Pope Benedict XVI addressed an estimated 150,000 people on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square for his final general audience as pope. Here’s his remarks in English, via Vatican Radio:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.

I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.

When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!

At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father’s heart.

I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.

At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s greatest figures – from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.

In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.

The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.

Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

- See more at: http://www.religionnews.com/2013/02/27/read-text-of-pope-benedict-xvis-final-blessing/#sthash.wm0KG5xq.dpuf
Pope Benedict XVI addressed an estimated 150,000 people on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square for his final general audience as pope. Here’s his remarks in English, via Vatican Radio:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.

I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.

When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!

At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father’s heart.

I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.

At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s greatest figures – from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.

In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.

The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.

Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

- See more at: http://www.religionnews.com/2013/02/27/read-text-of-pope-benedict-xvis-final-blessing/#sthash.wm0KG5xq.dpuf
Pope Benedict XVI addressed an estimated 150,000 people on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square for his final general audience as pope. Here’s his remarks in English, via Vatican Radio:

Dear brothers and sisters!

Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.

Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.

I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.

When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!

At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father’s heart.

I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.

At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s greatest figures – from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.

In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.

The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.

Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

 

- See more at: http://www.religionnews.com/2013/02/27/read-text-of-pope-benedict-xvis-final-blessing/#sthash.wm0KG5xq.dpuf
Benedict XVI
Cardinal Bergoglio Is the 267th Successor of St. Peter
1st South American, 1st Jesuit, and 1st to Take Name Francis

VATICAN CITY, March 13, 2013 - The bells of St. Peter's started ringing and the crowds began cheering just moments after 7 p.m. local time, as white smoke from the Sistine Chapel indicated "Habemus Papam." We have a Pope!

Just over an hour later, the 267th Successor of St. Peter has been announced by the senior cardinal deacon: It is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, 76, who had been serving as the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

He takes the name Francis.

The crowds in St. Peter's Square near immediately began chanting "Francesco" as they await his arrival on the central balcony for his first "urbi et orbi" blessing.

 
Pope Francis' 1st Words

VATICAN CITY, March 13, 2013 - Here is a translation of the brief greeting Pope Francis gave from the central balcony of St. Peter's Square following his election as the Successor of St. Peter.

* * *

Brothers and sisters, good evening!

You know that the duty of the Conclave was to give a bishop to Rome. It seems as though my brother cardinals went almost to the end of the world to get him. But here we are. I thank you for your welcome. The diocesan community of Rome has a bishop. Thank you!

Before all else, I would like to say a prayer for our Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI. Let us all pray together for him, that the Lord may bless him and that Our Lady may watch over him …

[Our Father … Hail Mary … Glory be]

And now let us begin this journey, [together] as bishop and people. This journey of the Church of Rome, which is to preside over all the Churches in charity. It is a journey of fraternity, of love, of trust between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world, so that a great brotherhood may be created. I hope that this journey of the Church, which we begin today and in which my Cardinal Vicar who is present here will assist me, will be fruitful for the Evangelization of this beautiful city.

And now I would like to give you my blessing. But before I do, I would like to ask you a favor: before the bishop blesses the people, I ask you to pray to the Lord that He bless me…. the prayer of the people for a blessing upon their bishop. Let us take a moment of silence for you to offer your prayer for me.”

[Silence … the Holy Father bows]

[Cardinal N. says … “The Holy Father, Francesco …”]

“Now I will give you my blessing and to the whole world, to all men and women of good will.”

[Pope’s blessing]

Brothers and Sisters,

I leave you now. Thank you for your welcome. Pray for me. And we’ll see one another again soon. Tomorrow I want to go and pray to Our Lady, asking her to watch over Rome. Good night and have a good rest.

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Francis Has Spoken With Pope Emeritus
And Journalists to Be Among First to Have Papal Audience

VATICAN CITY, March 13, 2013 - According to the director of the Vatican press office, Pope Francis has spoken with his predecessor and they hope to meet in the coming days.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi briefed journalists within an hour after Francis gave his first apostolic blessing to the faithful.

Among the information given by Father Lombardi was the news that the Pope had spoken with Benedict XVI and that the two hope to meet in the next few days.

Fr. Lombardi also announced that Francis will meet with the cardinals (electors and non-electors) on Friday morning.

The next day, Saturday morning, he will meet with journalists.

The Mass for the inauguration of his pontificate is scheduled for March 19, next Tuesday, the feast of St. Joseph.


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June 25, 2013. Benedict XVI is “relaxed. He has a good memory and his eyes are bright and cheerful.” These were the words of father Stephan Otto Horn, president of the Ratzinger Alumni Association who visited the Pope Emeritus early in June.


According to his former student, Benedict XVI wants to spend his summer at the Vatican. He also suggested that his successor, Pope Francis spend a few days at Castel Gandolfo, to bear the summer heat. Pope Francis has offered Benedict XVI, full access to the Pope's summer residence in the town of Castel Gandolfo.

The Latin American Pope is scheduled to visit the town of Castel Gandolfo on July 14th, where he will lead the Angelus prayer. According to Stephan Horn, Benedict XVI thinks Pope Francis should celebrate the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th, where a Mass is traditionally celebrated in the nearby parish.

Benedict XVI has parted ways with public life and is not scheduled to take part in any of the usual reunions he had with his former students during the summer. Nor will the former Pope, be at the Ratzinger Prize ceremony later in October.

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Pope Emeritus Takes Up Residence in Monastery

By Staff

VATICAN CITY, May 02, 2013  - Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI arrived back to the Vatican this afternoon, where he was welcomed at the door of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery by his Successor.

Francis left the "formalities of a welcoming ceremony to Vatican authorities," Vatican Radio reported, and awaited the retired Pontiff at the door.

The first to greet Benedict, then, were cardinals and bishops, including Cardinals Giuseppe Bertello, president of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, and Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.

The Pope and Pope Emeritus went together to the chapel in Mater Ecclesiae.

Benedict XVI left the Vatican on Feb. 28 and has been at Castel Gandolfo since then.

"He chose to leave the Vatican immediately after his resignation to physically remove himself from the process of electing his successor," Vatican Radio reported.

Benedict XVI will live in Mater Ecclesiase with his personal secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, and the four consecrated women who do the housekeeping and prepare his meals.

The 86-year-old retired Pontiff also has there his library and a piano. A guest room is available for when his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, comes to visit.

Francis and Benedict have spoken by telephone a few times, reportedly at length. Francis also visited his Predecessor at Castel Gandolfo in March.

Vatican Radio noted, however, that this is "the first time in history that a Pope and a Pope Emeritus will be next-door neighbors!"


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Fr. James V. Schall, S. J., a longtime, legendary Georgetown political-science professor took leave of his role only a few months before Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world with his news. Fr. Schall delivered his “last lecture” — “The Final Gladness” — at Georgetown in December. He talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the retiring pontiff and his teaching, what books might help save your soul, and future and final things.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: How is retirement? Do you feel a kinship with Pope Benedict XVI because of his transition?

FR. SCHALL: “Retirement” is a funny word, isn’t it? You “withdraw” from something, but retirement is not life, though it is a phase of life. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I am about six months younger than the pope, but I announced my retirement six months before he did. Actually, I gave pretty much the same reasons he did, except the “burden” of our respective offices cannot be at all compared. When Benedict XVI talks of “retirement,” it means very little, in a way. He is a man of mind. Mind remains the same waiting to be thought, be it that of Plato, Aquinas, Samuel Johnson, or Chesterton. Few in the world have really been willing to come to terms with the reordering of mind that this man has accomplished in his long and fruitful life. It is in this reordering that the real seeds of our future lie.


LOPEZ
: How do you think history will remember Pope Benedict XVI?

FR. SCHALL: It will remember him as the greatest and most learned intellect ever to occupy the Chair of Peter. No public official in our time has been anywhere near his intellectual equal. This disparity is itself the cause of much disorder, if we grant, as we must, that truth is the essence of intellect and indeed order. In reading Benedict, I have always been struck by how familiar he is not just with the Old and New Testaments (in their original languages) but with his constant referring to the Fathers of the Church, especially Augustine, and the intellectual popes like Gregory the Great and Leo the Great, and also Irenaeus, Basil, Maximius, Origen, Bonaventure, and I do not know them all. He knows German philosophy well, and always cites Plato. He is at home with all the Marxist philosophers. Indeed, in Spe Salvi, he cited two of the most famous ones as witness to the logical need of a resurrection of the body. Benedict is a member of one of the French academies. No one has really begun to do his homework on what this pope has thought his way through. The media and most universities are, basically, hopeless. I suspect his final opera omni in a critical German edition will equal in length that of Augustine, Aquinas, and Bonaventure.


LOPEZ
: Why is his
Jesus of Nazareth significant?

FR. SCHALL: The three volumes of this book should not put us off, either because of its length or its erudition. First, the pope wrote much of this book and published it while he was pope but, as it were, not as pope. That is, it is not an “official” document of the magisterium. What it is, rather, is an account of what the man who sits on the Chair of Peter thinks about the key question: “Just who was this Jesus of Nazareth, anyhow?” We were asked simply, about Christ: what is the evidence on which you base your acceptance of His Divinity? The book clearly and forcefully lays it out. We can take it or leave it, but not without a nagging sense that we really have not looked at the evidence.

What Benedict did was to state, in brief, his considered opinion and research. He concluded that all the evidence available to us over a 2,000-year period, including the latest scientific evidence, indicates that Jesus Christ is who He said He was. That is, He was in fact the Son of God, sent into the world by the Father for the redemption of mankind from their sins. Benedict proceeds to examine all the evidence that this position is not true. Tome after tome has been written to try to prove that Christ never existed, that He was merely a man, that He was a political fanatic, that He was a prophet, that He was a spirit, that He was almost anything but who and what He said He was. Yet, once one’s evidence is set down, it can be examined for its coherence and logic. This examination is what Benedict has done. If some evidence that makes sense can be shown to disprove the fact, well and good. But it has not been produced yet. In fact, the evidence tends in the direction that the Church has always said it did.

Thus, Jesus of Nazareth stands there before us. We may want to do our best to ignore it, as we do not like what it portends if it is true. But if it is true, and the evidence that it is seems to be there, then we can no longer simply go about our business as if something momentous did not happen. If the Word was made flesh and did dwell among us, we want to know it, and acknowledge that it does make a difference to our lives, to how we live and how we think.

LOPEZ: What do you mean when you say, as you did in a recent reflection on Pope Benedict that “we are about producing a death, life, hell, and purgatory in this world considerably worse than the worst descriptions of the four last things?” In what way do we do such things?

FR. SCHALL: This is but a summary of the pope’s greatest encyclical, Spe Salvi, and also of his book Death and Eternal Life, among a thousand other works. I have tried to spell it out in my book The Modern Age. Basically, the modern world is an attempt to achieve what are in effect Christian purposes, but it attempts this by rejecting the means of reason and grace that are in fact necessary to achieve them. We now propose an inner-worldly immortality as a goal of science. This is what is behind many of the efforts to lengthen human life. We want to “save the earth” so that we can live on it as long as possible. We end up with a new hell on earth. We postpone death and deny birth. Death is both a liberation and a punishment. If we never die, we are condemned to a useless, ongoing life in this world that is meaningless. The reason we do this is  that we deny our transcendent purpose. Once we do that, we have to reinvent ourselves.

This is what has happened in the modern era. One ideology or movement or explanation followed logically from the previous one when it proved untenable. We make past generations to be tools of some utopian vision down the ages in which none of us will appear. But if we understand that each of us is himself created with a personal destiny to live with God, if we choose, we see the world put back in a place of order where it is in effect an arena wherein this ultimate choice for each one of us is played out. We do such things because logically we must, once we insist that there is no transcendent order or that our actions are themselves not judged according to a standard that we do not ourselves create. Our hearts become doubly “restless,” to use Augustine’s term, when we have only ourselves in the cosmos. It is a despair, not a hope.

 
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Pope Benedict XVI’s “First Convert”

April 16, 2013

The story of how a New York Jew wrestled with Christ and became Catholic

Roger Dubin

Groucho Marx once said, “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have a guy like me as a member.”  

So began my witness testimony at the Easter Vigil on April 7, 2007, when my wife Barbara and I entered the Catholic Church. For a New York Jew, who’d detested the name “Jesus” for as long as he could remember, to be standing before a packed congregation at Sacred Heart Church in Prescott, Arizona, having to recount in three minutes how he got there—well, you can imagine what a surreal a moment that was.

 Yet now, when instead of three minutes I have three thousand words, plus six years as a Catholic, the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis for perspective, the task is, if anything, even more daunting. But Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, asked me to give it a shot, so here goes.

 On April 2, 2005, there came the news of the death of Pope John Paul II. I’d always admired the pope for his courage in confronting the horrors of communism, and for aligning with President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher in a united front that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Yet as a spiritual leader he meant nothing to me.

 Nevertheless, Barbara and I found ourselves becoming involved in the events and the funeral as they unfolded on television. Even the typically skewed commercial coverage couldn’t disguise the tributes from all corners of the globe, and the love for the pope and grief at losing him from Catholics and people of every faith. At some point in the two weeks following, Barbara—a long-lapsed Protestant who’d never lost her regard for Christianity—turned to me and said, “You’ve got to get religion, Roger. You’ve been drifting way too long.”

 Early on the morning of April 19, I left on a business trip, first taking the commuter flight from Prescott, our home since 2001, to the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. There was a wait before my next flight to the west coast, so I stopped for coffee, and soon after I arrived at the gate, the white smoke appeared over the roof of the Sistine Chapel on the television monitor. Sipping my cappuccino, I watched with a large group of travelers, interested—as a news hound mostly—in who’d been chosen. From my casual observation, however, quite a few in the crowd were Catholics, and far more invested in the outcome than I.

 When the announcement was made that Cardinal Ratzinger had been elected, people around me seemed to register either shock or joy. I had a pretty good sense of the reason for the split. In the days following Pope John Paul’s passing, I’d noted the avuncular and, to all appearances, mild-mannered cardinal playing a high-profile role in the funeral and related proceedings. I’d also heard quite a bit of commentary about his staunchly conservative stance as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, set in contrast to the “modernization” and “progress” many were hoping for and demanding. That hoary theme, complete with groan-inducing code words and liberal shibboleths straight out of American politics, brought on a depressing sense of déjÀ vu. “God’s Rottweiler,” some even called him, a denigration that struck me as both outrageous and naïve, though I knew almost nothing about him.

 I’d been a senior corporate executive for many years, I’ve had my own consulting business since 1996, and I understood that the cardinal, like the centurion in Matthew 8:9, was “ a man under authority.” Which meant that whatever he’d done to garner his reputation had been undertaken with the guidance and approval of his boss. Yet the criticism fell on him, which also told me he was a loyal lieutenant, willing to do his superior’s will and take the hit himself without complaint. People who viewed it otherwise, I grumbled, likely had an axe to grind, or were reluctant to criticize Pope John Paul, or were simply fools.

 That’s not very charitable, I admit. But remember, I was nowhere near being “Christian” in my judgments at the time. (Actually, I’m still nowhere near where I should be, yet I’m trying.) How often I’ve marveled since then at Pope Benedict’s kindness to everyone, even as he took on the agonizing work of expunging the “filth” from the Church and laying the foundation for renewal. How often I’ve wished I could feel his Christian charity towards the enemies within. But the rockiest rise on the road to becoming Christian, at least for someone like me, is learning to love as Pope Benedict loves—especially those whom you’d much rather smack upside the head and who richly deserve far worse. I suspect I’ll be wrestling with that one for a long time.

 So there I was at the gate—standing now, with just a few minutes left before I’d need to board my flight. If I had to miss the introduction of the new pope, it was no big deal, though I was vaguely hoping I wouldn’t. And then Pope Benedict XVI walked onto the balcony. The camera zoomed in, his eyes seemed to look right at me and through me, and that’s the exact instant my conversion happened.

 I’ll tell you more about that a little later, but first I want to affirm what I bet some of you are already thinking. I, too, have seen reruns of the video of that moment, and the reality is, the camera does not zoom in, certainly not in the way I experienced it. Nor do the pope’s eyes appear to look right at me, much less through me. I guess that was just one more minor miracle of that miraculous morning.

 In the years since, I’ve enjoyed saying that I’m Pope Benedict’s first convert, or tied for first, which marked an inauspicious beginning indeed to his pontificate. I’ve also joked numerous times that my conversion was like Saint Paul’s—one of my huge heroes—minus the saint part. I suppose I tend to make light of it all because the event remains utterly inexplicable to me. Indeed, with the passage of time, I’ve wondered occasionally if it actually occurred. The only concrete evidence is that I am Catholic, though that’s evidence enough for anyone who’s ever known me.

 I was raised in a family of Russian heritage that was troubled, dark, and often violent—thanks to my poor late father’s volcanic temper—among wealthy, successful relatives whose Judaism was solely about tradition, survival, and identity, not God. My little sister was born autistic, my elder sister and I fought, and my mother was completely overwhelmed. Not at all a happy home, and when I could escape, I would shut myself away and read—searching, I came to realize later, for something beyond, for truth, for understanding, for what it all meant. Because somehow, despite my parents’ agnosticism and my father’s draconian regime, I believed in God. Though I didn’t like him much.

 For the sake of tradition, my mother attempted—risking derision and explosions from her husband—to have us observe the High Holy Days, and urged me to become Bar-Mitzvahed for the same reason. The ceremony was rather a sham: a long-suffering rabbi crash-tutored me, taught me my Hebrew phonetically, and walked me through a Cliff Notes version of the Old Testament and the Torah. But it pleased my mother and my relatives.

 As for the New Testament, that was another matter entirely. My rabbi never once mentioned it, I knew little about it, and what I did know I viewed with suspicion. Yet I’d picked up the basics from my own reading and the movies—the big Technicolor sword-and-sandal epics of the time in particular, which I liked because they were, well, big, and in most cases about God in some fashion, and offered something more nourishing than popcorn to chew on. I understood how Jesus Christ came to be crucified, and the role of the Jewish leaders of the day in the show trial and sentence. Nevertheless, it was still bizarre and infuriating when I had several encounters regarding that general topic with Catholic boys. Evidently, I’d personally murdered their Lord (guess I must have dozed off there, for a couple thousand years), and they were none too pleased about it. Fists flew on both sides, despite the insanity of it all.

 To say I developed an antipathy towards Christianity would be an understatement. It was a prejudice shared by most among my relatives, though especially towards Catholics—who were blamed for the medieval passion plays, the pogroms, the worldwide discrimination, even some aspects of the Holocaust. I don’t recall whether it ever occurred to me that this prejudice was as irrational as the one that held me responsible for killing Jesus, but probably not.

 Being Jewish in my clan was more about what we were against, than what we were for—except for supporting Israel; about huddling together, not reaching out—except to help other Jews; about grim fatalism, not faith in God—except to complain about him. Perhaps understandably, as I became a young adult, I would rarely mention my being Jewish unless I sensed someone might be anti-Semitic. Then I’d drop the potential bomb to gauge the reaction. Words, by that point, had taken the place of fists, and I learned to wield them like a lepidopterist, leaving the moths pinned to their hatred and illogic.

 But the truth is, I never felt Jewish, in any God-centric way, until I became Catholic.

 All the foregoing, though, still doesn’t explain my loathing for the name “Jesus.” The reason I acquired that was the manner in which popular Christianity had abused it, and overused it, and commercialized it, and exploited it; and the way—in art, movies, and written depictions—the person of Jesus Christ himself was so often feminized: like some long-haired, blue-eyed flower child, floating just above the ground, spouting weightless fluff about peace and love. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s how it came across to me and it made me ill.

 After all, he was a Jew, I reasoned, and a carpenter’s son to boot. That was hard work in a hard time; you needed to be tough and strong to do it. In fact, I figured the Yeshua who strode the dusty earth of ancient Israel had to have been a powerhouse—with one hand holding a dove, but the other a hammer, and always the smartest guy in the room. Otherwise, what Jew would have followed him? And where was the Christ who said in Matthew 10:34—yes, even I couldn’t avoid picking up some actual quotes from the New Testament, as long as they fit my viewpoint: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

 I liked that mental picture a lot: a muscular Jesus wielding a sword. Evidently no one else did, though, at least not since the good old days of the Knights Templar and such. Whoever Jesus really was I assumed was unknowable, given all the myths and hoo-hah about him, but my guess was that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob probably felt much the same as I did about who he’d become in modern times. Kind of like Brando in The Godfather, when he uncovers James Caan’s body at the undertaker’s and weeps, “Look how they massacred my boy.”

 In any case, at the age of 16 and just graduated from high school, I’d had enough of everything. I lied my way into the Merchant Marine and shipped out as an ordinary seaman on a decrepit tramp freighter bound for North Africa. When I came home, I embarked on what became a series of regrettable forays into several colleges—the regret was mutual, mine and the colleges’—and then, at the age of 22, I drifted “east.” What I found in the concepts of karma and reincarnation, and the moral relativism inherent in eastern mysticism and the New Age, was a way to understand God that let me off the hook, so to speak, for my sins and transgressions. Which, unfortunately, were legion.

 Following a first marriage that produced no children and failed in four years, and a rootless life as a professional musician, writer, and editor, in 1981 I met my wife Barbara—a gifted and inspired fine artist, and a guileless and giving human being. She had two children from her former marriage and had been a single parent for three years. Although fatherhood was not something I’d ever desired, her children—ages three and six at the time—were well mannered and charming. Barbara and I fell in love, got married, and I legally adopted the little ones.

 At around the same time that I’d drifted east, Barbara had experienced a sudden and intense pull to Christ—toward the very source of the forgiveness, kindness, and optimism that was the gentle Christianity she’d grown up with. Yet without a church to fulfill her needs, she was soon seduced by the New Age as well, though her reasons were nothing like mine. She was attracted to the emphasis on creativity that matched her fire and joy for life, the sense of freedom within God’s kingdom, and the concept of being a co-worker with God throughout eternity. Her Christian values, ethics, and view of humanity, however, never left her; indeed, as the years went by, her main goal was to help other New Agers become more Christ-like, for she discovered that so many of them were off-track. Perhaps not surprisingly, in the 1990s she felt herself drawn again to Jesus. One time—and one time only, she tells me—she dared, after all these years away, to speak personally to him and pray fervently for my conversion, certain that if she came back to Christianity on her own, our marriage would end and our children would suffer.

 I know without ambiguity that the detour she made into the New Age was made for my sake. Had she been Christian, we never would have met, and in order for the Holy Spirit to save me, he needed Barbara to reach her hand into my hell, take mine and never let go. I could be glib and call this sacrifice but another of the many she constantly, and quietly, makes for the sake of others, except that this one almost destroyed her. And yet, she has thanked me endlessly for the sole gift I gave her in return: bringing her into the Catholic Church, the very church she’d always imagined was more closed in and confined than any other on earth.

 So now, a guy who’d never wanted kids had an instant family. I embarked on a successful, though nomadic, business career, and struggled to make myself a better man. I loved the children dearly, yet couldn’t stop the rages of my father becoming my own. Over and over, the demons of the past would rise up and bring darkness to our family, and over and over the eastern teachings had no answers. The so-called “spiritual exercises” were all me-centered and ego-centered, and the last thing in the universe I needed was more selfishness. It fell to Barbara to hold everything together and bring the light back to our home. Of course, there were many beautiful times too, now glittering memories of their wonderful childhood and adolescence, and we remain to this day a very close and loving family. Yet it’s only because of Barbara’s strength and wisdom that our kids were able to grow into such exceptional adults.

 Roughly drawn, then, this is a sketch of the angry and deeply anti-Christian Jew who stood at the gate in Sky Harbor Airport on April 19, 2005, when Pope Benedict XVI greeted the world for the first time. I had neither the slightest inkling of, nor the remotest desire for, what was about to occur.  But I had been given a warning.

 Almost exactly a year before—I wrote it down—I experienced a dream so vivid that I remember it now just as I did then. I was in a business suit, walking the empty street of a city, going to work. Waiting for me at the entrance of a building, also in a business suit, was Jesus Christ—and he didn’t have to introduce himself. He looked a lot like I’d always thought he must: tough, no nonsense, all man, all-knowing. He certainly seemed to know everything about me, but didn’t care.

 We shook hands and he said, “I need you to do something. Go up to the top floor of this building and kill Satan.” Why me? I asked. “Why not?” he replied. I had no answer for that, so in I went. It was ultra-plush—marble and chrome and polished wood. I took the elevator to the top and there, at his massive desk in a huge office, was a handsome, well-groomed executive with a pleasant expression. Still, I knew who it was. He knew who I was too, and who’d sent me, because he stood and came over, intimidating except for the fear in his eyes. I laid my hands on his shoulders and said: “In the name of Jesus Christ…” The next words formed in my mind as “I kill you,” but they came out, “I kiss you.” His face went white, I kissed him on the forehead, and he crumpled down dead.

 Clearly, I thought on awakening, this had been some colossal cosmic mistake, as if I’d opened the wrong hotel room door and seen things I shouldn’t have. But I know now that the Body of Christ requires all sorts of parts for all sorts of purposes, and when Our Lord decides—for whatever arcane reason of his own—that he wants to get you, you’re got. Resistance is futile, so you might as well make the best of it.

 Because as Pope Benedict walked onto the balcony and raised his arms, and the camera appeared to zoom in, an unstoppable power and presence came through his eyes and sliced me open. I burst into tears, and everything I ever thought I was, or wasn’t, poured out.

 It was the Sword of Christ, and there would be no peace in me until I offered him mine.

 So ended, with those exact words, my witness testimony on April 7, 2007. I wish I could say that, in the years since, I’ve fulfilled the promise of my conversion, or returned a fraction of the priceless treasure I was given. But I can’t.

 I’ve served on the RCIA team every year. I’m on the Pastoral Council. I never miss Sunday Mass, pray every day, sit a weekly hour in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, and support charities. I could check a few more boxes as well, but why bother? Because on the morning I heard that Pope Benedict had resigned, I was struck with the most crushing sense of personal failure and shame. This profoundly holy, heroic, and humble man—in whose luminous thoughts and words I’ve tried to immerse myself, and whom Barbara and I were blessed to see in person twice, and whose pontificate has been so historic and revolutionary—what have I done to help him? Have I ever really kissed and killed Satan, either in the wide world or my own soul? And as for Saint Paul—have I even attempted to follow his footprints?

 It’s all been too easy, being Catholic. Hardly any trouble at all. But no more.

Ever since Pope Benedict’s resignation, I’ve been like Kevin Costner in the movie The Untouchables, and a bullet-riddled Sean Connery is grabbing me by the shirt and crying out with his last breath: “What are you prepared to DO?”

 We shall see.

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Looking Back: Benedict XVI's Encyclicals
Summarizing Facets of a Pontificate

ROME, March 11, 2013 - Benedict XVI left office after having given the best of himself, which included three encyclicals from the "theologian Pope."

Here's a look at Deus Caritas Est, Spe Salvi and Caritas in Veritate.

Deus Caritas Est: God Is Love

Breaking with tradition, Benedict XVI himself presented his encyclical Deus Caritas Est to the readers of an Italian magazine. The Pope signed the encyclical on Dec. 25, 2005. In February of the following year, he introduced it with this commentary:

Initially, in fact, the text might seem somewhat difficult and theoretical. However, when one begins to read it, it is obvious that he wished to answer a couple of very concrete questions for a Christian life.

The first question is the following: Is it possible to love God? More than that: Can love be obligatory? Is it not a feeling that one has or does not have? The answer to the first question is: yes, we can love God, given that He has not stayed at an unreachable distance but has entered and enters our life. He comes to meet each one of us: in the sacraments through which He acts in our life; with the faith of the Church, through which He addresses us; through contact with other people, who transmit His light to us; with the dispositions through which he intervenes in our life; and also with the signs of the creation He has given us.

Not only has He given us love, He has first of all lived it and he knocks on the door of our heart in many ways to awaken our answer of love. Love is not only a feeling. The will and the intelligence also belong to it. With his Word, God addresses our intelligence, our will and our feelings, so that we can learn to love Him "with all our heart and with all our soul." In fact, we do not find love suddenly ready, it has to mature, so to speak. We can learn to love slowly so that love will involve all our strength and open the way for an upright life.

The second question is the following: can we really love our "neighbor," when he seems strange and even unlikeable? Yes we can, if we are God's friends, if we are Christ's friends. If we are friends of Christ it becomes increasingly clear that He has loved us and loves us, even if we often turn our gaze away from Him and live according to other criteria. If, instead, friendship with God becomes something ever more important and decisive for us, then we begin to love those whom God loves and those who are in need of us. God wants us to be friends of his friends, and we can be so if we are interiorly close to them.

Finally, this question is also posed: Does not the Church with her commandments and prohibitions embitter the joy of the eros, of feeling ourselves loved, which drives us to the other and seeks to be transformed into union? In the encyclical I attempted to demonstrate that the most profound promise of the "eros" can only mature when we do not seek a passing and sudden happiness. On the contrary, together we find the patience to discover the other increasingly in the depth of his person, in the totality of body and soul, so that finally the happiness of the other becomes more important than my own. Then, one no longer wishes to receive something, but to give oneself, and in this liberation of one's "I" man finds himself and is filled with joy.

In the encyclical I speak of a way of purification and maturation necessary so that the true promise of the "eros" can be fulfilled. The language of the tradition of the Church has called this process "education in chastity," which, in short, means nothing other than to learn the totality of love in the patience of the growth and maturation.

In the second part there is talk of charity, at the service of the love of the Church toward all those who suffer in body or soul and are in need of the gift of love. Here two questions arise above all: Can the Church leave this service to other philanthropic organizations? The answer is no. The Church cannot do it. The Church must practice love of neighbor also as community; otherwise she would proclaim the God of love incompletely and insufficiently.

The second question: Would it not be better to promote an order of justice in which there are no needy people and charity becomes something superfluous? The answer is the following: undoubtedly the aim of politics is to create a just order in society, where what is one's own is recognized to each and where no one suffers because of poverty. In this case, justice is the real aim of politics, just as peace cannot exist without justice. By her very nature the Church herself does not get involved in politics, instead she respects the autonomy of the State and of its institutions.

The quest for this order of justice corresponds to common reason, just as politics is something that affects all citizens. Often, however, reason is blinded by interests and the will to power. Faith serves to purify reason, so that it can see and decide correctly. Hence, it is the task of the Church to cure reason and reinforce the will to do good. In this connection, without engaging in politics, the Church participates passionately in the battle for justice. It is for Christians involved in public service, in political action to open ever new ways for justice.

However, I have only answered the first half of our question. The second half, which I like to stress in the encyclical, says this: Justice never makes love superfluous. Beyond justice, man will always be in need of love, as he is the only one capable of giving a soul to justice. In a world that is so profoundly wounded, as the one we know in our days, this affirmation does not need demonstrations. The world awaits the witness of Christian love that is inspired in the faith. In our world, so often dark, the light of God shines with this love.

Spe Salvi: Saved in Hope

The text, signed on Nov. 30, 2007, has an Introduction and eight chapters and opens with the passage of the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans: Spe salvi facti sumus (we were saved in hope).

"According to the Christian faith – the Pope explains in the Introduction --, redemption, salvation, is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey." Therefore, "a distinguishing mark of Christians" is "the fact that they have a future, (…) they know (…) that their life will not end in emptiness. (…) the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life."

"To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope", explains the Holy Father. It is something that the Ephesians understood very well, who before their encounter with God had many gods but "were without hope, (…) without God." The problem for those of us who always live with the Christian concept of God, stresses the Holy Father, is our being accustomed to the Gospel: "the hope that ensues from a real encounter with (…) God," is now almost imperceptible.

The Pope recalls that Jesus did not bring "a socio-revolutionary message" such as that of Spartacus and "he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or Bar- Kochba." What Jesus had brought "was something totally different: (…) an encounter with the living God with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within," "Even if external structures remained unaltered." Christ makes us truly free: we are not slaves of the universe" and "of the laws and the randomness of matter."(…) We are free because "Heaven is not empty," because God is the Lord of the universe, who "in Jesus has revealed himself as Love."

Christ is the "true philosopher." He tells us "who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human." He shows us the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life." And he offers us a hope which is at the same time expectation and presence: because "the fact that this future exists changes the present." The Pope observes that "perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. (…) the present-day crisis of faith is essentially a crisis of Christian hope."

"The restoration of the lost 'Paradise' is no longer expected from faith," but "from the newly discovered link between science and praxis from which will emerge, the kingdom of man." Thus hope is transformed into "faith in progress" resting on two columns: reason and freedom seem to guarantee by themselves, by virtue of their intrinsic goodness, a new and perfect human community."

"There are two essential stages in the political realization of this hope," – continues Benedict XVI --: the French and the Marxist Revolutions. "Europe of the Enlightenment looked on with fascination at these events, but then, as they developed, had cause to reflect anew on reason and freedom." Moreover, the proletarian revolution "left in its wake a desolating destruction."

Marx's fundamental error was this: "He forgot man and he forgot man's freedom. (…) He thought that, once the economy was solved, everything would be resolved. His real error is materialism." "Let us put it very simply: man needs God, otherwise he remains without hope." "Man can never be redeemed simply from outside. (…) Man is redeemed by love," unconditional, absolute love: Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us 'to the end.'" The Pope indicates four places to learn and exercise hope. The first is prayer: "When no one listens to me anymore, God still listens to me. (…) When I can no longer call upon anyone (…) He can help me. After prayer comes action. "Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others." It is an active hope, with which we struggle, so that the world will become a bit more luminous and human.

And I can only hope if I know that "my own life and history in general are held firm by the indestructible power of love." Suffering is also a place of apprenticeship of hope. "Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering," however, "It is not by sidestepping suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love. (…) It is also fundamental to be able to suffer with others and for others. "A society unable to accept its suffering (…) is a cruel and inhuman society." Finally, another place to learn hope is God's Judgment. (…) There is the resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is the 'undoing' of past suffering, reparation that sets things aright."

The Pope is "convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life." It is impossible that "the injustice of history should be the final word. (…) And in his justice there is also grace." "Grace does not cancel out justice. (…) Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened."

Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth

The encyclical dated June 29, 2009, solemnity of Saint Peter and Saint Paul has an Introduction, six chapters and a Conclusion.

In the Introduction, the Pope recalls that "charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine." Moreover, given "the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living" he warns that a " Christianity of charity without truth would be more or less interchangeable with a pool of good sentiments, helpful for social cohesion, but of little relevance."

"Development (…) needs this truth," writes Benedict XVI and he analyzes "two guiding criteria of moral action: justice and the common good. (…) Every Christian is called to this charity, according to his vocation and the influence he wields in the polis. This is the institutional way of social living."

The first chapter is dedicated to the "Message of Paul VI's encyclical "Populorum Progressio," in which "he underlined the indispensable importance of the Gospel for building a society according to freedom and justice." "In promoting development, the Christian faith does not rely on privilege or positions of power, (…) but only on Christ." The Pontiff says that "the causes of underdevelopment are not primarily of the material order." They are "first of all, in the will, secondly in thinking" and "an even more important cause than lack of deep thought is the lack of brotherhood among individuals and peoples."

The topic of the second chapter is "Human Development in Our Time." "Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end -- the Pope reiterates -- it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty." And he enumerates distortions of development: "in largely speculative financial dealing," "large-scale migration of peoples, often provoked by some particular circumstance and then given insufficient attention, the unregulated exploitation of the earth's resources." In face of these problems, which are linked among themselves, the Pope invokes "a new humanistic synthesis," saying afterwards that "the picture of development has many overlapping layers. (…) The world's wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase. In rich countries new forms of poverty are emerging."

"On the cultural plane – he continues – the possibilities of interaction" have made possible new openings for dialogue," (…) but there is a twofold danger." In the first place, "a cultural eclecticism" where cultures are considered "substantially equivalent." The opposite danger is that of "cultural leveling and indiscriminate acceptance of types of conduct and life-styles." Benedict XVI mentions "the scandal of hunger" and advocates "equitable agrarian reform in developing countries."

Likewise, the Pontiff says that respect for life cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples," and he affirms that "when a society moves towards the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man's true good."

Another aspect linked to development is the right to religious freedom…. Violence -- writes the Pope --, puts the brakes on authentic development" and this "applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism."

"Fraternity, economic development and civil society" is the topic of the third chapter, which opens with praise for the experience of gift, often not acknowledged, "because of a purely consumerist and utilitarian view of life. (…) on the other hand, if development is to be authentically human, it needs to make room for the principle of gratuitousness," and as for the market, the commercial logic "needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility."

Taking up again the encyclical Centesimus Annus, he points out "the need for a system with three subjects: the market, the State and civil society" and hopes for "ways of civilizing the economy." What is needed are "forms of solidaristic economy" and "both the market and politics need individuals who are open to reciprocal gift."

The chapter closes with a new evaluation of the phenomenon of globalization, which must not be understood only as "a socio-economic process." (…) Globalization needs "a person-based and community-oriented cultural process of world-wide integration that is open to transcendence," and able to "correct the malfunctions."

In the fourth chapter, the encyclical addresses the topic of the "Development of People, Rights and Duties, the Environment." "Government and international organizations -- one reads -- cannot forget "the objectivity and inanielability" of rights. In this regard, he reflects on the "problems related to population growth."

He reaffirms that "respect for human values in the exercise of … sexuality (…) cannot be reduced merely to pleasure or entertainment." The States – he writes -- are called to enact policies promoting the centrality and the integrity of the family."

Once again he affirms that "the economy needs ethics in order to function correctly; not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centered." The centrality of the person, he writes, must be the guiding principle "in interventions for development" of international cooperation. "International organizations – exhorts the Pope -- might question the actual effectiveness of their bureaucratic and administrative machinery, which is often excessively costly."

Further on, the Holy Father refers to the energy problems. "The fact that some States, power groups and companies hoard non-renewable energy resources represents a grave obstacle to development in poor countries." (…) "The technologically advanced societies -- he adds – can and must lower their domestic energy consumption," while "at the same time encouraging research into alternative forms of energy."

"The collaboration of the human family" is at the heart of the fifth chapter, in which Benedict XVI stresses that "the development of peoples depends, above all, on the recognition that the human race is a single family." Hence, one reads, the Christian religion can contribute to development "only if God also finds a place in the public sphere."

The Pope makes reference to the principle of subsidiarity, which offers aid to a person "through the autonomy of intermediary bodies." Subsidiarity, he explains, "is the most effective antidote against all forms of paternalistic welfare" and is more appropriate to "humanize globalization."

Benedict XVI also exhorts the rich States to "allocate larger quotas" of the Gross National Product for development, respecting the commitments acquired. And he hopes for greater access to education and, more than that, the "complete formation of the person" affirming that by yielding to relativism, one becomes poorer. An example, he writes, is the perverse phenomenon of sexual tourism. "It is sad to note—he observes-- that this activity often takes place with the support of local governments,"

The Pope then addresses the "historic" phenomenon of migration. "Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance."

The Pontiff dedicates the last paragraph of the chapter "to a strongly felt need … for a reform of the United Nations Organization" and of the "economic institutions and international finance." Necessary is "the presence of a true world political authority" (…) that enjoys "effective power."

The sixth and last chapter is focused on the topic of the "Development of Peoples and Technology." The Pope warns against the "Promethean presumption" according to which "humanity believes it can recreate itself making use of the 'wonders' of technology." Technology, he stresses, cannot have "absolute freedom."

The primary field "of the cultural struggle between the absolutism of technicality and man's moral responsibility is today that of bioethics," explains the Pope, adding: "reason without faith is doomed to flounder in an illusion of its own omnipotence." The social question becomes an "anthropological question." Embryo research and cloning, laments the Pontiff, "are promoted by the present culture," which "believes it has solved every mystery." The Pope fears "the systematic eugenic programming of births."

In the Encyclical's Conclusion, the Pope stresses that development "needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer," it needs "love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace."

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Looking Back: Synods Held During Benedict XVI's Reign
Summarizing Facets of a Pontificate

ROME, March 11, 2013  - Pope Benedict XVI left an important legacy to the Church, having convoked five Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops, some "general" and others "special."

A synod results in a papal document called a postsynodal apostolic exhortation, in which the Pope takes into account the main ideas approved in the Assemblies by the participants.

Benedict XVI's Convocations

The first synod held during Benedict XVI's pontificate was the 11th Ordinary General Assembly, held from October 2-23, 2005, which was attended by 258 Synodal Fathers to reflect on the topic: "The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church."

In a certain sense, this was an Assembly "inherited" by Benedict XVI, given that, taking into consideration the opinion of the members of the 10th Ordinary Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops (which is installed between one Assembly and another), and based at the same time on the consultation of Episcopal Conferences worldwide and of other interested organizations, Pope John Paul II decided to convoke the 11th Ordinary General Assembly to address the topic of the Eucharist.

After his election on April 19, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed the dates of the Synodal Assembly and, at the same time, approved the following innovations to the Synod's activities: the reduction of the duration of the Synodal Assembly to three weeks; an hour of free discussion; the duration of the interventions after the conclusion of the afternoon's plenary sessions; the members' electronic vote – in addition to the usual written vote -- on the Synod's Proposals or Recommendations and the publication pro hoc vice of the Italian translation of the Proposals.

The official documentation produced by the Synodal Assembly included the Message to the People of God (Nuntius), elaborated during the Assembly and approved by the Synod Fathers, as well as the Holy Father's postsynodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis of February 22, 2007.

For its part, the 12th Ordinary General Assembly, held from October 5-26, 2008, was attended by 253 Synodal Fathers, who reflected on the topic: "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

As early as October 6, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI had announced his decision to convoke a 12th Ordinary General Assembly, to address the theme of the Word of God, and intended to continue the preceding Synod of the year 2005 on the Eucharist and, in this way, highlight the intrinsic relation between the Eucharist and the Word of God for the life and mission of the Church.

A distinctive feature of this Synodal Assembly was its unfolding with the celebration of the Pauline Year, which began on June 29, 2008. To commemorate this occasion, the liturgy for the opening of the Synod was celebrated in the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls. At the same time, given the theme being discussed, for the first time a Rabbi was invited to talk with the Synodal Fathers and the participants. Likewise, attending the Synodal Assembly for the first time was His Eminence Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who addressed the Synod's participants during the celebration of Vespers in the Sistine Chapel.

Moreover, for the first time the 55 Propositions elaborated collegially by the Synodal Fathers were announced to the public pro hoc vice in an Italian translation. During the Synod's closing session, the members also announced the Message to the People of God (Nuntius).

Subsequently the Holy Father wrote the postsynodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, promulgated on September 30, 2010.

A year later, the 2nd Special Assembly for Africa was held, from October 4-25, 2009, which was attended by 244 Synodal Fathers who analyzed the topic: "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."

During the Symposium of the Bishops of Africa and Europe, held in Rome on November 13, 2004, Pope John Paul II, "accepted the desire of the Special Council for Africa" and, responding to "the hope of African pastors," announced the convocation of the 2nd Special Assembly for Africa. In the weekly Audience of June 22, 2005, the Holy Father Benedict XVI confirmed this decision.

In the course of the 2nd Special Assembly, the Synodal Fathers focused their attention on the realities in the Church in the African continent, especially on reconciliation, justice and peace, so that the Church could respond to her mission to be "salt of the earth and light of the world" in the social, cultural and religious realms.

The Synodal Assembly approved the Final Message, which was both an appeal and a source of encouragement for the Church's mission in Africa, and 57 Propositions or Proposals to be presented to the Holy Father, in which the Synodal Fathers decided to treat in a pastoral manner the different issues discussed during the Assembly.

As a result of this, the Holy Father signed the postsynodal apostolic exhortation Africae munus, which was given to the African people and to the world during his apostolic journey to Benin from November 18-20, 2011.

The next convocation was characterized for being the first Special Assembly on the Middle East, for which the Pope convoked 185 Synodal Fathers from October 10-24, 2010, who addressed the pending topic: "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness."

The Holy Father Benedict XVI announced personally the convocation of the Synodal Assembly of September 19, 2009, in Castel Gandolfo, during a meeting with the heads of the Oriental Catholic Churches sui iuris.

At the same time, the Pope also established the Pre-Synodal Council for the Middle East, whose members included the seven Patriarchs, specifically, six from the Oriental Catholic Churches sui iuris and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Turkey and Iran.

In addition to Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, the Synodal Assembly's preparatory documents designated the following sixteen countries as the "Middle East": Saudi Arabia, Bahrein, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In addition to the Synodal Fathers, a significant number of experts, auditors, fraternal delegates and guests – all connected in some way to the Church in the Middle East -- took part in the Synodal Assembly, including a rabbi and two Muslim representatives, who addressed the Assembly.

Forty-four Propositions resulted from the Special Assembly on the Middle East. They were given to the public pro hoc vice in an Italian translation. At the end of the Synod, the members also published a Message for the People of God (Nuntius).

Almost a year later, and after having reflected on and analyzed the proposals received, the Holy Father issued the postsynodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, which was signed and presented to the Church in the Middle East during his recent apostolic visit to Lebanon, from September 14-16, 2012.

Towards the New Evangelization

The 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held from October 7-28, 2012, was attended by 262 Synodal Fathers, the highest number in the history of Synods.

Taking part in the works were fraternal delegates, representatives of fifteen Churches and Ecclesial Communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this connection, it is important to point out that His Grace Doctor Rowan Douglas Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England and of the Anglican Communion, intervened during the Synodal Assembly. Moreover, His Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, attended the solemn Eucharist of October 11, and delivered a message.

Three special guests took part in the Synod: Brother Alois, Prior of Taize (France); The Reverend Lamar Vest, president of the American Bible Society (USA), and Mr. Werner Arber, professor of Microbiology at the Biozentrum of the University of Basle (Switzerland) and president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

During the General Assembly, the Holy Father presided over four liturgical celebrations. One of them was the solemn Eucharistic concelebration of October 7, which marked the beginning of the works. During this Eucharist, the Pope declared two Saints Doctors of the Church: Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen. The Synodal works ended on Sunday, October 28, with a Eucharistic concelebration in which the Pope was accompanied by all the Synodal Fathers.

On Sunday, October 21, missionary month, the Supreme Pontiff presided over the Mass of canonization of seven Blesseds: Santiago Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, Giovanni Battista Piamarta, Maria del Monte Carmelo Salles I Barangueras, Marianna Cope, Caterina Tekawitha and Anna Schaffer.

Especially significant was the Eucharist of October 11, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II and the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On this occasion, the Holy Father Benedict XVI proclaimed the Year of Faith, which will end on the solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 24, 2013.

The content of the subsequent Apostolic Exhortation, as well as the date and place of its publication, will be subject to the decision of the next Supreme Pontiff.

