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                 Benedict XVI  (talks and documents) from May 2008



Pope to Pontifical Science Academy
"No Opposition Between Faith’s Understanding of Creation and the Evidence of the Empirical Sciences"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 31, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience participants in the plenary of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

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Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to greet you, the members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly, and I thank Professor Nicola Cabibbo for the words he has kindly addressed to me on your behalf.

In choosing the topic Scientific Insight into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life, you seek to focus on an area of enquiry which elicits much interest. In fact, many of our contemporaries today wish to reflect upon the ultimate origin of beings, their cause and their end, and the meaning of human history and the universe.

In this context, questions concerning the relationship between science’s reading of the world and the reading offered by Christian Revelation naturally arise. My predecessors Pope Pius XII and Pope John Paul II noted that there is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences. Philosophy in its early stages had proposed images to explain the origin of the cosmos on the basis of one or more elements of the material world. This genesis was not seen as a creation, but rather a mutation or transformation; it involved a somewhat horizontal interpretation of the origin of the world. A decisive advance in understanding the origin of the cosmos was the consideration of being qua being and the concern of metaphysics with the most basic question of the first or transcendent origin of participated being. In order to develop and evolve, the world must first be, and thus have come from nothing into being. It must be created, in other words, by the first Being who is such by essence.

To state that the foundation of the cosmos and its developments is the provident wisdom of the Creator is not to say that creation has only to do with the beginning of the history of the world and of life. It implies, rather, that the Creator founds these developments and supports them, underpins them and sustains them continuously. Thomas Aquinas taught that the notion of creation must transcend the horizontal origin of the unfolding of events, which is history, and consequently all our purely naturalistic ways of thinking and speaking about the evolution of the world. Thomas observed that creation is neither a movement nor a mutation. It is instead the foundational and continuing relationship that links the creature to the Creator, for he is the cause of every being and all becoming (cf. Summa Theologiae, I, q.45, a. 3).

To "evolve" literally means "to unroll a scroll", that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose "writing" and meaning, we "read" according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos. Notwithstanding elements of the irrational, chaotic and the destructive in the long processes of change in the cosmos, matter as such is "legible". It has an inbuilt "mathematics". The human mind therefore can engage not only in a "cosmography" studying measurable phenomena but also in a "cosmology" discerning the visible inner logic of the cosmos. We may not at first be able to see the harmony both of the whole and of the relations of the individual parts, or their relationship to the whole. Yet, there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities: in the inorganic world, between microstructure and macrostructure; in the organic and animal world, between structure and function; and in the spiritual world, between knowledge of the truth and the aspiration to freedom. Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles. And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity’s place in the cosmos.

The distinction between a simple living being and a spiritual being that is capax Dei, points to the existence of the intellective soul of a free transcendent subject. Thus the Magisterium of the Church has constantly affirmed that "every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – and also that it is immortal" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 366). This points to the distinctiveness of anthropology, and invites exploration of it by modern thought.

Distinguished Academicians, I wish to conclude by recalling the words addressed to you by my predecessor Pope John Paul II in November 2003: "scientific truth, which is itself a participation in divine Truth, can help philosophy and theology to understand ever more fully the human person and God’s Revelation about man, a Revelation that is completed and perfected in Jesus Christ. For this important mutual enrichment in the search for the truth and the benefit of mankind, I am, with the whole Church, profoundly grateful".

Upon you and your families, and all those associated with the work of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom and peace.

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On St. Paul and the Cross
"The Risen One Is Always the One Who Has Been Crucified"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

In the personal experience of St. Paul, there is an indisputable fact: While at the beginning he had been a persecutor of the Christians and had used violence against them, from the moment of his conversion on the road to Damascus, he changed to the side of Christ crucified, making him the reason for his life and the motive for his preaching.

His was an existence entirely consumed by souls (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:15), not in the least serene and protected from snares and difficulties. In the encounter with Jesus, he had understood the central significance of the cross: He had understood that Jesus had died and risen for all and also for [Paul], himself. Both elements were important -- the universality: Jesus had truly died for everyone; and the subjectivity: He had died also for me.

On the cross, therefore, the gratuitous and merciful love of God had been manifested. Paul experienced this love above all in himself (cf. Galatians 2:20) and from being a sinner, he converted to being a believer, from persecutor to apostle. Day after day, in his new life, he experiences that salvation is "grace," that everything descended from the love of Christ and not from his merits, which in any case, didn't exist. The "gospel of grace" thus became the only way to understand the cross, the criteria not only for his new existence, but also the answer for those who questioned him. Among these were, above all, the Jews who placed their hope in works and hoped to gain salvation from these; the Greeks as well, who opposed their human wisdom to the cross; finally, there were certain heretical groups, who had formed their own idea of Christianity according to their own model of life.

For St. Paul, the cross has a fundamental priority in the history of humanity; it represents the principal point of his theology, because to say cross means to say salvation as grace given to every creature. The theme of the cross of Christ becomes an essential and primary element in the preaching of the Apostle: The clearest example of this is regarding the community of Corinth.

Before a Church where disorders and scandals were present in a worrying way, where communion was threatened by groups and internal divisions that compromised the unity of the Body of Christ, Paul presents himself not with sublime words or wisdom, but with the announcement of Christ, of Christ crucified. His strength is not persuasive language, but rather, paradoxically, the weakness and the tremor of one who trusts only in the "power of God" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4). The cross, for everything that it represents and also for the theological message it contains, is scandal and foolishness. The Apostle affirms this with impressive strength, which is better to hear with his own words: "The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … It was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles."

The first Christian communities, whom Paul addressed, knew very well that Jesus is now risen and alive; the Apostle wants to remind not just the Corinthians and the Galatians, but all of us, that the Risen One is always the One who has been crucified. The "scandal" and the "foolishness" of the cross are precisely in the fact that there, where there seems to be only failure, sorrow and defeat, precisely there, is all the power of the limitless love of God, because the cross is the expression of love and love is the true power that is revealed precisely in this apparent weakness.

For the Jews, the cross is "skandalon," that is, a trap or stumbling block: It seems to be an obstacle to the faith of the pious Israelite, who doesn't manage to find anything similar in sacred Scripture. Paul, with no small amount of courage, seems to say here that the stakes are very high: For the Jews, the cross contradicts the very essence of God, who has manifested himself with prodigious signs. Therefore, to accept the cross of Christ means to undergo a profound conversion in the way of relating with God.

If for the Jews the reason to reject the cross is found in revelation, that is, in fidelity to the God of their fathers, for the Greeks, that is, the pagans, the criteria for judgment in opposing the cross is reason. For this latter group, in fact, the cross is blight, foolishness, literally insipience, that is, food lacking salt; therefore, more than an error, it is an insult to good sense.

Paul himself on more than one occasion had the bitter experience of the rejection of the Christian pronouncement judged "insipid," irrelevant, not even worthy of being taken into consideration on the level of rational logic. For those who, like the Greeks, sought perfection in the spirit, in pure thought, it was already unacceptable that God became man, submerging himself in all the limits of space and time. Therefore it was decidedly inconceivable to believe that a God could end up on the cross! And we see how this Greek logic is also the common logic of our time.

The concept of "apátheia," indifference, as absence of passions in God: How could it have understood a God made man and defeated, who later on even had taken up again his body so as to live resurrected? "We should like to hear you on this some other time" (Acts 17:32), the Athenians scornfully told Paul, when they heard him speak of the resurrection of the dead. They believed that perfection was in liberating oneself from the body, conceived as a prison: How could it not be considered an aberration to take up again the body? In the ancient culture, there did not seem to be space for the message of God incarnate. The whole of the "Jesus of Nazareth" event seemed to be marked by the most total insipience, and certainly the cross was the most emblematic point of this.

But, why has St. Paul made precisely of this, of the word of the cross, the fundamental point of his preaching? The answer is not difficult: The cross reveals "the power of God" (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:24), which is different than human power. It reveals in fact his love: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength" (ibid., 1:25).

Centuries after Paul, we see that the cross, and not the wisdom that opposes the cross, has triumphed. The Crucified is wisdom, because he manifests in truth who God is, that is, the power of love that goes to the point of the cross to save man. God avails of ways and instruments that to us appear at first glance as only weakness. The Crucified reveals, on one hand, the weakness of man, and on the other, the true power of God, that is, the gratuitousness of love: Precisely this gratuitousness of love is true wisdom.

St. Paul has experienced this even in his flesh, and he gives us testimony of this in various passages of his spiritual journey, which have become essential reference points for every disciple of Jesus: "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:9); and even "God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something" (1 Corinthians 1:28). The Apostle identifies himself to such a degree with Christ that he also, even in the midst of so many trials, lives in the faith of the Son of God who loved him and gave himself up for his sins and those of everyone (cf. Galatians 1:4; 2:20). This autobiographical detail of the Apostle is paradigmatic for all of us.

St. Paul offered an admirable synthesis of the theology of the cross in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (5:4-21), where everything is contained in two fundamental affirmations: On one hand, Christ, whom God has treated as sin on our behalf (verse 21), has died for us (verse 14); on the other hand, God has reconciled us with himself, not attributing to us our sins (verses 18-20). By this "ministry of reconciliation" all slavery has been purchased (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

Here it is seen how all of this is relevant for our lives. We also should enter into this "ministry of reconciliation," which always implies renouncing one's own superiority and choosing the foolishness of love. St. Paul has renounced his own life, giving himself totally for the ministry of reconciliation, of the cross that is salvation for all of us. And this is what we should also know how to do: We can find our strength precisely in the humility of love and our wisdom in the weakness of renunciation to thus enter into the strength of God. We should build our lives on this true wisdom: To not live for ourselves, but to live in the faith in this God, about whom all of us can say: "He loved me and gave himself up for me."

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After his address, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider the central place of the Cross of Jesus Christ in his preaching. Paul’s encounter with the glorified Lord on the way to Damascus convinced him that Jesus had died and risen for him and for all. The mystery of the Cross showed him the power of God’s merciful and saving love. As Paul told the Corinthians, he came not to preach in lofty words or wisdom, but to proclaim "Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (cf. I Cor 2:2). The Cross, which seems a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, is the revelation of God’s wisdom and strength. As the supreme sign of God’s love for sinful humanity, the Cross invites us to that true wisdom which accepts the free gift of God’s merciful and saving love. On the Cross Christ gave himself up for our sins (cf. Gal 1:4), becoming a sacrifice of atonement in his own blood (cf. Rom 3:25). For Paul, faith in the crucified Lord thus calls us to crucify our own flesh with its desires, in order to share in Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Gal 5:24). In accepting the weakness of the Cross, we experience the power of God’s love for us.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present, especially those from Britain and Ireland, Norway, Australia, Korea, Vietnam and the United States of America. I greet especially the Delegation of Papal Knights from Great Britain, and the members and benefactors of the Gregorian University Foundation of New York. Upon you and your families, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope to Jewish Dialogue Committee
"God's Word Is a Lamp and a Light to Our Path"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2008 - Here is the greeting Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, upon receiving the delegates in audience.

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Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome this delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations. For over thirty years your Committee and the Holy See have had regular and fruitful contacts, which have contributed to greater understanding and acceptance between Catholics and Jews. I gladly take this occasion to reaffirm the Church’s commitment to implementing the principles set forth in the historic Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council. That Declaration, which firmly condemned all forms of antisemitism, represented both a significant milestone in the long history of Catholic-Jewish relations and a summons to a renewed theological understanding of the relations between the Church and the Jewish People.

Christians today are increasingly conscious of the spiritual patrimony they share with the people of the Torah, the people chosen by God in his inexpressible mercy, a patrimony that calls for greater mutual appreciation, respect and love (cf. Nostra Aetate, 4). Jews too are challenged to discover what they have in common with all who believe in the Lord, the God of Israel, who first revealed himself through his powerful and life-giving word. As the Psalmist reminds us, God’s word is a lamp and a light to our path; it keeps us alive and gives us new life (cf. Ps 119:105). That word spurs us to bear common witness to God’s love, mercy and truth. This is a a vital service in our own time, threatened by the loss of the spiritual and moral values which guarantee human dignity, solidarity, justice and peace.

In our troubled world, so frequently marked by poverty, violence and exploitation, dialogue between cultures and religions must more and more be seen as a sacred duty incumbent upon all those who are committed to building a world worthy of man. The ability to accept and respect one another, and to speak the truth in love, is essential for overcoming differences, preventing misunderstandings and avoiding needless confrontations. As you yourselves have experienced through the years in the meetings of the International Liaison Committee, dialogue is only serious and honest when it respects differences and recognizes others precisely in their otherness. A sincere dialogue needs both openness and a firm sense of identity on both sides, in order for each to be enriched by the gifts of the other.

In recent months, I have had the pleasure of meeting with Jewish communities in New York, Paris and here in the Vatican. I thank the Lord for these encounters, and for the progress in Catholic-Jewish relations which they reflect. In this spirit, then, I encourage you to persevere in your important work with patience and renewed commitment. I offer you my prayerful good wishes as your Committee prepares to meet next month in Budapest with a delegation of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, in order to discuss the theme: "Religion and Civil Society Today".

With these sentiments, dear friends, I ask the Almighty to continue to watch over you and your families, and to guide your steps in the way of peace.

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Benedict XVI's Homily at Close of Synod

"Our Thinking Must Conform to God's Thinking"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2008 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday at St. Peter's Basilica to mark the conclusion of the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

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Brothers in the Episcopacy and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Word of the Lord, which echoed in the Gospel earlier, reminded us that all of Divine Law is summarized in love. Matthew the Evangelist tells that the Pharisees, after God answered the Sadduceans closing their mouths, met to put Him to test (cf. 22:34-35). One of them, a doctor of law, asked Him: “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” (22:36). The question allows one to see the worry, present in ancient Hebrew tradition, of finding a unifying principle for the various formulations of the Will of God. This was not an easy question, considering that in the Law of Moses, 613 precepts and prohibitions are contemplated. How to find which is the most important one among these? But Jesus has no hesitation, and answers promptly: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment” (22:37-38). Jesus quotes the Shemà in His answer, the prayer the pious Israelite recites several times a day, especially in the morning and in the evening (cf. Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Nb 15:37-41): the proclamation of whole and total love due to God, as the only Lord. Emphasis is put on the totality of this dedication to God, listing the three faculties that define man in his deep psychological structures: heart, soul and mind.

The word mind, diánoia, contains the rational element. God is not only the object of love, commitment, will and feelings, but also the intellect, which should not be excluded from this. Our thinking must conform to God’s thinking. Then, however, Jesus adds something which, in truth, had not been asked by the doctor of law: “The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself” (22:39). The surprising aspect of Jesus’ answer consists in the fact that He establishes a similarity between the first and the second commandments, defined this time with a Biblical formula drawn from the Levitic code of holiness (cf. Lv 19:18) as well. And therefore, the two commandments are associated in the role of main axis upon which all of Biblical Revelation rests: “On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too” (22:40).

The Evangelical page we are focusing on sheds light on the meaning of being disciples of Christ which is practicing His teachings, that can be summarized in the first and greatest commandment of Divine Law, the commandment of love. Even the First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, insists on the duty of love; a love witnessed concretely in relationships between persons: they must be relationships of respect, collaboration, generous help. The next to be loved is the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the indigent, that is to say those citizens that are without a “defender”. The holy author goes into details, as in the case of the object pawned by one of these poor persons (cf. Ex 22:25-26). In this case, God Himself is the guarantor for the person’s situation.
In the Second Reading, we can find a concrete application of the supreme commandment of love in one of the first Christian communities.

Saint Paul writes to the Thessalonians, leading them to understand that, while having known them for such a short time, he appreciated them and bore affection in his heart for them. Because of this, he points to them as “an example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia” (1 Th 1:6-7). There is no lack of weaknesses or problems in this recently founded community, but love overcomes all, renews all, wins over all: the love of who, knowing their own limits, docilely follows the words of Christ, the Divine Teacher, transmitted through one of His faithful disciples. “You took us and the Lord as your model, welcoming the word with the joy of the Holy Spirit in spite of great hardship”, the Apostle wrote. He continued: “since it was from you that the word of the Lord rang out -- and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for your faith in God has spread everywhere” (1 Th 1:6.8). The lesson that we can draw from the experience of the Thessalonians, and experience that is a common factor in every authentic Christian community, is that love for the neighbor is born from the docile listening to the Divine Word and accepts also hardships for the truth of the divine word and thus true love grows and truth shines. It is so important to listen to the Word and incarnate it in personal and community existence!

In this Eucharistic Celebration, which closes the work of the Synod, we feel, in a particular way, the bond that exists between the loving hearing of the word of God and disinterested service towards the brothers. How many times, in the past few days, have we heard about experiences and reflections that underline the need emerging today for a more intimate hearing of God, of a truer knowledge of His Word of Salvation; of a more sincere sharing of faith which is constantly nourished at the table of the Divine Word! Dear and Venerable Brothers, thank you for the contribution each of you offered in discussing the theme of the Synod: “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church”. I greet you all with great affection. A special greeting goes to the Cardinals, the Delegate Presidents of the Synod and the General Secretary, whom I thank for their constant dedication. I greet you, dear brothers and sisters, who came from every continent bringing your enriching experience. In returning home, give everyone an affectionate greeting from the Bishop of Rome. I greet the Fraternal Delegates, the Experts, the Auditors and the Invited Guests: the members of the General Secretariat of the Synod, all those who worked with the press. A special thought goes for the Bishops of Continental China, who could not be represented during this Synodal assembly. I would like to speak on behalf of them and thank God for their love for Christ, their communion with the universal Church and their faithfulness to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They are present in our prayers, along with all the faithful who are entrusted to their pastoral care. We ask the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pt 5:4) to give them apostolic joy, strength, and zeal to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China so dear to all of us.

All of us who have taken part in the work of the Synod will carry with us the renewed knowledge that the Church’s principal task, at the start of this new millennium, is above all to nourish ourselves on the Word of God, in order to make more effective new evangelization, the announcement of our times. What is needed now is that this ecclesial experience reach every community; we have to understand the necessity of translating the Word we have heard into gestures of love, because this is the only way to make the Gospel announcement credible, despite the human weaknesses that mark individuals. What this requires first of all is a more intimate knowledge of Christ and an ever-more docile acceptance of his Word.

In this Pauline year, making the words of the Apostle our own: “I should be in trouble if I failed to [preach the Gospel]” (1 Cor 9:16), I hope with all my heart that in every community this yearning of Paul’s will be felt with ever more conviction as a vocation in the service of the Gospel for the world. At the start of the Synod, I recalled the appeal of Jesus: “The harvest is rich” (Mt 9:37), an appeal we must never tire of responding to whatever difficulties we might encounter. So many people are searching for, sometimes unwittingly, the meeting with Christ and His Gospel; so many have to find in Him a meaning for their lives. Giving clear and shared testimony to a life according to the Word of God, witnessed by Jesus, therefore becomes an indispensable criterion to verify the mission of Christ.

The Readings the liturgy offers us today to meditate on remind us that the fullness of the law, as of all the Divine Scriptures, is love. Therefore anyone who believes they have understood the Scriptures, or at least a part of them, without undertaking to build, by means of their intelligence, the twofold love of God and neighbor, demonstrates that in reality they are still a long way from having grasped its deeper meaning. But how should we put into practice this commandment, how can we live the love of God and our brothers without a living and intense contact with the Holy Scriptures? Vatican Council II asserts it is necessary that “easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful” (Cost. Dei Verbum, 22), so that persons, on meeting the truth, may grow in authentic love. This is a requisite that today is indispensable for evangelization. And since often the encounter with Scriptures is in danger of not being “a fact” of the Church, but informed by subjectivity and arbitrariness, a robust and credible pastoral promotion of the knowledge of Holy Scripture, to announce, celebrate and live the Word in the Christian community, becomes indispensable, dialoguing with the cultures of our time, placing ourselves at the service of truth and not of current ideologies, and increasing the dialogue God wishes to have with all men (cf ibid 21). With this in mind, special care should be paid to the preparation of pastors, ready then to take whatever action is necessary to spread Biblical activity with appropriate means.

Ongoing efforts to give life to the Biblical movement among lay people should be encouraged, along with the formation of group animators, with particular attention being paid to the young. We must also support the effort to allow faith to be known through the Word of God to those who are “far away” as well and especially those who are sincerely looking to give a meaning to their lives.

Many other reflections should be added, but I will limit myself to underlining that the privileged place where the Word of God rings out, that builds the Church, as has been said many times during the Synod, is undoubtedly the liturgy. In this is where it appears that the Bible is a book of a people and for a people; an inheritance, a testament handed over to readers so that they can put into practice in their own lives the history of salvation witnessed in the text. There is therefore a reciprocal relationship of vital belonging between the people and the Book: the Bible remains a living Book with the people which is its subject which reads it; the people cannot exist without the Book, because it is in it that they find their reason for living, their vocation and their identity. This mutual belonging between people and Holy Scripture is celebrated in every liturgical ceremony, which, thanks to the Holy Spirit, listens to Christ since it is He who speaks when the Scripture is read in the Church and welcomes the Covenant that God renews with his people. Scripture and liturgy converge, therefore, with the single aim of bringing the people to dialogue with the Lord and to the obedience of the Lord’s Will. The Word that leaves the mouth of God, witnessed in the Scriptures, returns to Him in the shape of prayerful response, of a living answer, of an answer of love (cf Is 55:10-11).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray that from this renewed listening to the Word of God, guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, an authentic renewal of the universal Church may spring forth, as well as of every Christian community. We entrust the fruits of this Synodal Assembly to the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary. I also entrust to Her the II Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa, that will take place in Rome in October of next year.

Next March I intend to go to Cameroon to deliver the Instrumentum laboris of that Synodal Assembly to the representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa. From there, God willing, I will go on to Angola to celebrate solemnly the 500th anniversary of the evangelization of that country. Most Holy Mary, who offered your life up as the “servant of the Lord”, so that everything would happen in accordance with the divine will (cf Lk 1:38) and who told us to do whatever Jesus tells us to do (cf Jn 2:5), teach us to recognize in our lives the primacy of the Word that alone can grant us salvation. Amen!

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Pope's Words After Meal With Synod Fathers
"Let Us Walk Together Guided by the Word of God"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave after eating lunch Saturday with participants in the world Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, which concluded Sunday. The lunch was held in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Synod is about to end, but walking together under the guidance of the Word of God continues. In this sense, we are always in “synod”, on a common path with the Lord under the guidance of the Word of God.

The Instrumentum laboris spoke about the polyphony of the Holy Scriptures. And I feel that today we can say, in the contributions to this Synod, we have also heard a beautiful polyphony of faith, a harmony of faith, with so many contributions, also from the Fraternal Delegates. Thus we have truly felt the beauty and the richness of the Word of God.

It was also a school of listening. We listened to one another. It was a mutual hearing. And because we listened to each other, we learnt how to listen to the Word of God in a better way. We experienced how true the words of Saint Gregory the Great are: Scripture grows with who reads it. Only in the light of the different realities of our lives, only in facing everyday reality, one can discover the potential, the riches hidden that are hidden in the Word of God. We can see that by facing reality, the meaning of the Word, given to us in the Holy Scriptures, is opened to us in a new way.

Thus we are truly enriched. We have seen that no meditation, no scientific reflection can, by itself, draw forth all the treasures and potential that can be discovered only through the history of every life, from the Word of God.

I do not know if the Synod was more interesting or more edifying. In any case, it was moving. We are enriched by this mutual hearing. In listening to the other, we may also hear the Lord better. And in this dialogue of hearing, we then learn the deeper reality, obedience to the Word of God, conforming to our thought, our will to think turning to God’s thought and will. This obedience is not an attack on freedom, rather it develops all the possibilities of our freedom.

I have reached the point where I must thank all who worked for the Synod. I do not dare list all the individuals who worked, because I would certainly forget many. However, I thank everybody for the great work they have done: the Presidents Delegate, the Relator, with his Assistant Secretary, all the Relators, Collaborators, Technicians, Experts, and Auditors, from whom we have learnt many moving things. A cordial thanks to all. I am a bit concerned, because I feel that we have violated the human right of sleeping at night and Sunday rest, for these are truly fundamental rights. We should reflect on how to resolve this situation in the future Synods. I would also like to thank the caterer that prepared this marvelous lunch and all those who served. Thank you for this gift.

Now we must begin to elaborate the Post-Synodal document with the help of all these texts. This too will be a school of listening. This way, we stay together, we listen to the voices of others. And we can see that only if another reads the Scripture to me, can I enter the richness of the Scripture. We always need this dialogue, listening to the Scripture read by another from his perspective, from his vision, to learn together the richness of this gift.

A wish you all pleasant travels and thank you all for your work.

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Papal Address to Philippine Ambassador
"Distinction Between Religion and Politics Is a Specific Achievement of Christianity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 27, 2008 -Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the letters of credence from Cristina Castañer-Ponce Enrile, the new ambassador of the Philippines to the Holy See.

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Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. I reciprocate the warm greetings which you have graciously extended to me on behalf of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and I would ask you to convey my own best wishes for her well-being and that of all your fellow citizens.

The Filipino people are renowned for their warm generosity and the high value they place on friendship and family life. The Catholic faithful in your country-through their hunger for prayer, their lively devotion, and their eagerness to serve others-demonstrate a firm trust in God’s loving providence. I am grateful for the unique contribution they have made and continue to make to the life of the local and universal Church, and I encourage all men and women of goodwill in your nation to devote themselves to forging bonds of peace and social harmony within your borders and across the globe.

For its part, and in a special way through its diplomatic activity, the Holy See seeks to engage the world in dialogue so as to promote the universal values that flow from human dignity and advance mankind on the road to communion with God and one another. The Catholic Church is eager to share the richness of the Gospel’s social message, for it enlivens hearts with a hope for the fulfilment of justice and a love that makes all men and women truly brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. She carries out this mission fully aware of the respective autonomy and competence of Church and State. Indeed, we may say that the distinction between religion and politics is a specific achievement of Christianity and one of its fundamental historical and cultural contributions. The Church is equally convinced that State and religion are called to support each other as they together serve the personal and social well-being of all (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 76). This harmonious cooperation between Church and State requires ecclesial and civic leaders to carry out their public duties with undaunted concern for the common good. By cultivating a spirit of honesty and impartiality, and by keeping justice their aim, civil and ecclesial leaders earn the trust of the people and enhance a sense of the shared responsibility of all citizens to promote a civilization of love. All should be motivated by the desire to serve rather than to gain personally or to benefit a privileged few. Everyone shares in the task of strengthening public institutions so as to safeguard them from the corruption of factionalism and elitism. In this regard, it is encouraging to see the many initiatives undertaken at various levels of Filipino society to protect the weak, especially the unborn, the sick and the elderly.

Your Excellency, I appreciate the concern you have expressed on behalf of your Government for the well-being of Filipino migrant workers. Indeed, the Meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development hosted in Manila clearly attests to the Philippines’ solicitude for all who leave their homeland in search of employment in a foreign land. Initiatives such as the Global Forum are fruitful when they recognize immigration as a resource for development rather than as an obstacle to it. At the same time, government leaders face numerous challenges as they strive to ensure that immigrants are integrated into society in a way that acknowledges their human dignity and affords them the opportunity to earn a decent living, with adequate time for rest and a due provision for worship. The just care of immigrants and the building up of a solidarity of labour (cf. Laborem Exercens, 8) requires governments, humanitarian agencies, peoples of faith and all citizens to cooperate with prudence and patient determination. Domestic and international policies aimed at regulating immigration must be based on criteria of equity and balance, and particular care is needed to facilitate the reunification of families. At the same time, conditions that foster increased work opportunities in peoples’ places of origin are to be promoted as far as possible (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 66).

In this regard, Madam Ambassador, the leaders of your nation have passed legislation for comprehensive land reform with the aim of improving the living conditions of the poor. Carefully planned agrarian reforms can benefit a society by instilling a sense of common responsibility and stimulating individual initiative, making it possible for a nation both to feed its own and expand its participation in international markets so as to enhance opportunities for growth in the process of globalization. I pray that by implementing measures that foster the just distribution of wealth and the sustainable development of natural resources, Filipino farmers will be granted greater opportunities for increasing production and earning what they need to support themselves and their families.

Your Excellency, it is encouraging to see that your nation will continue to participate actively in international forums for the advancement of peace, human solidarity and interreligious dialogue. You have indicated how these noble goals are intimately related to human development and social reform. In light of the Gospel, the Catholic Church has always been convinced that the transition from less humane to more humane conditions is not limited to merely economic or technological dimensions, but implies for each person the acquisition of culture, respect for the life and dignity of others, and acknowledgment of "the highest good, the recognition of God Himself, the author and end of these blessings" (Populorum Progressio, 21). I am confident that the Republic of the Philippines will continue to offer this holistic vision of the human person in world forums, and I join all Filipinos in praying that the peace of God may reign in the hearts and homes of all people.

Madam Ambassador, your presence here today is a pledge that the bonds of friendship and cooperation between your nation and the Holy See will continue to grow stronger in the years ahead. I assure you that the various agencies and dicasteries of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Offering you my best wishes and prayers for the success of your mission, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God upon Your Excellency, your family and the beloved people of the Philippines.

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Wednesday's Audience: On Paul's Christology
"The Radical Humility of Christ Is the Expression of Divine Love"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

In the catecheses from previous weeks, we have meditated on the "conversion" of St. Paul, fruit of a personal encounter with the crucified and risen Christ, and we have asked ourselves about the reaction of the Apostle to the Gentiles to the earthly Jesus. Today I would like to speak of the teaching St. Paul left us about the centrality of the risen Christ in the mystery of salvation, about his Christology.

In reality, the risen Jesus Christ, "exalted above every name," is at the center of all his reflections. Christ is for the Apostle the standard to evaluate events and things, the purpose of every effort that he makes to announce the Gospel, the great passion that sustains his steps along the paths of the world. And he is a living Christ, concrete: The Christ, Paul says, "who loved me and gave himself up for me" (Galatians 2:20). This person who loves me, with whom I can speak, who listens and responds to me, this is really the principle for understanding the world and for finding the way in history.

Anyone who has read the writings of St. Paul knows well that he does not concern himself with narrating the events that made up the life of Christ, even though we can imagine that in his catecheses, he recounted much more about the pre-Easter Jesus than what he wrote in his letters, which are admonitions for concrete situations. His pastoral and theological work was so directed toward the edification of the nascent communities, that it was natural for him to concentrate everything on the announcement of Jesus Christ as "Lord," alive today and present among his own.

Here we see the essentiality that is characteristic of Pauline Christology, which develops the depths of the mystery with a constant and precise concern: To announce, with certainty, Jesus and his teaching, but to announce above all the central reality of his death and resurrection as the culmination of his earthly existence and the root of the successive development of the whole Christian faith, of the whole reality of the Church.

For the Apostle, the Resurrection is not an event in itself that is separated from the Death. The risen One is the same One who was crucified. The risen One also had his wounds: The Passion is present in him and it can be said with Pascal that he is suffering until the end of the world, though being the risen One and living with us and for us. Paul had understood on the road to Damascus this identification of the risen One with Christ crucified: In that moment, it was revealed with clarity that the Crucified is the risen One and the risen One is the Crucified, who says to Paul, "Why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). Paul was persecuting Christ in the Church and then understood that the cross is "a curse of God" (Deuteronomy 21:23), but a sacrifice for our redemption.

The Apostle contemplates with fascination the hidden secret of the crucified-risen One, and through the sufferings endured by Christ in his humanity (earthly dimension) arrives to this eternal existence in which he is one with the Father (pre-temporal dimension): "But when the fullness of time had come," he writes, "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption" (Galatians 4:4-5).

These two dimensions -- the eternal pre-existence with the Father and the descent of the Lord in the incarnation -- are already announced in the Old Testament, in the figure of Wisdom. We find in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament certain texts that exalt the role of Wisdom pre-existent to the creation of the world. In this sense, you can see passages such as Psalm 90: "Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God" (verse 2). Or passages such as those that speak of creating Wisdom: "The Lord begot me, the firstborn of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth" (Proverbs 8:22-23). Indicative as well is the praise of Wisdom, contained in the book by that name: "Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well" (Wisdom 8:1).

The same wisdom texts that speak of the eternal pre-existence of Wisdom also speak of its descent, of the abasement of this Wisdom, which has made for itself a tent among men. Thus we can already feel resonate the words from the Gospel of John that speak of the tent of the flesh of the Lord. A tent was created in the Old Testament: Here is indicated the temple, worship according to the "Torah"; but from the point of view of the New Testament, we can understand that this was only a pre-figuration of the much more real and significant tent: the tent of the flesh of Christ.

And we already see in the books of the Old Testament that this abasement of Wisdom, its descent into flesh, also implies the possibility of being rejected. St. Paul, developing his Christology, refers precisely to this wisdom perspective: He recognizes in Jesus the eternal Wisdom existing from all time, the Wisdom that descends and creates a tent among us, and thus he can describe Christ as "the power of God and the wisdom of God." He can say that Christ has become for us "wisdom from God, as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). In the same way, Paul clarifies that Christ, like Wisdom, can be rejected above all by the rulers of this age (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6-9), such that in the plans of God a paradoxical situation is created: the cross, which will become the path of salvation for the whole human race.

A later development to this wisdom cycle, which sees Wisdom abase itself so as to be later exalted despite rejection, is found in the famous hymn in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11). This involves one of the most elevated texts of the New Testament. Exegetes mainly concur in considering that this pericope was composed prior to the text of the Letter to the Philippians. This is an important piece of information, because it means that Judeo-Christianity, before St. Paul, believed in the divinity of Jesus. In other words, faith in the divinity of Christ is not a Hellenistic invention, arising after the earthly life of Christ, an invention that, forgetting his humanity, had divinized him. We see in reality that the early Judeo-Christianity believed in the divinity of Jesus. Moreover, we can say that the apostles themselves, in the great moments of the life of the Master, had understood that he was the Son of God, as St. Peter says at Caesarea Philippi: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).

But let us return to the hymn from the Letter to the Philippians. The structure of this text can be articulated in three stanzas, which illustrate the principle moments of the journey undertaken by Christ. His pre-existence is expressed with the words: "though he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped" (verse 6). Afterward follows the voluntary abasement of the Son in the second stanza: "he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (verse 7) "he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (verse 8). The third stanza of the hymn announces the response of the Father to the humiliation of the Son: "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name" (verse 9).

What is impressive is the contrast between the radical abasement and the resulting glorification in the glory of God. It is evident that this second stanza contrasts with the pretension of Adam, who wanted to make himself God, and it contrasts as well with the actions of the builders of the Tower of Babel, who wanted to construct for themselves a bridge to heaven and make themselves divine. But this initiative of pride ended with self-destruction: In this way, one doesn't arrive to heaven, to true happiness, to God. The gesture of the Son of God is exactly the contrary: not pride, but humility, which is the fulfillment of love, and love is divine. The initiative of abasement, of the radical humility of Christ, which contrasts with human pride, is really the expression of divine love; from it follows this elevation to heaven to which God attracts us with his love.

Besides the Letter to the Philippians, there are other places in Pauline literature where the themes of the pre-existence and the descent of the Son of God to earth are united. A reaffirmation of the assimilation between Wisdom and Christ, with all its cosmic and anthropological consequences, is found in the First Letter to Timothy: "[He] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory" (3:16). It is above all based on these premises that the function of Christ as mediator could be better defined, within the framework of the only God of the Old Testament (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5 in relation to Isaiah 43:10-11; 44:6). Christ is the true bridge who leads us to heaven, to communion with God.

And finally, just a point regarding the last developments of the Christology of St. Paul in the Letters to the Colossians and the Ephesians. In the first, Christ is designated as the "firstborn of all creation" (1:15-20). This word "firstborn" implies that the first among many children, the first among many brothers and sisters, has lowered to draw us and make us brothers and sisters. In the Letter to the Ephesians, we find the beautiful exposition of the divine plan of salvation, when Paul says that in Christ, God wanted to recapitulate all things (cf. Ephesians 1:23). Christ is the recapitulation of everything, he takes up everything and guides us to God. And thus is implied a movement of descent and ascent, inviting us to participate in his humility, that is, in his love for neighbor, so as to thus be participants in his glorification, making ourselves with him into sons in the Son. Let us pray that the Lord helps us to conform ourselves to is humility, to his love, to thus be participants in his divinization.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider the centrality of Jesus Christ in his teaching. Paul preaches Christ as the crucified and glorified Lord, alive and present within the Church. He proclaims Christ’s incarnation and exaltation, but also his pre-existence with the Father before all time. His affirmation of Christ’s pre-existence evokes those Old Testament texts which portray God’s Wisdom as being with him before creation and coming down to dwell among men (e.g., Pr 8:22-23). Paul thus presents Christ as "the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24), the centre and fulfilment of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation. The hymn found in his Letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:6-11) contrasts Christ’s pre-existence "in the form of God" and his subsequent "kenosis" or self-emptying, "even to death, death on a Cross". Paul also appeals to Christ’s pre-existence and incarnation in proclaiming Jesus as "the one mediator between God and man" (1 Tim 3:16), the firstborn of all creation and the head of the Church (cf. Col 1:15-20). Paul’s "sapiential" christology invites us to welcome the salvation offered by the crucified and risen Lord, the Eternal Son, who is the very wisdom and power of God.

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On World Mission Sunday
"Prayer Is the First Missionary Duty of Each One of Us"

POMPEII, Italy, OCT. 19, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Angelus with the crowds gathered at the shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii. The Pope's one-day visit to the Marian shrine takes place on World Mission Sunday, and in the middle of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the solemn Eucharistic celebration and the traditional Supplication of the Madonna of Pompeii, following our customary Sunday practice, we once again turn our gaze to Mary with recitation of the Angelus, and we entrust to her the great petitions of the Church and of humanity.

We especially pray for the ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops that is taking place in Rome and that has “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” as its theme, that it might bear the fruit of authentic renewal in every Christian community.

Another special prayer intention is offered to us by World Mission Day, which in this Pauline Year proposes for our meditation these celebrated words of the Apostle of the Gentiles: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

In this month of October, the month of missions and of the rosary, how many faithful and how many communities offer the holy rosary for missionaries and for evangelization! For this reason I am very glad to find myself today here in Pompeii, in the most important shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary. This gives me the opportunity to emphasize with greater insistence that prayer is the first missionary duty of each one of us. It is first of all through prayer that the way for the Gospel is prepared; it is through prayer that hearts are opened to the mystery of God and that souls are disposed to receive his Word of salvation.

On this day there is yet another happy coincidence to mention. Today in Lisieux, France, Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin are being beatified, the parents of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, whom Pius XI declared patroness of the missions. Through their prayer and their evangelical witness St. Thérèse’s parents accompanied and shared the journey of their daughter, who was called by the Lord to unconditionally consecrate herself to him within the walls of Carmel. It was there, in the obscurity of the cloister, that St. Thérèse realized her vocation “to be love in the heart of the Church” ("Manuscrits autobiographiques," Lisieux 1957, 229).

With the beatification of the Martins in mind, I would like to recall another intention that is close to my heart: the family, whose role is fundamental in nurturing in their children a universal spirit, open and responsive to the world and its problems, and in forming vocations to missionary life. And so, following in our heart the pilgrimage that so many families made a month ago to this shrine, we call upon the maternal protection of the Madonna of Pompeii for all the families of the world, already looking forward to the 4th World Family Meeting that is being planned for Mexico City in January 2009.

[The Pope continued in French]

On this World Mission Day, we especially join with the pilgrims gathered in Lisieux for the beatification of Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, patroness of the missions.

They proclaimed the Gospel of Christ through their exemplary married life. They lived their faith ardently and transmitted it to their family and all around them. May their prayers be a source of joy and hope for all parents and all families.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Synod
"Dualism Between Exegesis and Theology Must Be Overcome"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2008 - Here is the intervention Benedict XVI gave Tuesday during the 14th general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops, which is under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme of the assembly is on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, the work for my book on Jesus offers ample occasion to see all the good that can come from modern exegesis, but also to recognize the problems and risks in it. Dei Verbum 12 offers two methodological indications for suitable exegetic work. In the first place, it confirms the need to use the historical-critical method, briefly describing the essential elements. This need is the consequence of the Christian principle formulated in Jn 1:14 "Verbum caro factum est." The historical fact is a constitutive dimension of Christian faith. The history of salvation is not a myth, but a true story and therefore to be studied with the same methods as serious historical research.
However, this history has another dimension, that of divine action. Because of this, "Dei Verbum" mentions a second methodological level necessary for the correct interpretation of the words, which are at the same time human words and divine Word.

The Council says, following a fundamental rule for any interpretation of a literary text, that Scripture must be interpreted in the same spirit in which it was written and thereby indicates three fundamental methodological elements to bear in mind the divine dimension, the pneumatology of the Bible: one must, that is 1) interpret the text bearing in mind the unity of the entire Scripture; today this is called canonical exegesis; at the time of the Council this term had not been created, but the Council says the same thing: one must bear in mind the unity of all of Scripture; 2) one must then bear in mind the living tradition of the whole Church, and finally 3) observe the analogy of faith. Only where the two methodological levels, the historical-critical and the theological one, are observed, can one speak about theological exegesis -- of an exegesis suitable for this Book. While the first level today's academic exegesis works on a very high level and truly gives us help, the same cannot be said about the other level. Often this second level, the level constituted of the three theological elements indicated by Dei Verbum seems to be almost absent. And this has rather serious consequences.

The first consequence of the absence of this second methodological level is that the Bible becomes a book only about the past. Moral consequences can be drawn from it, one can learn about history, but the Book only speaks about the past and its exegesis is no longer truly theological, becoming historiography, the history of literature. This is the first consequence: the Bible remains in the past, speaks only of the past. There is also a second even more serious consequence: where the hermeneutics of faith, indicated by Dei Verbum, disappear, another type of hermeneutics appears of necessity, a secularized, positivistic hermeneutics, whose fundamental key is the certitude that the Divine does not appear in human history. According to this hermeneutic, when there seems to be a divine element, one must explain where it came from and bring it to the human element completely.

Because of this, interpretations that deny the historicity of divine elements emerge. Today, the so-called mainstream of exegesis in Germany denies, for example, that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and says that Jesus' corpse stayed in the tomb. The Resurrection would not be an historical event, but a theological vision. This occurs because the hermeneutic of faith is missing: therefore a profane philosophical hermeneutic is stated, which denies the possibility of entering and of the real presence of the Divine in history. The consequence of the absence of the second methodological level is that a deep chasm was created between scientific exegesis and lectio divina. This, at times, gives rise to a form of perplexity even in the preparation of homilies. Where exegesis is not theology, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology and, vice versa, when theology is not essentially the interpretation of the Scripture in the Church, this theology has no foundation anymore.

Therefore for the life and the mission of the Church, for the future of faith, this dualism between exegesis and theology must be overcome. Biblical theology and systematic theology are two dimensions of the one reality, what we call Theology. Due to this, I would hope that in one of the propositions the need to bear in mind the two methodological levels indicated in Dei Verbum 12 be mentioned, where the need to develop an exegesis not only on the historical level, but also on the theological level is needed. Therefore, widening the formation of future exegetes in this sense is necessary, to truly open the treasures of the Scripture to today's world and to all of us.

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St. Paul's Teaching on the Church
"We Are the Temple of God in the World"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 15, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.
The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

In last Wednesday's catechesis, I spoke of Paul's relationship with the pre-Easter Jesus in his earthly life. The question was: "What did Paul know of the life of Jesus, his words, his passion?"

Today, I would like to speak of the teaching of St. Paul on the Church. We should begin by noting that this word -- "iglesia" in Spanish, like "église" in French or "chiesa" in Italian -- is taken from the Greek "ekkle-sía." It comes from the Old Testament and means the assembly of the people of Israel, gathered by God, and particularly the model assembly at the foot of Sinai.

Now this word alludes to the new community of believers in Christ who know themselves to be the assembly of God, the new gathering of all peoples by God and before him. The term "ekkle-sía" only appears in the writings of Paul, who is the first author of a Christian writing. This happens in the "incipit" of the first Letter to the Thessalonians, where Paul addresses himself textually to "the Church of the Thessalonians" (cf. later as well the [address to the] "Church of the Laodiceans in Colossians 4:16).

In other letters he speaks of the Church of God that is at Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2 and 2 Corinthians 1:1), that is at Galatia (Galatians 1:2, etc). -- particular Churches, therefore -- but he recounts also having persecuted "the Church of God," not one particular local community, but the "Church of God." Thus we see that this word "Church" has a multifaceted meaning: It indicates on one hand the assemblies of God in particular places (a city, a country, a house), but it also means all of the Church taken together. And thus we see that "the Church of God" is not just the sum of the particular local Churches, but that these are at the same time the actualization of the one Church of God. All together they are the "Church of God," which precedes each local Church and which is expressed and actualized in them.

It is important to observe that nearly always the word "Church" appears with the added descriptor "of God": It is not a human association, born from ideas or common interests, but a gathering of God. He has gathered it together and because of this it is one in all of its actualizations. The unity of God creates the unity of the Church in all of the places where it is found. Later, in the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul abundantly elaborates the concept of the unity of the Church, in continuation with the concept of the people of God, Israel, considered by the prophets as the "spouse of God," called to live a spousal relationship with him. Paul presents the only Church of God as "spouse of Christ" in love, one spirit with Christ himself.

It is known that the young Paul had been an ardent adversary of the new movement constituted by the Church of Christ. He had been its adversary, because he had seen threatened in this new movement the fidelity to the tradition of the people of God, animated by faith in the one God. This fidelity was expressed above all in circumcision, in the observance of the norms of cultural purity, in abstaining from certain foods, in respect for the Sabbath.

The Israelites paid for this fidelity with their blood during the time of the Maccabees, when the Greek regime wanted to force all peoples to take on a sole Greek culture. Many of the Israelites had defended with their blood the vocation proper to Israel. The martyrs had paid with their lives for the identity of their people, expressed through these elements.

After his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul understood that the Christians weren't traitors; on the contrary, in the new situation, the God of Israel, through Christ, had extended his call to all people, becoming the God of all peoples. In this way, fidelity to the only God was fulfilled; the distinctive signs made up of particular norms and observances were no longer necessary, because all were called, in their differences, to form part of the one people of God in the "Church of God," in Christ.

One thing was immediately clear to Paul in the new situation: the fundamental and foundational value of Christ and the "word" he proclaimed. Paul knew that not only is one not a Christian by coercion, but that rather in the internal configuration of the new community, the institutionally component was inevitably linked to the "living word," the proclamation of the living Christ in which God opens himself to all peoples and unites them in the one people of God. It is significant that Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, uses many times, even because of Paul, the phrase "proclaim the word" (Acts 4:29,31; 8:25; 11:19; 13:46; 14:25; 16:6,32), with the evident intention of showing to the maximum the decisive reach of the "word" of the proclamation.

Concretely, this word is made up of the cross and resurrection of Christ, in which the Scriptures have been fulfilled. The paschal mystery, announced in the word, is fulfilled in the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, and materializes in Christian charity. The evangelizing work of Paul does not have any other goal than to firmly establish the community of the believers in Christ. This idea is within the same etymology of the term "ekkle-sía," which Paul, and with him all of Christianity, prefers to the other term "synagogue," not only because originally the first is more "lay" -- deriving from the Greek praxis of the political assembly and not properly religious -- but also because it directly implies the more theological idea of a call "ab extra," not only a simple meeting. The believers are called by God, who gathers them in a community, his Church.

Along this line, we can also understand the original concept, exclusively Pauline, of the Church as "Body of Christ." In this respect, it is fitting to keep in mind the two dimension of this concept. One is of a sociological character, according to which the body is formed by its components and wouldn't exist without them. This interpretation appears in the Letter to the Romans and the First Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul takes up an image that already existed in Roman sociology. He says that a people is like a body with distinct members, each one of which has its function, but all, even the smallest and apparently insignificant, are necessary so the body can live and perform its functions. Opportunely, the Apostle observes that in the Church there are many vocations: prophets, apostles, teachers, simple peoples, all called to live charity each day, all necessary for constructing the living unity of this spiritual organism.

The other interpretation makes reference to the very Body of Christ. Paul sustains that the Church is not just an organism, but rather becomes truly the Body of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, where all receive his Body and truly become his Body. Thus is fulfilled the spousal mystery, that all are one body and one spirit in Christ. Hence the reality goes much beyond the sociological imagination, expressing its true, profound essence, that is, the unity of all the baptized in Christ, considered by the Apostle, "one" in Christ, conformed to the sacrament of his Body.

Saying this, Paul shows he knows well and he brings us to understand that the Church is not his and is not ours: the Church is the body of Christ, it is "Church of God, " "field of God," construction of God … "temple of God" (1 Corinthians 3:9,16). This last designation is particularly interesting, because it attributes to an interweaving of interpersonal relationships a term that was commonly used to indicate a physical place, considered sacred. The relationship between Church and temple assumes therefore two complementary dimensions: On one hand, the characteristic of separation and purity, which the sacred building had, is applied to the ecclesial community; on the other hand, the concept of a material space is surpassed, to transfer this value to the reality of a living community of faith. If before, temples were considered places of the presence of God, now it is known and seen that God does not dwell in buildings made of stone, but that the place of the presence of God is in the world of the living community of the believers.

One separate discourse would merit the qualification of "people of God," which in Paul is applied substantially to the people of the Old Testament and afterward to the pagans, that were "no people" and that have become also the people of God thanks to their insertion in Christ through the word and the sacrament.

And a last sketch: In the Letter to Timothy, Paul qualifies the Church as "house of God" (1 Timothy 3:15); and this is a truly original definition, because it refers to the Church as a community structure in which warm interpersonal relationships of a familial character are lived. The Apostle helps us to understand ever better the mystery of the Church in its distinct dimensions of assembly of God in the world.

This is the greatness of the Church and the greatness of our call: We are the temple of God in the world, the place where God truly dwells, and we are, at the same time, community, family of God, who is love. As family and house of God we should carry out in the world the charity of God and thus be, with the strength that comes from faith, the place and sign of his presence. Let us pray to the Lord so that he grants us to be ever more his Church, his Body, the place of the presence of his charity in this our world and in our history.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on the Church. It was "the Church of God" which Paul persecuted before his conversion, and throughout his Letters he uses the term "Church" both with reference to local Christian communities and to the Church as a whole. For Paul, faith in the person of Jesus Christ and his Gospel is at the heart of the Church. Paul’s entire work of evangelization, centred on the proclamation of the Paschal mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, was aimed at establishing new communities of those who believe in the Lord and share in the life of the Spirit. The Church thus takes shape as an "ekklesía", a concrete assembly called into being by God’s word. For Paul, the Church is also the "Body of Christ", a living body endowed with a complex of ministries which are spiritual in their origin and purpose. In the variety and the theological richness of his teaching on the Church, Paul invites us to understand and love the Church ever more deeply, and to work for her upbuilding in faith and charity.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Peace in India
"I Urge the Perpetrators of Violence to Renounce These Acts"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2008 - Here is the greeting Benedict XVI gave to English-speaking pilgrims in St. Peter's Square today following the recitation of the Angelus.

The Pope prayed the Angelus after he celebrated Mass, canonizing four saints: Gaetano Errico, Maria Bernarda Butler, Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception and Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán.

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I cordially greet the English-speaking pilgrims, in particular the Official Delegation from India and all those who have come to celebrate the canonization of Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception. Her heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial. As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time. Commending to the providential care of Almighty God those who strive for peace and reconciliation, I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love. God bless you all!

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Papal Homily at Canonization
"The Ministry of Reconciliation Is a Ministry That Is Relevant"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 12, 2008 - Here is a translation of parts of a pluri-lingual homily Benedict XVI gave today at a Mass he celebrated in St. Peter's Square. During the Mass he canonized four saints.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today four new saints are being proposed for the veneration of the universal Church: Gaetano Errico, Maria Bernarda Bütler, Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception and Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán. The liturgy presents them with the Gospel image of the guests who participate in the feast dressed in wedding garments. The image of the feast is in the first reading and in various other Bible passages: It is a joyous image because the feast accompanies a wedding celebration, the covenant of love between God and his people. The Old Testament prophets continually directed Israel's expectations toward this covenant. And in a time marked by trials of every sort, when problems threatened to discourage the people, the reassuring word of the prophet Isaiah comes forth: "On this mountain," he says, "the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines" (25:6). God will put an end to the sadness and shame of the people, who will finally live happily in communion with him. God will never abandon his people: this is why the prophet invites them to rejoice: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us" (25:9).

If the first reading exalts in God's fidelity to his promise, the Gospel, with the parable of the wedding feast, brings us to reflect on the human response. Some of those who were invited first rejected the invitation, because they are drawn by other interests; others scorned the king's invitation, provoking not only their own chastisement but that of the whole city. The king, however, is not discouraged and he sends his servants to find others to fill up the hall where the feast is taking place. Thus, the rejection of the invitation on the part of those who were first invited has as its effect the extension of the invitation to all, with a special predilection for the poor and the disadvantaged. This is what happened in the Pascal Mystery: The power of evil was defeated by the omnipotence of God's love. The risen Lord can now invite everyone to the feast of Easter joy, himself furnishing the guests with the wedding garments, the symbol of the gratuitous gift of sanctifying grace.

But man must respond to God's generosity with free acceptance. This is precisely the generous path that was followed by those whom we are venerating today as saints. In baptism they received the wedding garment of divine grace. They kept it pure or purified it and made it bright in the course of their lives through the sacraments. Now they are joining in the heavenly wedding feast. The feast of the Eucharist, to which the Lord invites us every day and in which we must partake with the wedding garment of his grace, is the anticipation of that crowning feast in heaven. If it happens that this wedding garment is sullied or torn by sin, God's goodness does not reject us or leave us to our fate, but offers us the possibility, through the sacrament of reconciliation, of restoring the integrity of that wedding garment that is required for the feast.

The ministry of reconciliation, therefore, is a ministry that is relevant. The priest Gaetano Errico, founder of the Congregazione dei Missionari dei Sacri Cuori di Gesù e di Maria, dedicated himself to this sacrament with diligence, assiduity and patience, never refusing it nor counting the cost. He thus entered among the group of other extraordinary priests who tirelessly made the confessional a place to dispense God's mercy, helping men to rediscover themselves, to fight against sin and make progress in the spiritual life. The street and the confessional were the two particular places of Gaetano Errico's pastoral work. The street was the place that permitted him to offer his customary invitation: "God loves you, when shall we meet?" and in the confession he made their encounter with the mercy of the heavenly Father possible. How many wounded souls did he heal in this way! How many people did he help to be reconciled with God through the sacrament of forgiveness! In this way St. Gaetano Errico became an expert in the "science" of forgiveness, and concerned himself with teaching it to his missionaries: "God, who does not wish the death of the sinner, is always more merciful than his ministers; so be as merciful as you can and you will find mercy with God!"

[...]

Mother María Bernarda, a well loved and well remembered figure especially in Colombia, deeply understood that the banquet the Lord has prepared for all peoples is represented in a very particular way in the Eucharist. There, Christ himself receives us as friends and gives himself for us at the table of the bread and of the word, entering into intimate communion with each one. This was the source and pillar of the spirituality of this new saint, as well as the missionary drive that led her to leave her homeland of Switzerland and open herself to other evangelizing horizons in Ecuador and Colombia. In the midst of the serious adversities that she had to face, including exile, she carried engraved on her heart the exclamation from the Psalm we heard today: "Though I walk through dark valleys, I fear no evil, for thou art with me." (Psalm 23:4). In this way, docile to the Word of God and following the example of Mary, she did as the servants of the Gospel that we heard: She went in every direction proclaiming that the Lord invites all to his banquet. In this way she brought others to participate in the love of God to which she had dedicated all of her life with fidelity and joy.

"He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces" (Is 25:8). These words of the prophet Isaiah contain the promise which sustained Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception through a life of extreme physical and spiritual suffering. This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonized saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God's grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ's and now delights in the "rich fare and choice wines" of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Is 25:6).

She wrote, "I consider a day without suffering as a day lost". May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise.

The young Ecuadorian laywoman, Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán, offers us a perfect example of a prompt and generous response to the invitation that the Lord makes to us to participate in his love. And from a very young age, upon receiving the sacrament of confirmation, she clearly felt in her heart the call to live a life of sanctity and surrender to God. To assist with docility the action of the Holy Spirit in her soul, she always sought the counsel and guidance of good and expert priests, considering spiritual direction as one of the most effective means to reach sanctity. St. Narcisa de Jesús shows us a path to Christian perfection accessible to all faithful. Despite the abundant and extraordinary graces she received, her life developed in great simplicity, dedicated to her work as a seamstress and her apostolate as a catechist. In her passionate love for Jesus, that brought her to embark on a path of intense prayer and mortification, and to identify herself more and more with the mystery of the cross, she offers us an inviting testimony and a polished example of a life totally dedicated to God and neighbor.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of sanctity, that today shines in the Church with singular beauty. Jesus invites us all to follow him, like these saints, on the way of the cross, to inherit the eternal life that he, dying, made a gift to us. May their examples encourage us, their teachings orient and comfort us, their intercession sustain us in our daily toil, so that we too may one day share with them and all the saints the joy of the eternal feast in the heavenly Jerusalem. May Mary, the Queen of the Saints, whom we venerate with particular devotion during this month of October, obtain this grace for us. Amen.

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Pope's Homily on Pius XII
"Sanctity Was His Ideal"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2008 - Here is a translation of the homily given by Benedict XVI at a Mass said in St. Peter's today in memory of the death of Pius XII on the 50th anniversary of his death.

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

The passage from the Book of Syracide and the prologue from the First Letter of Saint Peter, proclaimed as the first and second reading, offer significant points for reflection in this Eucharistic celebration, during which we remember my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Pius XII. Exactly fifty years have passed since the time of his death, which occurred in the first hours of October 9 1958. The Syracide, as we heard, reminded those who wish to follow the Lord that they must prepare themselves to face new trials, difficulties and suffering. To not be overcome by these -- he admonishes -- one needs a righteous and constant heart, faithfulness to God and patience united to an inflexible determination in continuing on the path of good. Suffering sharpens the heart of the Lord's disciple, just as gold is purified in the furnace. The sacred author writes: "Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and the chosen in the furnace of humiliation" (2:4).

