welcome the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, Jesus restores life to a little girl in response to the faith-filled prayer of her father. In this miracle may we see an invitation to grow in our own faith, to trust in the Lord’s promise of abundant life, and to pray for all those in need of his healing touch. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a peaceful month of July and a good vacation to all. Have a good vacation and a good Sunday!

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Papal Greeting to Metropolitan Archbishops
The Church is "called to make Christ known and proclaim the Gospel to all continents in various languages"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2012 - Here is a translation of the brief address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the 43 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he had imposed the pallium on Friday, and their delegations.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to greet all of you, who have come to Rome, to the tomb of the Apostles, with your metropolitan archbishops, upon whom I had the joy to bestow the pallium yesterday in the Vatican Basilica during the course of a solemn celebration commemorating the holy Apostles Peter and Paul. In this meeting of ours we wish, as it were, to continue the climate of profound ecclesial communion, which we experienced yesterday. In fact, the presence of the metropolitan archbishops, who come from different parts of the world, manifests the visible universality of the Church, called to make Christ known and proclaim the Gospel to all continents in various languages.

I greet each of you with affection, venerable and esteemed metropolitan brothers, and with you I greet your relatives, friends and the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, who are your crown in these significant days. I also greet the dioceses from which you hail.

[Following this general greeting the Holy Father then addressed each group in the appropriate language. In English he said:]

My thoughts turn in the first place to you, dear pastors of the Church

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking Metropolitan Archbishops upon whom I conferred the Pallium yesterday. From the United States of America: Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Archbishop William Skurla of Pittsburgh, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver. From Papua New Guinea: Archbishop Francesco Panfilo of Rabaul. From the Philippines: Archbishop Luis Tagle of Manila, Archbishop Jose Advincula of Capiz, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, Archbishop John Du of Palo. From Bangladesh: Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka. From the Antilles: Archbishop Joseph Harris of Port of Spain. From Zambia: Archbishop Ignatius Chama of Kasama. From India: Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta. From Pakistan: Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi. From Australia: Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane. From Korea: Archbishop Andrew Yeom Soo Jung of Seoul. From Nigeria: Archbishop Alfred Martins of Lagos. I also welcome their family members, their relatives, friends and the faithful of their respective Archdioceses who have come to Rome to pray with them and to share their joy.

[Concluding the audience in Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, bring back to your communities the experience of intense spirituality and authentic evangelical unity of these days so that it touch the heart of believers and reverberate through the whole society, leaving traces of good. May the intercession of the heavenly Mother of God and the Apostles Peter and Paul obtain for the Christian people the capacity to make the words of truth that the Lord Jesus left us as a gift shine in the world through the tenacious and limpid witness of individuals. With these sentiments I bestow from my heart the Apostolic Benediction.

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Pope's Homily on Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
"The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Friday, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica concelebrated with 43 metropolitan archbishops upon whom he imposed the pallium.

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Your Eminences,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered around the altar for our solemn celebration of Saints Peter and Paul, the principal Patrons of the Church of Rome. Present with us today are the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, who have just received the Pallium, and to them I extend a particular and affectionate greeting. Also present is an eminent Delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by His Holiness Bartholomaios I, and I welcome them with fraternal and heartfelt gratitude. In an ecumenical spirit, I am also pleased to greet and to thank the Choir of Westminster Abbey, who are providing the music for this liturgy alongside the Cappella Sistina. I also greet the Ambassadors and civil Authorities present. I am grateful to all of you for your presence and your prayers.

In front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, as is well known, there are two imposing statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, easily recognizable by their respective attributes: the keys in the hand of Peter and the sword held by Paul. Likewise, at the main entrance to the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, there are depictions of scenes from the life and the martyrdom of these two pillars of the Church. Christian tradition has always considered Saint Peter and Saint Paul to be inseparable: indeed, together, they represent the whole Gospel of Christ. In Rome, their bond as brothers in the faith came to acquire a particular significance. Indeed, the Christian community of this City considered them a kind of counterbalance to the mythical Romulus and Remus, the two brothers held to be the founders of Rome. A further parallel comes to mind, still on the theme of brothers: whereas the first biblical pair of brothers demonstrate the effects of sin, as Cain kills Abel, yet Peter and Paul, much as they differ from one another in human terms and notwithstanding the conflicts that arose in their relationship, illustrate a new way of being brothers, lived according to the Gospel, an authentic way made possible by the grace of Christ’s Gospel working within them. Only by following Jesus does one arrive at this new brotherhood: this is the first and fundamental message that today’s solemnity presents to each one of us, the importance of which is mirrored in the pursuit of full communion, so earnestly desired by the ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome, as indeed by all Christians.