 

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Summary of Motu Propio on Conclave

VATICAN CITY, March 05, 2013  - Here is the summary of the Benedict XVI's Motu Propio, released by Fr. Thomas Rosica, the Holy See Press Office assistant to Fr. Federico Lombardi.

* * *

SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS OF MOTU PROPRIO ON CONCLAVE

Apostolic Constitution ‘Universi Dominici Gregis’

The new items are found below in bold.

35. “No Cardinal elector can be excluded from active or passive voice in the election of the Supreme Pontiff, for any reason or pretext, with due regard for the provisions of No. 40 and No. 75 of this Constitution.”

75. “If the votes referred to in Nos. 72, 73, and 74 of the above-mentioned Constitution do not result in an election, a day will be dedicated to prayer, reflection, and discussion. In subsequent votes, in accordance with the procedure established in No. 74 of this same Constitution, only the two whose names have received the greatest number of votes in the immediately preceding ballot will have the passive electoral right. There can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by a qualified majority of at least two thirds of the votes of the cardinals who are present and voting. Moreover, in these ballots, the two persons who enjoy the passive electoral right lose their active electoral right.”

37. “I furthermore decree that, from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent before beginning the Conclave; however, the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to anticipate the beginning of the Conclave if all the Cardinal electors are present as well as the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more.But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.”

46, 1. “In order to meet the personal and official needs connected with the election process, the following individuals must be available and therefore properly lodged in suitable areas within the confines mentioned in No. 43 of this Constitution: the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, who acts as Secretary of the electoral assembly; the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations with eight Masters of Ceremonies and two Religious attached to the Papal Sacristy; and an ecclesiastic chosen by the Cardinal Dean or by the Cardinal taking his place, in order to assist him in his duties.”

47. “All the persons listed in No. 46 and No. 55, 2 of this Constitution who in any way or at any time should come to learn anything from any source, directly or indirectly, regarding the election process, and in particular regarding the voting which took place in the election itself, are obliged to maintain strict secrecy with all persons extraneous to the College of Cardinal electors: accordingly, before the election begins, they shall take an oath in the form and using the formula indicated in No. 48.”

55. The Cardinal Camerlengo and the three Cardinal Assistants pro tempore are obliged to be especially vigilant in ensuring that there is absolutely no violation of secrecy with regard to the events occurring in the Sistine Chapel, where the voting takes place, and in the adjacent areas, before, as well as during and after the voting.

In particular, relying upon the expertise of two trustworthy technicians, they shall make every effort to preserve that secrecy by ensuring that no audiovisual equipment for recording or transmitting has been installed by anyone in the areas mentioned, and particularly in the Sistine Chapel itself, where the acts of the election are carried out.

Should any infraction whatsoever of this norm occur and be discovered, those responsible should know that they will be subject to grave penalties according to the judgment of the future Pope.

49. “When the funeral rites for the deceased Pope have been celebrated according to the prescribed ritual, and everything necessary for the regular functioning of the election has been prepared, on the appointed day of the beginning of the Conclave established in conformity with the provisions of No. 37 of the present Constitution, all of the Cardinals shall meet in the Basilica of Saint Peter's in the Vatican, or elsewhere, should circumstances warrant it, in order to take part in a solemn Eucharistic celebration with the Votive Mass 'Pro Eligendo Papa'. This celebration should preferably take place at a suitable hour in the morning, so that in the afternoon the prescriptions of the following Numbers of this Constitution can be carried out.”

55, 3. “Should any infraction whatsoever of this norm occur, those responsible should know that they will be subject to the penalty of excommunication 'latae sententiae', which is reserved to the Apostolic See."

62. “Since the forms of election known as 'per acclamationem seu inspirationem' and 'per compromissum' are abolished, the form of electing the Roman Pontiff shall henceforth be 'per scrutinium' alone.”

“I therefore decree that, for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff, at least two thirds of the votes are required, calculated on the basis of the total number of electors present and voting.”

75. “If the votes referred to in Nos. 72, 73, and 74 of the above-mentioned Constitution do not result in an election, a day will be dedicated to prayer, reflection, and discussion. In subsequent votes, in accordance with the procedure established in No. 74 of this same Constitution, only the two whose names have received the greatest number of votes in the immediately preceding ballot will have the passive electoral right. There can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by a qualified majority of at least two thirds of the votes of the cardinals who are present and voting. Moreover, in these ballots, the two persons who enjoy the passive electoral right lose their active electoral right.”

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Cardinals Send Telegram to Benedict XVI
Prelates Express Gratitude to Former Pontiffs Generous Pastoral Care

VATICAN CITY, March 05, 2013  - On the second day of the General Congregation Meetings, the Cardinal Fathers gathered at the Synod Hall wrote a telegram to His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus. The proposal to send the telegram was approved yesterday by the cardinals.

Sent by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, the telegram conveyed the prelates greetings and their gratefulness to the former Roman Pontiff.

“The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next Conclave, send you their devoted greetings and express their renewed gratitude for all your brilliant petrine ministry and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world,” the telegram stated.

“With their gratitude they hope to represent the recognition of the entire Church for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord.”

The telegram concluded expressing their trust in Benedict XVI’s prayers for them and for the whole Church.

 
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Cardinal Sodano Summons Cardinals to Rome
First General Congregation to Take Place on Monday

VATICAN CITY, March 01, 2013  - On the first day of Sede Vacante, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, has sent out a letter summoning the cardinals to the first General Congregation, which will begin on Monday, March 4th at the Synod of Bishops Hall. A second General Congregation will take place in the afternoon.

In conformity with the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, the General Congregations are held prior to the beginning of the conclave. The constitution states that “all cardinals who are not legitimately impeded must attend the General Congregations, once they have been informed of the vacancy of the Apostolic See.”

Citing no. 19 of the Apostolic Constitution, Cardinal Sodano stated that as Dean of the College of Cardinals, he is performing his duty to communicate officially to "the news of the vacancy of the Apostolic See due to the resignation presented by Pope Benedict XVI, and effective since yesterday evening, February 28, at 8:00 pm in Rome.”

The Dean of the College of Cardinals went on to inform the Cardinals of the date, place and time of the first congregation on Monday.

“The General Congregations will then continue regularly, until the complete number of Cardinal electors has been reached and the College of Cardinals then decides the date of entrance into Conclave of those Cardinal electors as prescribed by the recent Motu Proprio of this past 22 February concerning some changes to the rules regarding the election of the Roman Pontiff,” the letter continued.

During a press briefing today, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said that there is no information yet as to how many cardinals are present in Rome at the moment because many are still arriving. Fr. Lombardi also stated that it is highly unlikely that a date on the start of the conclave will be announced after Monday’s meetings.

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Benedict XVI's First Hours as Pope Emeritus
Prefect of Papal Household Says His Holiness Is Calm and Serene

VATICAN CITY, March 01, 2013 - As the clock struck 8 yesterday evening, the time of Sede Vacante began, thus officially ending the pontificate of Benedict XVI, now Pope Emeritus. The Swiss Guards, who are charged with the protection of the Holy Father, closed the doors of the Apostolic Palace and departed from Castel Gandolfo.

At a press conference today at the Vatican, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, showed journalists a video of yesterday’s events after the Sede Vacante began. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Camerlengo or Chamberlain, sealed off the papal apartments in Rome. Also present were Cardinal Pier Luigi Celata, Vice Camerlengo, and several prelates who work in the Pontifical household.

Fr. Lombardi also said that Cardinal Celata sealed the papal apartments in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome.

Fr. Lombardi also spoke of the first hours of Benedict XVI as Pope Emeritus. The director of the Holy See Press Office said that he spoke with Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict's secretary and prefect of the Papal Household, who said that His Holiness was very “calm and serene”.

Benedict XVI had “watched several news programs and expressed his appreciation for the work of the journalists as well as for the participation of those who had assisted in his departure from the Vatican. Shortly after a brief walk through the Apostolic Palace, he went to bed and according to Archbishop Gänswein, slept very well.

This morning, His Holiness celebrated Mass at 7:00 am followed by praying the Liturgy of the Hours. At 4:00pm, the Pope Emeritus of Rome will plan to walk through the gardens of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo and pray the rosary.

Fr. Lombardi stated that among the various books on theology and church history that the Pope has brought with him, Archbishop Gänswein noted that currently Benedict XVI is reading famed theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Theological Aesthetics.

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From Castel Gandolfo, Pope's Final Farewell
"I wish still with my heart, my love, my prayer, my reflection, with all my inner strength, to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, ITALY, February 28, 2013 - Here is a translation of the brief address Benedict XVI gave this evening when he arrived at Castel Gandolfo. He spoke without a script from the central balcony, concluding with his final blessing as Pontiff.

* * *

Thank you!

Thank you all!

Dear friends, I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your affection that does me much good. Thank you for your friendship, your love, [applause] ...

You know that this day for me is different from previous ones: I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church: until eight in the evening I will be still, and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim who begins the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.

But I wish still [applause - thank you!] ... but I wish still with my heart, my love, my prayer, my reflection, with all my inner strength, to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. And I feel very much supported by your affection.

Let's go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world.

Thank you, I give you now [applause] ... with all my heart, my blessing.

[Blessing]

Thank you, good night! Thank you all!

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BENEDICT XVI: TO WORK FOR THE GOOD OF THE CHURCH AND OF HUMANITY

Vatican City, 28 February 2013 (VIS) – This afternoon, shortly after 5:00pm, Benedict XVI left the Vatican for the last time as Supreme Pontiff. A few moments earlier, in the San Damaso Courtyard of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., secretary of State of His Holiness, and other members of that dicastery bid him farewell. In full military regalia, the Swiss Guard troops paid him homage. Also present were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of Rome, and Cardinal Angelo Comastri, vicar general of His Holiness for Vatican City. Many of the workers of the Vatican City State, with their families, were also in attendance and greeted the Pope with warm applause.

Before leaving the Vatican, Benedict XVI issued his last tweet: “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”

Shortly afterwards the Holy Father, accompanied by his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Papal Household, took a car to the Vatican heliport where the dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, greeted him and he boarded the helicopter that carried him to Castel Gandolfo. As the helicopter lifted off, the bells of St. Peter's Basilica and the churches of Roma began ringing.

The Pope's helicopter flew over the city of Rome, passing by the Colosseum and St. John Lateran Basilica, and landed at the Castel Gandolfo heliport just after 5:20pm. Awaiting the Holy Father were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello and Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, respectively president and secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State along with Saverio Petrillo, director of the Pontifical Villas, Bishop Marcello Semeraro of the Diocese of Albano, and civil and religious authorities of the area. The Pope was then taken by car to the Castel Gandolfo Apostolic Palace, where he was greeted by hundreds of people while the bells of Castel Gandolfo's parishes rang out.

Shortly afterwards, Benedict XVI appeared at the balcony of the Apostolic Palace and said to the many faithful who were waiting to thank him for his pontificate: “Thank you. Thank you all. Dear friends, I am happy to be with you, surrounded by the beauty of Creation and your well wishes, which do me such good. Thank you for your friendship and your affection. You know that this day is different for me than the preceding ones. I am no longer the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church, or I will be until 8:00 this evening and then no longer. I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth. But I would still—with my heart, with my love, with my prayers, with my reflection, and with all my inner strength—like to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity. I feel very supported by your kindness. Let us go forward with the Lord for the good of the Church and the world. Thank you. I now wholeheartedly impart my blessing. Blessed be God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Good night! Thank you all!”

Benedict XVI's pontificate concludes at 8:00pm this evening (Rome time), at which time the period of the Sede Vacante begins. The Swiss Guards will no longer be in charge of his safekeeping—which detail will then be undertaken by the Vatican Gendarmerie—and will return to the Vatican to offer their service to the College of Cardinals. During this period the twitter account @Pontifex will be deactivated. Once elected, the new Pope may, if he so desires, take over its use. Benedict XVI's Fisherman's Ring and the seal of his pontificate will also be destroyed at that time and the papal apartments in the Vatican Palace will be sealed.

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Pope's Address to Cardinals
"Among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom already today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience"

VATICAN CITY, February 28, 2013  - Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s address to the Cardinals this morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

* * *

Venerable and dear Brothers,

With great joy I welcome you and extend to each of you my most cordial greeting. I thank Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who - as always - has successfully interpreted the sentiments of the entire College cor ad cor loquitur [heart speaks to heart]. Thank you Your Eminence, from the heart.

I would to say to you, taking up the reference to the experience of the disciples of Emmaus, that for me, too, it has been a joy to walk with you in these years, in the light of the presence of the Risen Lord. As I said yesterday, in front of the thousands of faithful filling St. Peter's Square, your closeness, your advice have been of great help to me in my ministry. In these eight years we have lived with faith beautiful moments of radiant light in the path of the Church, along with times when a few clouds have formed in the sky. We have tried to serve Christ and his Church with deep and total love, which is the soul of our ministry. We have given hope, that which comes to us from Christ, and that alone can enlighten the way. Together we can thank the Lord, who has made us grow in communion; together we can beseech Him to help you grow still in this profound unity, so that the College of Cardinals may be like an orchestra, where the diversities, an expression of the universal Church, may always contribute to the greater, unifying harmony.

I would like to leave you a simple thought, which is close to my heart: a thought on the Church, its mystery, which is for all of us - we can say - the reason for and passion of life. I allow myself to be helped by an expression from Romano Guardini, written in the year the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the Constitution Lumen Gentium, in his last book, which contains a personal dedication also to me. For this reason, the words of this book are particularly dear to me. Guardini says: "The Church is not an institution devised and built at a desk, but a living reality. It lives still throughout the course of time. Like all living realities, it develops and changes itself. And yet in the depths of its being it remains the same: its heart is Christ." And then our experience, yesterday, it seems to me, in the square: to see that the Church is a living body, animated by the Holy Spirit and it truly lives by the power of God. It is in the world, but not of the world: it is of God, of Christ, of the Spirit. We saw this yesterday. For this reason, true and eloquent, too, is the other famous expression of Guardini: "The Church is awakening within souls." The Church lives, grows and awakens within souls, who - like the Virgin Mary - accept the Word of God and conceive it by the power of the Holy Spirit. They offer to God their own flesh and, in their very poverty and humility, become capable of giving birth to Christ today in the world. Through the Church, the mystery of the Incarnation remains present forever. Christ continues to walk throughout time and in all places.

We remain united, dear brothers, in this mystery. In prayer and especially in the daily Eucharist, we thus serve the Church and all humanity. This is our joy, that no one can take away.

Before greeting you personally I want to tell you that I will continue to be close to you with prayer, especially in the next few days, so that you may be fully docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in electing the new Pope. May the Lord show you what is willed by Him. Among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom already today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience.

For all this, with affection and gratitude, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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Cardinal Sodano's Address to the Holy Father
"It is we who must thank you for the example you have given us in the past eight years of your Pontificate"

VATICAN CITY, February 28, 2013 - At 11:00 am this morning in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father met with the Cardinals present in Rome, for his farewell address.

Here is a translation of the address given by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, to the Holy Father on behalf of all those present:

* * *

Your Holiness,

With great trepidation the Cardinal Fathers present in Rome gather around you today, to once again express their deep affection and to express our heartfelt gratitude for your selfless witness of apostolic service, for the good of the Church of Christ and of all humanity.

Last Saturday, at the end of the Spiritual Exercises in the Vatican, you thanked your collaborators in the Roman Curia, with these moving words: "My friends, I would like to thank all of you not only for this week but for these eight years, during which you have carried with me, with great skill, affection, love and faith, the weight of the Petrine ministry."

Beloved and revered Successor of Peter, it is we who must thank you for the example you have given us in the past eight years of your Pontificate. On April 19, 2005, you came to join the long line of successors of the Apostle Peter, and today, February 28, 2013, you prepare to leave us, waiting for the helm of the barque of Peter to pass into other hands. There shall thus continue that apostolic succession, which the Lord has promised to his Holy Church, until the voice of the Angel of the Apocalypse is heard on earth proclaiming: Tempus not erit amplius... consummabitur mysterium Dei"(Rev 10: 6-7) "There will be no more delay: the mystery of God will be fulfilled!" Thus shall end the history of the Church, together with the history of the world, with the advent of a new heaven and a new earth.

Holy Father, with deep love we have tried to accompany you on your journey, reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus who, after walking with Jesus for a good stretch of road, said to one another: "Were not our hearts burning within us, while he spoke to us along the way?"(Lk 24:32).

Yes, Holy Father, know that our hearts, too, burned while we walked with you these past eight years.Today we want to once again express our gratitude to you. We repeat in chorus a typical expression of your dear native land: Vergelt's Gott, may God reward you!

 

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Letter to Pope Benedict from Chinese Clergy and Faithful
VATICAN CITY, February 28, 2013  - Here is the translation of a letter sent by members of the clergy and faithful of China sent to the Holy Father after his announcement that he would be retiring from the Petrine Ministry.

* * *

Dear Holy Father:

As you know, we clergy and faithful in China for a long time have cherished a special affections for you. We love you and offer special intentions for you in our daily Mass and prayer.

However, on the evening of February 11, shocking and sad news came to us. Due to advanced age and physical weakness, Your Holiness said you decided to resign at the end of this month.
Although many of us have had an opportunity to personally visit you, and you have had no chance to visit the land of China in the Far East either, your resignation made us think of the affectionate love Your Holiness has shown to the Chinese people and Chinese Catholics.
“In this world, all Christians have been suffering for Jesus Christ, but on the Catholics in China at the same time suffer for Your Holiness -- Our Pope -- the Bishop of Rome!” This is a quotation from a former Apostolic Delegate to China while introducing the Church in China to you, months after you were elected pope.

Then, Your Holiness seemed to enter a long, deep silence.

However, we know that Your Holiness has paid special attention to China and saved a special place for the Catholic Church in China in your heart. You tried to promote dialogue and alleviate the cross we bear by showing concern and by blessing China and the Chinese people. During the eight years of your pontificate, you were always concerned about the Chinese clergy and faithful, and you were full of profound sentiments of friendship toward the Chinese people.

We will not forget that, in the annual Spring Festival, you not only greeted the people of all nations who celebrate the Lunar New Year, but you also conferred special blessings on our hundreds of millions of Chinese compatriots.

We will never forget that, when the torch relay of the 28th Beijing Olympic Games was encountering a series of strong opposition, you offered China and the Chinese people who were preparing for those games the best wishes generously and justly.

We will not forget that when severe snow storms hit southern China when the earthquake shook Wenchuan, Sichuan in 2008, and when the earthquake happened in Yushu, Qinghai, and mudslides and flooding ravaged Zhouqu, Gansu, in 2010, Your Holiness not only grieved and lamented the death of our compatriots but also appealed to the universal Church to pray for the victims, the various government personnel and those kind-hearted people who participated in the rescue work in the front line of disaster areas. you also called on other countries to stretch out their hands of friendship to support the disaster areas in china and prayed that the Lord would help China and the Chinese people go through these difficult times. In addition, Your Holiness generously donated to the Chinese victims four times through Jinde Charities via Cor Unum.

We also will not forget your blessings and congratulations for the publication of Missals in simplified Chinese.

Nor will we forget that Your Holiness expressed heartfelt congratulations publicly to our new national leaders and gave abundant blessings to the Chinese people in your recent Christmas message this past December 25.

We will not forget the long, historic letter that you wrote to the Chinese clergy and faithful, and the prayer you wrote for China soon after you took your pontifical office.
We will never forget that, in the past eight years, there were only best wishes, friendly greetings and high hopes expressed in the messages you sent to China. No matter what conflicts and harm occurred, no matter how sad and disappointed we made you feel, you always embraced China and the Catholic Church in China with fatherly love, and respected and showed compassion and care for China’s people and Catholics. We will always fondly remember this in our hearts.

In the past eight years, when facing complex and uncertain international situations, Your Holiness made every effort to safeguard human dignity, pursue truth, defend the values of faith, and actively promote the new evangelization.

On February 28, Your Holiness will leave the chair of St. Peter peacefully. The free and unconfined attitude you showed in front of power, honor and status, and your strong, persevering, humane response to various challenges, have won the respect of all the world. This not only moved the world, but also makes it difficult for us Chinese clergy and Catholics to say farewell to you.

Please forgive our weaknesses and limitations. We hope that Your Holiness will continue to care for the little flock in China and stay connected to the Chinese people in prayer in your retired life in the future.

We will also pray for you and your successor!

Thank you, dear Holy Father! We Chinese clergy and faithful will never forget you. We will love you forever!

Representatives of Chinese Clergy and Faithful

 

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Pope Benedict XVI addressed an estimated 150,000 people on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square for his final general audience as pope. February 27, 2013:

 

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood!

Distinguished Authorities!

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

 Thank you for coming in such large numbers to this last General Audience of my pontificate.

 Like the Apostle Paul in the biblical text that we have heard, I feel in my heart the paramount duty to thank God, who guides the Church and makes her grow: who sows His Word and thus nourishes the faith in His people. At this moment my spirit reaches out to embrace the whole Church throughout the world, and I thank God for the “news” that in these years of Petrine ministry I have been able to receive regarding the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity that circulates in the body of the Church – charity that makes the Church to live in love – and of the hope that opens for us the way towards the fullness of life, and directs us towards the heavenly homeland.

I feel I [ought to] carry everyone in prayer, in a present that is God’s, where I recall every meeting, every voyage, every pastoral visit. I gather everyone and every thing in prayerful recollection, in order to entrust them to the Lord: in order that we might have full knowledge of His will, with every wisdom and spiritual understanding, and in order that we might comport ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Him, of His, bearing fruit in every good work (cf. Col 1:9-10).

 At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life. The Gospel purifies and renews: it bears fruit wherever the community of believers hears and welcomes the grace of God in truth and lives in charity. This is my faith, this is my joy.

 When, almost eight years ago, on April 19th, [2005], I agreed to take on the Petrine ministry, I held steadfast in this certainty, which has always accompanied me. In that moment, as I have already stated several times, the words that resounded in my heart were: “Lord, what do you ask of me? It a great weight that You place on my shoulders, but, if You ask me, at your word I will throw out the nets, sure that you will guide me” – and the Lord really has guided me. He has been close to me: daily could I feel His presence. [These years] have been a stretch of the Church’s pilgrim way, which has seen moments joy and light, but also difficult moments. I have felt like St. Peter with the Apostles in the boat on the Sea of ​​Galilee: the Lord has given us many days of sunshine and gentle breeze, days in which the catch has been abundant; [then] there have been times when the seas were rough and the wind against us, as in the whole history of the Church it has ever been – and the Lord seemed to sleep. Nevertheless, I always knew that the Lord is in the barque, that the barque of the Church is not mine, not ours, but His – and He shall not let her sink. It is He, who steers her: to be sure, he does so also through men of His choosing, for He desired that it be so. This was and is a certainty that nothing can tarnish. It is for this reason, that today my heart is filled with gratitude to God, for never did He leave me or the Church without His consolation, His light, His love.

 We are in the Year of Faith, which I desired in order to strengthen our own faith in God in a context that seems to push faith more and more toward the margins of life. I would like to invite everyone to renew firm trust in the Lord. I would like that we all, entrust ourselves as children to the arms of God, and rest assured that those arms support us and us to walk every day, even in times of struggle. I would like everyone to feel loved by the God who gave His Son for us and showed us His boundless love. I want everyone to feel the joy of being Christian. In a beautiful prayer to be recited daily in the morning says, “I adore you, my God, I love you with all my heart. I thank You for having created me, for having made me a Christian.” Yes, we are happy for the gift of faith: it is the most precious good, that no one can take from us! Let us thank God for this every day, with prayer and with a coherent Christian life. God loves us, but He also expects that we love Him!

 At this time, however, it is not only God, whom I desire to thank. A Pope is not alone in guiding St. Peter’s barque, even if it is his first responsibility – and I have not ever felt myself alone in bearing either the joys or the weight of the Petrine ministry. The Lord has placed next to me many people, who, with generosity and love for God and the Church, have helped me and been close to me. First of all you, dear Brother Cardinals: your wisdom, your counsels, your friendship, were all precious to me. My collaborators, starting with my Secretary of State, who accompanied me faithfully over the years, the Secretariat of State and the whole Roman Curia, as well as all those who, in various areas, give their service to the Holy See: the many faces which never emerge, but remain in the background, in silence, in their daily commitment, with a spirit of faith and humility. They have been for me a sure and reliable support. A special thought [goes] to the Church of Rome, my diocese! I can not forget the Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the consecrated persons and the entire People of God: in pastoral visits, in public encounters, at Audiences, in traveling, I have always received great care and deep affection; I also loved each and every one, without exception, with that pastoral charity which is the heart of every shepherd, especially the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Apostle Peter. Every day I carried each of you in my prayers, with the father’s heart.

 I wish my greetings and my thanks to reach everyone: the heart of a Pope expands to [embrace] the whole world. I would like to express my gratitude to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which makes present the great family of nations. Here I also think of all those who work for good communication, whom I thank for their important service.

 At this point I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many people throughout the whole world, who, in recent weeks have sent me moving tokens of concern, friendship and prayer. Yes, the Pope is never alone: now I experience this [truth] again in a way so great as to touch my very heart. The Pope belongs to everyone, and so many people feel very close to him. It’s true that I receive letters from the world’s greatest figures – from the Heads of State, religious leaders, representatives of the world of culture and so on. I also receive many letters from ordinary people who write to me simply from their heart and let me feel their affection, which is born of our being together in Christ Jesus, in the Church. These people do not write me as one might write, for example, to a prince or a great figure one does not know. They write as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with the sense of very affectionate family ties. Here, one can touch what the Church is – not an organization, not an association for religious or humanitarian purposes, but a living body, a community of brothers and sisters in the Body of Jesus Christ, who unites us all. To experience the Church in this way and almost be able to touch with one’s hands the power of His truth and His love, is a source of joy, in a time in which many speak of its decline.

 In recent months, I felt that my strength had decreased, and I asked God with insistence in prayer to enlighten me with His light to make me take the right decision – not for my sake, but for the good of the Church. I have taken this step in full awareness of its severity and also its novelty, but with a deep peace of mind. Loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own.

 Here allow me to return once again to April 19, 2005. The gravity of the decision was precisely in the fact that from that moment on I was committed always and forever by the Lord. Always – he, who assumes the Petrine ministry no longer has any privacy. He belongs always and totally to everyone, to the whole Church. His life is, so to speak, totally deprived of the private sphere. I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift. I said before that many people who love the Lord also love the Successor of Saint Peter and are fond of him, that the Pope has truly brothers and sisters, sons and daughters all over the world, and that he feels safe in the embrace of their communion, because he no longer belongs to himself, but he belongs to all and all are truly his own.

 The “always” is also a “forever” – there is no returning to private life. My decision to forgo the exercise of active ministry, does not revoke this. I do not return to private life, to a life of travel, meetings, receptions, conferences and so on. I do not abandon the cross, but remain in a new way near to the Crucified Lord. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. St. Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, shall be a great example in this for me. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God.

 I thank each and every one of you for the respect and understanding with which you have welcomed this important decision. I continue to accompany the Church on her way through prayer and reflection, with the dedication to the Lord and to His Bride, which I have hitherto tried to live daily and that I would live forever. I ask you to remember me before God, and above all to pray for the Cardinals, who are called to so important a task, and for the new Successor of Peter, that the Lord might accompany him with the light and the power of His Spirit.

 Let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she might accompany each of us and the whole ecclesial community: to her we entrust ourselves, with deep trust.

 Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love. Thank you!

 
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Pope Benedict's Letter to Cardinal Ravasi
"The Successor of Peter and his Co-Workers are Called to Bear a Clear Witness of Faith to the Church and to the World"

VATICAN CITY, February 25, 2013  -


To our venerable brother

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi

President of the Pontifical Council for Culture

I would like with my whole heart, venerable brother, to manifest to you my profound gratitude for the service you rendered to me and the Roman Curia by offering these retreat mediations. At the beginning of Lent, the week of retreat constitutes a time of still more intense silence and prayer, and this year’s theme – precisely the dialogue between God and man in the prayer of the Psalms – has been a special help to us: just having entered, so to speak, into the desert in Jesus’ footsteps, we have been able to draw the purest and most abundant water from the spring of the Word of God, which you guided us in drawing from the Book of Psalms, the biblical locus par excellence in which the Word becomes prayer.

Rich with your knowledge and experience, you proposed a suggestive itinerary through the Psalter, following a twofold movement: ascending and descending. The Psalms, in fact, orient us first of all toward the face of God, toward the mystery in which the human mind is shipwrecked, but that the divine Word itself permits us to see according to the different profiles in which God himself is revealed. And, at the same time, precisely in the light shines forth from the face of God, the prayer of the Psalms brings us to look upon the face of man, truly to recognize his joys and sufferings, his anxieties and his hopes.

In this way, dear lord cardinal, the Word of God, mediated by the ancient and ever new “ars orandi” (art of praying) of the Jewish people and the Church, you permitted us to renew the “ars credendi” (art of believing): a demand solicited by the Year of Faith and made still more necessary by the particular moment that I myself and the Apostolic See are experiencing. The successor of Peter and his co-workers are called to bear a clear witness of faith to the Church and to the world, and this is possible only through a profound and permanent immersion in the dialogue with God. Those whose faces and lives reflect the light of the face of God are able to give an answer to the many people who today ask “Who will make us see the good?” (cf. Psalm 4:7).

The Lord will know, venerable brother, how to repay you for this task that you have so brilliantly carried out. For my part I assure you an always grateful remembrance in prayer for your person and for your ecclesial service, while with affection I renew the apostolic benediction, gladly extending it to those who are dear to you.

From the Vatican, February 23, 2013

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

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'Motu Proprio' Apostolic Letter Regarding the Election of the Roman Pontiff

VATICAN CITY, February 25, 2013  - Here is a translation of Pope Benedict's Motu Proprio, which was issued today regarding the election of the next Roman Pontiff.

* * *

“With the Apostolic Letter 'De aliquibus mutationibus in normis de electione Romani Ponteficis' given as a Motu Proprio in Rome on 11 June 2007 in the third year of my pontificate, I established some norms that, rescinding those prescribed in no. 75 of the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis' promulgated by my predecessor Blessed John Paul II, have re-established the regulation, sanctioned by tradition, according to which a two thirds majority of the votes of the Cardinal electors present is always required for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff.”

“Considering the importance of ensuring the best implementation of what is concerned, albeit with a different significance, regarding the election of the Roman Pontiff, in particular a more certain interpretation and execution of some provisions, I establish and prescribe that some norms of the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis', as well as what I myself set forth in the above-mentioned Apostolic Letter, be replaced with the following norms:

35. “No Cardinal elector can be excluded from active or passive voice in the election of the Supreme Pontiff, for any reason or pretext, with due regard for the provisions of No. 40 and No. 75 of this Constitution.”

37. “I furthermore decree that, from the moment when the Apostolic See is lawfully vacant, the Cardinal electors who are present must wait fifteen full days for those who are absent before beginning the Conclave; however, the College of Cardinals is also granted the faculty to anticipated the beginning of the Conclave if all the Cardinal electors are present as well as the faculty to defer, for serious reasons, the beginning of the election for a few days more. But when a maximum of twenty days have elapsed from the beginning of the vacancy of the See, all the Cardinal electors present are obliged to proceed to the election.”

43. “From the beginning of the electoral process until the public announcement that the election of the Supreme Pontiff has taken place, or in any case until the new Pope so disposes, the rooms of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, and in particular the Sistine Chapel and the areas reserved for liturgical celebrations are to be closed to unauthorized persons, by the authority of the Cardinal Camerlengo and with the outside assistance of the Vice Camerlengo and the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, in accordance with the provisions set forth in the following Numbers.”

“During this period, the entire territory of Vatican City and the ordinary activity of the offices located therein shall be regulated, for the period mentioned, in a way that ensures the confidentiality and the free development of all the undertakings connected with the election of the Supreme Pontiff. In particular, provision shall be made, with the help of the Cleric Prelates of the Chamber to ensure that no one approaches the Cardinal electors while they are being transported from the Domus Sanctae Marthae to the Apostolic Vatican Palace.”

46, 1. “In order to meet the personal and official needs connected with the election process, the following individuals must be available and therefore properly lodged in suitable areas within the confines mentioned in No. 43 of this Constitution: the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, who acts as Secretary of the electoral assembly; the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations with eight Masters of Ceremonies and two Religious attached to the Papal Sacristy; and an ecclesiastic chosen by the Cardinal Dean or by the Cardinal taking his place, in order to assist him in his duties.”

47. “All the persons listed in No. 46 and No. 55, 2 of this Constitution who in any way or at any time should come to learn anything from any source, directly or indirectly, regarding the election process, and in particular regarding the voting which took place in the election itself, are obliged to maintain strict secrecy with all persons extraneous to the College of Cardinal electors: accordingly, before the election begins, they shall take an oath in the form and using the formula indicated in No. 48.”

48. “The persons listed in No. 46 and No. 55, 2 of this Constitution, having been duly warned about the meaning and extent of the oath that they are to take, before the start of the election process, shall, in the presence of the Cardinal Camerlengo or another Cardinal delegated by him, and in the presence of two numerary participant Apostolic Protonotaries, in due course swear and sign the oath according to the following formula:”

“I, N.N., promise and swear that, unless I should receive a special faculty given expressly by the newly-elected Pontiff or by his successors, I will observe absolute and perpetual secrecy with all who are not part of the College of Cardinal electors concerning all matters directly or indirectly related to the ballots cast and their scrutiny for the election of the Supreme Pontiff.”

“I likewise promise and swear to refrain from using any audio or video equipment capable of recording anything which takes place during the period of the election within Vatican City, and in particular anything which in any way, directly or indirectly, is related to the process of the election itself.”

“I declare that I take this oath fully aware that an infraction thereof will make me subject to the penalty of excommunication 'latae sententiae', which is reserved to the Apostolic See."

“So help me God and these Holy Gospels, which I touch with my hand.”

49. “When the funeral rites for the deceased Pope have been celebrated according to the prescribed ritual, and everything necessary for the regular functioning of the election has been prepared, on the appointed day of the beginning of the Conclave established in conformity with the provisions of No. 37 of the present Constitution, the Cardinal electors shall meet in the Basilica of Saint Peter's in the Vatican, or elsewhere, should circumstances warrant it, in order to take part in a solemn Eucharistic celebration with the Votive Mass 'Pro Eligendo Papa'. This celebration should preferably take place at a suitable hour in the morning, so that in the afternoon the prescriptions of the following Numbers of this Constitution can be carried out.”

50. From the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, where they will assemble at a suitable hour in the afternoon, the Cardinal electors, in choir dress and invoking the assistance of the Holy Spirit with the chant of the 'Veni Creator', will solemnly process to the Sistine Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, where the election will be held. The Vice Camerlengo, the General Auditor of the Apostolic Camera, and two members of each of the colleges of numerary participant Apostolic Protonotaries, Prelate Auditors of the Roman Rota, and Cleric Prelates of the Chamber will participate in the procession.

51, 2. “It will therefore be the responsibility of the College of Cardinals, operating under the authority and responsibility of the Camerlengo, assisted by the Particular Congregation mentioned in No. 7 of the present Constitution, and with the outside assistance of the Vice Camerlengo and the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, to make all prior arrangements for the interior of the Sistine Chapel and adjacent areas to be prepared, so that an orderly election and its privacy will be ensured.”

55, 3. “Should any infraction whatsoever of this norm occur, those responsible should know that they will be subject to the penalty of excommunication 'latae sententiae', which is reserved to the Apostolic See."

62. “Since the forms of election known as 'per acclamationem seu inspirationem' and 'per compromissum' are abolished, the form of electing the Roman Pontiff shall henceforth be 'per scrutinium' alone.”

“I therefore decree that, for the valid election of the Roman Pontiff, at least two thirds of the votes are required, calculated on the basis of the total number of electors present and voting.”

64. “The voting process is carried out in three phases. The first phase, which can be called the pre-scrutiny, comprises: 1) the preparation and distribution of the ballot papers by the Masters of Ceremonies—called meanwhile into the Hall together with the Secretary of the College of Cardinals and with the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations—who give at least two or three to each Cardinal elector; 2) the drawing by lot, from among all the Cardinal electors, of three Scrutineers, of three persons charged with collecting the votes of the sick, called for the sake of brevity 'Infirmarii', and of three Revisers; this drawing is carried out in public by the junior Cardinal Deacon, who draws out nine names, one after another, of those who shall carry out these tasks; 3) if, in the drawing of lots for the Scrutineers, 'Infirmarii' and Revisers, there should come out the names of Cardinal electors who because of infirmity or other reasons are unable to carry out these tasks, the names of others who are not impeded are to be drawn in their place. The first three drawn will act as Scrutineers, the second three as 'Infirmarii', and the last three as Revisers.”

70, 2. “The Scrutineers add up all the votes that each individual has received, and if no one has obtained at least two thirds of the votes on that ballot, the Pope has not been elected; if however it turns out that someone has obtained at least two thirds of the votes, the canonically valid election of the Roman Pontiff has taken place.”

75. “If the votes referred to in Nos. 72, 73, and 74 of the above-mentioned Constitution do not result in an election, a day will be dedicated to prayer, reflection, and discussion. In subsequent votes, in accordance with the procedure established in No. 74 of this same Constitution, only the two whose names have received the greatest number of votes in the immediately preceding ballot will have the passive electoral right. There can be no waiving of the requirement that a valid election takes place only by a qualified majority of at least two thirds of the votes of the cardinals who are present and voting. Moreover, in these ballots, the two persons who enjoy the passive electoral right lose their active electoral right.”

“When the election has canonically taken place, the junior Cardinal Deacon summons into the Hall of election the Secretary of the College of Cardinals, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, and two Masters of Ceremonies. The Cardinal Dean, or the Cardinal who is first in order and seniority, in the name of the whole College of electors, then asks the consent of the one elected in the following words: 'Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?' And, as soon as he has received the consent, he asks him: 'By what name do you wish to be called?' Then the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, acting as notary and having as witnesses the two Masters of Ceremonies, draws up a document certifying acceptance by the new Pope and the name taken by him.”

“This document will enter into force immediately upon its publication in the Osservatore Romano.”

“This I do decree and establish, notwithstanding any instruction to the contrary.”

“Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 22 February in the year 2013, the eighth of my Pontificate.”

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Communique by the Secretary of State
"May Catholics Focus on What is Essential"

VATICAN CITY, February 25, 2013  - The freedom of the College of Cardinals, which is responsible for providing, under the law for the election of the Roman Pontiff, has always been strongly defended by the Holy See, as a guarantee of a choice that was based on evaluations addressed solely for the good of the Church.

Through the course of the centuries, Cardinals have had to face many forms of pressures exerted upon individual electors or on the College of Cardinals. Such pressures had as their goal to condition the decisions, following a political or worldly logic.

If in the past, the so-called powers, i.e., States, exerted pressures on the election of the Pope, today there is an attempt to do this through public opinion that is often based on judgements that do not typically capture the spiritual aspect of the moment that the Church is living.

It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the Conclave and the Cardinal electors will be held in conscience and before God, to freely indicate their choice, that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories, that cause serious damage to persons and institutions.

In these moments more than ever, may Catholics focus on what is essential: praying for Pope Benedict, praying also that the Holy Spirit enlighten the College of Cardinals, praying for the future Pope, confident that the fate of the barque of Peter is in the hands of God.

 

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June 6, 2013. German journalist, Manfred Lütz visited Benedict XVI at the Vatican for about 30 minutes. In an article published in the 'Bild Zeitung' newspaper, he wrote that the former Pope told him: “I live like a monk and I'm fine. I pray and I read".

The journalist said Benedict XVI is still thin and his posture seems to be even more curved. But he did add that he is 'lucid, fun and has a good sense of humor.'

In his report, the journalist also said that from a theological point of view, Benedict XVI has completely agreed with the magisterium of Pope Francis.

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Pope Benedict Was a Powerful Voice for Moral Political Leadership

By George Weigel

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013

He came to the papacy burdened by the cartoon image of "God's Rottweiler" and the fact that he had been a very reluctant draftee into the Wehrmacht during World War II. What Joseph Ratzinger displayed over the seven-and-a-half years of his pontificate, however, was an acute sense of the crisis of western democracy at this moment in history. A German pope who publicly thanked the people of the United Kingdom for winning the Battle of Britain was, clearly, a man with an unusual perspective on, and insight into, contemporary history.

That insight was on full display in his instantly controversial Regensburg lecture of September 2006, where a robust quote from a medieval exchange between a Christian and a Muslim obscured the hard truths that the pope proposed: that Islam and "the rest" could only live together peacefully if Islam found within itself the intellectual resources to warrant religious toleration and a separation of religious and political authority in a 21st century Islamic state. The uproar that followed was unfortunate; the issues Benedict XVI put on the table of world discussion remain completely salient.

Then there was the pope's 2008 address to the General Assembly of the United Nations. There, like his great predecessor, John Paul II, he defended the universality of human rights while urging the world to a deeper understanding of the human dignity from which basic human rights flow. Rights as mere trump cards for claims of personal lifestyle preference, the pope suggested, could easily be bent to authoritarian, even tyrannical ends. A polite yawn followed; but the issue of how a world that can only affirm "your truth" and "my truth" can possibly defend basic human rights remains as urgent today as when the German professor-pope stood at the U.N.'s marble rostrum almost five years ago.

Benedict XVI also understood the democratic world's need for morally serious political leadership: for men and women who would see politics as a vocation, not simply a career. In his shy, even delicate, way, he underscored that point when he addressed the great and good of Britain in historic Westminster Hall in 2010-and gently pointed out that this was where politicians and judges of easy conscience had condemned Thomas More, a man of firm conscience, for fidelity to the truth. Joseph Ratzinger was too sensitive to the feelings of others to ham-handedly contrast the "man for all seasons" with today's politician-of-the-instant-sound-bite. But the contrast was there for all with eyes to see and ears to hear.

These acute insights into the cultural and political turmoil beneath the surface of Western public life came from a man of deep learning, whose knowledge was refined by faith -- and here, too, was another lesson Benedict XVI taught the post-modern world. Postmodernity-or, perhaps better, the last-gasp hyper-modernity of the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins -- imagines faith and reason to be utterly incompatible. Ratzinger knew better. His papal teaching stressed that, while faith without reason is superstition, reason without faith is self-cannibalizing and can easily deteriorate into various forms of irrationality. A self-enclosed secularist world, without windows, doors, or skylights, stifles the human spirit, including the human capacity to think clearly. The world imagines faith a danger to the democratic project; Ratzinger knew that the real, home-brewed danger to 21st-century democracy is an anorexic faux-rationalism that cannot speak coherently of the self-evident moral truths on which democracy rests.

He was thus a man of subtle surprises, this aging academic who reluctantly accepted the papacy as a duty laid upon him, and who had the humility to leave the stage by his own decision when he made the judgment, in conscience and prayer, that he could no longer give the Church the service it needed and deserved.

The world, too, needed Joseph Ratzinger, although it rarely acknowledged that. Perhaps now, as he retires to a reserved life of prayer and reflection and the controversies that swirled around his person recede, the world will start paying the thought of this lucid analyst of the democratic possibility the respectful attention it deserves.

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On the Transfiguration
The Lord is Calling me to Scale the Mountain,

VATICAN CITY, February 24, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's final Angelus address delivered on Sunday to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square today

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

Thank you for your affection!

Today, the second Sunday of Lent, we have a particularly beautiful Gospel, that of the Lord’s transfiguration. The evangelist Luke especially emphasizes the fact that Jesus is transfigured while he prays: Jesus’ is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a kind of spiritual retreat on a high mountain together with Peter, James, and John, the 3 disciples who are always present in the moments of the Master’s divine manifestations (Luke 5:10, 8:51, 9:28). The Lord, who a short time ago foretold his death and resurrection (Luke 9:22), offers to his disciples an anticipation of his glory. And in the transfiguration too, as in the baptism, the voice of the heavenly Father resounds: “This is my Son, the chosen one. Listen to him!” (Luke 9:35). The presence then of Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, is of great significance: the whole history of covenant is ordered to him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new “exodus” (Luke 9:31), not toward the promised land as in the time of Moses, but toward heaven. Peter’s words: “Master, how good it is for us to be here” (Luke 9:33), represent the impossible attempt to freeze such a mystical experience. St. Augustine comments: “[Peter] … on the mountain … had Christ as the food of his soul. Why should he want to come down to return to toil and suffering while there he was full of sentiments of a holy love for God that inspired him thus to holy actions?” (Sermon 78,3: PL 38,491).

Meditating on this passage of the Gospel, we can take from it a very important teaching. First of all, there is the primacy of prayer, without which all of the work of the apostolate and charity is reduced to activism. During Lent we learn to give the right amount of time to both personal and communal prayer, which gives breath to our spiritual life. Moreover, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wished to do on Tabor. Prayer, rather, leads us back to the journey, to action. “The Christian life,” I wrote in my Message for this Lent, “consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love” (n. 3).

Dear brothers and sisters, I hear this Word of God addressed to me in a special way during this moment of my life. Thank you! The Lord is calling me to “scale the mountain,” to dedicate myself still more to prayer and to meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church – on the contrary, if God asks this of me, it is to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to do so hitherto, but in a way that is more adapted to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she help us always to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and in active charity.

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

Dear brothers and sisters!

Thank you! Let us thank the Lord for the little bit of sun that he has given us!

[In English he said:]

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

Finally, I offer a cordial greeting to all of you Italian speakers. I know that many dioceses are present, representatives of parishes, associations, movements, institutions, as well as many young people, elderly and families. I thank you for the affection and for sharing, especially in prayer, this important moment for me and for the Church. I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you! We are always close in prayer. Thanks to all of you!

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Pope's Address At Conclusion of Lenten Spiritual Exercises
"In this Suffering Figure of the Son of God, We Begin to See the Most Profound Beauty of Our Creator and Redeemer"

VATICAN CITY, February 24, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict's address at the conclusion of the Lenten Spiritual Exercises led by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.

* * *

Dear brothers,

Dear friends!

At the end of this spiritually dense week, there remains just one thing to say: Thank you! I thank you for this praying and listening community that accompanied me during this week. Thank you, above all, Eminence, for these very beautiful “walks” in the universe of faith, in the universe of the Psalms. We are left fascinated by the richness, by the profundity, by the beauty of this universe of faith and we are grateful that the Word of God has spoken to us in a new way, with new power.

“The art of believing, the art of praying” was the thread. It came to my mind that the medieval theologians translated the word “logos” not only as “verbum” (word) but also as “ars” (art): “verbum” and “ars” are interchangeable. For the medieval theologians, only in the two words together does the whole meaning of the word “logos” appear. The “Logos” is not only mathematical reason: the “Logos” has a heart, the “Logos” is love. Truth is beautiful, truth and beauty go together: beauty is the seal of truth.