On his part, Saint Peter in the pericope that was proposed to us, turning to the Christians of the communities of Asia Minor who "bear all sorts of trials", goes beyond this: he asks them to feel, despite all this, "great joy" (1 Pet 1:6). Proof is in fact necessary, he observes, "so that the worth of your faith, more valuable than gold, which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved -- to your praise and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Pet 1:7). And then, for the second time, he exhorts them to be joyous, rather exult "with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described" (see 1:8). The profound reason of this spiritual joy is the love for Jesus and the certainty of His invisible presence. He makes the believers' faith and hope unshakeable, even when faced with the most complicated and harsh events of existence.

In the light of these Biblical texts we can read about the earthly life of Pope Pacelli and his lengthy service to the Church, which began in 1901 under Leo XIII and continued with Saint Pius X, Benedict XV and Pius XI. These Biblical texts help us, above all, to understand which was the source he drew from for his courage and patience in his pontifical ministry, during the troubled years of World War II and the following ones, no less complex, of reconstruction and difficult international relationship of history called "the Cold War."

"Miserere mei Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam": with this invocation from Psalm 50(51), Pius XII began his testament. And he continued: "These words, conscious of being unworthy and unequal, which I pronounced the moment I gave, trembling, my acceptance of the election as Supreme Pontiff, with greater conviction I repeat now." This was two years before his death. To abandon oneself in the hands of the merciful God: This was the attitude my venerable Predecessor constantly cultivated, the last of the Popes born in Rome and belonging to a family tied to the Holy See for many years.

In Germany, where he was the Apostolic Nuncio, first in Munich of Bavaria and then in Berlin until 1929, he left behind grateful memories, especially for having collaborated with Benedict XV in the attempt to stop the "useless slaughter" of the Great War, and for having realized from the beginning the danger of the monstrous Nazi-Socialist ideology with its pernicious anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic root. He was created a Cardinal in December 1929, and shortly after became the Secretary of State. For nine years he was a faithful collaborator of Pius XI, in a time marked by totalitarianism: Fascist, Nazi and Soviet Communism, all condemned by the encyclicals "Non Abbiamo Bisogno," "Mit Brennenbder Sorge" and "Divini Redemptoris."

"Whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life" (Jn 5:24). This assurance made by Jesus, which we have heard in the Gospel, makes us think back to the hardest moments of the Pontificate of Pius XII when, realizing the loss of any human security, he felt the need, even through constant ascetic effort, to belong to Christ, the only certainty that never sets. The Word of God thus becomes the light of his path, a path in which Pope Pacelli had to comfort the homeless and persecuted persons, dry the tears of suffering and the crying of so many victims of the war. Only Christ is the true hope of man; only entrusting the human heart to Him can it open up to love that overcomes hate. This knowledge followed Pius XII in his ministry as the Successor of Peter, a ministry that began when the menacing clouds of a new world conflict grew over Europe and the rest of the world, which he tried to avoid in all ways: He called out in his message on the radio on August 24 1939: The danger is imminent, but there is still time. Nothing is lost with peace. Everything can be lost with war" (AAS, XXXI, 1939, p. 334).

The war highlighted the love he felt for his "beloved Rome," a love demonstrated by the intense charitable work he undertook in defense of the persecuted, without any distinction of religion, ethnicity, nationality or political leanings. When, once the city was occupied, he was repeatedly advised to leave the Vatican to safeguard himself, his answer was always the same and decisive: "I will not leave Rome and my place, even at the cost of my life" (cf Summarium, p. 186). His relatives and other witnesses refer furthermore to privations regarding food, heating, clothes and comfort, to which he subjected himself voluntarily in order to share in the extremely trying conditions suffered by the people due to the bombardments and consequences of war (cf A. Tornielli, "Pio XII, Un uomo sul trono di Pietro"). And how can we forget his Christmas radio message of December 1942? In a voice breaking with emotion he deplored the situation of "the hundreds of thousands of persons who, without any fault on their part, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, have been consigned to death or to a slow decline" (AAS, XXXV, 1943, p. 23), a clear reference to the deportation and extermination of the Jews. He often acted secretly and silently because, in the light of the concrete realities of that complex historical moment, he saw that this was the only way to avoid the worst and save the largest possible number of Jews. His interventions, at the end of the war and at the time of his death, received numerous and unanimous expressions of gratitude from the highest authorities of the Jewish world, such as, for example, the Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir, who wrote: "During the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and commiserate with their victims"; ending emotionally: "We mourn a great servant of peace."

Unfortunately, the historical debate on the figure of the Servant of God Pius XII, which has not always been the calmest, has prevented us shining a light on all the aspects of his multifaceted Pontificate. There was a great multitude of speeches, addresses and messages delivered to scientists, doctors, and representatives of the most varied categories of workers, some of which even today still possess an extraordinary relevance and continue to be a concrete point of reference. Paul VI, who was his faithful collaborator for many years, described him as an erudite man, an attentive scholar, open to modern means of research and culture, with an ever-strong and coherent fidelity both to the principles of human reasoning, as well as to the intangible depository of the truth of faith. He considered him a precursor of Vatican Council II (cf Angelus of 10 March, 1974). From this point of view, many of his writings deserve to be remembered, but I will limit myself to quoting from only a few. With the Encyclical "Mystici Corporis," published on 29 June 1943, while war still raged, he described the spiritual and visible relationships that unite men to the Word Incarnate, and he proposed integrating into this point of view all the principle themes of ecclesiology, offering for the first time a dogmatic and theological synthesis that would provide the basis for the Conciliar Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium."

A few months later, on 20 September 1943, with the Encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu" he laid down the doctrinal norms for the study of Sacred Scripture, highlighting its importance and role in Christian life. This is a document that bears witness to a great opening to scientific research on the Biblical texts. How can we not remember this Encyclical, during the course of the work of this Synod that has as its own theme "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church"? It is to the prophetic intuition of Pius XII that we owe the launch of a serious study of the characteristics of ancient historiography, in order to better understand the nature of the sacred books, without weakening or negating their historical value. The deeper study of the "literary genres," whose intention is to better understand what the sacred author meant, was viewed with a certain suspicion prior to 1943, in part thanks to the abuse that had been made of it.

The Encyclical recognized that it could be applied correctly, declaring its use legitimate not only for the study of the Old Testament, but also the New. "In the present day indeed this art -- explained the Pope -- which is called textual criticism and which is used with great and praiseworthy results in the editions of profane writings, is also quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books, because of that very reverence which is due to the Divine Oracles." And he added: "For its very purpose is to insure that the sacred text be restored, as perfectly as possible, be purified from the corruptions due to the carelessness of the copyists and be freed, as far as may be done, from glosses and omissions, from the interchange and repetition of words and from all other kinds of mistakes, which are wont to make their way gradually into writings handed down through many centuries" (AAS, XXXV, 1943, p 336).

The third Encyclical I would like to mention is the "Mediator Dei," dedicated to the liturgy, published 20 November 1947. With this document, the Servant of God provided an impulse to the liturgical movement, insisting that "the chief element of divine worship must be interior. For -- he writes -- we must always live in Christ and give ourselves to Him completely, so that in Him, with Him and through Him the heavenly Father may be duly glorified. The sacred liturgy requires, however, that both of these elements be intimately linked with each another. ... Otherwise religion clearly amounts to mere formalism, without meaning and without content."

We cannot do other then than acknowledge the notable impulse this Pontiff gave to the Church's missionary activity with the Encyclicals "Evangelii Praecones" (1951) and "Fidei Donum" (1957), that highlighted the duty of every community to announce the Gospel to the peoples, as Vatican II would go on to do with courageous strength. Pope Pacelli had already shown this love for the missions from the outset of his Pontificate when in October 1939 he had wanted to consecrate personally twelve bishops from mission countries, including an Indian, a Chinese and a Japanese, the first African bishop and the first bishop of Madagascar. One of his constant pastoral concerns, finally, was the promotion of the role of lay people so that the ecclesial community could make use of all its possible energy and resources. For this too the Church and the world are grateful to him.

Dear brothers and sisters, while we pray that the cause of beatification of the Servant of God Pius XII may continue smoothly, it is good to remember that sanctity was his ideal, an ideal he never failed to propose to everyone. This is why he promoted the causes of beatification and canonization for persons from different peoples, representatives of all states of life, roles and professions, and granted substantial space to women. And it was Mary, the Woman of salvation, whom he offered to humanity as a sign of certain hope, proclaiming the dogma of the Assumption, during the Holy Year of 1950. In this world of ours, which, like then, is assailed by worries and anguish about its future; in this world where, perhaps more than then, the distancing of many from truth and virtue allows us to glimpse scenarios without hope, Pius XII invites us to look to Mary assumed into the glory of Heaven. He invites us to invoke her faithfully, so that she will allow us to appreciate ever more the value of life on earth and help us to look to the true aim that is the destiny of all of us: that eternal life that, as Jesus assures us, already belongs to those who hear and follow his word. Amen!

[Translation issued by the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops]

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Message for World Refugee and Migrant Day
"St. Paul Migrant, 'Apostle of the Peoples'"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2008 - Here is the message Benedict XVI wrote for the 95th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, to be held Jan. 18, 2009. The Vatican released the message Wednesday.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year the theme of the Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees is: "St Paul migrant, ‘Apostle of the peoples’". It is inspired by its felicitous coincidence with the Jubilee Year I established in the Apostle's honour on the occasion of the 2,000th anniversary of his birth. Indeed, the preaching and mediation between the different cultures and the Gospel which Paul, "a migrant by vocation" carried out, are also an important reference point for those who find themselves involved in the migratory movement today.

Born into a family of Jewish immigrants in Tarsus, Cilicia, Saul was educated in the Hebrew and Hellenistic cultures and languages, making the most of the Roman cultural context. After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus (cf. Gal 1:13-16), although he did not deny his own "traditions" and felt both esteem and gratitude to Judaism and the Law (cf. Rm 9:1-5; 10:1; 2 Cor 11:22; Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:3-6), he devoted himself without hesitation or second thoughts to his new mission, with courage and enthusiasm and docile to the Lord's command: "I will send you far away to the Gentiles" (Acts 22:21). His life changed radically (cf. Phil 3:7-11): Jesus became for him his raison d’être and the motive that inspired his apostolic dedication to the service of the Gospel. He changed from being a persecutor of Christians to being an Apostle of Christ.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, he spared no effort to see that the Gospel which is "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Rm 1:16) was proclaimed to all, making no distinction of nationality or culture. On his apostolic journeys, in spite of meeting with constant opposition, he first proclaimed the Gospel in the synagogues, giving prior attention to his compatriots in the diaspora (cf. Acts 18:4-6). If they rejected him he would address the Gentiles, making himself - an authentic "missionary to migrants" - as a migrant and an ambassador of Jesus Christ "at large" in order to invite every person to become a "new creation" in the Son of God (2 Cor 5:17).

The proclamation of the kerygma caused him to cross the seas of the Near East and to travel the roads of Europe until he reached Rome. He set out from Antioch, where he proclaimed the Gospel to people who did not belong to Judaism and where the disciples of Jesus were called "Christians" for the first time (cf. Acts 11:20, 26). His life and his preaching were wholly directed to making Jesus known and loved by all, for all persons are called to become a single people in him.

This is the mission of the Church and of every baptized person in our time too, even in the era of globalization; a mission that with attentive pastoral solicitude is also directed to the variegated universe of migrants - students far from home, immigrants, refugees, displaced people, evacuees - including for example, the victims of modern forms of slavery, and of human trafficking. Today too the message of salvation must be presented with the same approach as that of the Apostle to the Gentiles, taking into account the different social and cultural situations and special difficulties of each one as a consequence of his or her condition as a migrant or itinerant person. I express the wish that every Christian community may feel the same apostolic zeal as St Paul who, although he was proclaiming to all the saving love of the Father (Rm 8:15-16; Gal 4:6) to "win more" (1 Cor 9:22) for Christ, made himself weak "to the weak... all things to all men so that [he] might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22). May his example also be an incentive for us to show solidarity to these brothers and sisters of ours and to promote, in every part of the world and by every means, peaceful coexistence among different races, cultures and religions.

Yet what was the secret of the Apostle to the Gentiles? The missionary zeal and passion of the wrestler that distinguished him stemmed from the fact that since "Christ [had] made him his own", (Phil 3:12), he remained so closely united to him that he felt he shared in his same life, through sharing in "his sufferings" (Phil 3:10; cf. also Rm 8:17; 2 Cor 4:8-12; Col 1:24). This is the source of the apostolic ardour of St Paul who recounts: "He who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles" (Gal 1:15-16; cf. also Rm 15:15-16). He felt "crucified with" Christ, so that he could say: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20), and no difficulty hindered him from persevering in his courageous evangelizing action in cosmopolitan cities such as Rome and Corinth, which were populated at that time by a mosaic of races and cultures.

In reading the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters that Paul addressed to various recipients, we perceive a model of a Church that was not exclusive but on the contrary open to all, formed by believers without distinction of culture or race: every baptized person is, in fact, a living member of the one Body of Christ. In this perspective, fraternal solidarity expressed in daily gestures of sharing, joint participation and joyful concern for others, acquires a unique prominence. However, it is impossible to achieve this dimension of brotherly mutual acceptance, St Paul always teaches, without the readiness to listen to and welcome the Word preached and practised (cf. 1 Thes 1:6), a Word that urges all to be imitators of Christ (cf. Eph 5:1-2), to be imitators of the Apostle (cf. 1 Cor 11:1). And therefore, the more closely the community is united to Christ, the more it cares for its neighbour, eschewing judgment, scorn and scandal, and opening itself to reciprocal acceptance (cf. Rm 14:1-3; 15:7). Conformed to Christ, believers feel they are "brothers" in him, sons of the same Father (Rm 8:14-16; Gal 3:26; 4:6). This treasure of brotherhood makes them "practise hospitality" (Rm 12:13), which is the firstborn daughter of agape (cf. 1 Tm 3:2, 5:10; Ti 1:8; Phlm 17).

In this manner the Lord's promise: comes true: "then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters" (2 Cor 6:17-18). If we are aware of this, how can we fail to take charge of all those, particularly refugees and displaced people, who are in conditions of difficulty or hardship? How can we fail to meet the needs of those who are de facto the weakest and most defenceless, marked by precariousness and insecurity, marginalized and often excluded by society? We should give our priority attention to them because, paraphrasing a well known Pauline text, "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God" (1 Cor 1:27).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which will be celebrated on 18 January 2009, be for all an incentive to live brotherly love to the full without making any kind of distinction and without discrimination, in the conviction that any one who needs us and whom we can help is our neighbour (cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 15). May the teaching and example of St Paul, a great and humble Apostle and a migrant, an evangelizer of peoples and cultures, spur us to understand that the exercise of charity is the culmination and synthesis of the whole of Christian life.

The commandment of love - as we well know - is nourished when disciples of Christ, united, share in the banquet of the Eucharist which is, par excellence, the sacrament of brotherhood and love. And just as Jesus at the Last Supper combined the new commandment of fraternal love with the gift of the Eucharist, so his "friends", following in the footsteps of Christ who made himself a "servant" of humanity, and sustained by his Grace cannot but dedicate themselves to mutual service, taking charge of one another, complying with St Paul's recommendation: "bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). Only in this way does love increase among believers and for all people (cf. 1 Thes 3:12).

Dear brothers and sisters, let us not tire of proclaiming and witnessing to this "Good News" with enthusiasm, without fear and sparing no energy! The entire Gospel message is condensed in love, and authentic disciples of Christ are recognized by the mutual love their bear one another and by their acceptance of all.

May the Apostle Paul and especially Mary, the Mother of acceptance and love, obtain this gift for us. As I invoke the divine protection upon all those who are dedicated to helping migrants, and more generally, in the vast world of migration, I assure each one of my constant remembrance in prayer and, with affection, I impart my apostolic Blessing to all.

From Castel Gandolfo, 24 August 2008

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On How St. Paul Knew Christ
"Jesus Lives Now and Speaks With Us Now"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 8, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the previous catecheses on St. Paul, I spoke of his encounter with the Risen Christ, which fundamentally changed his life, and then of his relationship with the Twelve Apostles called by Jesus, particularly with Sts. James, Peter and John, and of his relationship with the Church of Jerusalem.

The question that now remains is what St. Paul knew of the earthly Jesus: of his life, his teachings, his passion. Before entering into this question it could be useful to have in mind that Paul himself distinguished two ways of knowing Jesus and, in general, two ways of knowing a person.

He writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer” (5:16). To know "according to the flesh," in a corporeal way, means to know only from the outside, with external criteria: one can see a person many times, recognize the individual's facial characteristics and the many details of how he acts: how he talks, moves, etc. Yet, even knowing someone in this way, one does not really know the person, one doesn't know the nucleus of the person. Only with the heart is one able to truly know a person.

In fact the Pharisees, the Sadducees, knew Christ from the outside, they heard his teachings, and knew many details of him, but they did not know him in his truth. There is an analogous distinction in the words of Jesus. After the Transfiguration, he asked the apostles: "Who do people say I am?" And, "Who do you say that I am?" The people know him, but superficially; they know many things about him, but they do not really know him. On the other hand, thanks to their friendship, and the role of their hearts, the Twelve at least substantially understood and began to learn more of who Christ really was.

This distinctive manner of knowing also exists today: There are learned individuals who know many details of Christ, and simple people who don't know these details, but they know Christ in his truth: "The heart speaks to the heart." And Paul essentially says that he knows Jesus in this way, with the heart, and that he knows essentially the person in his truth; and then afterward, he knows the details.

Having said this, the question remains: What did Paul know about the life, words, passion and miracles of Jesus? It seems he never met Christ during his early life. Surely he learned the details of Christ's earthly life from the apostles and the nascent Church. In his letters we find three forms of reference to the pre-Easter Jesus. First, there are explicit and direct references. Paul spoke of the Davidic lineage of Jesus (cf. Romans 1:3), he knew of the existence of his "brothers" or blood relatives (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:19), he knew of the development of the Last Supper (cf 1 Corinthians 11:23). He know other phrases of Jesus, for example on the indissolubility of marriage (cf 1 Corinthians 7:10 with Mark 10:11-12), on the need that those who announce the Gospel be sustained by the community as the worker deserves his wage (cf 1 Corinthians 9:14 with Luke 10:7). Paul knew the words Jesus spoke at the Last Supper (cf 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 with Luke 22:19-20), and he also knew the cross of Jesus. These are direct references to the words and facts of the life of Jesus.

Second, we can see in some phrases of the Pauline letters various allusions to the confirmed tradition in the synoptic Gospels. For example, the words we read in 1 Thessalonians, according to which "the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night” (5:2), cannot be explained by referring to the Old Testament prophecies, because the metaphor of the thief at night is only found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, hence taken from the synoptic tradition. And when one reads that God "chose the foolish of the world" (1 Corinthians 1:27-28), one notes the faithful echo of the teachings of Jesus on the simple and the poor (cf Matthew 5:3; 11:25; 19:30). There are also the words of Jesus in the messianic Jubilee: “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Paul knows -- from his missionary experience -- that these words are true, those who are childlike are the ones who have their hearts open to knowledge of Christ. Also, the mention of the obedience of Jesus "to death" that is found in Philippians 2:8 can't but point to the total willingness of the earthly Christ to fulfill the will of the Father (cf Mark 3:35; Jn 4:34).

Paul therefore knew the passion of Christ, his cross, and the way in which he lived the last moments of his life. The cross of Jesus and the tradition regarding the fact of the cross is at the center of the Pauline Kerygma. Another pillar of the life of Jesus that Paul knew was the Sermon on the Mount, some elements of which he cites almost literally when he writes to the Romans: "Love one another. ... Blessed are the persecuted. ... Live in peace with all. ... Overcome evil with good." In his letters there is a faithful expression of the Sermon on the Mount (cf Matthew 5-7).

Finally, it is possible to find a third way that the words of Jesus are in the letters of Paul: It is when he transposed the pre-Easter tradition to the post-Easter period. A typical example is the theme of the Kingdom of God. This is certainly at the center of the preaching of the historical Christ (cf Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:43). In Paul the transposition of this theme is revealed, for after the resurrection it is evident that Jesus, the Resurrected One, is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom, then, is where Jesus is. And then necessarily the theme of the Kingdom of God, in which the mystery of Christ had been anticipated, is transformed into Christology.

Jesus' own instructions for entering the Kingdom of God are valid for Paul in regard to the justification by faith: Both require an attitude of great humility and availability, free of presumptions, to receive the grace of God. For example, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (cf Luke 18:9-14) teaches exactly what St. Paul discusses when he insists that nobody should glorify themselves in the presence of God. Also, the teaching of Jesus on the publicans and the prostitutes, who are more willing than the Pharisees to receive the Gospel (cf Matthew 21:31; Luke 7:36-50), and his decisions to share a table with them (cf Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 15:1-2), are found in the doctrine of Paul on the mysterious love of God toward sinners (cf Romans 5:8-10 and Ephesians 2:3-5). In this way the theme of the Kingdom of God is proposed in a new manner, but always faithful to the tradition of the historic Jesus.

Another example of the faithful transposition of the doctrinal nucleus of Jesus is found in the "titles" that refer to him. Before Easter, Christ called himself "Son of Man"; after Easter it is evident that the Son of Man is also the Son of God. Therefore, the preferred title of Paul for Jesus is "Kyrios" -- Lord (cf Phillipians 9:11) -- that indicates the divinity of Jesus. With this title the Lord Jesus appears in the full light of his resurrection.

On the Mount of Olives, in the moment of Jesus' extreme anguish (cf Mark 14:36), the disciples, before going to sleep, heard how Jesus spoke with the Father and called him "Abba -- Father.” This is a very informal word, equal to "daddy," used only by children for their father. Until that moment it was unthinkable that a Hebrew use a word such as that to address God; but Jesus, being truly a son, talked in this way during this hour of intimacy and said "Abba, Father."

In the letters of St. Paul to the Romans and Galatians, surprisingly, this word "Abba," which expresses the exclusivity of the sonship of Jesus, appears in the mouths of the baptized (cf Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). They have received the "Spirit of the Son" and now carry in themselves this Spirit, and they can talk as Jesus and with Jesus as true sons of the Father. They can say "Abba" because they have been converted into sons and daughters in the Son.

And finally, I would like to point out the salvific dimension of the death of Jesus, as we find in the Gospel in which "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28). The faithful expression of this phrase of Jesus appears in the Pauline doctrine on the death of Jesus as a rescue (cf 1 Corinthians 6:20), as redemption (cf Romans 3:24), as liberation (cf Galatians 5:1) and as reconciliation (cf Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Here is the center of Pauline theology, which is based in this phrase of Jesus.

In conclusion, St. Paul did not think Jesus was something historical, as a person from the past. He certainly knew the great tradition regarding his life, his words, his death and his resurrection, but he did not treat them as something from the past; he proposed them as the reality of the living Jesus. The words and actions of Jesus for Paul do not pertain to a historic time, to the past. Jesus lives now and speaks with us now, and lives for us. This is the true manner to get to know Jesus, and to learn the tradition of him. We should also learn to know Jesus, not physically, as a person of the past, but as our Lord and brother, that today is with us and shows us how to live and how to die.

[Translation by Karna Swanson]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider Paul’s relationship to the so-called "historical" Jesus. In a celebrated passage Paul states that "even though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we no longer know him in that way" (2 Cor 5:16). Here the Apostle does not claim that he knew Jesus during his earthly ministry, but rather that he once considered Jesus from a merely human standpoint. Significantly, Paul’s knowledge of Christ came from the preaching of the early Church. Both his initial rejection of Jesus and -- after his conversion on the road to Damascus -- his preaching of the glorified Christ were based on the Gospel as proclaimed by the first Christian community. In his Letters, Paul refers explicitly to the facts of Jesus’ earthly life, as well as to his teaching. His Letters also reflect many central themes and images drawn from the preaching of Jesus. Paul’s teaching on the Jesus’ identity as the Son of the Father, in whom we receive redemption and adoptive sonship, is clearly derived from the Lord’s own experience and teaching. In a word, Paul’s knowledge of Jesus and his proclamation of the risen Lord as God’s Son and our Saviour, was grounded in the life and preaching of Jesus himself.

I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims, and in a special way, diaconal candidates from the Pontifical North American College with their families: may the grace of Holy Orders enliven you to preach the Gospel of Christ with conviction and love! I also welcome pilgrims from the Diocese of Hamilton, members of Christ Teens Malaysia, ecumenical pilgrims from Norway, as well as visitors from Indonesia, China, Japan, Australia, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands. God bless you all!

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Pope's Reflection at Synod on Word of God
"The Foundation of Everything, It Is the True Reality"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2008 - Here is an unofficial Vatican translation of the reflection Benedict XVI gave Monday at the first general congregation of the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," under way in the Vatican through Oct. 26. The Pope addressed the assembly in Latin.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopacy,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of our Synod the Liturgy of the Hours proposes a passage from Psalm 18 on the Word of God: praise for His Word, expression of the joy of Israel in learning it and, in it, to learn about His will and His face. I would like to meditate on a few verses of this Psalm with you.

It begins like this: “In aeternum, Domine, verbum tuum constitutum est in caelo... firmasti terram, et permanet”. This refers to the solidity of the Word. It is solid, it is the true reality on which we must base our life. Let us remember the words of Jesus who continues the words of this Psalm: “Sky and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away”. Humanly speaking, the word, my human word, is almost nothing in reality, but a breath. As soon as it is pronounced, it disappears. It seems like nothing. But already the human word has incredible force. It is words that create history, it is words that form thoughts, the thoughts that create the word. It is the word that forms history, reality.

Even more, the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality. And to be realistic, we must rely upon this reality. We must change our notion that matter, solid things, things we can touch, is the most solid, the most certain reality. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord speaks to us about the two possible foundations for building the house of one’s life: sand and rock. He who builds on sand only builds on visible and tangible things, on success, on career, on money. Apparently these are the true realities. But all this one day will vanish. We can see this now with the fall of two large banks: this money disappears, it is nothing. And thus all things, which seem to be the true realities we can count on, are only realities of a secondary order. Who builds his life on these realities, on matter, on success, on appearances, builds upon sand. Only the Word of God is the foundation of all reality, it is as stable as the heavens and more than the heavens, it is reality. Therefore, we must change our concept of realism. The realist is he who recognizes the Word of God, in this apparently weak reality, as the foundation of all things. Realist is he who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent. Thus the first verses of the Psalm invite us to discover what reality is and how to find the foundation of our life, how to build life.

The following verse says: “Omnia serviunt tibi”. All things come from the Word, they are products of the Word. “In the beginning was the Word”. In the beginning the heavens spoke. And thus reality was born of the Word, it is “creatura Verbi”. All is created from the Word and all is called to serve the Word. This means that all of creation, in the end, is thought to create the meeting place between God and His creature, a place where the history of love between God and His creature can develop. “Omnia serviunt tibi”. The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe. It is not a minimal thing, which happens by chance on a lost planet. It is the motivation for everything, the motivation for creation. Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and His creature. In this sense, the history of salvation, Covenant, precedes creation. During the Hellenistic period, Judaism developed the idea that the Torah would have preceded the creation of the material world. This material world seems to have been created solely to make place for the Torah, for this Word of God that creates the answer and becomes the history of love. The mystery of Christ already is mysteriously revealed here. This is what we are told in the Letter to the Ephesians and to the Colossians: Christ is the prototypos, the first-born of creation, the idea the universe was conceived for. He welcomes all. We enter in the movement of the universe by uniting with Christ. One can say that, while material creation is the condition for the history of salvation, the history of the Covenant is the true cause of the cosmos. We reach the roots of being by reaching the mystery of Christ, His living word that is the aim of all creation. “Omnia serviunt tibi”. In serving the Lord we achieve the goal of the being, the goal of our own existence.

Let us take a leap forward: “Mandata tua exquisivi”. We are always searching for the Word of God. It is not merely present in us. Just reading it does not mean necessarily that we have truly understood the Word of God. The danger is that we only see the human words and do not find the true actor within, the Holy Spirit. We cannot find the Word in the words. Saint Augustine, in this context, recalls the scribes and Pharisees consulted by Herod when the Magi arrived. Herod wants to know where the Savior of the world would be born. They know this, they give the correct answer: in Bethlehem. They are great specialists, who know everything. However they do not see reality, they do not know the Savior. Saint Augustine says: they are signs on the road for the others, but they themselves do not move. This is a great danger as well in our reading of the Scriptures: we stop at the human words, words form the past, history of the past, and we do not discover the present in the past, the Holy Spirit who speaks to us today with the words from the past. This is not how we may enter the internal movement of the Word, which in human words hides and opens the divine words. Therefore, there is always a need for “exquisivi”. We must always look for the Word within words.

Therefore, exegesis, the true reading of the Holy Scripture, is not only a literary phenomenon, not only reading a text. It is the movement of my existence. It is moving towards the Word of God in the human words. Only by conforming to the Mystery of God, to the Lord who is the Word, can we enter within the Word, can we truly find the Word of God in human words. Let us pray to the Lord that He may help us to look for the word, not only with our intellect but also with our entire existence.
At the end: “Omni consummationi vidi finem, latum praeceptum tuum nimis”. All human things, all the things we can invent, create, are finite. Even all human religious experiences are finite, showing one aspect of reality, because our being is finite and can only understand one part, a few elements: “latum praeceptum tuum nimis”. Only God is infinite. And therefore His Word too is universal and knows no boundaries. Coming into communion with the Word of God, we enter a communion of the Church that lives the Word of God. We do not enter into a small group, with the rules of a small group, but we go beyond our limitations. We go towards the depths, in the true grandeur of the only truth, the great truth of God. We are truly a part of what is universal. And thus we go out into the communion of all the brothers and sisters, of all humanity, because the desire for the Word of God, which is one, is hidden in our heart. Therefore even evangelization, the proclamation of the Gospel, the mission are not a type of ecclesial colonialism, where we wish to insert others into our group. It means going beyond the individual culture into the universality that connects all, unites all, makes us all brothers. Let us pray once again that the Lord may help us to truly enter the “vastness” of His Word and thus open the universal horizon to humanity, what unites us despite all the differences.

At the end, we return to a preceding verse: “Tuus sum ego:salvum me fac”. This translates as: “I am yours”. The Word of God is like a stairway that we can go up and, with Christ, even descend into the depths of His love. It is a stairway to reach the Word in the words. “I am yours”. The word has a face, it is a person, Christ. Before we can say “I am yours”, He has already told us “I am yours”. The Letter to the Hebrews, quoting Psalm 39, says: “You gave me a body... Then I said, ‘Here I am, I am coming’”. The Lord prepared a body to come. With His incarnation He said: I am yours. And in baptism He said to me: I am yours. In the Holy Eucharist, He always repeats this: I am yours, so that we may answer: Lord, I am yours. In the path of the Word, entering the mystery of his incarnation, of His being among us, we wish to appropriate His being, expropriate our existence, giving ourselves to Him, He who gave Himself to us.

“I am yours”. Let us pray the Lord that we may learn to say this word with our whole being. That way we will be in the heart of the Word. That way we will be saved.

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Benedict XVI's Homily at Synod's Inaugural Mass
"When God Speaks, He Always Seeks a Response"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2008 .- Here is an unofficial Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Sunday at the inaugural Mass of the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The synod will be held at the Vatican through Oct. 26. The theme is "The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church."

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The first reading, taken from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, like the page from the Gospel according to Matthew, proposed a suggestive allegorical image of the Sacred Scripture to our liturgical assembly: the image of the vineyard, which we have already heard about during the past Sundays. The initial pericope of the Evangelical story refers to the “canticle of the vineyard” that we find in Isaiah. This is a canticle placed in the autumnal context of harvest: a small masterpiece of Jewish poetry, which must have been very familiar to those who listened to Jesus and from which, as from other references by the Prophets (Cf. Hos 10:1; Jr 2:21; Ez 17:3-10; 19:10-14; Psa 79:9-17), we learn that the vineyard was Israel. To His vineyard, to His chosen people, God maintained the same care as that of a faithful husband for his wife (Cf. Ez 16:1-14, Eph 5:25-33).

The image of the vineyard, together with the one of marriage, therefore describes the divine project of salvation, and is seen as a moving allegory of the Covenant of God with His people. In the Gospel, Jesus takes up the canticle of Isaiah, but adapts it to those listening to Him and to the new hour of the history of salvation. The accent is no longer placed on the vineyard but on the tenants, to whom the “servants” of the owner ask for the rent in his name. The servants are mistreated though and even killed. How can we not think of the events of the chosen people and to the fate awaiting the prophets sent by God? At the end, the owner of the vineyard makes a last attempt: he sends his son, convinced that they will at least listen to him. However the contrary occurs: the tenants kill him because he is the son, the heir, convinced that they can then easily come into possession of the vineyard. Therefore, faced with a jump in quality with respect to the accusation of violating social justice, which emerges from the canticle of Isaiah. Here we can clearly see how contempt for the order given by the owner is changed into scorn for him: this is not simple disobedience to a divine precept, this is the true and actual rejection of God: there appears the mystery of the Cross.

What is denounced in the evangelical page calls upon our way of thinking and acting. It speaks not only of the “hour” of Christ, of the mystery of the Cross in that moment, but also of the presence of the Cross at all times. In a special way, it calls upon the people who have received the proclamation of the Gospel. If we look at history, we are forced to notice the frequent coldness and rebellion of incoherent Christians. Because of this, God, while never shirking in his promise of salvation, often had to turn towards punishment. In this context, it becomes spontaneous to return to the first proclamation of the Gospel, from which the initial flourishing Christian communities emerged, which then disappeared and are only remembered today in history books. Could this same thing not happen in our day and age? Today, nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture. There are those that, having decided that “God is dead”, declare themselves “god”, believing themselves to be the only creator of their own fate, the absolute owner of the world.

Ridding himself of God and not awaiting His salvation, Man believes he can do as he likes and be the only judge of himself and his actions. But is man truly more happy if he removes God from his life, if he declares God “dead”? When men proclaim themselves absolute owners of themselves and the only masters of creation, are they really going to be able to construct a society where freedom, justice and peace reign? Is it not more likely - as demonstrated by news headlines every day - that the arbitrary rule of power, selfish interests, injustice and exploitation, and violence in all its forms will extend their grip? Man’s final destination, in the end, is to find himself more alone and society more divided and confused.

But there is a promise in the words of Jesus: the vineyard will not be destroyed. While the landowner abandons the unfaithful tenants to their fate, he does not abandon his vineyard and he entrusts it to his faithful tenants. What this demonstrates is that, if in some areas faith weakens to the point of vanishing, there will always be other peoples ready to embrace it. This is why Jesus, as he quotes Psalm 117 [118]: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v. 22), assures us that his death will not represent the defeat of God. Having been killed, he will not remain in the tomb, but rather that which appears to be a total defeat will mark the start of a definitive victory. His dreadful passion and death on the cross will be followed by the glory of the Resurrection. The vineyard will therefore continue to produce grapes and will be leased by the landowner “to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time” (Mt 21:41).

The image of the vineyard with its moral, doctrinal and spiritual implications, will reappear in the speech at the Last Supper when, taking his leave of the Apostles, the Lord will say: “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more” (Jn 15:1-2).Setting out from the Easter event, the history of salvation will experience a major turning point, and the protagonists will be those “other tenants” who, planted as the chosen seeds in Christ, the true vine, will bear fruits that are abundant in eternal life (cf Opening Prayer). We too are among these “tenants”, grafted in Christ who Himself wished to become the “true vine”. Let us pray that the Lord, who Himself gives us His blood in the Eucharist, will help us to “bear fruit” for life eternal and for this our time.

The consolatory message we gather from these Biblical texts is the certainty that evil and death will not have the last word, but it will be Christ who wins in the end. Always! The Church will never tire of proclaiming this Good News, as is happening today, in this basilica dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles who was the first to spread the Gospel in vast tracts of Asia Minor and Europe. We will renew this message in a meaningful way during the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which has as its theme “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church”. I would like at this point to greet all of you cordially, Venerable Synodal Fathers, and all of you who are taking part in this meeting as experts, auditors and special guests. Furthermore, I am delighted to welcome the fraternal delegates of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. We should all recognize the great work that has been carried out by the General Secretary and his assistants in these last few months, as well as wishing them all the best for their efforts in the coming weeks.

When God speaks, he always seeks a response; His saving action requires human cooperation; His love awaits correspondence. What should never happen, dear brothers and sisters, is what biblical text narrates when speaking of the vineyard: “He expected it to yield fine grapes: wild grapes were all it yielded” (cf. Is 5:2)
Only the Word of God can change the depth of the heart of man, and so it is important that with it both individual believers and the community enter into an ever-growing intimacy. The Synodal Assembly will direct its attention to this truth which is fundamental to the life and the mission of the Church. Nourishing oneself with the Word of God is for her the first and fundamental responsibility. In effect, if the proclamation of the Gospel constitutes her reason for being and her mission, it is indispensable that the Church know and live that which She proclaims, so that her preaching is credible, despite the weaknesses and poverty of Her members. We know, moreover, that the proclamation of the Word, to the school of Christ, has as its content the Kingdom of God (cf Mk 1:14-15), but the Kingdom of God is the person of Jesus Himself, who with his words and his works offers salvation to men of every age. It is interesting with regard to San Jerome’s consideration: “He who knows not the Scriptures knows not the power of God nor his wisdom. Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (Prologue to the Commentary on Isaiah: PL 24, 17).

In this Year dedicated to Saint Paul, we will hear the urgent cry of the Apostle of the Gentiles: “I should be in trouble if I failed to do it [preach the Gospel]” (1 Cor 9:16); a cry which becomes for every Christian an insistent invitation to place oneself at the service of Christ. “The harvest is rich” (Mt 9:37), the Divine Teacher repeats even today: many have not met Him yet and are waiting for the first proclamation of his Gospel; others, though having received Christian formation, their enthusiasm has weakened and they maintain only a superficial contact with the Word of God; still others have fallen away from the practice of their faith and are in need of a new evangelization. Nor is there a lack of righteous persons asking essential questions on the meaning of life and death, questions to which only Christ can supply a fulfilling response. It becomes therefore indispensable for Christians on every continent to be ready to respond to whomever asks the reason for the hope that is within them (cf 1Pt 3:15), announcing the Word of God with joy and living the Gospel without compromise.

Venerable and dear Brothers, the Lord will help us to interrogate ourselves, during these next weeks of Synodal works, on how to render ever more effective the proclamation of the Gospel in this our time. We all sense how necessary it is to place the Word of God at the center of our life, to welcome Christ as our only Redeemer, as the Kingdom of God in person, to allow his light to enlighten every sphere of humanity: from the family to school, to culture, to work, to free time and to other sectors of society and of our life. Participating in the celebration of the Eucharist, we are always aware of the close bond which exists between the announcement of the Word of God and the Eucharistic Sacrifice: it is the same Mystery which is offered for our contemplation. This is why, as pointed out by Vatican Council II: “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body.” Rightly the Council concludes: “Just as the life of the Church is strengthened through more frequent celebration of the Eucharistic mystery, similarly we may hope for a new stimulus for the life of the Spirit from a growing reverence for the word of God, which “lasts forever’” ("Dei Verbum," 21.26)

May the Lord grant us to draw near with faith to the dual tables of the Word and the Body and Blood of Christ. May the Most Holy Mary, who “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19) obtain this gift for us. That She may teach us to listen to the Scriptures and to meditate upon them in an interior process of maturity, which never separates intelligence from the heart. May the Saints too come to our aid, in particular the Apostle Paul, who reveals himself evermore as an intrepid witness and herald of the Word of God. Amen!

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Pope's Letter to Alexy II
"I Never Cease to Offer Daily Prayers for Peace"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2008 - Here is the personal message Benedict XVI sent to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II, which was hand-delivered to Alexy II last Thursday by the archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, on an official visit to Moscow at the invitation of the patriarch.

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To His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia

The visit of His Eminence Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Archbishop of Naples, offers me the occasion to extend to Your Holiness my cordial and fraternal greetings in the Lord. I have a deep affection for all the Orthodox brethren, and I am particularly close to them in these most recent days when conflict has caused significant suffering to peoples so dear to me. I never cease to offer daily prayers for peace, asking the Lord that the appeals of Your Holiness to resolve all hostility for the good of the nations may be heeded. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is a bond that unites hearts in a profound way and invites us all to strengthen our commitment to manifest to the world a shared witness of living together respectfully and peacefully. Our times, marked so often by conflict and grief, make it even more necessary to hasten the journey toward the full unity of all the disciples of Christ, so that the joyous message of salvation may be spread to all humanity.

Invoking upon Your Holiness the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of God, that she may preserve you in full health and assist you in your daily ministry, I renew to you the assurance of my heartfelt fraternal regard.

From the Vatican, 22 September 2008

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Role of Synods
"They Are a Coming Together"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 5, 2008 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Angelus today together with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square. In the morning the Pope opened the world Synod of Bishops on "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This morning, with the celebration of Holy Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the 12th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was opened. The synod will be held at the Vatican and will take as its theme “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

You know the value and function of this particular assembly of bishops, chosen in such a way as to represent the whole episcopate and convoked to offer efficacious assistance to the Successor of Peter, manifesting and consolidating ecclesial communion at the same time. This is an important organism, instituted by my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, in his apostolic letter "Apostolica Sollicitudo," during the last phase of the Second Vatican Council, to realize a directive contained in the Council’s decree on the office of bishops, “Christus Dominus” (cf. No. 5).

The Synod of Bishops aims to foster close union and collaboration between the Pope and the bishops of the whole world, to furnish direct and exact information about the situation and problems of the Church, to foster an agreement on doctrine and pastoral action and to consider topics of great importance and contemporary relevance. These different tasks are coordinated by a permanent secretariat, which works in direct and immediate dependence on the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

Synods are constitutive of the Church: They are a coming together from every people and culture to be one in Christ; they are a walking together behind him who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In fact the Greek word “sýnodos,” composed of the preposition “syn,” that is, “with,” and “odòs,” which means “way, road,” suggests the idea of “taking the road together,” and this is precisely the experience of the people of God in salvation history.

I have chosen for the present ordinary synodal assembly -- having sought and received authoritative opinions on the matter -- to study in depth and from a pastoral perspective the word of God in the life and mission of the Church. There has been ample participation in the preparatory phase on the part of particular Churches throughout the world, who have sent their contributions to the Synod's secretariate, who drafted the “instrumentum laboris,” the document that will be considered by the 253 synod fathers: 51 from Africa, 62 from the Americas, 41 from Asia, 90 from Europe and 9 from Oceania. Numerous experts and auditors, men and women, “brother delegates” from the other Churches and ecclesial communities, and other special invitees will join them.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite all of you to support the work of the synod with your prayer, especially invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, perfect disciple of the divine Word.

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

This evening a television program entitled "Bibbia Giorno e Notte" [Bible Day and Night] will begin on Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI). This unique initiative will consist in the continuous reading of the Bible, for seven days and seven nights, from today until Saturday, Oct. 11. The site of the reading will be the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusaleme in Rome, and there will be nearly 1,200 readers, from 50 countries, some chosen in part with ecumenical criteria and many who signed up on their own.

This event is a fitting accompaniment to the Synod of Bishops on the word of God, and I myself will start the reading of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. This will be broadcast by RAI 1. The word of God can thus enter into homes to accompany the lives of families and single persons: a seed that, if properly welcomed, will not fail to bear abundant fruit.

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Papal Message to "Humanae Vitae" Congress
"Only the Eyes of the Heart Can Understand the Demands of Great Love"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2008 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI to the participants of the international congress "Humanae Vitae: Current Importance and Prophecy of an Encyclical," which began today at the Catholic University of Rome. The congress was organized by the Pontifical Institute John Paul II for Studies on Marriage and Family and the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

* * *

To Monsignor Livio Melina
Director of the "John Paul II" Pontifical Institute
For Studies on Marriage and the Family

I have learned with joy that the Pontifical Institute, of which you are director, and the Catholic University of the "Sacro Cuore" have organized, opportunely, an international congress on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the encyclical "Humanae Vitae," an important document which addresses one of the essential aspects of the marital vocation and of the specific path of holiness that follows from it. The spouses, in fact, having received the gift of love, are called to become in turn gift to one another without reservations. Only thus the acts proper and exclusive to the spouses are really acts of love that, while uniting them in one flesh, build a genuine personal communion. Hence, the logic of the totality of the gift configures conjugal love intrinsically and, thanks to the sacramental effusion of the Holy Spirit, becomes the means to realize in one's life a genuine conjugal charity.

The possibility to create a new human life is included in the integral donation of the spouses. If, in fact, every form of love tends to spread the fullness of which it lives, conjugal love has its own form of communicating itself: the generation of children. Thus not only is it similar to, but it participates in the love of God, who wills to communicate himself by calling human persons to life. To exclude this communicative dimension through an action directed to prevent procreation means to deny the profound truth of spousal love, with which the divine gift is communicated: "If one does not wish to expose to the free will of men the mission to generate life, insurmountable limits must necessarily be recognized to the possibility of man's dominion over his own body and its functions; limits that no man, both private as well as invested with authority, can licitly infringe" ("Humanae Vitae," 17). This is the essential nucleus of the teaching that my venerated predecessor Paul VI addressed to spouses, and that the Servant of God John Paul II, in turn, reaffirmed on many occasions, illuminating its anthropological and moral foundation.

At a distance of 40 years since the publication of the encyclical, we can better understand how decisive this light is to understand the great "yes" that conjugal love implies. In this light, children are no longer the object of a human project, but recognized as a genuine gift to receive, with an attitude of responsible generosity before God, first source of human life. This great "yes" to the beauty of love certainly entails gratitude, both of the parents on receiving the gift of a child, and of the child himself on knowing that his life has its origin in such great and receptive love.

It is true, on the other hand, that in the path of the couple there can be grave circumstances which make it prudent to delay the birth of children or even suspend it. And it is here that knowledge of the natural rhythms of the woman's fertility become important for the life of the spouses. The methods of observation, which allow the couple to determine the periods of fertility, allow them to administer all that the Creator has widely inscribed in human nature, without disturbing the integral meaning of sexual donation. In this way, the spouses, respecting the full truth of their love, will be able to modulate its expression in conformity with these rhythms, without taking away anything from the totality of the gift of themselves that the union of the flesh expresses. Obviously, this requires maturity in love, which is not immediate, but which needs reciprocal dialogue and listening and a singular control of the sexual impulse on a path of growth in virtue.

In this perspective, knowing that the congress is also taking place at the initiative of the Catholic University of the "Sacro Cuore," I am also pleased to express my particular appreciation for all that this university institution does in support of the Paulus VI International Scientific Research Institute on Human Fertility and Infertility for a Responsible Procreation (ISI), presented to my unforgettable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, hoping in this way to give an institutionalized answer, so to speak, to the appeal made by Pope Paul VI in No. 24 of the encyclical "to the men of science."

ISI's task, in fact, is to make progress of the methods both of natural regulation of human fertility as well as the natural overcoming of infertility. Today, "thanks to the progress of biological and medical sciences, man can make use of ever more effective therapeutic resources, but also obtain new powers of unforeseeable consequences on human life from its very beginning and its first stages" (Instruction "Donum Vitae," 1). In this perspective, "Many researchers are engaged in the fight against sterility. While fully safeguarding the dignity of human procreation, some have achieved results which previously seemed unattainable. Scientists therefore are to be encouraged to continue their research with the aim of preventing the causes of sterility and of being able to remedy them so that sterile couples will be able to procreate in full respect for their own personal dignity and that of the child to be born" (Instruction "Donum Vitae," 8). This is precisely the end that the Paul VI ISI and other similar centers intend to do with the support of the ecclesiastical authority.

We can ask ourselves, how is it possible that today the world, and also many of the faithful, find so much difficulty in understanding the message of the Church, which illustrates and defends the beauty of conjugal love in its natural manifestation? Certainly, the technical solution, also in important human questions, often seems to be the easiest, but in reality it conceals the fundamental question, which refers to the meaning of human sexuality and to the need for responsible self-control, so that its exercise can become the expression of personal love.

On the contrary, as we well know, not even reason is sufficient: It is necessary that the heart see. Only the eyes of the heart can understand the demands of great love, able to embrace the totality of the human being. Because of this, the service that the Church offers in its marriage and family pastoral care must be able to direct couples to understand with the heart the wonderful design that God has inscribed in the human body, helping them to accept all that is entailed in a genuine path of maturing.

The congress you are holding represents, because of this, an important moment of reflection and attention for couples and for families, offering the fruit of years of research, both on the anthropological and ethical part as on the strictly scientific part, in regard to truly responsible procreation. In the light of this I cannot but congratulate you, hoping that this work will bring abundant fruits and contribute to support spouses with ever-greater wisdom and clarity on their path, encouraging them in their mission of being, in the world, credible witnesses of the beauty of love.

With these wishes, while I invoke the help of the Lord on the development of the congress, I send all a special apostolic blessing.

In the Vatican, Oct. 2, 2008

BENEDICTUS PP XVI

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Pope's Address to Knights of Columbus
"Serve As a Leaven of the Gospel in the World"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 3, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience members of the administrative council of the Knights of Columbus. The Knights are on pilgrimage in Rome in the context of the Pauline Jubilee Year.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Board of Directors of the Knights of Columbus, together with your families, on the occasion of your pilgrimage to Rome in this Pauline Year. I pray that your visit to the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul will confirm you in the faith of the Apostles and fill your hearts with gratitude for the gift of our redemption in Christ.

At the beginning of his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul reminds his hearers that they are "called to holiness" (Rom 1:7). During my recent Pastoral Visit to the United States, I wished to encourage the lay faithful, above all, to recommit themselves to growth in holiness and active participation in the Church's mission. This was the vision that inspired the foundation of the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal association of Christian laymen, and it continues to find privileged expression in your Order's charitable works and your concrete solidarity with the Successor of Peter in his ministry to the universal Church. That solidarity is manifested in a particular way by the "Vicarius Christi" Fund, which the Knights have placed at the disposal of the Holy See for the needs of God's People throughout the world. And it is also shown through the daily prayers and sacrifices of so many Knights in their local Councils, parishes and communities. For this I am most grateful.

Dear friends, in the spirit of your founder, the Venerable Michael McGivney, may the Knights of Columbus discover ever new ways to serve as a leaven of the Gospel in the world and a force for the renewal of the Church in holiness and apostolic zeal. In this regard, I express my appreciation of your efforts to provide a solid formation in the faith for young people, and to defend the moral truths necessary for a free and humane society, including the fundamental right to life of every human being.

With these sentiments, dear friends, I assure you of a special remembrance in my prayers. To all the Knights and their families, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of lasting joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Paul's Dealings With Peter
"Only Sincere Dialogue Could Guide the Path of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.
The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

The respect and veneration for the Twelve, which Paul had always cultivated, did not diminish when he frankly defended the truth of the Gospel, which is nothing other than Jesus Christ, the Lord. Today, we wish to pause on two episodes that show this veneration, and at the same time, the freedom with which the Apostle addressed Cephas and the other apostles: the so-called Council of Jerusalem and the incident in Antioch of Syria, related in the Letter to the Galatians (cf. 2:1-10; 2:11-14).

Every council and synod in the Church is an "event of the Spirit" and gathers together the solicitudes of the whole People of God. Those who participated in the Second Vatican Council experienced this in first person. Because of this, St. Luke, in informing us about the first council of the Church, which took place in Jerusalem, introduces in this way the letter the apostles sent in this circumstance to the Christian communities of the diaspora: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us" (Acts 15:28). The Spirit, who works in the whole Church, guides the apostles by the hand in the hour of taking on new paths or fulfilling their projects. He is the principal artisan of the building up of the Church.

Nevertheless, the assembly in Jerusalem took place in a moment of not little tension within the community of the origins. It regarded responding to the question of whether it was opportune to demand circumcision of the pagans who were converting to Jesus Christ, the Lord, or whether it was licit to leave them free of the Mosaic law, that is, free from the observation of the necessary norms for being a just man, obedient to the law, and above all, free of the norms relating to the purification rituals, pure and impure foods, and the Sabbath.

St. Paul in Galatians 2: 1-10 also refers to the assembly in Jerusalem: Fourteen years after his encounter with the Risen One in Damascus -- we are in the second half of the decade of the 40s -- Paul leaves for Antioch of Syria with Barnabas, and also accompanied by Titus, his faithful coworker who, though of Greek origin, had not been obligated to be circumcised when he joined the Church. On this occasion, Paul presents to the Twelve, defined as those of repute, his gospel of freedom from the law (cf. Galatians 2:6).

In light of his encounter with the risen Christ, he had understood that in the moment of passing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, circumcision was no longer necessary for the pagans, nor the laws regarding food and regarding the Sabbath, as a sign of justice: Christ is our justice and "just" is all that which conforms to him. Other signs are not necessary in order to be just. In the Letter to the Galatians, he refers, with few words, to the development of the assembly: He enthusiastically recalls that the gospel of liberty from the law was approved by James, Cephas and John, "the pillars," who offered to him and to Barnabas the right hand in sign of ecclesial communion in Christ (Galatians 2:9).

As we have noted, if for Luke the Council of Jerusalem expresses the action of the Holy Spirit, for Paul it represents the recognition of the liberty shared among all those who participated in it: liberty from the obligations deriving from circumcision and the law; this liberty for which "for freedom, Christ has set us free" and let us not submit again to the yoke of slavery (cf. Galatians 5:1). The two forms with which Paul and Luke describe the Assembly of Jerusalem are united in the liberating action of the Holy Spirit, because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," he would say in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 3:17).

For all that, as clearly appears in St. Paul's letters, Christian liberty is never identified with license or with the freewill to do what one wants. It is carried out in conformity with Christ, and therefore, in the authentic service of man, above all, of the most needy. Because of this, Paul's report of the assembly closed by recalling the recommendation the apostles gave him: "Only, we were to be mindful of the poor, which is the very thing I was eager to do" (Galatians 2:10).

Every council is born from the Church and returns to the Church: On that occasion it returned with the attention to the poor, which from Paul's various notes in his letters, are above all those of the Church of Jerusalem. In the concern for the poor, particularly testified to in the Second Letter to the Corinthians (cf. 8-9) and in the conclusion of the Letter to the Romans (cf. 15), Paul shows his fidelity to the decisions that matured during the assembly.

Perhaps we are not yet able to fully understand the meaning Paul and his communities gave to the collection for the poor of Jerusalem. It was a totally new initiative in the panorama of religious activities. It was not obligatory, but free and spontaneous. All of the Churches founded by Paul in the West participated. The collection expressed the debt of these communities to the mother Church of Palestine, from which they had received the ineffable gift of the Gospel. The value that Paul attributes to this gesture of participation is so great that he rarely calls it a "collection": It is rather "service," "blessing," "love," "grace," even "liturgy" (2 Corinthians 9).

This last term, in particular, is surprising; it confers on the collection of money a value even of veneration: On one hand, it is a liturgical gesture or "service," offered by each community to God, and on the other, it is an action of love carried out in favor of the people. Love for the poor and divine liturgy go together; love for the poor is liturgy. These two horizons are present in every liturgy celebrated and lived in the Church, which by its nature opposes a separation between worship and life, between faith and works, between prayer and charity toward the brothers. Thus the Council of Jerusalem is born to resolve the question of how to behave with the pagans who arrived to the faith, choosing freedom from circumcision and the observances imposed by the law, and it ends with the pastoral solicitude that places at the center faith in Christ Jesus and love for the poor of Jerusalem and the whole Church.

The second episode is the well known incident in Antioch, in Syria, which allows us to understand the interior liberty that Paul enjoyed. How should one behave on the occasions of communion at the table between believers of Jewish origin and those of Gentile background? Here is revealed the other epicenter of the Mosaic observance: the distinction between pure and impure foods, which deeply divided the observant Hebrews from the pagans. Initially, Cephas, Peter, shared the table with both, but with the arrival of some Christians linked to James, "the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19), Peter had begun to avoid contact at the table with pagans, so as not to scandalize those who continued observing the rules regarding food purity. And this choice was shared by Barnabas. That choice deeply divided the Christians come from circumcision and those come from paganism.

This behavior, which truly threatened the unity and liberty of the Church, brought a fiery reaction from Paul, who arrived to the point of accusing Peter and the rest of hypocrisy. "If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Galatians 2:14). In reality, the concerns of Paul, on one hand, and Peter and Barnabas on the other, were different: For the latter, the separation of the pagans represented a way to teach and avoid scandalizing the believers coming from Judaism. For Paul, it constituted, on the other hand, the danger of a misunderstanding of the universal salvation in Christ offered as much to the pagans as to the Jews. If justification was brought about only in virtue of faith in Christ, of conformity with him, without any work of the law, then what sense was there in still observing the [rules on] purity of food when participating at the table? Very probably the perspectives of Peter and Paul were different: for the first, not losing the Jews who had embraced the Gospel, for the second, not diminishing the salvific value of the death of Christ for all believers.

It is interesting to note, but writing to the Christians of Rome a few years later, (around the middle of the decade of the 50s), Paul will find himself before a similar situation and he will ask the strong that they not eat impure food so as not to lose the weak or cause scandal for them. "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble" (Romans 14:21). The incident in Antioch showed itself to be a lesson both for Peter and for Paul. Only sincere dialogue, open to the truth of the Gospel, could guide the path of the Church: "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17).

It is a lesson that we should also learn: With the distinct charisms entrusted to Peter and Paul, let us all be guided by the Spirit, trying to live in the liberty that finds its orientation in faith in Christ and is made tangible in service to our brothers. It is essential to be ever more conformed to Christ. It is in this way that one is truly free, in this way the deepest nucleus of the law is expressed in us: the love of God and neighbor. Let us ask the Lord to teach us to share his sentiments, to learn from him the true liberty and evangelical love that embraces every human being.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider two events which illustrate Paul’s relationship to the Twelve, which combined respect for their authority with frankness in the service of the Gospel. At the Council of Jerusalem Paul defended before the Twelve his conviction that the grace of Christ had freed the Gentiles from the obligations of the Mosaic Law. Significantly, the Church’s decision in this matter of faith was accompanied by a gesture of concrete concern for the needs of the poor (cf. Gal 2:10). By endorsing Paul’s collections among the Gentiles, the Council thus set its teaching on Christian freedom within the context of the Church’s communion in charity. Later, in Antioch, when Peter, to avoid scandalizing Jewish Christians, abstained from eating with the Gentiles, Paul rebuked him for compromising the freedom brought by Christ (cf. Gal 2:11-14). Yet, writing to the Romans years later, Paul himself insisted that our freedom in Christ must not become a source of scandal for others (cf. Rom 14:21). Paul’s example shows us that, led by the Spirit and within the communion of the Church, Christians are called to live in a freedom which finds its highest expression in service to others.