In the passage from Saint Matthew’s Gospel that we have just heard, Peter makes his own confession of faith in Jesus, acknowledging him as Messiah and Son of God. He does so in the name of the other Apostles too. In reply, the Lord reveals to him the mission that he intends to assign to him, that of being the "rock", the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (cf. Mt 16:16-19). But in what sense is Peter the rock? How is he to exercise this prerogative, which naturally he did not receive for his own sake? The account given by the evangelist Matthew tells us first of all that the acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity made by Simon in the name of the Twelve did not come "through flesh and blood", that is, through his human capacities, but through a particular revelation from God the Father. By contrast, immediately afterwards, as Jesus foretells his passion, death and resurrection, Simon Peter reacts on the basis of "flesh and blood": he "began to rebuke him, saying, this shall never happen to you" (16:22). And Jesus in turn replied: "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me ..." (16:23). The disciple who, through God’s gift, was able to become a solid rock, here shows himself for what he is in his human weakness: a stone along the path, a stone on which men can stumble – in Greek, skandalon. Here we see the tension that exists between the gift that comes from the Lord and human capacities; and in this scene between Jesus and Simon Peter we see anticipated in some sense the drama of the history of the papacy itself, characterized by the joint presence of these two elements: on the one hand, because of the light and the strength that come from on high, the papacy constitutes the foundation of the Church during its pilgrimage through history; on the other hand, across the centuries, human weakness is also evident, which can only be transformed through openness to God’s action.

And in today’s Gospel there emerges powerfully the clear promise made by Jesus: "the gates of the underworld", that is, the forces of evil, will not prevail, "non praevalebunt". One is reminded of the account of the call of the prophet Jeremiah, to whom the Lord said, when entrusting him with his mission: "Behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you - non praevalebunt -, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you!" (Jer 1:18-19). In truth, the promise that Jesus makes to Peter is even greater than those made to the prophets of old: they, indeed, were threatened only by human enemies, whereas Peter will have to be defended from the "gates of the underworld", from the destructive power of evil. Jeremiah receives a promise that affects him as a person and his prophetic ministry; Peter receives assurances concerning the future of the Church, the new community founded by Jesus Christ, which extends to all of history, far beyond the personal existence of Peter himself.

Let us move on now to the symbol of the keys, which we heard about in the Gospel. It echoes the oracle of the prophet Isaiah concerning the steward Eliakim, of whom it was said: "And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open" (Is 22:22). The key represents authority over the house of David. And in the Gospel there is another saying of Jesus addressed to the scribes and the Pharisees, whom the Lord reproaches for shutting off the kingdom of heaven from people (cf. Mt 23:13). This saying also helps us to understand the promise made to Peter: to him, inasmuch as he is the faithful steward of Christ’s message, it belongs to open the gate of the Kingdom of Heaven, and to judge whether to admit or to refuse (cf. Rev 3:7). Hence the two images – that of the keys and that of binding and loosing – express similar meanings which reinforce one another. The expression "binding and loosing" forms part of rabbinical language and refers on the one hand to doctrinal decisions, and on the other hand to disciplinary power, that is, the faculty to impose and to lift excommunication. The parallelism "on earth ... in the heavens" guarantees that Peter’s decisions in the exercise of this ecclesial function are valid in the eyes of God.

In Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel, dedicated to the life of the ecclesial community, we find another saying of Jesus addressed to the disciples: "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 18:18). Saint John, in his account of the appearance of the risen Christ in the midst of the Apostles on Easter evening, recounts these words of the Lord: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven: if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (Jn 20:22-23). In the light of these parallels, it appears clearly that the authority of loosing and binding consists in the power to remit sins. And this grace, which defuses the powers of chaos and evil, is at the heart of the Church’s mystery and ministry. The Church is not a community of the perfect, but a community of sinners, obliged to recognize their need for God’s love, their need to be purified through the Cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sayings concerning the authority of Peter and the Apostles make it clear that God’s power is love, the love that shines forth from Calvary. Hence we can also understand why, in the Gospel account, Peter’s confession of faith is immediately followed by the first prediction of the Passion: through his death, Jesus conquered the powers of the underworld, with his blood he poured out over the world an immense flood of mercy, which cleanses the whole of humanity in its healing waters.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I mentioned at the beginning, the iconographic tradition represents Saint Paul with a sword, and we know that this was the instrument with which he was killed. Yet as we read the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles, we discover that the image of the sword refers to his entire mission of evangelization. For example, when he felt death approaching, he wrote to Timothy: "I have fought the good fight" (2 Tim 4:7). This was certainly not the battle of a military commander but that of a herald of the Word of God, faithful to Christ and to his Church, to which he gave himself completely. And that is why the Lord gave him the crown of glory and placed him, together with Peter, as a pillar in the spiritual edifice of the Church.

Dear Metropolitan Archbishops, the Pallium that I have conferred on you will always remind you that you have been constituted in and for the great mystery of communion that is the Church, the spiritual edifice built upon Christ as the cornerstone, while in its earthly and historical dimension, it is built on the rock of Peter. Inspired by this conviction, we know that together we are all cooperators of the truth, which as we know is one and "symphonic", and requires from each of us and from our communities a constant commitment to conversion to the one Lord in the grace of the one Spirit. May the Holy Mother of God guide and accompany us always along the path of faith and charity. Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.

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