And, nevertheless, you, through the Psalms and through our daily experience, also firmly stressed that the “very beautiful” of the sixth day – spoken by the Creator – is permanently contradicted, in this world, by evil, by suffering, by corruption. It seems that the evil one wants permanently to stain creation, to contradict God and to make his truth and beauty unrecognizable. In a world so characterized also by evil, the “Logos,” the eternal Beauty and the eternal “Art,” must appear as a “caput cruentatum” (bloody head). The incarnate Son, the incarnate “Logos,” is crowned with a crown of thorns; and nevertheless, precisely in this way, in this suffering figure of the Son of God, we begin to see the most profound beauty of our Creator and Redeemer; and yet we can, in the silence of the “dark night,” hear the Word. Believing is nothing other than touching the hand of God in the darkness of the world and thus, in silence, to hear the Word, to see Love.

Eminence, thank you for everything and let us continue to take “walks” in this mysterious universe of faith, to be ever more able to pray, to proclaim, to be witnesses of truth, which is beautiful, which is love.

Finally, dear friends, I would like to thank all of you, and not only for this week, but of these 8 years in which you have borne with me, with great competence, affection, love, faith, the weight of the Petrine office. This gratitude remains in me and even if now there ends the “external,” “visible” communion – as Cardinal Ravasi said – there remains spiritual closeness, there remains a profound communion in prayer. In this certainty we go forward, certain of God’s victory, certain of the truth of beauty and love. I thank all of you.

 
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Pope's Reflection on Vatican II
"So off we went to the Council not just with joy but with enthusiasm"

VATICAN CITY, February 19, 2013   - Here is a Vatican translation of the reflection Benedict XVI gave last Thursday when he met with the clergy of Rome. The Holy Father delivered the reflection extemporaneously, recounting some of his memories of the Second Vatican Council.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

For me it is a particular gift of Providence that, before leaving the Petrine ministry, I can once more see my clergy, the clergy of Rome. It is always a great joy to see the living Church, to see how the Church in Rome is alive; there are shepherds here who guide the Lord’s flock in the spirit of the supreme Shepherd. It is a body of clergy that is truly Catholic, universal, in accordance with the essence of the Church of Rome: to bear within itself the universality, the catholicity of all nations, all races, all cultures. At the same time, I am very grateful to the Cardinal Vicar who helps to reawaken, to rediscover vocations in Rome itself, because if Rome, on the one hand, has to be the city of universality, it must also be a city with a strong and robust faith of its own, from which vocations are also born. And I am convinced that, with the Lord’s help, we can find the vocations that he himself gives us, we can guide them, help them to mature, so as to be of service for work in the Lord’s vineyard.

Today you have professed the Creed before the tomb of Saint Peter: in the Year of Faith, this seems to me to be a most appropriate act, a necessary one, perhaps, that the clergy of Rome should gather around the tomb of the Apostle to whom the Lord said: "To you I entrust my Church. Upon you I will build my Church" (cf. Mt 16:18-19). Before the Lord, together with Peter, you have professed: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). Thus the Church grows: together with Peter, professing Christ, following Christ. And we do this always. I am very grateful for your prayers, which I have sensed, as I said on Wednesday – almost palpably. And although I am about to withdraw, I remain close to all of you in prayer, and I am sure that you too will be close to me, even if I am hidden from the world.

For today, given the conditions brought on by my age, I have not been able to prepare an extended discourse, as might have been expected; but rather what I have in mind are a few thoughts on the Second Vatican Council, as I saw it. I shall begin with an anecdote: in 1959 I was appointed a professor at the University of Bonn, where the students included the seminarians of the diocese of Cologne and the other dioceses in the area. Thus I came into contact with the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Frings. Cardinal Siri of Genoa, in 1961 if I remember rightly, had organized a series of talks on the Council given by various European Cardinals, and he had invited the Archbishop of Cologne to give one of them, entitled: the Council and the world of modern thought.

The Cardinal asked me – the youngest of the professors – to write a draft for him. He liked the draft, and to the people in Genoa he delivered the text just as I had written it. Soon afterwards, Pope John invited him to come and see him, and the Cardinal was anxious that he might have said something incorrect, something false, and that he was being summoned for a rebuke, perhaps even to be deprived of the cardinalate. Indeed, when his secretary vested him for the audience, the Cardinal said: "Perhaps I am now wearing these robes for the last time". Then he went in, Pope John came to meet him, embraced him, and said: "Thank you, Your Eminence, you said the very things I wanted to say myself, but I could not find the words". So the Cardinal knew that he was on the right track and he invited me to go with him to the Council, firstly as his personal advisor; and then, during the first session – I think it was in November 1962 – I was also named an official peritus of the Council.

So off we went to the Council not just with joy but with enthusiasm. There was an incredible sense of expectation. We were hoping that all would be renewed, that there would truly be a new Pentecost, a new era of the Church, because the Church was still fairly robust at that time – Sunday Mass attendance was still good, vocations to the priesthood and to religious life were already slightly reduced, but still sufficient. However, there was a feeling that the Church was not moving forward, that it was declining, that it seemed more a thing of the past and not the herald of the future. And at that moment, we were hoping that this relation would be renewed, that it would change; that the Church might once again be a force for tomorrow and a force for today. And we knew that the relationship between the Church and the modern period, right from the outset, had been slightly fraught, beginning with the Church’s error in the case of Galileo Galilei; we were looking to correct this mistaken start and to rediscover the union between the Church and the best forces of the world, so as to open up humanity’s future, to open up true progress. Thus we were full of hope, full of enthusiasm, and also eager to play our own part in this process. I remember that the Roman Synod was thought of as a negative model. It was said – I don’t know whether this was true – that they had read out prepared texts in the Basilica of Saint John, and that the members of the Synod had acclaimed, approved with applause, and that the Synod had been conducted thus. The bishops said: no, let’s not do that. We are bishops, we ourselves are the subject of the Synod; we do not simply want to approve what has already been done, but we ourselves want to be the subject, the protagonists of the Council. So too Cardinal Frings, who was famous for his absolute fidelity – almost to the point of scrupulosity – to the Holy Father, said in this case: we are here in a different role. The Pope has called us together to be like Fathers, to be an Ecumenical Council, a subject that renews the Church. So we want to assume this new role of ours.

The first occasion when this attitude was demonstrated was on the very first day. On the programme for this first day were the elections of the Commissions, and lists of names had been prepared, in what was intended to be an impartial manner, and these lists were put to the vote. But straight away the Fathers said: No, we do not simply want to vote for pre-prepared lists. We are the subject. Then, it was necessary to postpone the elections, because the Fathers themselves wanted to begin to get to know each other, they wanted to prepare the lists themselves. And so it was. Cardinal Liénart of Lille and Cardinal Frings of Cologne had said publicly: no, not this way. We want to make our own lists and elect our own candidates. It was not a revolutionary act, but an act of conscience, an act of responsibility on the part of the Council Fathers.

And so began an intense period of actively getting to know our counterparts, something which did not happen by chance. At the Collegio dell’Anima, where I was staying, we had many visits: the Cardinal was very well known, and we saw cardinals from all over the world. I well remember the tall slim figure of Monsignor Etchegaray, the Secretary of the French Episcopal Conference, I remember meetings with Cardinals, and so on. And this continued throughout the Council: small-scale meetings with peers from other countries. Thus I came to know great figures like Father de Lubac, Daniélou, Congar, and so on. We came to know various bishops; I remember particularly Bishop Elchinger of Strasbourg, and so on. And this was already an experience of the universality of the Church and of the concrete reality of the Church, which does not simply receive instructions from on high, but grows together and moves forward, always under the guidance – naturally – of the Successor of Peter.

Everyone, as I said, came with great expectations; there had never been a Council on such a scale, but not everyone knew what to do. The most prepared, let us say, those with the clearest ideas, were the French, German, Belgian and Dutch episcopates, the so-called "Rhine alliance". And in the first part of the Council it was they who pointed out the path; then the activity rapidly broadened, and everyone took part more and more in the creativity of the Council. The French and the Germans had various interests in common, albeit with quite different nuances. The first, initial, simple – or apparently simple – intention was the reform of the liturgy, which had begun with Pius XII, who had already reformed the Holy Week liturgy; the second was ecclesiology; the third was the word of God, revelation; and finally ecumenism. The French, much more than the Germans, were also keen to explore the question of the relationship between the Church and the world.

Let us begin with the first theme. After the First World War, Central and Western Europe had seen the growth of the liturgical movement, a rediscovery of the richness and depth of the liturgy, which until then had remained, as it were, locked within the priest’s Roman Missal, while the people prayed with their own prayer books, prepared in accordance with the heart of the people, seeking to translate the lofty content, the elevated language of classical liturgy into more emotional words, closer to the hearts of the people. But it was as if there were two parallel liturgies: the priest with the altar-servers, who celebrated Mass according to the Missal, and the laity, who prayed during Mass using their own prayer books, at the same time, while knowing substantially what was happening on the altar. But now there was a rediscovery of the beauty, the profundity, the historical, human, and spiritual riches of the Missal and it became clear that it should not be merely a representative of the people, a young altar-server, saying "Et cum spiritu tuo", and so on, but that there should truly be a dialogue between priest and people: truly the liturgy of the altar and the liturgy of the people should form one single liturgy, an active participation, such that the riches reach the people. And in this way, the liturgy was rediscovered and renewed.

I find now, looking back, that it was a very good idea to begin with the liturgy, because in this way the primacy of God could appear, the primacy of adoration. "Operi Dei nihil praeponatur": this phrase from the Rule of Saint Benedict (cf. 43:3) thus emerges as the supreme rule of the Council. Some have made the criticism that the Council spoke of many things, but not of God. It did speak of God! And this was the first thing that it did, that substantial speaking of God and opening up all the people, the whole of God’s holy people, to the adoration of God, in the common celebration of the liturgy of the Body and Blood of Christ. In this sense, over and above the practical factors that advised against beginning straight away with controversial topics, it was, let us say, truly an act of Providence that at the beginning of the Council was the liturgy, God, adoration. Here and now I do not intend to go into the details of the discussion, but it is worth while to keep going back, over and above the practical outcomes, to the Council itself, to its profundity and to its essential ideas.

I would say that there were several of these: above all, the Paschal Mystery as the centre of what it is to be Christian – and therefore of the Christian life, the Christian year, the Christian seasons, expressed in Eastertide and on Sunday which is always the day of the Resurrection. Again and again we begin our time with the Resurrection, our encounter with the Risen one, and from that encounter with the Risen one we go out into the world. In this sense, it is a pity that these days Sunday has been transformed into the weekend, although it is actually the first day, it is the beginning; we must remind ourselves of this: it is the beginning, the beginning of Creation and the beginning of re-Creation in the Church, it is an encounter with the Creator and with the Risen Christ. This dual content of Sunday is important: it is the first day, that is, the feast of Creation, we are standing on the foundation of Creation, we believe in God the Creator; and it is an encounter with the Risen One who renews Creation; his true purpose is to create a world that is a response to the love of God.

Then there were the principles: intelligibility, instead of being locked up in an unknown language that is no longer spoken, and also active participation. Unfortunately, these principles have also been misunderstood. Intelligibility does not mean banality, because the great texts of the liturgy – even when, thanks be to God, they are spoken in our mother tongue – are not easily intelligible, they demand ongoing formation on the part of the Christian if he is to grow and enter ever more deeply into the mystery and so arrive at understanding. And also the word of God – when I think of the daily sequence of Old Testament readings, and of the Pauline Epistles, the Gospels: who could say that he understands immediately, simply because the language is his own? Only ongoing formation of hearts and minds can truly create intelligibility and participation that is something more than external activity, but rather the entry of the person, of my being, into the communion of the Church and thus into communion with Christ.

And now the second topic: the Church. We know that the First Vatican Council was interrupted because of the Franco-Prussian War, and so it remained somewhat one-sided, incomplete, because the doctrine on the primacy – defined, thanks be to God, in that historical moment for the Church, and very necessary for the period that followed – was just a single element in a broader ecclesiology, already envisaged and prepared. So we were left with a fragment. And one might say: as long as it remains a fragment, we tend towards a one-sided vision where the Church would be just the primacy. So all along, the intention was to complete the ecclesiology of Vatican I, at a date to be determined, for the sake of a complete ecclesiology. Here too the time seemed ripe because, after the First World War, the sense of the Church was reborn in a new way. As Romano Guardini said: "The Church is starting to reawaken in people’s souls", and a Protestant bishop spoke of the "era of the Church". Above all, there was a rediscovery of the concept that Vatican I had also envisaged, namely that of the Mystical Body of Christ. People were beginning to realize that the Church is not simply an organization, something structured, juridical, institutional – it is that too – but rather an organism, a living reality that penetrates my soul, in such a way that I myself, with my own believing soul, am a building block of the Church as such. In this sense, Pius XII wrote the Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi as a step towards completing the ecclesiology of Vatican I.

I would say that theological discussion in the 1930’s and 1940’s, even in the 1920’s, was entirely conducted under the heading Mystici Corporis. It was a discovery that brought so much joy at that time, and within this context emerged the formula: We are the Church, the Church is not a structure; we Christians, all together, we are all the living body of the Church. And naturally, this obtains in the sense that we, the true "we" of believers, together with the "I" of Christ, are the Church; every single one of us, not a particular "we", a single group that calls itself Church. No: this "we are Church" requires me to take my place within the great "we" of believers of all times and places. Therefore, the primary idea was to complete ecclesiology in a theological way, but also in a structural way, that is to say: besides the succession of Peter, and his unique function, to define more clearly also the function of the bishops, the corpus of bishops. And in order to do this, the word "collegiality" was adopted, a word that has been much discussed, sometimes acrimoniously, I would say, and also in somewhat exaggerated terms. But this word – maybe another could have been found, but this one worked – expressed the fact that the bishops collectively are the continuation of the Twelve, of the corpus of Apostles. We said: only one bishop, the Bishop of Rome, is the successor of a particular Apostle, namely Peter. All the others become successors of the Apostles by entering into the corpus that continues the corpus of the Apostles. Hence it is the corpus of bishops, the college, that is the continuation of the corpus of the Twelve, and thus it has its intrinsic necessity, its function, its rights and duties. To many this seemed like a power struggle, and maybe some were thinking of their power, but substantially it was not about power, but about the complementarity of the different elements and about the completeness of the corpus of the Church with the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, as structural elements; and each of them is a structural element of the Church within this great corpus.

These, let us say, were the two basic elements – and in the meantime, in the quest for a complete theological vision of ecclesiology, a certain amount of criticism arose after the 1940’s, in the 1950’s, concerning the concept of the Body of Christ: the word "mystical" was thought to be too spiritual, too exclusive; the concept "People of God" then began to come into play. The Council rightly accepted this element, which in the Fathers is regarded as an expression of the continuity between the Old and the New Testaments. In the text of the New Testament, the phrase Laos tou Theou, corresponding to the Old Testament texts, means – with only two exceptions, I believe – the ancient People of God, the Jews, who among the world’s peoples, goim, are "the" People of God. The others, we pagans, are not per se God’s People: we become sons of Abraham and thus the People of God by entering into communion with Christ, the one seed of Abraham. By entering into communion with him, by being one with him, we too become God’s People. In a word: the concept of "the People of God" implies the continuity of the Testaments, continuity in God’s history with the world, with mankind, but it also implies the Christological element. Only through Christology do we become the People of God, and thus the two concepts are combined. The Council chose to elaborate a Trinitarian ecclesiology: People of God the Father, Body of Christ, Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Yet only after the Council did an element come to light – which can also be found, albeit in a hidden way, in the Council itself – namely this: the link between People of God and Body of Christ is precisely communion with Christ in Eucharistic fellowship. This is where we become the Body of Christ: the relationship between People of God and Body of Christ creates a new reality – communion. After the Council it became clear, I would say, that the Council really discovered and pointed to this concept: communion as the central concept. I would say that, philologically, it is not yet fully developed in the Council, yet it is as a result of the Council that the concept of communion came more and more to be the expression of the Church’s essence, communion in its different dimensions: communion with the Trinitarian God – who is himself communion between Father, Son and Holy Spirit – sacramental communion, and concrete communion in the episcopate and in the life of the Church.

Even more hotly debated was the problem of Revelation. At stake here was the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, and it was the exegetes above all who were anxious for greater freedom; they felt themselves somewhat – shall we say – in a position of inferiority with regard to the Protestants, who were making the great discoveries, whereas Catholics felt somewhat "handicapped" by the need to submit to the Magisterium. So a very concrete struggle was in play here: what sort of freedom do exegetes have? How does one properly read Scripture? What is the meaning of Tradition? It was a multifaceted struggle which I cannot go into now, but the important thing, for sure, is that Scripture is the word of God and that the Church is under Scripture, the Church obeys God’s word and does not stand above Scripture. Yet at the same time Scripture is Scripture only because there is the living Church, its living subject; without the living subject of the Church, Scripture is only a book, open to different interpretations and lacking ultimate clarity.

Here the battle – as I said – was difficult, and an intervention of Pope Paul VI proved decisive. This intervention shows all the delicacy of a father, his responsibility for the progress of the Council, but also his great respect for the Council. The idea had arisen that Scripture is complete; everything is found there; consequently there is no need for Tradition, and so the Magisterium has nothing to say. At that point the Pope transmitted to the Council, I believe, fourteen formulae for a phrase to be inserted into the text on Revelation and he gave us, the Council Fathers, the freedom to choose one of the fourteen formulae, but he said that one of them needed to be chosen in order to complete the text. I remember more or less the formula "non omnis certitudo de veritatibus fidei potest sumi ex Sacra Scriptura", in other words, the Church’s certainty about her faith is not born only of an isolated book, but has need of the Church herself as a subject enlightened and guided by the Holy Spirit. Only then does the Scripture speak with all its authority. This phrase, which we selected in the Doctrinal Commission from the fourteen formulae, is decisive, I would say, for showing the Church’s absolute necessity, and thus understanding the meaning of Tradition, the living body in which this word draws life from the outset and from which it receives its light, in which it is born. The fact of the canon of Scripture is already an ecclesial fact: that these writings are Scripture is the result of an illumination of the Church, who discovered in herself this canon of Scripture; she discovered it, she did not create it; and always and only in this communion of the living Church can one really understand and read the Scripture as the word of God, as a word which guides us in life and in death.

As I have said, this was a rather difficult debate, but thanks to the Pope and thanks, we may say, to the light of the Holy Spirit who was present in the Council, there emerged a document which is one of the finest and most innovative of the entire Council, and still needs to be studied more deeply. Because today too, exegesis tends to read Scripture apart from the Church, apart from faith, only in the so-called spirit of the historical-critical method, a method which is important, but never to the extent of being able to offer solutions with ultimate certitude. Only if we believe that these are not human words, but God’s words, and only if there is that living subject to which God spoke and speaks, can we interpret sacred Scripture properly. And here – as I said in the foreword of my book on Jesus (cf. Part One) – much remains to be done in order to arrive at an interpretation that is truly in the spirit of the Council. Here the application of the Council is not yet complete, more needs to be done.

Finally, ecumenism. I do not want to enter now into these problems, but it was obvious – especially after the "passions" suffered by Christians in the Nazi era – that Christians could find unity, or at least seek unity, yet it was also clear that God alone can bestow unity. And we are still following this path. Now, with these themes, the "Rhine alliance" – so to speak – had completed its work.

 

The second part of the Council was much more extensive. There appeared with great urgency the issue of today’s world, the modern age, and the Church; and with it, the issues of responsibility for the building up of this world, of society, responsibility for the future of this world and eschatological hope, the ethical responsibility of Christians and where we look for guidance; and then religious freedom, progress, and relations with other religions. At this moment, all the parties of the Council really entered into the discussion, not just America, the United States, with its powerful interest in religious freedom. In the third session the Americans told the Pope: we cannot go home without bringing a declaration on religious freedom voted by the Council. The Pope, however, had the firmness and the decision, the patience, to take the text to the fourth session, for the sake of greater discernment and the fuller consent of the Council Fathers. I mean: it was not only the Americans who intervened forcefully in the unfolding of the Council, but also Latin America, well aware of the extreme poverty of its people, on a Catholic continent, and the responsibility of the faith for the situation of these people. Likewise, Africa and Asia saw the need for interreligious dialogue; problems arose which we Germans – I have to admit – had not foreseen. I cannot describe all of this now. The great document Gaudium et Spes analyzed very well the issue of Christian eschatology and worldly progress, and that of responsibility for the society of the future and the responsibility of Christians before eternity, and in this way it also renewed a Christian ethics, the foundations of ethics. But – let us say unexpectedly – alongside this great document there arose another document which responded in a more synthetic and more concrete way to the challenges of the times, and this was the Declaration Nostra Aetate. From the beginning our Jewish friends were present, and they said, primarily to us Germans, but not to us alone, that after the tragic events of the Nazi period, the Nazi decade, the Catholic Church had to say something about the Old Testament, about the Jewish people. They said: even if it is clear that the Catholic Church is not responsible for the Shoah, it was Christians for the most part who committed those crimes; we need to deepen and renew Christian awareness of this, even though we know full well that true believers have always resisted these things. Thus it was clear that our relationship with the world of the ancient People of God needed to be an object of reflection. Understandably, too, the Arab countries – the bishops of the Arab countries – were unhappy about this: they feared somewhat a glorification of the State of Israel, which naturally they did not want. They said: fine, a truly theological statement about the Jewish people is good, it is necessary, but if you speak about that, speak of Islam too; only then will there be a balance; Islam too is a great challenge and the Church also needs to clarify her relationship with Islam. This was something that, at the time, we did not much understand: a little, but not much. Today we know how necessary it was.

When we began to work also on Islam, we were told that there were also other world religions: the whole of Asia! Think of Buddhism, Hinduism…. And so, instead of a declaration as initially conceived, concerning only the People of God in the Old Testament, a text was created on interreligious dialogue, anticipating what only 30 years later would be demonstrated in all its intensity and importance. I cannot enter now into this theme, but if one reads the text, one sees that it is very dense and prepared truly by people who were familiar with the realities, and it indicates briefly, in a few words, what is essential. Likewise it indicates the foundation of dialogue, in difference, in diversity, in faith, on the unicity of Christ, who is one, and it is not possible for a believer to think that religions are all variations on a single theme. No, there is one reality of the living God, who has spoken, and there is one God, one incarnate God, thus one word of God, that is truly God’s word. But there is religious experience, with a certain human light from creation, and therefore it is necessary and possible to enter into dialogue, and thus to become open to one another and to open everyone to the peace of God, the peace of all his sons and daughters, the peace of his entire family.

Therefore, these two documents, on religious freedom and Nostra Aetate, linked to Gaudium et Spes, make a very important trilogy whose importance has been demonstrated only after decades, and we are still working to understand better the interlinked realities of the unicity of God’s revelation, the unicity of the one God incarnate in Christ, and the multiplicity of religions, by which we seek peace and also hearts that are open to the light of the Holy Spirit, who illumines and leads to Christ.

I would now like to add yet a third point: there was the Council of the Fathers – the real Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council apart, and the world perceived the Council through the latter, through the media. Thus, the Council that reached the people with immediate effect was that of the media, not that of the Fathers. And while the Council of the Fathers was conducted within the faith – it was a Council of faith seeking intellectus, seeking to understand itself and seeking to understand the signs of God at that time, seeking to respond to the challenge of God at that time and to find in the word of God a word for today and tomorrow – while all the Council, as I said, moved within the faith, as fides quaerens intellectum, the Council of the journalists, naturally, was not conducted within the faith, but within the categories of today's media, namely apart from faith, with a different hermeneutic. It was a political hermeneutic: for the media, the Council was a political struggle, a power struggle between different trends in the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of those who seemed to them more closely allied with their world. There were those who sought the decentralization of the Church, power for the bishops and then, through the expression "People of God", power for the people, the laity. There was this threefold question: the power of the Pope, which was then transferred to the power of the bishops and the power of all – popular sovereignty. Naturally, for them, this was the part to be approved, to be promulgated, to be favoured. So too with the liturgy: there was no interest in liturgy as an act of faith, but as something where comprehensible things are done, a matter of community activity, something profane. And we know that there was a tendency, not without a certain historical basis, to say: sacrality is a pagan thing, perhaps also a thing of the Old Testament. In the New Testament it matters only that Christ died outside: that is, outside the gates, in the profane world. Sacrality must therefore be abolished, and profanity now spreads to worship: worship is no longer worship, but a community act, with communal participation: participation understood as activity. These translations, trivializations of the idea of the Council, were virulent in the process of putting the liturgical reform into practice; they were born from a vision of the Council detached from its proper key, that of faith. And the same applies to the question of Scripture: Scripture is a book, it is historical, to be treated historically and only historically, and so on.

We know that this Council of the media was accessible to everyone. Therefore, this was the dominant one, the more effective one, and it created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy … and the real Council had difficulty establishing itself and taking shape; the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real force of the Council was present and, slowly but surely, established itself more and more and became the true force which is also the true reform, the true renewal of the Church. It seems to me that, 50 years after the Council, we see that this virtual Council is broken, is lost, and there now appears the true Council with all its spiritual force. And it is our task, especially in this Year of Faith, on the basis of this Year of Faith, to work so that the true Council, with its power of the Holy Spirit, be accomplished and the Church be truly renewed. Let us hope that that the Lord will assist us. I myself, secluded in prayer, will always be with you and together let us go forward with the Lord in the certainty that the Lord will conquer. Thank you!

© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

 
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On the First Sunday of Lent
"We Join Him and We Ask Him to Give Us Strength to Fight our Weaknesses"

VATICAN CITY, February 17, 2013  - Dear brothers and sisters!

Last Wednesday, with the traditional distribution of ashes, we entered into Lent, a time of conversion and penance in preparation for Easter. The Church, who is mother and teacher, calls all of her members to renew themselves spiritually, to reorient themselves toward God, renouncing pride and egoism to live in love. In this Year of Faith Easter is a favorable time to rediscover faith in God as a basic criterion for our life and the life of the Church. This always means a struggle, a spiritual combat, because the evil spirit naturally opposes our sanctification and seeks to turn us away from the path to God. That is why each year on the first Sunday of Lent the Gospel narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is proclaimed.

Jesus, in fact, after having received “investiture” as Messiah – “anointed” with the Spirit – at the baptism in the Jordan, was led by the same Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. At the beginning of his public ministry Jesus had to unmask and reject the false images of the Messiah that the tempter proposed to him. But these temptations are also false images of man, which always harass our conscience, disguising themselves as suitable, effective and even good proposals. The evangelists Matthew and Luke present 3 temptations of Jesus, differing in part only in the order. The nucleus of these temptations always consists in instrumentalizing God for our own interests, giving more importance to success or to material goods. The tempter is clever: he does not direct us immediately towar evil but toward a false good, making us believe that power and things that satiate primary needs are what is most real. In this manner God becomes secondary; he is reduced to a means, he becomes unreal, he no longer counts, he disappears. In the final analysis, faith is what is at stake in temptations because God is at stake. In the decisive moments of life and, in fact, in every moment of life, we are faced with a choice: do we want to follow the “I” or God? Do we want to follow individual interest or rather the true Good, that which is really good?

As the Fathers of the Church teach us, temptations are of Jesus’ “descent” into our human condition, into the abyss of sin and its consequences. A “descent” that Jesus undertook to the very end, to the point of death on the cross and the descent into the netherworld (inferi) of extreme distance from God. In this way he is the hand of God extended to man, to the lost sheep, to bring back him to safety. As St. Augustine teaches, Jesus has taken temptations from us to give us his victory (cf. Enarr. in Psalmos, 60,3: PL 36, 724). Therefore, we too are not afraid to face combat with the evil spirit: the important point is that we do it with him, with Christ, the Victor. And to stand with him we turn to the Mother, Mary: let us invoke her with filial confidence in the hour of trial, and she will make us feel the powerful presence her divine Son, to reject the temptations with the Word of Christ, and so to put God once again at the center of our life.

[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 visitors and pilgrims present for today’s Angelus. Today we contemplate Christ in the desert, fasting, praying, and being tempted. As we begin our Lenten journey, we join him and we ask him to give us strength to fight our weaknesses. Let me also thank you for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days. May God bless all of you!

[Concluding in Italian, the Holy Father said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good Lenten journey. This evening I will begin a week of retreat: let us be united in prayer. Have a good week everyone. Thank you!

 

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Benedict XVI:  Teacher of the faith

Written by Archbishop José H. Gomez Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00

I was surprised, as I’m sure you all were, by the Pope’s announcement that he would be stepping down from his office at the end of this month.
Pope Benedict XVI has truly been a Holy Father to the family of God, his Catholic Church. His decision to resign is a beautiful, Christ-like act of humility and love for the Church.

This is the act of a saint.

This is the act of one who thinks not about himself but only about the will of God and the good of God’s people. May we all be given the grace to be so humble and so selfless in our ministries and daily responsibilities.

I received my Archbishop’s pallium twice from Pope Benedict — first as Archbishop of San Antonio and then as Archbishop of Los Angeles. I will always be grateful that he appointed me to be your Archbishop.

Personally, I have always had great affection for this Pope. He is a beautiful man. I had the honor to spend time with him for more than a month this past October during the Synod of Bishops. I was amazed, as I always am, by his joyfulness, his sense of prayer, and his intelligence.

In my opinion, Pope Benedict is one of the wisest persons in our world today. I try to learn every day from his words and example. Just witnessing his ministry, reading his writings, is a beautiful lesson for all of us in how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We see from his speeches, homilies and writings, that this Pope understands the world in a deep way — from economics, politics and world affairs to the spiritual and moral issues that face every individual.

Pope Benedict will be remembered as one of the Church’s great teachers of the faith.

During his eight short years as Pope he has written Jesus of Nazareth, an important three-volume work on how to read the Gospels to find the true face of Christ. This may be one of the most important works of biblical theology in our time.

He has written encyclical letters on the virtues of love and hope and important works on the Word of God and the Eucharist. In his weekly public audience talks, the Pope has delivered a series of catecheses on the apostles and the teachings of St. Paul; on the Fathers and doctors of the Church; on the theologians and religious founders and reformers of the medieval Church; and on the teaching and witness of prayer found in the Old and New Testaments.

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Pope's Audience with Members of the 'Pro Petri Sede' Association
"Any Genuine Work of Charity is a Concrete Manifestation of God's Love for Mankind"

VATICAN CITY, February 15, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's address to members of the Pro Petri Sede charitable association that works in Belgium and Luxemburg.

* * *

I welcome you this morning, you who have come to Rome as pilgrims to show your devotion to the Apostolic See and to strengthen your commitment to the Pro Petri Sede Association. I commend your generosity and sense of ecclesial communion.

The Year of Faith, which the Church celebrates at this time, invites us to a genuine conversion to the Lord Jesus, the only Savior of the world. In welcoming through faith the revelation of the saving love of God in our lives, our entire existence is called to be modeled on the radical newness introduced into the world by Christ's Resurrection. Faith is a living reality that must constantly be discovered and deepened so that it may grow. It is she who must guide the gaze and action of the Christian; because it is a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the life of man. As I have stated in the Apostolic Letter 'Porta Fidei', the Year of Faith is a good opportunity to intensify the witness of charity. "Faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt. Faith and charity each require the other; in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path." (n.14)

In order to live this witness of charity, the meeting with the Lord who transforms the heart and the eyes of man is indispensable. In fact, this is the testimony of God's love for all our brothers in humanity that gives the true meaning of Christian charity. It cannot be reduced to a simple humanism or an enterprise of human promotion. Material assistance, as necessary as it is, is not the whole of charity, which is participation in Christ's love that is given and shared. Any genuine work of charity is a concrete manifestation of God's love for mankind, thus becoming a proclamation of the Gospel. In this time of Lent, acts of charity, generously made (cf. Mt 6, 3), allow everyone to move toward Christ, who does not cease in coming to meet mankind!

Dear friends, may your pilgrimage strengthen your relationship with Christ and revive the grace received in Baptism! May the desire to give witness to your faith always grow in you. I entrust each of you and each of your families, as well as the members of your Association, to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary and the protection of the Apostle Peter. With all my heart, I give you my Apostolic Blessing.

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Pope's Lectio Divina at Visit to Rome's Major Seminary
"Peter speaks: It is almost a first encyclical, with which the first Apostle, vicar of Christ, speaks to the Church of all times"

ROME, February 14, 2013  - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave last Friday, when he visited Rome's major seminary on the occasion of Saturday's feast of Our Lady of Confidence, patron of the seminary.

The reflection draws from 1 Peter 1:3-5.

* * *

Eminence,

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,

Dear Friends!

It is a great joy for me to be with you every year, to see so many young men who walk toward the priesthood, who are attentive to the voice of the Lord, who wish to follow this voice and seek the way to serve the Lord in this our time.

We heard three verses of the First Letter of Saint Peter (cf. 1:3-5). Before going into this text, it seems important to me to be attentive to the fact that it is Peter who is speaking. The first two words of the Letter are "Petrus apostolus" (cf. v. 1): he speaks, and he speaks to the Churches in Asia and calls the faithful "chosen and exiles of the Dispersion" (ibidem). Let us reflect a bit on this. Peter speaks, and he speaks – as we hear at the end of the Letter – of Rome, which he calls "Babylon" (cf. 5:13). Peter speaks: it is almost a first encyclical, with which the first Apostle, vicar of Christ, speaks to the Church of all times.

Peter, apostle. Hence, he speaks who has found Christ Jesus the Messiah of God, who has spoken as the first in the name of the future Church: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (cf. Matthew 16:16). He is speaking who has introduced us to this faith. He speaks to whom the Lord said: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (cf. Matthew 16:19), to whom he entrusted his flock after the Resurrection, saying to him three times: "Feed my lambs, tend my sheep" (cf. John 21:15-17). Speaking also is the man who fell, who denied Jesus and who had the grace to see Jesus' glance, to be touched in his heart and to have found forgiveness and a renewal of his mission. However, it is important that this man, full of passion, of desire for God, of desire for the kingdom of God, for the Messiah, that this man who found Jesus, the Lord and the Messiah, is also the man who sinned, who fell, and yet he remained under the eyes of the Lord and thus remains responsible for the Church of God, he remains entrusted by Christ to be the bearer of his love.

Peter the apostle is speaking, but the exegetes tell us: it is not possible that this Letter is of Peter, because the Greek is so good that it cannot be the Greek of a fisherman of the Lake of Galilee. And not only the language, the structure of the language is optimal, but also the thought is now quite mature, there are already concrete formulas in which the faith and the reflection of the Church is condensed. Hence, they say: it is already a state of development that cannot be Peter's. How to respond? There are two important positions: first, Peter himself – namely the Letter – which gives us a key because at the end of the writing he says: "I have written to you through Silvanus – by Silvanus." This through [by] can mean several things: it can mean that he [Silvanus] transports, transmits; it can mean that he helped in the writing; it can mean that he was really the practical writer. In any case, we can conclude that the Letter itself tells us that Peter was not alone in writing this Letter, but expresses the faith of a Church that is already on the path of faith, an ever more mature faith. He does not write by himself, an isolated individual, he writes with the help of the Church, of the persons who help to deepen the faith, to enter into the profundity of its thought, of its reasonableness, of its profundity. And this is very important: Peter does not speak as an individual, he speaks ex persona Ecclesiae, he speaks as man of the Church, certainly as a person, with his personal responsibility, but also as a person who speaks in the name of the Church: not just his private ideas, not as a genius of the 19th century who wished to express only personal, original ideas, which no one was able to express before. No. He does not speak as an individualistic genius, but speaks in fact in the communion of the Church. In Revelation, in the initial vision of Christ, it is said that the voice of Christ is the sound of many waters (cf. Revelation 1:15). This means that the voice of Christ gathers all the waters of the world, he bears in himself all the living waters that give life to the world; he is Person, but in fact this is the greatness of the Lord, who bears in himself the whole river of the Old Testament, in fact of the wisdom of the peoples. And what is said here about the Lord is true, in another way, also for the apostle, who does not wish to say his own word, but really bears in himself the waters of the faith, the waters of the whole Church, and thus, in fact, of fertility, of fecundity and precisely because of this, he is a personal witness that opens to the Lord, and so becomes open and wide. Therefore, this is important.

Then it also seems important to me that in the conclusion of the Letter Silvanus and Mark are named, two persons who also belong to Saint Paul's friendships. Thus, through this conclusion, the worlds of Saint Peter and Saint Paul go together: it is not an exclusively Petrine theology against a Pauline theology, but it is a theology of the Church, of the faith of the Church, in which there is diversity – certainly – of temperament, of thought, of style -- in speaking between Paul and Peter. It is good that these diversities exist, also today, diverse charisms, diverse temperaments; however, they are not conflicting and are united in the common faith.

I would also like to say one thing: Saint Peter writes from Rome. It is important that we already have the Bishop of Rome, we have the beginning of the succession, we have already the beginning of the concrete primacy located in Rome, not only consigned by the Lord, but located here, in this city, in this capital of the world. How did Peter come to Rome? This is a serious question. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that, after his escape from Herod's prison, he went to another place (cf. 12:17) – eis eteron topon – it is not known to which other place; some say Antioch, some say Rome. In any case, in this chapter, it is also said that, before escaping he entrusted the Judeo-Christian Church, the Church of Jerusalem, to James and, though entrusting it to James, he still remained Primate of the universal Church, of the Church of the pagans, but also of the Judeo-Christian Church. And here in Rome he found a large Judeo-Christian community. The liturgists tell us that in the Roman Canon there are traces of the typically Judeo-Christian language; thus we see that both parts of the Church were in Rome: the Judeo-Christian and the pagan-Christian, united, expression of the universal Church. And certainly for Peter the passage from Jerusalem to Rome is the passage to the universality of the Church, the passage of the Church of the pagans and of all times, to the Church which is also always of the Jews. And I think that, going to Rome, Saint Peter not only thought of this passage: Jerusalem/Rome, Judeo-Christian Church/universal Church. He certainly also remembered the last words Jesus addressed to him, reported by Saint John: "At the end, you will go where you do not wish to go. You will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you" (cf. John 21:18). It is a prophecy of the crucifixion. The philologists show us that it is a precise, technical expression, this "stretching out the hands," for the crucifixion. Saint Peter knew that his end would be martyrdom, that it would be the cross. And thus, he would be in the complete following of Christ. Hence, by going to Rome he was certainly going also to martyrdom: martyrdom awaited him in Babylon. Therefore, the primacy has this content of universality, but also a martyrological content. From the beginning, Rome was also a place of martyrdom. Going to Rome, Peter accepts again this word of the Lord: go to the Cross, and he also invites us to accept the martyrological aspect of Christianity, which can have many different forms. And the cross can have many different forms, but no one can be a Christian without following the Crucified One, without also accepting the martyrological moment.

After these words on the sender, a brief word also on the persons to whom it is written. I have already said that Saint Peter describes those to whom he writes with the words "eklektois parepidemois," "to the chosen that are dispersed exiles" (cf. 1 Peter 1:1). We have again this paradox of glory and cross: chosen but dispersed and exiles. Chosen: this was Israel's title of glory: we are the chosen, God has chosen us little people not because we are great – says Deuteronomy – but because He loves us (cf. 7:7-8). We are chosen: Saint Peter now transfers this to all the baptized, and the content itself of the first chapters of his First Letter is that the baptized enter in the privileges of Israel, they are the new Israel. Chosen: it seems to me worthwhile to reflect on this word. We are chosen. God has always known us, before our birth, our conception. God willed me to be a Christian, a Catholic; He willed me to be a priest. God has thought of me, has sought me among millions, among so many. He has seen me and chosen me, not for my merits, of which there were none, but because of his goodness; He wanted me to be bearer of his election, which is always also a mission, above all a mission, and responsibility for the others. Chosen: we must be grateful and joyful for this fact. God has thought of me, has chosen me as a Catholic, as bearer of his Gospel, as priest. It seems to me worthwhile to reflect several times on this, and to re-enter again in this fact of his election: He has chosen me, He has willed me. Now I respond.

Perhaps today we are tempted to say: you do not want to be joyful for being chosen, it would be triumphalism. It would be triumphalism if we thought that God chose me because I am so great. This would really be mistaken triumphalism. However, to be happy because God has willed me is not triumphalism, but gratitude, and I think that we must learn this joy again: God willed that I be born so, in a Catholic family, that I know Jesus from the beginning. What a gift to be willed by God, so that I have been able to know his face, I have been able to know Jesus Christ, the human face of God, the human history of God in this world! To be joyful because he chose me to be Catholic, to be in this Church of his, where subsistit Ecclesia unica; we must be joyful because God has given us this grace, this beauty of knowing the fullness of the truth of God, the joy of his love.

Chosen: it is at the same time a word of privilege and of humility. But "chosen" is – as I said – accompanied by "parapidemois," dispersed, exiles. As Christians we are dispersed and exiles; we see that today Christians are the most persecuted group in the world because they do not conform, because they are a stimulus against the tendencies of egoism, materialism, of all these things.

We Christians are certainly not only exiles; we are also Christian nations, we are proud of having contributed to the formation of a culture, there is a healthy patriotism, a healthy joy of belonging to a nation that has a great history of culture, of faith. Yet, as Christians, we are always exiles – the fate of Abraham, described in the Letter to the Hebrews. As Christians we are in fact today always exiles. In work places Christians are a minority, they are in a situation of exile; it is a wonder that one can still believe and live like this today. This also belongs to our life: it is a way of being with Christ Crucified, this being exiles, not living in the way that everyone lives, but living – or at least trying to live – according to his Word, in great difference from what everyone says. And this is in fact characteristic of Christians. All say: "but everyone does so, why not I?" No, not I, because I want to live according to God. Saint Augustine said once: "Christians are those that do not have their roots down here as do the trees, but they have their roots above, and they live not in the natural gravitation towards below." Let us pray to the Lord that He help us to accept this mission of living as dispersed persons, as a minority, in a certain sense; of living as exiles and yet of being responsible for others and, precisely in this way, giving strength to the good of our world.

We come finally to the three verses of today. I would only like to stress or, let us say, interpret as well as I can, three words: the word regenerated, the word inheritance, the word custodians of the faith. Regenerated – anaghennesas, says the Greek text – means: to be Christian is not simply a decision of my will, an idea of mine. I see that it is a group that please me, so I become a member of this group, I share their objectives, etc. No: to be Christian is not to enter in a group to do something, it is not just an act of my will, not primarily of my will, of my reason: it is an act of God. Regenerated does not concern only the sphere of the will, of thought, but the sphere of being. I am reborn: this means that to become Christian is first of all passive; I cannot make myself a Christian, but I come to be reborn, I come remade by the Lord in the profundity of my being. And I enter this process of rebirth, I let myself be transformed, renewed, regenerated. This seems very important to me: as a Christian I do not have an idea that I share with some others, and if I no longer like them, I can leave. No: in fact it concerns the depth of my being, that is, to become a Christian begins with an action of God, above all an action of His, and I let myself be formed and transformed.

It seems to me this is matter for reflection, for meditation, precisely in a year in which we reflect on the Sacraments of Christian initiation. To meditate on this passive and active depth of the regenerated being, of the becoming of a whole Christian life, of letting myself be transformed by his Word, for the communion of the Church, for the life of the Church, for the signs with which the Lord works in me, works with me and for me. And to be reborn, to be regenerated, indicates also that I thus enter into a new family: God, my Father, the Church, my Mother, other Christians, my brothers and sisters. Hence, to be regenerated, to let oneself be regenerated also implies letting oneself be inserted willingly in this family, to live for God the Father and from God the Father, to live from communion with Christ his Son, who regenerates me by his Resurrection, as the Letter says (cf. 1 Peter 1:3), to live with the Church letting myself be formed by the Church in so many senses, in so many ways, and to be open to my brothers, to really recognize in others my brothers, who are regenerated with me, transformed, renewed; one bears responsibility for the other. Hence a responsibility of Baptism which is a process of a whole lifetime.

Second word: inheritance. It is a very important word in the Old Testament, where Abraham is told that his seed will inherit the earth, and this was always his promise to his own: You will have the earth, you will be heirs of the earth. In the New Testament, this word becomes a word for us: we are heirs, not of a determined country, but of God's land, of God's future. Inheritance is something of the future, and so above all, this word says that as Christians we have the future: the future is ours, the future is God's. And thus, being Christians, we know that the future is ours and the tree of the Church is not a dying tree, but a tree that always grows again. Therefore, we have reason not to let ourselves be affected --as Pope John said – by the prophets of gloom, who say: well, the Church is a tree that came from the mustard seed, which grew in two millennia, which now has time behind her, and now is the time in which she dies." No. The Church always renews herself, is always reborn. The future is ours. Of course, there is a false optimism and a false pessimism. A false pessimism that says: the time of Christianity has ended. No: it begins again! The false optimism was that after the Council, when convents were closing, seminaries were closing, and they said: but … nothing is wrong, everything is all right … No! Everything is not all right. There are also grave, dangerous falls, and we must acknowledge them with healthy realism, that this is not right, it is not all right when things are mistaken. But at the same time we must also be certain that if here and there the Church is dying because of men's sins, because of their unbelief, at the same time she is reborn. The future is truly God's: this is the great certainty of our life, the great, true optimism that we know. The Church is the tree of God who lives in eternity and bears in herself eternity and the true inheritance: eternal life.

And, finally, custodians of the faith. The text of the New Testament, of the Letter of Saint Peter, uses here a strange word, phrouroumrnoi, which means: there are "the guardians," and the faith is as "the guardian" that guards the integrity of my being, of my faith. This word interprets above all the "guardians" of the doors of a city, where they are and guard the city, so that it is not invaded by powers of destruction. In this way the faith is "guardian" of my being, of my life, of my inheritance. We must be grateful for this vigilance of the faith that protects us, helps us, guides us, gives us security: God does not let me fall out of his hands. Custodians of the faith: so I end. Speaking of the faith I must always think of that sick Syro-Phoenician woman who, in the midst of the crowds, found access to Jesus, touches him to be cured, and is cured. The Lord says: "Who touched me?" They say to him: "But Lord, everyone touches you, how can you ask, who has touched me?" (cf. Mark 7:24-30). But the Lord knows: there is a way of touching Him, superficial, external, which has really nothing to do with a real encounter with Him. And there is a way of touching Him profoundly. And this woman really touched him: touched Him not only with her hand, but with her heart and thus she received the healing strength of Christ, touching Him really from within, from faith. This is faith: to touch with the hand of faith, to touch Christ with our heart and thus enter into the strength of his life, the healing strength of the Lord. And we pray to the Lord that we will be able to touch Him ever more and so be healed. We pray that He not let us fall, that He hold us always by the hand and so guard us for the true life. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

At the end the Holy Father stayed at the Seminary for dinner. Then he returned to the Vatican.