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Holy See on Responsibility to Protect
"Invoked As a Pretext for the Arbitrary Use of Military Might"

NEW YORK, SEPT. 30, 2008 - Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave Monday at the general debate of the 63rd session of the General Assembly.

* * *

Mr President,

As you assume the presidency of this 63rd session of the General Assembly, my delegation wishes you all the best in your endeavors and looks forward to working with you in order to address the many challenges facing the global community.

This general debate is an occasion for those responsible for the national life of every country to come together to get the pulse of the world situation. By its nature and structure, the United Nations normally creates neither the events nor the trends, but rather, serves as a sounding board where events and trends are submitted for debate and a coherent, consensual and timely response. This year has been dominated by a number of challenges and crises: natural and man-made calamities, staggering economies, financial turmoil, rising food and fuel prices, the impact of climate change, local wars and tensions. We have been called to this Hall once again to identify the common causes and denominators underlying these diverse crises and to craft adequate long-term solutions.

One of the clear facts recognized by all is that every crisis presents a mixture of natural factors and elements of human responsibility. However, these are all too often compounded by tardy response, failures or reluctance of leaders to exercise their responsibility to protect their populations.

When speaking within these walls of the responsibility to protect, the common understanding of the term is found in the 2005 Outcome Document, which refers to the responsibility of the international community to intervene in situations where individual governments are not able or willing to assure the protection of their own citizens.

In the past, the language of "protection" was too often a pretext for expansion and aggression. In spite of the many advancements in international law, this same understanding and practice tragically continues today.

However, during the past year in this same Hall, there has been growing consensus and greater inclusion of this expression as a vital component of responsible leadership. The responsibility to protect has been invoked by some as an essential aspect of the exercise of sovereignty at the national and international levels, while others have re-launched the concept of the exercise of responsible sovereignty.

For his part, Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations last April, also recognized that from the very ancient philosophical discourses on governance to the more modern development of the nation-state, the responsibility to protect has served and must continue to serve as the principle shared by all nations to govern their populations and regulate relations between peoples. These statements highlight the historical and moral basis for States to govern. Likewise, they reassert that good governance should no longer be measured simply within the context of "state's rights" or "sovereignty" but rather, by its ability to care for those who entrust leaders with the grave moral responsibility to lead.

Despite the growing consensus behind the responsibility to protect as a means for greater cooperation, this principle is still being invoked as a pretext for the arbitrary use of military might. This distortion is a continuation of past failed methods and ideas. The use of violence to resolve disagreements is always a failure of vision and a failure of humanity. The responsibility to protect should not be viewed merely in terms of military intervention but primarily as the need for the international community to come together in the face of crises to find means for fair and open negotiations, support the moral force of law and search for the common good.

Failure to collectively come together to protect populations at risk and to prevent arbitrary military interventions would undermine the moral and practical authority of this Organization. The "we the peoples" who formed the United Nations conceived the responsibility to protect to serve as the core basis for the United Nations. The founding leaders believed that the responsibility to protect would consist not primarily in the use of force to restore peace and human rights, but above all, in States coming together to detect and denounce the early symptoms of every kind of crises and mobilize the attention of governments, civil society and public opinion to find the causes and offer solutions. The various agencies and bodies of the United Nations also reaffirm the importance of the responsibility to protect in their ability to work in close proximity and solidarity with affected populations and to put into place mechanisms of detection, implementation and monitoring.

It is incumbent not only upon States, but also the United Nations, to ensure that the responsibility to protect serves as the underlying measure and motivation of all its work.
While many continue to question and debate the real causes and medium and long term consequences of the various financial, humanitarian and food crises around the world, the United Nations and its membership have the responsibility to provide direction, coherence, and resolution. At stake is not only the credibility of this Organization and global leaders but, more importantly, the ability of the human community to provide food and security and to protect basic human rights so that all peoples have the opportunity to live with freedom from fear and want and thus realize their inherent dignity.

The United Nations was not created to be a global government but is the product of the political will of individual member States. Thus, it is the child orphaned by HIV/AIDS, the boys and girls sold or forced into slavery, those who wake each morning not knowing if today they will be persecuted for their faith or the color of their skin, who continue to cry out for an institution and leaders who will back their words with actions, commitments and results. These voices, which are too often ignored, must finally be listened to, so that we can move beyond political, geographical and historical divisions and create an organization which reflects our best intentions rather than our various failings.

One area in which our best intentions require urgent action is climate change. My delegation commends Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his leadership in recognizing the urgency to tackle this issue and we commend States and civil society in making the necessary political and personal sacrifices to ensure a better future.

The challenge of climate change and the various solutions proposed and put into action, bring us to point out a preoccupation and inconsistency that exist today in the realm of international and national law, namely, that all that is technically possible must be legally licit.

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On John Paul I
"Humility Can Be Considered His Spiritual Legacy"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 28, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the Angelus with the crowds gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today the liturgy proposes to us the Gospel parable of the two sons whom the father sent out to work in his vineyard. One of them immediately says yes, but then does not go; the other at first refuses, but then, repenting, follows his father’s wishes.

With this parable Jesus emphasizes his predilection for sinners who convert, and he teaches us that humility is essential for welcoming the gift of salvation. St. Paul, too, in the passage from the Letter to the Philippians that we meditate on today, calls for humility. “Do nothing out of selfishness or vainglory,” he writes, “but humbly regard others as superior to you” (Philippians 2:3). These are Christ’s own sentiments, he who laid aside divine glory for love of us, became man and lowered himself even to dying on the cross (cf. Philippians 2:5-8). The Greek verb that is used here, “ekenôsen,” literally means that he “emptied himself” and places the profound humility and infinite love of Jesus, the humble Servant par excellence, in a clear light.

Reflecting on these biblical texts, I immediately thought of Pope John Paul I, the 30th anniversary of whose death is today. He chose Charles Borromeo’s motto as his own episcopal motto: “Humilitas”: a single word that synthesizes what is essential in Christian life and indicates the indispensable virtue of those who are called to the service of authority in the Church.

In one of the four general audiences of his very brief pontificate he said, among other things, in that tone that distinguished him: “I will just recommend one virtue so dear to the Lord. He said, ‘Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart.’ … Even if you have done great things, say: ‘We are useless servants.’ Alternatively, the tendency in all of us is rather the contrary: to show off” (General Audience of Sept. 6, 1978). Humility can be considered his spiritual legacy.

Because of this virtue of his, 33 days were enough for Pope Luciani to enter into the hearts of the people. In his speeches he used examples taken from concrete life, from his memories of family life and from popular wisdom. His simplicity was a vehicle of a solid and rich teaching that, thanks to the gift of an exceptional memory and great culture, he adorned with numerous references to ecclesiastical and secular writers.

He was thus an incomparable catechist, in the line of Pius X, his fellow countryman and predecessor in the See of St. Mark and then in the see of St. Peter. “We must feel small before God,” he said in the same audience. And added: “I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother; one believes in one's mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me.”

These words display the whole breadth of his faith. As we thank God for having given him to the Church and to the world, let us treasure his example, exerting ourselves to cultivate his humility, which made him capable of talking to everyone, especially the little and so-called distant. For these intentions let us call upon Mary Most Holy, humble handmaiden of the Lord.

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

Summer has come to an end and I will return to the Vatican the day after tomorrow. I thank the Lord for all the gifts he has bestowed upon me during this time. I think especially of World Youth Day in Sydney, the period of rest in Bressanone, the visit to Sardinia and the apostolic trip to Paris and Lourdes; and I think of the possibility of sojourning here in this house, where I am better able to rest and work during the hottest months.

An affectionate greeting to the community of Castel Gandolfo, with a heartfelt thank you to the bishop, the mayor and the various police departments. Thanks to everyone and goodbye!

[In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. My special greeting goes to the students from Aquinas College in Australia and to the members of the Fatima pilgrimage from the Philippines. In today’s Gospel, the Lord asks us to reflect whether we are obedient to the Father in word alone, or truly committed to following his will in our daily lives. May his words inspire in us a spirit of genuine conversion and an ever more generous commitment to the spread of the Gospel. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace!

[Speaking again in Italian, he said:]

As I offer best wishes to the students who have just begun the academic year, I express appreciation for the “Making Me Study is Good for Everyone” campaign of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In the spirit of St. Vincent, whom we celebrated in yesterday’s liturgy, this initiative is proposed to prevent the poverty of illiteracy.

I wish everyone a good month of October, month of the Holy Rosary, during which, if it pleases God, I will go on pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady at Pompei on Sunday, Oct. 19. Have a good Sunday!

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Pope's Address to New Czech Ambassador
"Gospel Urges People of Faith to Offer Themselves in Loving Service"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 28, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday upon receiving the credentials of the new Czech envoy to the Holy See, Pavel Vosalik. The audience took place at Castel Gandolfo.

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Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Czech Republic. I am grateful for your kind words as you begin the mission entrusted to you by your Government. Please express my respectful greetings to His Excellency, Mr Václav Klaus, President of the Republic, assuring him of my prayers for the well-being of all the people of your Country.

Mr Ambassador, I appreciate the emphasis you have placed on the influence of Christianity on the rich cultural heritage of your nation, and particularly the role that the Gospel played in bringing hope to the Czech people in times of oppression. Hope is indeed the timeless message which the Church offers to every generation, and it prompts her to participate in the global task of forging bonds of peace and goodwill among all peoples. She does this in a special way by her diplomatic activity, through which she extols the dignity of persons as destined for a life of communion with God and with one another.

Your nation, bolstered by the sense of solidarity that enabled her to emerge courageously from the collapse of totalitarianism, also desires to contribute to the welfare of the human family by enhancing international cooperation in the struggle against violence, hunger, poverty and other social ills. New avenues of influence will soon open for your country as it prepares to assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union next year. I am confident that by setting clear goals and facilitating the involvement of all member States, the distinct honour of presiding over the Council for a six-month term will permit the Czech Republic to exercise strong leadership in the shared endeavour of combining unity and diversity, national sovereignty and joint activity, and economic progress and social justice across the continent.

The Church is well aware of the many challenges facing Europe precisely at a time when its nations aspire to build a more stable international community for future generations. To move forward, its leaders are called to recognize that human happiness and well-being cannot be achieved through structures alone or by any single stratum of social or political life (cf. "Spe Salvi," 24). The realization of a genuine culture worthy of man's noble vocation requires the harmonious cooperation of families, ecclesial communities, schools, businesses, community organizations and governmental institutions. Far from being ends in themselves, these entities are organized structures intended for the service of all, and are integrally connected to one another in the pursuit of the common good (cf. "Centesimus Annus," 13).

For this reason, all of society benefits when the Church is afforded the right to exercise stewardship over the material and spiritual goods required for her ministry (cf. "Gaudium et Spes," 88). In your nation, there are signs of progress in this area, but there is more to be done. I am confident that the special Commissions set up by your Government and Parliament for resolving outstanding issues regarding ecclesiastical property will move forward with honesty, fairness, and a genuine recognition of the Church's ability to contribute to the welfare of the Republic. In particular, I hope that such considerations will be kept in clear view while a solution is sought concerning the future of the Cathedral in Prague, which stands as a living witness to the rich cultural and religious heritage of your land, and testifies to the harmonious coexistence of Church and State.

By its very nature, the Gospel urges people of faith to offer themselves in loving service to their brothers and sisters without distinction and without counting the cost (cf. Lk 10:25-37). Love is the outward manifestation of the faith that sustains the community of believers and empowers them to be signs of hope for the world (cf. Jn 13:35). An example of this visible charity shines through the work of Caritas, whose members engage daily in a wide range of social services in your country. This is especially evident in the service it offers on behalf of expectant mothers, the homeless, the disabled, and the imprisoned. The coordination between Caritas Czech Republic and the governmental Ministries of Health, Labour and Social Affairs demonstrates the potential fruits that can result from close collaboration between State and Church agencies (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 30). I would emphasize here the enormous formative potential for young people, whose participation in such initiatives teaches them that genuine solidarity does not merely consist in supplying material goods but in making a gift of oneself (cf. Lk 17:33). Moreover, as the Czech Republic searches to expand ways of participating in the task of shaping a more cohesive and cooperative international community, we should not forget the many Czech citizens already serving abroad in long-term development and aid projects under the auspices of Caritas and other humanitarian organizations. I heartily encourage their efforts and commend the generosity of all your fellow citizens who creatively seek ways to serve the common good both within your nation and across the globe.

Before closing, Your Excellency, allow me to express my sincere condolences to you and your fellow citizens upon the tragic death of Mr Ivo  d'árek, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Pakistan, who was among the victims killed in the recent attack in Islamabad. I pray daily for an end to such acts of aggression, and I encourage all those engaged in diplomatic service to dedicate themselves ever more keenly to facilitating peace and ensuring security throughout the world.

As you begin your service, Mr Ambassador, I extend cordial wishes that the important mission entrusted to you will be fruitful. Please know that the offices of the Roman Curia are eager to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Asking you kindly to assure the people of the Czech Republic of my prayers and esteem, I invoke upon them an abundance of divine blessings and entrust them to the loving providence of Almighty God.

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On Paul and the Other Apostles
"He Insists on Fidelity to What He Himself Has Received"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 24, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak about the relationship between St. Paul and the apostles who preceded him in the following of Jesus. These relationships were always marked by profound respect and by the frankness that in Paul stemmed from the defense of the truth of the Gospel. Although he was practically a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, he never had the opportunity to meet him during his public life. Because of this, after the dazzling light on the road to Damascus, he saw the need to consult the first disciples of the Master, who had been chosen by [Christ] to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

In the Letter to the Galatians, Paul elaborates an important report on the contacts maintained with some of the Twelve: above all with Peter, who had been chosen as Cephas, Aramaic word that means rock, on which the Church was built (cf. Galatians 1:18), with James, the "Lord's brother" (cf. Galatians 1:19), and with John (cf. Galatians 2:9). Paul does not hesitate to acknowledge them as the "pillars" of the Church. Particularly significant is the meeting with Cephas (Peter), which took place in Jerusalem. Paul stayed with him for 15 days to "consult him" (cf. Galatians 1:19), that is, to be informed on the earthly life of the Risen One, who had "seized" him on the road to Damascus and was changing his life radically: from persecutor of the Church of God he became evangelizer of faith in the crucified Messiah and Son of God, which in the past he had tried to destroy (cf. Galatians 1:23).

What type of information did Paul obtain on Jesus in the three years after the encounter of Damascus? In the First Letter to the Corinthians we find two passages, which Paul had learned in Jerusalem and which had been formulated as central elements of the Christian tradition, the constitutive tradition. He transmits them verbally, exactly as he has received them, with a very solemn formula: "I delivered to you ... what I also received."

He insists, therefore, on fidelity to what he himself has received and transmits faithfully to the new Christians. They are constitutive elements and concern the Eucharist and the Resurrection. They are texts already formulated in the [decade of] the 30s. Thus we come to the death, burial in the heart of the earth and resurrection of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Let's take one at a time: the words of Jesus in the Last Supper (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) really are for Paul the center of the life of the Church. The Church is built from this center, being in this way herself. In addition to this Eucharistic center, from which the Church is always reborn -- also for all Paul's theology, for all his thought -- these words have a notable impact on Paul's personal relationship with Jesus. On one hand, they attest that the Eucharist illumines the curse of the cross, changing it into a blessing (Galatians 3:13-14), and on the other, they explain the breadth of the very death and resurrection of Jesus. In his letters, the "for you" of the institution becomes the "for me" (Galatians 2:20), personalized, knowing that in that "you" he himself was known and loved by Jesus and, on the other hand, "for all" (2 Corinthians 5:L14): this "for you" becomes "for me" and "for the Church" (Ephesians 5:25), that is, also "for all" of the expiatory sacrifice of the cross (cf. Romans 3:25). By and in the Eucharist, the Church is built and recognizes herself as "Body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:27), nourished every day by the strength of the Spirit of the Risen One.

The other text, on the Resurrection, transmits to us again the same formula of fidelity. St. Paul wrote: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve" (1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Also in this tradition transmitted to Paul he again mentions the expression "for our sins," which underlines the gift that Jesus has made of himself to the Father, to deliver us from sin and death. From this gift of himself, Paul draws the most moving and fascinating expressions of our relationship with Christ: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). It is worthwhile to recall the commentary with which the then Augustinian monk Martin Luther accompanied these paradoxical expressions of Paul: "This is the grandiose mystery of divine grace toward sinners: by an admirable exchange our sins no longer are ours, but Christ's, and the righteousness of Christ is no longer Christ's but ours" (Commentary on the Psalms from 1513-1515). And so we have been saved.

In the original kerygma -- proclamation -- transmitted from mouth to mouth, it is worth pointing out the use of the verb "has risen," instead of "rose" which would have been more logical, in continuity with "died" and "was buried." The verbal form "has risen" has been chosen to underline that Christ's resurrection affects up to the present the existence of believers: We can translate it as "has risen and continues to be alive" in the Eucharist and in the Church. Thus all the Scriptures attest to the death and resurrection of Christ, because -- as Hugh of Saint Victor wrote -- "the whole of divine Scripture constitutes only one book, and this book is Christ, because the whole of Scripture speaks of Christ and finds its fulfillment in Christ" (De Arca Noe, 2, 8). If St. Ambrose of Milan can say that "in Scripture we read Christ," it is because the Church of the origins has reread all Israel's Scriptures starting from and returning to Christ.

The enumeration of the Risen One's apparitions to Cephas, to the Twelve, to more than 500 brethren, and to James closes with the reference to the personal apparition received by Paul on the road to Damascus: "Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Because he had persecuted the Church of God, he expresses in this confession his unworthiness to be considered an apostle, at the same level as those who preceded him: but God's grace has not been in vain in him (1 Corinthians 15:10). Hence, the boastful affirmation of divine grace unites Paul with the first witnesses of Christ's resurrection. "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you have believed" (1 Corinthians 15:11). The identity and unity of the proclamation of the Gospel is important: both they and I preach the same faith, the same Gospel of Jesus Christ dead and risen who gives himself in the most holy Eucharist.

The importance that he bestows on the living Tradition of the Church, which she transmits to her communities, demonstrates how mistaken is the view of those who attribute to Paul the invention of Christianity: Before proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he encountered him on the road to Damascus, and met him in the Church, observing his life in the Twelve, and in those who had followed him on the roads of Galilee. In the next catecheses we will have the opportunity to go more profoundly into the contributions that Paul has made to the Church of the origins; however, the mission received on the part of the Risen One in order to evangelize the Gentiles must be confirmed and guaranteed by those who gave him and Barnabas their right hand, in sign of approval of their apostolate and evangelization, and of acceptance in the one communion of the Church of Christ (cf. Galatians 2:9).

We understand, therefore, that the expression -- "[f]rom now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer" (2 Corinthians 5:16) -- does not mean that his earthly life has little relevance for our maturing in the faith, but that from the moment of the Resurrection, our way of relating to him changes. He is, at the same time, the Son of God, "who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead," as St. Paul recalls at the beginning of the Letter to the Romans (1:3-4).

The more we try to follow in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth on the roads of Galilee, so much the more will we understand that he has taken charge of our humanity, sharing in everything except sin. Our faith is not born from a myth or an idea, but from an encounter with the Risen One, in the life of the Church.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's catechesis we turn again to the life of Saint Paul and consider his relationship with the Twelve Apostles. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks of his visits to Jerusalem where he consulted Peter, James and John, reputed to be the "pillars" of the Church. Paul's mission to the Gentiles needed to be confirmed and guaranteed by those who had been disciples of Jesus during his earthly life, and they offered to him and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship. Paul passed on the living tradition that he had received: the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, his death and resurrection, and his appearances to Peter and to the Twelve. Paul emphasizes that Jesus died "for our sins", he offered himself to the Father in order to deliver us from sin and death. And now that Jesus has risen from the dead, he is living in his Church and in the Eucharist, where we continue to encounter him. Just as Paul's teaching is rooted in his experience on the road to Damascus, and in his knowledge of Christ acquired through the Church, so too our faith is grounded, not on myths or pious legends, but on the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, and on our encounter with the risen Lord, present in the life of his Church.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including the choir from New Zealand and the groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Africa, Australia and the Far East. I greet in particular the new students from the Venerable English College and the priests from Ireland who are taking part in a renewal course. May your pilgrimage renew your faith in Christ present in his Church, after the example of the Apostle Saint Paul. May God bless you all!

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On the Last Who Are First
"Being Called Itself Is Already the First Recompense"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 21, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Perhaps you remember when, on the day of my election to the pontificate, I addressed the crowd in St. Peter's Square and I presented myself, in an off the cuff way, as a worker in the Lord's vineyard. Well, in today's Gospel (cf. Matthew 20:1-16a), Jesus recounts the parable of the owner of the vineyard, who at different hours of the day calls laborers to come work in his vineyard. And in the evening he gives to all of them the same wage -- one denarius -- provoking the protest of the laborers who had been there from the first hour.

It is clear that that denarius represents eternal life, a gift that God reserves for everyone. Indeed, precisely those who are considered "last," if they will accept it, become "first," while the "first" can run the risk of becoming "last." The first message of this parable is in the fact itself that the owner does not tolerate, so to speak, unemployment: He wants everyone to work in his vineyard. And in reality, being called itself is already the first recompense: Being able to work in the Lord's vineyard, putting yourself at his service, cooperating in his project, constitutes in itself an inestimable reward, which repays all toil.

But this is understood only by those who love the Lord and his Kingdom. Those who, instead, work solely for the pay will never recognize the value of this priceless treasure.

St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist, is the one who reports this parable that is read in today's liturgical feast. I would like to emphasize that Matthew experienced this story firsthand (cf. Matthew 9:9). In fact, before Jesus called him, Matthew was employed as a publican and for this reason was considered a public sinner by the Jews and was excluded from "the Lord's vineyard."

But everything changes when Jesus, walking by the customs house, looks at him and says "Follow me." Matthew got up and followed him. From publican he immediately became a disciple of Christ. From being "last" he finds himself as "first," thanks to the logic of God, which -- for our good fortune! -- is different from the world's logic.

"My thoughts are not your thoughts," the Lord says through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, "your ways are not my ways" (Isaiah 55:8).

St. Paul too, whose special jubilee year we are celebrating, experienced the joy of feeling himself called by the Lord and working in his vineyard. And how much work he did! But, as he himself confessed, it was God's grace that worked through him, that grace that transformed him from a persecutor of the Church into an apostle of the Gentiles. "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain," St. Paul says. But he immediately adds: "But if living in the body means doing work that is fruitful, I do not know which to choose" (Philippians 1:21-22). Paul understood well that working for the Lord is already recompense on this earth.

The Virgin Mary, who a week ago I had the joy of venerating at Lourdes, is the perfect vine in the Lord's vineyard. From her there grew the blessed fruit of divine love: Jesus, Our Savior. May she help us to respond always and with joy to the Lord's call, and to find our happiness in the possibility of toiling for the Kingdom of Heaven.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]

In recent weeks Caribbean countries -- Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic in particular -- and the southern United States, especially Texas, have been hit hard by hurricanes. I would again like to assure all of those dear people that I am remembering them in my prayers. I hope that help will soon arrive in the areas that have suffered the most damage. The Lord desires that, at least in these circumstances, solidarity and fraternity prevail above all else.

This Thursday, Sept. 25, there will be a high level meeting, in the context of the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, to verify the accomplishment of the objectives established by the "Millennium Declaration" of Sept. 8, 2000. On the occasion of this important gathering, in which the leaders of all the countries of the world will be together, I would like to renew the invitation to take up and apply with courage the necessary measures to eliminate extreme poverty, hunger and lack of education and the scourge of the pandemics that harm the most vulnerable above all.

Such a commitment, while demanding sacrifices in these moments of worldwide economic difficulties, will not be without important benefits for the development of nations who are in need of help and for the peace and well-being of the entire planet.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. In today's Gospel, Jesus teaches that God is always generous in his dealings with us. The Kingdom of Heaven will come to us not as a reward for our good deeds, based on strict justice, but as a grace, a gift of God's mercy and abounding love. Let us ask the Lord to keep us always in his love! I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

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Papal Homily at Albano Cathedral
"When Believers Are United by Charity They Become the House of God"

ALBANO, Italy, SEPT. 21, 2008 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI' homily today at Mass in the Cathedral of Albano, Italy, near the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. The cathedral's altar was dedicated at this Mass.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today's celebration is so rich in symbols and the Word of God that has been proclaimed helps us to understand the meaning and value of what we are doing here. In the first reading we heard the story of Judas Macabeus' purification of the Temple and the dedication of the new altar of holocausts in 164 B.C., three years after the Temple had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes (cf. 1 Macabees 4:52-59). The Feast of the Dedication, which lasted eight days, was instituted to commemorate that event. This feast, initially linked to the Temple, where the people went in procession to offer sacrifices, was also connected with the illumination of the houses, and it survived in this form after the destruction of Jerusalem.

The sacred author rightly underscores the joy that characterizes that event. But how much greater, dear brothers and sisters, must our joy be, knowing that every day on this altar, that we are preparing to consecrate, the sacrifice of Christ is offered; on this altar he will continue to immolate himself, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, for our salvation and that of the whole world. In the Eucharistic mystery, that is renewed on every altar, Jesus is really present. His is a dynamic presence, which seizes us in to make us his, to assimilate us to him; it draws us with the power of his love, bringing us out of ourselves to unite us with him, making us one with him.

Christ's real presence makes each of us his "house," and we all together form his Church, the spiritual edifice of which St. Peter speaks. "Come to him," the apostle writes, "a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Somewhat developing this beautiful metaphor, St. Augustine observes that through faith men are like wood and stone gathered from forests and mountains for building; through baptism, catechesis and preaching they are cut, squared, and filed down; but they only become the Lord's house when they are ordered by charity. When believers are reciprocally connected according to a determinate order, mutually and closely arranged and bound, when they are united together by charity they truly become the house of God that does not fear ruin (cf. Sermon 336).

It is therefore the love of Christ, the charity that "never ends" (1 Corinthians 13:8), the spiritual energy that unites those who participate in the same sacrifice and who nourish themselves from the same Bread broken for the salvation of the world. Is it indeed possible to be in communion with the Lord if we are not in communion with each other? How can we present ourselves divided and far from each other at God's altar? May this altar upon which the sacrifice of the Lord will soon be renewed be for you, dear brothers and sisters, be a constant invitation to love; always draw near to it with a heart open to the love of Christ and to spreading it, to receiving and bestowing forgiveness.

In this regard the Gospel passage that was proclaimed a little while ago offers us an important lesson for life (cf. Matthew 5:23-24). It is a brief but pressing and incisive call to fraternal reconciliation, a reconciliation that is indispensable if we are to present our offering worthily at the altar; it is a reminder that takes up again a teaching that is already quite present in the preaching of the prophets. The prophets vigorously denounced the uselessness of those acts of worship that lacked the correspondent moral dispositions, especially in relation to one's neighbor (cf. Isaiah 1:10-20; Amos 5:21-27; Micah 6:6-8). Every time that you come to the altar for the Eucharistic celebration your soul opens to forgiveness and fraternal reconciliation, ready to accept the apologies of those who have hurt you and ready, in turn, to forgive.

In the Roman liturgy the priest, having offered the bread and wine, bows toward the altar and prays in a low voice: "Lord, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice that we offer with humble and contrite hearts." The priest thus prepares to enter, together with the whole assembly of the faithful, into the heart of the Eucharistic mystery, into the heart of that celestial liturgy to which the second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, refers.

St. John presents an angel who offers "incense together with the prayers of all the saints, burning them on the altar of gold placed before the throne" of God (cf. Revelation 8:3). The altar of sacrifice becomes in a certain way the point of encounter between heaven and earth; the center, we could say, of the one Church that is at the same time heavenly and in pilgrimage on earth, where, in the midst of the persecutions of the world and God's consolations, the Lord's disciples proclaim his passion and death until he returns in glory (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 8). Indeed, every Eucharistic celebration already anticipates the triumph of Christ over sin and the world, and shows in mystery the splendor of the Church, "immaculate bride of the immaculate Lamb, Bride that Christ loved and gave himself up for to make her holy (cf. "Lumen Gentium," No. 6).

These reflections draw our attention to the rite that we are about to perform in this cathedral of yours, which we admire today in its renewed beauty and that we rightly desire to continue to make welcoming and decorous. It is a task that involves all of you and that, in the first place, calls upon the whole diocesan community to grow in charity and in apostolic and missionary dedication. Concretely, it is a matter of bearing witness with your life to your faith in Christ and the total confidence that you place in him.

It is also a matter of cultivating ecclesial communion that is, first of all, a gift, a grace, fruit of God's free and gratuitous love, that is, something divinely efficacious, always present and working in history, beyond all contrary appearances. Ecclesial communion is, however, also a task entrusted to the care of each individual. May the Lord grant you to live an evermore convinced and active communion, in cooperation and co-responsibility at every level: among the priests, the consecrated, and the laity, among the different Christian communities of your region, among the various lay groups.

I now address my cordial greeting to your bishop, Monsignor Marcello Semeraro, whom I thank for the invitation and for the courteous words of welcome with which he wished to receive me in the name of all of you. I would also like to express my sentiments of fervent best wishes on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his episcopal consecration.

I direct a special thought to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, titulary of this suburbicarian diocese of yours, and who today joins his happiness with yours. I greet the other prelates who are present, the priests, the consecrated persons, the young people and the elderly, the families, the children, the sick, embracing with affection all of the faithful of the diocesan community spiritually gathered here.

A greeting to the civil authorities, who honor us with their presence, and in the first place to the Lord Mayor of Albano, to whom I am also grateful for the courteous words he addressed to me at the beginning of the Mass. Upon all I invoke the heavenly protection of St. Pancrazio, to whom this cathedral is dedicated, and the Apostle Matthew, whom the liturgy recalls today.

I especially invoke the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day -- which crowns your efforts, sacrifices and work to provide this cathedral with a renovated liturgical space, with opportune interventions, the ambo and the altar -- may the Madonna obtain for you in our time the possibility of writing another page in daily and popular sanctity, which will be joined to the other pages that have marked the life of the Church of Albano over the course of the centuries.

Certainly, as your bishop noted, difficulties, challenges and problems are not lacking, but the hopes and the opportunities for announcing and witnessing to God's love are also great. May the Spirit of the risen Lord, who is also the Spirit of Pentecost, disclose his horizons of hope to you and strengthen the missionary drive in you to the vast horizons of the new evangelization. Let us pray for this, continuing our Eucharistic celebration.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Bosnian Envoy
"Every Individual Can Find the Strength to Overcome Past Divisions"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 18, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's address today to the new ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Holy See, Jasna Krivosic-Prpic.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Holy See. On this significant occasion I would ask that you kindly convey my heartfelt greetings to the members of the Presidency and all the citizens of your country. Assure them of my fervent prayers for their ongoing efforts to achieve reconciliation and the consolidation of peace and stability.

The Holy See's diplomatic relations form a part of her mission of service to the international community. Her engagement with civil society is anchored in the conviction that the task of building a more just world must recognize the supernatural vocation proper to every individual. The Church therefore promotes an understanding of the human person who receives from God the capacity to transcend individual limitations and social constraints so as to recognize and uphold the universal values which safeguard the dignity of all and serve the common good.

Ambassador, as you have observed, your country though small in area is blessed with much natural beauty. Such evidence of the hand of the Creator gladdens the hearts of its inhabitants and helps them lift their thoughts towards the Almighty. Reflecting its particular geographical location, Bosnia and Herzegovina also contains a rich mix of cultures and precious patrimonies. Tragically, however, cultural and ethnic differences throughout history have not infrequently been a source of misunderstanding and friction. Indeed, as each of the three constitutive peoples that make up your country know only too well, they have even been the cause of conflicts and wars. No person wishes for war. No parents desire conflict for their children. No civic or religious group should ever resort to violence or oppression. Yet, so many families in your land have been subjected to the suffering which results from these calamities. Listening to the voice of reason, however, and prompted by the hope that we all desire for ourselves and the generations which follow, every individual can find the strength to overcome past divisions and indeed hammer swords into ploughshares and spears into sickles (cf. Is 2:4). In this regard, I wish to acknowledge the progress being made to consolidate gestures of reconciliation and to encourage the International Community to continue its efforts to assist Bosnia and Herzegovina to this end. I trust that, in accepting the facts of regional history and the grave lessons to be learnt from recent years, the courage will be found to build a future with a healthy sense of solidarity.

A State's spirit is shaped at many levels. The family home is where children learn the essential values of responsibility and harmonious coexistence. It is here too that prejudices are either born or broken. Every parent therefore has the grave duty to instil in their children, through example, respect for the dignity that marks every person irrespective of ethnicity, religion or social grouping. In this way, the splendour of lives led justly - with integrity, fairness and compassion - can shine forth as examples for the young, indeed everyone, to emulate. Education too contributes greatly to the soul of a nation. Good schooling not only attends to the cognitive development of children but to the civic and spiritual as well. Teachers who exercise their noble profession with a passion for truth can do much to discredit any false anthropological ideologies that contain seeds of hostility (cf. 2007 "Message for World Day of Peace," 10) and to foster an appreciation of cultural and religious diversity in the life of a country. In this vein, I would also like to offer a word of encouragement to those working in the media. They can do much to overcome lingering attitudes of distrust by ensuring that they do not become tools of prejudice but rather transcend particular interests and promote broad-based and inclusive civic goals, thus becoming instruments at the service of greater justice and solidarity (cf. 2008 "Message for World Communications Day," 2).

Your Excellency, as you are well aware, the State too is called to pursue with vigour its responsibility to strengthen the institutions and extol the principles which lie at the heart of all democracies. This demands unwavering commitment to the rule of law and justice, the eradication of corruption and other forms of criminal activity, the support of an independent and impartial judiciary, and equal opportunity in the employment market. I am sure that the constitutional reforms which your government is currently studying will address the legitimate aspirations of all citizens, guaranteeing both the rights of individuals and social groups, while preserving the common moral and ethical values which bind all peoples and render political leaders accountable. In this way all sectors of society can contribute to the national planning of social and economic development and likewise assist in attracting the investment necessary for economic growth, enabling in particular your young people to find satisfying employment and guarantee a secure future.

For her part the Church in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to assist in the attainment of the goals of reconciliation, peace and prosperity. Through her parishes, schools, health-care facilities, and community development programmes she exercises her mission of universal charity in its threefold form: material, intellectual and spiritual. Her participation in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue should be seen as a further way of serving society at large. The promotion of spiritual and moral values, discernible to human reason, not only forms part of the transmission of religious traditions but also nourishes the wider culture, motivating men and women of goodwill to strengthen ties of solidarity and to manifest how a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples.

Your Excellency, I am confident that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of cooperation existing between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Holy See. The application of the recently ratified Basic Agreement, among other matters, facilitates the right to establish places of religious worship and to undertake ecclesial works, and at the same time offers a positive example of the democratic principles taking root in the country. In this regard, I am confident that the Mixed Commission will soon commence its important work. Assuring you of the assistance of the various offices of the Roman Curia and with my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you and your family together with all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the blessings of Almighty God.

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Papal Address on Pius XII Symposium
"Not All the Genuine Facets Have Been Examined In a Just Light"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 18, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's address today to Gary Krupp, the president of the Pave the Way Foundation, which organized a symposium on the papacy of Pope Pius XII.

The symposium was held Monday through Wednesday.

* * *

Dear Mr Krupp,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to meet with you at the conclusion of the important symposium organized by the Pave the Way Foundation. I know that many eminent scholars have participated in this reflection on the numerous works of my beloved predecessor - the Servant of God Pope Pius XII - accomplished during the difficult period around the time of the second world war. I warmly welcome each of you especially Mr Gary Krupp, President of the Foundation, whom I thank for the kind words expressed on your behalf. I am grateful to him for informing me how your work has been undertaken during the symposium. You have analyzed without bias the events of history and concerned yourselves only with seeking the truth. I also greet those accompanying you on this visit, as well as your family members and loved ones at home.

The focus of your study has been the person and the tireless pastoral and humanitarian work of Pius XII, "Pastor Angelicus." Fifty years have passed since his pious death here at Castel Gandolfo early on the ninth of October 1958, after a debilitating disease. This anniversary provides an important opportunity to deepen our knowledge of him, to meditate on his rich teaching and to analyze thoroughly his activities. So much has been written and said of him during these last five decades and not all of the genuine facets of his diverse pastoral activity have been examined in a just light. The aim of your symposium has been precisely to address some of these deficiencies, conducting a careful and documented examination of many of his interventions, especially those in favour of the Jews who in those years were being targeted all over Europe, in accordance with the criminal plan of those who wanted to eliminate them from the face of the earth. When one draws close to this noble Pope, free from ideological prejudices, in addition to being struck by his lofty spiritual and human character one is also captivated by the example of his life and the extraordinary richness of his teaching. One can also come to appreciate the human wisdom and pastoral intensity which guided him in his long years of ministry, especially in providing organized assistance to the Jewish people.

Thanks to the vast quantity of documented material which you have gathered, supported by many authoritative testimonies, your symposium offers to the public forum the possibility of knowing more fully what Pius XII achieved for the Jews persecuted by the Nazi and fascist regimes. One understands, then, that wherever possible he spared no effort in intervening in their favour either directly or through instructions given to other individuals or to institutions of the Catholic Church. In the proceedings of your convention you have also drawn attention to his many interventions, made secretly and silently, precisely because, given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews. This courageous and paternal dedication was recognized and appreciated during and after the terrible world conflict by Jewish communities and individuals who showed their gratitude for what the Pope had done for them. One need only recall Pius XII's meeting on the 29th of November 1945 with eighty delegates of German concentration camps who during a special Audience granted to them at the Vatican, wished to thank him personally for his generosity to them during the terrible period of Nazi-fascist persecution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for your visit and for the research you have undertaken. Thanks also to the Pave the Way Foundation for its ongoing activity in promoting relationships and dialogue between religions, as witnesses of peace, charity and reconciliation. It is my great hope that this year, which marks the fiftieth-anniversary of my venerated predecessor's death, will provide the opportunity to promote in-depth studies of various aspects of his life and his works in order to come to know the historical truth, overcoming every remaining prejudice. With these sentiments I invoke upon you and the proceedings of your symposium an abundance of divine blessings.

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Pave the Way Foundation's Address to Pope
Working to "End the Malevolent and the Illegal Use of Religion"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 18, 2008 - Here is the address Gary Krupp, president of the Pave the Way Foundation, gave today upon meeting Benedict XVI at the apostolic palace of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

The Pope granted an audience to the participants of the congress "Examining the Papacy of Pope Pius XII," which was organized by the foundation. The three-day symposium ended Wednesday.

* * *

You Holiness, The mission of Pave the Way Foundation is to end the malevolent and the illegal use of religion. We begin this process by establishing credible and trusted relationships through our historic gestures of good will and with the identification and elimination of obstacles between the faiths.

Some examples of our projects are that we worked for over 20 years to help the equipment acquisition of the hospital of St. Padre Pio here in Italy. We worked behind the scenes to remove obstacles and to move the fundamental agreements with the Israeli government and the Holy See. We initiated the Jewish thank you to Pope John Paul II for his efforts to achieve religious reconciliation. We brought the manuscripts of Maimonides for the first time in history from the Vatican Library to the state of Israel, and in 2007, we implemented the gift to your library of the oldest manuscripts of the Gospels of St. John and St. Luke, the Bodmer papyrus.

Your Holiness, for all of these benevolent projects I wish recognize, in your presence, one who has dedicated over 20 years behind the scenes to help us to complete this vital work: Doctor Rolando Clementoni.

In the furtherance of our mission, Pave the Way has identified the papacy of Pope Pius XII as a source of friction and misunderstanding. Accordingly, we have undertaken an independent investigation to identify significant documents and to video record eyewitness testimony. I wish to report to you that results of this investigation are stunning, and directly contradict the negative perception of the Pope's wartime activities.

All of the documented material that we have gathered, including the transcript of our just completed three-day symposium, will be turned over to your pontifical institutions and to the internationally recognized Holocaust centers for further study.

Based on their review of these new materials, and in the interest of maintaining their historical integrity and accuracy, we call upon these institutions to carefully review this new information in order to redefine the current perception on this papacy.

This year, for Catholics, Oct. 9, 2008, will be the commemoration the 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII, for Jews that date is also significant as it is our holiest Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement. May this providential date usher in a new effort to correct the historical record and bring to light the truth of this papacy.

I wish to close with a passage from a book written by Ambassador Pinchas Lapide, a former Israeli consul general in Italy, and a Jewish theologian: "No Pope in history has been thanked more heartily by Jews upon his death in 1958. Several suggested in open letters that a Pope Pius XII forest of 860,000 trees be planted on the hills of Judea in order to fittingly honor the memory of the late Pontiff, because the Catholic Church under the pontificate of Pius XII was instrumental in saving the lives of as many as 860,000 Jews from certain death at Nazi hands."

You Holiness, we humbly ask you to keep the mission of Pave the Way Foundation and its vital work to end the malevolent use of religion in your prayers, and thank you for allowing us this time today.

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"No True Love Without Suffering"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience held in the Paul VI Hall, during which he evaluated his Sept. 12-15 apostolic trip to Paris and Lourdes.

* * *
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
 
Today's meeting gives me the opportunity to review again the moments of the pastoral visit that I made in recent days to France; a visit that culminated with the pilgrimage to Lourdes on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Virgin's apparitions to St. Bernadette. While giving fervent thanks to the Lord, who granted me such a providential possibility, I again express my sincere gratitude to the archbishop of Paris, to the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, to the respective collaborators and to all those who in different ways cooperated in the success of my pilgrimage. I also cordially thank the president of the republic and the other authorities who welcomed me so courteously.
 
The visit began in Paris, where, ideally, I met with all the French people, thus honoring a beloved nation in which the Church, since the 2nd century, has played a fundamental civilizing role. It is interesting that, precisely in this context, the need matured of a healthy distinction between the political and religious spheres, according to Jesus' famous saying: "Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17).

If the effigy of Caesar was imprinted on Roman coins, then imprinted on the heart of man must be the mark of the Creator, only Lord of our life. Genuine secularism, therefore, is not to do without the spiritual dimension, but to acknowledge that precisely the latter is, radically, the guarantor of our liberty and of the autonomy of earthly realities, thanks to the dictates of creative Wisdom that the human conscience is able to receive and fulfill.
 
Framed in this perspective is the extensive reflection on the topic "The Origins of Western Theology and the Roots of European Culture," which I developed in the meeting with the world of culture, in a place chosen for its symbolic value. It was held at the Collège des Bernardins, which deceased Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger wished to re-establish as a center of cultural dialogue, a 12th century building built by the Cistercians, where young people have studied. The monastic theology that gave origin to our Western culture is present there.

The starting point of my address was a reflection on monasticism, whose objective was to seek God, "quaerere Deum." In an age of profound crisis of the ancient civilization, the monks, guided by the light of faith, chose the "via maestra": the way of listening to the word of God. They were, therefore, the great cultivators of sacred Scripture, and monasteries became schools of wisdom and schools of "dominici servitii," "of the service of the Lord," as St. Benedict called them.

The search for God led the monks, by its nature, to a culture of the word. "Quaerere Deum," to seek God, they searched in the furrow of the word and they were to know, in ever greater depth, this word. It was necessary to penetrate the secret of language, to understand its structure. In seeking God, who has revealed himself in sacred Scripture, of great importance were the profane sciences, in order to go deeper into the secret of languages. As a consequence, that "eruditio" was developed in monasteries that made possible the formation of culture. Precisely because of this, "quaerere Deum" -- to seek God, to be on the way to God -- continues to be today as yesterday the "via maestra" and foundation of all true culture.
 
Architecture is also an artistic expression of the search for God, and undoubtedly the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris is an example of universal value. Inside this magnificent church, where I had the joy to preside over the celebration of vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I exhorted the priests, deacons, men and women religious and seminarians who had come from all parts of France, to give priority to the religious listening of the divine word, looking at the Virgin Mary as sublime model.

Later, in the portico of Notre Dame, I greeted numerous and enthusiastic young people. To them, who were about to begin a long vigil of prayer, I gave two treasures of the Christian faith: the Holy Spirit and the cross. The Spirit opens human intelligence to horizons that surpass it and makes it understand the beauty and truth of God's love revealed, in fact, on the cross. A love of which no one will be able to separate us, and that is experienced by giving one's life as Christ did. After a brief stopover at the Institut de France, headquarters of the five national academies, my being a member of one of them, enabled me to see with great joy my colleagues.

Afterward, my visit culminated with the Eucharistic celebration at the Esplanade des Invalides. Echoing the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, I invited the faithful of Paris and the whole of France to seek the living God, who has shown us his true face in Jesus present in the Eucharist, encouraging us to love our brothers as He has loved us.
 
Then I went to Lourdes, where I was able to join thousands of faithful on the Jubilee Way, which includes the places of St. Bernadette's life: the parish church with the baptismal font where she was baptized; the "cachot" where she lived in great poverty as a girl; the Massabielle Grotto, where the Virgin appeared to her 18 times. In the afternoon I took part in the traditional torchlight procession, which is a wonderful manifestation of faith in God and of devotion to his and our Mother. Lourdes is truly a place of light, prayer, hope and conversion, founded on the rock of the love of God, which had its culminating revelation in the glorious cross of Christ.
 
By a happy coincidence, last Sunday the liturgy celebrated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, sign of hope par excellence, because it is the highest testimony of love. In Lourdes, in the school of Mary, first and perfect disciple of Christ, pilgrims learn to regard the crosses of their lives in the light of the glorious cross of Christ. "Appearing to Bernadette, in the Grotto of Massabielle, Mary's first gesture was, in fact, the Sign of the Cross, in silence and without words. And Bernadette imitated her in turn making the Sign of the Cross though her hand was trembling.

And so the Virgin gave a first initiation on the essence of Christianity: The Sign of the Cross is the height of our faith, and doing it with an attentive heart we enter into the full mystery of our salvation. The whole message of Lourdes is contained in this gesture of the Virgin! God has so loved us that he gave himself up for us: This is the message of the Cross, "mystery of death and of glory."

The cross reminds us that there is no true love without suffering, there is no gift of life without pain. Many learn this truth in Lourdes, which is a school of faith and hope, because it is also a school of charity and of service to brothers. It is in this context of faith and prayer where the important meeting with the French episcopate took place: It was a moment of intense spiritual communion, in which together we entrusted to the Virgin our common hopes and pastoral concerns.
 
The next stage was the Eucharistic procession with thousands of faithful, among whom, as usual, were many sick people. Before the most Blessed Sacrament, our spiritual communion with Mary was made even more intense and profound because God gives us eyes and hearts capable of contemplating his Divine Son in the Holy Eucharist. Very moving was the silence of these thousands of people before the Lord, not an empty silence, but one full of prayer and awareness of the Lord's presence, who loved us to the point of being lifted up on the cross for us.

Monday, Sept. 15, liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, was dedicated especially to the sick. After a brief visit to the hospital oratory, where Bernadette received her first Communion, I presided over the celebration of Holy Mass in the portico of the Basilica of the rosary, during which I administered the sacrament of anointing of the sick. With the sick and with those taking care of them, I meditated on the tears Mary shed under the cross, and on her smile that illuminates Easter morning.
 
Dear brothers and sisters, together we thank the Lord for this apostolic journey enriched by so many spiritual gifts. We praise him especially because Mary, by appearing to St. Bernadette, has opened to the world a privileged place to find divine love that heals and saves. In Lourdes, the Holy Virgin invites all to regard earth as a place of pilgrimage toward our final homeland, which is heaven. In reality, we are all pilgrims, we need Mary to guide us; and in Lourdes, her smile invites us to go forward with great confidence in the awareness that God is good, God is love.

[Translation by ZENIT]
 
[At the end of the Audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our encounter today gives me the opportunity to retrace the steps of my recent Pastoral Visit to France. After a warm welcome in Paris, I met with men and women from the world of culture, with whom I reflected on the monastic ideal of seeking God -- "quaerere Deum" -- as the bedrock of European culture. I wished to emphasize that meditation on the Scriptures opens our minds and hearts to the Logos, God’s Creative Reason in the flesh. In the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame, I gathered with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians, sharing with them the treasures of the Holy Spirit and the Cross. My brief stop at the Institut de France was followed by the joyful Eucharistic celebration on the Esplanade des Invalides. I then made my way to Lourdes to join thousands of pilgrims in this Jubilee year commemorating the apparitions of Our Lady to Saint Bernadette. The Holy Mass near the Grotto of Massabielle providentially coincided with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the perennial sign of the "mystery of death and of glory". The Cross demonstrates that God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son. It teaches us that there is no genuine love without suffering, and no gift of life without pain. Lourdes is thus a school of faith and hope because it is a school of charity and service. I am deeply grateful to God and to all who made this trip a blessed, memorable success. Thank you!

I happily greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including pilgrims from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Burma, Japan, and the United States of America. God bless you all!
 
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Papal Message to UN Prayer Meeting
"Urgent Tasks Facing the United Nations"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2008 - Here is the text of a telegram sent on behalf of Benedict XVI by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to the prayer service held Monday, the eve of the 63rd session of the U.N. General Assembly.

Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, and Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, led the prayer service.

* * *

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI sends cordial greetings to all taking part in the prayer service held on the eve of the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly. He joins the members of the diplomatic community and U.N. officials present in imploring from Almighty God the guidance and strength needed to carry out the urgent tasks facing the United Nations in the coming months, including the continuing implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, the NEPAD program and other initiatives aimed at ensuring that the whole human family shares in the benefits of globalization. Recalling with gratitude his visit to the General Assembly last April on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, His Holiness renews his appeal to international leaders to reappropriate the lofty moral vision and the transcendent principles of justice embodied in the United Nations' founding documents. With these sentiments the Holy Father invokes upon all in attendance an abundance of divine blessings, trusting that these moments of reflection and prayer will strengthen them in their commitment to upholding the dignity of each human person and building a world of ever greater solidarity, freedom and peace.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State

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On the Nearness of Our Lady
"Mary's Purity Makes Her Infinitely Close to Our Hearts"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 14, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Lourdes before praying the Angelus and after having celebrated a Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's apparitions.

* * *

Dear Pilgrims, dear brothers and sisters!

Every day, praying the Angelus gives us the opportunity to meditate for a few moments, in the midst of all our activities, on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. At noon, when the first hours of the day are already beginning to weigh us down with fatigue, our availability and our generosity are renewed by the contemplation of Mary's "yes". This clear and unreserved "yes" is rooted in the mystery of Mary's freedom, a total and entire freedom before God, completely separated from any complicity with sin, thanks to the privilege of her Immaculate Conception.

This privilege given to Mary, which sets her apart from our common condition, does not distance her from us, but on the contrary, it brings her closer. While sin divides, separating us from one another, Mary's purity makes her infinitely close to our hearts, attentive to each of us and desirous of our true good. You see it here in Lourdes, as in all Marian shrines; immense crowds come thronging to Mary's feet to entrust to her their most intimate thoughts, their most heartfelt wishes. That which many, either because of embarrassment or modesty, do not confide to their nearest and dearest, they confide to her who is all pure, to her Immaculate Heart: with simplicity, without frills, in truth. Before Mary, by virtue of her very purity, man does not hesitate to reveal his weakness, to express his questions and his doubts, to formulate his most secret hopes and desires. The Virgin Mary's maternal love disarms all pride; it renders man capable of seeing himself as he is, and it inspires in him the desire to be converted so as to give glory to God.

Thus, Mary shows us the right way to come to the Lord. She teaches us to approach him in truth and simplicity. Thanks to her, we discover that the Christian faith is not a burden: it is like a wing which enables us to fly higher, so as to take refuge in God's embrace.

The life and faith of believers make it clear that the grace of the Immaculate Conception given to Mary is not merely a personal grace, but a grace for all, a grace given to the entire people of God. In Mary, the Church can already contemplate what she is called to become. Every believer can contemplate, here and now, the perfect fulfilment of his or her own vocation. May each of you always remain full of thanksgiving for what the Lord has chosen to reveal of his plan of salvation through the mystery of Mary: a mystery in which we are involved most intimately since, from the height of the Cross which we celebrate and exalt today, it is revealed to us through the words of Jesus himself that his Mother is our Mother. Inasmuch as we are sons and daughters of Mary, we can profit from all the graces given to her; the incomparable dignity that came to her through her Immaculate Conception shines brightly over us, her children.

Here, close to the grotto, and in intimate communion with all the pilgrims present in Marian shrines and with all the sick in body and soul who are seeking relief, we bless the Lord for Mary's presence among her people, and to her we address our prayer in faith:

"Holy Mary, you showed yourself here one hundred and fifty years ago to the young Bernadette, you 'are the true fount of hope' (Dante, Paradiso, XXXIII:12).

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

Faithful pilgrims who have gathered here from every part of the world, we come once more to draw faith and comfort, joy and love, security and peace, from the source of your Immaculate Heart. Monstra Te esse Matrem. Show yourself a Mother for us all, O Mary! And give us Christ, the hope of the world! Amen."

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Pontiff's Address to French Bishops
"Let Us Strive Always to Be Servants of Unity"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 14, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during a meeting with bishops of France held in Lourdes.

* * *

Venerable Brother Cardinals,
Dear Brother Bishops,


This is the first time since the beginning of my pontificate that I have had the joy of meeting all of you together. I offer cordial greetings to your President, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, and I thank him for the deep words he has addressed to me in your name. I am also pleased to greet the Vice-Presidents, as well as the General Secretary and his staff. I warmly greet each one of you, my brothers in the episcopate, who have come here from every part of France and from overseas. (I include here Archbishop François Gamier of Cambrai, who is today celebrating in Valenciennes the Millennium of Our Lady of Saint-Cordon).


I am happy to be among you this evening here in the hemicycle of Saint Bernadette's Church, where you habitually come together for prayer and for your meetings, where you express your concerns and your hopes, where you hold your discussions and your reflections. This hall is in a privileged location close to the grotto and the Marian Basilicas. Of course you regularly encounter the Successor of Peter in Rome on your ad limina visits, but this occasion that brings us together here has been given to us as a grace, to reaffirm the close links that unite us through our sharing in the same priesthood that issues directly from the priesthood of Christ the Redeemer. I encourage you to continue working in unity and trust, in full communion with Peter, who has come in order to strengthen your faith. As you have said, Your Eminence, right now you have, we have, many concerns. I know that you are committed to working within the new framework established by the reorganization of ecclesiastical provinces, and I rejoice that it should be so. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect with you on some topics that I know are at the centre of your attention.


The Church - one, holy, catholic and apostolic - has given birth to you in Baptism. She has called you to her service; you have given her your lives, firstly as deacons and priests, then as Bishops. I express my deep appreciation for this gift of yourselves: despite the magnitude of the task, which underscores its honour - honor, onus! - you carry out with fidelity and humility the triple task towards the flock entrusted to you of teaching, governing, sanctifying, in light of the Constitution Lumen Gentium (nos. 25-28) and the Decree Christus Dominus. As successors of the Apostles, you represent Christ at the head of the dioceses which have been entrusted to you, and you strive to be true to the portrait of the Bishop sketched by Saint Paul; you seek to grow constantly in this path, so as to be ever more "hospitable, lovers of goodness, masters of yourselves, upright, holy and self-controlled; holding firm to the sure word as taught, able to give instruction in sound doctrine" (cf. Tit 1:8-9). The Christian people must regard you with affection and respect. From its origins, Christian tradition has insisted on this point: "All those who belong to God and Jesus Christ, stand by their Bishop", said Saint Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Philadelphians, 3:2), and he added: "When someone is sent by the master of a house to manage his household for him, it is our duty to give him the same kind of reception as we should give to the sender" (Letter to the Ephesians, 6:1). Your mission as spiritual leaders consists, then, in creating the necessary conditions for the faithful to -- citing Saint Ignatius again -- "sing aloud to the Father with one voice through Jesus Christ" (ibid., 4:2), and in this way to make their lives an offering to God.


You are rightly convinced that, if every baptized person is to grow in desire for God and in understanding of life's meaning, catechesis is of fundamental importance. The two principal instruments at your disposal - the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Catechism of the Bishops of France - are like precious jewels. They offer a harmonious synthesis of the Catholic faith and they ensure that the preaching of the Gospel is truly faithful to the riches that it contains. Catechesis is not first and foremost a question of method, but of content, as the name itself indicates: it is about an organic presentation (kat-echein) of the whole of Christian revelation, in such a way as to make available to minds and hearts the word of him who gave his life for us. In this way, catechesis causes to resound within the heart of every human being a unique call that is ceaselessly renewed: "Follow me" (Mt 9:9). Diligent preparation of catechists will allow integral transmission of the faith, after the example of Saint Paul, the greatest catechist of all time, whom we regard with particular admiration in this bimillennium of his birth. In the midst of his apostolic concerns, he had this to say: "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths" (2 Tim 4:3-4). Recognizing the truth of his predictions, you strive with humility and perseverance to be faithful to his recommendations: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2).


In order to accomplish this task effectively, you need co-workers. For this reason, priestly and religious vocations deserve to be encouraged more than ever. I have been informed of the initiatives that have been taken with faith in this area, and I hasten to offer my full support to those who are not afraid, as Christ was not afraid, to invite the young and not so young to place themselves at the service of the Master who is here, calling (cf. Mt 11:28). I would like to offer warm thanks and encouragement to all families, parishes, Christian communities and ecclesial movements, which provide the fertile soil that bears the good fruit (cf. Mt 13:8) of vocations. !n this context, I wish to acknowledge the countless prayers of true disciples of Christ and of his Church. These include priests, men and women religious, the elderly, the sick, as well as prisoners, who for decades have offered prayers to God in obedience to the command of Jesus: "Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38). The Bishop and the communities of the faithful must play their part in promoting and welcoming priestly and religious vocations, relying on the grace of the Holy Spirit in order to carry out the necessary discernment. Yes, dear Brothers in the episcopate, continue inviting people to the priesthood and the religious life, just as Peter let down the nets at the Master's order, when he had spent the whole night fishing without catching anything (cf. Lk 5:5).