 

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On Ash Wednesday (General Audience - Ash Wednesday)
"The forty days of Lent recall Israel's sojourn in the desert and the temptations of Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry."

VATICAN CITY, February 13, 2013  - Before delivering his catechesis today, the Holy Father said the following to the faithful present:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As you know, I have decided [applause] Thank you for your sympathy, I have decided to give up the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to me on April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom for the good of the Church, after having prayed at length and having examined my conscience before God, well aware of the seriousness of the act, but equally conscious of no longer being able to carry out the Petrine ministry with the strength that it requires. I am supported and enlightened by the certainty that the Church is Christ, who will never allow it to lack his leadership and care. Thank you all for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me. Thank you, I have felt almost physically in these days, which are not easy for me, the power of prayer that the love of the Church, your prayer, is bringing me. Continue to pray for me, for the Church, for the future Pope, who will lead us."

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter. It is a time of particular commitment on our spiritual journey. The number forty occurs several times in Scripture. In particular, it recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the desert: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty is also the number of days it took the prophet Elijah to reach the Mountain of God, Horeb, as well as the days that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this Catechesis I would like to reflect on precisely this moment of the earthly life of the Son of God, which we will read in this Sunday's Gospel.

First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdraws, is a place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of all material support and is faced with the fundamental questions of life, he is prompted to examine that which is most essential, and hence it is easier to meet God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude, where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there undergoes the temptation to leave the path indicated by God the Father, to follow other, easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). And so he bears our temptations, takes upon himself our misery, to defeat the Evil one and open us to the way towards God, the way of conversion.

Reflecting on the temptations undergone by Jesus in the desert is an invitation for each of us to answer a fundamental question: what is truly important in our lives? In the first temptation the devil suggests that Jesus turn a stone into bread to satisfy his hunger. Jesus replies that man also lives from bread, but not by bread alone: ​​without an answer to his hunger for truth, hunger for God, man cannot be saved (cf. vv. 3-4). In the second temptation, the devil offers Jesus the way of power: he leads him on high and offers him dominion over the world, but this is not the way of God: Jesus knows clearly that it is not worldly power that saves the world, but the power of the Cross, of humility, of love (cf. vv. 5-8). In the third temptation, the devil proposes that Jesus throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple of Jerusalem and make God save him through His angels, that is, to do something sensational to test God; but Jesus answers that God is not someone upon whom we may impose our conditions: He is the Lord of all (cf. vv. 9-12). What is the crux of the three temptations that Jesus undergoes? It is the proposal to manipulate God, to use Him for one's own interests, for one's own glory and success. And, in essence, to put oneself in the place of God, removing Him from one's life and making Him seem superfluous. Everyone should then ask himself: what is God's role in my life? Is He is the Lord or am I?


Overcoming the temptation to place God beneath oneself and one's own interests or to place Him in a corner and to convert to the proper ordering of priorities, to give God the first place, is a journey that every Christian must undertake. "Conversion", an invitation that we will hear many times in Lent, means to follow Jesus in such a way that his Gospel is a real guide for life; it means letting God transform us, to stop thinking that we are the only creators of our lives; it means recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, on His love, and only by "losing" our life in Him can we gain it. This requires making our choices in the light of the Word of God. Today one can no longer be Christian as a simple consequence of living in a society with Christian roots: even those who come from Christian families, and are brought up religiously must renew every day the choice to be Christian, that is, to give God the first place, in front of the temptations that a secularized culture presents us with all the time, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.

The tests to which modern society subjects Christians, indeed, are many, and affect both personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, to practice mercy in everyday life, to leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many consider obvious, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in the case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one's faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed repeatedly in life.

There are, as an example and stimulus, the great conversions such as that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus, or of St. Augustine, but also in our time of eclipses of the sense of the sacred, God's grace is at work and works wonders in the lives of many people. The Lord never gets tired of knocking at the door of man in social and cultural contexts that seem swallowed up by secularization, as occurred with the Russian Orthodox Pavel Florensky. After a completely agnostic upbringing, to the point that he felt outright hostility to the religious teachings taught in school, the scientist Florensky found himself exclaiming: "No, one cannot live without God!", and changed his life completely, so much so that he became a monk.

I also have in mind the figure of Etty Hillesum, a young Dutch girl of Jewish origin who would die in Auschwitz. Initially far from God, she discovered Him by looking deep within herself and wrote: "There is a very deep well inside me. And God is in that well. Sometimes I manage to reach Him, more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug out again"(Diary, 97). In her scattered and restless life, she found God right in the midst of the great tragedy of the twentieth century, the Shoah. This young fragile and dissatisfied girl, transfigured by faith, became a woman full of love and inner peace, able to say: "I live in constant intimacy with God."

The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time, to choose the search for truth and open herself to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly that she fell in the temptation to solve everything with politics, adhering to the Marxist cause: she writes: "I wanted to go off with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dream to the world. How much ambition and how much self-seeking there was in all this!" The journey of faith in so secularized an environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts all the same, as she herself points out: "It is certain that I felt more and more often the need to go to church, to kneel down, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I inserted myself into the atmosphere of prayer...". God led her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a life dedicated to the underprivileged.

In our time there is no small number of conversions understood as the return of those who, after perhaps a superficial Christian upbringing, have fallen away from the faith for years and later rediscover Christ and His Gospel. In the Book of Revelation we read: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me "(3:20). Our inner man must prepare itself to be visited by God, and precisely for this reason should not let itself be invaded by illusions, by appearances, by material things.

In this time of Lent, in the Year of Faith, we renew our commitment on the way of conversion, to overcome the tendency to close in on ourselves and to make room for God instead, looking at our daily reality through His eyes. We might say that the choice between closing in on our egoism and opening to the love of God and others, corresponds to the alternatives in Jesus' tempations: the choice, that is, between human power and love of the Cross, between a redemption viewed solely as material well-being and redemption as the work of God, to whom we give the first place in life. Conversion means not closing in on oneself in the pursuit of one's own success, one's own prestige, one's own position, but making sure that every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become the most important thing. Thank you!

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

Addressing the English-speaking pilgrims, the Holy Father said the following:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin our yearly Lenten journey of conversion in preparation for Easter. The forty days of Lent recall Israel’s sojourn in the desert and the temptations of Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry. The desert, as the place of silent encounter with God and decision about the deepest meaning and direction of our lives, is also a place of temptation. In his temptation in the desert, Jesus showed us that fidelity to God’s will must guide our lives and thinking, especially amid today’s secularized society. While the Lord continues to raise up examples of radical conversion, like Pavel Florensky, Etty Hillesum and Dorothy Day, he also constantly challenges those who have been raised in the faith to deeper conversion. In this Lenten season, Christ once again knocks at our door (cf. Rev 3:20) and invites us to open our minds and hearts to his love and his truth. May Jesus’ example of overcoming temptation inspire us to embrace God’s will and to see all things in the light of his saving truth.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the many student groups present. With prayers that this Lenten season will prove spiritually fruitful for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you God’s blessings of joy and peace.

[Original text: English]

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

 

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Pope Benedict's Address on Resignation From the See of Rome
"I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry"

VATICAN CITY, February 11, 2013  -

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

 

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Cardinal Angelo Sodano's Statement After Pope Announces Resignation
"On behalf of these your dear colleagues, let me tell you that we are closer to you than ever"

VATICAN CITY, February 11, 2013  - Here is the translation of the statment made by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, after Pope Benedict XVI's announcement that he would resign from the See of St. Peter.

* * *

We listened to you with a sense of loss, almost in total disbelief. In your words we noticed the great affection that you have always had for the Holy Church of God, for this Church that you loved so much. Now allow me to tell you, in the name of this apostolic cenacle - the College of Cardinals - on behalf of these your dear colleagues, let me tell you that we are closer to you than ever, as we have been in these eight luminous years of your pontificate. On 19 April 2005, if I remember correctly, at the end of the Conclave I asked you, with trembling voice, "Do you accept your canonical election as Supreme Pontiff?", And you did not take long - albeit with trepidation - to respond by saying that you accepted, trusting in the Lord and in the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church. Like Mary, that day you gave your "yes" and thus began your luminous pontificate following in continuity, that continuity of which you have spoken to us so much in the history of the Church, in continuity with your 265 predecessors in the Chair of Peter, in the course of two thousand years of history, from the Apostle Peter, the humble fisherman of Galilee, up to the great popes of the last century, from St. Pius X to Blessed John Paul II. ... Holy Father, before February 28, as you said, the day you wish to put the word 'fine' over your pontifical service, performed with so much love, with humility, before February 28, we will have the opportunity to better express our feelings; as will many pastors and faithful throughout the world, as will so many people of good will along with the authorities of many countries. Then, in this month, too, we will have the joy of hearing your voice as shepherd on Ash Wednesday, then on Thursday, with the clergy of Rome, in the Angelus of these Sundays, at the Wednesday audiences; there will thus be many opportunities still to hear your fatherly voice ... Your mission, however, will continue: you have said that you will always be close to us with your testimony and your prayer. Of course, the stars in the sky shine forever and so there will always shine in our midst the star of your pontificate. We are close to you, Holy Father, and bless us.

 
UK Bishops Respond to Pope's Resignation
"A decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action"

LONDON, February 11, 2013 - Here is a brief statement from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, in response to the news that Benedict XVI will resign at the end of this month.

* * *

Pope Benedict’s announcement today has shocked and surprised everyone. Yet, on reflection, I am sure that many will recognise it to be a decision of great courage and characteristic clarity of mind and action.

The Holy Father recognises the challenges facing the Church and that "strength of mind and body are necessary" for his tasks of governing the Church and proclaiming the Gospel.

I salute his courage and his decision.

I ask people of faith to keep Pope Benedict in their prayers. We Catholics will do so, with great affection and the highest esteem for his ministry as our Holy Father remembering with joy his Visit to the United Kingdom in 2010. Pray, too, for the Church and all the steps that must take place in the next weeks. We entrust ourselves to the loving Providence of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

11 February 2013

 
US Bishops' Response to News of Pope's Resignation
"Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict"

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 11, 2013  - Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued this statement moments after learning today of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

* * *

The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter.

Though 78 when he elected pope in 2005, he set out to meet his people – and they were of all faiths – all over the world. He visited the religiously threatened – Jews, Muslims and Christians in the war-torn Middle East, the desperately poor in Africa, and the world’s youth gathered to meet him in Australia, Germany, Spain and Brazil.

He delighted our beloved United States of America when he visited Washington and New York in 2008. As a favored statesman he greeted notables at the White House. As a spiritual leader he led the Catholic community in prayer at Nationals Park, Yankee Stadium and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As a pastor feeling pain in a stirring, private meeting at the Vatican nunciature in Washington, he brought a listening heart to victims of sexual abuse by clerics.

Pope Benedict often cited the significance of eternal truths and he warned of a dictatorship of relativism. Some values, such as human life, stand out above all others, he taught again and again. It is a message for eternity.

He unified Catholics and reached out to schismatic groups in hopes of drawing them back to the church. More unites us than divides us, he said by word and deed. That message is for eternity.

He spoke for the world’s poor when he visited them and wrote of equality among nations in his peace messages and encyclicals. He pleaded for a more equitable share of world resources and for a respect for God’s creation in nature.

Those who met him, heard him speak and read his clear, profound writings found themselves moved and changed. In all he said and did he urged people everywhere to know and have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.

The occasion of his resignation stands as an important moment in our lives as citizens of the world. Our experience impels us to thank God for the gift of Pope Benedict. Our hope impels us to pray that the College of Cardinals under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit choose a worthy successor to meet the challenges present in today’s world.

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Council of European Episcopal Conferences' Letter to Pope Benedict
"With our Prayers We Accompany You at this Time of Great Challenges and Change"

ROME, February 12, 2013  - Here is the letter to Pope Benedict XVI sent yesterday by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE) regarding the Holy Father's resignation.

* * *

To His Holiness

Pope Benedict XVI

Vatican City

Most Holy Father,

Having heard this morning the news of your decision to renounce the role of Supreme
Pontiff, we wish to express, on behalf of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences
(CCEE), our heartfelt thanks to Your Holiness for the faithful and courageous service with
which you have led the Church in recent years. We give thanks to the Lord for your rich
Magisterium, for your messages, the care with which you have always accompanied the
European bishops, and your personal witness of faith and trust in the Lord, in which you
have expressed such great love for the whole of the Church.

At this moment we wish to assure Your Holiness of our spiritual closeness, and assure you
that we continue to serve the Church with the same enthusiasm and faith which you have
shown and taught.

With our prayers we accompany you at this time of great challenges and change, imploring
the divine help of the Holy Spirit for yourself and the Catholic Church.

Péter Cardinal Erdő
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
CCEE President

Angelo Cardinal Bagnasco
Archbishop of Genoa
CCEE Vice-President

Msgr. Józef Michalik
Archbishop of Przemyśl
CCEE Vice-President

 

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Angelus:   On Listening to the Lord's Call

VATICAN CITY, February 10, 2013  - Dear brothers and sisters! In today’s liturgy the Gospel according to Luke presents the account of the calling of the first disciples. This version is original with respect to the other 2 synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Mark (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). The call, in fact, is preceded by Jesus’ teaching of the crowds and of a miraculous catch of fish, accomplished by the Lord’s will (Luke 5:1-6). While the crowd gathers on the shore of the Lake of Genesaret to listen to Jesus he sees Simon who is discouraged because he had not caught anything all night. First he asks Simon if he might get into the boat to preach to the people a little ways from the shore; then when he finishes preaching he commands him to set out into the lake with his companions and cast out the nets (5:5). Simon obeys and they catch a great quantity of fish. In this way the evangelist makes us see how the first disciples followed Jesus, entrusting themselves to him, basing themselves on his word, which is also accompanied by wondrous signs. Let us observe that before this sign, Simon speaks to Jesus calling him “Master” (5:5), while afterward he calls him “Lord” (5:7). It is the pedagogy of God’s call, which is not much concerned with the qualities of the elect but with their faith, like that of Simon, who says: “At your word I will cast out the nets” (5:5). The image of the catch of fish points to the mission of the Church. St. Augustine comments on this: “Twice the disciples fish at the Lord’s command: once before the passions and once after the resurrection. In both cases we find a figure of the whole Church: the Church as she is now and as she will be after the resurrection of the dead. Now she contains a multitude impossible to count, including the good and the bad together; after the resurrection she will only contain the good” (Sermon 248, 1). Peter’s experience, certainly singular, is also representative of the call of every apostle of the Gospel, who must never be discouraged in proclaiming Christ to all men, to the ends of the earth. But the text of today’s Gospel also brings us to reflect on the vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated. It is the work of God. Man is not the author of his own vocation, but he replies to the divine proposal; and human weakness must not trouble us if God calls. We must have confidence in his strength, which acts precisely in our poverty; we must more and more place our trust in the power of his mercy, which transforms and renews. Dear brothers and sisters, may this Word of God revive in us too and in our Christian communities the courage, the confidence and the zeal to proclaim and witness to the Gospel. Failures and difficulties must not lead to discouragement: we are expected to cast out the nets with faith, the Lord does the rest. Let us trust in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Quite aware of her littleness, she responds to the Lord’s call with total trust: “Here I am.” With her maternal aid let us renew our openness to follow Jesus, Master and Lord.

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

Today, various peoples of the Far East celebrate the lunar new year. Peace, harmony and thanksgiving to heaven are the universal values that are celebrated on this joyous occasion and they are desired by all to build their own family, society and nation. I hope the aspirations of those peoples for a happy and prosperous life may be realized. I send out a special greeting to the Catholics of those countries that in this Year of Faith they let themselves be guided by the wisdom of Christ. Tomorrow, the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, will also be the World Day of the Sick. The solemn celebration will take place in the Marian shrine in Altötting in Bavaria. With prayer and affection I am near to all the sick and I spiritually join with those who will be gathering at that shrine, which is especially dear to me. [In English he said:] I am pleased to greet all the visitors present at today’s Angelus, especially the young people of Saint Patrick’s Evangelisation School, London. In today’s Gospel, the crowds press round Jesus, "listening to the word of God". May we too listen attentively to Jesus’ words, as he calls us, like Simon Peter, to go out fearlessly and draw others to Christ. God bless you and your loved ones!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

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

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Pope Benedict's Address to the General Assembly of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Charles Borromeo
"I thank the Lord for this Gift of your Fraternity"

VATICAN CITY, February 07, 2013  - At the end of the General Audience yesterday, the Holy Father Benedict XVI received in audience in Paul VI Hall the participants to the General Assembly of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo which elected a new Superior General, Fr. Paolo Sottopietra. Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address.

* * *

Excellencies,
Dear Brothers,

It gives me great joy to be with you. I remember well my visits to Palazzo Borromeo, next to St. Mary's Major Basilica, where I personally met Fr. Giussani; I have known his faith, his joy, his strength and the richness of his ideas, the creativity of his faith. A true friendship developed between us; and so, through him I got to know even better the community of Communion and Liberation.

And I am glad that his successor is with us, who continues this great work and inspires so many people, so many lay people, men and women, priests and laity, to collaborate in spreading the Gospel and the growth of the Kingdom of God. And among you I have also had the opportunity to get to know Massimo Camisasca; we have talked about different things; I have gotten to know his creativity in art, his ability to see, to interpret the signs of the times, his great gift as a teacher, a priest. I once even had the honor to ordain some priests in Porto Santa Rufina, and it was nice to know that here a new Priestly Fraternity is arising in the spirit of St. Charles Borromeo, who always remains the great model of a Pastor who is truly stimulated by the love of Christ, who seeks out the small, who loves them and so truly creates faith and builds up the Church.

Now your Fraternity is large, and it is a sign that there are vocations. But there is also a need to be open to finding, accompanying, guiding and helping vocations mature. This is the thing for which I thank Don Camisasca, who has been a great educator. And today, education is always important to the growth of the truth, for us to grow in our status as children of God and brothers of Jesus Christ.

Now, thanks be to God, I have also known for a long time your new Superior General, who has also been in touch somewhat with my theology. So, I am glad that I can be spiritually and intellectually with you and that we can offer fruitful help to each other through our work.

May the Lord bless you all. I thank the Lord for this gift of your Fraternity: may it grow and deepen always, even more in the love of Christ, in the love of men for Christ. The Lord accompanies you.

I give you my Blessing, sure that you pray for me, that you accompany me with your prayers. Thank you all!

 

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Pope's Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture

VATICAN CITY, February 07, 2013  - Pope Benedict XVI received in audience the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture today at the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. The three day event, which is being held from February 6-9, will focus on the theme: "Emerging youth cultures". Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to meet you at the opening of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture, in which you are engaged in understanding and deepening - as the President has said - from different perspectives, in the "emerging youth cultures." I cordially greet the President, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, and I thank him for his courteous words addressed to me on behalf of you all. I greet the Members, the Consultors and all Collaborators of the Dicastery, wishing you a fruitful work, which will provide a useful contribution to the action that the Church carries out towards the youth reality; a reality, as has been said, that is complex and that can no longer be understood within a homogeneous cultural universe, but needs to be understood within a horizon that can be defined as a "multiverse", determined, that is, by a plurality of views, perspectives and strategies. Therefore, it is appropriate to speak of "youth cultures", since the elements distinguishing and differentiating the cultural phenomena and areas outweigh those which, though present, are common to them. Several factors contribute to form a cultural landscape that is increasingly fragmented and in continuous, rapid evolution, to which the social media are certainly no strangers, these new communication tools that facilitate and sometimes themselves cause continuous and rapid changes in mentality, customs, behavior.

There is thus a widespread climate of instability affecting the cultural sphere, as well as the political and economic spheres - the latter marked also by the difficulties young people have in finding a job - that has an effect mainly on the psychological and relational level. The uncertainty and fragility that characterize so many young people, often push them to the margins, making them almost invisible and absent in the cultural and historical processes of societies. And with increasing frequency, fragility and marginality are resulting in drug addiction, deviance and violence. The affective and emotional sphere, the sphere of feelings, like that of the body, is strongly affected by this climate and by the consequent cultural environment, expressed, for example, by apparently contradictory phenomena, such as that which makes a spectacle of the intimate and personal lives of persons, and the individualistic and narcissistic closing in on one's own needs and interests. The religious dimension, too, the experience of faith and one's belonging to the Church are often lived from a privatistic and emotive perspective.

However, very positive phenomena are also present. The generous and courageous impulses of so many young volunteers who devote their best efforts to their neediest brethren; the experiences of sincere and deep faith of so many young boys and girls who joyfully bear witness to their belonging to the Church; the efforts carried out to build, in many parts of the world, societies able to respect the freedom and dignity of all, beginning with the smallest and weakest. All this comforts us and helps us to trace a more precise and objective picture of youth cultures. We cannot, therefore, content ourselves with reading the cultural youth phenomena according to the established paradigms, which by now have become commonplaces, or analyze them with methods that are no longer useful, starting from outdated and inadequate cultural categories.

We are ultimately faced with an extremely complex but fascinating reality, which must be understood thoroughly and loved with a great spirit of empathy, a reality whose bottom lines and developments we must know how to grasp attentively. Looking, for example, at the young people in many countries of the so-called "Third World", we realize that they represent, with their cultures and their needs, a challenge to the global consumer society, to the culture of established privileges, enjoyed by a small portion of the population of the Western world. Youth cultures, as a result, become "emerging" in the sense that they exhibit a deep need, a call for help or even a "provocation", which cannot be ignored or neglected, by either civil society or the ecclesial community. I have often expressed, for example, my concern and that of the whole Church for the so-called "educational emergency", alongside which we should surely list the other "emergencies" affecting the different dimensions of the person and his fundamental relationships, and which cannot be answered in an evasive and trivial manner. I think, for example, of the growing difficulties in the field of work or of the effort to be faithful in one's time in carrying out the responsibilities accepted. What would follow, for the future of the world and of all humanity, would be an impoverishment that is not only economic and social but also human and spiritual: if the youth no longer hoped and not longer made progress, if they were not to inject their energy into the historical dynamics, their vitality, their ability to anticipate the future, we would find ourselves as a humanity turned in on itself, lacking confidence and a positive outlook towards the future.

Although we are aware of the many problematic situations, which also affect the context of the faith and of belonging to the Church, we wish to renew our faith in young people, to reaffirm that the Church regards to their condition, their cultures, as an essential and unavoidable point of reference for its pastoral work. So I would return again to some significant passages of the Message that the Second Vatican Council addressed to young people, so that they may serve as grounds for reflection and inspiration for the new generations. First, in this Message, it was stated: "The Church looks to you with confidence and love ... She possesses what constitutes the strength and the charm of youth, that is to say, the ability to rejoice with what is beginning, to give oneself unreservedly, to renew oneself and set out again for new conquests." Then the Venerable Paul VI addressed this appeal to the youth of the world: "is in the name of this God and of his Son Jesus, that we exhort you to open your hearts to the dimensions of the world, to heed the appeal of your brothers, and to place your youthful energies at their service. Fight against all egoism. Refuse to give free course to the instincts of violence and hatred, which beget wars and all their sad train of miseries. Be generous, pure, respectful, sincere. And build in enthusiasm a better world than your elders had!"

I, too, wish to reaffirm this forcefully: the Church has confidence in young people, she hopes in them and in their energies, she needs them and their vitality, to continue to live with renewed enthusiasm the mission entrusted them by Christ. I very much hope, therefore, that the Year of Faith may be, also for the younger generation, a precious opportunity to rediscover and strengthen our friendship with Christ, from which to derive joy and enthusiasm to profoundly transform cultures and societies.

Dear friends, thanking you for the effort which you generously place at the service of the Church, and for the special attention you are giving to young people, I cordially impart to you my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you

 

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On God As Creator of Heaven and Earth (Year of Faith)
"In the work of creation, God is seen as the almighty Father who by his eternal Word brings into existence a universe of goodness, harmony and beauty"

VATICAN CITY, February 06, 2013  - Here is a translation of the General Audience Pope Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall.

- - -

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Creed, which begins by describing God as "Almighty Father," as we meditated on last week, then adds that He is the "Creator of heaven and earth," and thus takes up the Bible's opening line. In the first verse of Sacred Scripture, we read: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1): God is the origin of all things and his omnipotence as a loving Father unfolds in the beauty of creation.

God manifests himself as Father in creation, inasmuch as He is the origin of life, and in creating, reveals his omnipotence. The images used in Sacred Scripture in this regard are very powerful (cf. Is 40:12; 45:18; 48:13; Psalm 104:2.5; 135.7, Prov 8:27-29; Job 38-39). He, like a good and powerful Father, takes care of what he has created with a love and loyalty that never fail or diminish, as the Psalms repeatedly affirm (cf. Ps 57:11; 108:5; 36:6). Thus, the creation becomes a place in which to know and recognize the omnipotence of the Lord and his goodness, and becomes an appeal to faith as believers so that we proclaim God as Creator. "By faith", writes the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, "we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible"(11:3). Faith implies, therefore, knowing how to recognize the invisible by identifying the traces of it in the visible world. The believer can read the great book of nature and understand its language (cf. Ps 19:2-5), but the Word of revelation, which stimulates faith, is necessary for man to achieve full awareness of the reality of God as Creator and Father. It is in the book of Sacred Scripture that human intelligence can find, in the light of faith, the interpretative key to understand the world. In particular, the first chapter of Genesis holds a special place, with its solemn presentation of the divine creative act that unfolds in seven days: in six days God completes creation and on the seventh day, the Sabbath, he ceases from all activity and rests. A day of freedom for all, a day of communion with God. And so, with this image, the book of Genesis tells us that God's first thought was to find a love responding to His love. The second thought is then create a material world in which to place this love, these creatures who answer him in freedom. This structure, therefore, causes the text to be marked by some significant repetitions. Six times, for example, the phrase is repeated: "God saw that it was good" (vv. 4.10.12.18.21.25), and finally, the seventh time, after the creation of man: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (v. 31). Everything that God creates is good and beautiful, full of wisdom and love, the creative action of God brings order, sets things in harmony, bestows beauty. In the Genesis account then, it emerges that the Lord creates by his word: ten times the texts uses the expression "God said" (vv. 3.6.9.11.14.20.24.26.28.29). It is the word, the Logos of God who is the origin of the reality of the world and by saying, "God said," and it was so, it emphasizes the effective power of the Word of God. As the psalmist sings: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, by the breath of his mouth all their host ... because he spoke and all things were created, he commanded, and it was done" (33:6.9). Life arises, the world exists, because everything obeys the divine Word.

But our question today is: in the age of science and technology, does it still make sense to speak of creation? How should we understand the Genesis narratives? The Bible is not intended as a natural science manual; its intention instead is to teach us the authentic and profound truth of things. The fundamental truth that the Genesis stories reveal to us is that the world is not a collection of contrasting forces, but has its origin and its stability in the Logos, in God's eternal Reason, who continues to sustain the universe. There is a plan for the world that arises from this Reason, from the creating Spirit. Believing that such a reality is behind all this, illuminates every aspect of life and gives us the courage to face the adventure of life with confidence and hope. Thus, the Scriptures tell us that the origin of being, of the world, our origin is not irrationality or necessity, but rather reason and love and freedom. Hence the alternative: either priority of the irrational, of necessity, or priority of reason, freedom and love. We believe in this latter position.

But I would like to say a word about that which is the apex of all creation: man and woman, the human being, the only being "capable of knowing and loving his Creator" (Pastoral Constitution. Gaudium et spes, 12). The Psalmist, gazing on the skies, asks: "When I see your heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established, what is man that you remember him, the son of man that you care for him?"(8:4-5). The human being, created by God with love, is a small thing before the immensity of the universe; sometimes, when gazing, fascinated, upon the huge expanses of the sky, we too have perceived our limitedness. The human being is inhabited by this paradox: our smallness and our frailty coexist with the magnitude of what the eternal love of God has willed for us.

The creation stories in Genesis also introduce us to this mysterious area, helping us to know God's plan for man. First of all they affirm that God formed man of the dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7). This means that we are not God, we did not make ourselves, we are earth; but it also means that we come from the good soil, by the work of the good Creator. Added to this is another fundamental reality: all human beings are dust, beyond the distinctions made by culture and history, beyond any social difference; we are one humanity moulded with the one soil of God. Then there is a second element: the human being has its origin in God breathing the breath of life into the body moulded from the earth (cf. Gen 2:7). The human being is made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26-27). So we all carry within us God's breath of life and every human life - the Bible tells us - is under God's special protection. This is the most profound reason for the inviolability of human dignity against any attempt to judge the person according to utilitarian and power-based criteria. Being in the image and likeness of God means, then, that man is not closed in on himself, but finds in God his essential point of reference.

In the first chapters of the Book of Genesis we find two significant images: the garden with the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the serpent (cf. 2:15-17; 3,1-5). The garden tells us that the reality in which God has placed the human being is not a wild forest, but a place that He protects, nourishes and sustains; and man must recognize the world not as property to be plundered and exploited, but as a gift of the Creator, a sign of His saving will, a gift to cultivate and care for, to grow and develop with respect, in harmony, following its rhythms and logic, according to the plan of God (cf. Gen 2:8-15). Then, the serpent is a figure derived from oriental fertility cults, which appealed to Israel and were a constant temptation to abandon the mysterious covenant with God. In light of this, the Sacred Scripture presents the temptation that Adam and Eve undergo as the essence of temptation and of sin. What does the serpent say, in fact? He does not deny God, but slips in a subtle question: "Is it true that God has said 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'"(Gen 3:1). In this way, the serpent raises the suspicion that the covenant with God is like a chain that binds him, depriving him of freedom and of the most beautiful and precious things in life. The temptation becomes to build their own world in which to live, to not accept the limitations of being a creature, the limits of good and evil, of morality; their dependence on the love of God the Creator is seen as a burden to be shaken off. This is always the essence of temptation. But when it distorts the relationship with God, with a lie, putting oneself in His place, all the other relationships are altered. Then the other becomes a rival, a threat: Adam, having succumbed to the temptation, immediately accuses Eve (cf. Gen 3:12); the two hide from the sight of that God with whom they used to converse in friendship (cf. 3:8-10); the world is no longer a garden to live in in harmony, but a place to be exploited and which conceals pitfalls (cf. 3:14-19); envy and hatred towards each other enter into the heart of man: one example is that of Cain, who kills his brother Abel (cf. 4:3-9). By turning against his Creator, in reality man turns against himself, he denies his origin and therefore his truth; and evil enters into the world, with its painful chain of sorrow and death. And so what God had created was good, in fact, very good; and after this free decision of man for a lie and against the truth, evil enters the world.

In the creation stories, I would like to highlight one last teaching: sin begets sin and all the sins of history are interconnected. This aspect leads us to talk about what we call "original sin." What is the meaning of this reality, so difficult to understand? I would like offer just a few elements. First, we must consider that no man is closed in on himself, no one can live only in and for himself; we receive life from the other and not just at the moment of our birth, but every day. The human being is relation: I am myself only in you and through you, in the relationship of love with the Thou of God and the you of others. Well, sin is to upset or destroy the relationship with God, this is its essence: to destroy the relationship with God, the fundamental relationship, to put oneself in the place of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that with the first sin, man "chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good" (no. 398). When the fundamental relationship is disturbed, all the other relational poles are compromised or destroyed, sin ruin relationships, and in this way ruins everything, because we are relation. Now, if the relational structure of humanity is troubled from the start, every man walks into a world marked by this disturbance of relationships, he enters a world disturbed by sin, of which he is marked personally; the initial sin attacks and injures human nature (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 404-406). And man alone, one alone cannot get out of this situation, he cannot redeem himself alone; only the Creator Himself can restore the right relationships. Only if He from whom we have strayed comes to us and takes us by the hand with love, can the right relationships be stitched together again. This is done in Jesus Christ, who goes in exactly the opposite direction of Adam, as described in the hymn in the second chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (2:5-11): while Adam does not acknowledge his creaturely status and wants to put himself in the place of God, Jesus, the Son of God, is in a perfect filial relationship with the Father, he lowers himself, he becomes the servant, he goes the way of humbling himself to death on the cross, to reorder our relations with God. The Cross of Christ becomes the new Tree of Life.

Dear brothers and sisters, to live by faith is to recognize the greatness of God and accept our smallness, our creaturely condition, letting the Lord fill it with His love and so allowing our true greatness to grow. Evil, with its burden of pain and suffering, is a mystery that is illuminated by the light of faith, which gives us the certainty of being able to be freed: the certainty that it is good to be a human being.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis during this Year of Faith, we now reflect on the Creed’s description of God as "Creator of heaven and earth". In the work of creation, God is seen as the almighty Father who by his eternal Word brings into existence a universe of goodness, harmony and beauty. The world thus has meaning as a part of the divine plan, a plan which in a special way embraces man and woman as the culmination of God’s creative activity. The Scriptures teach us that man was created in the image and likeness of God, formed from the dust of the earth. Here we see the basis not only of the unity of the human family but also of our inviolable human dignity. We also see something of the mystery of man as a finite creature called to a sublime role in God’s eternal plan. The tragedy of Adam’s sin, by falsifying our original relationship with God, has affected our relationship with one another and the world itself. Through the saving obedience of Christ, the new Adam, God himself has justified us and enabled us to live in freedom as his beloved sons and daughters.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland and the United States. May your visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul inspire you never to place anything before the love of Christ. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

 

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Pope Benedict's Address After Concert Performance in His Honor
"This is the Strength of the Christian, Which Comes from the Death and Resurrection of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, February 05, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address after a concert held in his honor at the Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City yesterday evening. Also present at the concert was Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Italian Republic. The Concert celebrated the 84th Anniversary of the Lateran Pact.

* * *

Dear President of the Republic,

The Lord Cardinals,

Honourable Ministers and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerable Brothers,

Ladies and Gentlemen!

First of all, I greet the President of the Italian Republic, Mr. Giorgio Napolitano, and thank him for the intense expressions of goodwill addressed to me; in the past seven years - as he mentioned - we have met several times and have shared our experiences and reflections. I greet his lovely wife, the Italian authorities, as well as the Ambassadors and the many personalities present. A heartfelt thanks to the promoters and organizers of this evening, particularly the "Flying Angels Foundation", engaged in the field of solidarity.

The Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and its director, Zubin Mehta, need no introduction: both occupy an important place in the international music scene and tonight they proved it by giving us a moment of profound elevation of the spirit with the remarkable performance of Verdi's Symphony and Beethoven's Third.

Giuseppe Verdi's The Force of Destiny: a tribute to the great Italian musician in the year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. In his works, one is always struck by how he managed to grasp life's situations and express them in music, especially the drama of the human soul, in such an immediate, decisive and essential way as is rarely found in the musical scene. It is always a tragic fate that befalls Verdi's characters, and one from which the protagonists of The Force of Destiny do not escape: the Symphony we have heard, from the very outset, made this clear. But addressing the issue of fate, Verdi finds himself facing directly the religious issue, dealing with God, with faith, with the Church; and there again the soul of this musician emerges, his restlessness, his religious quest. In The Force of Destiny not only is one of the most famous arias, "The Virgin of the Angels" a heartfelt prayer, but there are also two stories of conversion and approaching God: that of Leonora, who dramatically acknowledges her faults and decides to retire to an eremitic life, and that of Don Alvaro, who struggles between the world and a life in solitude with God. It's interesting to note that in the two versions of this work, that of 1862 for St. Petersburg, and that of 1869 for "La Scala" in Milan, the endings change: in the first, Don Alvaro’s life ends in suicide, after rejecting the religious habit and invoking hell; in the second, however, he accepts the words of the Father Guardian, to trust in God's forgiveness and the opera ends with the words "Ascent to God." Here we see the drama of human existence marked by a tragic fate and longing for God, his mercy and his love, which offer light, meaning and hope even in darkness. Faith offers us this panorama, which is not illusory but real; as St. Paul says, "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature can separate us the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord "(Rom 8:38-39). This is the strength of the Christian, which comes from the death and resurrection of Christ, by the supreme act of a God who entered human history not only with words, but becoming incarnate.

A word also on Beethoven's Third Symphony, a complex work that marks a clear departure from the classical symphonic music of Haydn and Mozart. As is well known, it was dedicated to Napoleon, but the great German composer changed his mind after Bonaparte proclaimed himself emperor, changing the title to: "composed to celebrate the memory of a great man." Beethoven expresses musically the ideal of the hero bearing freedom and equality, who is faced with the choice of resignation or struggle, death or life, surrender or victory. The Symphony describes these feelings with a richness of color and theme hitherto unknown. I will not enter into a reading of its four movements, but will only mention the second, the famous Funeral March, a heartfelt meditation on death. It begins with a first section marked by dramatic and desolate tones, but contains, in the central part, a serene interlude played by the oboe and then the double fugue and the trumpet blasts: the thought of death invites us to reflect on the afterlife, on the infinite. In those years, Beethoven, in his Heiligenstadt testament of October 1802 wrote: "O God, you look from above into my heart, you know it and are aware it's full of love for humanity and the desire to do good". The search for meaning that opens the door to a firm hope for the future is part of the journey of humanity.

Thank you, Mr. President, for your presence. Thanks to the Director and to the Professors of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra. Thanks to the promoters and organizers and to all of you! Good evening!

 

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Letter of the Holy Father to His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako

VATICAN CITY, February 04, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's Letter to His Beatitude, Louis Raphaël I Sako, newly elected Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

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To His Beatitude Louis Raphaël I Sako,
Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans

With great joy I heard the news of the election of Your Beatitude to the Patriarchal See of Babylon of the Chaldeans.

I give thanks to God the Father, and gladly accepting the request that you have addressed to me in accordance with the Sacred Canons, I grant the Ecclesiastica Communio, accompanied by my fraternal charity in Christ.

In extending you my heartfelt congratulations, I implore the Lord to fill you with every grace and blessing. May He enlighten you tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel in the living tradition that dates back to St. Thomas the Apostle. May the Good Shepherd and Lord sustain you in the faith of the fathers and grant you the zeal of the martyrs of our times and of the past, to preserve the spiritual and liturgical patrimony of the venerable Chaldean Church, as its Pater et Caput. May your ministry be of comfort to the Chaldean Christians in the homeland and in the diaspora, but also to the entire Catholic community and the Christians who live in the land of Abraham, as a stimulus to reconciliation, mutual acceptance and peace for the Iraqi population.

While I commend your Person to the Most Holy Mother of God, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing upon you, extending it to your esteemed predecessor, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, the Bishops, priests, religious and upon all the beloved children of the Chaldean Church.

From the Vatican, February 1, 2013

BENEDICT PP XVI

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Request of Ecclesiastical Communion on the Part of the New Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans

VATICAN CITY, February 04, 2013  - Here is the translation of the request by the newly elected Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphaël I Sako, to Pope Benedict XVI.

* * *

January 31, 2013

Most Holy Father,

The Synod of the Chaldean Church, convened by Your Holiness in Rome at the House of Spiritual Exercises of Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio of the Passionist Fathers from January 28, 2013, and chaired in Your name by His Eminence Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, after invoking the Holy Spirit and praying for the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God, in an atmosphere of peaceful sharing, as convened in its last meeting, has elected me Patriarch of the Chaldean Church and, succeeding His Beatitude, Eminence Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, who, with courage and zeal led the Chaldean Church in a critical juncture in its history, I have taken the name of Louis Raphaël I Sako.

In accordance with the ecclesiastical customs and the Canons of the Eastern Churches, I implore of Your Holiness, the "Ecclesiastica Communio", promising to be faithful to Our Lord in the announcement of the Good News and to work for unity and harmony, as well as to lead with zeal and dedication Your flock entrusted to me.

To Your Holiness, Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church and the Successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, I express my loyalty, reverence, obedience and filial devotion, and beg your Apostolic Blessing upon my humble person in the new mission, upon the Pastors and all the faithful of the Chaldean Church, which, with courage, hope and living testimony faces everyday life both in our homeland and in the diaspora.

To your beloved person I express heartfelt thanks for the Paternal care and pastoral concern expressed particularly towards the Chaldean Church.

Louis Raphaël I Sako,
 

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On the Truth of God's Love
"Love and Truth are 2 Names of the Same Reality, 2 Names of God"

VATICAN CITY, February 03, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's Sunday Angelus address delivered to the faithful gather in St. Peter's Square today.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today’s Gospel, taken from the fourth chapter of St. Luke, is the continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel. We find ourselves still in the synagogue of Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up and where everyone knows him and his family. Now, after a period of absence, he has returned in a new way: during the sabbath liturgy he reads a prophecy of Isaiah about the Messiah and he announces its fulfillment, letting it be understood that the words refer to him, that Isaiah had spoken of him. This bewilders the Nazarenes: on the one hand, “all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:22); St. Mark reports that many said: “Where did he get these things? And what is this wisdom that he has been given?” (6:2). On the other hand, however, his fellow Nazarenes know him too well: He is one like us, they say. His pretense can be nothing but presumption (cf. “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” 11 [Italian edition]). “Is he not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22), they ask, as if to say, “What aspirations can a carpenter from Nazareth have?”

Precisely seeing this resistance, which confirms the proverb “No prophet is accepted in his own land,” Jesus speaks words to the people in the synagogue that sound like a provocation. He cites 2 miracles performed by the great prophets Elijah and Elisha for non-Israelites, to show that sometimes there is greater faith outside of Israel. At that point the reaction is unanimous: they all get up and chase him out and even try to throw him over a precipice, but Jesus, with masterly calm, passes through the midst of the infuriated people and goes his way. At this point it is natural to ask: Why did Jesus wish to provoke this rupture? At the beginning the people admired him and perhaps they would have achieved a certain consensus... but this is exactly the point: Jesus did not come to seek consensus among men, but – as he will say in the end to Pilate – to “bear witness to truth” (John 18:37). The truth prophet does not obey anyone but God and serves truth, ready to make personal sacrifices if necessary. It is truth that Jesus is the prophet of love, but love has its truth. Indeed, love and truth are 2 names of the same reality, 2 names of God. In today’s liturgy, these words of St. Paul are also heard: “Charity ... pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). Believing in God means giving up our own prejudices and welcoming the concrete form in which he reveals himself: the man Jesus of Nazareth. And this path also leads to recognizing and serving him in others.

Mary’s attitude is enlightening in this regard. Who more than she knew the humanity of Jesus? But she was never scandalized like her fellow Nazarenes. She carried the mystery in her heart and knew how to welcome it continually more and more on the journey of faith to the night of the cross and the brilliance of the resurrection. Mary also helps us to travel along this way with fidelity and joy.

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

On the first Sunday of February the “Day for Life” is observed. I join with the Italian bishops, who in their message invite us to invest in life and the family, and to do so also as an effective response to the current crisis. I greet the Movement for Life and pray for the success of the “One of Us” project so that Europe will always be a place where the dignity of every human being is protected. I greet the representatives of the department of medicine and surgery of the University of Rome, especially the professors of obstetrics and gynecology, accompanied by the cardinal vicar, and I encourage them to train health care workers in the culture of life.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. In the Gospel of today’s liturgy, Jesus reminds us that being a prophet is no easy task, even among those nearest to us. Let us ask the Lord to give each of us a spirit of courage and wisdom, so that in our words and actions, we may proclaim the saving truth of God’s love with boldness, humility and coherence. God bless each of you!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

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

 

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Pope's Homily on the Feast of the Presentation

VATICAN CITY, February 03, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict's homily at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica commemorating the Feast of the Presentation as well as the 27th World Day for Consecrated Life.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In his account of Jesus’ childhood, St. Luke stresses how faithful Mary and Joseph were to the Law of the Lord. With profound devotion they perform everything that is prescribed after the birth of a male child. There are 2 very ancient prescriptions: one regards the mother and the other the newborn baby. For the woman it is prescribed that she abstain for 40 days from ritual practices and afterward offer a twofold sacrifice: a lamb as a holocaust and a turtledove or pigeon for sin; but if the woman is poor, she can offer 2 turtledoves or 2 pigeons (cf. Leviticus 12:1-8). St. Luke notes that Mary and Joseph offer the sacrifice of the poor (cf. 2:24) to show that Jesus was born in a family of simple folk, humble but strong in faith: a family belonging to the poor ones of Israel who form the true people of God. For the first born son, who, according to the Law of Moses, belongs to God, a ransom was prescribed, consisting in an offering of 5 shekels to be paid to a priest in any place. This was done in perennial remembrance of the fact that at the time of the Exodus, God spared the firstborn of the Hebrews (cf. Exodus 13:11-16).

It is important to observe that it was not necessary that these 2 acts – the purification of the mother and the ransoming of the son – be performed in the Temple. But Mary and Joseph wish to do them in Jerusalem, and St. Luke makes us see how the whole scene converges on the Temple, and he thus focuses on Jesus, who enters the Temple. And precisely through the prescriptions of the Law, the principal event becomes something else, namely, the “presentation” of Jesus in the Temple of God, which signifies the act of offering the Son of the Most High to the Father who sent him (cf. Luke 1:32, 35).

The words of the prophet Malachi that we heard in the first reading is confirmed this narrative of the evangelist: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I will send you a messenger to prepare the way before me and immediately the Lord whom you seek will enter his temple; the angel of the covenant, whom you seek, see he is coming ... He will purify the sons of Levi ... that they might offer a just sacrifice to the Lord’” (3:1, 3). Clearly here we are not talking about a child and nevertheless these words are fulfilled in Jesus, because, thanks to the faith of his parents, he was “immediately” brought to the Temple; and in the act of his “presentation,” or of his personal “offering” to God the Father, the theme of sacrifice and priesthood shines forth, as in the passage from Malachi. The child Jesus, who is immediately presented in the Temple, will be that adult who will purify the Temple (cf. John 2:13-22; Mark 11:15, 19) and above all will be the sacrifice and the high priest of the new covenant.

This is also the perspective of the Letter to the Hebrews, from which a passage was proclaimed in the second reading, so that the theme of the new priesthood is reinforced: the priesthood inaugurated by Jesus is an existential priesthood: “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (Hebrews 2:18). And here we also see the theme of suffering, which is very clear in the Gospel passage in which Simeon pronounces his prophecy about the Child and the Mother: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce – so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). The “salvation” that Jesus brings to his people, and which he incarnates in himself, passes through the cross, through the violent death that he will overcome and transform with his sacrifice of his life for love. This oblation is announced beforehand in the presentation in the Temple, a gesture that is, of course, motivated by the traditions of the old covenant, but that is intimately animated by the fullness of faith and love that corresponds to the fullness of time, to the presence of God and his Holy Spirit in Jesus. The Spirit, in effect, hovers above the whole scene of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, especially above the figures of Simeon and Anna. It is the Spirit, the “Paraclete,” that brings the “consolation” of Israel and guides the steps and hearts of those who await it. It is the Spirit that suggests the prophetic words to Simeon and Anna, words of benediction, of praise to God, of faith in the one he has consecrated, of thanksgiving because finally our eyes can see and our arms can hold “his salvation” (cf. 2:30).

“A light to reveal you to the gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel” (2:32): thus Simeon defines the Messiah of the Lord at the end of his song of blessing. The theme of light, which echoes the first and second songs of the Servant of the Lord in Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 42:6, 49:6), is forcefully present in this liturgy. This liturgy, in fact, was opened with a suggestive procession, in which the superiors general of the institutes of consecrated life represented here participated, carrying lit candles. This sign, specific to the liturgical tradition of this feast, is very expressive. It manifests the beauty and the value of the consecrated life as a reflection of the light of Christ; a sign that recalls the entrance of Mary into the Temple: the Virgin Mary, the consecrated person par excellence, carried the Light Itself in her arms, the Incarnate Word, who had come to disperse the darkness of the world with God’s love.

Dear consecrated brothers and sisters, you are all represented in that symbolic pilgrimage, which in the Year of Faith expresses all the more your own entry into the Church to be confirmed in faith and renewed in the offering of yourselves to God. To each of you and your institutes I offer my most cordial greeting with affection and I thank you for your presence. In the light of Christ, with the many contemplative and apostolic charisms, you cooperate in the life and the mission of the Church in the world. In this spirit of gratitude and communion, I would like to make 3 proposals to you so that you might enter fully into that “door of faith” that is always open for us (cf. “Porta fidei,” 1).

I invite you first to nourish a faith that will be able to enlighten your vocation. I exhort you in this regard to recall to your mind, as in an interior pilgrimage, the “first love” with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your heart, not out of nostalgia but to nourish that flame. This is why it is necessary to be with him, in the silence of adoration, and in this way reawaken the will and the joy of sharing life, decisions, the obedience of faith, the blessedness of the poor, the radicality of love. Always beginning again from this meeting of love, you leave everything to be with him and, like him, place yourselves in the service of God and the brethren (cf. John Paul II, “Vita consecrata,” 1).

Second, I invite you to a faith that knows how to recognize the wisdom of weakness. In the joys and sufferings of the present time, when the difficulty and weight of the cross make themselves felt, do not doubt that the kenosis of Christ is already the paschal victory. Precisely in human limits and weakness we are called to live conformation to Christ, in a totalizing tension that anticipates, in the measure possible in time, eschatological perfection (ibid., 16). In the society of effectiveness and success, your life, marked by the humility and weakness of little ones, by empathy with those who do not have a voice, becomes an evangelical sign of contradiction.

Finally, I invite you to renew the faith that leads you as pilgrims toward the future. By its nature the consecrated life is a pilgrimage of the spirit in search of the Face that shows itself and hides itself: “Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram” (Psalm 26:8) (We seek your face, O Lord). This is the constant longing of your heart, the fundamental criterion that orients your journey, whether in the small steps of daily life or in the most important decisions. Do not join with the prophets of misadventure who proclaim the end of or the meaninglessness of the consecrated life of the Church in our time; rather, put on Jesus Christ and arm yourselves with the weapons of light, as St. Paul says (cf. Romans 13:11-14) – remaining awake and vigilant. St. Chromatius of Aquileia wrote: “May the Lord remove such a danger from us so that we are never lulled into the sleep of infidelity; but may he grant his grace and his mercy so that we can always be vigilant in fidelity to him” (Sermon 32, 4).

Dear brothers and sisters, the joy of consecrated life necessarily passes through participation in the cross of Christ. This is how it way for Mary Most Holy. Hers is the suffering of the heart that is wholly one with the Heart of the Son of God, pierced for love. From that wound poured forth God’s light and from the sufferings, sacrifices, gift of self of consecrated persons who live for the love of God and others there also shines the same light, the light that evangelizes the nations. On this feast I pray in a special way for you who live the consecrated life that your life always have the flavor of evangelical “parrhesia” (boldness) that in you the Good News is lived, witnessed to, announced and manifested as the Word of truth (cf. “Porta fidei,” 6).

Amen.

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI FOR LENT 2013 

"Believing in charity calls forth charity"

“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

 The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others. 

 

1. Faith as a response to the love of God In my first Encyclical, I offered some thoughts on the close relationship between the theological virtues of faith and charity. Setting out from Saint John’s fundamental assertion: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16), I observed that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). Faith is this personal adherence – which involves all our faculties – to the revelation of God’s gratuitous and “passionate” love for us, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. The encounter with God who is Love engages not only the heart but also the intellect: “Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the ‘yes’ of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all-embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never ‘finished’ and complete” (ibid., 17). Hence, for all Christians, and especially for “charity workers”, there is a need for faith, for “that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbour will no longer be for them a commandment imposed, so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love” (ibid., 31a). Christians are people who have been conquered by Christ’s love and accordingly, under the influence of that love – “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2 Cor 5:14) – they are profoundly open to loving their neighbour in concrete ways (cf. ibid., 33). This attitude arises primarily from the consciousness of being loved, forgiven, and even served by the Lord, who bends down to wash the feet of the Apostles and offers himself on the Cross to draw humanity into God’s love. 

 

“Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! … Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light – and in the end, the only light – that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working” (ibid., 39). All this helps us to understand that the principal distinguishing mark of Christians is precisely “love grounded in and shaped by faith” (ibid., 7).

 

2. Charity as life in faith The entire Christian life is a response to God’s love. The first response is precisely faith as the acceptance, filled with wonder and gratitude, of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and summons us. And the “yes” of faith marks the beginning of a radiant story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole life. But it is not enough for God that we simply accept his gratuitous love. Not only does he love us, but he wants to draw us to himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to bring us to say with Saint Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (cf. Gal 2:20). 

 

When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity. If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then does our faith become truly “active through love” (Gal 5:6); only then does he abide in us (cf. 1 Jn 4:12). 

 

Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); charity is “walking” in the truth (cf. Eph 4:15). Through faith we enter into friendship with the Lord, through charity this friendship is lived and cultivated (cf. Jn 15:14ff). Faith causes us to embrace the commandment of our Lord and Master; charity gives us the happiness of putting it into practice (cf. Jn 13:13-17). In faith we are begotten as children of God (cf. Jn 1:12ff); charity causes us to persevere concretely in our divine sonship, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). Faith enables us to recognize the gifts that the good and generous God has entrusted to us; charity makes them fruitful (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

 

3. The indissoluble interrelation of faith and charity In light of the above, it is clear that we can never separate, let alone oppose, faith and charity. These two theological virtues are intimately linked, and it is misleading to posit a contrast or “dialectic” between them. On the one hand, it would be too one-sided to place a strong emphasis on the priority and decisiveness of faith and to undervalue and almost despise concrete works of charity, reducing them to a vague humanitarianism. On the other hand, though, it is equally unhelpful to overstate the primacy of charity and the activity it generates, as if works could take the place of faith. For a healthy spiritual life, it is necessary to avoid both fideism and moral activism. 

 

The Christian life consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love. In sacred Scripture, we see how the zeal of the Apostles to proclaim the Gospel and awaken people’s faith is closely related to their charitable concern to be of service to the poor (cf. Acts 6:1-4). In the Church, contemplation and action, symbolized in some way by the Gospel figures of Mary and Martha, have to coexist and complement each other (cf. Lk 10:38-42). The relationship with God must always be the priority, and any true sharing of goods, in the spirit of the Gospel, must be rooted in faith (cf. General Audience, 25 April 2012). Sometimes we tend, in fact, to reduce the term “charity” to solidarity or simply humanitarian aid. It is important, however, to remember that the greatest work of charity is evangelization, which is the “ministry of the word”. There is no action more beneficial – and therefore more charitable – towards one’s neighbour than to break the bread of the word of God, to share with him the Good News of the Gospel, to introduce him to a relationship with God: evangelization is the highest and the most integral promotion of the human person. As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development (cf. n. 16). It is the primordial truth of the love of God for us, lived and proclaimed, that opens our lives to receive this love and makes possible the integral development of humanity and of every man (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 8). 

 

Essentially, everything proceeds from Love and tends towards Love. God’s gratuitous love is made known to us through the proclamation of the Gospel. If we welcome it with faith, we receive the first and indispensable contact with the Divine, capable of making us “fall in love with Love”, and then we dwell within this Love, we grow in it and we joyfully communicate it to others. 

 

Concerning the relationship between faith and works of charity, there is a passage in the Letter to the Ephesians which provides perhaps the best account of the link between the two: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not because of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (2:8-10). It can be seen here that the entire redemptive initiative comes from God, from his grace, from his forgiveness received in faith; but this initiative, far from limiting our freedom and our responsibility, is actually what makes them authentic and directs them towards works of charity. These are not primarily the result of human effort, in which to take pride, but they are born of faith and they flow from the grace that God gives in abundance. Faith without works is like a tree without fruit: the two virtues imply one another. Lent invites us, through the traditional practices of the Christian life, to nourish our faith by careful and extended listening to the word of God and by receiving the sacraments, and at the same time to grow in charity and in love for God and neighbour, not least through the specific practices of fasting, penance and almsgiving.

 

4. Priority of faith, primacy of charity Like any gift of God, faith and charity have their origin in the action of one and the same Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 13), the Spirit within us that cries out “Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6), and makes us say: “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Cor 12:3) and “Maranatha!” (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20). 

 

Faith, as gift and response, causes us to know the truth of Christ as Love incarnate and crucified, as full and perfect obedience to the Father’s will and infinite divine mercy towards neighbour; faith implants in hearts and minds the firm conviction that only this Love is able to conquer evil and death. Faith invites us to look towards the future with the virtue of hope, in the confident expectation that the victory of Christ’s love will come to its fullness. For its part, charity ushers us into the love of God manifested in Christ and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to his brothers and sisters. By filling our hearts with his love, the Holy Spirit makes us sharers in Jesus’ filial devotion to God and fraternal devotion to every man (cf. Rom 5:5). 

 

The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism (sacramentum fidei) precedes the Eucharist (sacramentum caritatis), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith (“knowing that one is loved by God”), but has to arrive at the truth of charity (“knowing how to love God and neighbour”), which remains for ever, as the fulfillment of all the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13). 

 

Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon each individual and upon every community!

 

From the Vatican, 15 October 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Audience  30 January 2013: What it means to call God "Father"  

Speaking to a packed Paul VI audience hall, Pope Benedict reflected that it is not always easy today to talk about fatherhood. Especially in the West, where broken families, increasing work commitments, the concerns of trying to balance the family budget as well as the distracting invasion of the mass media in daily life can prevent a peaceful and constructive relationship between fathers and children”. At times, he added: “communication becomes difficult, trust can be lost and relationships with the father figure can become problematic. And without adequate models of reference even imagining God as a father becomes problematic”. Particularly for people who have experienced overly authoritarian or absentee fathers. But Pope Benedict said biblical revelation helps us to overcome these difficulties by telling us about a God who shows us what it truly means to be a "father", a loving, patient and forgiving father who is also Almighty. Pope Benedict concluded: “Saying, I believe in God the Father Almighty, in His power, in His way of being a father, is always an act of faith, conversion, transformation of our thoughts, our love, our whole way of life".

Following the audience the Pope tweeted : "Every human being is loved by God the Father. No one need feel forgotten, for every name is written in the Lord's loving Heart".

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,  

in last Wednesday’s catechesis we reflected on the words of the Creed: "I believe in God." But the profession of faith specifies this affirmation: God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Thus I would like to reflect with you now on the first, fundamental definition of God that the Creed presents us with: He is our Father.

It is not always easy today to talk about fatherhood. Especially in our Western world, the broken families, increasingly absorbing work commitments, concerns, and often the fatigue of trying to balance the family budget, the distracting invasion of the mass media in daily life are some of the many factors that can prevent a peaceful and constructive relationship between fathers and children.

At times communication becomes difficult, trust can be lost and relationships with the father figure can become problematic. Even imagining God as a father becomes problematic, not having had adequate models of reference. For those who have had the experience of an overly authoritarian and inflexible father, or an indifferent father lacking in affection, or even an absent father, it is not easy to think of God as Father and trustingly surrender oneself to Him.

But the biblical revelation helps us to overcome these difficulties telling us about a God who shows us what it truly means to be a "father", and it is especially the Gospel which reveals the face of God as a Father who loves even to the giving of his own Son for the salvation humanity. The reference to the father figure therefore helps us to understand something of the love of God which remains infinitely greater, more faithful, more total than that of any man. "Which of you, - says Jesus to show the disciples the Father's face - would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him"(Mt 7.9 to 11; cf. Lk 11.11 to 13 ). God is our Father because He has blessed and chosen us before the foundation of the world (cf. Eph 1:3-6); he really made us his children in Jesus (cf. 1 Jn 3:1). And, as Father, God lovingly accompanies our lives, giving us His Word, His teachings, His grace, His Spirit.

He - as revealed in Jesus - is the Father who feeds the birds of the sky even though they so not sow and reap, and vests the fields with colours of wonderful colours, with clothes more beautiful than those of King Solomon (cf. Mt 6.26 to 32 and Luke 12.24-28), and we - adds Jesus - are worth far more than the flowers of birds of the sky! And if He is good enough to make " his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45), we can always, without fear and with total confidence, trust in his Father’s forgiveness when go wrong. God is a good Father who welcomes and embraces the lost and repented son (cf. Luke 15.11 ff), He gives himself freely to those who ask (cf. Mt 18.19, Mk 11.24, Jn 16:23) and offers the bread of Heaven and the living water that gives life forever (cf. Jn 6,32.51.58).

Therefore, the prayer of Psalm 27, surrounded by enemies, besieged by evil and slanderers, and seeking help from the Lord, and invoking it, can give its testimony full of faith, saying: " Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in "(v. 10). God is a Father who never abandons his children, a loving Father who supports, helps, welcomes, forgives, saves, with a fidelity that immensely surpasses that of men, opening up to an eternal dimension. "For his mercy endures forever," as Psalm 136 continues to repeat in a litany, in every verse, through the history of salvation. The love of God never fails, never tires of us, it is a love that gives to the extreme, even to the sacrifice of His Son. Faith gifts us this certainty, which becomes a sure rock in the construction of our lives so that we can face those moments of difficulty and danger, experience those times of darkness, crisis and pain, supported by the faith that God never abandons us and is always near, to save us and bring us to life.

 

It is in the Lord Jesus that we fully see the benevolent face of the Father who is in heaven. It is in knowing Him that we can know the Father (cf. Jn 8.19, 14.7), in seeing Him we can the Father, because He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (cf. Jn 14, 9.11). He is the "image of the invisible God" as defined by the hymn of the Letter to the Colossians, "the firstborn of all creation ... the firstborn of those who rise from the dead", "through whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" and reconciliation of all things, “making peace by the blood of his cross [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven" (cf. Col 1.13 to 20).

Faith in God the Father asks you to believe in the Son, through the action of the Spirit, recognizing in the Cross that saves the final revelation of Divine love. God is our Father giving his Son for us, God is our Father, forgiving our sins and bringing us to the joy of the risen life, God is our Father giving us the Spirit that makes us children and allows us to call Him, in truth, "Abba, Father "(cf. Rom 8:15). This is why Jesus, teaching us to pray, invites us to say "Our Father" (Mt 6.9 to 13; cf. Lk 11:2-4).

The fatherhood of God, then, is infinite love, a tenderness that leans over us, weak children, in need of everything. Psalm 103, the great hymn of divine mercy, proclaims: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him For he knows how we are formed, remembers that we are dust, for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" ( vs. 13-14). It is our smallness, our weak human nature, our frailty that becomes an appeal to the mercy of the Lord so that He manifest the greatness and tenderness of a Father helping us, forgives us and saving us.

And God responds to our call, sending His Son, who died and rose again for us; He enters into our fragility and does that which man alone could never do: he takes upon himself the sins of the world, like an innocent lamb, and he re-opens for us the path to communion with God, he makes us true children of God. There, in the Paschal Mystery, the definitive role of the Father is revealed in all its brightness. And it is there, on the glorious Cross, that the full manifestation of the greatness of God as "the Father Almighty" is manifest.

But we might ask: how is it possible to imagine a God almighty looking at the Cross of Christ? At this evil power that arrives at killing the Son of God? We would prefer a divine omnipotence according to our thought patterns and our desires: an "Almighty" God who solves problems, who intervenes to save us from every difficulty, who defeats all adversaries, who changes the course of events and removes all pain. Thus, today many theologians say that God can not be omnipotent otherwise there would not be so much suffering, so much evil in the world. Indeed in the face of evil and suffering, it becomes difficult for many to believe in God the Father and believe Him to be Almighty; some seek refuge in idols, yielding to the temptation to find an answer in an alleged "magic" omnipotence and its illusory promises.

But faith in the Almighty God pushes us to follow very different paths, to understand that God’s thoughts are different to ours and his that God's ways are different from ours , and even his omnipotence is different: it is not expressed as an automatic or arbitrary force, but is marked by a loving and fatherly freedom. In fact, God, in creating free creatures, in gifting freedom, waived a portion of His power, leaving the power of our freedom. In so doing, He loves and respects the free response of his call to love. As a Father, He wants us to become His children and we live as such in his Son, in communion, in full intimacy with Him. His omnipotence is not expressed in violence, in an adverse power, but in mercy, forgiveness, in accepting our freedom, in an untiring call to conversion of heart, in a seemingly weak attitude, God seems weak if we see Jesus Christ who prays, who allows himself to be killed, but the attitude that is apparently weak, made of patience, gentleness and love, shows that this is the true way of power and strength. This is the power of God and this is victorious. The Wiseman in the Book of Wisdom turns to God: “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for you would not fashion what you hate But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Ruler and Lover of souls"(11:23-24a .26).

Only the truly powerful can endure pain and show compassion, and only the truly powerful can fully exercise the power of love. And God, to whom all things belong because all things were made by Him, reveals His power loving everyone and everything, in a patient waiting for the conversion of us men, whom He wants to have as children. God is waiting for our conversion. The all-powerful love of God knows no bounds, so much so that "He did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all" (Romans 8:32). The omnipotence of love is not that of the power of the world, but that of total gift, and Jesus, the Son of God, reveals to the world the omnipotence of the Father giving his life for us sinners. This is the real, authentic and perfect divine power to respond to evil mot with evil, but with good, to insults with forgiveness, murderous hatred with love that gives life. So evil is really defeated, because washed by the love of God, death is finally defeated because it is turned into the gift of life. God the Father raises His Son: death, the great enemy (cf. 1 Cor 15:26), is swallowed up and deprived of its poison (cf. 1 Cor 15.54 to 55), and we made free from sin, we can access our reality of being God's children

When we say "I believe in God the Father Almighty," we express our faith in the power of the love of God which in his Son who died and rose again, defeats hatred, evil, sin and gifts us eternal life, that of the children who want to always be in the "Father's House". Saying, I believe in God the Father Almighty, in His power, in His way of being a father, is always an act of faith, conversion, transformation of our thoughts, our love, our whole way of life.

Dear brothers and sisters, we ask the Lord to sustain our faith and give us the strength to proclaim Christ crucified and risen to help us to truly find the faith and to bear witness to love of God and neighbour. May God grant that we receive the gift of our sonship, to fully live the reality of the Creed, in trusting love of the Father and His merciful omnipotence, the true omnipotence that saves.

 

Summary in English

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis during this Year of Faith, we now reflect on the Creed’s description of God as “the Father Almighty”. Despite the crisis of fatherhood in many societies, the Scriptures show us clearly what it means to call God “Father”. God is infinitely generous, faithful, and forgiving; he so loves the world that he has given us his only Son for our salvation. As “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), Jesus reveals God as a merciful Father who never abandons his children and whose loving concern for us embraces even the Cross. In Christ, God has made us his adopted sons and daughters. The Cross shows also us how God our Father is “almighty”. His omnipotence transcends our limited human concepts of power; his might is that of a patient love expressed in the ultimate victory of goodness over evil, life over death, and freedom over the bondage of sin. As we contemplate the Cross of Christ, let us turn to God the almighty Father and implore the grace to abandon ourselves with confidence and trust to his merciful love and his saving power.

 

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Decree of Special Indulgence for 21st World Day of the Sick

VATICAN CITY, January 29, 2013 

DECREE

Special Indulgences in occasion
of the XXI World Day of the Sick

The Redemption was accomplished through the Holy Cross of Christ, that is, through his passion. All human suffering, in truth, can participate in the redemptive suffering of the Lord; in fact, the Apostle Paul says: "in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church"(Col 1:24).

In the current Year of Faith, especially dedicated to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation, it is worth remembering the luminous teaching of the Second Vatican Council about the Christian meaning of suffering and of its sharing among the brethren: "Since the works of charity and mercy express the most striking testimony of the Christian life, apostolic formation should lead also to the performance of these works so that the faithful may learn from childhood on to have compassion for their brethren and to be generous in helping those in need"(Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 31c).

Therefore, driven by the desire that the annual celebration of the World Day of the Sick, this year especially solemn, may prove an ever more effective catechesis on the salvific meaning of suffering and may sensitize more all those who, for various reasons, are committed to the service of those who suffer in body and soul, the Holy Father has chosen as the theme of the twenty-first World Day of the Sick, which will be held from the 7th to 11th of the coming month of February, the Good Samaritan: "Go and do likewise"(Lk 10:37), which teaches man "to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer" (Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, 30). At the end of the Day, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, his Excellency Mons. Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Special Envoy of His Holiness, will preside at the Marian Shrine of Altötting, in the Diocese of Passau, a solemn Eucharistic celebration with the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

So that the faithful may prepare themselves spiritually to participate in the event in the best way, His Holiness Benedict XVI, at the Audience granted on the 18th of the current month of January, to the undersigned Cardinal Major Penitentiary and Regent of this Apostolic Penitentiary, has graciously bestowed the gift of Indulgences in the spirit of the following disposition, provided that the faithful, truly repentant and stimulated by charity, following the example of the Good Samaritan, in a spirit of faith and in a merciful disposition, put themselves at the service of their suffering brethren and, if they in turn are sick, bear the pains and hardships of life, raising their soul with humble trust to God and giving open witness to the faith through the way of the Gospel of suffering:

A. The Plenary Indulgence, which the faithful, with truly repentant and contrite spirit, can obtain once a day under the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the intentions of the Holy Father) and also apply in relief of the souls of the faithful departed, whenever, from the 7th to the 11th of this coming February, at the Marian shrine of Altötting or at any other place determined by the Ecclesiastical authority, they participate devoutly in a ceremony celebrated to implore from God the intentions of the World Day of the Sick and pray the Our Father, the Creed and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The faithful who in public hospitals or in any private home charitably assist, like the Good Samaritan, the sick and, as a result of their service, cannot participate in the above-mentioned functions, will obtain the same gift of the Plenary Indulgence, if in those set days for at least few hours they lend generously their charitable assistance as if they were doing it to Christ the Lord (cf. Mt 25:40) and recite the Lord's Prayer, the Creed and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, in a spirit of total detachment from any sin and with the intention to fulfill as soon as possible the conditions required to obtain the Plenary Indulgence.

Lastly, the faithful who through sickness, old age or other such reasons, are prevented from taking part in the aforementioned ceremony, will obtain the Plenary Indulgence if, with their soul completely detached from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling the usual conditions as soon as possible, they participate spiritually in the sacred functions in the established days, especially while the Liturgical Celebrations and Message of the Supreme Pontiff are broadcast on television and radio, pray devoutly for all the sick and offer to God, through the Virgin Mary, Salus infirmorum, their physical and spiritual sufferings.

B. A Partial indulgence to all the faithful whenever they address to the merciful God, with a contrite heart, in the aforementioned days, fervent prayers for the sick in the spirit of the current Year of Faith.

This Decree is effective for this occasion. Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary.

Given in Rome, at the Offices of the Apostolic Penitentiary, 25 January 2013, on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, concluding the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Manuel Cardinal Monteiro de Castro
Penitentiary Major

Mons. Krzysztof Nykiel
Regent

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Pope's Homily At Conclusion of Week of Prayer
"Unity is in itself a Privileged Instrument"

VATICAN CITY, January 28, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's Homily during the ecumenical celebration of Vespers of the Solemnity of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The occasion marked the end of the XLVI Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme: "What Does the Lord Require of Us" (Micah 6:6-8)

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It is always a joy and a special grace to come together, around the tomb of the Apostle Paul, to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet with affection the Cardinals present, first of all Cardinal Harvey, Archpriest of this Basilica, and with him the Abbot and the community of monks who are hosting us. I greet Cardinal Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and all the collaborators of this dicastery. I express my cordial and fraternal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, to the Rev. Canon Richardson, personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the representatives of the different Churches and ecclesial communities, gathered here this evening. In addition, I am particularly pleased to greet the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, to whom I wish a fruitful work for the plenary session that is taking place these days in Rome, as well as students of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, on a visit to Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox young people who study there. Lastly, I greet all those present gathered to pray for the unity of all the disciples of Christ.

This celebration is part of the Year of Faith, which began on 11 October, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Communion in the same faith is the basis for ecumenism. Unity is given by God as inseparable from faith; St. Paul expresses this effectively: "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all"(Eph. 4:4-6). The baptismal profession of faith in God, the Father and Creator, who revealed himself in his Son Jesus Christ, pouring out the Spirit who gives life and holiness, already unites Christians. Without faith - which is primarily a gift of God, but also man's response - the whole ecumenical movement would be reduced to a form of "contract" to enter into out of a common interest. The Second Vatican Council reminds Christians that "the closer their union with the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, the more deeply and easily will they be able to grow in mutual brotherly love"(Decr. Unitatis redintegratio, 7). Doctrinal issues that still divide us must not be overlooked or minimized. They should rather be faced with courage, in a spirit of brotherhood and mutual respect. Dialogue, when it reflects the priority of faith, can open to the action of God with the firm conviction that we cannot build unity alone: it is the Holy Spirit who guides us toward full communion, who allows us to grasp the spiritual wealth present in the different Churches and ecclesial communities.

In today's society it seems that the Christian message affects personal and community life less and less, and this represents a challenge for all the Churches and ecclesial communities. Unity is in itself a privileged instrument, almost a prerequisite to announcing the faith in an ever more credible way to those who do not yet know the Saviour, or who, having received the proclamation of the Gospel, have almost forgotten this precious gift. The scandal of division that undermined missionary activity was the impulse that started the ecumenical movement that we know today. Full and visible communion among Christians is to be understood as a fundamental characteristic of an even clearer witness. While we are on the path towards full unity, it is necessary to pursue concrete cooperation among the disciples of Christ for the sake of passing on the faith to the contemporary world. Today there is a great need for reconciliation, dialogue and mutual understanding, not in a moralistic perspective, but in the name of Christian authenticity for a more incisive presence in the reality of our time.

True faith in God is inseparable from personal holiness, as well as from the pursuit of justice. In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which ends today, the theme offered for our meditation was, "What Does the Lord Requires of Us," inspired by the words of the prophet Micah, which we have heard (cf. 6:6-8). It was proposed by the Student Christian Movement in India, in collaboration with the All India Catholic University Federation and the National Council of Churches in India, who also prepared the aids for reflection and prayer. To those who have collaborated, I want to express my deep gratitude and, with great affection, I assure you of my prayers for all the Christians of India, who sometimes are called to bear witness to their faith in difficult conditions. "Walking humbly with God" (cf. Micah 6:8) above all means walking in radical faith, like Abraham, trusting in God, or rather placing in Him all our hopes and aspirations, but it also means walking past the barriers, past hatred, racism and social and religious discrimination that divide and harm society as a whole. As St. Paul says, Christians must first provide a shining example in their search for reconciliation and communion in Christ, that overcomes every kind of division. In the Letter to the Galatians, the Apostle of the Gentiles says, "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus"(3:27-28).

Our search for unity in truth and in love, then, must never lose sight of the perception that Christian unity is the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, and goes far beyond our own efforts. Therefore, spiritual ecumenism, especially prayer, is the heart of ecumenical commitment (cf. Decr. Unitatis redintegratio, 8). However, ecumenism will not bear lasting fruit unless it is accompanied by concrete gestures of conversion that move consciences and foster the healing of memories and relationships. As stated in the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, "there is no true ecumenism without interior conversion" (no. 7). Authentic conversion, as suggested by the prophet Micah and of which the Apostle Paul is a significant example, will bring us closer to God, to the center of our lives, in such a way as to draw us also closer to each other. This is a key element of our ecumenical commitment. The renewal of the inner life of our heart and our mind, which is reflected in everyday life, is crucial in any process of reconciliation and dialogue, making of ecumenism a mutual commitment to understanding, respect and love, "so that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the Virgin Mary with confidence, the incomparable model of evangelization, so that the Church, "a sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of unity among all men" (Const. Lumen Gentium, 1), may announce with all frankness, even in our time, Christ the Savior. Amen.

 

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Papal Address to Roman Rota
"The current crisis of faith ... brings with it a crisis of the conjugal relationship"

VATICAN CITY, January 28, 2013  - Here is a translation of an address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

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Dear members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota!

It is a joy for me to meet with you on the occasion of the inauguration of the new judicial year. I thank your dean, Monsignor Pio Vito Pinto, for the sentiments expressed on behalf of all of you and from my heart I return them. This meeting offers me the opportunity to reaffirm my esteem and gratitude for the service you provide the Successor of Peter and the whole Church and to encourage you to invest yourselves still more in an area that is certainly difficult but of incomparable worth for the salvation of souls. The principle that the “salus animarum” (salvation of souls) is the supreme law in the Church (cf. CIC, can. 1752) must be kept firmly in mind and be responded to daily in your work strictly and dutifully.

1. In the context of the Year of Faith, I would like to reflect, in a special way, on certain aspects of the relationship between faith and marriage, observing that the current crisis of faith, which involves various parts of the world, brings with it a crisis of the conjugal relationship, with all the weight of suffering and turmoil that this causes for the children. We can begin from the common linguistic root of the Latin terms “fides” (faith) and “foedus” (covenant). The latter term is used by the Code of Canon Law to designate the natural reality of marriage as an irrevocable pact between man and woman (cf. can. 1055 §1). The reciprocal commitment of self is, in fact, the irreplaceable basis of any pact or covenant.

At the theological level, the relation between faith and matrimony assumes a still greater and more profound meaning. The spousal bond, in fact, although it is a natural reality between the baptized has been elevated to the dignity of a sacrament by Christ (cf. ibid.).

For sacramentality the indissoluble pact between man and woman does not require their personal faith; what it requires, as the minimal necessary condition, is the intention to do what the Church does. But if it is important not to confuse the problem of intention with that of the faith of those entering into the covenant, nevertheless, it is not possible to totally separate them.

As the International Theological Commission noted in a 1977 document: “Where there is no trace of faith (in the sense of “belief”—being disposed to believe), and no desire for grace or salvation is found, then a real doubt arises as to whether there is the above-mentioned general and truly sacramental intention and whether the contracted marriage is validly contracted or not” (“Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage,” 2.3). John Paul II, speaking to this Tribunal 10 years ago, in any case, specified “that an attitude on the part of those getting married that does not take into account the supernatural dimension of marriage can render it null and void only if it undermines its validity on the natural level on which the sacramental sign itself takes place” (Address to the Roman Rota, January 30, 2003. 8). It is above all necessary in the present context to develop further reflections on this topic.

2. The contemporary culture, marked by an accentuated ethical and religious subjectivism, places the person and the family before pressing challenges. In the first place it places them before the question about the capacity of man to bind himself, and, if it is a bond that lasts his whole life, whether it is truly possible and corresponds to human nature, or, rather, whether it is not contrary to his freedom and self-realization. It is a part of a widespread mentality, in fact, to think that the person becomes himself remaining “autonomous” and entering into contact with the other only through relations that can be broken at any time (cf. Address to the Roman Curia, December 21, 2012). No one can fail to see that the decision of the human being to bind himself in a life-long relationship is influenced by each person’s fundamental perspective according as it is anchored at a merely human level or opens to the light of faith in the Lord.

Only in opening ourselves up to the truth of God is it possible to understand the truth of man as his son, reborn in Baptism and to realize this in the concreteness of conjugal and family life. “Whoever abides in me and I in him bears much fruit because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5): this is what Jesus taught his disciples, reminding them of the substantial human incapacity to do alone what is required to achieve the true good. A rejection of the divine perspective leads to a profound imbalance in all human relationships (cf. Address to the International Theological Commission, December 8, 2012), including marriage, and facilitates an erroneous understanding of freedom and self-realization that, combined with the flight from the patient endurance of suffering, condemns man to being shut up in his egoism and egocentrism. On the other hand, the welcoming of faith makes man capable of the gift of self. Only in “opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity” (cf. Address to the Roman Curia, December 21, 2012).

Faith in God, sustained by divine grace, is therefore a very important element for living mutual dedication and conjugal fidelity (General Audience, June 8, 2011). There is no intention by this statement to deny that fidelity is possible in natural marriage contracted by unbaptized persons. In fact, it is not deprived of the goods that “come from God the Creator and are included, in a certain inchoative way, in the marital love that unites Christ with his Church” (International Theological Commission, “Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage,” 1977. 3.4). Certainly, however, closure to God and the rejection of the sacral dimension of the conjugal union and its value in the order of grace make it difficult to incarnate concretely the high model of marriage conceived by the Church according to God’s plan, possibly threatening the validity itself of the pact – assumed by the consolidated jurisprudence of this Tribunal – if it is translated into a rejection in principle of the conjugal obligation of fidelity, that is, of the essential elements or properties of marriage.

Tertullian, in his celebrated Letter to Wives, speaking of a married life marked by faith, writes that Christian spouses “are truly two in one flesh, and where flesh is one, the spirit is one. They pray together, fall prostrate together and fast together; they teach other, honor each other, support each other” (Ad uxorem libri duo, II, IX: PL1, 1415B-1417A). St. Clement of Alexandria expresses himself in similar terms: “If, in fact, for both there is one God, then there is one teacher, Christ, there is one Church, one wisdom, one modesty, together they are nourished, matrimony unites them ... And if their life is in common, in common also are grace, slavation, virtue, the moral life” (Pædagogus, I, IV, 10.1: PG 8, 259B). The saints who lived the union of marriage and family from the Christian standpoint, were able to overcome even the most difficult situations, achieving their own sanctification and that of the children with a love always strengthened by firm trust in God, by a sincere religious piety and an intense sacramental life. Precisely these experiences, marked by faith, help us to understand, even today, how precious is the sacrifice made by the spouse who has been abandoned or who has suffered divorce if – recognizing the indisoluability of the valid marriatal bond – he or she succeeds in not “getting involved in a new relationship ... In that case the example of fidelity and Christian consistency assumes a special value of witness before the world and the Church” John Paul II, “Familiaris consortio,” 83).

3. Finally, I would like to reflect briefly on the “bonum coniugum” (the good of the spouses). Faith is important in the realization of the authentic conjugal good, which consists simply in always and in every case willing the good of the other in function of a real and indissoluable “consortium vitae” (sharing of life). In truth, in the project of the Christian spouese to live a real “communio coniugalis” (conjugal communion) there is a dynamism of faith for which the “confessio” (witness), the sincere personal response to the proclamation of salvation, involves the believer in the movement of God’s love. “Confessio” and “caritas” are “the two ways in which God involves us, makes us act with him, in him and for humanity, for his creation … ‘Confessio’ is not an abstract thing, it is ‘caritas,’ it is love. Only in this way is it really the reflection of divine truth, which as truth is also, inseparably, love” (Meditation During the First General Congregation of the VIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, October 8, 2012). Only through the flame of charity is the presence of the Gospel not a mere word but a lived reality. In other words, if it is true that “faith without charity bears no fruit, while charity without faith would be a sentiment constantly at the mercy of doubt,” we must conclude that “faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path” (“Porta fidei,” October 11, 2012. 14).

4. If this is true in the larger context of community life, it must be all the more true in the marital union. It is in it, in fact, that faith makes the love of the spouses grow and fructify, giving place to the presence of God the Trinity and making the conjugal life itself, lived in this way, “good news” for the world.

I recognize the difficulties from a juridical and practical point of view of a clarifying the essential element of the “conum coniugum,” prevalently understood up to this point in relation to the hypotheses of incapacity (cf. CIC, can. 1095). The “bonum coniugum” also assumes relevance in the sphere of the simulation of consent. Of course, in the cases brought before you, there will be the inquiry “in facto” to ascertain the possible legitimacy of this ground for nullity, prevalent or coexistent with another ground of the three Augustinian “goods,” procreativity, exclusivity and perpetuity. So we must not prescind from the consideration that there may be cases in which, precisely because of the absence of faith, the good of the spouses is compromised and thus excluded from the consent itself; for example, on the hypothesis of a subversion by one of them becaue of an erroneous conception of the marital bond, of the principle of parity, or on the the hypothesis of a rejection of the dual union that distinguishes the marital bond, in relationship with a possible coexistent exclusion of fidelity and of intercourse accomplished “humano modo” (in a human way).

Withthe present considerations, I certainly do not wish to suggest any facile automotism between lack of faith and the invalidity of the marital union, but rather to show how this lack can, though not necessarily, also harm the goods of marriage, from the moment that the reference to the natural order willed by God is inherent in the conjugal pact (cf. Genesis 2:24).

Dear brothers, I invoke the help of God for you and those in the Church who work to safeguard the truth and justice that regard the sacred bond of matrimony and, thereby, the Christian family. I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ, and St. Joseph, Guardian of the Family of Nazareth, silent and obedient executor of the divine plan of salvation, as I glady impart to you and your loved ones the apostolic benediction.

 

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On the Christian Sense of 'Carpe Diem'
"Every day can become the today of salvation"

VATICAN CITY, January 28, 2013  - 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’s liturgy brings together for us two distinct passages of Luke’s Gospel. The first (1:1-4) is the prologue, addressed to a certain “Theophile”; since this name in Greek means “friend of God” we can see in him every believer who opens himself up to God and desires to know the Gospel.

The second passage (4:14-21), instead, presents Jesus who “with the power of the Spirit” enters the synagogue of Nazareth on the Sabbath. As a devout believer the Lord does not neglect the weekly liturgical rhythm and joins the assembly of the people of his town in prayer and listening to the Scriptures. Rite provides for a text of the Torah or the Prophets, followed by commentary. That day Jesus stood up to read and found a passage from the prophet Isaiah that begins thus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (61:1-2). Origen comments: “It is not by chance that he opened the scroll and found the chapter of the reading that prophesizes about him. This too was the work of God’s providence” (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, 32, 3). In fact, Jesus, having concluded the reading, breaks an attentive silence saying: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). St. Cyril of Alexandria states that the “today,” placed between the first and last coming of Christ, is linked to the believer’s capacity to listen and reform his life (cf.PG 69, 1241). But in a still more radical sense Jesus himself is the “today” of salvation in history because he brings the fullness of redemption. The term “today,” very dear to St. Luke (cf. 19:9, 23:43), brings us to the preferred Christological title of the same evangelist, namely, “savior” (soter). Already in the infancy narratives, it is presented in the words of the angel to the shepherds: “Today, in the city of David, there is born for you a Savior, Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Dear friends, this passage also addresses us “today.” Above all it makes us think about the way we pass our Sundays, a day of rest and of the family, but first of all a day to dedicate to the Lord, participating in the Eucharist in which we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ and by his Word of life. Secondly, in our dispersed and distracted time this Gospel invites us to ask ourselves about our capacity to listen. Before speaking about God and with God we must listen to him, and the Church’s liturgy is the “school” of this listening to the Lord who speaks to us. In the end he tells us that every moment can become a “today” that is propitious for our conversion. Every day (“kathermeran”) can become the today of salvation because salvation is the story that continues for the Church and for each disciple of Christ. This is the Christian sense of “carpe diem” (seize the day): welcome the today in which God calls you to grant you salvation!

May the Virgin Mary always be our model and our guide in knowing how to recognize and welcome, each day of our life, God’s presence, our Savior and that Savior of all humanity.

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today is the “Day of Memory” in remembrance of the Holocaust of the victims of Nazism. The memory of this horrendous tragedy that so profoundly struck the Jewish people above all, should represent for all a constant exhortation so that the horrors of the past not be repeated, every form of hatred and racism be overcome and respect for the dignity of the human person be promoted.

Today is also celebrated the 60th World Day of those suffering from leprosy. I express my nearness to the persons afflicted with this evil and I encourage researchers, health care workers and volunteers, especially those who are part of Catholic organizations and of the Association of the Friends of Raoul Follereau. I invoke for everyone the spiritual support of St. Damien de Veuster and St. Marianne Cope, who gave their lives for those suffering from leprosy.

On this 3rd Sunday there is also a special day of prayer for peace in the Holy Land. I thank those who promote it in many parts of the world and I greet in particular those who are present here.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel Jesus fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy in his own person, as he proclaims new sight to the blind and freedom to captives. In this Year of Faith, especially through the Sacraments, may we deepen our confidence in Christ and embrace his grace which sets us free. May God bless you and your loved ones!

[Again in Italian he said:]

In a special way I greet the children and young people of Catholic Action of Rome. Welcome! Two of you, with the diocesan leaders, are here with me – see! Dear young people, your “Caravan of Peace” is a beautiful witness! May it be a sign also of your daily commitment to build peace where you live. Let us now listen to your brief message.

[Reading of the message]

Thank you! And now we release the doves, symbol of the Spirit of God, who grants peace to those who welcome his love. Let us try to release these doves!

Well, it was a success! Have a good Sunday everyone, a good week too. Thank you!

 

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Papal Address to Orthodox-Catholic Commission
"All Christians need to work together in mutual acceptance and trust"

VATICAN CITY, January 25, 2013 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches

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Your Eminences,

Your Excellencies,

Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with joy in the Lord that I welcome you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. Through you I extend fraternal greetings to the heads of all the Oriental Orthodox Churches. In a particular way I greet His Eminence Anba Bishoy, Co-President of the Commission, and I thank him for his kind words.

Before all else I would like to recall with appreciation the memory of His Holiness Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark, who died recently. I also remember with gratitude His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, who last year hosted the Ninth Meeting of the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was saddened, too, to learn of the death of the Most Reverend Jules Mikhael Al-Jamil, Titular Archbishop of Takrit and Procurator of the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate in Rome and a member of your Commission. I join you in prayer for the eternal rest of these dedicated servants of the Lord.

Our meeting today affords us an opportunity to reflect together with gratitude on the work of the International Joint Commission, which began ten years ago, in January 2003, as a initiative of the ecclesial authorities of the family of the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. In the past decade the Commission has examined from an historical perspective the various ways in which the Churches expressed their communion in the early centuries. During this week devoted to prayer for the unity of all Christ’s followers, you have met to explore more fully the communion and communication which existed between the Churches in the first five centuries of Christian history. In acknowledging the progress which has been made, I express my hope that relations between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches will continue to develop in a fraternal spirit of cooperation, particularly through the growth of a theological dialogue capable of helping all the Lord’s followers to grow in communion and to bear witness before the world to the saving truth of the Gospel.

Many of you come from areas where Christians, as individuals and communities, face painful trials and difficulties which are a source of deep concern to us all. Through you, I would like to assure all the faithful of the Middle East of my spiritual closeness and my prayer that this land, so important in God’s plan of salvation, may be led, through constructive dialogue and cooperation, to a future of justice and lasting peace. All Christians need to work together in mutual acceptance and trust in serving the cause of peace and justice in fidelity to the Lord’s will. May the example and intercession of the countless martyrs and saints who down the ages have borne courageous witness to Christ in all our Churches, sustain and strengthen all of us in meeting the challenges of the present with confidence and hope in the future which the Lord is opening before us. Upon you, and upon all those associated with the work of the Commission, I cordially invoke a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace. Thank you for your attention.

 

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World Communications Day:

“Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization”

The Pope reflected on the importance of being inclusive and truthful within social networks.

 

FULL TEXT: 

 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 As the 2013 World Communications Day draws near, I would like to offer you some reflections on an increasingly important reality regarding the way in which people today communicate among themselves. I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new "agora", an open public square in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.

 These spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family. The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since, in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves.

 The development of social networks calls for commitment: people are engaged in building relationships and making friends, in looking for answers to their questions and being entertained, but also in finding intellectual stimulation and sharing knowledge and know-how. The networks are increasingly becoming part of the very fabric of society, inasmuch as they bring people together on the basis of these fundamental needs. Social networks are thus nourished by aspirations rooted in the human heart.

 The culture of social networks and the changes in the means and styles of communication pose demanding challenges to those who want to speak about truth and values. Often, as is also the case with other means of social communication, the significance and effectiveness of the various forms of expression appear to be determined more by their popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value. Popularity, for its part, is often linked to celebrity or to strategies of persuasion rather than to the logic of argumentation. At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression which appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own. "Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful" (Address at the Meeting with the World of Culture, Bélem, Lisbon, 12 May 2010).

 The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.

 The ability to employ the new languages is required, not just to keep up with the times, but precisely in order to enable the infinite richness of the Gospel to find forms of expression capable of reaching the minds and hearts of all. In the digital environment the written word is often accompanied by images and sounds. Effective communication, as in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love. Besides, we know that Christian tradition has always been rich in signs and symbols: I think for example of the Cross, icons, images of the Virgin Mary, Christmas cribs, stained-glass windows and pictures in our churches. A significant part of mankind’s artistic heritage has been created by artists and musicians who sought to express the truths of the faith.

 In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the way in which they communicate "choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically" (Message for the 2011 World Communications Day). A particularly significant way of offering such witness will be through a willingness to give oneself to others by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence. The growing dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society.

 For those who have accepted the gift of faith with an open heart, the most radical response to mankind’s questions about love, truth and the meaning of life – questions certainly not absent from social networks – are found in the person of Jesus Christ. It is natural for those who have faith to desire to share it, respectfully and tactfully, with those they meet in the digital forum. Ultimately, however, if our efforts to share the Gospel bring forth good fruit, it is always because of the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts. Trust in the power of God’s work must always be greater than any confidence we place in human means. In the digital environment, too, where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment. Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in "a still, small voice" (1 Kg 19:11-12). We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the "kindly light" of faith.

 Social networks, as well as being a means of evangelization, can also be a factor in human development. As an example, in some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated, social networks can reinforce their sense of real unity with the worldwide community of believers. The networks facilitate the sharing of spiritual and liturgical resources, helping people to pray with a greater sense of closeness to those who share the same faith. An authentic and interactive engagement with the questions and the doubts of those who are distant from the faith should make us feel the need to nourish, by prayer and reflection, our faith in the presence of God as well as our practical charity: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1).

 In the digital world there are social networks which offer our contemporaries opportunities for prayer, meditation and sharing the word of God. But these networks can also open the door to other dimensions of faith. Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth.