It can never be said often enough that the priesthood is indispensable to the Church, for it is at the service of the laity. Priests are a gift from God for the Church. Where their specific missions are concerned, priests cannot delegate their functions to the faithful. Dear Brothers in the episcopate, I urge you to continue helping your priests to live in profound union with Christ. Their spiritual life is the foundation of their apostolic life. You will gently exhort them to daily prayer and to the worthy celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, as Saint Francis de Sales did for his priests. Every priest should be able to feel happiness in serving the Church. In the school of the Curé d'Ars, a son of your land and patron of pastors throughout the world, constantly reiterate that the greatest thing a man can do is to give the body and blood of Christ to the faithful and to forgive their sins. Seek to be attentive to their human, intellectual and spiritual formation, and to their means of subsistence. Try, despite the weight of your onerous tasks, to meet them regularly and know how to receive them as brothers and friends (cf. Lumen Gentium, 28; Christus Dominus, 16). Priests need your affection, your encouragement and your solicitude. Be close to them and have particular care for those who are in difficulties, sick or elderly (cf. Christus Dominus, 16). Do not forget that they are - as the Second Vatican Council teaches, quoting the magnificent expression used by Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Magnesians - "the spiritual crown of the Bishop" (Lumen Gentium, 41).


Liturgical worship is the supreme expression of priestly and episcopal life, just as it is of catechetical teaching. Your duty to sanctify the faithful people, dear Brothers, is indispensable for the growth of the Church. In the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum", I was led to set out the conditions in which this duty is to be exercised, with regard to the possibility of using the missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962) in addition to that of Pope Paul VI (1970). Some fruits of these new arrangements have already been seen, and I hope that, thanks be to God, the necessary pacification of spirits is already taking place. I am aware of your difficulties, but I do not doubt that, within a reasonable time, you can find solutions satisfactory for all, lest the seamless tunic of Christ be further torn. Everyone has a place in the Church. Every person, without exception, should be able to feel at home, and never rejected. God, who loves all men and women and wishes none to be lost, entrusts us with this mission by appointing us shepherds of his sheep. We can only thank him for the honour and the trust that he has placed in us. Let us therefore strive always to be servants of unity!


What are the other areas that require particular attention? The answers probably vary from one diocese to another, but there is certainly one problem which arises with particular urgency everywhere: the situation of the family. We know that marriage and the family are today experiencing real turbulence. The words of the Evangelist about the boat in the storm on the lake may be applied to the family: "waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling" (Mk 4:37). The factors which brought about this crisis are well known, and there is no need to list them here. For several decades, laws in different countries have been relativizing its nature as the primordial cell of society. Often they are seeking more to adapt to the mores and demands of particular individuals or groups, than to promote the common good of society. The stable union of a man and a women, ordered to building earthly happiness through the birth of children given by God, is no longer, in the minds of certain people, the reference point for conjugal commitment. However, experience shows that the family is the foundation on which the whole of society rests. Moreover, Christians know that the family is also the living cell of the Church. The more the family is steeped in the spirit and values of the Gospel, the more the Church herself will be enriched by them and the better she will fulfil her vocation. I recognize and encourage warmly the efforts you are making to support the various associations active in assisting families. You have reason to uphold firmly, even at the cost of opposing prevailing trends, the principles which constitute the strength and the greatness of the sacrament of marriage. The Church wishes to remain utterly faithful to the mandate entrusted to her by her Founder, her Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. She does not cease to repeat with him: "What God has joined together, let not man put asunder!" (Mt 19:6). The Church did not give herself this mission: she received it. To be sure, none can deny that certain families experience trials, sometimes very painful ones. Families in difficulty must be supported, they must be helped to understand the greatness of marriage, and encouraged not to relativize God's will and the laws of life which he has given us. A particularly painful situation concerns those who are divorced and remarried. The Church, which cannot oppose the will of Christ, firmly maintains the principle of the indissolubility of marriage, while surrounding with the greatest affection those men and women who, for a variety of reasons, fail to respect it. Hence initiatives aimed at blessing irregular unions cannot be admitted. The Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio has indicated a way open to the fruit of reflection carried out with respect for truth and charity.


Young people, I know well dear Brothers, are at the centre of your concerns. You devote much of your time to them, and you are right to do so. As you know, I have recently encountered a great multitude of them in Sydney, in the course of World Youth Day. I appreciated their enthusiasm and their capacity to dedicate themselves to prayer. Even while living in a world which courts them and flatters their base instincts, and carrying, as they do, the heavy burdens handed down by history, the young retain a freshness of soul which has elicited my admiration. I appealed to their sense of responsibility by urging them always to draw support from the vocation given them by God on the day of their Baptism. "Our strength lies in what Christ wants from us", Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger used to say. In the course of his first journey to France, my venerable Predecessor delivered an address to the young people of your country which has lost none of its relevance, and which was received at the time with unforgettable fervour. "Moral permissiveness does not make people happy", he proclaimed at the Parc des Princes, amid thunderous applause. The good sense which inspired the healthy reaction of his hearers is still alive. I ask the Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of all the faithful and, more generally, of all your compatriots, so as to give them - or to restore to them - the desire for a life lived in accordance with the criteria of true happiness.


At the Elysee Palace on Friday, I spoke of the uniqueness of the French situation, which the Holy See wishes to respect. I am convinced, in fact, that nations must never allow what gives them their particular identity to disappear. The fact that different members of the same family have the same father and mother does not mean that they are undifferentiated subjects: they are actually persons with their own individuality. The same is true for countries, which must take care to preserve and develop their particular culture, without ever allowing it to be absorbed by others or swamped in a dull uniformity. "The Nation is in fact"-to take up the words of Pope John Paul II-"the great community of men who are united by various ties, but above all, precisely by culture. The Nation exists ‘through' culture and ‘for' culture, and it is therefore the great educator of men in order that they may ‘be more' in the community" (Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980, no. 14). From this perspective, drawing attention to France's Christian roots will permit each inhabitant of the country to come to a better understanding of his or her origin and destiny. Consequently, within the current institutional framework and with the utmost respect for the laws that are in force, it is necessary to find a new path, in order to interpret and live from day to day the fundamental values on which the Nation's identity is built. Your President has intimated that this is possible. The social and political presuppositions of past mistrust or even hostility are gradually disappearing. The Church does not claim the prerogative of the State. She does not wish to take its place. She is a community built on certain convictions; she is aware of her responsibility for the whole and cannot remain closed within herself. She speaks freely, and enters into dialogue with equal freedom, in her desire to build up a shared freedom, so that, with due regard for their legitimate diversity in nature and function, the ethical forces of State and Church can work together to allow the individual to thrive, for the sake of building a harmonious society. I congratulate you on the existence for some time of the forum for dialogue, which facilitates relations with the State. A number of issues, preparing the ground for others to be added as the need arises, have already been studied and resolved to universal satisfaction. Thanks to a healthy collaboration between the political community and the Church, made possible through an acknowledgment and respect for the independence and autonomy of each within their particular spheres, a service is rendered to mankind which aims at his full personal and social development. Several points-as well as others in development which will be added as the need arises-have already been studied and resolved within the "Appeal for Dialogue between the Church and the State". The Apostolic Nuncio, in virtue of his own mission and in the name of the Holy See, naturally takes part in these initiatives, as he is called to follow actively the life of the Church and its situation within society.


As you know, my predecessors - Blessed John XXIII, who was once Nuncio in Paris, and Pope Paul V! - decided to establish Secretariats which, in 1988, became the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Quickly added to these were the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. These structures in some sense constitute the institutional and conciliar recognition of countless earlier initiatives and accomplishments. Similar commissions or councils exist within your Episcopal Conference and your dioceses. Their existence and activity demonstrate the Church's desire to move forward by developing bilateral dialogue. The recent Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has highlighted the fact that authentic dialogue requires, as fundamental conditions, good formation for those who promote it, and enlightened discernment in order to advance step by step in discovering the Truth. The goal of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, which naturally differ in their respective nature and finality, is to seek and deepen a knowledge of the Truth. It is therefore a noble and obligatory task for every believer, since Christ himself is the Truth. The building of bridges between the great ecclesial Christian traditions, and dialogue with other religious traditions, demand a real striving for mutual understanding, because ignorance destroys more than it builds. Moreover, only the Truth makes it possible to live authentically the dual commandment of Love which our Saviour left us. To be sure, one must follow closely the various initiatives that are undertaken, so as to discern which ones favour reciprocal knowledge and respect, as well as the promotion of dialogue, and so as to avoid those which lead to impasses. Good will is not enough. I believe it is good to begin by listening, then moving on to theological discussion, so as to arrive finally at witness and proclamation of the faith itself (cf. Doctrinal Note on certain aspects of Evangelization, no. 12, 3 December 2007). May the Holy Spirit grant you the discernment which must characterize every Pastor. As Saint Paul recommends: "Test everything; hold fast what is good!" (1 Th 5:21). The globalized, multicultural and multireligious society in which we live is a God-given opportunity to proclaim Truth and practice Love so as to reach out to every human being without distinction, even beyond the limits of the visible Church.


The year preceding my election to the Chair of Peter, I had the joy of coming to your country to preside at the ceremonies commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Normandy landings. Seldom as on that occasion have I sensed the attachment of the sons and daughters of France to the land of their ancestors. France was then celebrating its temporal liberation, at the conclusion of a cruel war which had claimed countless victims. Now, and above all, it is time to work towards a genuine spiritual liberation. Man is always in need of liberation from his fears and his sins. Man must ceaselessly learn or relearn that God is not his enemy, but his infinitely good Creator. Man needs to know that his life has a meaning, and that he is awaited, at the conclusion of his earthly sojourn, so as to share for ever in Christ's glory in heaven. Your mission is to bring the portion of the People of God entrusted to your care to recognize this glorious destiny. Please be assured of my admiration and my gratitude for all that you do in order to achieve this. Please be assured of my daily prayers for each of you. Please believe that I unceasingly ask the Lord and his Mother to guide you on your path.


With heartfelt joy, I entrust you, dear Brothers in the episcopate, to Our Lady of Lourdes and to Saint Bernadette. God's power has always been manifested in weakness. The Holy Spirit has always cleansed what is soiled, watered what is arid, straightened what is crooked. Christ the Saviour, who has chosen to make us instruments for communicating his love to men, will never cease to make you grow in faith, hope and love, so as to give you the joy of bringing to him a growing number of the men and women of our day. In entrusting you to the power of the Redeemer, I impart to all of you, from my heart, an affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

Thank you.

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Benedict XVI's Homily in Lourdes
"The Church Invites Us Proudly to Lift Up This Glorious Cross"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 14, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today during a Mass he celebrated in Lourdes.

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Dear Cardinals,
Dear Bishop Perrier,
Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear pilgrims, brothers and sisters,


"Go and tell the priests that people should come here in procession, and that a chapel should be built here." This is the message Bernadette received from the "beautiful lady" in the apparition of 2 March 1858. For 150 years, pilgrims have never ceased to come to the grotto of Massabielle to hear the message of conversion and hope which is addressed to them. And we have done the same; here we are this morning at the feet of Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, eager to learn from her alongside little Bernadette.


I would like to thank especially Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes for the warm welcome he has given me, and for the kind words he has addressed to me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests, the deacons, the men and women religious, and all of you, dear Lourdes pilgrims, especially the sick. You have come in large numbers to make this Jubilee pilgrimage with me and to entrust your families, your relatives and friends, and all your intentions to Our Lady. My thanks go also to the civil and military Authorities who are here with us at this Eucharistic celebration.


"What a great thing it is to possess the Cross! He who possesses it possesses a treasure" (Saint Andrew of Crete, Homily X on the Exaltation of the Cross, PG 97, 1020). On this day when the Church's liturgy celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Gospel you have just heard reminds us of the meaning of this great mystery: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that men might be saved (cf. Jn 3:16). The Son of God became vulnerable, assuming the condition of a slave, obedient even to death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:8). By his Cross we are saved. The instrument of torture which, on Good Friday, manifested God's judgement on the world, has become a source of life, pardon, mercy, a sign of reconciliation and peace. "In order to be healed from sin, gaze upon Christ crucified!" said Saint Augustine (Treatise on Saint John, XII, 11). By raising our eyes towards the Crucified one, we adore him who came to take upon himself the sin of the world and to give us eternal life. And the Church invites us proudly to lift up this glorious Cross so that the world can see the full extent of the love of the Crucified one for all, for us men. She invites us to give thanks to God because from a tree which brought death, life has burst out anew. On this wood Jesus reveals to us his sovereign majesty, he reveals to us that he is exalted in glory. Yes, "Come, let us adore him!" In our midst is he who loved us even to giving his life for us, he who invites every human being to draw near to him with trust.


This is the great mystery that Mary also entrusts to us this morning, inviting us to turn towards her Son. In fact, it is significant that, during the first apparition to Bernadette, Mary begins the encounter with the sign of the Cross. More than a simple sign, it is an initiation into the mysteries of the faith that Bernadette receives from Mary. The sign of the Cross is a kind of synthesis of our faith, for it tells how much God loves us; it tells us that there is a love in this world that is stronger than death, stronger than our weaknesses and sins. The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us. It is this mystery of the universality of God's love for men that Mary came to reveal here, in Lourdes. She invites all people of good will, all those who suffer in heart or body, to raise their eyes towards the Cross of Jesus, so as to discover there the source of life, the source of salvation.


The Church has received the mission of showing all people this loving face of God, manifested in Jesus Christ. Are we able to understand that in the Crucified One of Golgotha, our dignity as children of God, tarnished by sin, is restored to us? Let us turn our gaze towards Christ. It is he who will make us free to love as he loves us, and to build a reconciled world. For on this Cross, Jesus took upon himself the weight of all the sufferings and injustices of our humanity. He bore the humiliation and the discrimination, the torture suffered in many parts of the world by so many of our brothers and sisters for love of Christ. We entrust all this to Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, present at the foot of the Cross.


In order to welcome into our lives this glorious Cross, the celebration of the Jubilee of Our Lady's apparitions in Lourdes urges us to embark upon a journey of faith and conversion. Today, Mary comes to meet us, so as to show us the way towards a renewal of life for our communities and for each one of us. By welcoming her Son, whom she presents to us, we are plunged into a living stream in which the faith can rediscover new vigour, in which the Church can be strengthened so as to proclaim the mystery of Christ ever more boldly. Jesus, born of Mary, is the Son of God, the sole Saviour of all people, living and acting in his Church and in the world. The Church is sent everywhere in the world to proclaim this unique message and to invite people to receive it through an authentic conversion of heart This mission, entrusted by Jesus to his disciples, receives here, on the occasion of this Jubilee, a breath of new life. After the example of the great evangelizers from your country, may the missionary spirit which animated so many men and women from France over the centuries, continue to be your pride and your commitment!


When we follow the Jubilee Way in the footsteps of Bernadette, we are reminded of the heart of the message of Lourdes. Bernadette is the eldest daughter of a very poor family, with neither knowledge nor power, and in poor health. Mary chose her to transmit her message of conversion, prayer and penance, which fully accord with words of Jesus: "What you have hidden from the wise and understanding, you have revealed to babes" (Mt 11:25). On their spiritual journey, Christians too are called to render fruitful the grace of their Baptism, to nourish themselves with the Eucharist, to draw strength from prayer so as to bear witness and to express solidarity with all their fellow human beings (cf. Homage to the Virgin Mary, Piazza di Spagna, 8 December 2007). It is therefore a genuine catechesis that is being proposed to us in this way, under Mary's gaze. Let us allow her to instruct us too, and to guide us along the path that leads to the Kingdom of her Son!


In the course of her catechesis, the "beautiful lady" reveals her name to Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception". Mary thereby discloses the extraordinary grace that she has received from God, that of having been conceived without sin, for "he has looked on his servant in her lowliness" (cf. Lk 1:48). Mary is the woman from this earth who gave herself totally to God, and who received the privilege of giving human life to his eternal Son. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me" (Lk 1:38). She is beauty transfigured, the image of the new humanity. By presenting herself in this way, in utter dependence upon God, Mary expresses in reality an attitude of total freedom, based upon the full recognition of her true dignity. This privilege concerns us too, for it discloses to us our own dignity as men and women, admittedly marked by sin, but saved in hope, a hope which allows us to face our daily life. This is the path which Mary opens up for man. To give oneself fully to God is to find the path of true freedom. For by turning towards God, man becomes himself. He rediscovers his original vocation as a person created in his image and likeness.


Dear Brothers and Sisters, the primary purpose of the shrine at Lourdes is to be a place of encounter with God in prayer and a place of service to our brothers and sisters, notably through the welcome given to the sick, the poor and all who suffer. In this place, Mary comes to us as a mother, always open to the needs of her children. Through the light which streams from her face, God's mercy is made manifest. Let us allow ourselves to be touched by her gaze, which tells us that we are all loved by God and never abandoned by him! Mary comes to remind us that prayer which is humble and intense, trusting and persevering, must have a central place in our Christian lives. Prayer is indispensable if we are to receive Christ's power. "People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone" (Deus Caritas Est, 36). To allow oneself to become absorbed by activity runs the risk of depriving prayer of its specifically Christian character and its true efficacy. The prayer of the Rosary, so dear to Bernadette and to Lourdes pilgrims, concentrates within itself the depths of the Gospel message. It introduces us to contemplation of the face of Christ. From this prayer of the humble, we can draw an abundance of graces.


The presence of young people at Lourdes is also an important element. Dear friends, gathered this morning around the World Youth Day Cross: when Mary received the angel's visit, she was a young girl from Nazareth leading the simple and courageous life typical of the women of her village. And if God's gaze focused particularly upon her, trusting in her, Mary wants to tell you once more that not one of you is indifferent in God's eyes. He directs his loving gaze upon each one of you and he calls you to a life that is happy and full of meaning. Do not allow yourselves to be discouraged by difficulties! Mary was disturbed by the message of the angel who came to tell her that she would become the Mother of the Saviour. She was conscious of her frailty in the face of God's omnipotence. Nevertheless, she said "yes", without hesitating. And thanks to her yes, salvation came into the world, thereby changing the history of mankind. For your part, dear young people, do not be afraid to say yes to the Lord's summons when he invites you to walk in his footsteps. Respond generously to the Lord! Only he can fulfil the deepest aspirations of your heart. You have come to Lourdes in great numbers for attentive and generous service to the sick and to the other pilgrims, setting out in this way to follow Christ the servant. Serving our brothers and sisters opens our hearts and makes us available. In the silence of prayer, be prepared to confide in Mary, who spoke to Bernadette in a spirit of respect and trust towards her. May Mary help those who are called to marriage to discover the beauty of a genuine and profound love, lived as a reciprocal and faithful gift! To those among you whom he calls to follow him in the priesthood or the religious life, I would like to reiterate all the joy that is to be had through giving one's life totally for the service of God and others. May Christian families and communities be places where solid vocations can come to birth and grow, for the service of the Church and the world!


Mary's message is a message of hope for all men and women of our day, whatever their country of origin. I like to invoke Mary as the star of hope (Spe Salvi, 50). On the paths of our lives, so often shrouded in darkness, she is a beacon of hope who enlightens us and gives direction to our journey. Through her "yes", through the generous gift of herself, she has opened up to God the gates of our world and our history. And she invites us to live like her in invincible hope, refusing to believe those who claim that we are trapped in the fatal power of destiny. She accompanies us with her maternal presence amid the events of our personal lives, our family lives, and our national lives. Happy are those men and women who place their trust in him who, at the very moment when he was offering his life for our salvation, gave us his Mother to be our own!


Dear Brothers and Sisters, in this land of France, the Mother of the Lord is venerated in countless shrines which thereby manifest the faith handed down from generation to generation. Celebrated in her Assumption, she is your country's beloved patroness. May she always be honoured fervently in each of your families, in your religious communities and in your parishes! May Mary watch over all the inhabitants of your beautiful country and over the pilgrims who have come in such numbers from other countries to celebrate this Jubilee! May she be for all people the Mother who surrounds her children in their joys and their trials! Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope and to love with you. Show us the way towards the kingdom of your Son Jesus! Star of the sea, shine upon us and lead us on our way! (cf. Spe Salvi, 50). Amen.

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Papal Address at End of Torchlight Procession
"Lourdes Is Chosen by God for His Beauty to Be Reflected"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 14, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday at the end of the torchlight Marian procession in Lourdes.

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Dear Bishop Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes,
Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear Pilgrims, dear Brothers and Sisters,

One hundred and fifty years ago, on 11 February 1858, in this place known as the Grotto of Massabielle, away from the town, a simple young girl from Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous, saw a light, and in this light she saw a young lady who was "beautiful, more beautiful than any other". This woman addressed her with kindness and gentleness, with respect and trust: "She said vous to me", Bernadette recounted, "Would you do me the kindness of coming here for a fortnight?" she asked her. "She was looking at me as one person who speaks to another." It was in this conversation, in this dialogue marked by such delicacy, that the Lady instructed her to deliver certain very simple messages on prayer, penance and conversion. It is hardly surprising that Mary should be beautiful, given that-during the apparition of 25 March 1858-she reveals her name in this way: "I am the Immaculate Conception."

Let us now look at this "woman clothed with the sun" (Rev 12:1) as she is described for us in Scripture. The Most Holy Virgin Mary, the glorious woman of the Apocalypse, wears on her head a crown of twelve stars which represent the twelve tribes of Israel, the entire people of God, the whole communion of saints, while at her feet is the moon, image of death and mortality. Mary left death behind her; she is entirely re-clothed with life, the life of her Son, the risen Christ. She is thus the sign of the victory of love, of good and of God, giving our world the hope that it needs. This evening, let us turn our gaze towards Mary, so glorious and so human, allowing her to lead us towards God who is the victor.

Countless people have borne witness to this: when they encountered Bernadette's radiant face, it left a deep impression on their hearts and minds. Whether it was during the apparitions themselves or while she was recounting them, her face was simply shining. Bernadette from that time on had the light of Massabielle dwelling within her. The daily life of the Soubirous family was nevertheless a tale of deprivation and sadness, sickness and incomprehension, rejection and poverty. Even if there was no lack of love and warmth in family relationships, life at the cachot was hard. Nevertheless, the shadows of the earth did not prevent the light of heaven from shining. "The light shines in the darkness ..." (Jn 1:5).

Lourdes is one of the places chosen by God for his beauty to be reflected with particular brightness, hence the importance here of the symbol of light. From the fourth apparition onwards, on arriving at the grotto, Bernadette would light a votive candle each morning and hold it in her left hand for as long as the Virgin was visible to her. Soon, people would give Bernadette a candle to plant in the ground inside the grotto. Very soon, too, people would place their own candles in this place of light and peace. The Mother of God herself let it be known that she liked the touching homage of these thousands of torches, which since that time have continued to shine upon the rock of the apparition and give her glory. From that day, before the grotto, night and day, summer and winter, a burning bush shines out, aflame with the prayers of pilgrims and the sick, who bring their concerns and their needs, but above all their faith and their hope.

By coming here to Lourdes on pilgrimage, we wish to enter, following in Bernadette's footsteps, into this extraordinary closeness between heaven and earth, which never fails and never ceases to grow. In the course of the apparitions, it is notable that Bernadette prays the rosary under the gaze of Mary, who unites herself to her at the moment of the doxology. This fact confirms the profoundly theocentric character of the prayer of the rosary. When we pray it, Mary offers us her heart and her gaze in order to contemplate the life of her Son, Jesus Christ.

My venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, came here to Lourdes on two occasions. In his life and ministry, we know how much his prayer relied upon the Virgin Mary's intercession. Like many of his predecessors in the Chair of Peter, he also keenly encouraged the prayer of the rosary; one of the particular ways in which he did so was by enriching the Holy Rosary with the meditation of the Mysteries of Light. These are now represented on the façade of the Basilica in the new mosaics inaugurated last year. As with all the events in the life of Christ, "which she preserved and pondered in her heart" (Lk 2:19), Mary helps us to understand all the stages in his public ministry as integral to the revelation of God's glory. May Lourdes, the land of light, continue to be a school for learning to pray the Rosary, which introduces the disciples of Jesus, under the gaze of his Mother, into an authentic and cordial dialogue with his Master!

On Bernadette's lips we hear the Virgin Mary asking us to come here in procession so as to pray with simplicity and fervour. The torchlight procession expresses the mystery of prayer in a form that our eyes of flesh can grasp: in the communion of the Church, which unites the elect in heaven with pilgrims on earth, the light of dialogue between man and his Lord blazes forth and a luminous path opens up in human history, even in its darkest moments. This procession is a time of great ecclesial joy, but also a time of seriousness: the intentions we bring emphasize our profound communion with all those who suffer. We think of innocent victims who suffer from violence, war, terrorism, and famine; those who bear the consequences of injustices, scourges and disasters, hatred and oppression; of attacks on their human dignity and fundamental rights; on their freedom to act and think. We also think of those undergoing family problems or suffering caused by unemployment, illness, infirmity, loneliness, or their situation as immigrants. Nor must we forget those who suffer for the name of Christ and die for him.

Mary teaches us to pray, to make of our prayer an act of love for God and an act of fraternal charity. By praying with Mary, our heart welcomes those who suffer. How can our life not be transformed by this? Why should our whole life and being not become places of hospitality for our neighbours? Lourdes is a place of light because it is a place of communion, hope and conversion.

As night falls, Jesus says to us: "keep your lamps burning" (Lk 12:35); the lamp of faith, the lamp of prayer, the lamp of hope and love! This act of walking through the night, carrying the light, speaks powerfully to the depths of ourselves, touches our heart and says much more than any other word uttered or heard. This gesture itself summarizes our condition as Christians on a journey: we need light, and at the same time are called to be light. Sin makes us blind, it prevents us from putting ourselves forward as guides for our brothers and sisters, and it makes us unwilling to trust them to guide us. We need to be enlightened, and we repeat the prayer of blind Bartimaeus: "Master, let me receive my sight!" (Mk 10:51). Let me see my sin which holds me back, but above all, Lord, let me see your glory! We know that our prayer has already been granted and we give thanks because, as Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Ephesians, "Christ shall give you light" (5:14), and Saint Peter adds, "he called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Pet 2:9).

To us who are not the light, Christ can now say: "You are the light of the world" (Mt 5:14), entrusting us with the responsibility to cause the light of charity to shine. As the Apostle Saint John writes, "He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling" (1 Jn 2:10). To live Christian love, means at the same time to introduce God's light into the world and to point out its true source. Saint Leo the Great writes: "Whoever, in fact, lives a holy and chaste life in the Church, whoever sets his mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (cf. Col 3:2), in a certain way resembles heavenly light; as long as he himself observes the brilliance of a holy life, he shows to many, like a star, the path that leads to God" Sermon III:5).

In this shrine at Lourdes, to which the Christians of the whole world have turned their gaze since the Virgin Mary caused hope and love to shine here by giving pride of place to the sick, the poor and the little ones, we are invited to discover the simplicity of our vocation: it is enough to love.

Tomorrow, the celebration of the exaltation of the Holy Cross brings us into the very heart of this mystery. At this vigil, our gaze is already turned towards the sign of the new covenant on which the whole life of Jesus converges. The cross is the supreme and perfect act of the love of Jesus, who lays down his life for his friends. "So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (Jn 3:14-15).

As proclaimed in the songs of the Suffering Servant, the death of Jesus is a death which becomes a light for the nations; it is a death which, in intimate association with the liturgy of atonement, brings reconciliation, it is a death which marks the end of death. From that day onwards, the Cross is a sign of hope, Jesus' victory standard, "because God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). Through the Cross, our whole life gains light, strength and hope. The Cross reveals the whole depth of love contained in the original design of the Creator; through the Cross, all is healed and brought to completion. That is why life lived with faith in Christ dead and risen becomes light.

The apparitions were bathed in light and God chose to ignite in Bernadette's gaze a flame which converted countless hearts. How many come here to see it with the hope-secretly perhaps-of receiving some miracle; then, on the return journey, having had a spiritual experience of life in the Church, they change their outlook upon God, upon others and upon themselves. A small flame called hope, compassion, tenderness now dwells within them. A quiet encounter with Bernadette and the Virgin Mary can change a person's life, for they are here, in Massabielle, to lead us to Christ who is our life, our strength and our light. May the Virgin Mary and Saint Bernadette help you to live as children of light in order to testify, every day of your lives, that Christ is our light, our hope and our life! Amen.

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Benedict XVI on the Roots of European Culture
"Christian Worship Is an Invitation to Sing With the Angels"

PARIS, SEPT. 12, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address to the world of culture, delivered today at the recently restored College of the Bernardines.

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Your Eminence,

Madam Minister of Culture,

Mr Mayor,

Mr Chancellor of the French Institute,

Dear Friends!

 

I thank you, Your Eminence, for your kind words. We are gathered in a historic place, built by the spiritual sons of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and which Your predecessor, the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, desired to be a centre of dialogue between Christian Wisdom and the cultural, intellectual, and artistic currents of contemporary society. In particular, I greet the Minister of Culture, who is here representing the Government, together with Mr Giscard d'Estaing and Mr Jacques Chirac. I likewise greet all the Ministers present, the Representatives of UNESCO, the Mayor of Paris, and all other Authorities in attendance. I do not want to forget my colleagues from the French Institute, who are well aware of my regard for them. I thank the Prince of Broglie for his cordial words. We shall see each other again tomorrow morning. I thank the delegates of the French Islamic community for having accepted the invitation to participate in this meeting: I convey to them by best wishes for the holy season of Ramadan already underway. Of course, I extend warm greetings to the entire, multifaceted world of culture, which you, dear guests, so worthily represent.


I would like to speak with you this evening of the origins of western theology and the roots of European culture. I began by recalling that the place in which we are gathered is in a certain way emblematic. It is in fact a placed tied to monastic culture, insofar as young monks came to live here in order to learn to understand their vocation more deeply and to be more faithful to their mission. We are in a place that is associated with the culture of monasticism. Does this still have something to say to us today, or are we merely encountering the world of the past? In order to answer this question, we must consider for a moment the nature of Western monasticism itself. What was it about? From the perspective of monasticism's historical influence, we could say that, amid the great cultural upheaval resulting from migrations of peoples and the emerging new political configurations, the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old. But how did it happen? What motivated men to come together to these places? What did they want? How did they live?


First and foremost, it must be frankly admitted straight away that it was not their intention to create a culture nor even to preserve a culture from the past. Their motivation was much more basic. Their goal was: quaerere Deum. Amid the confusion of the times, in which nothing seemed permanent, they wanted to do the essential - to make an effort to find what was perennially valid and lasting, life itself. They were searching for God. They wanted to go from the inessential to the essential, to the only truly important and reliable thing there is. It is sometimes said that they were "eschatologically" oriented. But this is not to be understood in a temporal sense, as if they were looking ahead to the end of the world or to their own death, but in an existential sense: they were seeking the definitive behind the provisional. Quaerere Deum: because they were Christians, this was not an expedition into a trackless wilderness, a search leading them into total darkness. God himself had provided signposts, indeed he had marked out a path which was theirs to find and to follow. This path was his word, which had been disclosed to men in the books of the sacred Scriptures. Thus, by inner necessity, the search for God demands a culture of the word or - as Jean Leclercq put it: eschatology and grammar are intimately connected with one another in Western monasticism (cf. L‘amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu). The longing for God, the désir de Dieu, includes amour des lettres, love of the word, exploration of all its dimensions. Because in the biblical word God comes towards us and we towards him, we must learn to penetrate the secret of language, to understand it in its construction and in the manner of its expression. Thus it is through the search for God that the secular sciences take on their importance, sciences which show us the path towards language. Because the search for God required the culture of the word, it was appropriate that the monastery should have a library, pointing out pathways to the word. It was also appropriate to have a school, in which these pathways could be opened up. Benedict calls the monastery a dominici servitii schola. The monastery serves eruditio, the formation and education of man - a formation whose ultimate aim is that man should learn how to serve God. But it also includes the formation of reason - education - through which man learns to perceive, in the midst of words, the Word itself.


Yet in order to have a full vision of the culture of the word, which essentially pertains to the search for God, we must take a further step. The Word which opens the path of that search, and is to be identified with this path, is a shared word. True, it pierces every individual to the heart (cf. Acts 2:37). Gregory the Great describes this a sharp stabbing pain, which tears open our sleeping soul and awakens us, making us attentive to God (cf. Leclercq, p. 35). But in the process, it also makes us attentive to one another. The word does not lead to a purely individual path of mystical immersion, but to the pilgrim fellowship of faith. And so this word must not only be pondered, but also correctly read. As in the rabbinic schools, so too with the monks, reading by the individual is at the same time a corporate activity. "But if legere and lectio are used without an explanatory note, then they designate for the most part an activity which, like singing and writing, engages the whole body and the whole spirit", says Jean Leclercq on the subject (ibid., 21).


And once again, a further step is needed. We ourselves are brought into conversation with God by the word of God. The God who speaks in the Bible teaches us how to speak with him ourselves. Particularly in the book of Psalms, he gives us the words with which we can address him, with which we can bring our life, with all its highpoints and lowpoints, into conversation with him, so that life itself thereby becomes a movement towards him. The psalms also contain frequent instructions about how they should be sung and accompanied by instruments. For prayer that issues from the word of God, speech is not enough: music is required. Two chants from the Christian liturgy come from biblical texts in which they are placed on the lips of angels: the Gloria, which is sung by the angels at the birth of Jesus, and the Sanctus, which according to Isaiah 6 is the cry of the seraphim who stand directly before God. Christian worship is therefore an invitation to sing with the angels, and thus to lead the word to its highest destination. Once again, Jean Leclercq says on this subject: "The monks had to find melodies which translate into music the acceptance by redeemed man of the mysteries that he celebrates. The few surviving capitula from Cluny thus show the Christological symbols of the individual modes" (cf. ibid. p. 229).


For Benedict, the words of the Psalm: coram angelis psallam Tibi, Domine - in the presence of the angels, I will sing your praise (cf. 138:1) - are the decisive rule governing the prayer and chant of the monks. What this expresses is the awareness that in communal prayer one is singing in the presence of the entire heavenly court, and is thereby measured according to the very highest standards: that one is praying and singing in such a way as to harmonize with the music of the noble spirits who were considered the originators of the harmony of the cosmos, the music of the spheres. The monks have to pray and sing in a manner commensurate with the grandeur of the word handed down to them, with its claim on true beauty. This intrinsic requirement of speaking with God and singing of him with words he himself has given, is what gave rise to the great tradition of Western music. It was not a form of private "creativity", in which the individual leaves a memorial to himself and makes self-representation his essential criterion. Rather it is about vigilantly recognizing with the "ears of the heart" the inner laws of the music of creation, the archetypes of music that the Creator built into his world and into men, and thus discovering music that is worthy of God, and at the same time truly worthy of man, music whose worthiness resounds in purity.


In order to understand to some degree the culture of the word, which developed deep within Western monasticism from the search for God, we need to touch at least briefly on the particular character of the book, or rather books, in which the monks encountered this word. The Bible, considered from a purely historical and literary perspective, is not simply one book but a collection of literature, which came into being in the course of more than a thousand years and in which the inner unity of the individual books is not immediately recognizable. On the contrary, there are visible tensions between them. This is already the case within the Bible of Israel, which we Christians call the Old Testament. It is only rectified when we as Christians link the New Testament writings as, so to speak, a hermeneutical key with the Bible of Israel, and so understand the latter as the journey towards Christ. With good reason, the New Testament generally designates the Bible not as "the Scripture" but as "the Scriptures", which, when taken together, are naturally then regarded as the one word of God to us. But the use of this plural makes it quite clear that God's word only comes to us here through the human word and through human words, that God only speaks to us through the mediation of human agents, their words and their history. This means again that the divine element in the word and in the words is not self-evident. To say this in a modern way: the unity of the biblical books and the divine character of their words cannot be grasped by purely historical methods. The historical element is seen in the multiplicity and the humanity. From this perspective one can understand the formulation of a medieval couplet that at first sight appears rather disconcerting: littera gesta docet - quid credas allegoria (cf. Augustine of Dacia, Rotulus pugillaris, I). The letter indicates the facts; what you have to believe is indicated by allegory, that is to say, by Christological and pneumatological exegesis.

 
We may put it even more simply: Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived. This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up. To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realization of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. Therefore the Catechism of the Catholic Church can rightly say that Christianity does not simply represent a religion of the book in the classical sense (cf. par. 108). It perceives in the words the word, the Logos itself, which spreads its mystery through this multiplicity. This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text. To attain to it involves a transcending and a process of understanding, led by the inner movement of the whole and hence it also has to become a process of living. Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book. God's word and action in the world are only revealed in the word and history of human beings.


The whole drama of this topic is illuminated in the writings of Saint Paul. What is meant by the transcending of the letter and understanding it solely from the perspective of the whole, he forcefully expressed as follows: "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6). And he continues: "Where the Spirit is there is freedom (cf. 2 Cor 3:17). But one can only understand the greatness and breadth of this vision of the biblical word if one listens closely to Paul and then discovers that this liberating Spirit has a name, and hence that freedom has an inner criterion: "The Lord is the Spirit. Where the Spirit is there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17). The liberating Spirit is not simply the exegete's own idea, the exegete's own vision. The Spirit is Christ, and Christ is the Lord who shows us the way. With the word of Spirit and of freedom, a further horizon opens up, but at the same time a clear limit is placed upon arbitrariness and subjectivity, which unequivocally binds both the individual and the community and brings about a new, higher obligation than that of the letter: namely, the obligation of insight and love. This tension between obligation and freedom, which extends far beyond the literary problem of scriptural exegesis, has also determined the thinking and acting of monasticism and has deeply marked Western culture. It presents itself anew as a task for our generation too, vis-á-vis the poles of subjective arbitrariness and fundamentalist fanaticism. It would be a disaster if today's European culture could only conceive freedom as absence of obligation, which would inevitably play into the hands of fanaticism and arbitrariness. Absence of obligation and arbitrariness do not signify freedom, but its destruction.


Thus far in our consideration of the "school of God's service", as Benedict describes monasticism, we have examined only its orientation towards the word -towards the "ora". Indeed, this is the starting point that sets the direction for the entire monastic life. But our consideration would remain incomplete if we did not also at least briefly glance at the second component of monasticism, indicated by the "labora". In the Greek world, manual labour was considered something for slaves. Only the wise man, the one who is truly free, devotes himself to the things of the spirit; he views manual labour as somehow beneath him, and leaves it to people who are not suited to this higher existence in the world of the spirit. The Jewish tradition was quite different: all the great rabbis practised at the same time some form of handcraft. Paul, who as a Rabbi and then as a preacher of the Gospel to the Gentile world was also a tent-maker and earned his living with the work of his own hands, is no exception here, but stands within the common tradition of the rabbinate. Monasticism took up this tradition; manual work is a constitutive element of Christian monasticism. Benedict in his Rule does not speak specifically about schools, although in practice, he presupposes teaching and learning, as we have seen. He does, however, speak explicitly about work (cf. Chap. 48). And so does Augustine, who dedicated a book of his own to monastic work. Christians, who thus continued in the tradition previously established by Judaism, must have felt further vindicated by Jesus's saying in Saint John's Gospel, in defence of his activity on the Sabbath: "My Father is working still, and I am working" (5:17). The Graeco-Roman world did not have a creator God; according to its vision, the highest divinity could not, as it were, dirty his hands in the business of creating matter. The "making" of the world was the work of the Demiurge, a lower deity. The Christian God is different: he, the one, real and only God, is also the Creator. God is working; he continues working in and on human history. In Christ, he enters personally into the laborious work of history. "My Father is working still, and I am working." God himself is the Creator of the world, and creation is not yet finished. God is working. Thus human work was now seen as a special form of human resemblance to God, as a way in which man can and may share in God's activity as creator of the world. Monasticism involves not only a culture of the word, but also a culture of work, without which the emergence of Europe, its ethos and its influence on the world would be unthinkable. Naturally, this ethos had to include the idea that human work and shaping of history is understood as sharing in the work of the Creator, and must be evaluated in those terms. Where such evaluation is lacking, where man arrogates to himself the status of god-like creator, his shaping of the world can quickly turn into destruction of the world.


We set out from the premise that the basic attitude of monks in the face of the collapse of the old order and its certainties was quaerere Deum - setting out in search of God. We could describe this as the truly philosophical attitude: looking beyond the penultimate, and setting out in search of the ultimate and the true. By becoming a monk, a man set out on a broad and noble path, but he had already found the direction he needed: the word of the Bible, in which he heard God himself speaking. Now he had to try to understand him, so as to be able to approach him. So the monastic journey is indeed a journey into the inner world of the received word, even if an infinite distance is involved. Within the monks' seeking there is already contained, in some respects, a finding. Therefore, if such seeking is to be possible at all, there has to be an initial spur, which not only arouses the will to seek, but also makes it possible to believe that the way is concealed within this word, or rather: that in this word, God himself has set out towards men, and hence men can come to God through it. To put it another way: there must be proclamation, which speaks to man and so creates conviction, which in turn can become life. If a way is to be opened up into the heart of the biblical word as God's word, this word must first of all be proclaimed outwardly. The classic formulation of the Christian faith's intrinsic need to make itself communicable to others, is a phrase from the First Letter of Peter, which in medieval theology was regarded as the biblical basis for the work of theologians: "Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason (the logos) for the hope that you all have" (Logos, the reason for hope, must become Apo-logia, word must become answer - 3:15). In fact, Christians of the nascent Church did not regard their missionary proclamation as propaganda, designed to enlarge their particular group, but as an inner necessity, consequent upon the nature of their faith: the God in whom they believed was the God of all people, the one, true God, who had revealed himself in the history of Israel and ultimately in his Son, thereby supplying the answer which was of concern to everyone and for which all people, in their innermost hearts, are waiting. The universality of God, and of reason open towards him, is what gave them the motivation-indeed, the obligation-to proclaim the message. They saw their faith as belonging, not to cultural custom that differs from one people to another, but to the domain of truth, which concerns all people equally.


The fundamental structure of Christian proclamation "outwards" - towards searching and questioning mankind - is seen in Saint Paul's address at the Areopagus. We should remember that the Areopagus was not a form of academy at which the most illustrious minds would meet for discussion of lofty matters, but a court of justice, which was competent in matters of religion and ought to have opposed the import of foreign religions. This is exactly what Paul is reproached for: "he seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities" Acts 17:18). To this, Paul responds: I have found an altar of yours with this inscription: ‘to an unknown god'. What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you (17:23). Paul is not proclaiming unknown gods. He is proclaiming him whom men do not know and yet do know - the unknown-known; the one they are seeking, whom ultimately they know already, and who yet remains the unknown and unrecognizable. The deepest layer of human thinking and feeling somehow knows that he must exist, that at the beginning of all things, there must be not irrationality, but creative Reason - not blind chance, but freedom. Yet even though all men somehow know this, as Paul expressly says in the Letter to the Romans (1:21), this knowledge remains unreal: a God who is merely imagined and invented is not God at all. If he does not reveal himself, we cannot gain access to him. The novelty of Christian proclamation is that it can now say to all peoples: he has revealed himself. He personally. And now the way to him is open. The novelty of Christian proclamation consists in one fact: he has revealed himself. Yet this is no blind fact, but one that is itself Logos - the presence in our flesh of eternal reason. Verbum caro factum est (Jn 1:14): just so, amid what is made (factum) there is now Logos, Logos is among us. Creation (factum) is rational. Naturally, the humility of reason is always needed, in order to accept it: man's humility, which responds to God's humility.


Our present situation differs in many respects from the one that Paul encountered in Athens, yet despite the difference, the two situations also have much in common. Our cities are no longer filled with altars and with images of multiple deities. God has truly become for many the great unknown. But just as in the past, when behind the many images of God the question concerning the unknown God was hidden and present, so too the present absence of God is silently besieged by the question concerning him. Quaerere Deum - to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times. A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences. What gave Europe's culture its foundation - the search for God and the readiness to listen to him - remains today the basis of any genuine culture. Thank you.

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Pope's Address to French Politicians
"All of Human Society Needs Hope"

PARIS, SEPT. 12, 2008 - Here is the discourse Benedict XVI gave today at the Elysée Palace upon meeting with authorities of France.

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Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Standing here on French soil for the first time since Providence called me to the See of Peter, I am moved and honoured by the warm reception which you have extended to me. I am particularly grateful to you, Mr President, for the cordial invitation to visit your country and for the courteous words of welcome which you have just offered me. The visit which Your Excellency paid to me in the Vatican nine months ago is still fresh in my memory. Through you I extend my greetings to all the men and women who live in this country, which boasts a history of a thousand years, a present marked by a wealth of activity, and a future of promise. I wish them to know that France is often at the heart of the Pope’s prayers; he cannot forget all that she has contributed to the Church in the course of twenty centuries! The principal reason for my visit is the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes. It is my desire to join the multitude of countless pilgrims from the whole world who during this year are converging on the Marian shrine, filled with faith and love. It is this faith and this love that I will celebrate here in your land during these four days of grace which have been granted to me.

My pilgrimage to Lourdes has included a stop in Paris. Your capital city is familiar to me, and I know it well. I have stayed here often and over the years, because of my studies and in my former roles, developing good personal and intellectual friendships. I return with joy, glad to have this occasion to pay tribute to the impressive heritage of culture and faith that has shaped your country’s outstanding history, and has nurtured great servants of the Nation and the Church, whose teaching and example have naturally reached far beyond the geographical borders of your nation, leaving their mark on the course of world history. During your visit to Rome, Mr President, you called to mind that the roots of France -- like those of Europe -- are Christian. History itself offers sufficient proof of this: from its origins, your country received the Gospel message. Even though documentary evidence is sometimes lacking, the existence of Christian communities in Gaul is attested from a very early period: it is moving to recall that the city of Lyons already had a Bishop in the mid-second century, and that Saint Irenaeus, the author of "Adversus Haereses," gave eloquent witness there to the vigour of Christian thought. Saint Irenaeus came from Smyrna to preach faith in the Risen Christ. This Bishop of Lyons spoke Greek as his mother tongue. Could there be a more beautiful sign of the universal nature and destination of the Christian message? The Church, established at an early stage in your country, played a civilizing role there to which I am pleased to pay tribute on this occasion. You spoke of it yourself, during your address at the Lateran Palace last December. The transmission of the culture of antiquity through monks, professors and copyists, the formation of hearts and spirits in love of the poor, the assistance given to the most deprived by the foundation of numerous religious congregations, the contribution of Christians to the establishment of the institutions of Gaul, and later France, all of this is too well known for me to dwell on it. The thousands of chapels, churches, abbeys and cathedrals that grace the heart of your towns or the tranquillity of your countryside speak clearly of how your fathers in faith wished to honour him who had given them life and who sustains us in existence.

Many people, here in France as elsewhere, have reflected on the relations between Church and State. Indeed, Christ had already offered the basic criterion upon which a just solution to the problem of relations between the political sphere and the religious sphere could be found. He does this when, in answer to a question, he said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mk 12:17). The Church in France currently benefits from a “regime of freedom”. Past suspicion has been gradually transformed into a serene and positive dialogue that continues to grow stronger. A new instrument of dialogue has been in place since 2002, and I have much confidence in its work, given the mutual good will. We know that there are still some areas open to dialogue, which we will have to pursue and redevelop step by step with determination and patience. You yourself, Mr President, have used the expression “laïcité positive” to characterize this more open understanding. At this moment in history when cultures continue to cross paths more frequently, I am firmly convinced that a new reflection on the true meaning and importance of "laïcité" is now necessary. In fact, it is fundamental, on the one hand, to insist on the distinction between the political realm and that of religion in order to preserve both the religious freedom of citizens and the responsibility of the State towards them; and, on the other hand, to become more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of consciences and the contribution which it can bring to -- among other things -- the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society.

The Pope, as witness of a God who loves and saves, strives to be a sower of charity and hope. All of human society needs hope. This hope is all the more necessary in today’s world which offers few spiritual aspirations and few material certainties. My greatest concern is for young people. Some of them are struggling to find the right direction or are suffering from a loss of connection to family life. Still others are testing out the limits of religious communitarianism. Sometimes on the margins and often left to themselves, they are vulnerable and must come to terms on their own with a reality that often overwhelms them. It is necessary to offer them a sound educational environment and to encourage them to respect and assist others if they are to develop serenely towards the age of responsibility. The Church can offer her own specific contribution in this area. I am also concerned by the social situation in the Western world, marked sadly by a surreptitious widening of the distance between rich and poor. I am certain that just solutions can be found that go beyond the necessary immediate assistance and address the heart of the problems, so as to protect the weak and promote their dignity. The Church, through her many institutions and works, together with many other associations in your country, often attempts to deal with immediate needs, but it is the State as such which must enact laws in order to eradicate unjust structures. From a broader perspective, Mr President, I am also concerned about the state of our planet. With great generosity, God has entrusted to us the world that he created. We must learn to respect and protect it more. It seems to me that the time has come for more constructive proposals so as to guarantee the good of future generations.

Your country’s Presidency of the European Union gives France the opportunity to bear witness -- in accord with her noble tradition -- to human rights and to their promotion for the good of individuals and society. When Europeans see and experience personally that the inalienable rights of the human person from conception to natural death -- rights to free education, to family life, to work, and naturally those concerned with religion -- when Europeans see that these rights, which form an inseparable unity, are promoted and respected, then they will understand fully the greatness of the enterprise that is the European Union, and will become active artisans of the same. The responsibility entrusted to you, Mr President, is not easy. These are uncertain times, and it is an arduous task to find the right path among the meanderings of day-to-day social, economic, national and international affairs. In particular, as we face the danger of a resurgence of old suspicions, tensions, and conflicts among nations -- which we are troubled to witness today -- France, which historically has been sensitive to reconciliation between peoples, is called to help Europe build up peace within her boarders and throughout the world. In this regard, it is important to promote a unity that neither can nor desires to become a uniformity, but is able to guarantee respect for national differences and different cultural traditions, which amount to an enrichment of the European symphony, remembering at the same time that “national identity itself can only be achieved in openness towards other peoples and through solidarity with them” ("Ecclesia in Europa," 112). I express my confidence that your country will contribute increasingly to the progress of this age towards serenity, harmony and peace.

Mr President, dear friends, I wish to express once again my gratitude for this gathering. Be assured of my fervent prayers for your beautiful country, that God may grant her peace and prosperity, freedom and unity, equality and fraternity. I entrust these prayers to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, principal patron of France. May God bless France and all her people!

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Pontiff's Greeting to Jewish Delegation
"To Be Anti-Semitic Also Meant to Be Anti-Christian"

PARIS, SEPT. 12, 2008 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today at the apostolic nunciature in Paris, during a brief meeting with representatives of the Jewish community.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to receive you this afternoon. It is a happy circumstance that our meeting takes place on the eve of the weekly celebration of "Shabbat," the day that since time immemorial occupies such an outstanding place in the religious and cultural life of the people of Israel. Every pious Jew sanctifies the "Shabbat" by reading the Scriptures and reciting the psalms. Dear friends, as you know, Jesus' prayer was also nourished by the psalms. He went regularly to the Temple and to the synagogue. He spoke there on the Sabbath day. He wished to emphasize with what generosity God looks after man, also including the organization of time. Does not the Talmud Yoma (85b) state: "The Sabbath has been given to you, but you have not been given to the Sabbath?" Christ has asked the people of the Covenant to recognize always the unheard of grandeur and love of the Creator of all men. Dear friends, for reasons that unite us and for reasons that separates us, we must live and strengthen our fraternity. And we know that the bonds of fraternity are a continual invitation to know one another better and to respect one another.

By her very nature, the Catholic Church feels called to respect the Covenant established by God with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She also places herself, in fact, in the eternal Covenant of the Almighty, who does not repent of his plan and respects the children of the Promise, children of the Covenant, as her beloved brothers in the faith. She repeats forcefully, through my voice, the words of the great Pope Pius XI, my venerated predecessor: "Spiritually, we are Semites" (Address to Belgian pilgrims, Sept. 6, 1938). Hence, the Church is opposed to all forms of anti-Semitism, of which there is no acceptable theological justification. Theologian Henri de Lubac, at a time "of darkness," as Pius XII said ("Summi Pontificatus," 20. 10. 1939), understood that to be anti-Semitic also meant to be anti-Christian (Cf. A new religious front, published in 1942 in: "Israel and the Christian Faith," p. 136). Once again I feel the duty to render moving homage to those who died unjustly and to those who have taken the trouble to see that the names of the victims remain present in the memory. God does not forget!

On an occasion such as this, I cannot but acknowledge the eminent role played by the Jews of France for the edification of the entire nation and their prestigious contribution to her spiritual patrimony. They have given -- and continue to give -- great figures to the world of politics, culture and art. I express my respect full of affection for each one of them and invoke fervently on all your families and all your communities a particular Blessing of the Lord of the times and of history, "Shabbat shalom!"

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Press Conference With the Pope
"I Am Going to Find the Love of the Mother"

PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 - Here is a translation of a 10-minute press conference Benedict XVI gave while en route to France on Friday.

* * *

Q: In 1980, during his first trip, John Paul II asked "France, are you faithful to your baptismal promises?" What is your message today for the French? Do you think France is losing its Christian identity because of laicism?

Benedict XVI: It seems evident to me today that laicism does not contradict the faith. I would even say that it is a fruit of the faith, since the Christian faith was a universal religion from the beginning. Therefore it did not identify itself with a state and it was present in all the states. It was always clear to the Christians that religion and faith were not political, but rather they formed part of another sphere of human life. ... Politics, the state, were not a religion but rather a secular reality with a specific mission, and the two of them should be open to each other.

In this sense, I would say today that for the French, and not only the French, but also for us, Christians of today in this secularized world, it is important to joyfully live the freedom of our faith, live the beauty of the faith, and show today's world that it is beautiful to be a believer, that it is beautiful to know God; God with a human face in Jesus Christ, show that it is possible to be a believer today, and even that society needs there to be people who know God and who, therefore, can live according to the great values that it has given us and contribute to the presence of these values that are fundamental for the building and survival of our states and societies.

Q: You love France. What unites you most especially to France, to its authors?

Benedict XVI: I would not dare say that I know France well. I know it a bit, but I love France, the great French culture, above all, of course, the great cathedrals, and also the great French art, the great theology beginning with St. Irenaeus of Lyons to the 13th century -- and I studied about the University of Paris in the 13th century-- St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas. This theology has been decisive for the development of Western theology; and naturally the theology of the century of Vatican Council II. I have had the great honor and joy to be a friend of Fr. Lubac, one of the greatest figures of the last century, but I have also had a good working relationship with Fr. Congar, Jean Danielou and others. I have had very good personal relationships with Etienne Gilson, Henri-Irenee Maroux.

Therefore I have really had deep, personal and enriching contact with the great theological and philosophical culture of France. It has really been decisive in the development of my thought. As well the discovery of the original Gregorian Chant with Solesmes, the great monastic culture and naturally the poetry. Being such a baroque man, I very much like Paul Claudel, with his joy for living, as well as Bernanos and the great French poets of the last century. So it is a culture that has really shaped my personal, theological, philosophical and human development in a deep way.

Q: What do you say to those in France who are worried that the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" is a step backward with regards to the great institutions of the Second Vatican Council?

Benedict XVI: It is baseless fear; because this "motu proprio" is simply an act of tolerance, with a pastoral objective, for people who have been formed in this liturgy, who love it, who know it, who want to live with this liturgy. It is a small group, because it supposes an education in Latin, a formation in a certain type of culture. But it seems to me a normal requirement of faith and pastoral practice for a bishop of our Church to have love and forbearance for these people and allow them to live with this liturgy.

There is no opposition between the liturgy renewed by Vatican II and this liturgy. Every day, the council fathers celebrated the Mass following the old rite and at the same time they conceived a natural development for the liturgy throughout this century, since the liturgy is a living reality, which develops and keeps its identity within its development.

So there is certainly a difference of emphasis, but a single fundamental identity that excludes any contradiction or antagonism between a renewed liturgy and the preceding liturgy. I believe there is a possibility for both types to be enriched. On the one hand, the friends of the old liturgy can and should know the new saints, the new prefaces of the liturgy, etc. But on the other hand, the new liturgy emphasizes the common participation, but it is not just the assembly of a particular community, but rather it is always an act of the universal Church, in communion with all the believers of all time, an act of adoration. In this sense, it seems to me that there is a mutual enrichment, and it is clear that the renewed liturgy is the ordinary liturgy of our time.

Q: You are going on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. What does it mean for you? Have you been there before?

Benedict XVI: I was in Lourdes on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress, in 1981, after the assassination attempt on the Holy Father (John Paul II). And Cardinal Gantin was the delegate of the Holy Father. It is a very beautiful memory for me.

The feast of St. Bernadette is also my birthday. Because of this, I feel very close to this small saint, this young, pure, humble woman that spoke with the Virgin Mary.

It is very important for me to experience this reality, this presence of the Virgin Mary in our lifetime, to see the path of this young person who was a friend of the Virgin Mary, and on the other hand to meet the Blessed Virgin, her mother. Naturally we are not going there to see miracles. I am going to find the love of the Mother, which is the true cure for every pain and to be united to those who suffer, in the love of the Blessed Mother. This seems to me an important sign for our times.

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On Paul, an Apostle of Christ
"Love Is the True Wealth of Human Life"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience, held in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. The Pope arrived for the gathering by helicopter from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday I spoke about the great turning point in St. Paul's life after his encounter with the Risen Christ. Jesus entered his life and transformed him from persecutor into apostle. That meeting marked the start of his mission. Paul could not continue to live as he did before. Now he felt invested by the Lord with the charge to proclaim his Gospel as an apostle.

It is precisely about this new condition of life, namely of his being an apostle of Christ, that I would like to speak today. In keeping with the Gospel, we normally identify the Twelve with the title of apostles, thus intending to indicate those who were life companions and hearers of Jesus' teaching. But Paul also feels himself a true apostle and it seems clear, therefore, that the Pauline concept of apostolate is not restricted to the group of Twelve.

Obviously, Paul is able to distinguish well his own case from that of those "who were apostles before" him (Galatians 1:17): He recognizes for them an all-together special place in the life of the Church.

However, as everyone knows, Paul also sees himself as apostle in the strict sense. It is true that, at the time of the Christian origins, no one traveled as many kilometers as he did, by earth and sea, with the sole object of proclaiming the Gospel.

Hence, he had an idea of the apostolate that went beyond that left to the group of Twelve, and handed down above all by St. Luke in the Acts (cf. Acts 1-2:26; 6:2). In fact, in the First Letter to the Corinthians Paul makes a clear distinction between "the Twelve" and "all the apostles," mentioned as two different groups to benefit from the apparitions of the Risen One (cf. 14:5.7).

In that same text he then goes on to humbly name himself "the least of the apostles," comparing himself to an abortion and affirming literally: "not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me." (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).

The metaphor of the abortion expresses extreme humility; it is also found in the Letter to the Romans of St. Ignatius of Antioch: "I am the least of all, I am an abortion, but it will be given to me to be something, if I reach God" (9:2). What the bishop of Antioch will say in relation to his imminent martyrdom, foreseeing that it would reverse his unworthy condition, St. Paul says in relation to his own apostolic commitment: It is in this that the fruitfulness of God's grace is manifested, who knows how to transform an unsuccessful man into a splendid apostle. From persecutor to founder of Churches: This is what God has done in one who, from the evangelical point of view, could have been considered rejected!

According to St. Paul's conception, what has God made of him and of the other apostles? In his letters three main characteristics appear, which constitute the apostle. The first is to have "seen the Lord" (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1), namely, to have had a decisive encounter with him, virtually chosen, by the grace of God with the revelation of his Son in view of the joyful proclamation to the pagans. In a word, it is the Lord who constitutes the apostolate, not one's presumption. The apostle does not make himself, but is made by the Lord. Hence, the apostle needs to refer constantly to the Lord. It is no accident that Paul says he was "called to be an apostle" (Romans 1:1), that is, "not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Galatians 1:1). This is the first characteristic: to have seen the Lord, to have been called by him.

The second characteristic is to "have been sent." The Greek term "apostolos" itself means, in fact, "sent, ordered," that is, ambassador and bearer of a message; therefore he must act as charged with and representative of a mandate. It is because of this that Paul describes himself as "Apostle of Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1), namely, his delegate, placed totally at his service, so much so as to call himself "a slave of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1). Once again the idea appears in the first place of another initiative, that of God in Jesus Christ, to whom one is fully obliged, but above all the fact is underlined that a mission was received from him to fulfill in his name, putting absolutely in second place all personal interests.

The third requisite is the exercise of the "proclamation of the Gospel," with the consequent foundation of Churches. The title "apostle," in fact, is not and cannot be honorific. It entails concretely and even dramatically the whole existence of the subject in question. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul exclaims: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?" (9:1).

Similarly in the Second Letter to the Corinthians he affirms: "You are our letter ... a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God" (3:2-3).

Do not be surprised, then, if [St. John] Chrysostom speaks of Paul as "a diamond soul" (Panegirici, 1,8), and continues saying: "In the same way that fire applying itself to different materials is reinforced even more ... so Paul's word won to his cause all those with whom he related, and those who made war on him, captivated by his speeches, became fuel for this spiritual fire" (ibid., 7,11). This explains why Paul describes apostles as "God's co-workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1), whose grace acts with them.

A typical element of the true apostle, brought well into the light by St. Paul, is a sort of identification between the Gospel and the evangelizer, both destined to the same end. No one like Paul, in fact, has evidenced how the proclamation of the cross of Christ appears as "a stumbling block" and "foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23), to which many react with incomprehension and rejection. This occurred at that time, and it should not be surprising that the same happens also today. The apostle also shares in the destiny of appearing as "a stumbling block" and "foolishness," and Paul knows it; this is the experience of his life.

To the Corinthians he wrote, not without a trace of irony: "For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike. We are fools on Christ's account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world's rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment" (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). It is a self-portrait of St. Paul's apostolic life: In all these sufferings the joy prevails of being bearers of God's blessing and of the grace of the Gospel.

Paul, moreover, shares with the Stoic philosophy of his time the idea of a tenacious constancy in all the difficulties that come his way; but he surpasses the merely humanistic perspective, recalling the component of the love of God and of Christ. "What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:35-39).

This is the certainty, the profound joy that guides the Apostle Paul in all these affairs: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And this love is the true wealth of human life.

As can be seen, St. Paul gave himself to the Gospel with all this life; we can say 24 hours out of 24! And he carried out his ministry with fidelity and joy, "to save at least some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).

And in his encounters with the Churches, though knowing he had a relationship of paternity with them (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15) if not really of maternity (cf. Galatians 4:19), he put himself in an attitude of complete service, stating admirably: "Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith" (2 Corinthians 1:24). This remains the mission of all the apostles of Christ in all times: to be fellow workers of true joy.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Paul’s view of what it means to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Though he did not belong to the group of the Twelve, called by Jesus during his ministry, Paul nevertheless claims the title for himself because he was chosen and transformed by the grace of God, and shared the three principal characteristics of the true apostle. The first is to have seen the Lord (1 Cor 9:1) and to have been called by him. One becomes an apostle by divine vocation, not by personal choice. The second characteristic also underlines the divine initiative: an apostle is someone who is sent and therefore acts and speaks as a delegate of Christ, placed totally at his service. The third characteristic is dedication to the work of proclaiming the Gospel and founding Christian communities. Saint Paul can point to his many trials and sufferings that speak clearly of his courageous dedication to the mission (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-28). In this context he sees an identification between the life of the apostle and the Gospel that he preaches; the apostle himself is despised when the Gospel is rejected. Saint Paul was steadfast in his many difficulties and persecutions, sustained above all by the unfailing love of Christ (cf. Rom 8:35-39). May the example of his apostolic zeal inspire and encourage us today!

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s audience, including the All Party Parliamentary Group from the United Kingdom, and the participants in the seminar on Social Communications at the Santa Croce Pontifical University. I also greet the groups from England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Zambia, India and the United States of America. May your pilgrimage renew your love for the Lord and his Church, and may God bless you all!

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Pope's Message to Expo on Water
"An Essential and Indispensable Good"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, representative of the Holy See to the Day of the Holy See at the international exposition on "Water and Sustainable Development," under way in Zaragoza, Spain.

* * *

I am pleased to send a Message of faith and hope to all whom, in these days, are visiting Expo Zaragoza 2008 which is dedicated to the complex topics related to the value of water for human life and for maintaining the balance between the different elements of our world. The Holy See has fittingly desired to be present at the Expo with a stand prepared jointly with the Archdiocese of Zaragoza. I thank the Archdiocese for its generous commitment to promoting appropriate cultural initiatives that bring the visitor closer to the immeasurable patrimony of spirituality, art and social wisdom inspired by water and preserved by the Catholic Church.

Indeed, we must be aware that water -- an essential and indispensable good that the Lord has given mankind in order to maintain and develop life -- is considered today, because of the pursuit and pressure of multiple social and economic factors, as a good that must be especially protected by means of clear national and international policies, and used in accordance with sensible criteria of solidarity and responsibility. The use of water -- that is valued as a universal and inalienable right -- is connected with the growing and peremptory needs of people who live in poverty, taking into account that "inadequate access to safe drinking water affects the well-being of a huge number of people and is often the cause of disease, suffering, conflicts, poverty and even death" (Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, n. 484).

With regard to the right to water, moreover, it should be stressed that this right is founded on the dignity of the human person; it is necessary in this perspective to examine attentively the approach of those who consider and treat water merely as an economic commodity. Its use must be rational and supportive, the result of a balanced synergy between the public and private sectors.

The fact that water today is considered principally as a material commodity must not make us forget the religious meanings that believing humanity, and especially Christianity, has developed on the basis of water, giving it great value as a precious immaterial good which never fails to enrich human life on this earth. How can we forget on this occasion the evocative message that binds us to the Sacred Scriptures, in which water is treated as a symbol of purification (cf. Ps 51[50]: 4; Jn 13: 8), and of life (cf. Jn 3: 5; Gal 3: 27)? The full recovery of this spiritual dimension guarantees and presupposes a rightly adapted approach by involved parties, within national and international spheres, to the ethical, political and economic problems regarding complex water management.

Together with my very best wishes that the Zaragoza Expo will inspire the appropriate thoughts in all who visit it and encourage the competent authorities to make opportune decisions on behalf of a good that is so essential to the life of the human being on earth, I impart the Apostolic Blessing to all, as a pledge of abundant heavenly gifts.

From the Vatican, 10 July, 2008.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Papal Message Ahead of France Trip
"I Go As a Messenger of Peace and Fraternity"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave at the end of today's general audience to the people of France. The Pope will travel Friday-Monday to Paris and Lourdes.

His visit to the Marian shrine takes place in the context of the 150th anniversary of apparitions of Our Lady to Bernadette Soubirous.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Next Friday I will begin my first pastoral journey to France as Successor of Peter. On the eve of my arrival, I wish to address a cordial greeting to the French people and to all the inhabitants of that beloved nation. I go as a messenger of peace and fraternity.

Your country is not unknown to me. On several occasions I have had the joy to visit it and to appreciate its generous tradition of hospitality and tolerance, as well as the solidity of its Christian faith and its lofty human and spiritual culture.

On this occasion, the reason for my trip is the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes. After visiting Paris, your country's capital, I will have the great joy to join the crowd of pilgrims who are going to follow the stages of the jubilee journey, after St. Bernadette, to the Massabielle grotto.

My prayer will intensify at the feet of Our Lady for the intentions of the whole Church, in particular for the sick, the abandoned, as well as for peace in the world.

May Mary be for all of you, in particular for young people, the Mother always attentive to the needs of her children, a light of hope that illuminates and guides your ways!

Dear friends of France: I invite you to join me in prayer so that this trip will bring abundant fruits. In the joyous expectation of being among you soon, I invoke upon each one of you, on your families and communities, the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes. May God bless you!

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Papal Homily at Mass in Paris
"Never Does God Ask Man to Sacrifice Reason"

PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily today at a Mass celebrated in Paris at the Esplanade des Invalides.

* * *

Dear Cardinal Vingt-Trois,
Dear Cardinals and Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


Jesus Christ gathers us together in this remarkable place, in the heart of Paris, on this day when the universal Church commemorates Saint John Chrysostom, one of the great Doctors of the Church, who, by the witness of his life and his teaching, effectively has shown Christians the road to follow. I greet with joy all the Authorities who have welcomed me to this noble city, especially the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, whom I thank for the kind words addressed to me. I also greet all the Bishops, priests and deacons who have gathered around me for the celebration of Christ's sacrifice. I thank all the government officials who are here with us this morning, especially the Prime Minister. I assure them of my fervent prayers for the success of their noble mission in the service of their fellow citizens.


In the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, we discover, in this Pauline year inaugurated on 28 June last, how much the counsels given by the Apostle remain important today. "Shun the worship of idols" (1 Cor 10:14), he writes to a community deeply marked by paganism and divided between adherence to the newness of the Gospel and the observance of former practices inherited from its ancestors. Shunning idols: for Paul's contemporaries, this therefore meant ceasing to honour the divinities of Olympus, ceasing to offer them blood sacrifices. Shunning idols meant entering the school of the Old Testament Prophets, who denounced the human tendency to make false representations of God. As we read in Psalm 113, with regard to the statues of idols, they are merely "gold and silver, the work of human hands. They have mouths but they do not speak, they have eyes but they do not see, they have ears but they do not hear, they have nostrils but they do not smell" (Ps 113:4-5). Apart from the people of Israel, who had received the revelation of the one God, the ancient world was in thrall to the worship of idols. Strongly present in Corinth, the errors of paganism had to be denounced, for they constituted a powerful source of alienation and they diverted man from his true destiny. They prevented him from recognizing that Christ is the sole and the true Saviour, the only one who points out to man the path to God.


This appeal to shun idols, dear brothers and sisters, is also pertinent today. Has not our modern world created its own idols? Has it not imitated, perhaps inadvertently, the pagans of antiquity, by diverting man from his true end, from the joy of living eternally with God? This is a question that all people, if they are honest with themselves, cannot help but ask. What is important in my life? What is my first priority? The word "idol" comes from the Greek and means "image", "figure", "representation", but also "ghost", "phantom", "vain appearance". An idol is a delusion, for it turns its worshipper away from reality and places him in the kingdom of mere appearances. Now, is this not a temptation in our own day - the only one we can act upon effectively? The temptation to idolize a past that no longer exists, forgetting its shortcomings; the temptation to idolize a future which does not yet exist, in the belief that, by his efforts alone, man can bring about the kingdom of eternal joy on earth! Saint Paul explains to the Colossians that insatiable greed is a form of idolatry (cf. 3:5), and he reminds his disciple Timothy that love of money is the root of all evil. By yielding to it, he explains, "some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs" (1 Tim 6:10). Have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even for knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny, from the truth of himself?


Dear brothers and sisters, the question that today's liturgy places before us finds an answer in the liturgy itself, which we have inherited from our fathers in faith, and notably from Saint Paul himself (cf. 1 Cor 11:23). In his commentary on this text, Saint John Chrysostom observes that Saint Paul severely condemns idolatry, which is a "grave fault", a "scandal", a real "plague" (Homily 24 on the First Letter to the Corinthians, 1). He immediately adds that this radical condemnation of idolatry is never a personal condemnation of the idolater. In our judgements, must we never confuse the sin, which is unacceptable, with the sinner, the state of whose conscience we cannot judge and who, in any case, is always capable of conversion and forgiveness. Saint Paul makes an appeal to the reason of his readers, to the reason of every human being - that powerful testimony to the presence of the Creator in the creature: "I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say" (1 Cor 10:15). Never does God, of whom the Apostle is an authorized witness here, ask man to sacrifice his reason! Reason never enters into real contradiction with faith! The one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- created our reason and gives us faith, proposing to our freedom that it be received as a precious gift. It is the worship of idols which diverts man from this perspective. Let us therefore ask God, who sees us and hears us, to help us purify ourselves from all idols, in order to arrive at the truth of our being, in order to arrive at the truth of his infinite being!

 

How do we reach God? How do we manage to discover or rediscover him whom man seeks at the deepest core of himself, even though he so often forgets him? Saint Paul asks us to make use not only of our reason, but above all our faith in order to discover him. Now, what does faith say to us? The bread that we break is a communion with the Body of Christ. The cup of blessing which we bless is a communion with the Blood of Christ. This extraordinary revelation comes to us from Christ and has been transmitted to us by the Apostles and by the whole Church for almost two thousand years: Christ instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist on the evening of Holy Thursday. He wanted his sacrifice to be presented anew, in an unbloody manner, every time a priest repeats the words of consecration over the bread and wine. Millions of times over the last twenty centuries, in the humblest chapels and in the most magnificent basilicas and cathedrals, the risen Lord has given himself to his people, thus becoming, in the famous expression of Saint Augustine, "more intimate to us than we are to ourselves" (cf. Confessions, III, 6, 11).


Brothers and sisters, let us give the greatest veneration to the sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Blessed Sacrament of the real presence of the Lord to his Church and to all humanity. Let us take every opportunity to show him our respect and our love! Let us give him the greatest marks of honour! Through our words, our silences, and our gestures, let us never allow our faith in the risen Christ, present in the Eucharist, to lose its savour in us or around us! As Saint John Chrysostom said magnificently, "Let us behold the ineffable generosity of God and all the good things that he enables us to enjoy, when we offer him this cup, when we receive communion, thanking him for having delivered the human race from error, for having brought close to him those who were far away, for having made, out of those who were without hope and without God in the world, a people of brothers, fellow heirs with the Son of God" (Homily 24 on the First Letter to the Corinthians, 1). "In fact", he continues, "what is in the cup is precisely what flowed from his side, and it is of this that we partake" (ibid.). There is not only partaking and sharing, there is "union", says the Doctor whose name means "golden mouth".


The Mass is the sacrifice of thanksgiving par excellence, the one which allows us to unite our own thanksgiving to that of the Saviour, the Eternal Son of the Father. It also makes its own appeal to us to shun idols, for, as Saint Paul insists, "you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons" (1 Cor 10:21). The Mass invites us to discern what, in ourselves, is obedient to the Spirit of God and what, in ourselves, is attuned to the spirit of evil. In the Mass, we want to belong only to Christ and we take up with gratitude - with thanksgiving - the cry of the psalmist: "How shall I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?" (Ps 116:12). Yes, how can I give thanks to the Lord for the life he has given me? The answer to the psalmist's question is found in the psalm itself, since the word of God responds graciously to its own questions. How else could we render thanks to the Lord for all his goodness to us if not by attending to his own words: "I will raise the cup of salvation, I will call on the name of the Lord" (Ps 116:13)?


To raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, is that not the very best way of "shunning idols", as Saint Paul asks us to do? Every time the Mass is celebrated, every time Christ makes himself sacramentally present in his Church, the work of our salvation is accomplished. Hence to celebrate the Eucharist means to recognize that God alone has the power to grant us the fullness of joy and teach us true values, eternal values that will never pass away. God is present on the altar, but he is also present on the altar of our heart when, as we receive communion, we receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He alone teaches us to shun idols, the illusions of our minds.


Now, dear brothers and sisters, who can raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord in the name of the entire people of God, except the priest, ordained for this purpose by his Bishop? At this point, dear inhabitants of Paris and the outlying regions, but also those of you who have come from the rest of France and from neighbouring countries, allow me to issue an appeal, confident in the faith and generosity of the young people who are considering a religious or priestly vocation: do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to give your life to Christ! Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the Church! Nothing will ever replace a Mass for the salvation of the world! Dear young and not so young who are listening to me, do not leave Christ's call unanswered. Saint John Chrysostom, in his Treatise on the Priesthood, showed how sluggish man could be in responding, but he is nonetheless the living example of God's action at the heart of a human freedom that allows itself to be shaped by his grace.


Finally, if we turn to the words that Christ left us in his Gospel, we shall see that he himself taught us to shun idolatry, by inviting us to build our house "on rock" (Lk 6:48). Who is this rock, if not he himself? Our thoughts, our words and our actions acquire their true dimension only if we refer them to the Gospel message: "Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks" (Lk 6:45). When we speak, do we seek the good of our interlocutor? When we think, do we seek to harmonize our thinking with God's thinking? When we act, do we seek to spread the Love which gives us life? Saint John Chrysostom again says, "now, if we all partake of the same bread, and if we all become this same substance, why do we not show the same charity? Why, for the same reason, do we not become utterly one and the same? ... O man, it is Christ who has come to seek you, you who were so far from him, in order to unite himself to you; and you, do you not wish to be united to your brother?" (Homily 24 on the First Letter to the Corinthians, no. 2).


Hope will always remain stronger than all else! The Church, built upon the rock of Christ, possesses the promises of eternal life, not because her members are holier than others, but because Christ made this promise to Peter: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18). In this unfailing hope in God's eternal presence to the souls of each of us, in this joy of knowing that Christ is with us until the end of time, in this power that the Holy Spirit gives to all those who let themselves be filled with him, I entrust you, dear Christians of Paris and France, to the powerful and merciful action of the God of love who died for us upon the Cross and rose victorious on Easter morning. To all people of good will who are listening to me, I say once more, with Saint Paul: Shun the worship of idols, do not tire of doing good!


May God our Father bring you to himself and cause the splendour of his glory to shine upon you! May the only Son of God, our master and brother, reveal to you the beauty of his risen face! May the Holy Spirit fill you with his gifts and grant you the joy of knowing the peace and light of the Most Holy Trinity, now and for ever! Amen!
 
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Papal Address at French Institute
"Science Without Conscience Brings Only Ruin"

PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the brief and unscheduled discourse that Benedict XVI gave today upon his visit to the Institut de France. The institute groups five académies, the French Academy, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Academy of Humanities, the Academy of Science, and the Academy of Moral Sciences and Politics.

* * *

Mr Chancellor,
Dear Permanent Secretaries of the five Académies,
Dear Cardinals,
Dear brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear friends from the Académies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

For me it is a very great honour to be received this morning under the Cupola. I thank you for the overwhelming expressions of kindness with which you have welcomed me, and for your gift of the medal. I could not come to Paris without greeting you personally. I am pleased to have this happy opportunity to emphasize my profound links with French culture, for which I have the greatest admiration. In my intellectual journey, contact with French culture has been particularly important. I therefore avail myself of this occasion to express my gratitude to it, both personally and as the successor of Peter. The plaque that we have just unveiled will preserve the memory of our meeting.

As Rabelais rightly asserted in his day, "Science without conscience brings only ruin to the soul!" (Pantagruel, 8). It was doubtless in order to contribute to avoiding the risk of such a dichotomy that, at the end of January of last year, and for the first time in three and a half centuries, two Académies of the Institut, two Pontifical Academies and the Institut Catholique in Paris organized a joint Colloquium on the changing identity of the individual. The Colloquium has illustrated the interest generated by broad interdisciplinary studies. This initiative could be taken further, in order to explore together the countless research possibilities in the human and experimental sciences. This wish is accompanied by my prayers to the Lord for you, for your loved ones and for all the members of the Académies, as well as all the staff of the Institut de France. May God bless you!

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Benedict XVI's Address to French Youth
"The Spirit Is Our Indispensable Guide"

PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Friday to the young people gathered in the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.

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Dear Young Friends,

After our prayerful celebration of Vespers in Notre-Dame, your enthusiastic greeting gives a warm and festive tone to our meeting this evening. It reminds me of that unforgettable gathering at World Youth Day in Sydney this past July -- at which some of you were present. This evening I would like to talk to you about two very closely related matters; they represent a real treasure to be stored up in your hearts (cf. Mt 6:21).

The first has to do with the theme which was chosen for Sydney. It is also the theme of the prayer vigil which is about to begin. I am referring to a passage taken from the Acts of the Apostles, a book which has most appropriately been called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). This is what the Lord tells you now. In Sydney, many young people rediscovered the importance of the Holy Spirit for our lives, for the life of every Christian. The Spirit gives us a deep relationship with God, who is the source of all authentic human good. All of you desire to love and to be loved! It is to God that you must turn, if you want to learn how to love, and to find the strength to love.

The Spirit, who is Love, can open your hearts to accept the gift of genuine love. All of you are seeking the truth; and all of you want to live in truth, to truly live in it! This truth is Christ. He is the only Way, the one Truth and the true Life. To follow Christ means truly to "put out to sea", as is said several times in the Psalms. The way of Truth is simultaneously one and manifold according to the variety of charisms, just as Truth is one while at the same time possessing an inexhaustible richness.

Surrender yourselves to the Holy Spirit in order to find Christ. The Spirit is our indispensable guide in prayer, he animates our hope and he is the source of true joy. To understand more deeply these truths of faith, I would encourage you to meditate on the importance of the sacrament of Confirmation which you have received and which leads you into a mature faith life. It is vital for you to understand this sacrament more and more in order to evaluate the quality and depth of your faith and to reinforce it. The Holy Spirit enables you to approach the Mystery of God; he makes you understand who God is. He invites you to see in your neighbours the brothers and sisters whom God has given you, in order to live with them in human and spiritual fellowship -- in other words, to live within the Church. By revealing who the crucified and risen Lord is for us, he impels you to bear witness to Christ. You are at an age marked by great generosity. You need to speak about Christ to all around you, to your families and friends, wherever you study, work and relax. Do not be afraid! Have "the courage to live the Gospel and the boldness to proclaim it" (Message to the Young People of the World, 20 July 2007). So I encourage you to find ways of proclaiming God to all around you, basing your testimony on the power of the Spirit, whom we ask for in prayer.

Bring the Good News to the young people of your age, and to others as well. They know what it means to experience difficulty in relationships, worry and uncertainty in the face of work and study. They have experienced suffering, but they have also known unique moments of joy. Be witnesses of God, for, as young people, you are fully a part of the Catholic community through your Baptism and our common profession of faith (cf. Eph 4:5). The Church has confidence in you, and I want to tell you so! In this year dedicated to Saint Paul, I would like to entrust you with a second treasure, which was at the centre of the life of this fascinating Apostle: I mean the mystery of the Cross. On Sunday, in Lourdes, I will celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross together with countless other pilgrims. Many of you wear a cross on a chain around your neck. I too wear one, as every Bishop does. It is not a mere decoration or a piece of jewelry. It is the precious symbol of our faith, the visible and material sign that we belong to Christ. Saint Paul explains the meaning of the Cross at the beginning of his First Letter to the Corinthians. The Christian community in Corinth was going through a turbulent period, exposed to the corrupting influences of the surrounding culture. Those dangers are similar to the ones we encounter today. I will mention only the following examples: quarrels and conflicts within the community of believers, the seductiveness of ersatz religious and philosophical doctrines, a superficial faith and a dissolute morality. Saint Paul begins his Letter by writing: "The word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor 1:18). Then, the Apostle shows the clear contrast between wisdom and folly, in God's way of thinking and in our own. He speaks of this contrast in the context of the founding of the Church in Corinth and in connection with his own preaching. He ends by stressing the beauty of God's wisdom, which Christ and, in his footsteps, the Apostles, have come to impart to the world and to Christians. This wisdom, mysterious and hidden (cf. 1 Cor 2:7), has been revealed by the Spirit, because "those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are folly to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor 2:14).

The Spirit opens to human intelligence new horizons which transcend it and enable to perceive that the only true wisdom is found in the grandeur of Christ. For Christians, the Cross signifies God's wisdom and his infinite love revealed in the saving gift of Christ, crucified and risen for the life of the world, and in particular for the life of each and every one of you. May this amazing realization that God was made man for love lead you to respect and venerate the Cross. It is not only the symbol of your life in God and your salvation, but also -- as you will understand -- the silent witness of human suffering and the unique and priceless expression of all our hopes. Dear young people, I know that venerating the Cross can sometimes bring mockery and even persecution. The Cross in some way seems to threaten our human security, yet above all else, it also proclaims God's grace and confirms our salvation. This evening, I entrust you with the Cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit will enable you to understand its mysteries of love. Then you will exclaim with Saint Paul: "May I never boast of anything, except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14). Paul had understood the seemingly paradoxical words of Jesus, who taught that it is only by giving ("losing") ones life that one finds it (cf. Mk 8:35; Jn 12:24), and Paul concluded from this that the Cross expresses the fundamental law of love, the perfect formula for real life. May a growing understanding of the mystery of the Cross lead some of you discover the call to serve Christ unreservedly in the priesthood and the religious life!

We are about to begin the prayer vigil, for which you have gathered here this evening. Remember the two treasures which the Pope has presented to you this evening: the Holy Spirit and the Cross! As I conclude, I would like to tell you once more that I have confidence in you, dear young people, and I want you to experience, today and in the future, the esteem and affection of the whole Church, and the world will truly see a living Church! May God be at your side each day. May he bless you, your families and your friends.

I gladly grant my Apostolic Blessing to you, and to all the young people of France!

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Pope's Vespers Address at Notre Dame
"Nothing Can Be Too Beautiful for God"

PARIS, SEPT. 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address to the clergy and consecrated persons during vespers celebrated Friday in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

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Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Reverend Canons of the Cathedral Chapter,
Reverend Chaplains of Notre-Dame,
Dear Priests and Deacons,
Dear Friends from Non-Catholic Churches and Ecclesial Communities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!


Blessed be God who has brought us together in a place so dear to the heart of every Parisian and all the people of France! Blessed be God, who grants us the grace of offering him our evening prayer and giving him due praise in the very words which the Church's liturgy inherited from the synagogue worship practised by Christ and his first disciples! Yes, blessed be God for coming to our assistance - in adiutorium nostrum - and helping us to offer him our sacrifice of praise!


We are gathered in the Mother Church of the Diocese of Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral, which rises in the heart of the city as a living sign of God's presence in our midst. My predecessor, Pope Alexander III, laid its first stone, and Popes Pius VII and John Paul II honoured it by their presence. I am happy to follow in their footsteps, a quarter of a century after coming here to offer a conference on catechesis. It is hard not to give thanks to the Creator of both matter and spirit for the beauty of this edifice. The Christians of Lutetia had originally built a cathedral dedicated to Saint Stephen, the first martyr; as time went on it became too small, and was gradually replaced, between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, by the great building we admire today. The faith of the Middle Ages built the cathedrals, and here your ancestors came to praise God, to entrust to him their hopes and to express their love for him. Great religious and civil events took place in this shrine, where architects, painters, sculptors and musicians have given the best of themselves. We need but recall, among so many others, the architect Jean de Chelles, the painter Charles Le Brun, the sculptor Nicolas Coustou and the organists Louis Vierne and Pierre Cochereau. Art, as a pathway to God, and choral prayer, the Church's praise of the Creator, helped Paul Claudel, who attended Vespers here on Christmas Day 1886, to find the way to a personal experience of God. It is significant that God filled his soul with light during the chanting of the Magnificat, in which the Church listens to the song of the Virgin Mary, the Patroness of this church, who reminds the world that the Almighty has lifted up the lowly (cf. Lk 1:52). As the scene of other conversions, less celebrated but no less real, and as the pulpit from which preachers of the Gospel like Fathers Lacordaire, Monsabré and Samson transmitted the flame of their passion to the most varied congregations, Notre-Dame Cathedral rightly remains one of the most celebrated monuments of your country's heritage. Following a tradition dating back to the time of Saint Louis, I have just venerated the relics of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns, which have now found a worthy home here, a true offering of the human spirit to the power of creative Love.

 

Beneath the vaults of this historic Cathedral, which witnesses to the ceaseless dialogue that God wishes to establish with all men and women, his word has just now echoed to become the substance of our evening sacrifice, as expressed in the offering of incense, which makes visible our praise of God. Providentially, the words of the Psalmist describe the emotion filling our souls with an exactness we could hardly have dared to imagine: "I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!'" (Ps 121:1). Laetatus sum in his quae dicta sunt mihi: the Psalmist's joy, brimming over in the very words of the Psalm, penetrates our hearts and resonates deeply within them. We truly rejoice to enter the house of the Lord, since, as the Fathers of the Church have taught us, this house is nothing other than a concrete symbol of Jerusalem on high, which comes down to us (cf. Rev 21:2) to offer us the most beautiful of dwelling-places. "If we dwell therein", writes Saint Hilary of Poitiers, "we are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God, for it is the house of God" (Tract. in Ps. 121:2). And Saint Augustine adds: "This is a psalm of longing for the heavenly Jerusalem ... It is a Song of Steps, not for going down but for going up ... On our pilgrimage we sigh, in our homeland we will rejoice; but during this exile, we meet companions who have already seen the holy city and urge us to run towards it" (En. in Ps. 121:2). Dear friends, during Vespers this evening, we are united in thought and prayer with the voices of the countless men and women who have chanted this psalm in this very place down the centuries. We are united with the pilgrims who went up to Jerusalem and to the steps of its Temple, and with the thousands of men and women who understood that their earthly pilgrimage was to end in heaven, in the eternal Jerusalem, trusting Christ to guide them there. What joy indeed, to know that we are invisibly surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses!


Our pilgrimage to the holy city would not be possible if it were not made in the Church, the seed and the prefiguration of the heavenly Jerusalem. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain" (Ps 126:1). Who is this Lord, if not our Lord Jesus Christ? It is he who founded his Church and built it on rock, on the faith of the Apostle Peter. In the words of Saint Augustine, "It is Jesus Christ our Lord who himself builds his temple. Many indeed labour to build, yet unless the Lord intervenes to build, in vain do the builders labour" (Tract in Ps. 126:2). Dear friends, Augustine goes on to ask how we can know who these builders are, and his answer is this: "All those who preach God's word in the Church, all who are ministers of God's divine Sacraments. All of us run, all of us work, all of us build", yet it is God alone who, within us, "builds, exhorts, and inspires awe; who opens our understanding and guides our minds to faith" (ibid.). What marvels surround our work in the service of God's word! We are instruments of the Holy Spirit; God is so humble that he uses us to spread his word. We become his voice, once we have listened carefully to the word coming from his mouth. We place his word on our lips in order to bring it to the world. He accepts the offering of our prayer and through it he communicates himself to everyone we meet. Truly, as Paul tells the Ephesians, "he has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing" (1:3), for he has chosen us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, and he made us his elect, even before we came into existence, by a mysterious gift of his grace.


God's Word, the Eternal Word, who was with him from the beginning (cf. .Jn 1:1), was born of a woman, born a subject of the law, in order to redeem the subjects of the law, "to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (cf. Gal 4:4-5). The Son of God took flesh in the womb of a woman, a virgin. Your cathedral is a living hymn of stone and light in praise of that act, unique in the annals of human history: the eternal Word of God entering our history in the fulness of time to redeem us by his self-offering in the sacrifice of the Cross. Our earthly liturgies, entirely ordered to the celebration of this unique act within history, will never fully express its infinite meaning. Certainly, the beauty of our celebrations can never be sufficiently cultivated, fostered and refined, for nothing can be too beautiful for God, who is himself infinite Beauty. Yet our earthly liturgies will never be more than a pale reflection of the liturgy celebrated in the Jerusalem on high, the goal of our pilgrimage on earth. May our own celebrations nonetheless resemble that liturgy as closely as possible and grant us a foretaste of it!


Even now the word of God is given to us as the soul of our apostolate, the soul of our priestly life. Each morning the word awakens us. Each morning the Lord himself "opens our ear" (cf. Is 50:5) through the psalms in the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Throughout the day, the word of God becomes the substance of the prayer of the whole Church, as she bears witness in this way to her fidelity to Christ. In the celebrated phrase of Saint Jerome, to be taken up in the XII Assembly of the Synod of Bishops next month: "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" (Prol. in Is.). Dear brother priests, do not be afraid to spend much time reading and meditating on the Scriptures and praying the Divine Office! Almost without your knowing it, God's word, read and pondered in the Church, acts upon you and transforms you. As the manifestation of divine Wisdom, if that word becomes your life "companion", it will be your "good counsellor" and an "encouragement in cares and grief' (Wis 8:9).


"The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword", as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us (4:12). Dear seminarians, who are preparing to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders and thus to share in the threefold office of teaching, governing and sanctifying, this word is given to you as a precious treasure. By meditating on it daily, you will enter into the very life of Christ which you will be called to radiate all around you. By his word, the Lord Jesus instituted the Holy Sacrament of his Body and Blood; by his word, he healed the sick, cast out demons and forgave sins; by his word, he revealed to us the hidden mysteries of his Kingdom. You are called to become stewards of this word which accomplishes what it communicates. Always cultivate a thirst for the word of God! Thus you will learn to love everyone you meet along life's journey. In the Church everyone has a place, everyone! Every person can and must find a place in her.


And you, dear deacons, effective co-workers of the Bishops and priests, continue to love the word of God! You proclaim the Gospel at the heart of the Eucharistic celebration, and you expound it in the catechesis you offer to your brothers and sisters. Make the Gospel the centre of your lives, of your service to your neighbours, of your entire diakonia. Without seeking to take the place of priests, but assisting them with your friendship and your activity, may you be living witnesses to the infinite power of Cod's word!


In a particular way, men and women religious and all consecrated persons draw life from the Wisdom of God expressed in his word. The profession of the evangelical counsels has configured you, dear consecrated persons, to Christ, who for our sakes became poor, obedient and chaste. Your only treasure - which, to tell the truth, will alone survive the passage of time and the curtain of death - is the word of the Lord. It is he who said: "Heaven and earth will pass away; my words will not pass away" (Mt 24:35). Your obedience is, etymologically, a "hearing", for the word obey comes from the Latin obaudire, meaning to turn one's ear to someone or something. In obeying, you turn your soul towards the one who is the Way, and the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6), and who says to you, as Saint Benedict taught his monks: "Hear, my child, the teaching of the Master, and hearken to it with all your heart" (Prologue to the Rule of Saint Benedict). Finally, let yourselves be purified daily by him who said: "Every branch that bears fruit my Father prunes, to make it bear more fruit" (Jn 15:2). The purity of God's word is the model for your own chastity, ensuring its spiritual fruitfulness.


With unfailing confidence in the power of God, who has saved us "in hope" (cf. Rom 8:24) and who wishes to make of us one flock under the guidance of one shepherd, Christ Jesus, I pray for the unity of the Church. I greet once again with respect and affection the representatives of the Christian Churches and ecclesial communities who, as our brothers and sisters, have come to pray Vespers together with us in this cathedral. So great is the power of God's word that we can all be entrusted to it, remembering what Saint Paul once did, our privileged intercessor during this year. As Paul took leave of the presbyters of Ephesus at Miletus, he did not hesitate to entrust them "to God and to the word of his grace" (Acts 20:32), while warning them against every form of division. I implore the Lord to increase within us the sense of this unity of the word of God, which is the sign, pledge and guarantee of the unity of the Church: there is no love in the Church without love of the word, no Church without unity around Christ the Redeemer, no fruits of redemption without love of God and neighbour, according to the two commandments which sum up all of Sacred Scripture!


Dear brothers and sisters, in Our Lady we have the finest example of fidelity to God's word. Her great fidelity found fulfilment in the Incarnation; with absolute confidence, Mary can say: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word!" (Lk 1:38). Our evening prayer is about to take up the Magnificat, the song of her whom all generations will call blessed. Mary believed in the fulfilment of the words the Lord had spoken to her (cf. Lk 1:45); she hoped against all hope in the resurrection of her Son; and so great was her love for humanity that she was given to us as our Mother (cf. Jn 19:27). Thus we see that "Mary is completely at home with the word of God; with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the word of God; the word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the word of God" (Deus Caritas Est, 41). To her, then, we can say with confidence: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to hope, to love with you. Show us the way to his Kingdom!" (Spe Salvi, 50). Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Farewell to France
"Pope Was Duty-Bound to Come to Lourdes"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 15, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the Tarbes-Lourdes Pyrénées Airport during the final farewell ceremony of his trip to France.

* * *

Mr Prime Minister,
Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Civil and Political Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

As I depart – not without regret – from French soil, I am most grateful to you for coming to bid me farewell, thereby giving me the opportunity to say one last time how much this journey to your country has gladdened my heart.

Through you, Mr Prime Minister, I greet the President of the Republic and all the members of the Government, as well as the civil and military Authorities who have spared no effort to contribute to the smooth progress of these grace-filled days. I hasten to express my sincere gratitude to my brothers in the episcopate, especially to Cardinal Vingt-Trois and Bishop Perrier, as well as to all the members and staff of the Bishops' Conference of France. It is good to be here among friends.

I also thank warmly the mayors and the municipalities of Paris and Lourdes. I remember too the members of law enforcement and all the countless volunteers who have offered their time and expertise. Everyone has worked devotedly and whole-heartedly for the successful outcome of my four days in your country. Thank you very much.

My journey has been like a diptych, the first panel of which was Paris, a city that I know fairly well and the scene for several important meetings. I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in the prestigious setting of the Esplanade des Invalides. There I met a vibrant people, proud of their firm faith; I came to encourage them to persevere courageously in living out the teaching of Christ and his Church. I was also able to pray Vespers with the priests, men and women religious, and with the seminarians. I wanted to affirm them in their vocation in the service of God and neighbour. I also spent an all too brief yet intense moment with the young people on the square in front of Notre Dame. Their enthusiasm and affection are most encouraging. And how can I fail to recall here the prestigious encounter with the world of culture at the Institut de France and the Collège des Bernardins? As you know, I consider culture and its proponents to be the privileged vehicles of dialogue between faith and reason, between God and man.

The second panel of the diptych was an emblematic place which attracts and fascinates every believer. Lourdes is like a light in the darkness of our groping to reach God. Mary opened there a gate towards a hereafter which challenges and charms us. Maria, porta caeli! I have set myself to learn from her during these three days. The Pope was duty bound to come to Lourdes to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. Before the Grotto of Massabielle, I prayed for all of you. I prayed for the Church. I prayed for France and for the world. The two Eucharistic celebrations in Lourdes gave me an opportunity to join the faithful pilgrims. Having become one of their number, I completed all four stages of the Jubilee Way, visiting the parish church, the cachot and the Grotto, and finally the Chapel of Hospitality. I also prayed with and for the sick who come here to seek physical relief and spiritual hope. God does not forget them, and neither does the Church. Like every faithful pilgrim, I wanted to take part in the torchlight procession and the Blessed Sacrament Procession. They carry aloft to God our prayers and our praise. Lourdes is also the place where the Bishops of France meet regularly in order to pray and celebrate Mass together, to reflect and to exchange views on their mission as pastors. I wanted to share with them my conviction that the times are favourable for a return to God.

Mr Prime Minister, Brother Bishops and dear friends, may God bless France! May harmony and human progress reign on her soil, and may the Church be the leaven in the dough that indicates with wisdom and without fear, according to her specific duty, who God is! The time has come for me to leave you. Perhaps I shall return some day to your beautiful country? It is indeed my desire, but a desire I leave in the hands of God.

From Rome I shall remain close to you, and when I pray before the replica of the Lourdes Grotto which has been in the Vatican Gardens for a little over a century, I shall think of you. May God bless you! Thank you.

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French Prime Minister's Farewell to Pontiff
"Your Visit Was a Moment of Peace and Fraternity"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 15, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Prime Minister François Fillon of France gave today during the ceremony to bid farewell to Benedict XVI at the end of his four-day trip to Paris and Lourdes. The ceremony was held at the Tarbes-Lourdes Pyrénées Airport.

* * *

Very Holy Father,

These four days spent among us will remain in the spirit of many Frenchmen as a great and beautiful moment of sharing -- a sharing of emotions, reflection and hope. Your coming has inspired popular enthusiasm.

From Notre Dame of Paris to the esplanade of Les Invalides, from Les Invalides to Lourdes, your goodness spread over an immense crowd, joyful and attentive to your message. Our fellow citizens of all ages, social milieux, origins and confession gathered with fervor with the Catholic community.

Your visit was for France the confirmation of a long friendship.

In the plane that brought you to Orly on Friday, you expressed your personal attachment to our language, our culture and our intellectual tradition. You know that this tradition is nourished by constant debates, propositions and disputes. At the Élysée Palace, you contributed to the reflection that the republic has been engaged in, for two centuries, on relations with the Churches.

You reminded that the fundamental separation of the Church and the state does not prevent them either from dialoguing or from being mutually enriched.

At the Collège des Bernardins, surrounded by representatives of the world of culture, your intellectual brilliance gave your message of hope and vigilance universal scope.

You invited us to undertake the path of reason and of the word to progress in humanity and spirituality.

You placed our civilization on guard regarding its materialist weaknesses, its warlike urges, its fanaticisms.

You appealed to humanist Europe and to its Christian heritage.

Your exigency has deepened our look on the human condition, on its ethical duties and its mystery.

Very Holy Father,

It is the republic -- that of believers of all confessions, but also of those who doubt, seek or do not believe -- that has been invited to a collective meditation. And this meditation is in the image of an open and reflective secularism.

The republic, profoundly secular, respects the existence of the religious fact. She appreciates the role of the Christian tradition in her history and her cultural and immaterial heritage.

I believe that those who listened to you were gripped by a very sincere affection for you, and that they greeted the simplicity with which you invited each one to turn toward the better part of themselves.

France sees you leave with emotion and gratitude.

In the midst of crises and anxieties, your visit was a moment of peace and fraternity.

In the midst of international tensions, it was the occasion to recall our common opposition to fanaticisms, violence and discriminations.

At the dawn of a new century, your visit invites us to cast out our fears and mobilize the best of our humanity in the service of the future.

Very Holy Father, the French are pleased to have thus contributed to entertain a shared hope with you.

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Papal Homily at Mass With Sick
"Mary Dwells in the Joy and the Glory of the Resurrection"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 15, 2008 - Here is the homily Benedict XVI gave today during the Mass with the sick at Rosary Square at the Marian shrine in Lourdes.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear Friends who are sick, dear carers and helpers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Yesterday we celebrated the Cross of Christ, the instrument of our salvation, which reveals the mercy of our God in all its fullness. The Cross is truly the place where God’s Compassion for our world is perfectly manifested. Today, as we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we contemplate Mary sharing her Son’s compassion for sinners. As Saint Bernard declares, the Mother of Christ entered into the Passion of her Son through her compassion (cf. Homily for Sunday in the Octave of the Assumption). At the foot of the Cross, the prophecy of Simeon is fulfilled: her mother’s heart is pierced through (cf. Lk 2:35) by the torture inflicted on the innocent one born of her flesh. Just as Jesus cried (cf. Jn 11:35), so too Mary certainly cried over the tortured body of her Son. Her self-restraint, however, prevents us from plumbing the depths of her grief; the full extent of her suffering is merely suggested by the traditional symbol of the seven swords. As in the case of her Son Jesus, one might say that she too was led to perfection through this suffering (cf. Heb 2:10), so as to make her capable of receiving the new spiritual mission that her Son entrusts to her immediately before “giving up his spirit” (cf. Jn 19:30): that of becoming the mother of Christ in his members. In that hour, through the figure of the beloved disciple, Jesus presents each of his disciples to his Mother when he says to her: Behold your Son (cf. Jn 19:26-27).

Today Mary dwells in the joy and the glory of the Resurrection. The tears shed at the foot of the Cross have been transformed into a smile which nothing can wipe away, even as her maternal compassion towards us remains unchanged. The intervention of the Virgin Mary in offering succour throughout history testifies to this, and does not cease to call forth, in the people of God, an unshakable confidence in her: the Memorare prayer expresses this sentiment very well. Mary loves each of her children, giving particular attention to those who, like her Son at the hour of his Passion, are prey to suffering; she loves them quite simply because they are her children, according to the will of Christ on the Cross. The psalmist, seeing from afar this maternal bond which unites the Mother of Christ with the people of faith, prophesies regarding the Virgin Mary that “the richest of the people … will seek your smile” (Ps 44:13). In this way, at the instigation of the inspired word of Scripture, Christians have always sought the smile of Our Lady, this smile which medieval artists were able to represent with such marvellous skill and to show to advantage. This smile of Mary is for all; but it is directed quite particularly to those who suffer, so that they can find comfort and solace therein. To seek Mary’s smile is not an act of devotional or outmoded sentimentality, but rather the proper expression of the living and profoundly human relationship which binds us to her whom Christ gave us as our Mother.

To wish to contemplate this smile of the Virgin, does not mean letting oneself be led by an uncontrolled imagination. Scripture itself discloses it to us through the lips of Mary when she sings the Magnificat: “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46-47). When the Virgin Mary gives thanks to the Lord, she calls us to witness. Mary shares, as if by anticipation, with us, her future children, the joy that dwells in her heart, so that it can become ours. Every time we recite the Magnificat, we become witnesses of her smile. Here in Lourdes, in the course of the apparition of Wednesday 3 March 1858, Bernadette contemplated this smile of Mary in a most particular way. It was the first response that the Beautiful Lady gave to the young visionary who wanted to know who she was. Before introducing herself, some days later, as “the Immaculate Conception”, Mary first taught Bernadette to know her smile, this being the most appropriate point of entry into the revelation of her mystery. In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures, looking down on us, is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity which never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God’s tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope.

Unfortunately we know only too well: the endurance of suffering can upset life’s most stable equilibrium, it can shake the firmest foundations of confidence, and sometimes even leads people to despair of the meaning and value of life. There are struggles that we cannot sustain alone, without the help of divine grace. When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence: we seek then the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but also the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. Who could be more intimate to us than Christ and his holy Mother, the Immaculate One? More than any others, they are capable of understanding us and grasping how hard we have to fight against evil and suffering. The Letter to the Hebrews says of Christ that he “is not unable to sympathize with our weaknesses; for in every respect he has been tempted as we are” (cf. Heb 4:15). I would like to say, humbly, to those who suffer and to those who stru ggle and are tempted to turn their backs on life: turn towards Mary! Within the smile of the Virgin lies mysteriously hidden the strength to fight against sickness, in support of life. With her, equally, is found the grace to accept without fear or bitterness to leave this world at the hour chosen by God.

How true was the insight of that great French spiritual writer, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, who in "L’âme de tout apostolat," proposed to the devout Christian to gaze frequently “into the eyes of the Virgin Mary”! Yes, to seek the smile of the Virgin Mary is not a pious infantilism, it is the aspiration, as Psalm 44 says, of those who are “the richest of the people” (verse 13). “The richest”, that is to say, in the order of faith, those who have attained the highest degree of spiritual maturity and know precisely how to acknowledge their weakness and their poverty before God. In the very simple manifestation of tenderness that we call a smile, we grasp that our sole wealth is the love God bears us, which passes through the heart of her who became our Mother. To seek this smile, is first of all to have grasped the gratuitousness of love; it is also to be able to elicit this smile through our efforts to live according to the word of her Beloved Son, just as a child seeks to elicit its mother’s smile by doing what pleases her. And we know what pleases Mary, thanks to the words she spoke to the servants at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. Jn 2:5).

Mary’s smile is a spring of living water. “He who believes in me”, says Jesus, “out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). Mary is the one who believed and, from her womb, rivers of living water have flowed forth to irrigate human history. The spring that Mary pointed out to Bernadette here in Lourdes is the humble sign of this spiritual reality. From her believing heart, from her maternal heart, flows living water which purifies and heals. By immersing themselves in the baths at Lourdes, how many people have discovered and experienced the gentle maternal love of the Virgin Mary, becoming attached to her in order to bind themselves more closely to the Lord! In the liturgical sequence of this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mary is honoured under the title of Fons amoris, “fount of love”. From Mary’s heart, there springs up a gratuitous love which calls forth a response of filial love, called to ever greater refinement. Like every mother, and better than every mother, Mary is the teacher of love. That is why so many sick people come here to Lourdes, to quench their thirst at the “spring of love” and to let themselves be led to the sole source of salvation, her son Jesus the Saviour.

Christ imparts his salvation by means of the sacraments, and especially in the case of those suffering from sickness or disability, by means of the grace of the sacrament of the sick. For each individual, suffering is always something alien. It can never be tamed. That is why it is hard to bear, and harder still – as certain great witnesses of Christ’s holiness have done – to welcome it as a significant element in our vocation, or to accept, as Bernadette expressed it, to “suffer everything in silence in order to please Jesus”. To be able to say that, it is necessary to have travelled a long way already in union with Jesus. Here and now, though, it is possible to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, as manifested through the grace of the sacrament of the sick. Bernadette herself, in the course of a life that was often marked by sickness, received this sacrament four times. The grace of this sacrament consists in welcoming Christ the healer into ourselves. However, Christ is not a healer in the manner of the world. In order to heal us, he does not remain outside the suffering that is experienced; he eases it by coming to dwell within the one stricken by illness, to bear it and live it with him. Christ’s presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces. Man no longer bears his burden alone: as a suffering member of Christ, he is conformed to Christ in his self-offering to the Father, and he participates, in him, in the coming to birth of the new creation.

Without the Lord’s help, the yoke of sickness and suffering weighs down on us cruelly. By receiving the sacrament of the sick, we seek to carry no other yoke that that of Christ, strengthened through his promise to us that his yoke will be easy to carry and his burden light (cf. Mt 11:30). I invite those who are to receive the sacrament of the sick during this Mass to enter into a hope of this kind. The Second Vatican Council presented Mary as the figure in whom the entire mystery of the Church is typified (cf. Lumen Gentium 63-65). Her personal journey outlines the profile of the Church, which is called to be just as attentive to those who suffer as she herself was. I extend an affectionate greeting to those working in the areas of public health and nursing, as well as those who, in different ways, in hospitals and other institutions, are contributing to the care of the sick with competence and generosity. Equally, I should like to say to all the hospitaliers, the brancardiers and the carers who come from every diocese in France and from further afield, and who throughout the year attend the sick who come on pilgrimage to Lourdes, how much their service is appreciated. They are the arms of the servant Church. Finally, I wish to encourage those who, in the name of their faith, receive and visit the sick, especially in hospital infirmaries, in parishes or, as here, at shrines. May you always sense in this important and delicate mission the effective and fraternal support of your communities! And in this connection, I also greet and thank especially my brothers in the episcopate, the French bishops, the foreign bishops and the priests, all of whom are accompanying the sick and suffering men of this world. Thank you for your service with the suffering Lord.

The service of charity that you offer is a Marian service. Mary entrusts her smile to you, so that you yourselves may become, in faithfulness to her son, springs of living water. Whatever you do, you do in the name of the Church, of which Mary is the purest image. May you carry her smile to everyone!

To conclude, I wish to join in the prayer of the pilgrims and the sick, and to pray with you a passage from the prayer to Mary that has been proposed for this Jubilee celebration: “Because you are the smile of God, the reflection of the light of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, Because you chose Bernadette in her lowliness, because you are the morning star, the gate of heaven and the first creature to experience the resurrection, Our Lady of Lourdes”, with our brothers and sisters whose hearts and bodies are in pain, we pray to you!

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Pope's Reflection at Lourdes on Eucharist
"We Cannot Be Silent About What We Know"

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 15, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the discourse Benedict XVI gave Sunday night at the conclusion of the Eucharistic procession in the prairie at the Marian shrine in Lourdes.

* * *

Lord Jesus, You are here!

And you, my brothers, my sisters, my friends,
You are here, with me, in his presence!

Lord, two thousand years ago, you willingly mounted the infamous Cross in order then to rise again and to remain for ever with us, your brothers and sisters.

And you, my brothers, my sisters, my friends, You willingly allow him to embrace you.

We contemplate him.

We adore him.

We love him. We seek to grow in love for him.

We contemplate him who, in the course of his Passover meal, gave his body and blood to his disciples, so as to be with them “always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

We adore him who is the origin and goal of our faith, him without whom we would not be here this evening, without whom we would not be at all, without whom there would be nothing, absolutely nothing! Him through whom “all things were made” (Jn 1:3), him in whom we were created, for all eternity, him who gave us his own body and blood -- he is here this evening, in our midst, for us to gaze upon.

We love, and we seek to grow in love for him who is here, in our presence, for us to gaze upon, for us perhaps to question, for us to love.

Whether we are walking or nailed to a bed of suffering; whether we are walking in joy or languishing in the wilderness of the soul (cf. Num 21:4): Lord, take us all into your Love; the infinite Love which is eternally the Love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, the Love of the Father and the Son for the Spirit, and the Love of the Spirit for the Father and the Son. The sacred host exposed to our view speaks of this infinite power of Love manifested on the glorious Cross. The sacred host speaks to us of the incredible abasement of the One who made himself poor so as to make us rich in him, the One who accepted the loss of everything so as to win us for his Father. The sacred host is the living, efficacious and real sacrament of the eternal presence of the saviour of mankind to his Church.

My brothers, my sisters, my friends,

Let us accept; may you accept to offer yourselves to him who has given us everything, who came not to judge the world, but to save it (cf. Jn 3:17), accept to recognize in your lives the presence of him who is present here, exposed to our view. Accept to offer him your very lives!

Mary, the holy Virgin, Mary, the Immaculate Conception, accepted, two thousand years ago, to give everything, to offer her body so as to receive the Body of the Creator. Everything came from Christ, even Mary; everything came through Mary, even Christ.

Mary, the holy Virgin, is with us this evening, in the presence of the Body of her Son, one hundred and fifty years after revealing herself to little Bernadette.

Holy Virgin, help us to contemplate, help us to adore, help us to love, to grow in love for him who loved us so much, so as to live eternally with him.

An immense crowd of witnesses is invisibly present beside us, very close to this blessed grotto and in front of this church that the Virgin Mary wanted to be built; the crowd of all those men and women who have contemplated, venerated, adored the real presence of him who gave himself to us even to the last drop of blood; the crowd of all those men and women who have spent hours in adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

This evening, we do not see them, but we hear them saying to us, to every man and to every woman among us: “Come, let the Master call you! He is here! He is calling you (cf. Jn 11:28)! He wants to take your life and join it to his.

Let yourself be embraced by him! Gaze no longer upon your own wounds, gaze upon his. Do not look upon what still separates you from him and from others; look upon the infinite distance that he has abolished by taking your flesh, by mounting the Cross which men had prepared for him, and by letting himself be put to death so as to show you his love. In his wounds, he takes hold of you; in his wounds, he hides you. Do not refuse his Love!”

The immense crowd of witnesses who have allowed themselves to be embraced by his Love, is the crowd of saints in heaven who never cease to intercede for us. They were sinners and they knew it, but they willingly ceased to gaze upon their own wounds and to gaze only upon the wounds of their Lord, so as to discover there the glory of the Cross, to discover there the victory of Life over death. Saint Pierre-Julien Eymard tells us everything when he cries out: “The holy Eucharist is Jesus Christ, past, present and future” ("Sermons and Parochial Instructions after 1856," 4-2.1, “On Meditation”).

Jesus Christ, past, in the historical truth of the evening in the Upper Room, to which every celebration of holy Mass leads us back.

Jesus Christ, present, because he said to us: “Take and eat of this, all of you, this is my body, this is my blood.”

“This is”, in the present, here and now, as in every here and now throughout human history. The real presence, the presence which surpasses our poor lips, our poor hearts, our poor thoughts. The presence offered for us to gaze upon as we do here, this evening, close to the grotto where Mary revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception.

The Eucharist is also Jesus Christ, future, Jesus Christ to come. When we contemplate the sacred host, his glorious transfigured and risen Body, we contemplate what we shall contemplate in eternity, where we shall discover that the whole world has been carried by its Creator during every second of its history. Each time we consume him, but also each time we contemplate him, we proclaim him until he comes again, “donec veniat”. That is why we receive him with infinite respect.

Some of us cannot -- or cannot yet -- receive Him in the Sacrament, but we can contemplate Him with faith and love and express our desire finally to be united with Him. This desire has great value in God’s presence: such people await his return more ardently; they await Jesus Christ who must come again.

When, on the day after her first communion, a friend of Bernadette asked her: “What made you happier: your first communion or the apparitions?”, Bernadette replied, “they are two things that go together, but cannot be compared. I was happy in both” ("Emmanuélite Estrade," 4 June 1958). She made this testimony to the Bishop of Tarbes in regard to her first communion: “Bernadette behaved with immense concentration, with an attention that left nothing to be desired … she appeared profoundly aware of the holy action that was taking place. Everything developed in her in an astonishing way.”