 I pray that God’s Spirit will accompany you and enlighten you always, and I cordially impart my blessing to all of you, that you may be true heralds and witnesses of the Gospel. "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mk 16:15).

  From the Vatican, 24 January 2013, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.

 BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

 

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On Abraham's Faith
"Saying 'I believe in God' means founding my life on Him"

VATICAN CITY, January 23, 2013  - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Year of Faith, I would like to start today to reflect with you on the Creed, the solemn profession of faith which accompanies our lives as believers. The Creed begins, "I believe in God." It is a fundamental affirmation, deceptively simple in its essentiality, but one that opens onto the infinite world of the relationship with the Lord and with his mystery. Believing in God implies adherence to Him, the welcoming of his Word and joyful obedience to His revelation. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, "Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself" (no. 166). Being able to say that one believes in God is therefore both a gift – God reveals himself, he comes to meet us – and a commitment, it is divine grace and human responsibility, in an experience of dialogue with God who, out of love, "speaks to men as friends" (Dei Verbum, 2); he speaks to us so that, in faith and with faith, we may enter into communion with Him.

Where can we listen to his Word? The Holy Scripture is fundamental, in which the Word of God makes itself audible for us and nourishes our life as "friends" of God. The entire Bible recounts the revelation of God to humanity, the whole Bible speaks about faith and teaches us faith by telling a story in which God carries out his plan of redemption and comes close to us men, through many bright figures of people who believe in Him and entrust themselves to Him, up to the fullness of revelation in the Lord Jesus.

A beautiful passage relating to this context is chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews, which we just heard. Here it speaks of faith and highlights the great biblical figures who have lived it, becoming a model for all believers: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen" (11:1). The eyes of faith are thus able to see the invisible and the heart of the believer can hope beyond all hope, just like Abraham, of whom Paul says in Romans that he "believed, hoping against hope" (4:18).

And it is precisely on Abraham that I would like to focus my attention, because he is the first major reference point for talking about faith in God: Abraham the great patriarch, the exemplary model, the father of all believers (cf. Rom 4:11-12). The Letter to the Hebrews presents him in the following way: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God"(11:8-10).

The author of Hebrews refers here to the call of Abraham, narrated in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. What does God ask of this great patriarch? He asks him to leave his country and go to the country that he will show him, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you" (Gen 12:1). How would we respond to an invitation like that? It is, in fact, a departure in the dark, not knowing where God will lead him; it is a journey that calls for a radical obedience and trust, accessible only through faith. But the darkness of the unknown – where Abraham must go – is illuminated by the light of a promise; God adds to his command a reassuring word that opens up before Abraham a future of life in its fullness: "I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you, and make your name great... and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3).

The blessing, in Holy Scripture, is linked primarily to the gift of life that comes from God, and manifests itself primarily in fertility, in a life that is multiplied, passing from generation to generation. And the blessing is linked also to the experience of owning a land, a stable place to live and grow in freedom and security, fearing God and building a society of men loyal to the Covenant, "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (cf. Ex 19:6).

So Abraham, in the divine plan, is destined to become the "father of a multitude of nations" (Gen 17:5; cf. Rom 4:17-18) and to enter into a new land in which to live. Yet Sarah, his wife, is barren, she is unable to have children; and the country to which God leads him is far from his native land, it is already inhabited by other peoples, and will never truly belong to him. The biblical narrator emphasizes this, though very discreetly: when Abraham arrived at the place of God's promise, "at that time the Canaanites were in the land" (Gen 12:6). The land that God gives to Abraham does not belong to him, he is a stranger and will remain so forever, with all that this entails: not aspiring to possess, always feeling his own poverty, seeing everything as a gift. This is also the spiritual condition of those who agree to follow Christ, of those who decide to start off, accepting his call, under the sign of his invisible but powerful blessing. And Abraham, the "father of believers," accepts this call, in faith. St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans: "Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become 'the father of many nations,' according to what was said, 'So numerous shall your descendants be.' He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised"(Rom 4:18-21).

Faith leads Abraham to tread a paradoxical path. He will be blessed, but without the visible signs of blessing: he receives the promise to become a great nation, but with a life marked by the barrenness of his wife Sarah; he is brought to a new homeland but he will have to live there as a foreigner, and the only possession of the land that will be granted him will be that of a plot to bury Sarah (cf. Gen 23:1-20). Abraham was blessed because, in faith, he knows how to discern the divine blessing by going beyond appearances, trusting in God's presence even when his ways seem mysterious to him.

What does this mean for us? When we affirm: "I believe in God," we say, like Abraham: "I trust You; I entrust myself to You, Lord," but not as Someone to run to only in times of difficulty or to whom to dedicate a few moments of the day or of the week. Saying "I believe in God" means founding my life on Him, letting his Word orient me each day, in the concrete choices, without fear of losing something of myself. When, in the Rite of Baptism, we are asked three times: "Do you believe?" in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church and the other truths of faith, the triple response is in the singular: "I believe," because it is my personal existence that must go through a turning point with the gift of faith, it is my life that must change, convert. Each time we attend a Baptism we should ask ourselves how we are living out the great gift of faith each day.

Abraham, the believer, teaches us faith; and, as a stranger on earth, shows us our true homeland. Faith makes us pilgrims on earth, placed within the world and its history, but on the way to the heavenly homeland. Believing in God therefore makes us bearers of values that often do not coincide with what's fashionable or the opinions of the times, it asks us to adopt criteria and engage in conduct which do not belong to the common way of thinking. The Christian should not be afraid to go "against the grain" in order to live his faith, resisting the temptation to "conform". In many societies God has become the "great absentee" and in his place there are many idols, first of all the autonomous '"I". The significant and positive advances in science and technology also have caused in man an illusion of omnipotence and self-sufficiency, and a growing self-centeredness has created many imbalances in interpersonal relationships and social behaviors.

However, the thirst for God (cf. Ps 63:2) has not vanished and the Gospel message continues to resonate through the words and deeds of many men and women of faith. Abraham, the father of believers, continues to be the father of many children who are willing to walk in his footsteps and set out on the way, in obedience to the divine call, trusting in the benevolent presence of the Lord and welcoming his blessing to become a blessing for all. It is the blessed world of faith to which we are all called, to walk without fear following the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is sometimes a difficult journey, that knows even trial and death, but that opens onto life, in a radical transformation of reality that only the eyes of faith can see and savor in abundance.

To say "I believe in God" leads us, then, to set off, to go out of ourselves continually, just like Abraham, to bring into the daily reality in which we live the certainty that comes to us from faith: the certainty, that is, of the presence of God in history, even today; a presence that brings life and salvation, and opens us to a future with Him for a fullness of life that will never diminish. Thank you.

APPEAL

I am following with concern the news coming from Indonesia, where a major flood has devastated the capital of Jakarta, causing casualties, thousands of displaced persons and extensive damage. I wish to express my closeness to the people affected by this natural disaster, assuring you of my prayers and encouraging solidarity so that no one may lack the required help.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis for this Year of Faith, we now turn to the Creed, the solemn profession of our faith as Christians. At the beginning of the Creed, we say "I believe in God". Faith is our response to the God who first speaks to us, makes himself known and calls us to enter into communion with him. We hear God speaking to us in the Scriptures, which recount the history of his revelation, culminating in the coming of his Son, Jesus Christ. A central figure in this history of revelation is Abraham, the father and model of all believers (cf. Rom 4:11-12). Sustained by God’s blessing and trusting in his promises, Abraham set off into the unknown. Like Abraham, we too are called to let faith shape our thoughts and actions in accordance with God’s saving word, even when this runs contrary to the thinking and ways of this world. With the eyes of faith, we discern God’s presence and his promise of eternal life beyond the realities of this present existence. In opening ourselves to God’s blessing, we become in turn a blessing for others.

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On a Fault Disfiguring the Countenance of the Church
"The injury to her visible unity"

VATICAN CITY, January 20, 2013 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the liturgy proposes the Gospel passage about the wedding at Cana, an episode narrated by John, an eye witness of the event. This episode is part of this Sunday that immediately follows the Christmas season because, together with the visit of the Magi from the east and with Jesus' baptism, it forms the trilogy of the epiphany, that is, of the manifestation of Christ. The manifestation at the wedding at Cana is, in fact, "the first of the signs" (John 2:11), that is, the first miracle performed by Jesus, with which he publicly manifested his glory, awakening the faith of his disciples. Let us briefly recall what happened at the wedding feast of Cana in Galilee. It happened that the wine had run out, and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, pointed this out to her Son. He told her that his hour had not yet come; but then followed Mary's intervention and, six large stone jars being filled with water, he transformed the water into wine, an excellent wine, better than the wine that had been served earlier. With this "sign" Jesus revealed himself as the messianic bridegroom, come to establish the new and eternal Covenant with his people, according to the words of the prophets: "As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5). And the wine is the symbol of this joy of love; but it also alludes to the blood that Jesus will pour out at the end to seal the nuptial pact with humanity.

The Church is the bride of Christ, who makes her holy and beautiful with his grace. Nevertheless, this bride, made up of human beings, is always in need of purification. And one of the gravest faults that disfigures the countenance of the Church is the injury to her visible unity, in particular the historical divisions that have separated Christians and that have not yet been overcome. Precisely at this time, from January 18 to 25, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is observed, a time that is always welcome to believers and to communities, which reawakens in everyone the desire and spiritual commitment to full communion. In this sense the prayer service that I was able to celebrate with thousands of young people from all over Europe and with the ecumenical community of Taizé in this piazza was very significant: it was a moment of grace in which we experienced the beauty of being one in Christ. I encourage everyone to pray together so that we can realize "what the Lord requires of us" (Micah 6:8), which is the theme of this year's Week; it was a theme proposed by some communities in India, which invites us to move decisively toward visible unity and to overcome, as brothers of Christ, every type of unjust discrimination. Next Friday at the conclusion of these days of prayer, I will preside at Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in the presence of representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities.

Dear friends, once more to the prayer for Christian unity I would like to add a prayer for peace so that, in the various conflicts now going on, the slaughter of civilians cease and all violence end, and the courage for dialogue and negotiation be found. For both of these intentions let us invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the mediatrix of grace.

[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 at today's Angelus. In these days, we are celebrating the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Let us join our prayers to those of our brothers and sisters of all Churches and communities, that we may dedicate ourselves ever more earnestly to working towards our visible unity in Jesus Christ. God bless you and your loved ones!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

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

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"The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great 'yes' to the dignity of the person"

VATICAN CITY, January 20, 2013 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when receiving in audience participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

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Dear friends,

I offer you my welcome with affection and joy on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. I thank the president, Cardinal Robert Sarah, for his words and I address my cordial greeting to each one of you, extending it to all those who do charitable work in the Church. With the recent motu proprio "Intima Ecclesiae natura" I wished to emphasize the ecclesial meaning of your activity. Your witness can open the doors of faith to many people who seek Christ's love. Thus, in this Year of Faith the theme "Charity, the New Ethics and Christian Anthropology," which you are taking up, reflects the close connection between love and truth, or, if you will, between faith and charity. The whole Christian ethos receives its meaning from faith as a "meeting" with the love of Christ, which offers a new horizon and impresses a decisive direction on life (cf. "Deus caritas est," 1). Christina love finds its basis and form in faith. Meeting God and experiencing his love, we learn "no longer to live for ourselves but for him and, with him, for others" (ibid. 33).

Beginning from this dynamic relationship between faith and charity, I would like to reflect on a point that I would call the prophetic dimension that faith instills in charity. The believer's adherence to the Gospel impresses on charity its typically Christian form and constitutes it as a principle of discernment. The Christian, especially those who work in charitable organizations, must let himself be oriented by principles of faith through which we adopt "God's perspective," we accept his plan for us (cf. "Deus caritas est," 1). This new way of looking at the world and man offered by faith also furnishes the correct criterion for the evaluation of expressions of charity in the present context.

In every age, when man did not try to follow this plan, he was victim of cultural temptations that ended up making him a slave. In recent centuries, the ideologies that praised the cult of the nation, the race, of the social class, showed themselves to be nothing but idolatry; and the same can be said of unbridled capitalism with its cult of profit, which has led to crisis, inequality and misery. There is a growing consensus today about the inalienable dignity of the human being and the reciprocal and interdependent responsibility toward man; and this is to the benefit of true civilization, the civilization of love. On the other hand, unfortunately, there are also shadows in our time that obscure God's plan. I am referring above all to a tragic anthropological reduction that re-proposes ancient material hedonism, to which is added a "technological prometheism." From the marriage of a materialistic vision of man and great technological development there emerges an anthropology that is at bottom atheistic. It presupposes that man is reduced to autonomous functions, the mind to the brain, human history to a destiny of self-realization. All of this prescinds from God, from the properly spiritual dimension and from a horizon beyond this world. In the perspective of a man deprived of his soul and of a personal relation with the Creator, that which is technologically possible becomes morally legitimate, every experiment is thus acceptable, every political demographic acceptable, every form of manipulation justified. The danger most to be feared in this current of thought is the absolutization of man: man wants to be "ab-solutus," absolved of every bond and of every natural constitution. He pretends to be independent and thinks that his happiness lies solely in the affirmation of self. "Man calls his nature into question … From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be" (Speech to the Roman Curia, December 21, 2012). This is a radical negation of man's creatureliness and filial condition, which leads to a tragic solitude.

The faith and healthy Christian discernment bring us therefore to pay prophetic attention to this problematic ethical situation and to the mentality that it supposes. Just collaboration with international organizations in the field of development and in human promotion must not make us close our eyes to these dangerous ideologies, and the Pastors of the Church – which is the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15) – have a duty to warn both faithful Catholics and every person of good will and right reason about these deviations. This is a harmful deviation for man even if it is waved with good intentions as a banner of presumed progress, or of presumed rights, or of a presumed humanism. In the face of these anthropological reductions, what is the task of every Christian – and especially your task – involved in charitable work, and so in direct relations with many social protagonists? We certainly must exercise a critical vigilance and, sometimes, refuse money and collaboration that would, directly or indirectly, support actions and projects that run contrary to a Christian anthropology. But, positively speaking, the Church is always committed to the promotion of man according to God's plan, man in his integral dignity, with respect for his twofold vertical and horizontal dimension. The actions of ecclesial development organizations are also oriented in this direction. The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great "yes" to the dignity of the person called to intimate communion with God, a filial communion, humble and confident. The human being is neither an individual subsisting in himself nor an anonymous element of the collective. He is rather a singular and unrepeatable person intrinsically ordered to relationship and sociality. For this reason the Church stresses her great "yes" to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of a faithful and fecund alliance between man and woman, and says "no" to such philosophies as the philosophy of gender. The Church is guided by the fact that the reciprocity between man and woman is the expression of the beauty of the nature willed by the Creator.

Dear friends, I thank you for your commitment on behalf of man, in fidelity to his true dignity. In the face of these challenges of our times, we know that the answer is the encounter with Christ. In him man can fully realize his personal good and the common good. I encourage you to continue in your work with a joyful and generous spirit as I bestow upon you the Apostolic Benediction from my heart.

 

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General audience    He Became a Man    Vatican, January 9, 2013

 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 In this Christmas season let us reflect once again on the great mystery of God who came down from heaven to enter our flesh. In Jesus God was incarnate, he became a man like us and in this way opened for us the road to his heavenly Kingdom, to full communion with him.

 In these days the term the “Incarnation” of God has rung out several times in our churches, expressing the reality we celebrate at Holy Christmas: the Son of God was made man, as we say in the Creed. But what does this word, so central to the Christian faith, mean? Incarnation derives from the Latin incarnatio. St Ignatius of Antioch – at the end of the first century – and, especially, St Irenaeus used this term in reflecting on the Prologue to the Gospel according to St John, in particular in the sentence “the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14). Here the word “flesh”, according to the Hebrew usage, indicates man in his whole self, the whole man, but in particular in the dimension of his transience and his temporality, his poverty and his contingency. This was in order to tell us that the salvation brought by God, who became man in Jesus of Nazareth, affects man in his material reality and in whatever situation he may be. God assumed the human condition to heal it from all that separates it from him, to enable us to call him, in his Only-Begotten Son, by the name of “Abba, Father”, and truly to be children of God.

 St Irenaeus stated: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (Adversus Haereses, 3, 19, 1: PG 7,939; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 460).

 “The Word was made flesh” is one of those truths to which we have grown so accustomed that the greatness of the event it expresses barely makes an impression on us. Effectively, in this Christmastide in which these words often recur in the Liturgy, we at times pay more attention to the external aspects, to the “colours” of the celebration rather than to the heart of the great Christian newness that we are celebrating: something that utterly defeats the imagination, that God alone could bring about and into which we can only enter with faith.

 The Logos, who is with God, is the Logos who is God, the Creator of the world (cf. Jn 1:1) through whom all things were created (cf. 1:3) and who has accompanied men and women through history with his light (cf. 1:4-5; 1:9), became one among many and made his dwelling among us, becoming one of us (cf. 2:14).

 The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council said: “The Son of God... worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin” (Constitution Gaudium et Spes, n. 22). Thus it is important to recover our wonder at the mystery, to let ourselves be enveloped by the grandeur of this event: God, the true God, Creator of all, walked our roads as a man, entering human time to communicate his own life to us (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4). And he did not do so with the splendour of a sovereign who dominates the world with his power, but with the humility of a child.

 I would like to stress a second element. At holy Christmas we generally exchange a few gifts with the people closest to us. At times this may be a conventional gesture, but it usually expresses affection; it is a sign of love and esteem. In the Prayer over the Offerings at the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Christmas the Church prays: “may the oblation of this day’s feast be pleasing to you, O Lord, we pray, that through this most holy exchange we may be found in the likeness of Christ in whom our nature is united to you. Who lives and reigns for ever”.

 The idea of giving is therefore at the heart of the liturgy and makes us aware of the original gift of Christmas: on that Holy Night, in taking flesh God wanted to make a gift of himself to men and women, he gave himself for us; God made his Only Son a gift for us, he took on our humanity to give his divinity to us. This is the great gift. In our giving too it does not matter whether or not a gift is expensive; those who cannot manage to give a little of themselves always give too little. Indeed, at times we even seek to substitute money or material things for our hearts and the commitment to giving ourselves.

 The mystery of the Incarnation shows that God did not do this: he did not give some thing but he gave himself in his Only-Begotten Son. We find here our model for the giving so that our relationships, especially those that are most important, may be guided by giving love freely.

 I would like to offer a third thought: the event of the Incarnation, of God who became man, like us, shows us the daring realism of divine love. God’s action, in fact was not limited to words. On the contrary we might say that he was not content with speaking, but entered into our history, taking upon himself the effort and burden of human life. The Son of God truly became a man. He was born of the Virgin Mary in a specific time and place, in Bethlehem during the reign of the Emperor Augustus, under the Governor Quirinius (cf. Lk 2:1-2); he grew up in a family, he had friends, he formed a group of disciples, he instructed the Apostles to continue his mission and ended the course of his earthly life on the Cross. The way God acted gives us a strong incentive to question ourselves on the reality of our faith, which must not be limited to the sphere of sentiment, of the emotions; rather, it must enter into the practicality of our existence, that is, it must touch our everyday life and give it practical guidance. God did not stop at words, but showed us how to live, sharing in our own experience, except for sin.

 The Catechism of St Pius X, which some of us studied as children answers with simple brevity the question “What must we do to live according to the will of God?”: “to live according to the will of God, we must believe the truths that he has revealed and obey his commandments with the help of his grace, which is obtained through the sacraments and through prayer”. Faith has a fundamental aspect that does not only involve our mind and heart but also our whole life.

 I suggest one last element for you to think about. St John says that the Word, the Logos, was with God in the beginning and that everything was done through the Word and nothing that exists was done without him (cf. Jn 1:1-13). The Evangelist is clearly alluding to the Creation narrative in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis, and reinterprets it in the light of Christ. This is a fundamental criterion in the Christian interpretation of the Bible: The Old and New Testaments should always be read together and, starting with the New, the deepest meaning of the Old Testament is also revealed. That same Word, who has always existed with God, who is God himself and through whom and for whom all things were created (cf. Col 1:16-17), became man: the eternal and infinite God immersed himself in human finiteness, in his creature, to bring back man and the whole of creation to himself.

 The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “the first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendour of which surpasses that of the first creation” (n. 349). The Fathers of the Church compared Jesus to Adam, even to the point of calling him “the second Adam”, or the definitive Adam, the perfect image of God. With the Incarnation of the Son of God a new creation was brought about that gave the complete answer to the question “who is man?”. God’s plan for the human being was fully manifest in Jesus alone. He is the definitive man according to God’s will.

 The Second Vatican Council reasserted this forcefully: “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.... Christ the new Adam... fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling”. (Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, n. 22; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 359). In that Child, the Son of God contemplated at Christmas, we can recognize the true face not only of God but also of the human being; and only by opening ourselves to his grace and seeking to follow him every day do we fulfil God’s plan for us, for each one of us.

 Dear friends, in this period let us meditate on the great and marvellous richness of the Mystery of the Incarnation, to permit the Lord to illuminate us and to change us, more and more, into an image of his Son made man for us.

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Pope Benedict's Address to Ecumenical Delegation From Finland
"Along this Way of Spiritual Ecumenism, We Truly Walk with God and with One Another in Justice and Love"

VATICAN CITY, January 17, 2013  - Here is the text of the Holy Father's address to the Ecumenical Delegation from Finland. Pope Benedict XVI received the delegation on the occasion of their annual visit to Rome for the feast of Saint Henrik, patron saint of Finland.

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Your Eminence,

Your Excellencies,

Dear Friends,

Once again I am happy to welcome your Ecumenical Delegation on its annual visit to Rome for the feast of Saint Henrik, the patron saint of Finland. It is fitting that our meeting takes place on the eve of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, whose theme this year is drawn from the Book of the Prophet Micah: "What does God require of us?" (cf. Mic.6:6-8).

The Prophet makes clear, of course, what the Lord requires of us: it is "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God" (v. 8). The Christmas season which we have just celebrated reminds us that it is God who from the beginning has walked with us, and who, in the fullness of time, took flesh in order to save us from our sins and to guide our steps in the way of holiness, justice and peace. Walking humbly in the presence of the Lord, in obedience to his saving word and with trust in his gracious plan, serves as an eloquent image not only of the life of faith, but also of our ecumenical journey on the path towards the full and visible unity of all Christians. On this path of discipleship, we are called to advance together along the narrow road of fidelity to God’s sovereign will in facing whatever difficulties or obstacles we may eventually encounter.

To advance in the ways of ecumenical communion thus demands that we become ever more united in prayer, ever more committed to the pursuit of holiness, and ever more engaged in the areas of theological research and cooperation in the service of a just and fraternal society. Along this way of spiritual ecumenism, we truly walk with God and with one another in justice and love (cf. Mic 6:8), for, as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification affirms: "We are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works" (No. 15).

Dear friends, it is my hope that your visit to Rome will help to strengthen ecumenical relations between all Christians in Finland. Let us thank God for all that has been achieved so far and let us pray that the Spirit of truth will guide Christ’s followers in your country towards ever greater love and unity as they strive to live in the light of the Gospel and to bring that light to the great moral issues facing our societies today. By walking together in humility along the path of justice, mercy and righteousness which the Lord has pointed out to us, Christians will not only dwell in the truth, but also be beacons of joy and hope to all those who are looking for a sure point of reference in our rapidly changing world. At the beginning of this New Year, I assure you of my closeness in prayer. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the wisdom, grace and peace of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

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On Christ As Mediator Between God and Man  (Year of faith)
'Jesus is Truly God Among Us, 'The Mediator and the Fullness of All Revelation'"

VATICAN CITY, January 16, 2013  - Here is a translation of the General Audience Pope Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Second Vatican Council, in its Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, says that the intimate truth of the revelation of God shines for us "in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation"(no. 2). The Old Testament tells us how God, after the creation, despite original sin, despite man's arrogance in wanting to take the place of his Creator, again offers the possibility of his friendship, especially through the covenant with Abraham and the journey of a small nation, that of Israel, whom he chooses not according to the criteria of earthly power, but simply out of love. It is a choice that remains a mystery and reveals God's style, who calls some not to exclude others, but so that those called will act as bridge leading to Him: election is always an election for the other. In the history of the people of Israel we can retrace the stages of a long journey in which God makes himself known, reveals himself, enters into history with words and actions. For this work He uses mediators, such as Moses, the Prophets, the Judges, who communicate his will to the people, they remind them of the need for fidelity to the covenant and keep alive the expectation of the full and definitive realization of the divine promises.

And it is precisely the fulfillment of these promises that we contemplated in Christmas: God's revelation reaches its peak, its fullness. In Jesus of Nazareth, God truly visits his people, he visits humanity in a way that exceeds all expectation: he sends his only begotten Son, who becomes man, God himself. Jesus does not simply tell us something about God, he does not simply talk about the Father, because he is God, and thus he reveals to us the face of God. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John writes: "No one has ever seen God: it is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

I want to focus on this "revealing the face of God." In this regard, St. John, in his Gospel, relates to us a significant fact. Approaching the passion, Jesus reassures his disciples, inviting them not to be afraid and to have faith; then he initiates a dialogue with them in which he speaks of God the Father (cf. Jn 14:2-9). At one point, the apostle Philip asks Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied" (Jn 14:8). Philip is very practical and concrete: he says what we, too, want to say: “we want to see, show us the Father”; he asks to "see" the Father, to see his face. Jesus' answer is an answer not only for Philip, but also for us and leads us into the heart of the Christological faith of the Church; the Lord affirms: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9). This expression contains a synthesis of the novelty of the New Testament, that novelty that appeared in the cave of Bethlehem: God can be seen, he has shown his face, he is visible in Jesus Christ.

Throughout the Old Testament the theme of "seeking the face of God" is ever present, so that the Hebrew term panîm, which means "face", occurs no less than 400 times, 100 of which refer to God, it means to see the face of God. Yet the Jewish religion, by forbidding all images, since God cannot be depicted - as instead occurred among their neighbors with the worship of idols; therefore, with this prohibition of imagery, the Old Testament seems to totally exclude "seeing" from worship and piety. What does it mean then, for the pious Israelite, to seek the face of God, while recognizing that there can be no image of Him? The question is important: on the one hand, it is said that God cannot be reduced to an object, to a simple image, nor can anything be put in the place of God; on the other, however, it is affirmed that He has a face, that is, He is a "You" that can enter into a relationship, who isn't closed in his Heavens looking down upon humanity. God is certainly above all things, but he turns to us, hears us, sees and speaks, makes covenants, is capable of love. The history of salvation ishistory of God with humanity, it is the history of this relationship of God who progressively reveals himself to man, letting him see his face.

Right at the beginning of the year, on January 1, we heard in the liturgy the beautiful prayer of blessing over the people: "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face to you and give you peace" (Num. 6:24-26). The splendor of the divine face is the source of life, it is what allows us to see reality, and the light of his countenance is the guide to life. In the Old Testament there is a figure connected in a very special way to the theme of the "face of God": Moses, whom God chose to free the people from slavery in Egypt, to give them the Law of the covenant and to lead them to the Promised Land. Well, in chapter 33 of the Book of Exodus, it says that Moses had a close and confidential relationship with God: "The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as one speaks with his friend" (v. 11). By virtue of this confidence, Moses asks God: "Show me your glory," and the Lord's answer is clear: "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name ... But you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live ... Here is a place near me ... you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen "(vv. 18-23). On the one hand, then, there is the face to face dialogue as among friends, but on the other, there is the impossibility, in this life, of seeing the face of God, which remains hidden; the vision is limited. The Fathers say that these words, “you shall only see my back”, mean: you can only follow Christ and in following you see from behind the mystery of God;God can be followed seeing his back.

Something new happens, however, with the incarnation. The search for the face of God undergoes an unthinkable change, because now this face can be seen: that of Jesus, the Son of God who became man. In Him the path of God's revelation finds fulfillment, which began with the call of Abraham; He is the fullness of this revelation because he is the Son of God, he is both "the mediator and fullness of all revelation" (Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum, 2), and in Him the content of Revelation and the Revealer coincide. Jesus shows us the face of God and makes known to us the name of God. In the priestly prayer at the Last Supper, He says to the Father: "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world ... I made your name known to them" (cf. Jn 17:6,26). The expression "name of God" means God as He who is present among men. To Moses at the burning bush, God had revealed his name, had made it possible to invoke him, had given a concrete sign of his "existence" among men. All this finds fulfillment and completeness in Jesus: He inaugurates a new way of God's presence in history, because he who sees Him, sees the Father, as he says to Philip (cf. Jn 14:9). Christianity - says Saint Bernard - is the "religion of the Word of God"; not, however, "a written and mute word, but of the incarnate and living Word" (Hom. super missus est, IV, 11: PL 183, 86B). In the Patristic and Medieval traditions, a special formula is used to express this reality: Jesus is the Verbum abbreviatum (cf. Rom 9:28, referring to Isaiah 10:23), he is the short, abbreviated and substantial Word of the Father, who has told us everything about Him. In Jesus the whole Word is present.

In Jesus even the mediation between God and man finds its fullness. In the Old Testament, there is a host of figures who have performed this task, particularly Moses, the deliverer, the guide, the "mediator" of the covenant, as also the New Testament defines him (cf. Gal 3:19; Acts 7:35, Jn 1:17). Jesus, true God and true man, is not simply one of the mediators between God and man, he is "the mediator" of the new and everlasting covenant (cf. Heb 8:6; 9:15, 12:24); "For there is one God", Paul says, "and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5, Gal 3:19-20). In Him we see and meet the Father; in Him we can invoke God as "Abbà, Father"; in Him we are given salvation.

The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the face of God, is in every man, even atheists. And we perhaps unwittingly have this desire to see simply who He is, what He is, who He is for us. But this desire is realized by following Christ, so we see his back and finally also see God as a friend, his face in the face of Christ.

The important thing is that we follow Christ not only when we are in need and when we find space for it in our daily affairs, but with our lives as such.The whole of life should be directed towards encountering Him, towards loving Him; and, in it, a central place must also be given to the love of one's neighbor, that love that, in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering. This is only possible if the true face of Jesus has become familiar to us in listening to His Word, in interior dialogue, in entering into this Word in such a way as to really encounter him,and naturally in the Mystery of the Eucharist. In the Gospel of St. Luke there is the significant passage of the two disciples of Emmaus, who recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, thought after being prepared by the journey with Him, prepared by the invitation they made Him to remain with them, prepared by the dialogue that made their hearts burn; so, in the end, they see Jesus.For us, too, the Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see the face of God, we enter into an intimate relationship with Him, and we learn at the same time to turn our gaze towards the final moment of history, when He will satisfy us with the light of his face. On earth we walk towards this fullness, awaiting the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Thank you.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Christmas season we celebrated the mystery of the Incarnation as the culmination of God’s gradual self-revelation to Israel, a revelation mediated by those great figures such as Moses and the Prophets who kept alive the expectation of God’s fulfillment of his promises. Jesus, the Word made flesh, is truly God among us, "the mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (Dei Verbum, 2). In him, the ancient blessing is fulfilled: God has made his face to shine upon us (cf. Num 6:25). As the Incarnate Son, the one mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tim 2:5), Jesus does not simply speak to us about God; he shows us the very face of God and enables us to call him our Father. As he says to the apostle Philip, "whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9). May our desire to see the Lord’s face grow through our daily encounter with him in prayer, in meditation on his word and in the Eucharist, and thus prepare us to contemplate forever the light of his countenance in the fullness of his eternal Kingdom.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the pilgrimage groups from Australia and the United States of America. My particular greeting goes to the pilgrims from the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. I also welcome the deacons from Saint Paul Seminary and the many college and university students present. May the light of the Lord’s face shine upon all of you and fill you with his richest blessings of joy and peace!

[Original text: English]

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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APPEAL OF THE HOLY FATHER

The day after tomorrow, Friday, January 18, begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year has the theme: "What Does God Require of Us," inspired by a passage from the prophet Micah (cf. Micah 6:6-8). I invite everyone to pray, insistently asking God for the great gift of unity among the Lord's disciples. May the inexhaustible power of the Holy Spirit encourage us to a sincere commitment to seeking unity, so that we may all profess together that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

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Pope's Address to Vatican Inspectorate of Public Security
"May your presence [...] be an ever more effective guarantee of that good order and tranquility"

VATICAN CITY, January 15, 2013 - Dear Officers and Agents!

I am very pleased to renew this encounter which by now has become a tradition, for the mutual exchange of greetings at the beginning of the new year. My greetings and best wishes go first to Mr. Enrico Avola, recently appointed Director General, whom I thank for the words he addressed to me just now, as well as to the Prefect Salvatore Festa. With equal affection, I greet the other members and employees of the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican.

I would first like to express my feeling of gratitude for the service you carry out with acknowledged dedication and professionalism in St. Peter's Square and the area adjacent to the Vatican for the necessary protection of public order. In particular, I think of your work during the public events involving the faithful and pilgrims who come from all over the world to meet the Successor of Peter and to visit the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, and to pray at those of my venerable Predecessors, particularly that of Blessed John Paul II.

Your commitment also extends to my pastoral visits in Rome and during my apostolic journeys in Italy. On this occasion I intend to express once again my esteem and emphasize my deep appreciation for the manner and spirit that animates your service, attentive and professional. A style that, while honoring your identity as officials of the Italian State and members of the Church, also attests to the good relations that exist between Italy and the Holy See.

I listened with interest to the words of your Director, who, on behalf of you all, wanted to voice the feelings, ideals, intentions that inspire your life and your behavior in carrying out your daily task. I sincerely hope that your hard work, often done with sacrifice and risk, may be always animated by a strong Christian faith, which is undoubtedly the most precious treasure and spiritual value, which your families have entrusted you with and that you are called to transmit to your children. The Year of Faith, which the whole Church is experiencing, is an opportunity for you also to go back to the Gospel message and let it enter more deeply into your minds and your daily lives, courageously witnessing to the love of God in every environment, even in that of your work.

In my Message on the occasion of the recent World Day of Peace, I pointed out that "the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind's innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life"(no. 1). May your presence, dear friends, be an ever more effective guarantee of that good order and tranquility, which are crucial for building a peaceful and composed social life, and that, in addition to being taught by the Gospel message, are a sign of true civilization.

With these greetings, I wish to extend my best wishes for the new year also to your families, whom I entrust to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin, so that she may intercede with her divine Son to obtain for you prosperity, peace, harmony and to guard you from every danger. May you also be accompanied by my Apostolic Blessing that I impart to all of you.

 

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On the Baptism of the Lord
"May every Christian, in this Year of Faith, Rediscover the Beauty of being Reborn from Above"

VATICAN CITY, January 13, 2013   - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address before and after the recitation of the Angelus in St. Peter's Square today.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On this Sunday after Epiphany we conclude the liturgical season of Christmas: a time of light, the light of Christ that, as the new sun that appears on the horizon of humanity, disperses the darkness of evil and ignorance. We celebrate today the feast of the Baptism of Jesus: that Child, son of the Virgin, whom we contemplated in the mystery of his birth, we see today as an adult immersing himself in the waters of the Jordan River, and in this way sanctifying all water and the whole cosmos, as the Eastern tradition emphasizes. But why did Jesus, in whom there was no shadow of sin have himself baptized by John? Why did he wish to perform that gesture of repentance and conversion together with many others who wanted to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah? That gesture, which marks the beginning of Christ’s public life, is situated in the same line as the Incarnation, of God’s descent from the highest heaven to the abyss of hell (“inferi”). The meaning of this movement of divine abasement is summed up in a single word: love, which is the very name of God. The apostle John writes: “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). This is why the first act of Jesus was to receive the baptism of John, who, when he saw him coming, said: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

The evangelist Luke writes that while Jesus, after receiving the baptism, “was in prayer, the heavens opened and there descended upon him the Holy Spirit in bodily form, as a dove, and there came a voice from heaven: ‘You are my Son, the beloved: in you I am well-pleased” (3:21-22). This Jesus is the Son of God, who is totally immersed in the Father’s will of love. This Jesus is he who will die upon the cross and rise up by the power of the same Spirit that now comes to rest upon him and consecrates him. This Jesus is the new man who wishes to live as a son of God, that is, in love; he is the man who, in the face of the evil of the world, chooses the path of humility and responsibility, chooses not to save himself but to offer his life for truth and for justice. Being Christians means living in this way, but this way of life brings a rebirth: being reborn from above, from God, by Grace. This rebirth is the Baptism that Christ gave to the Church to regenerate men to new life. And ancient text attributed to St. Hippolytus: “Whoever enters this bath of regeneration, renounces the devil and aligns himself with Christ, renounces the enemy and recognizes that Christ is God, puts off slavery and puts on the filial adoption” (Sermon for Epiphany, 10: PG, 10 862).

Following tradition, this morning I had the joy of baptizing a large group of children, who were born in the last 3 or 4 months. At this time I would like to extend my prayer and my benediction to all newborns; but above all I would like to invite everyone to recall their baptism, that spiritual rebirth that opened for us to the path of eternal life. May every Christian, in this Year of Faith, rediscover the beauty of being reborn from above, from the love of God, and live as a child of God.

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

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today we celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. In the Message for this year I compared migrations to a “pilgrimage of faith and hope.” Those who leave their own country do so because they hope in a better future, but they also do so because they trust in God, who guides man’s steps, as he did Abraham’s. And in this way migrants are in the world bearers of faith and hope. I offer my greeting to each of them with a special prayer and benediction. I greet in a particular way the Catholic community of migrants present in Rome and I entrust them to the protection of St. Frances Cabrini and Bl. Giovanni Battista Scalabrini.

[In English he said:]

I greet all English-speaking visitors taking part in this Angelus prayer. Today, in the Baptism of the Lord, we contemplate our share in the divine life through the gift of the Holy Spirit in the waters of Baptism. May we be renewed in our own Baptism and strengthened in witness to the Gospel and its promises! Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace.

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Pope Benedict's Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord 2013
"Upon your Children Too the Heavens have Opened,"

VATICAN CITY, January 13, 2013 - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's Homily during the Mass celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord where he baptized 20 babies.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The joy that flowed from the celebration of Christmas finds its fulfillment today in the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. For us who are gathered together here there is a further reason for this joy. In the sacrament of Baptism that I will soon administer to these newborns there is infact manifested the living and active presence of the Holy Spirit who, enriching the Church with new children, vivifies her and makes her grow and we cannot help but rejoice over this. I would like to address a special greeting to you, dear parents, godfathers and godmothers, who are witnessing to your faith today, asking for Baptism for these children, so that they might be begotten in the new life in Christ and become a part of the community of believers.

The Gospel account of the baptism of Jesus that we heard today in the reading from St. Luke, displays the path of abasement and humility that the Son of God freely chose in order to follow the Father’s plan, to be obedient to his will of love for man in all things, to the point of the sacrifice on the cross. Now an adult, Jesus initiates his public ministry, traveling to the Jordan River to receive a baptism of repentance and conversion from John. There occurs here something that might seem paradoxical in our eyes. Does Jesus need to repent and convert? Certainly not. And yet he who is without sin places himself among sinners to be baptized, to perform this gesture of repentance; the Holy One of God joins with those who recognize their need of forgiveness and ask God for the gift of conversion, that is, the grace to return to him with all their heart, to be completely his. Jesus wishes to place himself among sinners, making himself solidary with them, expressing God’s nearness. Jesus shows himself to be solidary with us, with our effort to convert, to leave our egoism behind, to turn from our sins, to tell us that if we accept him in our lives he is able to lift us back up and lead us to the heights of God the Father. And this solidarity of Jesus is not, so to say, a simple exercise of the mind and will. Jesus has truly immersed himself in our human condition, he lived it through and through, except for sin, and is able to understand weakness and frailty. For this reason he has compassion, chooses to “suffer with” men, to make himself a penitent with us. The work of God that Jesus wishes to accomplish is this: the divine mission heal those who are wounded and to care for the sick, to take the sin of the world upon himself.

What happens in the moment that Jesus has himself baptized by John? With this act of humble love on the part of the Son of God the heavens open and the Holy Spirit is visibly manifest as a dove, while a voice from on high expresses the Father’s pleasure, who points to his only begotten Son, the Beloved. This is an authentic manifestation of the Most Holy Trinity, which witnesses to Jesus’ divinity, his being the promised Messiah, he whom God sent to free his people so that they might be saved (cf. Isaiah 40:2). In this way the prophecy of Isaiah that we heard in the first reading is realized: the Lord God comes with power to destroy the works of sin and his arm exercises dominion to disarm the Evil One; but let us remember that this arm is the arm stretched out upon the cross and that Jesus’ power is the power of him who suffers for us: this is the power of God, different from the power of the world; in this way God comes to destroy sin. Jesus truly acts as the Good Shepherd who feeds the flock and gathers it together that it not be scattered (cf. Isaiah 40:10-11), and he offers his life itself so that it have life. It is through Jesus’ redemptive death that man is freed from the reign of sin and is reconciled with the Father; it is through his resurrection that man is saved from eternal death and is made victorious over the Evil One.

Dear brothers and sisters, what occurs in the Baptism that in a few moments I will administer to your children? It is this: they will be forever united in a profound way with Jesus, in the mystery of this power of his, that is in the mystery of his death, which is the font of life, to participate in his resurrection, to be reborn in a new life. This is the wonder that today is repeated also for your children: receiving Baptism they are reborn as children of God, participants in the filial relation of Jesus with the Father, able to turn toward God calling him “Abbà, Father” with complete confidence. Upon your children too the heavens have opened, and God says: these are my children, children in whom I am pleased. Inserted in this relation and liberated from original sin, they become members of the one body that is the Church and are now able to live in the fullness of their vocation to sanctity so as to have the possibility of eternal life, obtained for us by Jesus’ resurrection.

Dear parents, in asking for Baptism for your children you manifest and witness to your faith, the joy of being Christians and of belonging to the Church. It is the joy that flows from the awareness of having received a great gift from God, precisely the faith, a gift that none of us was able to merit, but that was given to us gratuitously and to which we responded with our “yes.” It is the joy of recognizing ourselves as children of God, to find ourselves entrusted into his hands, to feel ourselves welcomed in the embrace of love, in the same way that a mother holds and embraces her child. This joy, which orients the journey of every Christian, is based on a personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship that orients the whole of human existence. He is in fact the meaning of our lives, he upon whom it is good to fix our gaze, to be enlightened by his truth and be able to live his fullness. The journey of faith that today begins for these children is thus founded on a certainty, the experience that there is nothing greater than knowing Christ and communicating friendship with him to others; only in this friendship is there really disclosed the extraordinary possibilities of the human condition and can we experience that which is beautiful and that which frees (cf. Homily for the beginning of the pontificate, April 24, 2005). Those who have had this experience are not willing to give up their faith for anything in the world.

You, dear godfathers and godmothers, have the important task of supporting and helping the parents in the work of education, assisting them in the transmission of the truths of the faith and in witnessing to the values of the Gospel, in making these children grow in an ever deeper friendship with the Lord. Always know how to give them your good example through the exercise of the Christian virtues. It is not easy to manifest openly and without compromises what we believe, especially in the context in which we live, faced with a society that often considers those live their faith in Jesus unfashionable and out of date. On account of the wave of this mentality, there may also be among Christians the danger of understanding this relationship with Jesus as limiting, as something that is harmful to one’s self-realization; “God is seen as the limit on our freedom, a limit that must be eliminated so that man might be completely himself” (“Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” 101 [Italian edition]). But this is not so! It is clear that such a vision does not understand anything of man’s relationship with God because precisely as one progresses in the journey of faith, we grasp how Jesus exercises the liberating love of God upon us, which draws us out of our egoism, from our being closed in on ourselves, to lead us to a full life in communion with God and others. “‘God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John4:16). These words from theFirst Letter of Johnexpress with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny” (“Deus caritas est,” 1).

The water with which these children will be signed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, will immerse them in that “font” of life that is God himself and makes them his true children. And the seed of the theological virtues, infused by God, faith, hope, and charity, a seed that today is placed in their hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit, must always be cared for by the Word of God and the Sacraments, so that these Christian virtues might grow and reach maturity to make each of them a true witness to the Lord. As we invoke the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon these little ones, we entrust them to the protection of the Holy Virgin; may she guard them always with her maternal presence and accompany them in every moment of their life. Amen.

 

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Audience: The greatest Christmas gift of all  2013-01-09 11:52:34



(Vatican Radio) Following Christ’s example, we have to learn to give ourselves completely. Anything else is not enough. This was Pope Benedict XVI’s tweet sent out to his followers Wednesday summarizing the general audience.

“In the Child of Bethlehem, God gives us the greatest gift possible, the gift of himself” and today we need to rediscover the “wonder” and “all-enveloping magnitude of this event”, because through the Incarnation God has revealed mankind’s “sublime dignity”.

General Audience

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
in this Christmas season we focus once again on the great mystery of God who came down from Heaven to take on our flesh. In Jesus, God became incarnate, He became man like us, and in doing so opened the door to heaven to us, to full communion with Him.

In these days, the word "incarnation" of God rang out several times in our churches, to express the reality we celebrate at Christmas: The Son of God became man, as we say in the Creed. What does this word, central to the Christian faith, mean? It is derived from the Latin "incarnatio." St. Ignatius of Antioch, and especially Saint Irenaeus have used this term reflecting on the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John, in particular on the expression "The Word became flesh" (Jn 1:14). Here the word "flesh", according to Hebrew tradition, refers to the person as a whole, under the aspect of his transience and temporality, his poverty and contingency. This is to say that the salvation wrought by God made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth touches man in his concrete reality and in every situation. God took on the human condition to heal it of all that separates us from Him, so that we can call Him, in his only begotten Son, by the name of "Abba, Father" and truly be his children. St. Irenaeus says, "This is why the Word became man, and the Son of God, Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God "(Adversus haereses, 3,19,1: PG 7.939; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 460).

"The Word became flesh" is one of those truths we have become so used to that the greatness of the vent it expresses hardly affects us any more. And indeed, in this Christmas season, in which the expression returns often in the liturgy, at times we are more concerned with outward appearances, the "colours" of the festivity, than what is at the heart of the great novelty that Christians celebrate, something absolutely unthinkable, that only God could operate and we can only enter with faith. The Logos which is with God, the Logos who is God (cf. Jn 1:1), through which they were created all things were created (cf. 1.3), which accompanied mankind with his light throughout history (cf. 1 0.4 to 5, 1.9), became flesh and made his dwelling place among us, became one of us (cf. 1:14). The Second Vatican Council says: "The Son of God ... worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin"(Gaudium et Spes, 22). It is important therefore, that we recover our wonder before this mystery, allow ourselves to be enveloped by the magnitude of this event: God walked our streets as man, he entered into the time of man, to communicate His life to us (cf. 1 Jn 1:1 - 4). And He did this not with the splendour of a sovereign, who subjugates the world with his power, but with the humility of a child.