With Pierre-Julien Eymard and Bernadette, we invoke the witness of countless men and women saints who had the greatest love for the holy Eucharist. Nicolas Cabasilas cries out to us this evening: “If Christ dwells within us, what do we need? What do we lack? If we dwell in Christ, what more could we desire? He is our host and our dwelling-place. Happy are we to be his home! What joy to be ourselves the dwelling-place of such an inhabitant!”

Blessed Charles de Foucauld was born in 1858, the very year of the apparitions at Lourdes. Not far from his body, stiffened by death, there lay, like the grain of wheat cast upon the earth, the lunette containing the Blessed Sacrament which Brother Charles adored every day for many a long hour. Father de Foucauld has given us a prayer from the depths of his heart, a prayer addressed to our Father, but one which, with Jesus, we can in all truth make our own in the presence of the sacred host: “‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ This was the last prayer of our Master, our Beloved … May it also be our own prayer, and not only at our last moment, but at every moment in our lives: Father, I commit myself into your hands; Father, I trust in you; Father, I abandon myself to you; Father, do with me what you will; whatever you may do, I thank you; thank you for everything; I am ready for all, I accept all; I thank you for all. Let only your will be done in me, Lord, let only your will be done in all your creatures, in all your children, in all those whom your heart loves, I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you, Lord, with all the love of my heart, for I love you, and so need to give myself in love, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.”

Beloved brothers and sisters, day pilgrims and inhabitants of these valleys, brother Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, all of you who see before you the infinite abasement of the Son of God and the infinite glory of the Resurrection, remain in silent adoration of your Lord, our Master and Lord Jesus Christ. Remain silent, then speak and tell the world: we cannot be silent about what we know. Go and tell the whole world the marvels of God, present at every moment of our lives, in every place on earth. May God bless us and keep us, may he lead us on the path of eternal life, he who is Life, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Pope's Message to Rimini Meeting
"Christ Alone Can Reveal to Man His True Dignity"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 4, 2008 - Here is the message Benedict XVI sent to the 29th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, held Aug. 24-30 in Rimini, Italy. The statement, sent on the Pontiff's behalf by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, was addressed to Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini.

The annual event is organized by the lay movement Communion and Liberation.

* * *

Your Most Reverend Excellency,

On the occasion of the 29th Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples, scheduled to take place in Rimini from 24 to 30 August this year, I am pleased to convey to you, to the sponsors and to all the participants in this important event the cordial greeting of His Holiness Benedict XVI.

The provocative theme of the Meeting: "Either protagonists or nobodies," commands instant attention. Indeed, this was the organizers' precise intention: "to provoke thought on the concept of a person." What does being a protagonist of one's own life and of that of the world actually mean?

The question has become urgent today because the alternative to protagonism seems all too often to be a life without meaning, the grey anonymity of so many "nobodies" who get lost in the folds of an amorphous mass and unfortunately unable to emerge with a noteworthy face of their own.

Then the question should be more focused and could perhaps be rephrased: what does a face give a human being, what makes a person unmistakable and guarantees his/her existence full dignity?

The society and culture in which we are immersed and of which the media are a powerful sound box are largely dominated by the conviction that fame is an essential component of personal fulfillment. To emerge from anonymity, to succeed in imposing oneself on public attention with every possible means and pretext is the goal pursued by many.

Political or financial power, prestige acquired in one's profession, a display of wealth, the renown of one's own achievements, even the ostentation of one's own excesses... all this is quietly taken to be "success" and a "triumph" in life. That is why the new generations aspire increasingly to idealized professions and careers precisely because they bring them into the limelight, which enables them to "appear," to feel that they are "somebody." The ideal for which they strive is represented by cinema actors, the mythical celebrities of television and of the entertainment world, by athletes, soccer players, etc.

But what happens to those who have no access to this level of social visibility? What happens to those who are forgotten, if not actually crushed by the dynamics of worldly success on which the society they live in is based? What happens to those who are poor, defenseless, sick, elderly or disabled, those who have no talents to forge ahead among others or no means to cultivate them, who have no voice to make their own ideas and convictions heard? How should one perceive those who lead a hidden life, of no apparent importance to newspapers and television?

Contemporary men and women, like all people down the ages, strive for their own happiness and pursue it wherever they think they can find it. Here then is the real question the word "protagonism" conceals, which this year's Meeting proposes for our reflection: In what does happiness consist? What can truly help people to achieve it?

This year Pope Benedict XVI established a special Jubilee Year dedicated to a "champion" of Christianity of all time, the Pharisee of Tarsus called Saul, who after ferociously persecuting the early Church, converted when the Lord's call "broke through" to him.

Gospel servant who laid the Christian foundations of the world

From that moment he served the cause of the Gospel with total dedication, tirelessly traveling the then known world and helping to lay the foundations of what was to become the European culture, enlightened by Christianity.

Few have shown a breadth of knowledge and an acumen equal to Paul's. His letters express the explosive force of his passionate personality and have attracted millions of readers, exercising a unique influence on generation after generation of men and women and on entire peoples and nations.

In his writings Paul never ceases to present Christ as an authentic source of respect among men, of peace among nations, of justice in coexistence. Two thousand years later, we can all consider ourselves "sons" of his preaching, and our civilization knows that it is actually indebted to this man for the values on which it is founded.

Yet St Paul's existence is very far from being in the limelight of public recognition. When he died, the Church he had helped to disseminate was still a tiny seed, a group that the supreme authorities of the Roman Empire could allow themselves to neglect or endeavor to crush with bloodshed.

Moreover Paul's existence, examined it in its daily dimension, appears troubled, beset by hostility and dangers, full of difficulties to face rather than consolations and joys to enjoy. He himself bears a vivid witness to this in a great many passages of his writings.

This is what he says, for example, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: "Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the Churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?" (11: 24-29).

It was with determination and in the Name of his Redeemer that Paul ended or rather completed this obstacle race -- as we might describe it -- in Rome, where he was condemned to death and beheaded. Many other Christians died with him in the Emperor Nero's raging persecution and among them was Peter, the fisherman of Galilee and head of the Church.

Can Paul's life really be considered "successful"? Here we are before the paradox of Christian life as such. Indeed, to Christians what does "succeeding" mean? What do the existences of so many holy people, who lived in the retirement of their convents tell us? What do the lives and deaths of numberless Christian martyrs tell us, most of whose names are unknown, who ended their lives not amidst acclamation but rather surrounded by contempt, hatred and indifference? In what does the "greatness" of their lives consist, the luminosity of their witness, their "success"?

Humble conditions do not prevent true human fulfillment

Recently too, the Holy Father Benedict XVI recalled that man was made for the eternal fulfillment of his life. This goes far beyond mere worldly success and is not in opposition to the humility of the condition in which he makes his earthly pilgrimage.

The fulfillment of the human being is knowledge of God, by whom every person was created and for whom he strives with every fiber of his being. Neither fame nor popularity with the masses serves to achieve this. This is the protagonism that the title of this year's Rimini Meeting seeks to propose anew.

The protagonist of one's own existence is someone who gives his life to God, who calls him to cooperate in the universal project of salvation.

The meeting intends to reaffirm that Christ alone can reveal to man his true dignity and communicate to him the authentic meaning of his life. When a believer follows him docilely, he can leave a lasting trace in history. It is the trace of love, of which he becomes a witness precisely because he has been grasped by love.

It is then that what was possible for St. Paul also becomes possible for each one of us. It does not matter whether or not God's design provides for a reduced sphere of action. It does not matter whether we live within the walls of a cloistered monastery or are immersed in the multiple and different activities of the world; it does not matter whether we are fathers and mothers of families or consecrated people, or priests.

God uses us in accordance with his plan of love according to the ways that he chooses and he asks us to support the action of his Spirit; he wants us to be his collaborators for the realization of his Kingdom. He says to each one: "Come, follow me" (Luke 18: 22), and only by following him does man experience the true exaltation of his being.

The experience of the saints, men and women who very often lived their fidelity to God in a discreet and ordinary manner, teaches us this. Among them we find many true protagonists of history, people who are totally fulfilled, living examples of hope and witnesses of a love that fears nothing, not even death.

The Holy Father hopes that these reflections will help those taking part in the meeting to encounter Christ, to understand the value of Christian life better and to achieve its meaning in the humble protagonism of service to the mission of the Church, in Italy and throughout the world. To this end he assures you of his prayers for the meeting's success and imparts a special blessing to you, to the organizers and to all those present.

I very willingly add my own fervent good wishes for the fruitful success of the event and gladly take advantage of the occasion to confirm my sentiments of distinct respect.

[Translation by L'Osservatore Romano]

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Paul's Conversion
"We Are Christians Only If We Encounter Christ"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 3, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today's catechesis will be dedicated to the experience St. Paul had on the road to Damascus, commonly called his conversion. Precisely on the road to Damascus, in the first 30 years of the first century, and following a period in which he persecuted the Church, the decisive moment of Paul's life took place. Much has been written about it and, of course, from many points of view. The fact is that a complete turnabout took place there, a total change of perspective. Henceforth, unexpectedly, he began to consider as "loss" and "rubbish" all that before was for him the highest ideal, almost the raison d'etre of his existence (Philippians 3:7-8). What happened?

In this respect, we have two sources. The first type, the most well-known, are the accounts owed to Luke's pen, who on three occasions narrates the event in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:4-23). The average reader, perhaps, might be tempted to pause too long on certain details, such as the light from the sky, the fall to the ground, the voice that called, the new state of blindness, the curing when something like scales fall from his eyes and the fasting. However, all these details point to the heart of the event: The Risen Christ appeared as a splendid light and addressed Saul, transforming his thinking and his very life. The splendor of the Risen One left him blind; presenting also externally what the interior reality was, his blindness in regard to the truth, to the light, which is Christ. And then, his definitive "yes" to Christ in baptism reopens his eyes, and makes him truly see.

In the early Church, baptism was also called "illumination," because this sacrament gives light, makes one truly see. All that is indicated theologically was realized in Paul also physically: Once cured of his interior blindness, he sees well. Hence, St. Paul was not transformed by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen One, whom he could never again doubt, so strong had been the evidence of the event, of that encounter. The latter changed Paul's life fundamentally. In this connection, one can and must speak of a conversion. This meeting is the center of St. Luke's account, who quite possibly used an account born, probably, in the community of Damascus. The local coloring suggests this by the presence of Ananias and the names, both of the street as well as of the owner of the house where Paul stayed (Cf. Acts 9:11).

The second type of source on the conversion is made up of St. Paul's letters themselves. He never spoke in detail about this event; I think he assumed that everyone knew the essentials of his story. All knew that from being a persecutor, he was transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ. And this did not happen at the end of his own reflection but of an intense event, of an encounter with the Risen One. Although not mentioning details, he refers to this most important event, that is, that he is also a witness of the resurrection of Jesus, the revelation of which he has received directly from Jesus himself, together with the mission of apostle.

The clearest text on this aspect is found in his account of what constitutes the center of the history of salvation: the death and resurrection of Jesus and the apparitions to witnesses (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). With words of very ancient tradition, which he also received from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus died crucified, was buried, and after his resurrection appeared first to Cephas, that is, Peter, then to the Twelve, and afterwards to 500 brothers who were still alive at that time, then to James, and then to all the apostles.

And to this account, received from tradition, he adds: "Last of all ... he appeared also to me" (1 Corinthians 15:8). Thus he clarifies that this is the foundation of his apostolate and of his new life. There are also other texts in which the same reference appears: "Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship (cf. Romans 1:5); and elsewhere: "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1), words with which he alludes to something that all know. Finally, the most complete text is found in Galatians 1:15-17: "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus." In this "self-apology" he underlines decidedly that he is also a true witness of the Risen One, that he has a mission received directly from the Risen One.

We can see that the two sources, the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul, converge in a fundamental point: The Risen One spoke with Paul, called him to the apostolate, made him a true apostle, a witness of the resurrection, with the specific charge to proclaim the Gospel to the pagans, to the Greco-Roman world. And, at the same time, Paul learned that, despite the immediateness of his relationship with the Risen One, he must enter the communion of the Church, be baptized, and live in harmony with the other apostles. Only in this communion with all will he be able to be a true apostle, as he wrote explicitly in the First Letter to the Corinthians: "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (15:11). There is only one proclamation of the Risen One, because Christ is only one.

As we see in these passages, Paul never interprets this moment as an event of conversion. Why? There are many theories, but the reason is very obvious. This change of his life, this transformation of his whole being was not the result of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral evolution, but it came from outside: It was not the result of his thinking but of the encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a maturing of his "I," rather, it was death and resurrection for himself: a life of his died and a new one was born with the Risen Christ.

In no other way can this renewal of Paul be explained. All psychological analyses cannot clarify or resolve the problem. Only the event, the intense encounter with Christ is the key to understand what happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of him who revealed himself and spoke with him. It is in this more profound sense that we can and must speak of conversion. This meeting was a real renewal that changed all his parameters. One can now say that what before was essential and fundamental for him, now has become "rubbish" for him; there is no longer "gain" but loss, because now only life in Christ is what counts.

However, we must not think that Paul locked himself blindly in an event. In reality, the opposite occurred, because the risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This enlarged his heart, and opened it to all. At that moment, he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but understood in a new way the wisdom, truth, and depth of the law and the prophets; he appropriated them in a new way. At the same time, his reason opened to the wisdom of the pagans. Having opened himself to Christ with all his heart, he became able to engage in a wider dialogue with all, he made himself everything to all. Hence he could really be the apostle to the pagans.

Let us now look at our situation. What does this mean for us? It means that also for us, Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ. Of course he does not show himself to us in that irresistible, luminous way, as he did with Paul to make him Apostle of the Gentiles.

However, we can also encounter Christ in the reading of sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's heart and feel him touch ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians. And in this way, our reason opens, the whole of Christ's wisdom opens and all the richness of the truth. Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's catechesis focuses on Saint Paul's conversion. In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke recounts for us the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer. In his own letters, Paul describes his experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel. In the first instance, this was an encounter not with concepts or ideas but with the person of Jesus himself. In fact, Paul met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Saviour and Lord. Similarly, the ultimate source of our own conversion lies neither in esoteric philosophical theories nor abstract moral codes, but in Christ and his Gospel. He alone defines our identity as Christians, since in him we discover the ultimate meaning of our lives. Paul, because Christ had made him his own (cf. Phil 3:12), could not help but preach the Good News he had received (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). So it is with us. Transfixed by the greatness of our Saviour, we - like Saint Paul - cannot help but speak of him to others. May we always do so with joyful conviction!

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience including the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and a group of Maltese altar boys currently serving in Saint Peter's Basilica. May your visit to Rome strengthen your commitment to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Upon all of you, I invoke God's abundant blessings of joy and peace.

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On the Reality of Evil
"It Is Not 'Optional' for Christians to Take Up the Cross"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, too, the apostle Peter is in the foreground of the Gospel reading. But while last Sunday we admired his straightforward faith in Jesus, whom he proclaimed Messiah and Son of God, this time, in the episode that immediately follows, he displays a faith that is still immature and too much influenced by the ““mentality of this world”” (cf. Romans 12:2).

When, in fact, Jesus begins to speak openly about the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, when he says that he must suffer much, be killed and rise again, Peter protests, saying: ““God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you”” (Matthew 16:22).

It is evident that the Master and the disciple follow two opposed ways of thinking. Peter, according to a human logic, is convinced that God would never allow his Son to end his mission dying on the cross. Jesus, on the contrary, knows that the Father, in his great love for men, sent him to give his life for them, and if this means the passion and the cross, it is right that such should happen.

On the other hand, he knows that the resurrection will be the last word. Peter’’s protest, though spoken in good faith and out of sincere love of the Master, sounds to Jesus like temptation, an invitation to save himself, while it is only in losing his life that his life will be returned to him eternally for all of us.

If to save us the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it certainly was not because of a cruel design of the heavenly Father. The cause of it is the gravity of the sickness of which he must cure us: an evil so serious and deadly that it will require all of his blood. In fact, it is with his death and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death, reestablishing the lordship of God.

But the battle is not over: Evil exists and resists in every generation, even in our own. What are the horrors of war, violence visited on the innocent, the misery and injustice that persecutes the weak, if not the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God? And how does one respond to such evil if not with the unarmed love that defeats hatred, life that does not fear death? This is the mysterious power that Jesus used at the cost of not being understood and of being abandoned by many of his followers.

Dear brothers and sisters, to complete the work of salvation, the Redeemer continues to draw to himself and his mission men and women who are ready to take up the cross and follow him. Just as with Christ, it is not ““optional”” for Christians to take up the cross; it is rather a mission to be embraced out of love.
In our present world, where the forces that divide and destroy seem to prevail, Christ does not cease to propose his clear invitation to all: Whosoever wants to be my disciple, he must renounce his selfishness and carry the cross with me.

Let us invoke of the Holy Virgin, who was the first to follow Jesus and followed him to the way of the cross. May she help us to follow the Lord with decisiveness so as to experience from this point on, and in trial too, the glory of the resurrection.

[Following the Angelus the Pope said the following:]

In recent weeks the news has reported the growth in the episodes of irregular immigration in Africa. It is not rare that crossing the Mediterranean toward the European continent -- which is seen as a place of hope to escape adverse and often unbearable conditions -- ends in tragedy; what happened a few days ago seemed to surpass previous incidents in terms of the number of victims.

Migration is a phenomenon that has been present from the dawn of human history, and it has always, for this reason, characterized the relations between peoples and nations. The emergency that migration has become in our times, nevertheless, calls out to us and, while it solicits our solidarity, demands, at the same time, effective political answers.

I know that many regional, national, and international institutions are occupying themselves with the question of irregular migration: I applaud them and encourage them to continue this meritorious work with a sense of responsibility and humanitarian spirit. The countries of origin must also show a sense of responsibility not only because it is a matter of their own citizens, but also to remove the causes of irregular migration and cut off at the root all of the forms of criminality that are linked to these causes.

For their part, European countries, and all other countries that are the destination of immigration, are called to, among other things, develop through consensus initiatives and structures that continue to adapt themselves to the needs of irregular migrants. The latter must be made aware, on the one hand, of the value of their own lives, which are a singular good, always precious, that should be safeguarded in the face of the grave risks that the pursuit of better situations exposes them to and, on the other hand, the duty of legality that is imposed on all.

As the [Pope], I feel a profound obligation to recall everyone’’s attention to this problem and to ask for the generous cooperation of individuals and institutions to deal with it and to find solutions. May the Lord accompany us and make our efforts fruitful!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. In today’’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to his disciples his coming passion, death and resurrection. He also teaches us that, to follow him, we too must enter into the mystery of the cross. Faithful obedience to God and loving service of our neighbour do not always come easily. But to embrace the cross of Christ is to share in his victory. May the Lord keep us in his love! I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

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Paul's Biography
"He Dedicated Himself to the Proclamation of the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 27, 2008  - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

The Holy Father continued today the cycle of catecheses dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last catechesis before the holidays -- two months ago, at the beginning of July -- I began a new series of topics on the occasion of the Pauline Year, reflecting on the way St. Paul lived. Today I would like to take up again and continue the reflection on the Apostle of the Gentiles, proposing a brief biography of him.

Because we will dedicate next Wednesday to the extraordinary event that occurred on the road to Damascus, Paul's conversion, an essential change in his life that followed from his meeting with Christ, today we will pause briefly on the whole of his life.

We have the biographical extreme points of Paul's life respectively in the Letter to Philemon, in which he declares himself "old" (Philemon 9: "presbytes"), and in the Acts of the Apostles, which at the moment of Stephen's stoning describe him as "young" (7:58: "neanias"). The two designations are evidently generic, but, according to ancient computations, a man around 30 years old was described as "young," while "old" was said when a man reached around 60.

In absolute terms, the date of Paul's birth depends to a great extent on the dating of the Letter to Philemon. Traditionally, its writing is dated during his Roman imprisonment, in the mid 60s. Hence, Paul would have been born in the year 8; he would have been more or less 60 years old, while at the moment of Stephen's stoning he was 30. This must be the correct chronology. In fact, the celebration of the Pauline Year we are observing follows this chronology. 2008 was chosen thinking of his birth more or less in the year 8.

In any case, he was born in Tarsus in Cilicia (cf Acts 22:3). The city was the administrative headquarters of the region and in 51 B.C. It had as proconsul none other than Marcus Tullius Cicero, while 10 years later, in 41, Tarsus was the site of the first meeting between Mark Anthony and Cleopatra.

A Jew of the Diaspora, he spoke Greek although having a name of Latin origin, derived by assonance from the Hebrew original Saul/Saulos, and he held Roman citizenship (cf. Acts 22:25-28). Paul seems to be situated, therefore, on the border of the various cultures -- Roman, Greek, Hebrew -- and perhaps also because of this was disposed to fruitful universal openness, to a mediation between cultures, to a true universality.

He also learned manual work, perhaps from his father, consisting of the work of "tent maker" (cf. Acts 18:3: skenopoios), to be understood probably as laborer of coarse goat's wool or linen fibers to make mats or tents (cf. Acts 20:33-35). Toward the year 12-13, the age in which a Jewish boy becomes "bar mitzvah" (son of the precept), Paul left Tarsus and went to Jerusalem to be educated at the feet of Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder, nephew of the great Rabbi Hillel, according to the most rigid norms of Pharisaism and acquiring a great zeal for the Mosaic Torah (cf Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5-6; Acts 22:3; 23:6; 26:5).

On the basis of this profound orthodoxy that he learned in the school of Hillel in Jerusalem, he saw in the new movement of Jesus of Nazareth a risk, a menace for Jewish identity, for the fathers' true orthodoxy. This explains the fact that he had fiercely "persecuted the Church of God," as he admitted three times in his Letters (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6). Even if it is not easy to imagine specifically in what this persecution consisted of, his had, in any case, an attitude of intolerance.

It is here that the event of Damascus is situated, to which we will return in the next catechesis. It is certain that, from that moment on, his life changed and he became a tireless Apostle of the Gospel. In fact, Paul passed into history more as a Christian, what is more, as an Apostle, than as a Pharisee. His apostolic activity is subdivided traditionally on the basis of three missionary journeys, to which is added a fourth -- his journey to Rome as a prisoner. All are narrated by Luke in the Acts. In regard to the three missionary journeys, however, it is necessary to distinguish the first from the other two.

For the first, in fact (cf. Acts 13-14), Paul did not have direct responsibility, as it was entrusted instead to the Cypriot Barnabas. Together they departed from Antioch on the Oronte, sent by that Church (cf. Acts 13:1-3), and later, having set sail from the port of Seleucia on the Syrian coast, they traversed the island of Cyprus from Salamis to Paphos; from here they reached the southern coasts of Anatolia, today's Turkey, and stopped at the city of Attalia, Perga of Pamphilia, Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, from which they returned to the point of departure.

Thus was born the Church of the people, the Church of the pagans. In the meantime, above all in Jerusalem, a harsh discussion arose as to what point these Christians from paganism were obliged to participate in the life and laws of Israel -- all the observances and prescriptions that separated Israel from the rest of the world -- to be truly participants of the promises of the prophets and to enter effectively into Israel's the heritage.

To resolve this fundamental problem for the birth of the future Church, Paul met in Jerusalem with the so-called Council of the Apostles, to resolve this problem on which the effective birth of the universal Church depended. It was decided not to impose on converted pagans the observance of the Mosaic Law (cf. Acts 15:6-30); that is, they were not obliged to observe the norms of Judaism. The only need was to belong to Christ, to live with Christ and according to his words. Thus, being of Christ, they were also of Abraham, of God and participants of all the promises.

After this decisive event, Paul left Barnabas, chose Silas and began his second missionary journey (cf Acts 15:36-18, 22). Going beyond Syria and Cilicia, he again saw the city of Lystra, where he took with him Timothy -- a very important figure of the nascent Church, son of a Jewess and a pagan -- and had him circumcised, he went across central Anatolia and reached the city of Troas on the northern coast of the Aegean Sea. And here another important event took place: In a dream he saw a Macedonian from the other side of the sea, namely in Europe, who said, "Come and help us!"

It was the future Europe that requested the help and light of the Gospel. Spurred on by this vision, he entered Europe, sailing from Macedonia and thus entering Europe. Disembarking in Neapolis, he arrived in Philippi, where he founded an admirable Christian community. Then he went to Thessalonica, and left the latter because of difficulties caused by the Jews, traveled to Beroea, and then continued to Athens.

In this capital of ancient Greek culture he preached to pagans and Greeks, first in the Agora and then in the Areopagus. And the speech in the Areopagus, referred to in the Acts of the Apostles, was a model of how to translate the Gospel into Greek culture, and of how to make the Greeks understand that this God of Christians and Jews, was not a God who was foreign to their culture, but the unknown God awaited by them, the true answer to the most profound questions of their culture.

After Athens he arrived in Corinth, where he stayed for a year and a half. And here we have a very certain chronological event, the most certain of his whole biography, because during this first stay in Corinth he had to appear before the governor of the senatorial province of Achaia, Proconsul Gallione, on accusations of illegal worship.

Regarding Gallione, there is an ancient inscription found in Delphi where it is said that he was proconsul of Corinth between the years 51 and 53. Hence, here we have an absolute certain fact. Paul's stay in Corinth took place in those years. Hence we may suppose that he arrived more or less in the year 50 and stayed until the year 52. Then, from Corinth, passing through Cencre, the city's eastern port, he went to Palestine reaching Caesarea Maritima, and from there he left for Jerusalem to return later to Antioch on the Oronte.

The third missionary journey (cf. Acts 18:23-21:16) began as usual in Antioch, which had become the point of origin of the Church of the pagans, of the mission to the pagans, and was also the place where the term "Christians" was born. Here for the first time, St. Luke tells us, Jesus' followers were called "Christians."

From there Paul went directly to Ephesus, capital of the province of Asia, where he stayed for two years, carrying out a ministry that had fruitful returns for the region. From Ephesus, Paul wrote the Letters to the Thessalonians and Corinthians. The population of the city, however, was incited against him by the local silversmiths, who saw their income diminish given the decline of the worship of Artemis -- the temple dedicated to her in Ephesus, the Artemysion, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Because of this he had to flee to the north. Having crossed Macedonia once more, he went down again to Greece, probably to Corinth, staying there for three months and writing the famous Letter to the Romans.

From here he retraced his steps: Passing back through Macedonia, he sailed to Troy, and then, briefly visiting the islands of Miletus, Chios, Samos, he reached Miletus where he gave an important address to the elders of the Church of Ephesus, sketching a portrait of the true pastor of the Church (cf. Acts 20).

From here he set sail for Tyre, from where he reached Caesarea Maritima to go once again to Jerusalem. Here he was arrested because of a misunderstanding: Some Jews had mistaken other Jews of Greek origin for pagans, introduced by Paul in the Temple area reserved only for the Israelites. The planned sentence to death was avoided by the intervention of the Roman tribune guarding the area of the Temple (cf. Acts 21:27-36). This occurred while the imperial Procurator Anthony Felicius was in Judea. After spending a period in prison -- whose duration is debatable -- Paul, being a Roman citizen, appealed to Caesar -- who at the time was Nero -- and the subsequent Procurator Porcio Festo sent him to Rome under military custody.

The journey to Rome touched the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Malta, and then the cities of Syracuse, Rhegium and Puteoli. The Christians of Rome went to meet him on the Via Appia at the Appia Forum (70 kilometers south of the capital) and others at the Three Taverns (40 kilometers).

In Rome he met with delegates of the Jewish community, to whom he confided that it was for "the hope of Israel" that he endured his chains (cf. Acts 28:20). However, Luke's account ends with the mention of two years in Rome under house arrest, without reference either to a sentence of Caesar (Nero), or even less so to the death of the accused.

Subsequent traditions speak of a liberation, which would have favored a missionary journey to Spain or an eventual short trip to the East, specifically to Crete, Ephesus and Nicopolis in Epirus. Always on a hypothetical basis, a new arrest is conjectured and a second imprisonment in Rome -- from where he would have written the three so-called pastoral letters, namely the two to Timothy and the one to Titus, with a second trial, that turned out to be unfavorable to him. However, a series of reasons induce many scholars of St. Paul to end the Apostle's biography with Luke's account in the Acts.

We will turn to his martyrdom later on in the cycle of these catecheses. For now, in this brief account of Paul's journeys, suffice it to take into account how he dedicated himself to the proclamation of the Gospel without sparing his energy and facing a series of grave trials, of which he has left us an account in the second Letter to the Corinthians (cf 11:21-28).

Of the rest, he writes: "I do it all for the sake of the Gospel" (1Corinthians 9:23), exercising with absolute generosity what he calls his "anxiety for all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). We see a determination that is explained only by a soul truly fascinated by the light of the Gospel, enamored of Christ, a soul sustained by a profound conviction: That it is necessary to take the light of Christ to the world, to proclaim the Gospel to all.

This I think is what stays with us from this brief account of St. Paul's journeys: to see his passion for the Gospel, and thus intuit the grandeur, the beauty, and even more, the deep need that all of us have of the Gospel. Let us pray so that the Lord, who made Paul see his light and hear his word and touched his heart profoundly, make us also see his light, so that our hearts will also be touched by his word and so that we too will be able to give today's world, which thirsts for it, the light of the Gospel and the truth of Christ.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's catechesis presents the life of Saint Paul, the great missionary whom the Church honors in a special way this year. Born a Jew in Tarsus, he received the Hebrew name "Saul" and was trained as a "tent maker" (cf. Acts 18:3). Around the age of twelve he departed for Jerusalem to begin instruction in the strict Pharisaic tradition which instilled in him a great zeal for the Mosaic Law. On the basis of this training, Paul viewed the Christian movement as a threat to orthodox Judaism. He thus fiercely "persecuted the Church of God" (1 Corinthians 19:6; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6) until a dramatic encounter on the road to Damascus radically changed his life. He subsequently undertook three missionary journeys, preaching Christ in Anatolia, Syria, Cilicia, Macedonia, Achaia, and throughout the Mediterranean. After his arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to the Emperor. Though Luke makes no reference to Nero's decision, he tells us that Paul spent two years under house arrest in Rome (cf. Acts 28:30), after which -- according to tradition -- he suffered a martyr's death. Paul spared no energy and endured many trials in his "anxiety for all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). Indeed, he wrote: "I do everything for the sake of the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:23). May we strive to emulate him by doing the same.

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On the Pope's Mission
"To Make Present Among Men the Peace of God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 24, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This Sunday's liturgy addresses the twofold question that Jesus one day posed to his disciples, to us Christians, and to every man and woman. First he asks them: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They told him that for some he was John the Baptist come back to life, for others, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then the Lord directly asked the disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter speaks decisively and with enthusiasm on behalf of all: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." A solemn proclamation of faith that the Church has continued to repeat ever since.

We too today desire to proclaim with deep conviction: Yes, Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God! We do this knowing that Christ is the true "treasure" for which it is worth sacrificing everything; he is the friend who never abandons us, because he knows the most intimate longings of our heart. Jesus is the "Son of the living God," the promised Messiah, who has come to earth to offer salvation and to satisfy the thirst for life and love that inhabits every human being. How much humanity would gain by welcoming this proclamation that brings joy and peace with it!

"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." In response to this inspired profession of faith from Peter, Jesus says: "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven."

This is the first time that Jesus speaks of the Church, whose mission is the actuation of the great design of God to gather the whole of humanity into one family in Christ. The mission of Peter, and of his successors, is precisely to serve this unity of the one Church of God made up of pagans and Jews; his indispensable ministry is to make sure that the Church never identifies herself with any particular nation or culture, but that she be the Church of all peoples, to make present among men -- who are marked by countless divisions and contrasts -- the peace of God, the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters in Christ: This is the unique mission of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter.

Before the enormous responsibility of this task, I feel more and more the obligation and importance of the service to the Church and the world that has been entrusted to me. Because of this I ask you dear brothers and sisters to support me with your prayer, so that, faithful to Christ, together we can announce and bear witness to his presence in our time. May Mary, whom we confidently invoke as Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, obtain this grace for us.

[Following the Angelus, the Pope said the following:]

The growing tensions around the world in recent weeks is cause for lively concern. We must note, with bitterness, the threat of a progressive deterioration in the climate of confidence and cooperation that should characterize relations between nations. In the present circumstances, how can we not measure the difficulty with which humanity strives to form that common awareness of being the "family of nations" that John Paul II indicated as the ideal to the general assembly of the United Nations? We must deepen the awareness of being united by a common destiny, that, in the final analysis, is a transcendent destiny (Cf. "Message for the World Day of Peace," Jan. 1, 2006, No. 6), to avert the return to nationalistic conflicts that in other historical periods have had such tragic consequences.

The recent events have weakened the confidence in many that such experiences had been consigned to the past. But we must not give in to pessimism! We must instead actively commit ourselves to reject the temptation to confront new situations with old systems. Violence must be repudiated! The moral force of law, equitable and transparent negotiations to settle controversies, beginning with those linked to the territorial integrity and self-determination of peoples, fidelity to the word given, pursuit of the common good: These are some of the principal routes to take, with tenacity and creativity, to build fruitful and sincere relations and to guarantee to present and future generations times of concord and moral and civil progress!

Let us transform these thoughts and these desires into prayer, so that all the members of the international community and those, in particular, who have been given great responsibility, will work with generosity to re-establish the superior motivations of justice and peace. Mary, Queen of peace, intercede for us!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. Today's Liturgy reminds us that as Christians we profess with Simon Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. As members of the Church may we always find the courage to live faithfully and bear witness in word and deed to Christ our Lord and Saviour. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

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Aug. 3 Angelus Address
"Seek to Make the Earth More Human"

BRESSANONE, Italy, AUG. 20, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 3 before reciting the midday Angelus with those gathered in the Cathedral Square at Bressanone.

The Holy Father was on vacation in the Dolomites, where he stayed at the major seminary of Bressanone.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A cordial welcome to you all! I would first like to say a word of profound thanks to you, dear Bishop Egger: You have made possible here this celebration of faith. You have ensured that once again I could, as it were, return to my past and at the same time advance into my future; and once again spend my vacation in beautiful Bressanone, this land where art and culture and the goodness of the people are interconnected: A heartfelt "thank you" for all of this!

And of course, I thank all who, together with you, have contributed to ensuring that I could spend peaceful and serene days here: my thanks to all those who shared in the organization of this celebration! I cordially thank all the Authorities of the City, of the Region and of the State, for all they have done by way of organization, the volunteers who are offering their help, the doctors, so many people who have been necessary, especially the Police Force; I am grateful for everyone's collaboration. I am sure I have left out many people! May the Lord reward you all for it: you are all in my prayers. This is the only way in which I can thank you. And, naturally, above all let us thank the good Lord who has given us this earth and has also given us this Sunday bathed in sunshine.

Thus we arrive at the Liturgy of the day. The first Reading reminds us that the greatest things in this life of ours can neither be purchased nor paid for because the most important and elementary things in our life can only be given: the sun and its light, the air that we breathe, water, the earth's beauty, love, friendship, life itself. We cannot buy any of these essential and central goods but they are given to us. The Second Reading then adds that this means they are also things that no one can take from us, of which no dictatorship, no destructive force can rob us. Being loved by God who knows and loves each one of us in Christ; no one can take this away and, while we have this, we are not poor but rich. The Gospel adds a third consideration. If we receive such great gifts from God, we in turn must give them: in a spiritual context giving kindness, friendship and love, but also in a material context -- the Gospel speaks of the multiplication of the loaves. These two things must penetrate our souls today: we must be people who give, because we are people who receive; we must pass on to others the gifts of goodness and love and friendship, but at the same time we must also give material gifts to all who have need of us, whom we can help, and thus seek to make the earth more human, that is, closer to God.

Now, dear friends, I ask you to join me in a devout and filial commemoration of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, the 30th anniversary of whose death we shall be celebrating in a few days. Indeed, he gave up his spirit to God on the evening of 6 August 1978, the evening of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, a mystery of divine light that always exercised a remarkable fascination upon his soul. As Supreme Pastor of the Church, Paul VI guided the People of God to contemplation of the Face of Christ, the Redeemer of man and Lord of history. And it was precisely this loving orientation of his mind and heart toward Christ that served as a cornerstone of the Second Vatican Council, a fundamental attitude that my venerable Predecessor John Paul II inherited and relaunched during the great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

At the centre of everything, always and only Christ: at the centre of the Sacred Scriptures and of Tradition, in the heart of the Church, of the world and of the entire universe. Divine Providence summoned Giovanni Battista Montini from the See of Milan to that of Rome during the most sensitive moment of the Council -- when there was a risk that Blessed John XXIII's intuition might not materialize. How can we fail to thank the Lord for his fruitful and courageous pastoral action? As our gaze on the past grows gradually broader and more aware, Paul VI's merit in presiding over the Council Sessions, in bringing it successfully to conclusion and in governing the eventful post-conciliar period appears ever greater, I should say almost superhuman. We can truly say, with the Apostle Paul, that the grace of God in him "was not in vain" (cf. 1 Cor 15: 10): it made the most of his outstanding gifts of intelligence and passionate love for the Church and for humankind. As we thank God for the gift of this great Pope, let us commit ourselves to treasure his teachings.

In the last period of the Council, Paul VI wanted to pay a special tribute to the Mother of God and solemnly proclaimed her "Mother of the Church". Let us now address the prayer of the Angelus to her, the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Church, our Mother.

[After the Angelus the Pope said:]

Dear Friends,

Next Friday, 8 August, the 29th Olympic Games will begin in Beijing. I am pleased to address to the host Country, to the organizers and to the participants, and first of all to the athletes, my cordial greeting and the hope that each one may give of his or her best in the genuine Olympic spirit. I am following with deep interest this great sports event -- the most important and anticipated in the world -- and I warmly hope that it will offer the international community an effective example of coexistence among people of the most different provenances, with respect for their common dignity. May sports once again be a pledge of brotherhood and peace among peoples!

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors united with us here in Bressanone for this Angelus prayer. Wednesday, the feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI. As we recall this great Pontiff who concluded the Second Vatican Council and guided the first phase of the post-conciliar renewal, let us give thanks for his wise teaching, his passionate love of the Church, and his desire to draw all people to the contemplation of Christ’s glory. Dear friends, during these summer holidays, may you grow closer to the Lord in prayer, and may he shed the light of his face upon you and your families!

I wish you all a good Sunday, a good week and good holidays -- please God! My thanks again to you all!

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Pope's Q-and-A With Diocesan Priests (Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone)

"If We Live With Christ We Will Also Succeed in Human Things"

BRESSANONE, Italy, AUG. 18, 2008 - Here is the first part of a translation of the question-and-answer session Benedict XVI held with the priests, deacons and seminarians of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone. The Holy Father was on vacation in the Dolomites, where he stayed at the major seminary of Bressanone.

* * *

Michael Horrer, Seminarian: Holy Father, my name is Michael Horrer and I am a seminarian. On the occasion of the XXIII World Youth Day of Sydney, in Australia, in which I took part with other young people of our diocese, you constantly reaffirmed to the 400,000 youth present the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in us young people and in the Church. The theme of the Day was: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1: 8).

We young people have now returned -- strengthened by the Holy Spirit and by his words - to our homes, our dioceses and our daily lives.

Holy Father, how can we live the gifts of the Holy Spirit in practice, here in our country and in our daily lives, in such a way that our relatives, friends and acquaintances feel and experience his power, and how can we exercise our mission as Christ's witnesses? What can you advise us in order to ensure that our diocese stays young, despite the aging of the clergy, so that it also stays open to the Spirit of God who guides the Church?

Benedict XVI: Thank you for your question. I am glad to see a seminarian, a candidate for the priesthood of this diocese, in whose face, in a certain sense, I can rediscover the young face of the diocese. And I am glad to hear that, together with others, you were in Sydney where at a great celebration of faith we experienced together precisely that the Church is young.

For Australians too, it was an important experience. At first they looked at this World Youth Day with great skepticism because it would obviously cause a lot of bother and many inconveniences to daily life, such as traffic jams, etc.

However, in the end -- as we also saw in the media whose prejudices crumbled, bit by bit -- everyone felt involved in this atmosphere of joy and faith; they saw that young people come and do not create problems of security or of any other kind but can be together joyfully.

They saw that faith today is a force that is present, a force that can give people the right orientation. This is why there was a moment in which we truly felt the breath of the Holy Spirit who sweeps away prejudices, who makes people understand that yes, here we find what closely affects us, this is the direction in which we must go; and in this way we can live, in this way the future unfolds.

You rightly said this was a strong moment of which we would take home with us a little spark. In daily life however, it is far more difficult in practice to perceive the action of the Holy Spirit, or even to be personally a means to enable him to be present, to ensure the presence of that breath which sweeps away the prejudices of time, which creates light in the darkness and makes us feel not only that faith has a future but that it is the future.

How can we do this? We cannot of course do it on our own. In the end, it is the Lord who helps us but we must be available as instruments. I would say simply: no one can give what he does not personally possess; in other words we cannot pass on the Holy Spirit effectively or make him perceptible to others unless we ourselves are close to him.

This is why I think that the most important thing is that we ourselves remain, so to speak, within the radius of the Holy Spirit's breath, in contact with him. Only if we are continually touched within by the Holy Spirit, if he dwells in us, will it be possible for us to pass him on to others.

Then he gives us the imagination and creative ideas about how to act, ideas that cannot be planned but are born from the situation itself, because it is there that the Holy Spirit is at work. Thus, the first point: we ourselves must remain within the radius of the Holy Spirit's breath.

John's Gospel tell us that after the Resurrection the Lord went to his disciples, breathed upon them and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit." This is a parallel to Genesis, where God breathes on the mixture he made with the dust from the earth and it comes to life and becomes man.

Then man, who is inwardly darkened and half dead, receives Christ's breath anew and it is this breath of God that gives his life a new dimension, that gives him life with the Holy Spirit.

We can say, therefore, that the Holy Spirit is the breath of Jesus Christ and we, in a certain sense, must ask Christ to breathe on us always, so that his breath will become alive and strong and work upon the world. This means that we must keep close to Christ.

We do so by meditating on his Word. We know that the principal author of the sacred Scriptures is the Holy Spirit. When through his Word we speak with God, when we do not only seek the past in it but truly the Lord who is present and speaks to us, then -- as I said in Australia -- it is as if we were to find ourselves strolling in the garden of the Holy Spirit; we talk to him and he talks to us.

Here, learning to be at home in this environment, in the environment of the Word of God, is a very important thing which, in a certain sense, introduces us into the breath of God. And then, naturally, this listening, walking in the environment of the Word must be transformed into a response, a response in prayer, in contact with Christ.

And of course, first of all in the blessed sacrament of the Eucharist in which he comes to us and enters us and is, as it were, amalgamated with us. Then, however, also in the sacrament of penance, which always purifies us, which washes away the grime that daily life deposits in us.

In short, it is a life with Christ in the Holy Spirit, in the Word of God and in the communion of the Church, in her community. St Augustine said: "If you desire the Spirit of God, you must be in the Body of Christ." Christ's Spirit moves within the Mystical Body of Christ.

All this must determine the shape that our day takes in such a way that it becomes structured, a day in which God has access to us all the time, in which we are in continuous contact with Christ and in which, for this very reason, we are continuously receiving the breath of the Holy Spirit.

If we do this, if we are not too lazy, undisciplined or sluggish, then something happens to us: the day acquires a form and in it our life itself acquires a form and this light will shine from us without us having to give it much thought or having to adopt a "propagandist" -- so to speak -- way of acting: It comes automatically because it mirrors our soul. To this I would then add a second dimension that is logically linked with the first: If we live with Christ we will also succeed in human things.

Indeed, faith does not only involve a supernatural aspect, it rebuilds man, bringing him back to his humanity, as that parallel between Genesis and John 20 shows: It is based precisely on the natural virtues: honesty, joy, the willingness to listen to one's neighbor, the ability to forgive, generosity, goodness and cordiality among people.

These human virtues show that faith is truly present, that we are truly with Christ and I believe that we should pay great attention to this, also regarding ourselves: To develop an authentic humanity in ourselves because faith involves the complete fulfillment of the human being, of humanity.

We should pay attention to carrying out human tasks well and correctly, also in our profession, in respect for our neighbor, in being concerned about our neighbor, which is the best way to be concerned about ourselves: In fact, "existing" for our neighbor is the best way of "existing" for ourselves.

And the latter subsequently gives rise to those initiatives that cannot be programmed: communities of prayer, communities that read the Bible together or that even provide effective help for people in need, who require it, who are on the margins of life, for the sick, for the disabled and many other things. This is when our eyes are opened to see our personal skills, to assume the corresponding initiatives and to be able to imbue others with the courage to do the same. And precisely these human things can strengthen us, in a certain way putting us in touch anew with God's Spirit.

The head of the Order of the Knights of Malta in Rome told me that at Christmas he went to the station with several young people to take a bit of Christmas to the homeless. While he himself was turning back, he heard one young man telling another: "This is more powerful than the discothèque. It is really beautiful here because I can do something for others!" These are the initiatives that the Holy Spirit inspires in us. With few words they enable us to feel the Spirit's power and we are made attentive to Christ.

Well, perhaps I have not said very practical things just now, but I believe the most important thing is, first of all, that our life should be oriented to the Holy Spirit, because we live in the milieu of the Spirit, in the body of Christ, and from this we experience humanization, we nurture the simple human virtues and thus learn to be good in the broadest sense of the word. Thus, one acquires a sensitivity for good initiatives which later, of course, develop a missionary force and in a certain sense prepare the ground for the moment when it becomes reasonable and comprehensible to speak of Christ and of our faith.

  Father Willibald Hopfgartner, OFM: Holy Father, my name is Willibald Hopfgartner, I am a Franciscan and I work in a school and in various areas of guidance of my order. In your discourse at Regensburg you stressed the substantial link between the divine Spirit and human reason.

On the other hand, you also always underlined the importance of art and beauty, of aesthetics. Consequently, should not the aesthetic experience of faith in the context of the Church, for proclamation and for the liturgy be ceaselessly reaffirmed alongside the conceptual dialogue about God (in theology)?

Benecdict XVI: Thank you. Yes, I think these two things go hand in hand: reason, precision, honesty in the reflection on the truth -- and beauty. Reason that intended to strip itself of beauty would be halved, it would be a blinded reason. It is only when they are united that both these things form the whole, and precisely for faith this union is important. Faith must continuously face the challenges of thought in this epoch, so that it does not seem a sort of irrational legend that we keep alive but which really is a response to the great questions, and not merely a habit but the truth -- as Tertullian once said.

In his First Letter, St. Peter wrote the phrase that medieval theologians took as a legitimation, as it were, a responsibility for their theological task: "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" -- an apologetic for the logos of hope, that is, a transformation of the logos, the reason for hope in apologetics, in response to men.

He was obviously convinced of the fact that the faith was the logos, that it was a reason, a light that came from creative Reason rather than a wonderful concoction, a fruit of our thought. And this is why it is universal and for this reason can be communicated to all.

Yet, precisely this creative logos is not only a technical logos -- we shall return to this aspect with another answer -- it is broad, it is a logos that is love, hence such as to be expressed in beauty and in good.

Also, I did once say that to me art and the saints are the greatest apologetic for our faith. The arguments contributed by reason are unquestionably important and indispensable, but then there is always dissent somewhere.

On the other hand, if we look at the saints, this great luminous trail on which God passed through history, we see that there truly is a force of good which resists the millennia; there truly is the light of light. Likewise, if we contemplate the beauties created by faith, they are simply, I would say, the living proof of faith.

If I look at this beautiful cathedral -- it is a living proclamation! It speaks to us itself, and on the basis of the cathedral's beauty, we succeed in visibly proclaiming God, Christ and all his mysteries: Here they have acquired a form and look at us.

All the great works of art, cathedrals -- the Gothic cathedrals and the splendid Baroque churches -- they are all a luminous sign of God and therefore truly a manifestation, an epiphany of God. And in Christianity it is precisely a matter of this epiphany: that God became a veiled Epiphany -- he appears and is resplendent.

We have just heard the organ in its full splendor. I think the great music born in the Church makes the truth of our faith audible and perceivable: from Gregorian chant to the music of the cathedrals, to Palestrina and his epoch, to Bach and hence to Mozart and Bruckner and so forth. In listening to all these works -- the Passions of Bach, his Mass in B flat, and the great spiritual compositions of 16th-century polyphony, of the Viennese School, of all music, even that of minor composers -- we suddenly understand: It is true!

Wherever such things are born, the Truth is there. Without an intuition that discovers the true creative center of the world such beauty cannot be born.

For this reason I think we should always ensure that the two things are together; we should bring them together.

When, in our epoch, we discuss the reasonableness of faith, we discuss precisely the fact that reason does not end where experimental discoveries end -- it does not finish in positivism; the theory of evolution sees the truth but sees only half the truth: It does not see that behind it is the Spirit of the creation. We are fighting to expand reason, and hence for a reason, which, precisely, is also open to the beautiful and does not have to set it aside as something quite different and unreasonable.

Christian art is a rational art -- let us think of Gothic art or of the great music or even, precisely, of our own Baroque art -- but it is the artistic expression of a greatly expanded reason, in which heart and reason encounter each other. This is the point. I believe that in a certain way this is proof of the truth of Christianity: Heart and reason encounter one another, beauty and truth converge, and the more that we ourselves succeed in living in the beauty of truth, the more that faith will be able to return to being creative in our time too, and to express itself in a convincing form of art.

So, dear Father Hopfgartner, thank you for your question; let us seek to ensure that the two categories, the aesthetic and the noetic (intellectual), are united and that in this great breadth the entirety and depth of our faith may be made manifest.

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Father Willi Fusaro: Holy Father, I am Father Willi Fusaro, I am 42 years old and I have been ill since the year of my priestly ordination. I was ordained in June 1991; then in September of the same year I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I am a parish cooperator at Corpus Domini Parish, Bolzano. I was deeply impressed by John Paul II, especially in the last part of his pontificate, when he bore his human weakness with courage and humility before the whole world.

Given your closeness to your beloved predecessor and on the basis of your personal experience, what can you say to me and to all of us to truly help elderly or sick priests to live their priesthood well and fruitfully in the presbyterate and in the Christian community? Thank you!

Benedict XVI: Thank you, Reverend Father. I would say that, for me, both parts of the Pope John Paul II's pontificate were equally important. In the first part in which we saw him as a giant of faith: with incredible courage, extraordinary force, a true joy of faith and great lucidity, he took the Gospel message to the ends of the earth.

He spoke to everyone, he explored new paths with the movements, interreligious dialogue, ecumenical meetings, deepening the manner in which we listen to the divine word, with everything ... with his love for the sacred liturgy. He truly brought down -- we can say -- not the walls of Jericho but the walls between two worlds with the power of his own faith. His testimony lives on, unforgettable, and continues to be a light for this millennium.

However, I must say that because of the humble testimony of his "passion," to my mind the last years of his pontificate were no less important; just as he carried the Lord's cross before us and put into practice the words of the Lord: "Follow me, carry the cross with me and walk in my footsteps!"

With such humility, such patience with which he accepted what was practically the destruction of his body and the growing inability to speak, he who had been a master of words thus showed us visibly -- it seems to me -- the profound truth that the Lord redeemed us with his cross, with the passion, as an extreme act of his love. He showed us that suffering is not only a "no," something negative, the lack of something, but a positive reality. He showed us that suffering accepted for love of Christ, for love of God and of others is a redeeming force, a force of love and no less powerful than the great deeds he accomplished in the first part of his pontificate.

He taught us a new love for those who suffer and made us understand the meaning of "in the cross and through the cross we are saved."

We also have these two aspects in the life of the Lord. In the first part he teaches the joy of the Kingdom of God, brings his gifts to men and then, in the second part, he is immersed in the Passion until his last cry from the cross. In this very way he taught us who God is, that God is love and that, in identifying with our suffering as human beings, he takes us in his arms and immerses us in his love and this love alone bathes us in redemption, purification and rebirth.

Therefore, I think that we all -- and increasingly so in a world that thrives on activism, on youth, on being young, strong and beautiful, on succeeding in doing great things -- must learn the truth of love which becomes a "passion" and thereby redeems man and unites him with God who is love.

So I would like to thank all who accept suffering, who suffer with the Lord, and to encourage all of us to have an open heart for the suffering and for the elderly; to understand that their "passion" is itself a source of renewal for humanity, creating love in us and uniting us to the Lord. Yet, in the end, it is always difficult to suffer. I remember Cardinal Mayer's sister. She was seriously ill and when she became impatient he said to her: "You see, now you are with the Lord." And she answered him: "It is easy for you to say so because you are healthy, but I am suffering my 'passion.'" It is true, in a true "passion" it becomes ever more difficult to be truly united with the Lord and to maintain this disposition of union with the suffering Lord.

Let us therefore pray for all who are suffering and do our utmost to help them, to show our gratitude for their suffering and be present to them as much as we can, to the very end. This is a fundamental message of Christianity that stems from the theology of the Cross: The fact that suffering and passion are present in Christ's love is the challenge for us to unite ourselves with his passion.

We must love those who suffer not only with words but with all our actions and our commitment. I think that only in this way are we truly Christian. I wrote in my encyclical "Spe Salvi" that the ability to accept suffering and those who suffer is the measure of the humanity one possesses. When this ability is lacking, man is reduced and redefined. Therefore, let us pray the Lord to help us in our suffering and lead us to be close to all those who suffering in this world.

Father Karl Golser: Holy Father, my name is Karl Golser, I am a professor of moral theology here in Bressanone and also director of the Institute for Justice, Peace and the Preservation of the Creation; I am also a canon. I am pleased to recall the period in which I was able to work with you at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

As you know, the Catholic Church has deeply forged the history and culture of our country. Today, however, we sometimes have the feeling that, as Church, we have somewhat retired to the sacristy. The declarations of the papal magisterium on the important social issues do not find the right response in parishes and ecclesial communities.

Here in Alto Adige, for example, the authorities and many associations forcefully call attention to environmental problems and in particular to climate change. The principal arguments are the melting of glaciers, landslides in the mountains, the problems of the cost of energy, traffic, and the pollution of the atmosphere. There are many initiatives for safeguarding the environment.

However, in the average awareness of our Christians, all this has very little to do with faith. What can we do to increase the sense of responsibility for creation in the life of our Christian communities? What can we do in order to view Creation and Redemption as more closely united? How can we live a Christian lifestyle in an exemplary way that will endure? And how can we combine this with a quality of life that is attractive for all the people of our earth?

Benedict XVI: Thank you very much, dear Professor Golser. You would certainly be far more able than I to answer these questions but I shall try just the same to say something. You have thus touched on the theme of Creation and Redemption and I think that this indissoluble bond should be given new prominence.

In recent decades the doctrine of Creation had almost disappeared from theology, it was almost imperceptible. We are now aware of the damage that this has caused. The Redeemer is the Creator and if we do not proclaim God in his full grandeur -- as Creator and as Redeemer -- we also diminish the value of the Redemption.

Indeed, if God has no role in Creation, if he is relegated merely to a historical context, how can he truly understand the whole of our life? How will he be able to bring salvation to man in his entirety and to the world in its totality?

This is why, for me, the renewal of the doctrine of Creation and a new understanding of the inseparability of Creation and Redemption are of supreme importance. We must recognize anew: He is the Creator Spiritus, the Reason that exists in the beginning, from which all things are born and of which our own reason is but a spark.

And it is he, the Creator himself, who did and can enter into history and operate in it precisely because he is the God of the whole and not only of a part. If we recognize this it will obviously follow that the Redemption, being Christian, and simply Christian faith, also means responsibility always and everywhere with regard to creation.

Twenty-three years ago Christians were accused -- I do not know if this accusation is still held -- of being the ones truly responsible for the destruction of creation because the words contained in Genesis -- "subdue the earth" -- were said to have led to that arrogance with regard to creation whose consequences we are reaping today.

I think we must learn again to understand this accusation in all its falsity: As long as the earth was seen as God's creation, the task of "subduing" it was never intended as an order to enslave it but rather as the task of being guardians of creation and developing its gifts; of actively collaborating in God's work ourselves, in the evolution that he ordered in the world so that the gifts of creation might be appreciated rather than trampled upon and destroyed.

If we observe what came into being around monasteries, how in those places small paradises, oases of creation were and continue to be born, it becomes evident that these were not only words. Rather, wherever the Creator's word was properly understood, wherever life was lived with the redeeming Creator, people strove to save creation and not to destroy it.

Chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans also fits into this context. It says that the whole of creation has been groaning in travail because of the bondage to which it has been subjected, awaiting the revelation of God's sons: It will feel liberated when creatures, men and women who are children of God, treat it according to God's perspective.

I believe that we can establish exactly this as a reality today. Creation is groaning -- we perceive it, we almost hear it -- and awaits human beings who will preserve it in accordance with God. The brutal consumption of creation begins where God is not, where matter is henceforth only material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate demand, where the whole is merely our property and we consume it for ourselves alone.

And the wasting of creation begins when we no longer recognize any need superior to our own, but see only ourselves. It begins when there is no longer any concept of life beyond death, where in this life we must grab hold of everything and possess life as intensely as possible, where we must possess all that is possible to possess.

I think, therefore, that true and effective initiatives to prevent the waste and destruction of creation can be implemented and developed, understood and lived only where creation is considered as beginning with God; where life is considered as beginning with God and has greater dimensions -- in responsibility before God -- and one day will be given to us by God in fullness and never taken away from us: In giving life we receive it.

Thus, I believe we must strive with all the means we have to present faith in public, especially where a sensitivity for it already exists.

And I think that the sensation that the world may be slipping away -- because it is we ourselves who are chasing it away -- and feeling oppressed by the problems of creation, afford us a suitable opportunity in which our faith can speak publicly and make itself felt as a propositional initiative.

Indeed, it is not merely a question of discovering technologies that prevent the damage, even though it is important to find alternative sources of energy, among other things.

Yet, none of this will suffice unless we ourselves find a new way of living, a discipline of making sacrifices, a discipline of the recognition of others to whom creation belongs as much as it belongs to us who may more easily make use of it; a discipline of responsibility with regard to the future of others and to our own future, because it is a responsibility in the eyes of the One who is our Judge and as such is also Redeemer but, truly, also our Judge.

Consequently, I think in any case that the two dimensions -- Creation and Redemption, earthly life and eternal life, responsibility for creation and responsibility for others and for the future -- should be juxtaposed. I also think it is our task to intervene clearly and with determination on public opinion. To be heard, we must at the same time demonstrate by our own example, by our own way of life, that we are speaking of a message in which we ourselves believe and according to which it is possible to live.

And let us ask the Lord to help us all to live out the faith and the responsibility of faith in such a way that our lifestyle becomes a testimony; and then to speak in such a way that our works may credibly convey faith as an orientation in our time.

* * *

Father Franz Pixner, dean at Kastelruth: Holy Father, I am Franz Pixner and I am the pastor of two large parishes. I myself, together with many of my confreres and lay persons, are concerned about the increasing burden of pastoral care caused by, for example, the pastoral units that are being created: the intense pressure of work, the lack of recognition, difficulties concerning the magisterium, loneliness, the dwindling number of priests, but also of communities of the faithful. Many people wonder what God is asking of us in this situation and how the Holy Spirit wishes to encourage us.

In this context arise questions concerning, for example, the celibacy of priests, the ordination of "viri probati" to the priesthood, the involvement of charisms, particularly those of women, in pastoral care, making men and women collaborators trained in theology responsible for conferring baptism and preaching homilies.

The question is also asked how we priests, confronted by the new challenges, can help one another in a brotherly community, at the various levels of the diocese, diaconate and pastoral and parish unit.

We ask you, Holy Father, to give us some good advice for all these questions. Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Dear dean, you have opened a whole series of questions that occupy and concern pastors and all of us in this age, and you certainly know that I cannot answer all of them here. I imagine that you will have repeated opportunities to consider them with your bishop, and we in turn we will speak of them at the Synod of Bishops. All of us, I believe stand in need of this dialogue with one another, of the dialogue of faith and responsibility, in order to find the straight narrow path in this era, full of difficult perspectives on faith and challenges for priests. No one has an instant recipe, we are all searching together.

With this reservation, I find myself together with all of you in the midst of this process of toil and interior struggle, I shall try to say a few words, precisely as part of a broader dialogue.

In my answer I would like to examine two fundamental aspects: on the one hand, the irreplaceableness of the priest, the meaning and the manner of the priestly ministry today; and on the other -- and this is more obvious than it used to be -- the multiplicity of charisms and the fact that all together they are Church, they build the Church and for this reason we must strive to reawaken charisms. We must foster this lively whole, which in turn then also supports the priest. He supports others, others support him and only in this complex and variegated whole can the Church develop today and toward the future.

On the one hand, there will always be a need for the priest who is totally dedicated to the Lord and therefore totally dedicated to humanity. In the Old Testament there is the call to "sanctification" which more or less corresponds to what we mean today by "consecration," or even "priestly ordination": Something is delivered over to God and is therefore removed from the common sphere, it is given to him. Yet this means that it is now available for all.

Since it has been taken and given to God, for this very reason it is now not isolated by being raised from the "for," to the "for all." I think that this can also be said of the Church's priesthood. It means on the one hand that we are consigned to the Lord, separated from ordinary life, but on the other, we are consigned to him because in this way we can belong to him totally and totally belong to others.

I believe we must continuously seek to show this to young people -- to those who are idealists, who want to do something for the whole -- show them that precisely this "extraction from the common" means "consignment to the whole" and that this is an important way, the most important way, to serve our brethren.

Part of this, moreover, is truly making oneself available to the Lord in the fullness of one's being and consequently, finding oneself totally available to men and women. I think celibacy is a fundamental expression of this totality and already, for this reason, an important reference in this world because it only has meaning if we truly believe in eternal life and if we believe that God involves us and that we can be for him.

Therefore, the priesthood is indispensable because in the Eucharist itself, originating in God, the Church is built; in the sacrament of penance purification is conferred; in the sacrament, the priesthood is, precisely, an involvement in the "for" of Jesus Christ.

However, I know well how difficult it is today -- when a priest finds himself directing not only one easily managed parish but several parishes and pastoral units; when he must be available to give this or that advice, and so forth -- how difficult it is to live such a life. I believe that in this situation it is important to have the courage to limit oneself and to be clear about deciding on priorities.

A fundamental priority of priestly life is to be with the Lord and thus to have time for prayer. St. Charles Borromeo always used to say: "You will not be able to care for the souls of others if you let your own perish. In the end you will no longer do anything even for others. You must always have time for being with God."

I would therefore like to emphasize: Whatever the demands that arise, it is a real priority to find every day, I would say, an hour to be in silence for the Lord and with the Lord, as the Church suggests we do with the breviary, with daily prayers, so as to continually enrich ourselves inwardly, to return -- as I said in answering the first question -- to within the reach of the Holy Spirit's breath. And to order priorities on this basis: I must learn to see what is truly essential, where my presence as a priest is indispensable and where I cannot delegate anyone else. And at the same time, I must humbly accept when there are many things I should do and where my presence is requested that I cannot manage because I know my limits. I think people understand this humility.

And I now must link the other aspect to this: knowing how to delegate, to get people to collaborate. I have the impression that people understand and also appreciate it when a priest is with God, when he is concerned with his office of being the person who prays for others: "We," they say, "cannot pray so much, you must do it for us: Basically, it is your job, as it were, to be the one who prays for us."

They want a priest who honestly endeavors to live with the Lord and then is available to men and women -- the suffering, the dying, the sick, children, young people (I would say that they are the priorities) -- but also who can distinguish between things that others do better than him, thereby making room for those gifts.

I am thinking of movements and of many other forms of collaboration in the parish. May all these things also be reflected upon in the diocese itself, new forms of collaboration should be created and interchanges encouraged.

You rightly said that in this it is important to look beyond the parish to the diocesan community, indeed, to the community of the universal Church, which in her turn must direct her gaze to see what is happening in the parish and what the consequences are for the individual priest.

You then touched on another point, very important in my eyes: Priests, even if they live far apart, are a true community of brothers who should support and help one another. In order not to drift into isolation, into loneliness with its sorrows, it is important for us to meet one another regularly.

It will be the task of the diocese to establish how best to organize meetings for priests -- today we have cars which make traveling easier -- so that we can experience being together ever anew, learn from one another, mutually correct and help one another, cheer one another and comfort one another, so that in this communion of the presbyterate, together with the bishop we can carry out our service to the local Church. Precisely, no priest is a priest on his own; we are a presbyterate, and it is only in this communion with the bishop that each one can carry out his service.

Now, this beautiful communion recognized by all at the theological level, must also be expressed in practice in the ways identified by the local Church, and it must be extended because no bishop is a bishop on his own, but only a bishop in the College, in the great communion of bishops. This is the communion we should always strive for.

And I think that it is a particularly beautiful aspect of Catholicism: through the primacy, which is not an absolute monarchy but a service of communion, that we may have the certainty of this unity. Thus in a large community with many voices, all together we make the great music of faith ring out in this world.

Let us pray the Lord to comfort us when we think we cannot manage any longer: Let us support one another and then the Lord will help us to find the right paths together.

* * *

Father Paolo Rizzi, parish priest and lecturer in theology at the Higher Institute for Religious Sciences: Holy Father, I am parish priest and lecturer in theology at the Higher Institute for Religious Sciences. We would like to hear your pastoral opinion about the situation concerning the sacraments of first Communion and confirmation.

Always more often the children, boys and girls, who receive these sacraments prepare themselves with commitment to the catechetical meetings but do not take part in the Sunday Eucharist, and then one wonders: What is the point of all this? At times we might feel like saying: "Then just stay at home."

Instead, we continue as always to accept them, believing that in any case it is better not to extinguish the wick of the little flickering flame. We think, that is, that in any case, the gift of the Spirit can have an effect beyond what we can see, and that in an epoch of transition like this one it is more prudent not to make drastic decisions.

More generally, 35 years ago I thought that we were beginning to be a little flock, a minority community, more or less everywhere in Europe; that we should therefore administer the sacraments only to those who are truly committed to Christian life. Then, partly because of the style of John Paul II's pontificate, I thought things through again. If it is possible to make predictions for the future, what do you think? What pastoral approaches can you suggest to us? Thank you.

Benedict XVI: Well, I cannot give an infallible answer here, I can only seek to respond according to what I see. I must say that I took a similar route to yours.

When I was younger I was rather severe. I said: The sacraments are sacraments of faith, and where faith does not exist, where the practice of faith does not exist, the sacrament cannot be conferred either.

And then I always used to talk to my parish priest when I was archbishop of Munich: Here too there were two factions, one severe and one broad-minded. Then I too, with time, came to realize that we must follow, rather, the example of the Lord, who was very open even with people on the margins of Israel of that time. He was a Lord of mercy, too open -- according to many official authorities -- with sinners, welcoming them or letting them invite him to their dinners, drawing them to him in his communion.

Therefore I would say substantially that the sacraments are naturally sacraments of faith: When there is no element of faith, when first Communion is no more than a great lunch with beautiful clothes and beautiful gifts, it can no longer be a sacrament of faith.

Yet, on the other hand, if we can still see a little flame of desire for communion in the faith, a desire even in these children who want to enter into communion with Jesus, it seems to me that it is right to be rather broad-minded.

Naturally, of course, one purpose of our catechesis must be to make children understand that Communion, first Communion, is not a "fixed" event, but requires a continuity of friendship with Jesus, a journey with Jesus. I know that children often have the intention and desire to go to Sunday Mass but their parents do not make this desire possible.

If we see that children want it, that they have the desire to go, this seems to me almost a sacrament of desire, the "will" to participate in Sunday Mass. In this sense, we naturally must do our best in the context of preparation for the sacraments to reach the parents as well, and thus to -- let us say -- awaken in them too a sensitivity to the process in which their child is involved.

They should help their children to follow their own desire to enter into friendship with Jesus, which is a form of life, of the future. If parents want their children to be able to make their first Communion, this somewhat social desire must be extended into a religious one, to make a journey with Jesus possible.

I would say, therefore, that in the context of the catechesis of children, that work with parents is very important. And this is precisely one of the opportunities to meet with parents, making the life of faith also present to the adults, because, it seems to me, they themselves can relearn the faith from the children and understand that this great solemnity is only meaningful, true and authentic if it is celebrated in the context of a journey with Jesus, in the context of a life of faith.

Thus, one should endeavor to convince parents, through their children, of the need for a preparatory journey that is expressed in participation in the mysteries and that begins to make these mysteries loved.

I would say that this is definitely an inadequate answer, but the pedagogy of faith is always a journey and we must accept today's situations. Yet, we must also open them more to each person, so that the result is not only an external memory of things that endures but that their hearts that have truly been touched.

The moment when we are convinced the heart is touched -- it has felt a little of Jesus' love, it has felt a little the desire to move along these lines and in this direction -- that is the moment when, it seems to me, we can say that we have made a true catechesis. The proper meaning of catechesis, in fact, must be this: to bring the flame of Jesus' love, even if it is a small one, to the hearts of children, and through the children to their parents, thus reopening the places of faith of our time.

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Papal Visit to Birthplace of St. Joseph Freinademetz
"All Cultures Are Waiting for Christ"

OIES, Italy, AUG. 22, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Aug. 5 upon visiting the birthplace of St. Joseph Freinademetz.

Joseph Freinademetz (1852-1908) joined the Society of the Divine Word in 1878. He lived in China for 29 years and is known for his work in that country. He was canonized in 2003.

As a memento of his visit, Benedict XVI wrote in the guest book at the birthplace: "Through the intercession of St. Joseph, may the Lord grant many spiritual vocations and open China ever more to faith in Jesus Christ."

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am deeply moved by this very warm welcome that I have encountered here, and I can only say thank you with all my heart. And I thank the Lord who has given us this great Saint, St Joseph Freinademetz, who shows us the path to life and also is a sign for the Church's future. He is a very modern Saint: we know that China is becoming increasingly significant in political and economic life and also in the life of ideas. It is important that this great country open itself to the Gospel.

And St Joseph Freinademetz shows us that faith does not mean alienation for any culture, for any people, because all cultures are waiting for Christ and are not destroyed by the Lord: indeed, [in him] they reach their maturity.

St Joseph Freinademetz, as we have heard, not only wanted to live and die as a Chinese, but also wanted to be Chinese in Heaven: thus he identified in spirit with this people, in the certainty that it would open itself to faith in Jesus Christ.

Let us now pray that this great Saint may be an encouragement for all of us to live anew the life of faith in our time, to journey towards Christ because Christ alone can unite peoples, can unite cultures; and let us also pray that Christ will give numerous young people the courage to devote their lives totally to the Lord and to his Gospel.

However, I cannot say anything other than simply "thank you" to the Lord who gave us this Saint, and "thank you" to all of you for your welcome which shows me that the Church is still visibly alive today and that faith is the joy that unites us and guides us on the path of life.

My thanks to you all!

[This was followed by a prayer in Ladin, the Rhaeto-Romance dialect of the Engadine in Switzerland, the Our Father and the Benediction. The Holy Father then said:]

Thank you! May the Lord Bless you all!

[And he concluded:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I would simply like to say thank you for coming. I heard that some of you waited for hours: thank you for your patience and your courage. May the Lord bless you all. And naturally I cordially greet all the German-speaking people present: may God reward you all, may the Lord's Blessing be with you all. May God reward you!

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On the Saints

"They Represent for Us a Real Path of Access to Jesus"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 20, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today during the weekly general audience, held at Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Every day the Church offers for our consideration one or more saints and blesseds whom we can invoke and imitate. This week, for example, we remember some who are much loved by popular devotion.

Yesterday, St. John Eudes who, in face of the rigor of the Jansenists -- we are talking about the 17th century -- promoted a tender devotion, whose inextinguishable sources, he indicated, are in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Today we remember Bernard of Clairvaux, whom Pope Pius VIII called "mellifluous doctor" because he was outstanding in "distilling from the biblical texts the meaning hidden in them." Events led this mystic, desirous of living submerged in the "luminous valley" of contemplation, to travel through Europe to serve the Church in the needs of his time and to defend the Christian doctrine. He has also been described as "Marian doctor," not because he wrote very much on the Mother of God, but because he was able to understand her essential role in the Church, presenting her as the perfect model of monastic life and of every form of Christian life.

Tomorrow we will remember St. Pius X, who lived in a tormented historical period. Of him John Paul II said, when he visited his birthplace in 1985: "He fought and suffered for the freedom of the Church and for this freedom he offered his willingness to sacrifice privileges and honors, to face misunderstandings and ridicule, as he valued this freedom as the ultimate guarantee for the integrity and coherence of the faith" (Teachings of John Paul II, VIII, 1, 1985, page 1818).

Next Friday will be dedicated to the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, memorial instituted by the Servant of God Pius XII in 1955, and which the liturgical renewal, desired by Vatican Council II, established as complement to the festivity of the Assumption, given that both privileges form only one mystery.

Finally, on Saturday we will pray to St. Rose of Lima, the first canonized saint of the Latin American continent, of which she is the principal patron. St. Rose often repeated: "If men knew what it is to live in grace, they would not be afraid of any suffering and would suffer gladly any sorrow, because grace is the fruit of patience." She died at 31 in 1617, after a brief life full of privations and sufferings, on the feast of the Apostle St. Bartholomew, to whom she was very devoted, because he had suffered a particularly painful martyrdom.

Dear brothers and sisters, day after day the Church offers us the possibility to walk in company of the saints. Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that the saints constitute the most important commentary of the Gospel, their actualization in the day-to-day routine and, therefore, they represent for us a real path of access to Jesus. The writer Jean Guitton described them as "the colors of the spectrum in relation with the light," because with their own hues and accents each one of them reflects the light of God's holiness. How important and advantageous, therefore, is the determination to cultivate the knowledge and devotion of the saints, together with the daily meditation of the word of God and filial love for the Virgin!

The period of vacation is certainly a useful time to review the biography and writings of some men or women saints in particular, but each day of the year offers us the opportunity to become familiar with our heavenly patrons. Their human and spiritual experience shows that holiness is not a luxury, it is not the privilege of a few, an impossible goal for a normal man. In reality, it is the common destiny of all men called to be children of God, the universal vocation of all those who are baptized. Holiness is offered to all.

Naturally, not all the saints are the same. They are, in fact, as I have said, the spectrum of divine light. And one who possesses extraordinary charisms is not necessarily a great saint. The name of many of them is known only by God, because on earth they seemed to have lived a very normal life. And it is precisely these "normal" saints that God usually wants. Their example testifies that, only when one is in contact with the Lord, is one full of peace and joy and in this way it is possible to spread everywhere serenity, hope and optimism. Considering precisely the variety of their charisms, Bernanos, great French writer who was always fascinated by the idea of the saints -- he quotes many of them in his novels -- points out that every saint's life is like "a new flowering of spring." May this also happen to us! Let us allow ourselves to be attracted by the supernatural fascination of holiness! May Mary, Queen of all Saints, Mother and refuge of sinners obtain this grace for us!

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Aug. 10 Angelus Address
"The Lord Is Continuously Holding Out His Hand to Us"

BRESSANONE, Italy, AUG. 20, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 10 before reciting the midday Angelus with those gathered in the Cathedral Square at Bressanone.

The Holy Father was on vacation in the Dolomites, where he stayed at the major seminary of Bressanone.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

There is a point in Mark's Gospel where he recounts that after days of stress the Lord said to the disciples: "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (6: 31). And since the Word of Christ is never connected solely to the moment in which it was spoken I have applied this invitation to the disciples also to myself, and I came to this beautiful, tranquil place to rest for a while.

I must thank Bishop Egger and all his collaborators, the whole City and Region of Bressanone, for preparing this beautiful quiet place for me in which, during the past two weeks I have been able to relax, to think of God and of humanity, and thus to recover fresh energy. May God reward you!

I ought to thank many individuals but I shall do something simpler: I commend you all to God's Blessing. He knows each one of you by name and his Blessing will touch each of you personally. I ask this with all my heart, and may it be my "thank you" to you all!

This Sunday's Gospel brings us back from this place of rest to daily life. It tells how, after the multiplication of the loaves, the Lord withdraws to the mountain to be alone with the Father. In the meantime, the disciples are on the lake and with their poor little boat are endeavoring in vain to stand up to a contrary wind.

To the Evangelist this episode may have seemed an image of the Church of his time: like the small barque which was the Church of that period, he found himself buffeted by the contrary wind of history and it may have seemed that the Lord had forgotten him.

We too can see this as an image of the Church of our time which in many parts of the earth finds herself struggling to make headway in spite of the contrary wind, and it seems the Lord is very remote.

But the Gospel gives us an answer, consolation and encouragement and at the same time points out a path to us. It tells us, in fact: yes, it is true, the Lord is with the Father but for this very reason he is not distant but sees everyone, for whoever is with God does not go away but is close to his neighbour.

And, in fact, the Lord sees them and at the proper time comes towards them. And when Peter, who was going to meet him, risks drowning, the Lord takes him by the hand and brings him to safety on the boat.

The Lord is continuously holding out his hand to us too. He does so through the beauty of a Sunday; he does so through the solemn liturgy; he does so in the prayer with which we address him; he does so in the encounter with the Word of God; he does so in many situations of daily life - he holds his hand out to us. And only if we take the Lord's hand, if we let ourselves be guided by him, will the path we take be right and good.

For this reason let us pray to him that we may succeed ever anew in finding his hand. And at the same time, this implies an exhortation: that, in his Name we hold our own hand out to others, to those in need of it, to lead them through the waters of our history.

In these days, dear friends, I have also been thinking over my experience in Sydney, where I encountered the joyful faces of so many young men and women from every part of the world. So it was that a reflection on this event developed in me which I would like to share with you.

In the great metropolis of the young Australian nation, those youth were a sign of authentic joy, at times boisterous but always peaceful and positive. Although they were so numerous, they caused neither disorder nor damage of any kind. In order to be happy they did not need to have recourse to vulgar or violent ways, to alcohol or narcotics.

In them was the joy of meeting one another and of discovering a new world together. How is it possible not to compare them to their peers who, in search of false escapes, have degrading experiences that all too often result in overwhelming tragedies? This is a typical product of today's so-called "society of well-being", which, to fill inner emptiness and the boredom that goes with it induces people to try new experiences, more exciting, more "extreme".

Even holidays risk evaporating into a vain pursuit of mirages of pleasure. Yet in this way the spirit does not rest, the heart does not find joy or peace; on the contrary, it ends even wearier and sadder than it was at the start.

I have referred to young people because it is they who thirst most after life and new experiences and are therefore the most at risk.

The reflection, however, applies to us all: the human person is truly regenerated only in the relationship with God and God is encountered by learning to listen to his voice in inner stillness and silence (cf. 1 Kgs 19: 12).

Let us pray that in a society where everyone is always in a rush, holidays may be days of true relaxation during which it is possible to carve out times for recollection and prayer that are indispensable in order to rediscover in depth both oneself and others. We ask this through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Virgin of silence and listening.

[After the Angelus the Pope said:]

A cause of deep anguish is the ever more dramatic news of the tragic events in Georgia that, starting in the region of South Ossetia, have already taken many innocent victims and forced a large number of civilians to abandon their homes.

I earnestly hope that military operations will immediately cease and that, also in the name of the common Christian heritage, people will abstain from further confrontations and violent reprisals that could degenerate into a conflict on a far larger scale.

May the way of negotiation and respectful and constructive dialogue be taken instead and thereby spare those beloved peoples further suffering that tears them apart.

I likewise ask the International Community and the countries that are most influential in the current situation to make every effort to sustain and promote initiatives that aim to achieve a permanent peaceful solution, in favour of open and respectful coexistence.

Together with our Orthodox brethren, let us pray intensely for these intentions which we confidently entrust to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Jesus and of all Christians.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Assumption
"The Lord Humbles the Proud and Raises the Humble"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In the heart of what the Latins called "feriae Augusti," August holiday, from which stems the Italian word "ferragosto" -- the Church celebrates today the Assumption of the Virgin into heaven in soul and body. In the Bible, the last reference to her earthly life is found at the beginning of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, which presents the Virgin Mary gathered in prayer with the disciples in the Cenacle in anticipation of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14).

Subsequently, a twofold tradition -- in Jerusalem and Ephesus -- attests to her "dormition," as the East says, that is, her "falling asleep" in God. That was the event that preceded her passage from earth to heaven, confessed by the uninterrupted faith of the Church. In the eighth century, for example, John Damascene, great doctor of the Eastern Church, established a direct relation between Mary's "dormition" and Jesus' death, affirming explicitly the truth of her corporal assumption. In a famous homily he wrote: "It was necessary that she who bore the Creator in her womb when he was a baby, should live with him in the tabernacles of heaven" (Second Homily on the Dormition, 14, PG 96, 741 B). As mentioned, this firm conviction of the Church found its crowning in the dogmatic definition of the Assumption, pronounced by my venerated predecessor Pius XII in the year 1950.

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, Mary Most Holy is always situated in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. In this perspective, "the Mother of Jesus, being in heaven, now glorified in body and soul, is the image and first fruits of the Church which will have its fulfillment in the age to come, now shines on the earth as a sign of sure hope and consolation for the people of God, pilgrims until the day when the Lord will return (cf. 2 Peter 3:10)" (Constitution "Lumen Gentium," 68). From paradise Our Lady always continues to watch over her children -- whom Jesus entrusted to her before dying on the cross -- especially in the difficult hours of trial. How many testimonies of her maternal solicitude one sees when visiting shrines dedicated to her! I am thinking especially at this moment of the singular world fortress of life and hope that is Lourdes, where, God willing, I will go in a month to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions that took place there.

Mary assumed into heaven shows us the ultimate end of our earthly pilgrimage. She reminds us that the whole of our being -- spirit, soul and body -- is destined to the fullness of life; that he who lives and dies in the love of God and of his neighbor will be transfigured in the image of the glorious body of the Risen Christ; that the Lord humbles the proud and raises the humble (cf. Luke 1:51-52). Our Lady proclaims this in eternity with the mystery of her Assumption. May you always be praised, O Virgin Mary!

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Aug. 17 Angelus Address
"Overcome Every Possible Temptation to Racism, Intolerance and Exclusion"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the liturgy proposes a reflection on the words of the prophet Isaiah: "And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him ... I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer ... for my house shall be called a house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:6-7). The Apostle Paul also makes reference to the universality of salvation in the second reading, as does the Gospel page that narrates the episode of the woman of Cana, a foreigner for the Jews, that Jesus listened to because of her great faith. The word of God thus offers us the opportunity to reflect on the universality of the mission of the Church, made up of peoples of all races and cultures. Indeed, herein lies the great responsibility of the ecclesial community, called to be a hospitable house for all, sign and instrument of communion for the whole human family.

How important it is, especially in our time, that every Christian community be ever more conscious of this, in order to help civil society to overcome every possible temptation to racism, intolerance and exclusion, and to organize itself with options that are respectful of the dignity of every human being! One of humanity's great victories is precisely the overcoming of racism. Unfortunately, however, there are new worrying manifestations of the latter, often linked to social and economic problems, which, however, can never justify contempt and racial discrimination. Let us pray that respect for every person will grow everywhere, together with the responsible awareness that only by the reciprocal acceptance of all is it possible to build a world marked by real justice and true peace.

Today I would like to propose another prayer intention, given the news we receive, especially during this period, of numerous road accidents. We must not get used to this sad reality! Human life is too precious and it is too unworthy of man to meet death or become an invalid due to causes that could mostly be avoided. There is certainly a need for a greater sense of responsibility, above all by drivers, as accidents are often caused by excessive speed and imprudent conduct. Driving on public roads calls for moral and civic sense. Indispensable to fostering this is authorities' constant endeavor to prevent, keep watch and restrict. Moreover, as the Church, we feel directly involved at the ethical level: Christians must above all make a personal examination of conscience on their own conduct as drivers; moreover, communities should educate everyone to consider traffic as a field in which life must be protected and love of neighbor concretely exercised.

Let us commend the social problems I have mentioned to the maternal intercession of Mary, whom we now invoke by praying the Angelus.

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

I am following with close attention and concern the situation in Georgia, and feel particularly close to the victims of the conflict. While I offer a special prayer for the repose of the souls of the deceased and express my sincere sympathy for all those in mourning, I appeal for generous relief of the serious harm that the refugees are suffering, especially the women and children, who are even lacking what is necessary to survive. I appeal for the opening, without delay, of humanitarian corridors between the region of South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia, so that the dead who are still abandoned, can received a worthy burial, that the wounded may be adequately attended and that those who so wish it be allowed to be reunited with their loved ones. Moreover, the ethnic minorities involved in the conflict must be guaranteed safety and the inviolability of their fundamental rights. I hope, finally, that the present cease-fire, agreed thanks to the contribution of the European Union, might be consolidated and be transformed into a stable peace. At the same time, I call upon the international community to continue offering its support to achieve a lasting solution, through dialogue and the good will of all.

[He continued in German and Italian:]

I received with profound sorrow the news of the unexpected death of Bishop Wilhelm Emil Egger of Bolzano-Bressanone. A few days ago I bade him farewell and I thought he was enjoying good health. Nothing led one to think of such a quick demise. I add my sympathy to that of his relatives and of the whole diocese, in which he was greatly appreciated and loved for his commitment and dedication. I raise a fervent prayer to the Lord for the eternal rest of this good and faithful servant, I send a special apostolic blessing of consolation to his brother -- a Capuchin religious -- to his other relatives, and to all the priests, men and women religious and faithful of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone.

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On Martyrs of Auschwitz
"Prayer Was the Secret"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Wednesday during the weekly general audience, held at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On my return from Bressanone, where I was able to spend a period of rest, I am happy to meet and greet you, dear residents of Castel Gandolfo and you, pilgrims, who have come today to visit me. I would like to thank again all those who have received me and looked after me during my sojourn in the mountains. They have been days of peaceful relaxation, during which I have not ceased to entrust to the Lord all those who have asked me for my prayers.

And there are so many who wrote me requesting me to pray for them. They expressed their joys to me but also their worries, their life plans, but also their family and work problems, their heartfelt expectations and hopes as well as the anxieties connected with the uncertainty that humanity is experiencing at this time. I can assure each and all of you of my remembrance, especially in the daily celebration of Holy Mass and in the recitation of the holy rosary. I know well that the first service I can render the Church and humanity is, in fact, prayer, because by praying I confidently place in the Lord's hands the ministry that he himself has entrusted to me, together with the destiny of the whole ecclesial and civil community.

Those who pray never lose hope, even when they find themselves in difficult and even humanly desperate situations. Sacred Scripture teaches us this and it is attested in the history of the Church. How many examples, in fact, we can recall of situations in which it was precisely prayer that sustained the journey of saints of the Christian people! Among the testimonies of our age I would like to mention that of two saints whose memory we recall these days: Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, whose feast we celebrated Aug. 9, and Maximilian Mary Kolbe, whom we remember tomorrow, Aug. 14, vigil of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Both ended their earthly life with martyrdom in the Auschwitz concentration camp. It would seem that their existence could be regarded as a defeat, but it is precisely in their martyrdom that the brilliance of Love shines which conquers the darkness of egoism and hatred. Attributed to St. Maximilian Kolbe are the following words which it is said he pronounced at the height of the Nazi persecution: "Hatred is not a creative force: Love alone is." Heroic proof of love was his generous offer of himself instead of a prison companion, an offer that culminated in death in a starvation bunker on Aug. 14, 1941.

On Aug. 6 of the following year, three days before her tragic end, Edith Stein approached some of the sisters of her convent in Echt, Holland, and said to them: "I am ready for anything. Jesus is also here in our midst. Up to now I have been able to pray very well and have said with all my heart: 'Ave, crux, spes unica.'" Witnesses who succeeded in fleeing from the terrible massacre recounted that Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, while dressed in the Carmelite habit, and moving consciously toward death, was outstanding for her peaceful conduct and her serene attitude, and her calm behavior and attention to the needs of all. Prayer was the secret of this saint, co-patroness of Europe, that "even after being led to the truth in the peace of the contemplative life, had to live to the fullest the mystery of the Cross" (Apostolic Letter "Spes Aedificandi," Teachings of John Paul II, XX, 2, 1999, page 511).

"Ave Maria!" was the last invocation on the lips of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe while he extended his hand to the one who was killing him by injecting him with carbolic acid. It is moving to see how humble and trusting recourse to Our Lady is always the source of courage and serenity.

While we prepare to celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption, which is one of the most cherished Marian feasts of the Christian tradition, let us renew our trust in her who from heaven watches over us with maternal love at every moment. We say this, in fact, in the familiar prayer of the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us "now and at the hour of our death."

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On World Youth Day
"It Was Like a Multicolored Mosaic"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 27, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.
* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On Monday I returned from Sydney, Australia, the site of the 23rd World Youth Day. I still have this extraordinary occasion, in which I experienced the youthful face of the Church, on my mind and in my heart: It was like a multicolored mosaic, formed by young men and women from every part of the globe, all gathered together in the one faith in Jesus Christ.

““Young pilgrims of the world”” -- this is what the people called them, a beautiful expression that captures the essential in these international meetings initiated by John Paul II. These gatherings in fact form the stages of a great pilgrimage across the world, to show how faith in Christ makes us all children of one Father who is in heaven and builders of a civilization of love.

The awareness of the Holy Spirit, protagonist of the life of the Church and of each Christian, was characteristic of the meeting in Sydney. The long journey of preparation in the local Churches followed the theme of these words of the risen Christ to the apostles: ““You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Has Come Upon You and You Will be My Witnesses”” (Acts 1:8).

On July 16-18, in churches of Sydney, the numerous bishops exercised their office, proposing catechesis in various languages: These catecheses were moments of reflection and recollection that were indispensable for making the event one that, instead of being a merely external manifestation, would leave a deep impression on the conscience.

The evening vigil, in the heart of the city, beneath the Southern Cross, was a choral invocation of the Holy Spirit; and at the end, during the large Eucharistic celebration last Sunday, I administered the sacrament of confirmation to 24 young people from different continents, 14 of whom were Australian, inviting all present to renew their baptismal vows.

In this way World Youth Day was transformed into a new Pentecost, from which the mission of the young people, called to be apostles to their contemporaries, was relaunched. They are following in the footsteps of many young saints and blessed, in particular Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati, whose relics, brought to the cathedral of Sydney, were venerated by an uninterrupted pilgrimage of young people. Every young man and woman was invited to follow the example of the young saints and blessed, to share the personal experience of Jesus, who changes the life of his ““friends”” with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the love of God.

Today I would again like to thank the bishops of Australia, especially the archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal [George] Pell, for the extensive preparatory work and for the cordial welcome they offered me and all the other pilgrims. I thank all the Australian civil authorities for their precious collaboration. All those, in every part of the world, who prayed for this event, assuring its success, will certainly receive a special grace.
May the Virgin Mary dispense the most beautiful graces to everyone. I also entrust to Mary the period of rest that I will have beginning tomorrow in Bressanone in the mountains of Alto Adige. Let us remain united in prayer!

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

I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who are here today and I wish you all a pleasant stay in Italy. This Sunday’’s Gospel reminds us that we should treasure above all else the faith that has been given to us. I pray that your visit to Rome and the surrounding area will help you to deepen your faith and to grow in your love for our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you all!

[In Italian, he said:]

I would now like to greet the Italian pilgrims and, in particular, the large group of participants in the General Assembly of the Focolare movement.

While I rejoice over the election of new leaders for the movement, I exhort all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to follow with joy and courage the path of Chiara Lubich's spiritual heritage, which is gathered in your statutes, increasing more and more the relationships of communion in the family, community and in every ambit of society. [...]

I greet all those who are vacationing now, wishing them serene days of profitable physical and spiritual leisure. However, I do not forget those who cannot benefit from a time of rest and vacation: My thoughts turn to the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, to those in prison, to the elderly, to those who are alone, and those who are passing the summer in the heat of the city. To all of you I assure my affectionate nearness and a remembrance in my prayer.
May you all have a good Sunday!

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Papal Message for World Mission Sunday
"Servants and Apostles of Christ Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 24, 2008 - Here is Benedict XVI's message for the 82nd World Mission Sunday, to be celebrated Oct. 19.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the World Mission Day, I would like to invite you to reflect on the continuing urgency to proclaim the Gospel also in our times. The missionary mandate continues to be an absolute priority for all baptized persons who are called to be "servants and apostles of Christ Jesus" at the beginning of this millennium. My venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, already stated in the Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi": "Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity" (n. 14). As a model of this apostolic commitment, I would like to point to St Paul in particular, the Apostle of the nations, because this year we are celebrating a special Jubilee dedicated to him. It is the Pauline Year which offers us the opportunity to become familiar with this famous Apostle who received the vocation to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles, according to what the Lord had announced to him: "Go, I shall send you far away to the Gentiles" (Acts 22: 21). How can we not take the opportunity that this special Jubilee offers to the local Churches, the Christian communities and the individual faithful to propagate the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the world, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Cf. Rm 1: 16)?

Humanity is in need of liberation

Humanity needs to be liberated and redeemed. Creation itself - as St Paul says - suffers and nurtures the hope that it will share in the freedom of the children of God (cf. Rm 8: 19-22). These words are true in today's world too. Creation is suffering. Creation is suffering and waiting for real freedom; it is waiting for a different, better world; it is waiting for "redemption". And deep down it knows that this new world that is awaited supposes a new man; it supposes "children of God".
Let us take a closer look at the situation of today's world. While, on the one hand, the international panorama presents prospects for promising economic and social development, on the other it brings some great concerns to our attention about the very future of man. Violence, in many cases, marks the relations between persons and peoples. Poverty oppresses millions of inhabitants. Discrimination and sometimes even persecution for racial, cultural and religious reasons drive many people to flee from their own countries in order to seek refuge and protection elsewhere. Technological progress, when it is not aimed at the dignity and good of man or directed towards solidarity-based development, loses its potentiality as a factor of hope and runs the risk, on the contrary, of increasing already existing imbalances and injustices. There is, moreover, a constant threat regarding the man-environment relation due to the indiscriminate use of resources, with repercussions on the physical and mental health of human beings. Humanity's future is also put at risk by the attempts on his life, which take on various forms and means.

Before this scenario, "buffeted between hope and anxiety... and burdened down with uneasiness" ("Gaudium et Spes", n. 4), with concern we ask ourselves: What will become of humanity and creation? Is there hope for the future, or rather, is there a future for humanity? And what will this future be like? The answer to these questions comes to those of us who believe from the Gospel. Christ is our future, and as I wrote in the Encyclical Letter "Spe Salvi", his Gospel is a "life-changing" communication that gives hope, throws open the dark door of time and illuminates the future of humanity and the university (cf. n. 2).

St Paul had understood well that only in Christ can humanity find redemption and hope. Therefore, he perceived that the mission was pressing and urgent to proclaim "the promise of life in Christ Jesus" (2 Tm 1: 1), "our hope" (1 Tm 1: 1), so that all peoples could be co-heirs and co-partners in the promise through the Gospel (cf. Eph 3: 6). He was aware that without Christ humanity is "without hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2: 12) - "without hope because they were without God" ("Spe Salvi," n. 3). In fact, "anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2: 12)" (ibid., n. 27).

The Mission is a question of love

It is therefore an urgent duty for everyone to proclaim Christ and his saving message. St Paul said, "Woe to me if I do not preach it [the Gospel]!" (1 Cor 9: 16). On the way to Damascus he had experienced and understood that the redemption and the mission are the work of God and his love. Love of Christ led him to travel over the roads of the Roman Empire as a herald, an apostle, a preacher and a teacher of the Gospel of which he declared himself to be an "ambassador in chains" (Eph 6: 20). Divine charity made him "all things to all, to save at least some" (1 Cor 9: 22). By looking at St Paul's experience, we understand that missionary activity is a response to the love with which God loves us. His love redeems us and prods us to the missio ad gentes. It is the spiritual energy that can make the harmony, justice and communion grow among persons, races and peoples to which everyone aspires (cf. "Deus Caritas Est", n. 12). So it is God, who is Love, who leads the Church towards the frontiers of humanity and calls the evangelizers to drink "from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God" ("Deus Caritas Est", n. 7). Only from this source can care, tenderness, compassion, hospitality, availability and interest in people's problems be drawn, as well as the other virtues necessary for the messengers of the Gospel to leave everything and dedicate themselves completely and unconditionally to spreading the perfume of Christ's charity around the world.

Evangelize always

While the first evangelization continues to be necessary and urgent in many regions of the world, today a shortage of clergy and a lack of vocations afflict various Dioceses and Institutes of consecrated life. It is important to reaffirm that even in the presence of growing difficulties, Christ's command to evangelize all peoples continues to be a priority. No reason can justify its slackening or stagnation because "the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church" (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi", n. 14). It is a mission that "is still only beginning and we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service" (John Paul II, Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio", n. 1). How can we not think here of the Macedonian who appeared to Paul in a dream and cried, "Will you come by to Macedonia to help us?". Today there are countless people who are waiting for the proclamation of the Gospel, those who are thirsting for hope and love. There are so many who let themselves be questioned deeply by this request for aid that rises up from humanity, who leave everything for Christ and transmit faith and love for Him to people! (cf. "Spe Salvi", n. 8).

Woe to me if I do not preach it! (1 Cor 9: 16)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, "duc in altum"! Let us set sail in the vast sea of the world and, following Jesus' invitation, let us cast our nets without fear, confident in his constant aid. St Paul reminds us that to preach the Gospel is no reason to boast (cf. 1 Cor 9: 16), but rather a duty and a joy. Dear brother Bishops, following Paul's example, many each one feel like "a prisoner of Christ for the Gentiles" (Eph 3: 1), knowing that you can count on the strength that comes to us from him in difficulties and trials. A Bishop is consecrated not only for his diocese, but for the salvation of the whole world (cf. Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio", n. 63). Like the Apostle Paul, a Bishop is called to reach out to those who are far away and do not know Christ yet or have still not experienced his liberating love. A Bishop's commitment is to make the whole diocesan community missionary by contributing willingly, according to the possibilities, to sending priests and laypersons to other Churches for the evangelization service. In this way, the missio ad gentes becomes the unifying and converging principle of its entire pastoral and charitable activity.

You, dear priests, the Bishops' first collaborators, be generous pastors and enthusiastic evangelizers! Many of you in these past decades have gone to the mission territories following the Encyclical "Fidei Donum" whose 50th anniversary we celebrated recently, and with which my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Pius XII, gave an impulse to cooperation between the Churches. I am confident that this missionary tension in the local Churches will not be lacking, despite the lack of clergy that afflicts many of them.

And you, dear men and women religious, whose vocation is marked by a strong missionary connotation, bring the proclamation of the Gospel to everyone, especially those who are far away, through consistent witness to Christ and radical following of his Gospel. Dear faithful laity, you who act in the different areas of society are all called to take part in an increasingly important way in spreading the Gospel. A complex and multiform areopagus thus opens up before you to be evangelized: the world. Give witness with your lives that Christians "belong to a new society which is the goal of their common pilgrimage and which is anticipated in the course of that pilgrimage" ("Spe Salvi", n. 4).

Conclusion

Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the celebration of World Mission Day encourage everyone to take renewed awareness of the urgent need to proclaim the Gospel. I cannot fail to point out with sincere appreciation the contribution of the Pontifical Mission Societies to the Church's evangelizing activity. I thank them for the support they offer to all the Communities, especially the young ones. They are a valid instrument for animating and forming the People of God from a missionary viewpoint, and they nurture the communion of persons and goods between the different parts of the Mystical Body of Christ. May the collection that is taken in all the parishes on World Mission Day be a sign of communion and mutual concern among the Churches. Lastly, may prayer be intensified ever more in the Christian people, the essential spiritual means for spreading among all peoples the light of Christ, the "light par excellence" that illuminates "the darkness of history" ("Spe Salvi", n. 49). As I entrust to the Lord the apostolic work of the missionaries, the Churches all over the world and the faithful involved in various missionary activities and invoke the intercession of the Apostle Paul and Holy Mary, "the living Ark of the Covenant", the Star of evangelization and hope, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to everyone.

From the Vatican, 11 May 2008

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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WATER: AN ESSENTIAL GOOD GIVEN BY GOD TO MAINTAIN LIFE

 VATICAN CITY, 15 JULY 2008 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father's message to Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, representative of the Holy See for the "Day of the Holy See" at the International Expo of Saragossa (Spain), was made public. The message, written in Spanish, is dated 10 July.

   "I am pleased to send a message of faith and hope", the Pope writes, "to those who are visiting the 2008 Saragossa Expo dedicated to the complex themes tied to the importance of water for human life and the maintenance of equilibrium among the diverse elements of our world. The Holy See wanted to be present at the Expo with a pavilion that was jointly prepared with the archdiocese of Saragossa, which I thank for their generous commitment to promoting proper cultural initiatives that draw the visitor closer to the immense patrimony of spirituality, art, and social wisdom that is inspired by water and which has been safeguarded by the Catholic Church".

  "We have to be aware that, regrettably, water - an essential and indispensable good that the Lord has given us to maintain and develop life -, because of incursions and pressures from various social factors, is today considered a good that must be especially protected through clear national and international policies and used according to sensible criteria of solidarity and responsibility. The use of water - which is seen as a universal and inalienable right - is related to the growing and urgent needs of those living in poverty, keeping in mind that the 'limited access to drinkable water affects the wellbeing of an enormous number of people and is frequently the cause of illness, suffering, conflict, poverty, and also death'".

   "Those who consider water today to be a predominantly material good", the Pope concludes, "should not forget the religious meanings that believers, and Christianity above all, have developed from it, giving it great value as a precious immaterial good that always enriches human life on this earth. How can we not recall in this circumstance the suggestive message that comes to us from Sacred Scripture, which treats water as a symbol of purification and life? The full recovery of this spiritual dimension is ensured and presupposed for a proper approach to the ethical, political, and economic problems that affect the complex management of water on the part of all concerned, as well as in the national and international spheres".


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We Are Falling Short on the Commitments We Made"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is letter British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent in May to Benedict XVI on the progress of the Millennium Development Goals. The letter and the Pope's response were released Sunday by the prime ministers office.

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Prime minister's letter to Benedict XVI

Your Holiness,

I read with great interest your speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on 18 April. You spoke powerfully of the challenges facing our world and the responsibility on all of us in positions of leadership to act together to promote solidarity in the most fragile regions of the world. You also spoke of the development goals. As things stand today, we are not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We are falling short on the commitments we made back in 2000.

The United Kingdom and the Holy See can point to a strong relationship on the issue of international development over the years. In 2004, Pope John Paul II was the first world leader to support the International Finance Facility. In November 2006, Your Holiness, you bought the first International Immunisation Bond and Cardinals Martino, Murphy-O'Connor and O'Brien represented you at the launch in London. The Bond issue raised over $4 Billion and will immunise 500 million children between 2006 and 2015 - leading to 5 million children being saved. Again on 9 February 2007, you greeted me and my colleagues from Italy, Canada, the President of the World Bank and the Queen of Jordan, at the launch of the Advanced Market Commitment which aims to fund research into finding vaccines for diseases which primarily affect the developing world.

On 6 June 2007, Your Holiness, you called on the developed world to work to attain the MDGs. You called for serious efforts to be made to reach these objectives. You highlighted the unique contribution that faith groups play in the field of international development and often in the poorest of countries. Faith communities are essential to achieving the MDGs for in many parts of the world it is faith communities which provide many of the essential services, especially in the fields of health and education. Without their contribution, and in particular the agencies of the Catholic Church, we will not be able to achieve the MDGs.

On 31 July 2007, at the United Nations in New York, the UN Secretary General and I called for a renewed focus on the Millennium Development Goals so that we could deliver on the pledges we made in 2000. The Holy See again was among the first to welcome this call when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, under the leadership of Cardinal Martino and in consultation with Archbishop Mamberti, issued a press release welcoming the renewed focus on the MDGs.

We are taking this challenge forward under the leadership of the UN Secretary General and the President of the General Assembly. Later this year on 25 September, at the UN in New York, they will convene a High Level Meeting focused on the MDGs will be convened. It will involve UN Member States, faith groups, the private sector, NGOs and other actors from within civil society. The summit will review progress and decide on concrete measures so that we are able to deliver on the goals by 2015.

Your Holiness, I know that you are deeply committed to achieving the MDGs. We are looking to the EU, G8, regional meetings across the world, in particular the 25 September UN Summit, to galvanise the international community to accelerate progress on the MDGs. I believe that without concerted action this year, the MDGs will slide down the political agenda and the opportunity to deliver on our promises to the developing world will be lost for another generation. We are determined to prevent this and are building a global coalition to ensure that we live up to the pledges we made back in 2000. Your Holiness, I sincerely hope that again you will lend your voice to these efforts in the weeks and months ahead.

Your Holiness, I hope that in the coming months I will be able to call on you at the Vatican and to continue our close co-operation on international development.

Gordon Brown

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Pope's Response the British Prime Minister
"Globalize the Expectations of Solidarity"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2008 - Here is Benedict XVI's response to British Prime Minister Gordon's May letter on the Millennium Development Goals. The letter was sent June 18 via Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state. Brown's letter and the Pope's response were released Sunday by the prime ministers office.

* * *

Dear Prime Minister,

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has received your kind letter of 23 May 2008, and has asked me to respond in his name, thanking you for your courtesy and assuring you that he has taken due note of your comments. In your letter you recall certain practical initiatives in the realm of international cooperation undertaken recently by the British Government and the Holy See for the benefit of poor countries. At the same time you propose the creation of a broad international coalition with a view to honouring the commitments made in 2000 and, consequently, attaining the MDGs by the year 2015.

In this regard, I wish to refer to His Holiness' Message of 3 June 2008 to the FAO summit on food security, in which he asked for a courageous effort to "globalise the expectations of solidarity". In this way it is hoped that due attention will be given to respect for human dignity in all negotiations, all decisions and in the manner of their implementation, so that the fruits of creation will be available to all people, and to all future generations. Only a deeply-felt and responsible sense of generosity will ensure that the MDGs are reached within the projected time scale.

The Holy Father prays that the important international meetings planned for the second half of the present year will be able to provide an effective response to the economic crises afflicting several regions of the planet, and put into effect a concerted international plan of action aimed at freeing the world from extreme poverty, from the scourge of hunger and from the chronic lack of general medical care.

With sentiments of esteem, I avail myself of the opportunity to extend my own good wishes to you personally and in your duties as Prime Minister.

Tarcisio Card. Bertone
Secretary of State

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Plenary Indulgence Offered for Youth Day
And Partial One for Faithful Who Pray for Sydney Event

VATICAN CITY, JULY 7, 2008 - Benedict XVI is offering a plenary indulgence for those who participate in Sydney's World Youth Day this month and a partial indulgence for those who support it with their prayers.

The conditions for the indulgences were made public in a statement Saturday signed by Cardinal James Francis Stafford and Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, respectively penitentiary major and regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary.

Benedict XVI will grant a plenary indulgence to faithful who "gather at Sydney, Australia, in the spirit of pilgrimage" to participate in celebrations for the 23rd World Youth Day, and partial indulgence to "all those who, wherever they are, will pray for the spiritual goals of this meeting and for its happy outcome," the decree said.

"Indeed, young people gathered around the Vicar of Christ will participate in the sacred functions and above all have recourse to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist," it added. "In the sacraments received with a sincere and humble heart, they will earnestly desire to strengthen themselves in the Spirit, and, confirmed by the chrism of salvation, will openly witness the faith before others even to the ends of the earth. May God grant that the very presence of the Supreme Pontiff among the young people gathered in Sydney express and render it such."

The typical conditions for indulgences must also be fulfilled.

The decree explained: "The plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful who will devotedly participate at some sacred function or pious exercise taking place during the 23rd World Youth Day, including its solemn conclusion, so that, having received the sacrament of reconciliation and being truly repentant, they receive holy Communion and devoutly pray according to the intentions of His Holiness.

"The partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, wherever they are during the above-mentioned meeting, if, at least with a contrite spirit, they will raise their prayer to God the Holy Spirit, so that young people are drawn to charity and given the strength to proclaim the Gospel with their life.

"So that all the faithful may more easily obtain these heavenly gifts, priests who have received legitimate approval to hear sacramental confessions, should welcome them with a ready and generous spirit and suggest public prayers to the faithful, for the success of the same World Youth Day."

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On Youth Day and the G-8
"The Holy Spirit Infuses the Capacity to Be Witnesses of Jesus"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 6, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.
* * *
[Before the Angelus]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all I would like to greet affectionately the authorities and entire civil and ecclesial community of Castel Gandolfo, who, during my stay, always give me a cordial and caring reception.
My thoughts already go to Australia where, God willing, I will travel next Saturday, July 12. In Sydney, in fact, in the southeast of the country, the 23rd World Youth Day will take place. In past months, the "young people's cross" has been taken all over Oceania and in Sydney it will be once again a silent witness of the pact of alliance between the Lord Jesus Christ and the new generations. Foreseen for July 15 is the welcome celebration for youth. The great vigil will take place on the 19th and the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday the 20th, the culminating and concluding moment of the event.

The Australian episcopal conference has planned everything carefully, at all times supported by the collaboration of the civil authorities. The first groups of young men and women from other continents are already leaving for Australia. I invite the whole Church to share in this new stage of the great pilgrimage of young people across the world, begun in 1985 by the Servant of God John Paul II.

The forthcoming World Youth Day is proclaimed as a new Pentecost. In fact, the Christian communities have been preparing following the path I indicated in the message with the theme "You Will Receive Power When the Holy Spirit Has Come Upon You; and You Will Be My Witnesses " (Acts 1:8). It is the promise Jesus made to his disciples after the resurrection, and which remains always valid and actual in the Church: The Holy Spirit, awaited and received in prayer, infuses in believers the capacity to be witnesses of Jesus and his Gospel.

Blowing on the Church's sail, the divine Spirit pushes her to "go into the deep," always anew, from generation to generation, to take to everyone the Good News of the love of God, revealed fully in Jesus Christ, dead and resurrected for us. I am certain that from all the corners of the earth Catholics will be united with me and with all the young people gathered -- as in the Cenacle -- in Sydney, intensely invoking the Holy Spirit so that he will flood hearts with the inner light of love of God and of brothers, and of courageous initiative to introduce Jesus' eternal message in the diversity of languages and cultures.

Along with the cross, the icon of the Virgin Mary accompanies the World Youth Days. We entrust to her maternal protection this trip to Australia and the meeting with young people in Sydney. Moreover, on this first Sunday of July, I wish to invoke the intercession of Mary so that the summer season might offer everyone the occasion for a time of rest and physical and spiritual renewal.

[After the Angelus]

Tomorrow, July 7, the heads of state of member countries of the G-8, together with other leaders of the world, will meet in Japan for their annual summit. In recent days numerous voices have been raised -- among them those of the presidents of the episcopal conferences of the involved nations -- to appeal for the carrying out of the commitments assumed in previous G-8 meetings, and to adopt all the measures necessary to overcome the scourge of extreme poverty, hunger, sicknesses and illiteracy that still affect a great part of humanity.

I also join myself to this solemn call to solidarity! Therefore, I address the participants in the Hokkaido-Toyako meeting, so that at the heart of their deliberations they will put the needs of the weakest and poorest peoples, whose vulnerability has increased because of speculation and financial turbulence and its adverse effects on the price of food and energy. I hope that generosity and foresight will help them to make decisions in regard to relaunching an equitable process of integral development to safeguard human dignity.

I greet affectionately the children and those accompanying them who are participating in the "International Festival of Children Artists 2008," organized by the "Soong Ching Ling Foundation of Italy." Love, concord, harmony and solidarity are the values that you want to promote in China and in the rest of the countries of the world. Art and culture can unite peoples. Children represent the future of the human family and, hence, are called in their own right to build a more beautiful and more human world. Your presence allows me to send good wishes of peace and joy to all your contemporaries in China and in the world.

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Pope to Priests, Deacons and Seminarians of Brindisi
"Place Yourselves With Ever Growing Openness at the Service of the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 15 address Benedict XVI to the priests, deacons and seminarians of the Archdiocese of Brindisi at the city's cathedral.

* * *

Dearest priests, deacons and seminarians,

I am pleased to address my cordial greeting to all of you gathered in this beautiful Cathedral, reopened for worship after its restoration last November. I thank Archbishop Rocco Talucci for the warm welcome he has addressed to me in your name and for all his gifts. I greet the priests to whom I wish to express my satisfaction at the immense and structured pastoral work they carry out. I greet the deacons, the seminarians and everyone present and express my joy at being surrounded by a large crowd of souls consecrated for the advent of the Kingdom of God. Here in the Cathedral, which is the heart of the Diocese, we all feel at home, united by the bond of Christ's love. Let us commemorate here with gratitude those who spread Christianity in these regions: Brindisi was the first city of the West to welcome the Gospel, which reached it on the Roman consular roads. Among the evangelizing Saints I think of Bishop St Leucius, of St Oronzo, St Theodore of Amasea and St Lawrence of Brindisi, proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by John XXIII. Their presence lives on in the hearts of the people and is witnessed to by many of the city's monuments.

Dear brothers, in seeing you gathered in this Church, in which many of you received your diaconal and presbyteral ordination, I remember the words that St Ignatius of Antioch wrote to the Christians of Ephesus: "Your excellent presbyters, who are a credit to God, are as suited to the Bishop as strings to a harp. So in your harmony of mind and heart the song you sing is Jesus Christ". And the holy Bishop added: "Every one of you should form a choir, so that, in harmony of sound through harmony of hearts, and in unity taking the note from God, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father. If you do this, he will listen to you" (Letter to the Ephesians, 4). Persevere, dear priests, in seeking this unity of intention and reciprocal help, so that fraternal charity and unity in pastoral work are an example and incentive for your communities. This, above all, was the goal of the pastoral visits your Archbishop made to your parishes which ended last March. Due, precisely, to your generous collaboration, it was not merely a juridical exercise but an extraordinary event of ecclesial and formative value. I am certain that it will be fruitful since the Lord will make the seed sown with love grow abundantly in the hearts of the faithful.

I would like to encourage you with my presence today to place yourselves with ever growing openness at the service of the Gospel and of the Church. I know that you already work with zeal and intelligence, sparing no energy in spreading the joyful Gospel proclamation. Christ, to whom you have consecrated your lives, is with you! In him we all believe, to him alone we entrust our lives, it is he whom we desire to proclaim to the world. May Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14: 6), be the object of our thought, the topic of our words, the reason for our life. Dear brother priests, if your faith is to be strong and vigorous, as you well know, it must be nourished with assiduous prayer. Thus be models of prayer, become masters of prayer. May your days be marked by times of prayer, during which, after Jesus' example, you engage in a regenerating conversation with the Father. I know it is not easy to stay faithful to this daily appointment with the Lord, especially today when the pace of life is frenetic and worries absorb us more and more. Yet we must convince ourselves: the time he spends in prayer is the most important time in a priest's life, in which divine grace acts with greater effectiveness, making his ministry fruitful. The first service to render to the community is prayer. And therefore, time for prayer must be given a true priority in our life. I know that there are many urgent things: as regards myself, an audience, a document to study, a meeting or something else. But if we are not interiorly in communion with God we cannot even give anything to others. Therefore, God is the first priority. We must always reserve the time necessary to be in communion of prayer with our Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, I would now like to congratulate you on the new Archdiocesan Seminary which was inaugurated last November by my Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. On the one hand, it expresses the present state of a Diocese, understood as the culmination of work undertaken by priests and parishes in the area of the pastoral care of youth, in teaching the catechism, in the religious animation of families. On the other hand, the Seminary is a precious investment for the future, because it ensures that through patient and generous work the Christian community will not be deprived of shepherds of souls, of teachers of faith and of zealous guides and witnesses of Christ's charity. Besides being the place of your formation, dear seminarians, true hope of the Church, this seminary of yours is also a place for the up-dating and continuing formation of youth and adults who wish to make their contribution to the cause of the Kingdom of God. The careful formation of seminarians and the continuing formation of priests and other pastoral workers is a primary concern of your Bishop, to whom God has entrusted the mission of guiding the People of God who live in your City as a wise pastor.