A second element should also be underlined. At Christmas we usually exchange gifts with the people closest to us. Sometimes it may be an act done out of convention, but it generally expresses affection; it is a sign of love and esteem. In the prayer over the gifts at Christmas Mass we prayed: "Accept, O Lord, our offering in this night of light, and for this mysterious exchange of gifts transform us in Christ, your Son, who raised man next to you in glory". The idea of giving is at the heart of the liturgy and brings to our consciousness the original gift of Christmas: on that Holy night God, becoming flesh, wanted to become a gift for men, He gave a little of himself to us, took on our humanity to gift us His divinity. This is the great gift. Even in our giving is not important whether a gift is expensive or not; those who cannot afford to give a little of themselves, always give too little, indeed, sometimes they try to replace the heart and the meaning of giving with money or material things. The mystery of the Incarnation shows us that God did not do this: He did not give something; He gave himself in His only-begotten Son. Here we find the model for our giving, so that our relationships, especially the most important ones, are driven by generosity and love.

I would like to offer a third reflection: the fact of the Incarnation, of God becoming a man like us, shows us the unprecedented realism of Divine love. The action of God, in fact, is not limited to words, indeed we might say that he is not content to speak, but is immersed in our history and takes on fatigue and weight of human life. The Son of God became truly man, born of the Virgin Mary, in a specific time and place in Bethlehem during the reign of Augustus, under Governor Quirinius (Lk 2:1-2), he grew up in a family, had friends, he formed a group of disciples, he instructed the apostles to continue his mission, he completed the course of his earthly life on the Cross. This mode of action of God is a powerful stimulus to question the realism of our faith, which should not be limited to the sphere of feelings and emotions, but must enter into concrete existence, that is to touch our lives every day and direct them in a practical way. God did not stop at words, but He showed us how to live, sharing our own experience, except sin. The Catechism of St. Pius X, which some of us have studied as children, with its simplicity, to the question: "What should we do to live according to God?", gives this answer: "To live according to God we must believe the truth revealed by Him and keep His commandments with the help of His grace, which is obtained through the sacraments and prayer. " Faith has a fundamental aspect which affects not only the mind and the heart, but all of our lives.

A final element I propose for your consideration. St. John states that the Word, the Logos was with God from the beginning, and that all things were made through the Word, and nothing that exists was made without Him (cf. Jn 1:1-3). The Evangelist clearly alludes to the story of creation that is in the early chapters of Genesis, and read them in the light of Christ. This is a fundamental criterion in Christian reading of the Bible: the Old and New Testaments should always be read together and by beginning with the New the deepest sense also of the Old is disclosed. That same Word that has always existed with God, which is God Himself and by which and in view of which all things were created (cf. Col 1:16-17), became man: the eternal and infinite God immersed himself in human finitude, His creature, to bring man and the whole of creation to Him The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: " The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendour of which surpasses that of the first creation "(n. 349). The Fathers of the Church have likened Jesus to Adam, to the point of calling him the "second Adam" or the definitive Adam, the perfect image of God. With his incarnation the Son of God is a new creation, which gives the complete answer to the question "Who is man?". Only in Jesus is God's plan on the human being fully revealed: He is the definitive man according to God. The Second Vatican Council strongly reiterates: "In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear... Christ, the final Adam, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. "(Gaudium et Spes, 22; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 359). In this child, the Son of God contemplated at Christmas, we can recognize the true face of the human being, and only by opening action of his grace and trying every day to follow Him, do we realize God's plan for us.

Dear friends, in this period we meditate on the great and wonderful richness of the mystery of the Incarnation, to allow the Lord to enlighten us and transform us more and more to the image of his Son made man for us.

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Pope's Message for World Day of the Sick, 2013

VATICAN CITY, January 08, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's Message for the 21st World Day of the Sick which will be celebrated on February 11, 2013.

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"Go and do likewise" (Lk 10:37)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. On 11 February 2013, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Twenty-first World Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated at the Marian Shrine of Altötting. This day represents for the sick, for health care workers, for the faithful and for all people of goodwill "a privileged time of prayer, of sharing, of offering one’s sufferings for the good of the Church, and a call for all to recognize in the features of their suffering brothers and sisters the Holy Face of Christ, who, by suffering, dying and rising has brought about the salvation of mankind" (John Paul II, Letter for the Institution of the World Day of the Sick, 13 May 1992, 3). On this occasion I feel especially close to you, dear friends, who in health care centres or at home, are undergoing a time of trial due to illness and suffering. May all of you be sustained by the comforting words of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council: "You are not alone, separated, abandoned or useless. You have been called by Christ and are his living and transparent image" (Message to the Poor, the Sick and the Suffering).

2. So as to keep you company on the spiritual pilgrimage that leads us from Lourdes, a place which symbolizes hope and grace, to the Shrine of Altötting, I would like to propose for your reflection the exemplary figure of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37). The Gospel parable recounted by Saint Luke is part of a series of scenes and events taken from daily life by which Jesus helps us to understand the deep love of God for every human being, especially those afflicted by sickness or pain. With the concluding words of the parable of the Good Samaritan, "Go and do likewise" (Lk 10:37), the Lord also indicates the attitude that each of his disciples should have towards others, especially those in need. We need to draw from the infinite love of God, through an intense relationship with him in prayer, the strength to live day by day with concrete concern, like that of the Good Samaritan, for those suffering in body and spirit who ask for our help, whether or not we know them and however poor they may be. This is true, not only for pastoral or health care workers, but for everyone, even for the sick themselves, who can experience this condition from a perspective of faith: "It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love" (Spe Salvi, 37).

3. Various Fathers of the Church saw Jesus himself in the Good Samaritan; and in the man who fell among thieves they saw Adam, our very humanity wounded and disoriented on account of its sins (cf. Origen, Homily on the Gospel of Luke XXXIV,1-9; Ambrose, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke, 71-84; Augustine, Sermon 171). Jesus is the Son of God, the one who makes present the Father’s love, a love which is faithful, eternal and without boundaries. But Jesus is also the one who sheds the garment of his divinity, who leaves his divine condition to assume the likeness of men (cf. Phil 2:6-8), drawing near to human suffering, even to the point of descending into hell, as we recite in the Creed, in order to bring hope and light. He does not jealously guard his equality with God (cf. Phil 2:6) but, filled with compassion, he looks into the abyss of human suffering so as to pour out the oil of consolation and the wine of hope.

4. The Year of Faith which we are celebrating is a fitting occasion for intensifying the service of charity in our ecclesial communities, so that each one of us can be a good Samaritan for others, for those close to us. Here I would like to recall the innumerable figures in the history of the Church who helped the sick to appreciate the human and spiritual value of their suffering, so that they might serve as an example and an encouragement. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, "an expert in the scientia amoris" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 42), was able to experience "in deep union with the Passion of Jesus" the illness that brought her "to death through great suffering" (Address at General Audience, 6 April 2011). The Venerable Luigi Novarese, who still lives in the memory of many, throughout his ministry realized the special importance of praying for and with the sick and suffering, and he would often accompany them to Marian shrines, especially to the Grotto of Lourdes. Raoul Follereau, moved by love of neighbour, dedicated his life to caring for people afflicted by Hansen’s disease, even at the world’s farthest reaches, promoting, among other initiatives, World Leprosy Day. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta would always begin her day with an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and then she would go out into the streets, rosary in hand, to find and serve the Lord in the sick, especially in those "unwanted, unloved, uncared for". Saint Anna Schäffer of Mindelstetten, too, was able to unite in an exemplary way her sufferings to those of Christ: "her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her suffering a missionary service. Strengthened by daily communion, she became an untiring intercessor in prayer and a mirror of God’s love for the many who sought her counsel" (Canonization Homily, 21 October 2012). In the Gospel the Blessed Virgin Mary stands out as one who follows her suffering Son to the supreme sacrifice on Golgotha. She does not lose hope in God’s victory over evil, pain and death, and she knows how to accept in one embrace of faith and love, the Son of God who was born in the stable of Bethlehem and died on the Cross. Her steadfast trust in the power of God was illuminated by Christ’s resurrection, which offers hope to the suffering and renews the certainty of the Lord’s closeness and consolation.

5. Lastly, I would like to offer a word of warm gratitude and encouragement to Catholic health care institutions and to civil society, to Dioceses and Christian communities, to religious congregations engaged in the pastoral care of the sick, to health care workers’ associations and to volunteers. May all realize ever more fully that "the Church today lives a fundamental aspect of her mission in lovingly and generously accepting every human being, especially those who are weak and sick" (Christifideles Laici, 38).

I entrust this Twenty-first World Day of the Sick to the intercession of Our Lady of Graces, venerated at Altötting, that she may always accompany those who suffer in their search for comfort and firm hope. May she assist all who are involved in the apostolate of mercy, so that they may become good Samaritans to their brothers and sisters afflicted by illness and suffering. To all I impart most willingly my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 2 January 2013

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

 

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On the Epiphany
"Mary's Faith becomes the First Fruit and the Model of the Faith of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, January 07, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's Angelus address delivered from the window of the Apostolic Palace to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

I apologize for being late. I ordained 4 new bishops in St. Peter’s Basilica and the rite lasted a little while. But today we celebrate above all the Epiphany of the Lord, his manifestation to the nations, while many Eastern Churches, according to the Julian Calendar, celebrate Christmas. This slight difference, which superimposes the 2 moments, makes us see that the Child, born in a grotto in Bethlehem, is the light of the world, who directs the journey of all peoples. It is a combination, which makes us reflect, also from the point of view of faith: on the one hand, looking upon Jesus we see the faith of Mary, of Joseph and the shepherds; today, the Epiphany, we see the faith of the 3 magi, who came from the East to worship the king of the Jews.

The Virgin Mary, together with her husband, represent the “stump” of Israel, the “remnant” foretold by the prophets, from which the Messiah was to come forth. The magi represent the peoples, and, we can also say, the civilizations of the earth, the cultures, the religions that are, so to say, on their way to God, in search of his kingdom of peace, justice, truth and freedom. There was at first a nucleus, personified above all by Mary, the “daughter of Zion”: a nucleus of Israel, the people who knows and has faith in that God who is revealed to the Patriarchs and along the path of history. This faith reaches its fulfillment in Mary, in the fullness of time; in her, “blessed because she believed,” the Word became flesh, God “appeared” in the world. Mary’s faith becomes the first fruit and the model of the faith of the Church, the People of the New Covenant. But this people is from the beginning universal, and this we see today in the figures of the magi, who arrive in Bethlehem following the light of a star and the instructions of the Sacred Scriptures.

St. Leo the Great says: “There was once promised to Abraham countless descendants who would be begotten not by the flesh but by the fecundity of faith” (Sermon 3 for Epiphany, 1: PL 54, 240). Mary’s faith can be joined with Abraham’s: it is the new beginning of the same promise, of the same unchanging plan of God that now finds its completion in Christ Jesus. And Christ’s light is so limpid and powerful that it makes the language of the cosmos and that of the Scriptures intelligible so that all those who, like the magi, are open to the truth can recognize it and arrive at the contemplation of the Savior of the world. St. Leo continues: “Let the great mass of the nations ... all peoples ... enter in, indeed, let them enter into the family of the patriarchs, let them adore the Creator of the universe, and may God be known not only in Judea but in all the earth” (ibid.). We can also consider the episcopal ordinations that I had the joy to confer this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica from this perspective: 2 bishops will remain in the service of the Holy See and the other 2 will depart to be pontifical representatives in 2 other countries. Let us pray for each of them, for their ministry, and that the light of Christ shine upon the whole world.

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

Dear brothers and sisters!

As I already indicated, tomorrow the Eastern Churches who follow the Julian Calendar will celebrate the Birth of the Lord: in the joy of our common faith I address to them my most heartfelt wish of peace with a special remembrance in prayer.

Today in Italy is the Day of Holy Childhood, dedicated to the children who engage in the spread of the Gospel and concretely help their peers who are most in need. Dear children, I thank you and I encourage you: bring the love of God to everyone!

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present today, including the boys of the Palestrina Choir of Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, who sang this morning at the solemn Mass of the Epiphany. At that ceremony I had the joy of conferring episcopal ordination upon four priests, including Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu of Nigeria. May the new Bishops be faithful successors of the Apostles, always bearing witness to Christ, who today reveals the face of God to the nations. May the Lord bless all of you and grant you his peace!

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish everyone a happy feast day and a good year. Thank you. Happy feast day and have a good year!

 

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Pope's Homily at Mass for Solemnity of the Epiphany
"Faith's inner pilgrimage towards God occurs above all in prayer"

VATICAN CITY, January 07, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's homily for the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

For the Church which believes and prays, the Wise Men from the East who, guided by the star, made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession which winds throughout history. Thus the liturgy reads the Gospel which relates the journey of the Wise Men, together with the magnificent prophetic visions of the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and Psalm 71, which depict in bold imagery the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem. Like the shepherds, who as the first visitors to the newborn Child in the manger, embodied the poor of Israel and more generally those humble souls who live in deep interior closeness to Jesus, so the men from the East embody the world of the peoples, the Church of the Gentiles – the men and women who in every age set out on the way which leads to the Child of Bethlehem, to offer him homage as the Son of God and to bow down before him. The Church calls this feast "Epiphany" – the appearance of the Godhead. If we consider the fact that from the very beginning men and women of every place, of every continent, of all the different cultures, mentalities and lifestyles, have been on the way to Christ, then we can truly say that this pilgrimage and this encounter with God in the form of a Child is an epiphany of God’s goodness and loving kindness for humanity (cf. Tit 3:4).

Following a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord also as the day when episcopal ordination will be conferred on four priests who will now cooperate in different ways in the ministry of the Pope for the unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ in the multiplicity of the Particular Churches. The connection between this episcopal ordination and the theme of the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jesus Christ is evident. It is the task of the Bishop in this pilgrimage not merely to walk beside the others, but to go before them, showing the way. But in this liturgy I would like to reflect with you on a more concrete question. Based on the account of Matthew, we can gain a certain idea of what sort of men these were, who followed the sign of the star and set off to find that King who would establish not only for Israel but for all mankind a new kind of kingship. What kind of men were they? And we can also ask whether, despite the difference of times and tasks, we can glimpse in them something of what a Bishop is and how he is to carry out his task.

These men who set out towards the unknown were, in any event, men with a restless heart. Men driven by a restless quest for God and the salvation of the world. They were filled with expectation, not satisfied with their secure income and their respectable place in society. They were looking for something greater. They were no doubt learned men, quite knowledgeable about the heavens and probably possessed of a fine philosophical formation. But they desired more than simply knowledge about things. They wanted above all else to know what is essential. They wanted to know how we succeed in being human. And therefore they wanted to know if God exists, and where and how he exists. Whether he is concerned about us and how we can encounter him. Nor did they want just to know. They wanted to understand the truth about ourselves and about God and the world. Their outward pilgrimage was an expression of their inward journey, the inner pilgrimage of their hearts. They were men who sought God and were ultimately on the way towards him. They were seekers after God.

Here we come to the question: What sort of man must he be, upon whom hands are laid in episcopal ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ? We can say that he must above all be a man concerned for God, for only then will he also be truly concerned about men. Inversely, we could also say that a Bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God has also become for him concern for God’s creature who is man. Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. "Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain", the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else, the Bishop must be a man of faith. For faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love. On this pilgrimage the Bishop must go ahead, he must be the guide pointing out to men and women the way to faith, hope and love.

Faith’s inner pilgrimage towards God occurs above all in prayer. Saint Augustine once said that prayer is ultimately nothing more than the realization and radicalization of our yearning for God. Instead of "yearning", we could also translate the word as "restlessness" and say that prayer would detach us from our false security, from our being enclosed within material and visible realities, and would give us a restlessness for God and thus an openness to and concern for one another. The Bishop, as a pilgrim of God, must be above all a man of prayer. He must be in constant inner contact with God; his soul must be open wide to God. He must bring before God his own needs and the needs of others, as well as his joys and the joys of others, and thus in his own way establish contact between God and the world in communion with Christ, so that Christ’s light can shine in the world.

Let us return to the Wise Men from the East. These were also, and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth – towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.

How can we not think, in this context, of the task of a Bishop in our own time? The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs. Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. "Those who fear the Lord will not be timid", says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.

Here I am reminded of an episode at the very beginning of Christianity which Saint Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles. After the speech of Gamaliel, who advised against violence in dealing with the earliest community of believers in Jesus, the Sanhedrin summoned the Apostles and had them flogged. It then forbade them from preaching in the name of Jesus and set them free. Saint Luke continues: "As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus. And every day… they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah" (Acts 5:40ff.). The successors of the Apostles must also expect to be repeatedly beaten, by contemporary methods, if they continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that can be heard and understood. Then they can rejoice that they have been considered worthy of suffering for him. Like the Apostles, we naturally want to convince people and in this sense to obtain their approval. Naturally, we are not provocative; on the contrary we invite all to enter into the joy of that truth which shows us the way. The approval of the prevailing wisdom, however, is not the criterion to which we submit. Our criterion is the Lord himself. If we defend his cause, we will constantly gain others to the way of the Gospel. But, inevitably, we will also be beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ.

The Wise Men followed the star, and thus came to Jesus, to the great Light which enlightens everyone coming into this world (cf. Jn 1:9). As pilgrims of faith, the Wise Men themselves became stars shining in the firmament of history and they show us the way. The saints are God’s true constellations, which light up the nights of this world, serving as our guides. Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, told his faithful that they must shine like stars in the world (cf. 2:15).

Dear friends, this holds true for us too. It holds true above all for you who are now to be ordained Bishops of the Church of Jesus Christ. If you live with Christ, bound to him anew in this sacrament, then you too will become wise men. Then you will become stars which go before men and women, pointing out to them the right path in life. All of us here are now praying for you, that the Lord may fill you with the light of faith and love. That that restlessness of God for man may seize you, so that all may experience his closeness and receive the gift of his joy. We are praying for you, that the Lord may always grant you the courage and humility of faith. We ask Mary, who showed to the Wise Men the new King of the world (cf. Mt 2:11), as a loving mother, to show Jesus Christ also to you and to help you to be guides along the way which leads to him. Amen.

[00020-02.02] [Original text: Italian]

 

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Pope Benedict XVI's Address to the Diplomatic Corp
"Building peace through dialogue is no longer a choice but a necessity!"

VATICAN CITY, January 07, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's address during an audience with the Holy See's Diplomatic Corp which takes annually at the beginning of the new year.

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Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As at the beginning of each New Year, I am happy to receive you, the distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, and to offer you my greetings and personal good wishes, which I extend to all the beloved nations which you represent, together with the assurance of my constant thoughts and prayers. I am especially grateful to your Dean, Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza, and to your Vice-Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words which they addressed to me in the name of all. In a special way I wish to greet those who take part in this meeting for the first time. Your presence is a significant and valued sign of the fruitful relations which the Catholic Church entertains with civil authorities the world over. It involves a dialogue which has at heart the integral spiritual and material good of each man and woman, and seeks to advance their transcendent dignity everywhere. As I stated in my Address on the occasion of the last Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals: "the Church, from its origins, is orientedkat’holon, it embraces the whole universe", and with it each people, each culture and each tradition. This "orientation" does not represent an intrusion in the life of the different societies, but serves rather to illumine the right conscience of their citizens, encouraging them to work for the good of each person and for the progress of the human race. It is in this context, and with the aim of fostering fruitful cooperation between Church and State in the service of the common good, that in the past year bilateral Accords were signed between the Holy See and Burundi, and with Equatorial Guinea, and the Accord with Montenegro was ratified. In this same spirit, the Holy See takes part in the work of various International Organizations and Institutions. In this regard, I am pleased that this past December its request to become an Extra-regional Observer in the Central American Integration System was accepted, not least by reason of the contribution which the Catholic Church offers in several sectors of the societies of that region. The visits of the various Heads of State and of Government whom I received in the course of the past year, as well as the memorable Apostolic Journeys which I made to Mexico, Cuba and Lebanon, were privileged occasions for reaffirming the civil commitment of Christians in those countries, and for promoting the dignity of the human person and the foundations of peace.

Here I am also pleased to mention the valued work accomplished by the Papal Representatives in constant dialogue with your Governments. I would like in particular to recall the esteem enjoyed by Archbishop Ambrose Madtha, Apostolic Nuncio in Côte d’Ivoire, who died tragically a month ago in an automobile accident, together with the chauffeur who was accompanying him.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Gospel of Luke recounts that on Christmas night the shepherds heard choirs of angels who gave glory to God and invoked peace on mankind. The Evangelist thus emphasizes the close relationship between God and the ardent desire of the men and women of every age to know the truth, to practise justice and to live in peace (cf. Blessed John XXIII, Pacem in Terris: AAS 55 [1963], 257). These days, we are sometimes led to think that truth, justice and peace are utopian ideals, and mutually exclusive. To know the truth seems impossible, and efforts to affirm it appear often to lead to violence. On the other hand, according to a now widespread way of thinking, peacemaking consists solely in the pursuit of compromises capable of ensuring peaceful coexistence between different peoples or between citizens within a single nation. Yet from the Christian point of view, the glorification of God and human peace on earth are closely linked, with the result that peace is not simply the fruit of human effort, but a participation in the very love of God. It is precisely man’s forgetfulness of God, and his failure to give him glory, which gives rise to violence. Indeed, once we no longer make reference to an objective and transcendent truth, how is it possible to achieve an authentic dialogue? In this case, is it not inevitable that violence, open or veiled, becomes the ultimate rule in human relationships? Indeed, without openness to the transcendent, human beings easily become prey to relativism and find it difficult to act justly and to work for peace.

The consequences of forgetfulness of God cannot be separated from those resulting from ignorance of his true countenance, the root of a baneful religious fanaticism which, again in 2012, reaped victims in some countries represented here. As I have often observed, this is a falsification of religion itself, since religion aims instead at reconciling men and women with God, at illuminating and purifying consciences, and at making it clear that each human being is the image of the Creator.

Consequently, if the glorification of God and earthly peace are closely linked, it seems evident that peace is both God’s gift and a human task, one which demands our free and conscious response. For this reason, I wished my annual Message for the World Day of Peace to bear the title: Blessed are the Peacemakers. Civil and political authorities before all others have a grave responsibility to work for peace. They are the first called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family, beginning with that privileged region in God’s plan, the Middle East. I think first and foremost of Syria, torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population. I renew my appeal for a ceasefire and the inauguration as quickly as possible of a constructive dialogue aimed at putting an end to a conflict which will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins. Your Excellencies, allow me to ask you to continue to make your Governments aware of this, so that essential aid will urgently be made available to face this grave humanitarian situation. I now turn with deep concern towards the Holy Land. Following Palestine’s recognition as a Non-Member Observer State of the United Nations, I again express the hope that, with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians will commit themselves to peaceful coexistence within the framework of two sovereign states, where respect for justice and the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples will be preserved and guaranteed. Jerusalem, become what your name signifies! A city of peace and not of division; a prophecy of the Kingdom of God and not a byword for instability and opposition!

As I turn my thoughts towards the beloved Iraqi people, I express my hope that they will pursue the path of reconciliation in order to arrive at the stability for which they long.

In Lebanon, where last September I met the various groups which make up society, may the many religious traditions there be cultivated by all as a true treasure for the country and for the whole region, and may Christians offer an effective witness for the building of a future of peace, together with all men and women of good will!

In North Africa too, cooperation between all the members of society is of primary concern, and each must be guaranteed full citizenship, the liberty publicly to profess their religion and the ability to contribute to the common good. I assure all Egyptians of my closeness and my prayers at this time when new institutions are being set in place.

Turning to sub-Saharan Africa, I encourage the efforts being made to build peace, especially in those places where the wounds of war remain open and where their grave humanitarian consequences are being felt. I think particularly of the Horn of Africa, and the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where new of acts of violence have erupted, forcing many people to abandon their homes, families and surroundings. Nor can I fail to mention other threats looming on the horizon. Nigeria is regularly the scene of terrorist attacks which reap victims above all among the Christian faithful gathered in prayer, as if hatred intended to turn temples of prayer and peace into places of fear and division. I was deeply saddened to learn that, even in the days when we celebrated Christmas, some Christians were barbarously put to death. Mali is also torn by violence and marked by a profound institutional and social crisis, one which calls for the effective attention of the international community. In the Central African Republic, I hope that the talks announced as taking place shortly will restore stability and spare the people from reliving the throes of civil war.

The building of peace always comes about by the protection of human beings and their fundamental rights. This task, even if carried out in many ways and with varying degrees of intensity, challenges all countries and must constantly be inspired by the transcendent dignity of the human person and the principles inscribed in human nature. Foremost among these is respect for human life at every stage. In this regard, I was gratified that a resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in January of last year, called for the prohibition of euthanasia, understood as the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being

. At the same time, I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion. Direct abortion, that is to say willed as an end or as a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law. In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved. Rather, it is a question of being vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both. In this area, the recent decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding in vitro fertilization, which arbitrarily redefines the moment of conception and weakens the defence of unborn life, is also a source of concern.

Sadly, especially in the West, one frequently encounters ambiguities about the meaning of human rights and their corresponding duties. Rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential, no longer open to encounter with God and with others, and absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs. To be authentic, the defence of rights must instead consider human beings integrally, in their personal and communitarian dimensions.

Pursuing our reflection, it is worth emphasizing that education is another privileged path to peacemaking. The current economic and financial crisis, among other things, has also made this clear. The crisis developed because profit was all too often made absolute, to the detriment of labour, and because of unrestrained ventures in the financial areas of the economy, rather than attending to the real economy. There is a need, then, to rediscover the meaning of work and proportionate profit. To that end, it would be well to teach people how to resist the temptations of particular and short-term interests, and to look instead to the common good. Furthermore, it is urgent to train leaders who will one day guide national and international public institutions (cf. Message for the 2013 World Day of Peace, 6). The European Union also requires farsighted representatives capable of making the difficult choices necessary to rectify its economy and to lay solid foundations for growth. Alone, certain countries may perhaps advance more quickly, but together, all will certainly go further! If the differential index between financial taxes represents a source of concern, the increasing differences between those few who grow ever richer and the many who grow hopelessly poorer, should be a cause for dismay. In a word, it is a question of refusing to be resigned to a "spread" in social well-being, while at the same time fighting one in the financial sector.

Investment in education in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America means helping them to overcome poverty and disease, and to create legal systems which are equitable and respectful of human dignity. Certainly, if justice is to be achieved, good economic models, however necessary, are not sufficient. Justice is achieved only when people are just! Consequently, building peace means training individuals to fight corruption, criminal activity, the production and trade in narcotics, as well as abstaining from divisions and tensions which threaten to exhaust society, hindering development and peaceful coexistence.

Continuing our meeting today, I would like to add that peace in society is also put at risk by certain threats to religious liberty: it is a question sometimes of the marginalization of religion in social life; sometimes of intolerance or even of violence towards individuals, symbols of religious identity and religious institutions. It even happens that believers, and Christians in particular, are prevented from contributing to the common good by their educational and charitable institutions. In order effectively to safeguard the exercise of religious liberty it is essential to respect the right of conscientious objection. This "frontier" of liberty touches upon principles of great importance of an ethical and religious character, rooted in the very dignity of the human person. They are, as it were, the "bearing walls" of any society that wishes to be truly free and democratic. Thus, outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity.

Moreover, in an ever more open world, building peace through dialogue is no longer a choice but a necessity! From this perspective, the joint declaration between the President of the Bishops’ Conference of Poland and the Patriarch of Moscow, signed last August, is a strong signal given by believers for the improvement of relations between the Russian and Polish peoples. I would also like to mention the peace accord concluded recently in the Philippines and I would like to underline the role of dialogue between religions for a peaceful coexistence in the region of Mindanao.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of the Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, whose fiftieth anniversary will be celebrated this year, my predecessor Blessed John XXIII remarked that peace remains "an empty word" if it is not nourished and completed by charity (AAS 55 [1963], 303). Indeed, it is at the heart of the diplomatic activity of the Holy See and, above all, of the concern of the Successor of Peter and of the whole Catholic Church. Charity cannot take the place of justice that has been denied; nor can justice, on the other hand, replace charity that has been refused. The Church daily practises charity in works of social assistance such as hospitals and clinics, her educational institutions such as orphanages, schools, colleges and universities, and through help given to peoples in distress, especially during and after conflicts. In the name of charity, the Church wishes also to be near all those who suffer due to natural disasters. I am thinking of the flood victims in Southeast Asia and of those of the hurricane which struck the East coast of the United States. I am also thinking of those who experienced the earthquake that devastated some regions of Northern Italy. As you know, I wanted to go there personally and see for myself the earnest desire to rebuild what had been destroyed. In this moment of its history, I hope that such a spirit of tenacity and shared commitment will move the entire beloved Italian nation.

To conclude our encounter, I would like to recall that, at the end of the Second Vatican Council – which started fifty years ago - the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, sent out messages which remain relevant, including one addressed to world leaders. He encouraged them in this way: "Your task is to be in the world the promoters of order and peace among men. But never forget this: It is God […] who is the great artisan of order and peace on earth" (Message to Leaders, 8 December 1965, 3). Today, as I make those sentiments my own, I convey to you, the Ambassadors and other distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, as well as to your families and colleagues, my very best wishes for the New Year. Thank you!

[Original text: French]

 

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Pope's Message to Catholic Church in Cambodia
"Be assured of the prayers of your brothers and sisters whose blood flowed in the rice field"

VATICAN CITY, January 07, 2013  - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's message sent via video to the Catholic Church in Cambodia on the occasion of the National Congress on the Second Vatican Council which concluded today in Phnom-Penh.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Cambodia

It is with great pleasure that I join you in prayer these days and through the heart, send you warm greetings while you gather around your pastors to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the twentieth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I hope that the Cambodian language translation of the conciliar documents and the Catechism that you will receive on this occasion will allow you to better understand the teaching of the Church and grow in faith.

In this Year of Faith, I invite you to keep your eyes fixed on the person of Jesus Christ who is the origin and end of our faith (cf. Heb 12: 2) and to reiterate the Good News to the world today. In Him, the examples of faith that have marked our history, find their full light. Also, remembering the period of troubles that precipitated your country in the darkness, I would like to emphasize the faith, courage and perseverance of your pastors and of your Christian brothers and sisters, those so many who have died, is a noble testimony to the truth of the Gospel. And this testimony has become a priceless spiritual strength to rebuild the church community in your country. Today, many catechumens and adult baptisms show your dynamism and is a happy sign of the active presence of God in you.

Dear brothers and sisters, after the Apostle Paul, I urge you to "keep the unity of the Spirit by the bond of peace" (Eph 4, 3). Be assured of the prayers of your brothers and sisters whose blood flowed in the rice field! Be a leaven in the dough of your society, witnessing to the love of Christ for all, building bonds of brotherhood with members of other religious traditions, and walking on the paths of justice and mercy.

Dear young people, my friends who have been baptized in these recent years, do not forget that the Church is your family; she is counting on you to witness the life and the love that you have found in Jesus. I pray for you and I invite you to be generous disciples of Christ.

Cambodian seminarians, priests and religious, you are a sign of the seeds of the Church that is building up herself. You have offered your life and your prayers are a source of hope. May they be also an invitation to other young people to give their lives as priests and religious in the heart of God.

Missionaries, religious, consecrated laity from five continents, be the beautiful sign of ecclesial communion around your pastors so that your brotherhood in the diversity of your charismas may lead many people you serve and love with zeal to meet Jesus Christ.

And all of you, who seek God, persevere and be sure that Christ loves you and offers you His peace!

Beloved brothers and sisters, pastors and faithful of Cambodia, the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Mekong, in her humility and fidelity to the will of the Lord, enlighten you throughout this Year of Faith. Be sure that I keep you in my prayers and in the bottom of my heart I convey you all an affectionate Apostolic Blessing!

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

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On the Identity of Jesus  (Year of faith)
"The Incarnation is the Beginning of the New Creation"

VATICAN CITY, January 02, 2013  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's weekly General Audience address

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Nativity of the Lord once again illuminates the darkness that often surrounds our world and our hearts with his light, bringing hope and joy. Where does this light come from? From the stable in Bethlehem, where the shepherds found "Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger" (Lk 2:16). Before this Holy Family, another and deeper question arises: how can the small and weak child have brought such radical novelty to the world to change the course of history? Is there not something mysterious in its origin that goes beyond that stable?

Again and again the question of the origin of Jesus emerges, the same one posed by the prosecutor Pontius Pilate during the trial: "Where are you from?" (Jn 19:29). Yet the origin is very clear. In the Gospel of John, when the Lord says: "I am the bread which came down from heaven," the Jews react muttering, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" (Jn 6.42). And, a little later, the citizens of Jerusalem are deeply opposed to Jesus’ claim Messiahship, stating “But we know where he is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from." (Jn 7 , 27). Jesus himself points out how inadequate their claim to know his origin, and with this already offers an indication to know where he comes from: "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true"(Jn 7:28). Of course, Jesus was from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, but what is known about his true origin?

In the four Gospels answer to the question "where" Jesus is from clearly emerges, his true origin is the Father, He comes entirely from Him, but in a different way from any prophet sent by God who preceded him. This originates in the mystery of God, who "no one knows", it is already contained in the infancy narratives of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which we are reading in this Christmas season. The angel Gabriel announces: "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God"(Lk 1:35). We repeat these words every time we recite the Creed, the profession of faith: "et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto, ex Maria Virgine," "by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary". In this sentence we bow our heads for the veil that hid God is, so to speak, lifted and his unfathomable and inaccessible mystery touches us directly: God becomes Emmanuel, "God with us." When we listen to the Masses composed by the great masters of sacred music, I think of the example of Mozart's Great Mass, we immediately notice how they linger especially on this phrase, as if to try to express in the universal language of music that which words can not: the great mystery of God who becomes incarnate, who becomes man.

If we carefully consider the expression "through the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary," we find that it includes four subjects that interact. The Holy Spirit and Mary are explicitly mentioned, but it is understood "He," that is, the Son, became flesh in the womb of the Virgin. In the profession of faith, the Creed, Jesus is referred to by different names: "Lord, ... Christ, the only Son of God ... God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God ... consubstantial with the Father" (Nicene- Constantinople Creed). We see then that "He" refers to another person, the Father. The first subject of this sentence is, therefore, the Father who with the Son and the Holy Spirit, is the one God.
This affirmation in the Creed is not about the eternal being of God, but rather speaks of an action which takes part in the three divine Persons and that is realised “ex Maria Virgine”. Without her, the entry of God into human history would not have come to its end and that which is central to our profession of faith, would not have taken place: God is a God with us. Thus Mary belongs in an essential way to our faith in the God who acts, who intervenes in history. She offers her whole person, "agrees" to become the dwelling place of God.

Sometimes, even in the journey and life of faith we can feel our poverty, our inadequacy in the face of the witness to offer the world. But God chose a humble woman, in an unknown village, in one of the most distant provinces of the great Roman Empire. Always, even in the midst of the most difficult problems to face, we must trust in God, renewing faith in His presence and action in our history, like in that of Mary. Nothing is impossible with God! With him, our lives always walk on solid ground and are open to a future of firm hope.

Profess in the Creed: "through the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary," we affirm that the Holy Spirit as the power of the Most High God has worked in a mysterious way in the Virgin Mary's conception of the Son of God. The Evangelist Luke records the words of the Archangel Gabriel: "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (1.35). Two references are obvious: first, at the time of creation. At the beginning of the Book of Genesis we read that "the spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (1.2), it is the Creator Spirit who gave life to all things and human beings. What happens in Mary, through the working of the divine Spirit, is a new creation: God, who called being from nothing, with the Incarnation gives life to a new beginning of humanity. The Church Fathers often speak of Christ as the new Adam, to mark the beginning of the new creation of the birth of the Son of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary. This makes us reflect on how the faith brings even to us a novelty so powerful as to make us be born anew. In fact, Baptism is the beginning of Christian life, when we are born again as children of God, to share in the filial relationship that Jesus has with the Father. And I would like to point out that Baptism is received, we "are baptized" – it is passive - because no one is capable of becoming a child on their own: it is a gift that is freely given. St. Paul recalls this adoptive sonship of Christians in a central passage of the Letter to the Romans, he writes: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God"(8:14-16). Only if we open ourselves to God, like Mary, only if we entrust our lives to the Lord as a friend in whom we trust completely, everything changes, our life takes on a new meaning and a new face: that of the children of a Father who loves us and never abandons us.

Finally, I would add a further element in the words of the Annunciation. The angel says to Mary: "The power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow." It 'a reminder of the holy cloud that during the Exodus journey, stopped over the Tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant, which the people of Israel brought with them, and that indicated the presence of God (cf. Ex 40 ,40,34-38). Mary is the new holy tabernacle, the new Ark of the Covenant: with her "yes" to the words of the Archangel, God receives a home in this world, He whom the universe can not contain comes to dwell in the womb of a virgin.

So let us return to the question with which we began, the origin of Jesus, synthesized by Pilate's question: "Where are you?". From these considerations it appears clear from the beginning of the Gospels, what the true origin of Jesus is: He is the Only Begotten of the Father, he comes from God. We are before the great and disconcerting mystery that we celebrate at Christmas time: the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary. This is an announcement that always sounds new and carries hope and joy to our hearts, because each time it gifts us the certainty that, even though we often feel weak, poor, unable to face the challenges and evil of the world, the power of God always works and works wonders in weakness. His grace is our strength (cf. 2 Cor 12:9-10). Thank you.

[Translation by Vatican Radio]

[Addressing the English speaking pilgrims, the Holy Father said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Christmas season, we rejoice in the light which surrounds Christ’s birth, bringing a hope which transforms our life in this world. Each year our celebration leads us to reflect anew on Jesus’ identity as the only-begotten Son of God, who became man for our salvation. Jesus is truly Emmanuel: "God among us", born of the Virgin Mary. When we profess the mystery of the incarnation in the Creed, we bow our heads in awe and adoration. We acknowledge that the incarnation is the work of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, brought about through Mary’s free cooperation. The incarnation is the beginning of the new creation. Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is the new Adam who offers humanity rebirth in the waters of Baptism, by which we become sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. During this holy season, may we welcome the Saviour into our hearts, allow God’s power to strengthen and transform our weakness, and bear joyful witness to the dawning of the new creation.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors present, including pilgrims from Norway, Japan, Vietnam and the United States. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy, peace and prosperity for the year which has just begun. Happy New Year!

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On the New Year
"Our Lady Believed the Message Revealed to Her by the Angels Word"

VATICAN CITY, January 02, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Angelus delivered yesterday on the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Happy New Year to all! On this first day of 2013 I would like extend God's blessing to every man and every woman in the world. I do so with the ancient formula contained in Sacred Scripture: "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord turn his face to you and give you peace "(Num. 6:24-26).

Just as the Sun's light and the warmth are a blessing for the Earth, so the light of God is a blessing for humanity, when He makes his face shine on it. This happened with the birth of Jesus Christ! God has made his face shine on us: at the beginning in a very humble, hidden way - in Bethlehem, only Mary and Joseph and some shepherds were witnesses to this revelation - but little by little, like the sun that rises from dawn until noon, the light of Christ has grown and spread everywhere. Already in the short time of his earthly life, Jesus of Nazareth caused the face of God to shine on the Holy Land; and then, through the Church animated by his Spirit, he extended to all peoples the Gospel of peace. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom he favors" (Lk 2:14). This is the song of the angels at Christmas, and the song of the Christians in every time, a song that from the hearts and lips passes into concrete actions, actions of love that build dialogue, understanding and reconciliation.

For this, eight days after Christmas, when the Church, like the Virgin Mother Mary, show the world the infant Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we celebrate the World Day of Peace. Yes, that Child, who is the Word of God made flesh, came to give men a peace which the world cannot give (cf. Jn 14:27). His mission is to break down the "dividing wall of hostility" (Eph 2:14). And when, on the shores of the Sea of ​​Galilee, He proclaims his "Beatitudes", among them there is also "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Mt 5:9). Who are the peacemakers? They are all those who, day by day, try to overcome evil with good, with the power of truth, with the weapons of prayer and forgiveness, with honest work well done, with scientific research at the service of life, with the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The peacemakers are many, but they do not make noise. Like leaven in the dough, they make humanity grow according to God's plan.

In this first Angelus of the New Year, we ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, to bless us, like a mother blesses her children who depart on a journey. A new year is like a journey: with the light and grace of God, may it be a path to peace for every person and every family, for each country and for the whole world.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the pilgrims]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend to you all the most cordial good wishes for the new year: may it truly be a good year, and it will be if we accept within us and among us, the love that Christ has given us. With gratitude I express my best wishes to the President of the Italian Republic and the entire nation, as well as to other authorities who have sent me greetings.

I renew my affectionate greeting to the young people who came to Rome for the European meeting of the Taizé Community. I express my spiritual closeness to the ecclesial initiatives at the World Day of Peace: I am thinking, in particular, of the national march which took place last night in Lecce, as well as that of this morning here in Rome, animated by the Community of St. Egidio. I greet the members of the Family Love Movement who last night kept vigil in prayer in St. Peter's Square, as well as in Milan and Aquila. To all I repeat the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the peacemakers"!

[I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present today for this prayer. Today, New Year’s Day, we celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. With affectionate trust, Our Lady believed the message revealed to her by the angel’s word and bore Jesus Christ, true God and true man. May her powerful intercession bring you a happy and prosperous New Year!]

Finally, I greet all the Italian-speaking pilgrims: the church groups, the families, the young people, particularly the youth of the Student Youth Movement of Liguria. I wish you all an abundance of peace and happiness for every day of the New Year!

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

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Pope's Homily at Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

VATICAN CITY, January 02, 2013 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's homily yesterday during the Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God held in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"May God bless us and make his face to shine upon us." We proclaimed these words from Psalm 66 after hearing in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing upon the people of the covenant. It is especially significant that at the start of every new year God sheds upon us, his people, the light of his Holy Name, the Name pronounced three times in the solemn form of biblical blessing. Nor is it less significant that to the Word of God – who "became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14) as "the true light that enlightens every man" (1:9) – is given, as today’s Gospel tells us, the Name of Jesus eight days after his birth (cf. Lk 2:21).

It is in this Name that we are gathered here today. I cordially greet all present, beginning with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; I am particularly grateful to them for their effort to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace, which this year has as its theme "Blessed are the Peacemakers".

Although the world is sadly marked by "hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism," as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that "the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5:9)" (Message, 1). This beatitude "tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort … It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation" (ibid., 2, 3). Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.

We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which "she gave birth to her first-born son" (Lk2:7), many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.

The Gospel passage finishes with a mention of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. Through his messenger, God himself had said to Mary – as well as to Joseph – that the Name to be given to the child was "Jesus" (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31); and so it came to be. The Name which God had already chosen, even before the child had been conceived, is now officially conferred upon him at the moment of circumcision. This also changes Mary’s identity once and for all: she becomes "the mother of Jesus", that is the mother of the Saviour, of Christ, of the Lord. Jesus is not a man like any other, but the Word of God, one of the Divine Persons, the Son of God: therefore the Church has given Mary the title Theotokos or Mother of God.

The first reading reminds us that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God, according to the text from the Book of Numbers, which hands down the blessing used by the priests of the People of Israel in their liturgical assemblies. This blessing repeats three times the Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time it is linked to two words indicating an action in favour of man: "The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace" (6:24-26). So peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favour, in which he turns towards us the splendour of his face.

For sacred Scripture, contemplating the face of God is the greatest happiness: "You gladden him with the joy of your face" (Ps 21:7). From the contemplation of the face of God are born joy, security and peace. But what does it mean concretely to contemplate the face of the Lord, as understood in the New Testament? It means knowing him directly, in so far as is possible in this life, through Jesus Christ in whom he is revealed. To rejoice in the splendour of God’s face means penetrating the mystery of his Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of his interior life and of his will, so that we can live according to his plan of love for humanity. In the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians (4:4-7), Saint Paul says as much as he describes the Spirit who, in our inmost hearts, cries: "Abba! Father!" It is the cry that rises from the contemplation of the true face of God, from the revelation of the mystery of his Name. Jesus declares, "I have manifested thy name to men" (Jn 17:6). God’s Son made man has let us know the Father, he has let us know the hidden face of the Father through his visible human face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, he has led us to understand that, in him, we too are children of God, as Saint Paul says in the passage we have just heard: "The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’" (Gal 4:6).

Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – "peace with God" – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome (cf. Rom 5:2). Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because "God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (5:5).

May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen!

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Cardinal Piacenza's Letter to Mothers of Priests and Seminarians

ROME, January 02, 2013 - Here is a translation of the letter sent by Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, to the mothers of priests and seminarians.

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Letter to Mothers of Priests and Seminarians and to all those who Exercise the Gift of Spiritual Maternity in their regard on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Mother of God

Causa nostrae Letitiae – Cause of our Joy!

The Christian People have always venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary with profound gratitude, contemplating in her the Cause of our every true Joy.

Indeed, in welcoming the Eternal Word into her immaculate womb, Mary Most Holy gave birth to the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. In Him, God himself has come to meet man, he has lifted him up from sin and he has given him eternal life; that is, a share in his very own life. By adhering to God’s Will, Mary participated in a unique and unrepeatable way in the mystery of our redemption, thereby becoming the Mother of God, the Gate of Heaven and the Cause of our Joy.

In a similar way, the entire Church looks with admiration and deep gratitude upon all mothers of priests and of those who, having received this lofty vocation, have embarked upon the path of formation. It is therefore with deep joy that I address myself to them.

The sons whom they welcomed and educated, in fact, have been chosen by Christ from all eternity to become his “chosen friends” and living and indispensable instruments of His Presence in the world. Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the lives of priests are definitively taken up by Jesus and immersed in him, such that in them it is Jesus himself who walks and works among men.

So great is this mystery that the priest is even called alter Christus – another Christ. His frail humanity, elevated by the power of the Holy Spirit to a new and higher union with the Person of Jesus, becomes a place of encounter with the Son of God who became incarnate, died and rose for us. For when a priest teaches the faith of the Church, it is Christ who speaks to the People through him. When he prudently guides the faithful entrusted to him, it is Christ who shepherds his sheep. And when he celebrates the Sacraments, in an eminent way the Most Holy Eucharist, it is Christ himself who through his ministers continues the work of man’s salvation and makes himself truly present in the world.

Normally it is in the family, in the parents’ love, and in an early education in the faith that a priestly vocation finds that rich and fertile soil in which availability to the will of God can take root and draw the nourishment it needs. At the same time, every vocation also represents for the family whence it comes an irrevocable change that exceeds all human parameters and calls everyone to conversion.

Every member of a man’s family and all those persons closest to him are involved in this change, which Christ brings about in the life of those whom he has chosen and called. But the participation given to mothers of priests is quite unique and special. For unique and special are the spiritual consolations which they derive from having carried in the womb one who has become Christ’s minister. Indeed, every mother cannot but rejoice in seeing the life of her son not only fulfilled but also clothed with a most exceptional divine favor which embraces and transforms it for all eternity.

If an unexpected “distance”, mysteriously more radical than any other natural separation, seems to be created in relation to the life of one’s son through his vocation and ordination, in reality the Church’s two thousand years of experience teaches us that when a man is ordained a priest, his mother “receives” him an a completely new and unexpected way; so much so that she is called to see in the fruit of her own womb a “father” who by God’s will is called to generate and accompany a multitude of brothers and sisters to eternal life. Every mother of a priest mysteriously becomes a "daughter of her son." Towards him, she may therefore also exercise a new motherhood through the discreet yet extremely efficacious and inestimably precious closeness of prayer, and by offering of her own life for the ministry of her son.

This new “fatherhood” - for which the Seminarian is prepared, which the priest has been given, and which benefits all God’s People - needs to be accompanied by assiduous prayer and personal sacrifice, in order that a priest’s free adherence to the divine will may continually be renewed and strengthened, that he may never tire in the battle of faith, and that he may unite his own life ever more completely to the Sacrifice of Christ the Lord.

This work of true support, which has always been essential to the life of the Church, today seems more urgent that ever, especially in the secularized West, which awaits and stands in need of a new and radical proclamation of Christ. Mothers of priests and seminarians thus represent a true and veritable “army”, which from earth offers prayers and sacrifice to heaven, and from heaven intercedes in even greater number so that every grace and blessing may be poured out upon the lives of the Church’s sacred ministers.

Therefore, with all my heart I wish to encourage and offer special thanks to all mothers of priests and seminarians - and along with them to all consecrated and lay women who have received (perhaps through the invitation addressed to them during the Year of the Priest) the gift of spiritual motherhood towards those who are called to priestly ministry. By offering their lives, their prayers, their sufferings and their hardships as well as their joys for the fidelity and sanctification of God’s ministers, they have come to share in a special way in the motherhood of Holy Church, whose model and fulfillment is found in the divine maternity of Mary Most Holy.

Lastly, we raise a special hymn of thanks to heaven - to those mothers who, having already been called from this life, now contemplate in all its fullness the splendor of Christ’s Priesthood in which their sons have become sharers, and who intercede for them in a unique and mysteriously far more efficacious manner.

With heartfelt wishes for a New Year full of grace, I warmly impart to each and every mother a most affectionate blessing, and I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of Priests, to grant you the gift of an ever more radical identification with her, the perfect disciple and Daughter of her Son.

Mauro Card. Piacenza
Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy

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Benedict XVI's Christmas Eve Homily
"What would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door"

VATICAN CITY, December 24, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at tonight's Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.

I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: "he came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for him. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the "God hypothesis" becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so "full" of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul’s exhortation: "Be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom 12:2). Paul speaks of renewal, the opening up of our intellect (nous), of the whole way we view the world and ourselves. The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world.

There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Saviour: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased." God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.

Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone. Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is "Emmanuel", God with us (Is 7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.

So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf. Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practise violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people "with whom you are pleased" – people according to your image and thus people of peace.

Once the angels departed, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened for us (cf. Lk 2:15). The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf. 2:16). A holy curiosity impelled them to see this child in a manger, who the angel had said was the Saviour, Christ the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings.

Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go "across", daring to step beyond, to make the "transition" by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.

Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great "crossing over" to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.

 

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MIDNIGHT MASS      SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI   Saint Peter's Basilica    Monday, 24 December 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me. 

I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for God. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the “God hypothesis” becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Paul speaks of renewal, the opening up of our intellect (nous), of the whole way we view the world and ourselves. The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world.

There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Saviour: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.

Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone. Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (Is 7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.

So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf. Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practise violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people “with whom you are pleased” – people according to your image and thus people of peace.

Once the angels departed, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened for us (cf. Lk 2:15). The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf. 2:16). A holy curiosity impelled them to see this child in a manger, who the angel had said was the Saviour, Christ the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings.

Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.

Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great “crossing over” to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.

The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.

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URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE    OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI      CHRISTMAS 2012

“Veritas de terra orta est!” – “Truth has sprung out of the earth” (Ps 85:12).

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, a happy Christmas to you and your families!

In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: “Truth has sprung out of the earth”. Actually, in the text of the Psalm, these words are in the future: “Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, /and justice shall look down from heaven. / The Lord himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps” (Ps 85:11-14).

Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth do indeed meet; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth … truth has been born of the Virgin Mary” (En. in Ps. 84:13). And in a Christmas sermon he says that “in this yearly feast we celebrate that day when the prophecy was fulfilled: ‘truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven’. The Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father has sprung out of the earth, to be in the womb of a mother too. The Truth which rules the whole world has sprung out of the earth, to be held in the arms of a woman ... The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe” (Sermones, 185, 1).

“If we believe”. Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born! “The earth has yielded its fruits” (Ps 67:7). Yes, there is a good earth, a healthy earth, an earth freed of all selfishness and all lack of openness. In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that he might come to dwell among us. A dwelling place for his presence in the world. This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.

Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.

May peace spring up in the Land where the Redeemer was born, and may he grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end to long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.

In the countries of North Africa, which are experiencing a major transition in pursuit of a new future – and especially the beloved land of Egypt, blessed by the childhood of Jesus – may citizens work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person.

May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in him. May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.

May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.

May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate him in Latin America. May he increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land, and confirm government leaders in their commitment to development and fighting crime.

Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace. Happy Christmas to all of you!

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On the Feast of St. Stephen
"St. Stephen is a Model for All Those Who Want to Serve the New Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, December 27, 2012  - Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Each year, on the day after Christmas, the liturgy celebrates the feast of St. Stephen, deacon and first martyr. The book of Acts presents him as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 6.8 to 10, 7.55); in him the full promise of Jesus recounted in today's Gospel passage is fulfilled, which is that believers who are called to bear witness in difficult and dangerous circumstances will not be abandoned or left defenseless: the Spirit of God will speak to them (cf. Mt 10:20).

The deacon Stephen, in fact, worked, spoke and died animated by the Holy Spirit, bearing witness to the love of Christ to the point of extreme sacrifice. The first martyr is described, in his suffering, as a perfect imitation of Christ, whose passion is repeated even in the details. The life of Saint Stephen is entirely shaped by God, conformed to Christ, whose passion is repeated in him; in the final moment of death, on his knees, he takes up the prayer of Jesus on the cross, trusting in the Lord (cf. Acts 7.59 ) and forgiving his enemies: " Lord, do not hold this sin against them" (v. 60). Filled with the Holy Spirit, as his eyes are about to close, he fixed his gaze on "Jesus standing at the right hand of God" (v. 55), the Lord of all, who draws all to Him.

On St. Stephen’s Day, we are called to fix our gaze on the Son of God, who in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas we contemplate in the mystery of His Incarnation. In Baptism and Confirmation, with the precious gift of faith nourished by the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has bound us to Him and wants to continue in us, through the action of the Holy Spirit, his work of salvation that redeems, enhances, elevates and leads all to fulfillment. Allowing ourselves be drawn by Christ, like St. Stephen, means opening our lives to the light that calls, directs and makes us walk the path of good, the path of humanity according to God’s loving plan.

Finally, St. Stephen is a model for all those who want to serve the new evangelization. He shows that the novelty of proclamation does not primarily consist in the use of original methods or techniques, which certainly have their uses, but in being filled with the Holy Spirit and allowing ourselves to be guided by Him. The novelty of proclamation lies in immerging ourselves deeply in the mystery of Christ, the assimilation of His Word and of His presence in the Eucharist, so that He Himself, the living Jesus, can act and speak through His envoy. In essence, the evangelizer becomes able to bring Christ to others effectively when he lives of Christ, when the newness of the Gospel manifests itself in his own life. We pray to the Virgin Mary, so that the Church, in this Year of Faith, sees more men and women who, like St. Stephen, know how to give a convinced and courageous witness of the Lord Jesus.

[Translation by Vatican Radio]

After the Recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims present in various languages. In English, the Holy Father said:

I am pleased to welcome all those present for this Angelus prayer. Today, immediately after Christmas Day, by tradition we celebrate the feast of the first martyr, Saint Stephen the Deacon. Like him, may we be blessed by God’s grace to have the courage to speak up and to defend the truth of our faith in public, with charity and constancy. God bless all of you and your loved ones!

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On the Visitation
"Let us Strive Again to Make Room in our Hearts to Welcome the Christ Dhild with Love and Humility"

VATICAN CITY, December 23, 2012  - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's Angelus address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, which precedes the birth of the Lord, the Gospel narrates Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth. This is not merely a polite gesture but, with great simplicity, depicts the meeting between the Old and the New Testament. The 2 women, both pregnant, in fact incarnate expectation and the One expected. The older Elizabeth symbolizes Israel, who awaits the Messiah, while the younger Mary bears the fulfillment of this expectation to the benefit of all humanity. In the 2 women we meet and recognize first of all the fruit of their wombs, John and Christ. The Christian poet Prudentius comments: “The child in the old womb greets, through his mother’s mouth, the Lord, son of the Virgin” (Apotheosis, 590: PL 59, 970). The elation of John in Elizabeth’s womb is the sign of the end of the waiting: God is about to visit his people. At the Annunciation the archangel Gabriel spoke to Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy (cf. Luke 1:36) as a proof of God’s power: sterility, besides the advanced age, was transformed into fertility.

Elizabeth, welcoming Mary, recognizes that God’s promise to humanity is being realized and exclaims: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43). The expression “blessed are you among women” is used in the Old Testament of Jael (Judges 5:24) and Judith (Judith 13:1), 2 women warriors who strive to save Israel. Now however, it is said of Mary, a peaceful young woman who is about to give birth to the Savior of the world. Thus, also John’s leap for joy (cf. Luke 1:44) recalls David’s dance when he accompanied the entrance of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:29). The Ark, which contained the tablets of the Law, the manna and Aaron’s staff (cf. Hebrews 9:4), it was the sign of God’s presence among the people. The soon-to-be-born John exults with joy before Mary,the Ark of the New Covenant, who bears Jesus in her womb, the Son of God made man.

The scene of the Visitation also expresses the beauty of hospitality: where there is mutual welcome, listening, making room for the other, God is present with the joy that comes from him. Let us imitate Mary in the Christmas season, visiting those who are in difficulty, especially the sick, prisoners, the elderly and children. And let us also imitate Elizabeth who welcomes the guest as God himself: unless we desire him we will never know the Lord, unless we expect him, we will never meet him, unless we seek him, we will never find him. With the same joy as Mary, who hastens to Elizabeth (cf. Luke 1:39), we too go out to meet the Lord who comes. Let us pray that all men seek God, that it is God himself who first comes to visit us. Let us entrust our heart to Mary, the Ark of the New and Eternal Covenant, that she might make it worthy to welcome the visit of God in the mystery of Christmas.

[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 visitors and pilgrims present at this Angelus prayer. Today, as we approach the Solemnity of our Lord’s Birth among us, let us strive again to make room in our hearts to welcome the Christ child with love and humility before such a great gift from on high. In anticipation, let me already wish you and your families a holy and peaceful Christmas!

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

Finally, I address a cordial greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I wish everyone a good Sunday and much peace at Christmas. Happy Sunday!

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Pope's Address to Youth of Catholic Action
"It is God Who Can Give Us a True and Solid Peace"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2012 - Here is the translation of the address given by Pope Benedict XVI to the Italian youth of Catholic Action (ACR) yesterday at the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

* * *

Dear Boys and Girls of Catholic Action,

I am happy to meet with you and to receive your greetings for the Lord’s Birth. I greet you with affection, together with your teachers, the president, Professor Franco Miano, and the assistant general, Msgr. Domenico Sigalini.

You told me that you are “in search of an author” and that this is the guiding phrase of your journey this year in ACR. Therefore, I must promptly ask you: Who is this author? Have you found him already? I am certain that, with the formators and other friends of Catholic Action, you will find an ever clearer answer to your search and you will also be able to help many others to find it. However, I would also like to say something to you. First of all, I know that you are seeking the author of life, who helps you to live well, happy with yourselves and with others. But we know who this author is: it is God, who has shown us his face. God who has created us, who has made us in his image, above all who has given us his Son Jesus, who was made a baby -- we will contemplate His son during this Holy Christmas; he grew up as a boy like you, went over the roads of our world to communicate the love of God, which renders life beautiful and happy, full of goodness and generosity.

You certainly also seek the author of your joy. If I were to ask you what gives you joy, perhaps the answer would be: games, sports, friends, and parents who live for you and love you. There are so many who make you happy, but there is a great Friend who is the author of everyone’s joy and with whom our heart is filled with a joy that surpasses all others and which lasts for the whole of life: it is Jesus. Remember, dear friends: the more you learn to know and converse with Him, the more you will feel happy in your heart and be able to overcome the little sadness that one has sometimes in one’s spirit.

Moreover, you are in search of the author of love. Can one live alone, shut-in on oneself? If you reflect a moment, you will see that the answer is a clear “no.” We all have a need to love and to know that someone accepts and loves us. It is necessary to feel loved to live, but it is likewise important to be capable of loving others, to make their life beautiful; everyone’s life, also that of your contemporaries who are in difficult situations. Jesus has made us see, with his life, that God loves everyone without distinctions and wants everyone to live happily. Therefore, I am pleased with this initiative of yours in the month of January to support a project in Egypt of concrete aid to street children.

In conclusion, you surely seek the author of peace, of which the world is in such need. Often men think they can build peace on their own, but it is important to understand that it is God who can give us a true and solid peace. If we are able to listen to Him, if we make room for Him in our life, God dissolves the selfishness that often pollutes relations between persons and between nations and makes desires of reconciliation, of forgiveness and of peace arise, even in one who has a hardened heart.

Dear boys and girls of ACR, I hope you will undertake this search together, among yourselves and with your companions of school and sports. If you help one another to seek the great Author of life, of joy, of love, of peace, you will discover that this Author is never far from you; rather, He is very close: He is the God who became a baby in Jesus!

Dear friends, I wish you and the whole of Catholic Action a Happy Christmas

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"The Birth of Christ Challenges us to Reassess our Priorities, Our Values, Our Very Way of Life"

By Pope Benedict XVI

The following is the full text of the article written by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI which appeared in the Financial Times.

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2012 - "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God," was the response of Jesus when asked about paying taxes. His questioners, of course, were laying a trap for him. They wanted to force him to take sides in the highly charged political debate about Roman rule in the land of Israel. Yet there was more at stake here: if Jesus really was the long-awaited Messiah, then surely he would oppose the Roman overlords. So the question was calculated to expose him either as a threat to the regime, or as a fraud.

Jesus' answer deftly moves the argument to a higher plane, gently cautioning against both the politicization of religion and the deification of temporal power, along with the relentless pursuit of wealth. His audience needed to be reminded that the Messiah was not Caesar, and Caesar was not God. The kingdom that Jesus came to establish was of an altogether higher order. As he told Pontius Pilate: "My kingship is not of this world."

The Christmas stories in the New Testament are intended to convey a similar message. Jesus was born during a "census of the whole world" ordered by Caesar Augustus, the emperor renowned for bringing the Pax Romana to all the lands under Roman rule. Yet this infant, born in an obscure and far-flung corner of the empire, was to offer the world a far greater peace, truly universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time.

Jesus is presented to us as King David’s heir, but the liberation he brought to his people was not about holding hostile armies at bay; it was about conquering sin and death forever.

The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life. While Christmas is undoubtedly a time of great joy, it is also an occasion for deep reflection, even an examination of conscience. At the end of a year that has meant economic hardship for many, what can we learn from the humility, the poverty, the simplicity of the crib scene?

Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the Gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognize that God made man. It is in the Gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs – be it in the Houses of Parliament or the stock exchange. Christians should not shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology.

Christians fight poverty out of a recognition of the supreme dignity of every human being, created in God’s image and destined for eternal life. They work for more equitable sharing of the earth's resources out of a belief that – as stewards of God’s creation – we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable. Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. The belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all.

Because these goals are shared by so many, much fruitful co-operation is possible between Christians and others. Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar. From the emperor cult of ancient Rome to the totalitarian regimes of the past century, Caesar has tried to take the place of God. When Christians refuse to bow down before the false gods proposed today, it is not because of an antiquated worldview. Rather, it is because they are free from the constraints of ideology and inspired by such a noble vision of human destiny that they cannot collude with anything that undermines it.

In Italy, many crib scenes feature the ruins of ancient Roman buildings in the background. This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love.

He brings hope to all those who, like himself, live on the margins of society. He brings hope to all who are vulnerable to the changing fortunes of a precarious world. From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth.

The writer is the Bishop of Rome and author of ‘Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives'

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Decrees of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints
 

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2012 - Here is the list of decrees that Pope Benedict XVI authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate during a private audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the aforementioned Congregation.

Miracles

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Antonio Primaldo and Companions, Martyrs, killed Aug. 13, 1480 in Otranto (Italy);

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Laura of St. Catherine of Siena (nee Maria Laura de Jesus Montoya y Upegui), foundress of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate and St. Catherine of Siena, born in Jericó (Colombia) 26 May 1874 and died in Belencito-Medellín (Colombia) October 21, 1949;

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Maria Guadalupe (nee Anastasia Guadalupe García Zavala), foundress of the Sisters of St. Margaret Mary and the Poor; born in Zapopan (Mexico) April 27, 1878 and died at Guadalajara (Mexico) June 24, 1963;

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Antonio Franco, Prelate Ordinary of Saint Lucia del Mela, born in Naples (Italy) September 26, 1585 and died in Saint Lucia del Mela (Italy) September 2, 1626;

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Giuseppe Gabriele del Rosario Brochero, diocesan priest: born in Santa Rosa de Rio Primero (Argentina) March 16, 1840 and died in Villa Tránsito, Córdoba (Argentina) January 26, 1914 ;

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Cristoforo de Santa Catalina (nee Christopher Fernandez Valladolid), Priest, Founder of the Congregation of Jesus of Nazareth Hospital in Córdoba, was born in Mérida (Spain) July 25, 1638 and died in Córdoba (Spain) July 24, 1690;

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Sofia Czeska Maciejowska-foundress of the Congregation of the Virgins of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born near Krakow (Poland) in 1584 and died in Krakow (Poland) on 1 April 1650;

- A miracle attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Marguerite Lucia Szewczyk, foundress of the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Sorrows said Serafitki; born in Szepetówka (Ukraine) in 1828 and died in Nieszawa (Poland) June 5, 1905;

Martyrdom

- The martyrdom of the Servant of God Miroslav Bulešić, diocesan priest, born in Čabrunići (Croatia) May 13, 1920 and killed in hatred of the faith in Lanišće (Croatia) August 24, 1947;

- The martyrdom of the Servants of God Giuseppe Saverio Gorosterratzu and 5 Companions, of the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1938;

- The martyrdom of the Servants of God Ricardo Gil Barcelón, Priest, and Antonio Arrué Peiró, Postulant, of the Congregation of the Little Work of Divine Providence, killed in hatred of the faith in Valencia (Spain) in 1936;

- The martyrdom of the Servant of God Emmanuel de la Sagrada Familia(born Emmanuel Sanz Domínguez), Monk and Reformer of the Order of St. Jerome, born in Sotodosos (Spain) December 31, 1887 and killed in hatred of the faith in Paracuellos de Jarama (Spain) between 6 and 8 November 1936;

- The martyrdom of the Servant of God Maria de Montserrat (born Giuseppa Pilar García y Solanas) and 8 Companions professed sisters of the Minimum Nuns of San Francesco di Paola, and Lucrezia García y Solanas, Lay, Widow; killed, in hatred of the faith in Bacellona (Spain) July 23, 1936;

- The martyrdom of the Servants of God Melchiorra Adoration Cortés Bueno and 14 Companions of the Society of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, killed in hatred of the faith in Spain between 1936 and 1937;

Heroic Virtues

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini), Supreme Pontiff, born in Concesio (Italy) September 26, 1897 and died at Castel Gandolfo (Italy) August 6, 1978;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Francesco Saverio Petagna, Bishop of Castellammare di Stabia, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, born in Naples (Italy) December 13, 1812 and died in Castellammare di Stabia (Italy) December 18, 1878 ;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Juan Jose Santiago Cortada Bonal, Priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St. Anne, born in Terrades (Spain) August 24, 1769 and died in Zaragoza (Spain) August 19, 1829;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Maria Louis Baudouin, Priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Sons of Mary Immaculate and of the Ursuline Sisters of Jesus of Chavagnes; born in Montaigu (France) August 2, 1765 and died in Chavagnes (France) on 12 February 1835;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Giovannina Franchi, founder of the Hospital Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother of Como, born in Como (Italy) June 24, 1807, and died February 23, 1872;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Marcellina de San Jose (nee Louise Aveledo), foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor of St. Peter Claver, born in Caracas (Venezuela) June 18, 1874 and died in Barranquilla (Colombia) November 16, 1959;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Claudia Russo, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor Daughters of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was born in Naples (Italy) November 18, 1889 and died on 11 March 1964;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Maria Francesca delle Piaghe (born Rosa Elena Cornejo), foundress of the Congregation of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate, was born in Quito (Ecuador) to December 11, 1874 and died October 24, 1964 ;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Chiara Ludovica Szczęsna, foundress of the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Most Holy Sacred Heart of Jesus; born in Cieszki (Poland) and died 18 July 1863 in Krakow (Poland) February 7, 1916;

- The heroic virtues of the Servant of God Consolata (nee Maria Joaquina Mercedes Barceló y Pagés), co-foundress of the Congregation of the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation, born in Sarriá (Spain) July 24, 1857 and died in Manila (Philippines) August 4, 1940.

 

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On the Faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ
"Marys Faith [] Combines Complete Trust in the Lords Promises with a Certain 'Unknowing'"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2012 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the journey of Advent, the Virgin Mary has a special place as the one who in a unique way waited for the fulfillment of the promises of God, accepting Jesus in faith and in the flesh, the Son of God, in full obedience to the divine will. Today I would like to reflect with you briefly on Mary's faith, beginning from the great mystery of the Annunciation.

"Chaire kecharitomene, ho Kyrios meta sou", "Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28). These are the words - recounted by the Evangelist Luke - with which the Archangel Gabriel greets Mary. At first glance, the term chaîre, "rejoice", looks like a normal greeting, common in the Greek world, but this word, when read against the background of the biblical tradition, takes on a much deeper meaning. This same term is present four times in the Greek version of the Old Testament, and always as a proclamation of joy at the coming of the Messiah (cf. Zeph 3:14; Joel 2:21; Zech 9:9; Lam 4:21). The angel's greeting to Mary is thus an invitation to joy, a deep joy, it announces the end of the sadness that there is in the world in front of the limits of life, suffering, death, wickedness, the darkness of evil that seems to obscure the light of the divine goodness. It is a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel, the Good News.

But why is Mary invited to rejoice in this way? The answer lies in the second part of the greeting: "The Lord is with you." Here, too, in order to understand the meaning of the expression we must turn to the Old Testament. In the Book of Zephaniah, we find this expression "Rejoice, O daughter of Zion, ... the King of Israel, the Lord is in your midst ... The Lord, your God, in your midst is a mighty savior" (3:14-17). In these words there is a double promise made to Israel, to the daughter of Zion: God will come as a savior and will dwell in the midst of his people, in the womb - as they say - of the daughter of Zion. In the dialogue between the angel and Mary, this promise is fulfilled to the letter: Mary is identified with the people espoused to God, she is truly the daughter of Zion in person; in her is fulfilled the expectancy for the final coming of God, in her the Living God makes his dwelling.

In the angel's greeting, Mary is called "full of grace"; in Greek the word "grace," charis, has the same linguistic root as the word "joy." In this expression, it also clarifies further the source of Mary's delight: the joy comes from grace, it comes, that is, from communion with God, from having a so vital a connection with Him, from being the dwelling of the Holy Spirit, totally shaped by the action of God. Mary is the creature who in a unique way has opened the door to her Creator, she has placed herself in his hands, without reserve. She lives entirely from and in the relationship with the Lord; she is in an attitude of listening, attentive to recognize the signs of God in the journey of her people; she is inserted into a history of faith and of hope in the promises of God, which constitutes the fabric of her existence. And she submits freely to the word received, to the divine will in the obedience of faith.

The Evangelist Luke narrates the story of Mary through a fine parallel with the story of Abraham. As the great patriarch is the father of believers, who responded to God's call to leave the land in which he lived, his safety, to begin the journey to a land unknown and possessed only in the divine promise, so Mary relies with full trust in the word that the messenger of God announces and becomes a model and mother of all believers.

I would like to emphasize another important point: the opening of the soul to God and to his action in faith also includes the element of darkness. The relationship between human beings and God does not erase the distance between Creator and creature, it does not eliminate what the Apostle Paul said before the depth of the wisdom of God, "How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Rom 11:33). But the one who - like Mary - is totally open to God, comes to accept the will of God, even if it is mysterious, even if it often does not correspond to our own will and is a sword that pierces the soul, as the old man Simeon will say prophetically to Mary, when Jesus is presented in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:35). Abraham's journey of faith includes the moment of joy for the gift of his son Isaac, but also the time of darkness, when he has to go up to Mount Moriah to carry out a paradoxical act: God asks him to sacrifice the son he had just given him. On the mountain, the angel tells him: "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me"(Gen 22:12); Abraham's full trust in the God who is faithful to his promises exists even when his word is mysterious and difficult, almost impossible to accept. So it is with Mary, her faith lives the joy of the Annunciation, but also passes through the darkness of the crucifixion of the Son, to reach the light of the Resurrection.

It is no different for the journey of faith of each one of us: it encounters moments of light, but also meets with moments where God seems absent, his silence weighs on our hearts and his will does not correspond to our own, to what we would like. But the more we open ourselves to God, welcome the gift of faith, put our trust in Him completely - like Abraham and like Mary - the more He makes us able, us with his presence, to live every situation of life in peace and in the assurance of his faithfulness and of his love. But this means going out of oneself and one's projects, because the Word of God is a lamp to guide our thoughts and our actions.

I would like to pause once more to dwell on one aspect that emerges in the infancy narratives of Jesus narrated by St. Luke. Mary and Joseph bring their son to Jerusalem, to the Temple to present him to the Lord and consecrate him as required by the law of Moses, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord" (Lk 2:22-24). This gesture of the Holy Family acquires a more profound sense if you read it in the light of the evangelical knowledge of Jesus when he is twelve, who, after three days of searching, is found in the Temple discussing scripture with the teachers. To the words full of Mary and Joseph's concern: "Son, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety", corresponds the mystery of Jesus' answer: "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?"(Lk 2:48-49). That is, in the property of the Father, in the Father's house, like a son is.Mary must renew the deep faith with which she said "yes" at the Annunciation; she must accept that precedence that the true Father of Jesus has; she must leave that Son whom she generated free to follows his mission. And Mary's "yes" to the will of God, in the obedience of faith, is repeated throughout her life, until the most difficult moment, that of the Cross.

Faced with all this, we can ask ourselves: how was Mary able to live this path beside her Son with such a strong faith, even in the moments of darkness, without losing full trust in the action of God? There is an underlying attitude that Mary assumes in the face of what happens in her life. At the Annunciation she is disturbed by hearing the angel's words - it is the fear a person feels when touched by the closeness of God - but it is not the attitude of those who are afraid in front of what God may ask. Mary reflects, she ponders the meaning of this greeting (cf. Lk 1:29). The Greek word used in the Gospel to define this "reflection", "dielogizeto", evokes the root of the word "dialogue." This means that Mary comes into intimate dialogue with the Word of God that has been announced, she does not consider it superficially, but pauses, she lets it her penetrate her mind and her heart to understand what the Lord wants from her, the announcement's meaning. We find another hint of Mary's interior attitude in front of the action of God, again in the Gospel of St. Luke, at the time of the birth of Jesus, after the adoration of the shepherds. Luke affirms that Mary "treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2:19), in Greek the term is symballon, we could say that She "held together", "put together" in her heart all the events that were happening; she placed each single element, every word, every fact within the whole and compared it, guarded it, recognizing that everything comes from the will of God. Mary does not stop at a first superficial understanding of what happens in her life, but is able to look deeper, she allows herself to be questioned by the events, processes them, discerns them, and gains that understanding that only faith can provide. It is the profound humility of the obedient faith of Mary, who welcomes into herself even what she does not understand of the action of God, leaving it to God to open her mind and heart. "Blessed is she who believed in the word of the Lord"(Lk 1:45), exclaims her relative Elizabeth. It is precisely because of this faith that all generations will call her blessed.

Dear friends; the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord which we will soon celebrate, invites us to live this same humility and obedience of faith. The glory of God is not manifested in the triumph and power of a king, it does not shine in a famous city, in a sumptuous palace, but dwells in the womb of a virgin, it reveals itself in the poverty of a child. The omnipotence of God, also in our lives, acts with the force, often silent, of the truth and of love. Faith tells us, then, that the defenseless power of that Child in the end overcomes the noise of the powers of the world. Thank you!

 

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, As part of our catechesis for this Year of Faith, it is fitting, during these last days of Advent, to consider the faith of Mary, the Virgin Mother of Christ. At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel greets Mary with an invitation to rejoice because the Lord is with her.


This joy is that of the messianic hope of God’s people, the daughter of Zion, now being fulfilled in her. It is also the fruit of the grace which fills Mary’s heart and shapes her obedience to God’s word. Mary’s faith, like that of Abraham, combines complete trust in the Lord’s promises with a certain "unknowing".

In her life Mary knew, as we do, that God’s will can seem at times obscure and far from our expectations; it involves embracing the mystery of the Cross. It is significant that at the Annunciation Mary ponders in her heart the meaning of the Angel’s message. Her example reminds us that faith while fully obedient to the Lord’s will, also must seek daily to discern, understand and accept that will. In this holy season, may Our Lady’s prayers help us to grow in a humble, trusting faith which will open the door to God’s grace in our hearts and in our world.

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Pope's Sunday Homily at San Patrizio Parish in Rome
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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2012 - Here is the translation of Pope Benedict XVI's homily today during Mass at San Patrizio (Saint Patrick) in Rome during his pastoral visit to the parish.

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Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of St. Patrick!

I am very happy to be with you and to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with you and for you. I would like, first of all, to offer you some thoughts about the Word of God, which we have heard. On this third Sunday of Advent, called “Gaudete Sunday,” the liturgy invites us to be joyful. Advent is a time of personal effort and conversion to prepare for Lord’s coming, but today the Church gives us a foretaste of the joy of Christmas, which is near. In fact, Advent is also a time of joy, because during this season expectation of the Lord is reawakened in the hearts of believers, and awaiting the arrival of a person we love is always a reason for joy. This dimension of joy is also present in the first biblical readings this Sunday. The Gospel, however, corresponds to the other dimension of Advent: conversion in view of the Lord’s appearance announced by John the Baptist.

The first reading that we heard is an insistent invitation to joy. The passage begins with the words: “Rejoice, daughter of Zion … exult and acclaim with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem” (Zephaniah 3:14), which is similar to that announcement of the angel to Mary: “Rejoice, you who are full of grace” (Luke 1:26). The essential reason why the daughter of Zion is able to rejoice is expressed in the statement that we just heard: “The Lord is with you” (Zephaniah 3:15, 17); literally, it would be: “is in your womb,” with a clear reference to the God’s dwelling in the Ark of the Covenant, which is always with the people of Israel. The prophet wants to tell us that there is not mo longer any reason for despair, discouragement, sadness, whatever the situation is that we must face because we are certain of the Lord’s presence, who is able by himself to calm our hearts and make them rejoice. The prophet Zephaniah, moreover, makes it understood that this joy is reciprocal: we are invited to rejoice, but the Lord too rejoices in his relationship with us; in fact, the prophet writes: “He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will make you new with his love, he will be joyful over you in praise” (3:17). The joy that is promised in this prophetic text is finds its fulfillment in Jesus, who is in Mary’s womb, the “Daughter of Zion,” and in this way makes his dwelling among us (cf. John 1:14). In fact, coming into the world, he grants us his joy, as he himself tells his disciples: “I have told you these things so that my joy would be in you and your joy would be complete” (John 15:11). Jesus brings salvation to men, a new relationship with God that overcomes evil and death, and he brings true joy by his presence, which brings light to our journey, a journey that is often troubled by darkness and egoism. And we can reflect and see whether we are truly aware of this fact of the Lord’s presence among us, he who is not a distant God but a God who is with us, a God who is in our midst, who is here with us in the holy Eucharist, who is with us in the living Church. And we must be bearers of this presence of God. And thus God rejoices through us and we can have true joy: God exists, and God is good, and God is near.

In the second reading that we heard the Paul invites the Christians of Philippi to rejoice in the Lord. Can we rejoice? And why should we rejoice? St. Paul’s answer is: because “the Lord is near!” (Philippians 4:5). In a short time we will celebrate Christmas, the fast of God’s coming, God who became a child and our brother to be with us and share our human condition. We must rejoice over this nearness, this presence of God, and always try to better understand that he really is near, and in this way be penetrated by the reality and goodness of God, the joy over Christ being with us. In another letter Paul forcefully says that nothing can separate us from God’s love, which is manifested in Christ. Only sin distances us from him, but this is a factor of separation that we ourselves introduce into our relationship with the Lord. However, even when we distance ourselves from him, he does not cease to love us and continue to be near us with his mercy, with his readiness to forgive and welcome us back in his love. So, St. Paul continues, we must never be anxious, we can always make known our requests, our needs, our worries to the Lord “with prayers and supplications” (4:6). And this is an important reason to be joyful: knowing that it is always possible to pray to the Lord and that the Lord will hear us, that God is not distant but truly hears us and knows us, and to know that he never rejects our prayers, even if he does not always answer them as we would like, but answers them nonetheless. And the Apostle adds: pray “with thanksgiving” (4:6). The joy that the Lord communicates to us must find a grateful love in us. In fact, our joy is complete when we recognize his mercy, when we become attentive to the signs of his goodness, if we truly understand that this goodness of God is with us, and we thank him for what we receive from him every day. Those who accept God’s gifts in an egoistic way do not find true joy; those who take the occasion of the gifts received from God to love him with sincere gratitude and to communicate his love to others, they are the ones with hearts that are truly filled with joy! Let us remember this!

After the first 2 readings we come to the Gospel. Today’s Gospel tells us that to welcome the Lord who is coming we must prepare ourselves by taking a good look at how we live our lives. In reply to the various people who ask him what they must do to be ready for the coming of the Messiah (cf. Luke 3:10, 12, 14), John the Baptist says that God does not require anything extraordinary, but that we live according to the criteria of solidarity and justice; without these we cannot prepare well for the encounter with the Lord. So let us also ask the Lord what he wants and what he wishes us to do, and let us begin to understand that he does not demand extraordinary things but that we live our daily lives with rectitude and goodness. Lastly, John the Baptists says that we must follow [the Lord] with fidelity and courage. First he denies that he himself is the Messiah and firmly proclaims: “I baptize you with water; but one is coming is more powerful than I, the latch of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16). Here we see the great humility of John in acknowledging that his mission is that of preparing the way for Jesus. Saying that “I baptize you with water,” he means to indicate that his action is symbolic. He, in fact, cannot eliminate and forgive sins: baptizing with water, he can only make it clear that there is a need for the people to change their lives. At the same time John announces the coming of one “who is more powerful,” who “will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). And, as we have heard, this great prophet uses powerful images to invite the people to conversion. He does not do this with the aim of inciting fear, rather he does it to encourage them properly to welcome God’s Love, which alone is able truly to purify their lives. God becomes a man like us to give us a hope that is certain: if we follow him, if we live our Christian life with consistency, he will draw us to him, he will lead us to communion with him; and there will be true joy in our hearts and true peace, even in hard times, even in moments of weakness.

Dear friends! I am happy to pray with you to the Lord, who makes himself present in the Eucharist to be with us always. I cordially greet the cardinal vicar, the auxiliary bishop of the sector, your pastor Father Fabio Fasciani, whom I thank for speaking to me about the parish’s situation, the spiritual richness of the parish life, and I greet all the priests who are present. I greet those who are engaged in activities in the parish: the catechists, the choir and the various parish groups, and the members of the Neocatechumenal Way, who are undertaking a mission here. I am glad to see so many children who follow the word of God at different levels, preparing for Communion, Confirmation and, after Confirmation, life. Welcome! I am happy to see here a Church that is alive! I also greet the Oblates of the Madonna of the Rosary, who are present in the area of the parish, and all the inhabitants of the quarter, especially the elderly, the sick, the people who are alone and in difficulty. I pray for each and every one in this Holy Mass.

Your parish was formed on the Prenestino Hill between the end of the 1960s and the middle of the 1980s, after the initial difficulties due to the lack of structures and services, a beautiful new church was inaugurated in 2007 after much waiting. May this sacred edifice thus be a privileged space to grow in the knowledge and love of him whom we will welcome shortly in the joy of his birth as Redeemer of the world and our Savior. Do not fail to come to see him often and more and more feel his presence, which gives strength. I rejoice in the sense of belonging that the parish community has, which in the course of these years, has matured and consolidated. I encourage you to ensure that the pastoral co-responsibility continue to grow with a vision of authentic communion among the different groups that are present, who are called to live complementarity in diversity. In a special way I would like to remind all of you of the importance of the centrality of the Eucharist in personal and communal life. May the Holy Mass be the center of your Sunday, which must be rediscovered as the Lord’s day and the community’s; it is a day to praise and celebrate him who died and rose for our salvation and asks us to live together in the joy of a community that is open and ready to welcome every person who is alone or in difficulty. At the same time I exhort all of you to approach the sacrament of Reconciliation regularly, especially in this season of Advent.

I am aware of the work you do to prepare children and young people for the Sacraments of the Christian life. The Year of Faith, that we are observing, must become an occasion to increase and consolidate the experience of catechesis in such a way as to permit the whole quarter to know and understand the Credo of the Church and to encounter the Lord as a living Person. I offer a special greeting to families, with the hope that they might fully realize their vocation of love with generosity and perseverance. And the Pope would like to direct a special word of affection and friendship to you too boys and girls and young people who are here, and also to your peers who live in this parish. Feel that you are truly protagonists of the new evangelization, putting your fresh energy, your enthusiasm and your talents in the service of God and others, in the community.

Dear brothers and sisters, as we said at the beginning of this celebration, today’s liturgy calls us to joy and to conversion. Let us open our spirit to this invitation; let us run to meet the Lord who is coming, invoking and imitating St. Patrick, the great evangelizer, and the Virgin Mary, who awaited and prepared, in silence and prayer, the birth of the Redeemer. Amen!

 

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Pope's Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations
"Vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life are Born Out of the Experience of a Personal Encounter with Christ"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2012 - Here is the translation of the Holy Father's Message on the occasion of the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations which will be held on April 21, 2013.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the 50th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be held on 21 April 2013, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, I want to invite you to reflect on the theme: "Vocations as a sign of hope founded in faith", which happily occurs during the Year of Faith, the year marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. While the Council was in session, the Servant of God, Paul VI, instituted this day of worldwide prayer to God the Father, asking him to continue to send workers for his Church (cf. Mt 9:38). "The problem of having a sufficient number of priests", as the Pope stated at the time, "has an immediate impact on all of the faithful: not simply because they depend on it for the religious future of Christian society, but also because this problem is the precise and inescapable indicator of the vitality of faith and love of individual parish and diocesan communities, and the evidence of the moral health of Christian families. Wherever numerous vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life are to be found, that is where people are living the Gospel with generosity" (Paul VI, Radio Message, 11 April 1964).

During the intervening decades, the various Christian communities all over the world have gathered each year on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, united in prayer, to ask from God the gift of holy vocations and to propose once again, for the reflection of all, the urgent need to respond to the divine call. Indeed, this significant annual event has fostered a strong commitment to placing the importance of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life ever more at the centre of the spirituality, prayer and pastoral action of the faithful.

Hope is the expectation of something positive in the future, yet at the same time it must sustain our present existence, which is often marked by dissatisfaction and failures. On what is our hope founded? Looking at the history of the people of Israel, recounted in the Old Testament, we see one element that constantly emerges, especially in times of particular difficulty like the time of the Exile, an element found especially in the writings of the prophets, namely remembrance of God’s promises to the Patriarchs: a remembrance that invites us to imitate the exemplary attitude of Abraham, who, as Saint Paul reminds us, "believed, hoping against hope, that he would become ‘the father of many nations,’ according to what was said, ‘Thus shall your descendants be’" (Rom 4:18). One consoling and enlightening truth which emerges from the whole of salvation history, then, is God’s faithfulness to the covenant that he entered into, renewing it whenever man infringed it through infidelity and sin, from the time of the flood (cf. Gen 8:21-22) to that of the Exodus and the journey through the desert (cf. Dt 9:7). That same faithfulness led him to seal the new and eternal covenant with man, through the blood of his Son, who died and rose again for our salvation.

At every moment, especially the most difficult ones, the Lord’s faithfulness is always the authentic driving force of salvation history, which arouses the hearts of men and women and confirms them in the hope of one day reaching the "promised land". This is where we find the sure foundation of every hope: God never abandons us and he remains true to his word. For that reason, in every situation, whether positive or negative, we can nourish a firm hope and pray with the psalmist: "Only in God can my soul find rest; my hope comes from him" (Ps 62:6). To have hope, therefore, is the equivalent of trusting in God who is faithful, who keeps the promises of the covenant. Faith and hope, then, are closely related. "Hope" in fact is a key word in biblical faith, to the extent that in certain passages the words "faith" and "hope" seem to be interchangeable. In this way, the Letter to the Hebrews makes a direct connection between the "unwavering profession of hope" (10:23) and the "fullness of faith" (10:22). Similarly, when the First Letter of Saint Peter exhorts the Christians to be always ready to give an account of the "logos" – the meaning and rationale – of their hope (cf. 3:15), "hope" is the equivalent of "faith" (Spe Salvi, 2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, what exactly is God’s faithfulness, to which we adhere with unwavering hope? It is his love!He, the Father, pours his love into our innermost self through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5). And this love, fully manifested in Jesus Christ, engages with our existence and demands a response in terms of what each individual wants to do with his or her life, and what he or she is prepared to offer in order to live it to the full. The love of God sometimes follows paths one could never have imagined, but it always reaches those who are willing to be found. Hope is nourished, then, by this certainty: "We ourselves have known and believed in the love that God has for us" (1 Jn 4:16). This deep, demanding love, which penetrates well below the surface, gives us courage; it gives us hope in our life’s journey and in our future; it makes us trust in ourselves, in history and in other people. I want to speak particularly to the young and I say to you once again: "What would your life be without this love? God takes care of men and women from creation to the end of time, when he will bring his plan of salvation to completion. In the Risen Lord we have the certainty of our hope!" (Address to Young People of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro, 19 June 2011).

Just as he did during his earthly existence, so today the risen Jesus walks along the streets of our life and sees us immersed in our activities, with all our desires and our needs. In the midst of our everyday circumstances he continues to speak to us; he calls us to live our life with him, for only he is capable of satisfying our thirst for hope. He lives now among the community of disciples that is the Church, and still today calls people to follow him. The call can come at any moment. Today too, Jesus continues to say, "Come, follow me" (Mk 10:21). Accepting his invitation means no longer choosing our own path. Following him means immersing our own will in the will of Jesus, truly giving him priority, giving him pride of place in every area of our lives: in the family, at work, in our personal interests, in ourselves. It means handing over our very lives to Him, living in profound intimacy with Him, entering through Him into communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit, and consequently with our brothers and sisters. This communion of life with Jesus is the privileged "setting" in which we can experience hope and in which life will be full and free.

Vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life are born out of the experience of a personal encounter with Christ, out of sincere and confident dialogue with him, so as to enter into his will. It is necessary, therefore, to grow in the experience of faith, understood as a profound relationship with Jesus, as inner attentiveness to his voice which is heard deep within us. This process, which enables us to respond positively to God’s call, is possible in Christian communities where the faith is lived intensely, where generous witness is given of adherence to the Gospel, where there is a strong sense of mission which leads people to make the total gift of self for the Kingdom of God, nourished by recourse to the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and by a fervent life of prayer. This latter "must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly." (Spe Salvi, 34).

Deep and constant prayer brings about growth in the faith of the Christian community, in the unceasingly renewed certainty that God never abandons his people and that he sustains them by raising up particular vocations – to the priesthood and the consecrated life – so that they can be signs of hope for the world. Indeed, priests and religious are called to give themselves unconditionally to the People of God, in a service of love for the Gospel and the Church, serving that firm hope which can only come from an openness to the divine. By means of the witness of their faith and apostolic zeal, therefore, they can transmit, especially to the younger generations, a strong desire to respond generously and promptly to Christ who calls them to follow him more closely. Whenever a disciple of Jesus accepts the divine call to dedicate himself to the priestly ministry or to the consecrated life, we witness one of the most mature fruits of the Christian community, which helps us to look with particular trust and hope to the future of the Church and to her commitment to evangelization. This constantly requires new workers to preach the Gospel, to celebrate the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. So let there be committed priests, who know how to accompany young people as "companions on the journey", helping them, on life’s often tortuous and difficult path, to recognize Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6), telling them, with Gospel courage, how beautiful it is to serve God, the Christian community, one’s brothers and sisters. Let there be priests who manifest the fruitfulness of an enthusiastic commitment, which gives a sense of completeness to their lives, because it is founded on faith in him who loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19). Equally, I hope that young people, who are presented with so many superficial and ephemeral options, will be able to cultivate a desire for what is truly worthy, for lofty objectives, radical choices, service to others in imitation of Jesus. Dear young people, do not be afraid to follow him and to walk the demanding and courageous paths of charity and generous commitment! In that way you will be happy to serve, you will be witnesses of a joy that the world cannot give, you will be living flames of an infinite and eternal love, you will learn to "give an account of the hope that is within you" (1 Pt 3:15)!

 

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Papal Message of Condolence to Newtown, Connecticut, Victims
"[Pope Benedict] asks God our Father to Console All Those Who Mourn"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2012 - Here is the message of condolence that Pope Benedict XVI sent through the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to the Administrator of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Msgr. Jerald A. Doyle regarding the massacre in Newtown, CT where 20 children and 6 adults were murdered in Sandy Hook Elementary S