Another opportunity for the spiritual growth of your community is the Archdiocesan Synod, the first since the Second Vatican Council and since the unification of the two Dioceses of Brindisi and Ostuni. It is an opportunity to relaunch the apostolic commitment of the entire Diocese but above all it is a privileged moment of communion that is a help in the rediscovery of the value of fraternal service, as indicated in the biblical scene of the washing of the feet (cf. Jn 13: 12-17) that you chose, with the words of Jesus that comment on it: "As I have done" (Jn 13: 15). If it is true that the Synod, every Synod, is called to establish laws and to issue the appropriate norms for an organic pastoral activity, raising and stimulating renewed commitment to evangelization and Gospel witness, it is also true that a Synod must reawaken in every baptized person the missionary outreach that constantly animates the Church.

Dear brother priests, the Pope assures you of his special remembrance in prayer so that you may continue on the journey of authentic spiritual renewal which you have been making with your community. May the experience of "being together" in faith and reciprocal love help you in this commitment, like the Apostles around Christ in the Upper Room. It was there that the Divine Teacher taught them, opening their eyes to the splendour of the truth and giving them the sacrament of unity and love: the Eucharist. In the Upper Room, during the Last Supper, at the moment of the washing of the feet, it clearly emerged that service is one of the fundamental dimensions of Christian life. It is therefore a duty of the Synod to help all the members of your local Church to rediscover the meaning and the joy of service: a service for love. This applies above all for you, dear priests, configured to Christ "Head and Pastor", always ready to guide his flock. Be thankful and happy for the gift received! Be generous in carrying out your ministry! Sustain it with assiduous prayer and a continuing cultural, theological and spiritual formation!

While I renew the expression of my lively appreciation and my warmest encouragement, I invite you and the entire Archdiocese to prepare for the Pauline Year which is shortly to begin. It can be an occasion on which to relaunch generous missionary activity, for a more profound proclamation of the Word of God, welcomed, meditated and translated into a fruitful apostolate, as it happened exactly for the Apostle to the Gentiles. Conquered by Christ, Paul lived entirely for him and for his Gospel, spending his existence even to the point of martyrdom. May you be assisted by the Blessed Mother of the Church and Virgin of Listening; may the Patron Saints of this beloved land of Apulia protect you. Be missionaries of God's love; may each of your parishes experience the joy of belonging to Christ. As a pledge of divine grace and of the gifts of his Spirit, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing to you all.
 
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Benedict XVI's Homily at Port of Brindisi
"Make His Love, This Force of Peace and of True Life, Present on Our Earth"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 4, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 15 homily Benedict XVI gave during the Mass he said at the St Apollinaris Wharf, Port of Brindisi.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the Lord's Day, in the middle of my Visit to Brindisi, we are celebrating the mystery which is the source and summit of the Church's whole life. We are celebrating Christ in the Eucharist, the greatest gift that flowed from his divine and human Heart, the Bread of Life, broken and shared to enable us to become one with him and with one another. I greet with affection all of you who have gathered at the port, this deeply symbolic place which calls to mind the missionary journeys of Peter and Paul. I rejoice to see the many young people who enlivened last night's vigil in preparation for the Eucharistic celebration. And I also greet you, who are taking part in spirit by means of radio and television. I address a special greeting to Archbishop Rocco Talucci, the Pastor of this beloved Church, and thank him for his words at the beginning of Holy Mass. I also greet the other Bishops of Apulia who have desired to be here with us with sentiments of fraternal communion. The presence of Metropolitan Gennadios gives me special pleasure and I offer him my cordial greeting, which I extend to all the Orthodox brethren and those of the other Denominations, from this Church of Brindisi which, because of her ecumenical vocation, invites us to pray and to work for the full unity of all Christians. With gratitude I greet the Civil and Military Authorities who are taking part in this liturgy, and wish them every good for their service. My affectionate thoughts then go to the priests and deacons, to the women and men religious and to all the faithful. I address a special greeting to the sick in hospital and to the prisoners in jail, to whom I assure my remembrance in prayer. Grace and peace on the part of the Lord to everyone and to the entire city of Brindisi!

The biblical texts we have heard on this 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time help us to understand the reality of the Church: the First Reading (cf. Ex 19: 2-6a) recalled the Covenant made on Mount Sinai, during the Exodus from Egypt; the Gospel (cf. Mt 9: 36-10: 8) consisted of the account of the call and mission of the Twelve Apostles. We find the "constitution" of the Church presented here: how can we fail to perceive the implicit invitation addressed to every Community to renew its own vocation and missionary drive? In the First Reading the sacred author tells of God's Covenant with Moses and with Israel on Sinai. This is one of the great milestones in salvation history, one of those moments that transcend history itself in which the boundary between the Old and New Testaments disappears and the eternal plan of the God of the Covenant is manifest: the plan for the salvation of all men and women through the sanctification of a people to which God proposes to become "my own possession among all peoples" (Ex 19: 5). In this perspective, the people is called to become a "holy nation", not only in the moral sense, but first and above all in its own ontological reality, in its being as a people. Already in the Old Testament, how the identity of this people is to be understood is gradually made clear in the course of the salvific events; then it was fully revealed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Today's Gospel presents us with a decisive moment for this revelation. In fact, when Jesus called the Twelve he desired to refer symbolically to the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to the 12 sons of Jacob. Thus, by placing the Twelve at the centre of his new community, he makes it understood that he came to bring the heavenly Father's design to completion, even if the new face of the Church was to appear only at Pentecost when the Twelve, "filled with the Holy Spirit" proclaimed the Gospel, and spoke in all the languages (Acts 2: 3-4). It was then that the universal Church was to be made manifest, gathered in a single Body of which the Risen Christ is Head yet, at the same time, sent by him to all the nations, even to the very ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28: 19).

Jesus' style is unmistakeable: it is the characteristic style of God who likes to do great things in a poor and humble manner. The solemnity of the accounts of the Covenant in the Book of Exodus leaves room in the Gospels for humble and discreet gestures which nevertheless contain an enormous potential for renewal. It is the logic of the Kingdom of God, not by chance represented by the tiny seed that becomes a great tree (cf. Mt 13: 31-32). The Covenant of Sinai was accompanied by cosmic signs that terrified the Israelites; the beginnings of the Church in Galilee, on the contrary, were exempt from such manifestations and reflect the docility and compassion of Christ's Heart although they foretold another battle, another upheaval, inspired by the forces of evil. Christ gave to the Twelve, we heard, "authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity" (Mt 10: 1). The Twelve must cooperate with Jesus in establishing the Kingdom of God, that is, his beneficial, life-giving lordship, and life in abundance for the whole of humanity. The Church in essence, like Christ and together with him, is called and sent out to establish the Kingdom of life and to drive out the dominion of death so that the life of God may triumph in the world; so that God who is Love may triumph. Christ's work is always silent, it is not spectacular; the great tree of true life grows even in the humility of being Church, of living the Gospel every day. Precisely with these humble beginnings the Lord encourages us so that in the humility of the Church today too, in the poverty of our Christian lives, we may see his presence and thus have the courage to go to meet him and make his love, this force of peace and of true life, present on our earth. So this was God's plan: to spread over humanity and throughout the cosmos his love that generates life. It was not a spectacular process; it was a humble process, yet it brought with it the true power of the future and of history.

Thus it is a plan that the Lord desires to implement with respect for our freedom, for love, by its nature, cannot be imposed. The Church in Christ then is the place in which to accept and mediate God's love. In this perspective it is clear that the Church's holiness and missionary character are two sides of the same coin: only because she is holy, that is, filled with divine love, can the Church carry out her mission, and it is precisely in terms of this task that God chose her and sanctified her as his property. Our first duty, therefore, precisely in order to heal this world, is to be holy, configured to God; in this way we emanate a healing and transforming power that also acts on others, on history. Your Ecclesial Community, dear brothers and sisters, involved as it is in the Diocesan Synod in this period, is measuring itself at this moment against the double term, "holiness-mission" - holiness is always a force that transforms others. In this regard, it is useful to reflect that the Twelve Apostles were not perfect men, chosen for their moral and religious irreproachability. They were indeed believers, full of enthusiasm and zeal but at the same time marked by their human limitations, which were sometimes even serious. Therefore Jesus did not call them because they were already holy, complete, perfect, but so that they might become so, so that they might thereby also transform history, as it is for us, as it is for all Christians. In the Second Reading we heard the Apostle Paul's synthesis: "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rm 5: 8). The Church is the community of sinners who believe in God's love, letting themselves be transformed by him and thus become holy, sanctifying the world.

In the light of God's providential words, today I have the joy of strengthening your Church on her way. It is a way of holiness and mission on which your Archbishop has invited you to reflect in his recent Pastoral Letter; it is a way he has thoroughly examined in the course of his Pastoral Visit and which he now intends to promote through the Diocesan Synod. Today's Gospel suggests to us the style of the mission, in other words the interior attitude that is expressed in life lived. It can only be Jesus' style: that of "compassion". The Evangelist highlights this by focusing attention on Christ looking at the crowd. He wrote: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt 9: 36). And after the call of the Twelve, this attitude is once again apparent in the order he gives them to go "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt 10: 6). Christ's love for his people, especially the lowly and the poor, can be felt in these words. Christian compassion has nothing to do with pietism or the culture of dependency. Rather, it is synonymous with solidarity and sharing and is enlivened by hope. Were not Jesus' words to the Apostles born from hope: "Preach as you go, saying, "the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand'" (Mt 10: 7)? This is hope founded on Christ's coming and ultimately coincides with his Person and his mystery of salvation - where Christ is, there is the Kingdom of God, there is the newness of the world - as the theme of the Fourth Ecclesial Convention of Italy celebrated in Verona clearly recalled: the Risen Christ is the "hope of the world".

Enlivened by the hope in which you have been saved, may you too, brothers and sisters of this ancient Church of Brindisi, be signs and instruments of the compassion and mercy of Christ. To the Archbishop and priests I fervently repeat the words of the divine Teacher: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay" (Mt 10: 8). This mandate is once again addressed in the first place to you today. The Spirit who acted in Christ and in the Twelve, is the same as the One who works in you and enables you to perform among your people, in this territory, signs of the Kingdom of love, justice and peace that is coming, indeed, that is already in the world. Yet, through the grace of Baptism and Confirmation, all the members of the People of God participate in Jesus' mission if in different ways. I am thinking of consecrated people who profess the vows of poverty, virginity and obedience; I am thinking of Christian married couples and of you, lay faithful committed to the Ecclesial Community and to society, both personally and as a group. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus' desire to increase the number of workers in the Lord's harvest (cf. Mt 9: 38) is addressed to you all. This desire, which is asking to be made a prayer, reminds us in the first place of seminarians and of the new Seminary in this Archdiocese; it makes us realize that in a broad sense the Church is one great "seminary", beginning with the family and extending to the parish communities, the associations and movements of apostolic commitment. We are all, with the variety of our charisms and ministries, called to work in the Lord's vineyard.

Dear brothers and sisters of Brindisi, continue in this spirit on the way on which you have set out. May your Patrons, St Leucius and St Oronzo, both of whom arrived from the East in the second century to water this land with the living water of the Word of God, watch over you. May the relics of St Theodore of Amasea, venerated in the Cathedral of Brindisi, remind you that giving one's life for Christ is the most effective preaching. May St Lawrence, a son of this City who, in Francis of Assisi's footsteps, became an apostle of peace in a Europe torn apart by wars and disputes, obtain for you the gift of authentic brotherhood. I entrust you all to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope and Star of Evangelization. May the Blessed Virgin help you to remain in the love of Christ, so that you may bear abundant fruit for the glory of God the Father and the salvation of the world. Amen.

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On Paul's World and Time Period
"I Begin Today a New Cycle of Catecheses, Dedicated to the Great Apostle"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square.

On the occasion of the Pauline Year, the Holy Father began a new cycle of catecheses today, dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to begin today a new cycle of catecheses, dedicated to the great Apostle St. Paul. To him, as you know, I have consecrated this year, which extends from the liturgical feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29, 2008, to the same feast in 2009.

The Apostle Paul, an exceptional and virtually inimitable yet stimulating figure, is before us as an example of total dedication to the Lord and his Church, as well as of great openness to humanity and its cultures. It is just, therefore, that we reserve a particular place for him, not only in our veneration, but also in an effort to understand what he has to say to us, Christians of today, as well.

In this, our first meeting, I would like to pause to consider the environment in which he lived and worked. Such a topic would seem to take us far from our time, given that we must insert ourselves in the world of 2,000 years ago. And yet, this is only apparently and partly true, because it can be verified that in many ways, the socio-cultural environment of today is not so different than that of back then.

A primary and fundamental factor to keep in mind is the relationship between the environment in which Paul was born and developed and the global context in which he successively inserted himself. He came from a very precise and specific culture, certainly of the minority, which was that of the people of Israel and their tradition. In the ancient world and notably at the heart of the Roman Empire, as scholars of the subject teach us, the Jews constituted about 10% of the total population. Here in Rome, their number around the middle of the first century was even fewer, reaching a maximum of 3% of the inhabitants of the city.

Their beliefs and lifestyle, as happens also today, distinguished them clearly from the surrounding environment. And this could have two results: either derision, which might lead to intolerance, or admiration, which was expressed in different ways, such as the case of the "God-fearing" or "proselyte," pagans who associated themselves in the synagogue and shared the faith in the God of Israel.

As concrete examples of this double attitude we can mention, on one hand, the sharp judgment of an orator such as Cicero, who scorned their religion and even the city of Jerusalem (cf. Pro Flacco, 66-69), and on the other, the attitude of Poppea, Nero's wife, who is remembered by Flavius Josephus as a "sympathizer" of the Jews (cf. Antichita giudaiche 20, 195.252; Vita 16). And we should note Julius Caesar had already officially recognized particular rights for them, noted by the already-mentioned Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (cf. Ibid. 14, 200-216). What is certain is that the number of Jews, as is true today, was far greater outside the land of Israel, namely, in the Diaspora, and not in the territory that others called Palestine.

It is no wonder, then, that Paul himself was the object of the double, contrasting evaluation, of which I have spoken. One thing is certain: The particularity of the Jewish culture and religion easily found a place within a reality as all-pervasive as the Roman Empire. More difficult and trying was the position of the group of those Jews and Gentiles who adhered in faith to the person of Jesus of Nazareth, insofar as they were distinguished both from Judaism and the prevailing paganism.

In any case, two factors favored Paul's commitment. The first was the Greek, or rather the Hellenistic culture, which after Alexander the Great became the common patrimony at least of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, though integrating within itself many elements of peoples traditionally regarded as barbarians. A writer of the time states, in this regard, that Alexander "ordered that all keep the whole 'ecumene' [inhabited earth] as homeland ... and that there be no longer a distinction between Greek and Barbarian" (Plutarch, De Alexandri Magni fortuna aut virtute, paragraphs 6.8).

The second factor was the political-administrative structure of the Roman Empire, which guaranteed peace and stability from Britain to southern Egypt, unifying a territory of a dimension never before seen. In this space, one could move with sufficient liberty and security, enjoying among other things an extraordinary road system, and finding in every point of arrival, basic cultural characteristics that, without detriment to local values, represented in any case a common fabric of unification "super partes," so much so that the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria, contemporary of Paul himself, praises the emperor Augustus because he "has brought together in harmony all the savage peoples ... becoming a guardian of peace" (Legatio ad Caium, paragraphs 146-147).

The universalistic vision typical of St. Paul's personality, at least of the Christian Paul after the event on the road to Damascus, certainly owes its basic impetus to faith in Jesus Christ, inasmuch as the figure of the Risen One goes beyond that of any particularistic restriction. In fact, for the apostle "there is no longer Jew or Greek, no longer slave or free man, no longer male or female, but all are only one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Yet, the historical-cultural situation of his time and environment also influenced his choices and commitment. Paul has been described as a "man of three cultures," taking into account his Jewish origin, Greek language, and his prerogative of "civis romanus," as attested also by his name of Latin origin.

We must recall in particular the Stoic philosophy, which prevailed in Paul's time and also influenced, though marginally, Christianity. In this connection, we cannot but mention the names of Stoic philosophers, such as the initiators Zeno and Cleanthes, and then those chronologically closer to Paul, such as Seneca, Musonius and Epictetus. Found in them are very lofty values of humanity and wisdom, which were naturally received in Christianity. As a scholar on the subject writes masterfully, "Stoicism ... proclaimed a new ideal, which imposed on man duties toward his fellowmen, but at the same time freed him from all physical and national ties and made him a purely spiritual being" (M. Pohlenz, La Stoa, I, Florence 2, 1978, pp. 565ff).

It is enough to think, for example, of the doctrine of the universe understood as one great harmonious body and, consequently, of the doctrine of the equality of all men without social distinctions, to the equating at least in principle of man and woman, and then the ideal of frugality, of the just measure and of self-control to avoid all excesses. When Paul writes to the Philippians: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Philippians 4:8), does no more than take up a strictly humanist concept proper to that philosophical wisdom.

In Paul's time, there was also a crisis of the traditional religion, at least in its mythological and also civic aspects. After Lucretius, already a century earlier, had controversially stated that "religion has led to so many misdeeds" (De rerum natura 1, 101), a philosopher such as Seneca, going well beyond any external ritualism, taught that "God is close to you, he is with you, he is within you" (Lettere a Lucilio, 41, 1).

Similarly, when Paul addressed an auditorium of Epicurean philosophers in the Areopagus in Athens, he says literally that "God does not live in shrines made by man ... but in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17: 24.28). With this, he certainly echoes the Jewish faith in one God that cannot be represented in anthropomorphic terms, but he also follows a religious line with which his listeners were familiar. We must take into account, moreover, that many educated pagans did not frequent the official temples of the city, and went to private places that promoted the initiation of followers.

Not a motive for wonder, therefore, was the fact that Christian meetings (the "ekklesiai"), as attested to especially in the Pauline Letters, took place in private homes. At the time, moreover, there was still no public building. Therefore, the meetings of Christians must have seemed to their contemporaries as a simple variation of this more intimate religious practice. Nevertheless, the differences between pagan and Christian worship are not of slight importance and involved as much the awareness of the participants' identity as well as the common participation of men and women, the celebration of the "Lord's Supper" and the reading of the Scriptures.

In conclusion, from this brief review of the cultural environment of the first century of the Christian era, it is clear that it is not possible to understand St. Paul adequately without considering the background, both Jewish as well as pagan, of his time. Thus his figure acquires a historical and ideal depth, revealing shared and original elements of the environment. However, this is also equally true for Christianity in general, of which the Apostle Paul is a paradigm of the first order, from whom all of us today have much to learn. This is the objective of the Pauline Year: to learn the faith from him, to learn from him who Christ is, to learn, in the end, the path for an upright life.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Sunday, the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul, marked the beginning of a Year dedicated to the figure and teaching of the Apostle Paul. Today's Audience begins a new series of catecheses aimed at understanding more deeply the thought of Saint Paul and its continuing relevance. Paul, as we know, was a Jew, and consequently a member of a distinct cultural minority in the Roman Empire. At the same time, he spoke Greek, the language of the wider Hellenistic culture, and was a Roman citizen. Paul's proclamation of the Risen Christ, while grounded in Judaism, was marked by a universalist vision and it was facilitated by his familiarity with three cultures. He was thus able to draw from the spiritual richness of contemporary philosophy, and Stoicism in particular, in his preaching of the Gospel. The crisis of traditional Greco-Roman religion in Paul's time had also fostered a greater concern for a personal experience of God. As we see from his sermon before the Areopagus in Athens (cf. Acts 17:22ff.), Paul was able to appeal to these currents of thought in his presentation of the Good News. Against this broad cultural background, Paul developed his teaching, which we will explore in the catecheses of this Pauline Year.

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Pope's Words to People of Brindisi
"The Key to Every Hope Is Found in Love"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 14 address Benedict XVI gave in Brindisi's city center upon being greeted by local government representatives and the region's youth.

* * *

Mr Minister,
Mr Mayor and Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like first of all to express my joy at being in your midst and I greet you all very warmly. I thank the Hon. Raffaele Fitto, Minister for Regional Affairs, who has conveyed the Government's greeting to me and I thank the Mayor of Brindisi for his fervent words of welcome on behalf of all the citizens, as well as for his kind gift. I greet and thank with affection the young man who spoke on behalf of the youth of Brindisi. I know, dear young people, that you animated the assembly while awaiting my arrival and that you will continue at a prayer vigil, with which you desire to prepare for the Eucharistic celebration tomorrow. I cordially greet Archbishop Rocco Talucci, your Pastor, Archbishop emeritus Settimio Todisco, the priests, the men and women religious and all those present.

Here I am among you, dear friends! I very gladly accepted the invitation of your diocesan community's Pastor and I am glad to visit this city of yours which, while playing an important role in the context of Southern Italy, is called to project its image beyond the Adriatic Sea to communicate with other cities and other peoples. Actually, Brindisi was once a place from which traders, legionaries, students and pilgrims embarked for the East and it remains a door open on the sea. In recent years, the newspapers and television have shown pictures of refugees from Croatia and from Montenegro, from Albania and from Macedonia who landed in Brindisi. I believe it is only right to remember with gratitude the efforts made, which are still being made, by the Civil and Military Administrations in collaboration with the Church and with various humanitarian organizations to provide shelter and assistance for them despite the financial difficulties which, unfortunately, continue to be a cause of concern particularly to your Region. Your City has been and continues to be generous and this merit was justly recognized by the assignment, in the context of international solidarity, of an authentic institutional role: indeed it hosts the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot, run by United Nations' World Food Programme.

Dear People of Brindisi, this solidarity is part of the virtues which make up your rich civil and religious patrimony: continue with a renewed impetus to build your future together. Among the values that have taken root in your region I would like to recall respect for life and, especially, attachment to the family, today exposed to the converging attacks of numerous forces that seek to undermine it. How necessary and urgent it is, in the face of these challenges too, for all people of good will to strive to safeguard the family, the solid basis on which to build the life of society as a whole! Your society is also founded on the Christian faith which your ancestors considered as one of the elements that qualified the identity of the people of Brindisi. May adherence to the Gospel, consciously renewed and lived with responsibility, spur you today, as in the past, to face the difficulties and challenges of the present time with confidence. May faith encourage you to respond without compromise to your city's legitimate expectations of the human and social advancement. The new University, called to serve those who are aware of their dignity and tasks and who desire to play an active part in life, cannot fail to make its own contribution to the economic, political, cultural and religious development of the territory. Dear People of Brindisi, so that the culture of solidarity may increase in your City, serve one another, letting yourselves be guided by an authentic spirit of brotherhood. God is with you and will not let you be deprived of the constant support of his grace.

I would now like to address in particular the many young people present. Dear friends, thank you for your warm welcome, thank you for the fervent sentiments expressed by your representative. Your voices, which find an immediate correspondence in my heart, communicate to me your trusting exuberance and your will to live. I also perceive in them the problems that assail you which sometimes risk stifling the enthusiasm typical of this season of your life. I am aware, in particular, of the burden that weighs upon many of you and upon your future because of the dramatic phenomenon of unemployment which primarily affects the young men and women of Southern Italy. Likewise, I know that your youth is threatened by the demand for easy earnings, by the temptation to seek refuge in artificial paradises or to let yourselves be attracted by distorted forms of material satisfaction. Do not let yourselves be caught in the snares of evil! Rather, seek an existence rich in values in order to give life to a society that is more just and more open to the future. Bring to fruition the gifts with which God has endowed your youth: strength, intelligence, courage, enthusiasm and determination to live. On the basis of these attributes, relying always on divine support, you will be able to nourish hope within you and around you. It is up to you and to your hearts to ensure that progress is transformed into a greater good for all. And the way of good - as you know - has a name: it is called love.

The key to every hope is found in love, solely in authentic love, because love is rooted in God. We read in the Bible: "We know and believe the love God has for us. God is love" (1 Jn 4: 16). And God's love has the sweet and compassionate Face of Jesus Christ. Here then we have reached the heart of the Christian message: Christ is the response to your questions and problems; in him every honest aspiration of the human being is strengthened. Christ, however, is demanding and shuns half measures. He knows he can count on your generosity and coherence; for this reason he expects a lot of you. Follow him faithfully and, in order to encounter him love his Church, feel responsible, do not avoid being courageous protagonists, each in his own context. Here is a point to which I would like to call your attention: seek to know the Church, to understand and love her, paying attention to the voice of her Pastors. She is made up of human beings, but Christ is her Head and his Spirit firmly guides her. You are the youthful face of the Church so do not fail to make your contribution in order that the Gospel she proclaims may spread everywhere. Be apostles of your peers!

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you once again for your welcome. I have read several letters sent to me by young people of your Province. I learned from them, dear friends, to understand your situation better. Thank you for your affection. I assure you and all the people of Brindisi of my prayers that you may witness to the Gospel message of peace and justice. May Mary, Regina Apuliae, protect you and accompany you always. I warmly bless you and wish you all a good night!

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Papal Homily at Shrine of Mary "De Finibus Terrae"
"Mary Shines on the Sea of Life and History as a Star of Hope"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 2, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 14 homily Benedict XVI gave at the shrine dedicated to Mary "De Finibus Terrae" (at the end of the earth) in Santa Maria di Leuca.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My Visit in Apulia, the second after the Eucharistic Congress in Bari, begins as a Marian pilgrimage, on this extreme tip of Italy and Europe, at the Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae. With great joy I address my affectionate greeting to you all. I warmly greet Bishop Vito De Grisantis for having invited me and for his cordial welcome; together with him I greet the other Bishops of the Region, in particular Archbishop Cosmo Francesco Ruppi of Lecce, as well as all the priests and deacons, consecrated persons and all the faithful. With gratitude I greet Minister Raffaele Fitto, who is representing the Italian Government, and the various civil and military Authorities present.

In this place, so important historically for devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I wanted the liturgy to be dedicated to her, Star of the Sea and Star of Hope. "Ave, maris stella, / Dei Mater alma, / atque semper virgo, / felix caeli porta!". The words of this ancient hymn are a greeting which in some way echoes that of the Angel at Nazareth. All Marian titles, in fact, have as it were budded and blossomed from that first name with which the heavenly messenger addressed the Virgin: "Hail, full of grace" (Lk 1: 28). We heard it in St Luke's Gospel, most appropriately because this Shrine - as the memorial tablet above the central door of the atrium attests - is called after the Most Holy Virgin of the "Annunciation". When God called Mary "full of grace" the hope of salvation for the human race was enkindled: a daughter of our people found grace in the Lord's eyes, he chose her as Mother of the Redeemer. In the simplicity of Mary's home, in a poor village of Galilee, the solemn prophecy of salvation began to be fulfilled: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Gn 3: 15). Therefore the Christian people have made their own the canticle of praise that the Jews raised to Judith and that just a little while ago we prayed as a Responsorial Psalm: "O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth" (Jdt 13: 18). Without violence but with the meek courage of her "yes", the Virgin freed us, not from an earthly enemy but from the ancient adversary, by giving a human body to the One who was to crush his head once and for all.

This is why Mary shines on the sea of life and history as a Star of Hope. She does not shine with her own light, but reflects the light of Christ, the Sun who appeared on humanity's horizon so that in following the Star of Mary we can steer ourselves on the journey and keep on the route towards Christ, especially in dark and stormy moments. The Apostle Peter was well acquainted with this experience because he had lived it in the first person. One night, while he was crossing the Sea of Galilee with the other disciples, he was caught in a storm. Their boat, at the mercy of the waves, was unable to sail on. Walking on the waters, Jesus came to them at that very moment and asked Peter to get out of the boat and walk towards him. Peter took a few steps on the waves but then felt himself sinking and cried out: "Lord, save me!". Jesus grasped him by the hand and he brought him to safety (cf. Mt 14: 24-33). This episode later proved to be a sign of the trial that Peter would have to pass through at the time of Jesus' Passion. When the Lord was arrested, he was afraid and denied him three times: he was overcome by the storm. But when his eyes met Christ's gaze, God's mercy renewed him and, causing him to dissolve in tears, raised him from his fall.

I have wished to recall the story of St Peter because I know that this place and your whole Church have a special link with the Prince of the Apostles. Tradition credits him with the first proclamation of the Gospel in this land, as your Bishop recalled at the outset. The Fisherman "caught" by Jesus cast his nets as far as here and today we give thanks for having been the object of this "miraculous catch" that has lasted 2,000 years, a catch that, exactly as St Peter wrote: "called [us] out of darkness into the marvellous light [of God]" (cf. 1 Pt 2: 9). In order to become fishers of men with Christ one first needs to be "caught" by him. St Peter is a witness of this reality, as also is St Paul, the great convert, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we shall be celebrating in a few days. As Successor of Peter and Bishop of the Church founded on the blood of these two outstanding Apostles, I have come to confirm you in the faith of Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of man and of the world.

Peter's faith and Mary's faith are combined at this Shrine. Here one can draw from the double principle of the Christian experience: Marian and Petrine. Both, together, help us, dear brothers and sisters, to "start afresh from Christ", to renew your faith so that it may respond to the demands of our time. Mary teaches you to continue ceaselessly to listen to the Lord in the silence of prayer, to welcome his word with generous openness and the deep desire to offer yourselves, your actual lives, to God so that by the power of the Holy Spirit his eternal Word may "become flesh" once again today, in our history. Mary will help you to follow Jesus faithfully and to unite yourselves to him in the Sacrificial offering, to carry in your hearts the joy of the Resurrection and to live in constant docility to the Spirit of Pentecost. In a complimentary manner St Peter too will teach you to feel and believe with the Church, steadfast in the Catholic faith. He will bring you to have the taste and passion for unity, communion and joy in walking together with your Pastors. And, at the same time, you will participate in the missionary concern to share the Gospel with everyone, to take it to the ends of the earth.

"De finibus terrae": the name of this holy place is very beautiful and evocative because it re-echoes one of Jesus' last words to his disciples. Jutting out between Europe and the Mediterranean, between the West and the East, it reminds us that the Church has no boundaries, she is universal. And geographical, cultural, ethnic, and even religious frontiers are an invitation to the Church to evangelize with a view to "communion in diversity". The Church was born at Pentecost, she was born universal and her vocation is to speak all the world's languages. The Church exists, according to her original vocation and mission that were revealed to Abraham, to be a blessing to benefit all the peoples of the earth (cf. Gn 12: 1-3); to be, in the language of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1). The Church in Apulia possesses a marked vocation to be a bridge between peoples and cultures. This land and this Shrine are effectively an "outpost" in this sense and I was very pleased to note, both in your Bishop's letter and also in his words today, how this sensitivity is alive among you and perceived positively, with a genuine Gospel spirit.

Dear friends, we know well, because the Lord Jesus was very clear about this, that the effectiveness of witness is proportional to the intensity of love. It is pointless reaching out to the ends of the earth if we do not love one another first and help one another within the Christian community. The exhortation of the Apostle Paul, which we listened to in the Second Reading (Col 3: 12-17), is therefore not only fundamental for the life of your ecclesial family but also for your commitment to animate the social milieu. In fact, in a context that is tending increasingly to encourage individualism, the first service of the Church is that of educating in the social sense, in attention for one's neighbour and in solidarity and sharing. The Church, endowed by her Lord as she is with continuously renewed spiritual energy, can also exercise a positive influence at the social level because she fosters a renewed humanity and open and constructive human relationships, in respect and at the service, in the first place, of the least and of the weakest.

Here in the Salento, as in all of Southern Italy, ecclesial communities are places where the young generations can learn hope, not as a utopia but rather as a tenacious confidence in the power of goodness. Goodness wins through and although at times it can seem to have been defeated by oppression and cunning, in reality it continues to work in silence and discretion, bearing fruit in the long term. This is Christian social renewal, based on the transformation of consciences, on moral formation and on prayer; yes, because prayer gives the strength to believe and to fight for goodness even when humanly it would tempt one to be discouraged and to withdraw. The initiatives your Bishop mentioned at the start, those of the Marcelline Sisters and of the Trinitarian Fathers, as well as others that are being implemented in your territory, are eloquent signs of this typically ecclesial style of human and social promotion. At the same time, making the most of the opportunity of the Civil Authorities' presence, I am pleased to recall that the Christian community cannot and does not wish to encroach upon the legitimate and rightful domains of the Institutions; rather, it urges and supports them in their tasks and always offers to collaborate with them for the good of all, starting with the most unfavourable and difficult situations.

Lastly, my thoughts return to the Most Holy Virgin. From this Shrine of St Mary de finibus terrae I would like to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to the various Marian Shrines in the Salento, true gems set in this peninsula, set like a bridge over the sea. The Marian piety of the populations was formed under the wonderful influence of the Basilian devotion to the Theotokos, a devotion cultivated later by the sons of St Benedict, St Dominic and St Francis, and expressed in the most beautiful churches and simple holy chapels that are cared for and preserved as signs of the rich religious and civil heritage of your people. Let us therefore turn once again to you, Virgin Mary, who stood unwavering at the foot of your Son's Cross. You are a model of faith and hope in the power of truth and goodness. With the words of the ancient hymn we invoke you: "Break the fetters of the oppressed, / give light to the blind, / cast all evil from us, / beseech our every good". And, extending our gaze to the horizon where heaven and sea meet, we want to entrust to you the peoples who look out on the Mediterranean and those of the whole world, invoking development and peace for all: "Grant us peace in our day, / watch over our way, / grant that we may see your Son, / in the fullness of joy in heaven". Amen.

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On the Pauline Year
"Invites All Christians to Be Missionaries of the Gospel"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2008 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave Sunday after celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and before praying the Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul occurs on a Sunday, thus, the whole Church, and not only the Church of Rome, celebrates it in a solemn way.

This coincidence is also propitious insofar as it further highlights an extraordinary event: the Pauline Year, which I officially opened last night at the tomb of the Apostle of the Gentiles, and which will last until June 29, 2009.

Historians in fact situate the birth of Saul -- who later became Paul -- about 7 to 10 years after Christ’’s. Thus, after the passage of about 2,000 years, I wanted to call this special jubilee, which will naturally have Rome as its center, especially the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and the place of martyrdom at Tre Fontane.

But it will involve the whole Church, beginning with Tarsus, Paul’’s city of birth, and the other Pauline places in present day Turkey and the Holy Land, which are pilgrimage destinations, as well as the island of Malta, where the apostle came after a shipwreck and sowed the fruitful seed of the Gospel.

In reality, the horizon of the Pauline Year cannot but be universal because St. Paul was, par excellence, the apostle of those who, in regard to the Jews, were ““distant,”” and who, ““thanks to the blood of Christ,”” were drawn ““near”” (Ephesians 2:13). For this reason, today too, in a world that has become ““small,”” but where many have not yet met the Lord Jesus, the jubilee of St. Paul invites all Christians to be missionaries of the Gospel.

This missionary dimension must always be accompanied by that of unity, represented by St. Peter, the ““rock”” on which Jesus Christ built his Church. As is underscored by the liturgy, the charisms of the two great apostles are complementary in building up the one people of God and Christians cannot offer a valid witness to Christ if they are not united.

The theme of unity is highlighted today by the traditional rite of the pallium, which I bestowed upon the metropolitan archbishops who were named this past year. There are 40, and 2 others will receive the pallium in their Sees. Again I greet them too.

Today’’s solemnity is further a special cause of joy for the Bishop of Rome inasmuch as he welcomes the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the dear person of His Holiness Bartholomew I, to whom I renew my fraternal greeting, extending it to the entire delegation of the Orthodox Church that he leads.
The Pauline Year, evangelization, communion in the Church and full unity among Christians: Let us now pray for these great intentions, entrusting them to the celestial intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles.

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

I am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors. In a special way I greet the Metropolitan Archbishops who have received the pallium, accompanied by their relatives and friends on this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. May the courageous example of these Holy Patrons inspire the Archbishops as they preach the saving word of God. I am also pleased to extend warm greetings to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, and to the members of his delegation. Through the intercession of the Apostles Peter and Paul, may all Christians bear clear witness to the truth and the love that sets us free. God bless you all!

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Papal Greeting to Patriarch Bartholomew I
"Men and Women Feel a Growing Need for Certainty and Peace"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2008- Here is a translation of the Benedict XVI's address upon receiving Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in audience Saturday on the occasion of the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul and the opening of the Pauline Year.

* * *
Holiness,
With profound and sincere joy I greet you and the distinguished party accompanying you, and I am pleased to do so with the words expressed in the Second Letter of St. Peter: "To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" (2:1-2).

The celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul, patrons of the Church of Rome, as well as that of St. Andrew, patron of the Church of Constantinople, offer us annually the possibility of an exchange of visits, which are always important occasions for fraternal conversations and common moments of prayer. Thus reciprocal personal knowledge grows; initiatives are harmonized and hope increases, which animates everything, to be able to attain full unity soon, in obedience to the Lord's mandate.
This year, here in Rome, to the patronal feast is added the joyful occasion of the opening of the Pauline Year, which I wanted to call to commemorate the second millennium of the birth of St. Paul, in the hope of promoting an ever more profound reflection on the theological and spiritual heritage left to the Church by the Apostle to the Gentiles, with his vast and profound work of evangelization.

I learned with pleasure that Your Holiness has also called a Pauline Year. This happy coincidence highlights the roots of our shared Christian vocation and the significant harmony of feelings and pastoral commitment we are experiencing. For this I give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, who guides our path to unity with the strength of His Spirit.
St. Paul reminds us that full communion between all Christians has its foundation in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5). May the common faith, the one baptism for the remission of sins and obedience to the one Lord and Savior, be able to express themselves fully as soon as possible in the communal and ecclesial dimension.

"Only one body and one Spirit," affirms the Apostle to the Gentiles, and adds: "As only one is the hope to which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:4). St. Paul indicates to us, moreover, a sure way to maintain unity and, in the case of division, to repair it.

The decree on ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council, has taken up the Pauline indication and proposes it again in the context of the ecumenical commitment, making reference to the weighty and always current words of the Letter to the Ephesians: "I exhort you, therefore, I who am a prisoner of the Lord, to conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the vocation you have received, with all humility, meekness and patience, enduring events with love, seeking to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (4:1-3).
To the Corinthians, among whom discord had arisen, St. Paul does not hesitate to address a strong call for them all to remain in agreement, for there to be no divisions among them, and for them to unite in the same mind and purpose (cfr1 Corinthians 1:10).

In our world, in which the phenomenon of globalization is being consolidated, yet, despite this, persistent divisions and conflicts continue, men and women feel a growing need for certainty and peace. However, at the same time, they remain lost, as if ensnared by a certain form of hedonist and relativist culture which casts doubt upon the very existence of truth.

The apostle's guidance in this matter is extremely helpful in encouraging efforts aimed at seeking full unity among Christians, which is so necessary in order to offer mankind of the third millennium an ever more resplendent witness of Christ, way, truth and life. Only in Christ and in his Gospel can humanity find the answer to its deepest hopes.
May the Pauline Year, which will begin solemnly this evening, help Christian people renew the ecumenical commitment, and may there be an intensification of joint efforts on the journey to the full communion of all Christ's disciples. And as part of that journey, your presence here today is certainly an encouraging sign. For this I express again to all of you my joy, while together we raise our grateful prayer to the Lord.

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Pope's Homily at Pauline Year Inauguration
"Paul Wants to Speak With Us Today"

ROME, JUNE 30, 2008- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily from Saturday afternoon's vespers for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The service, held at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, was the inaugural ceremony of the Pauline Jubilee Year, which runs through June 29, 2009.

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

We are gathered before the tomb of St. Paul, who was born 2,000 years ago in Tarsus of Cilicia, in present-day Turkey. Who was this Paul? In the temple of Jerusalem, before an agitated crowd that wanted to kill him, he introduced himself with these words: "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but educated in this city, instructed at the feet of Gamaliel in the exact observance of the Law of our fathers; I was full of zeal for God." At the end of his journey he would say of himself: "I have been made a herald and apostle, teacher of the Gentiles in the faith and in the truth."

Teacher of the Gentiles, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ, thus he characterized himself in a retrospective look over his life. However, he did not look only to the past. "Teacher of the Gentiles" -- this word opens to the future, which we recall with veneration. He is, also for us, our teacher, apostle and herald of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we have come together not to reflect on a past history, irrevocably surpassed. Paul wants to speak with us today. That is why I wanted to convoke this special "Pauline year": to listen to him and to drink from him, as our teacher, in the faith and truth, in which are rooted the reasons for unity among the disciples of Christ. In this perspective, I wished to light -- for this bimillenary of the apostle's birth -- a special "Pauline Flame," which will remain lit during the whole year, in a special niche placed in the portico of the basilica. To solemnize this event, I have also opened the so-named Pauline Door, through which I entered the basilica accompanied by the patriarch of Constantinople, the cardinal archpriest and other religious authorities.

For me it is a motive of profound joy that the opening of the Pauline year assumes a special ecumenical character, given the presence of numerous delegates and representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities, which I welcome with an open heart. I greet first of all His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I and the members of the delegation accompanying him, as well as the large group of laymen from several parts of the world who have come to Rome to participate in these moments of prayer and reflection with him and all of us. I greet the fraternal delegates of the Churches that have a special bond with the Apostle Paul -- Jerusalem, Antioch, Cyprus and Greece -- that form part of the geographic environment of the apostle's life before his arrival in Rome. I cordially greet the brothers of the different Churches and ecclesial communities of the East and West, together with all of you I have wished to take part in this solemn opening of the year dedicated to the Apostles of the Gentiles.
We are gathered, therefore, to questions ourselves about the great apostle of the Gentiles. Not only do we ask ourselves, "Who was Paul?" Above all, we ask ourselves "Who is Paul?" "What is he saying to me?" At this hour of the beginning of the Pauline year that we are inaugurating, I would like to choose three texts from the rich testimony of the New Testament, in which [Paul's] inner physiognomy appears, that which is specific about his character.

In the Letter to the Galatians, he has given us a very personal profession of faith, in which he opens his heart to the readers of all times and reveals what is the most profound source of his life: "I live in the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me." All that Paul does starts from this center. His faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a totally personal way; it is awareness of the fact that Christ faced death not for something anonymous, but for love of him, of Paul, and that, risen, Christ still loves him, has given himself for him. His faith is having been captured by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that affects him in his innermost being and transforms him. His faith is not a theory, an option about God or the world. His faith is the impact of the love of God on his heart. So, this faith itself is love of Jesus Christ.
For many, Paul appears as a combative man who knows how to use the sword of the word. Indeed, in his path as apostle, there was no lack of disputes. He did not seek a superficial harmony. In his first letter dedicated to the Thessalonians, he himself says: "We had the courage in our God to declare to you the Gospel of God in face of great opposition. …… For we never used either words of flattery, as you know, or a cloak for greed." The truth was too great for him to be ready to sacrifice it in view of an external success. The truth he had experienced in his encounter with the Risen One merited for him struggle, persecution, and suffering. However, what motivated him in the depth of his being was being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to transmit this love to others. Paul was someone able to love, and all his work and suffering is explained from this center.

The concepts underlying his proclamation can only be understood on the basis of this. Let us take only one of his key words: freedom. The experience of being loved to the end by Christ opened his eyes about truth and the path of human existence; that experience embraced everything. Paul was free as a man loved by God that, in virtue of God, was able to love together with him. This love is now the "law" of his life and, precisely thus, was the freedom of his life. He speaks and acts, moved by the responsibility of love; he is free, and given that he is one who loves, he lives totally in the responsibility of this love and does not take freedom as a pretext for pleasure and egoism. He who loves Christ as Paul loved him, can truly do what he wills, because his love is united to the will of Christ and, therefore, to the will of God, because his will is anchored in truth and because his will is no longer simply his will, arbiter of his autonomous I, but is integrated in the freedom of God and from it receives the path to follow.
In the search for St. Paul's inner physiognomy, I would like, in the second place, to recall the word that the Risen Christ spoke to him on the road to Damascus. Earlier the Lord asked him: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He answered: "Who are you, Lord?" And he received the reply: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting." By persecuting the Church, Paul was persecuting Jesus himself. "You are persecuting me."

Jesus identifies himself with the Church in a single subject. In this exclamation of the Risen One -- which transformed Saul's life -- is contained the whole doctrine of the Church as Body of Christ. Christ did not return to Heaven, leaving a handful of followers to carry his cause forward. The Church is not an association that wishes to promote a certain cause. It is not about a cause. It is about the person of Jesus Christ, who also as Risen remained "flesh." He has flesh and bones," affirms the Risen One in Luke, in face of the disciples who thought he was a ghost. He has a body. He is personally present in the Church. "Head and Body" form a single subject, said Augustine. "'Know you not that your bodies are members of Christ?' wrote Paul to the Corinthians, and he adds: 'That, according to the Book of Genesis, man and woman become one flesh?'"

So Christ becomes one spirit with his own, one subject in the new world of the resurrection. In all this, the Eucharistic mystery is visualized, in which Christ constantly gives his Body and makes of us one Body: "Is not the bread we break communion with the body of Christ? Because, though being many, we are only one bread and one body, as we all share in one bread."
He addresses us with these words, at this moment, not just Paul but the Lord himself: "How were you able to lacerate my Body?" Before the face of Christ, this question becomes at the same time an urgent appeal: Bring us together again from all our divisions. Make this again a reality today: There is only one bread; therefore, we, despite being many, are only one body.

For Paul the word Church as Body of Christ is not just any analogy. It goes far beyond a comparison. "Why do you persecute me?"

Christ attracts us continually to his Body, he builds his Body from the Eucharistic center, which for Paul is the center of Christian existence, in virtue of which all, as well as each individual can experience in a totally personal way: "He has loved me and given himself up for me."

I would like to conclude with a later word of St. Paul, an exhortation to Timothy from prison, in face of death. "Endure with me sufferings for the Gospel," said the apostle to his disciple. This sentence, which is at the end of the roads traveled by the apostle as a testament, leads us back to the beginning of his mission. While, after his encounter with the Risen One, the blind Paul was in his room in Damascus, Ananias received the order to go where the feared persecutor was and lay his hands on him, so that he would recover his sight.

To Ananias' objection that this Saul was a dangerous persecutor of Christians, this answer was given: "This man must take my name to the Gentiles, to kings and to the children of Israel. I will show him all he will have to suffer for my name."

The task of proclamation and the call to suffering for Christ are inseparably together. The call to be teacher of the Gentiles is at the same time and intrinsically a call to suffering in communion with Christ, who has redeemed us through his passion. In a world in which lying is powerful, truth is paid for with suffering. He who wishes to avoid suffering, to keep it far from himself, will have pushed away life itself and its grandeur; he cannot be a servant of truth and thus a servant of faith. There is no love without suffering, without the suffering of denying ourselves, of the transformation and purification of the "I" for true freedom.

Wherever there is nothing worth suffering for, life itself also loses its value. The Eucharist -- center of our Christian being -- is based on the sacrifice of Jesus for us; it was born from the suffering of the love that found its culmination on the cross. We live from this love that gives itself. This gives us the courage and strength to suffer with Christ and for him, thus knowing that precisely in this way our life becomes great, mature and true.

In the light of all of St. Paul's letters we see how on his journey as teacher of the Gentiles, the prophecy of Ananias was fulfilled at the hour of the calling: "I will show him all that he will have to suffer for my name." His suffering makes him credible as teacher of truth, which does not seek its own benefit, its own glory or personal pleasure, but is committed to him who loved us and gave himself up for all of us.
At this hour in which we thank the Lord for having called Paul, making him the light of the Gentiles and teacher of us all, we pray: Give us also today the testimony of the Resurrection, touched by your love, and [make us] able to carry the light of the Gospel in our time. St. Paul, pray for us. Amen.
       
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Papal Homily for Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
"Going to Rome Is for Paul the Expression of His Mission

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily for the Mass celebrated in St. Peter's Square on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which was Sunday. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I was present at the ceremony.

At vespers on Saturday, the Pope inaugurated the Pauline Jubilee Year, which ends June 29, 2009.

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Your Holiness and fraternal Delegates,
Lord Cardinals,
Venerable brothers in the episcopate and priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters

From the earliest times, the Church of Rome has celebrated the solemnity of the great apostles Peter and Paul as a single feast on the same day, June 29. Through their martyrdom, they became brothers; together, they are the founders of the new Christian Rome. They are sung of as such in the hymn of the second vespers, which goes back to Paulinus of Aquileia (+806): "O Roma felix -- Oh happy Rome, adorned with the crimson of the precious blood of such great princes, you surpass every beauty of the world, not by your own merit, but trough the merit of the saints whom you have killed with bloody sword". The blood of martyrs does not call for revenge -- but reconciles. It does not present itself as an accusation but as a "golden light," according to the words of the hymn of the first vespers. It presents itself as the power of love which overcomes hate and violence, founding, in this way, a new city, a new community.

By their martyrdom, they -- Peter and Paul -- are now part of Rome. Through martyrdom, even Peter became a Roman citizen forever. Through their martyrdom, through their faith and their love, the two apostles show us where true hope lies, and are the founders of a new kind of city, which must again and again form itself in the midst of the old city of man, which continues to be threatened by the opposing forces of the sin and egotism of men.

By virtue of their martyrdom, Peter and Paul are in reciprocal relationship forever. A favorite image of Christian iconography is the embrace of the two apostles on the way to martyrdom. We can say that their martyrdom itself, in its deepest reality, is the realization of a fraternal embrace. They die for the one Christ and, in the witness for which they give their lives, they are one. In the writings of the New Testament, we can, so to speak, follow the development of their embrace, this unity in witness and in mission.

Everything starts when Paul, three years after his conversion, goes to Jerusalem "to consult Cephas" (Galatians 1:18). Fourteen years later, he again goes up to Jerusalem to explain "to the most esteemed persons" the Gospel that he preaches in order so that he might not run the risk of "running, or having run, in vain" (Galatians 2:1f). At the end of this meeting, James, Cephas and John give him their right hands, thus confirming the communion that unites them in the one Gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal 2:9). A beautiful sign of this growing interior embrace, which develops despite the difference in temperaments and in tasks, I find in the fact that the co-workers mentioned at the end of the First Letter of St. Peter -- Silvanus and Mark -- were equally close co-workers of St. Paul. This having of the same co-workers makes the communion of the one Church, the embrace of the great apostles, visible in a very concrete way.

Peter and Paul met each other at least twice in Jerusalem; at the end their paths take them to Rome. Why? Was this perhaps more than just pure chance? Is there perhaps a lasting message in it? Paul arrived in Rome as a prisoner, but at the same time as a Roman citizen who, after his arrest in Jerusalem, as a Roman citizen appealed to the emperor, to whose tribunal he was brought. But in a more profound sense, Paul came to Rome voluntarily. Through the most important of his letters, he had already drawn close to this city interiorly: to the Church in Rome, he had addressed the writing which, more than any other, is the synthesis of his whole proclamation and his faith. In the opening salutation of the letter, he says that the whole world speaks of the faith of the Christians of Rome and that this faith, therefore, was known everywhere as exemplary (Romans 1:8). And then he writes: "I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I often planned to come to you, though I was prevented until now" (1:13). At the end of the letter he comes back to this theme, now speaking of a plan to travel to Spain. "When I go to Spain I hope to see you when I pass through and to be helped by you on my way to that region, after having enjoyed your presence for a little while" (15:24). "And I know that, having come to you, I shall come in the fullness of Christ's blessing" (15:29). There are two things made evident here: Rome is for Paul a stage on the way to Spain, that is -- according to his conception of the world -- towards the extreme end of the earth. He considers his mission to be the fulfillment of the task received from Christ, the bringing of the Gospel to the very ends of the world. Rome is along this route. While Paul usually only goes to places where the Gospel had not yet been announced, Rome is an exception. There he finds a Church whose faith the world speaks about. Going to Rome is part of the universality of his mission as one sent to all peoples. The way to Rome, which, already before his external trip, he had traveled interiorly with his letter, is an integral part of his task of bringing the Gospel to all peoples -- of founding the Church, catholic and universal. Going to Rome is for him the expression of his mission's catholicity. Rome must make the faith visible to the whole world, it must be the meeting place in the one faith.

But why did Peter go to Rome? About this the New Testament does not say anything directly. But it gives us some indication. The Gospel of St. Mark, which we may consider a reflection of the preaching of St. Peter, is intimately oriented towards the moment when the Roman centurion, facing the death of Christ on the cross, says, "Truly this man was the Son of God!" (15:39). At the cross the mystery of Jesus Christ is revealed. Beneath the Cross the Church of the gentiles is born: the centurion of the Roman execution squad recognizes the Son of God in Christ. The Acts of the Apostles describe the episode of Cornelius, the centurion of the Italic cohort, as a decisive stage for the entrance of the Gospel into the pagan world. Following a command of God, he sends someone to get Peter, and Peter, also following a divine order, goes to the centurion's house and preaches. While he is speaking, the Holy Spirit descends on the gathered domestic community and Peter says: "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have?" (Acts 10:47).

Thus, in the Council of the Apostles, Peter becomes the intercessor for the Church of the pagans who do not need the Law because God "has purified their hearts with faith" (Acts 15:9). Certainly, in the Letter to the Galatians, Paul says that God gave strength to Peter for the apostolic ministry among the circumcised, and to Paul himself, the ministry among the pagans instead (Gal 2:8). But this assignment could be in force only as long as Peter remained with the 12 in Jerusalem in the hope that all of Israel would adhere to Christ. In the face of later developments, the 12 recognized the time in which they too must go forth into the world to announce the Gospel to it. Peter who, following divine order, had been the first to open the door to pagans, now leaves the leadership of the Christian-Jewish Church to James the Less, in order to dedicate himself to his true mission: to the ministry of the unity of the one Church of God made up of Jews as well as pagans. The desire of Paul to go to Rome highlights above all, as we have seen, the word "catholica" ["catholic"] among the characteristics of the Church.

St. Peter's journey to Rome, as representative of the peoples of the world, is above all associated with the word "una" ["one"]: he has the task of creating the "unity" of the "catholica," of the Church made up of Jews and pagans, the Church of all peoples. And this is the permanent mission of Peter: to make sure that the Church never identifies herself with any one nation, any one culture or any one state. That it may always be the Church of all. That it may unite mankind beyond every frontier and, amidst the divisions of this world, make God's peace present, the reconciling power of his love. Due to technology that is now the same everywhere, due to the global information network, and due also to the linking of common interests, there are new modes of unity in the world, which have caused the explosion of new oppositions and given new impetus to old ones. In the midst of this external unity, based on material things, we have all the more need of interior unity which comes from the peace of God - the unity of all those who, through Jesus Christ, have become brothers and sisters. This is the permanent mission of Peter, as well as the special task entrusted to the Church of Rome.
Dear confreres in the Episcopate! I wish now to address those of you who have come to Rome to receive the pallium as the symbol of your rank and your responsibility as archbishops in the Church of Jesus Christ. The pallium is woven from the wool of the sheep that the Bishop of Rome blesses every year on the Feast of Peter's Chair, thus setting them apart, so to speak, to be a symbol for the flock of Christ, over which you preside.

When we put the pallium on our shoulders, this gesture reminds us of the Shepherd who puts the lost sheep upon his shoulders -- the lost sheep who by himself can no longer find the way home -- and takes him back to the sheepfold. The Fathers of the Church saw in this sheep the image of all mankind, of human nature in its entirety, which is lost its and can no longer find the way home. The Shepherd who takes the sheep home can only be the Logos, the eternal Word of God himself. In the Incarnation, he placed us all -- the sheep who is man -- on his shoulders. He, the eternal Word, the true Shepherd of mankind, carries us; in his humanity he carries each of us on his shoulders. On the way of the Cross, he carried us home, he takes us home. But he also wants men who can "carry" together with him. Being a shepherd in the Church of Christ means taking part in this task, which the pallium commemorates. When we put it on, he asks us: "Will you also carry, together with me, those who belong to me? Will you bring them to me, to Jesus Christ?" What comes to mind next is the order Peter received from the Risen Christ, who links the command, "Feed my sheep" inseparably with the question, "Do you love me? Do you love me more than others do?" Every time we put on the pallium of the shepherd of Christ's flock, we should hear this question, "Do you love me?" and we must ask ourselves about that "more" of love that he expects from the shepherd.

Thus the pallium becomes a symbol of our love for the Shepherd Christ and our loving together with him -- it becomes the symbol of the calling to love men as he does, together with him: those who are searching, those who have questions, those who are self-assured and the humble, the simple and the great; it becomes the symbol of the calling to love all of them with the strength of Christ and in view of Christ, so that they may find him, and in him, find themselves. But the pallium which you will receive "from" the tomb of Peter has yet another meaning, inseparably connected with the first. To understand this, a word from the First Letter of St. Peter may help us. In his exhortation to priests to feed the flock in the correct way, St. Peter calls himself a "synpresbýýteros" -- co-priest (5:1). This formula implicitly contains the affirmation of the principle of apostolic succession: the shepherds who follow are shepherds like him; together with him, they belong to the common ministry of the shepherds of the Church of Jesus Christ, a ministry that continues in them. But this "co-" (in co-priest) has still two other meanings. It also expresses the reality that we indicate today by what is said today about the "collegiality" of bishops. We are all "co-priests." No one is a shepherd by himself. We are in the succession of the apostles thanks only to being in the communion of the college in which the college of apostles finds its continuation. The communion -- the "we" -- of the shepherds is part of being shepherds, because there is only one flock, the one Church of Jesus Christ. Finally, this "co-" also refers to communion with Peter and his successor as a guarantee of unity. Thus, the pallium speaks to us of the catholicity of the Church, of the universal communion of shepherd and flock. And it refers us to apostolicity: to communion with the faith of the apostles on which the Church is founded. It speaks to us of the "ecclesia" that is "una," "catholica," "apostolic," and naturally, binding us to Christ, it speaks to us of the fact that the Church is "sancta" us that the Church is holy, and that our work is a service of this holiness.

This brings me back, finally, to St. Paul and his mission. He expressed the essence of his mission, as well as the most profound reason for his desire to go to Rome, in Chapter 15 of the Letter to the Romans, in an extraordinarily beautiful passage. He knows he has been called "to be a 'leitourgos' of Christ Jesus for the Gentiles, serving the Gospel of God as a priest, so that the pagans become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the holy Spirit" (15:16). Only in this passage does Paul use the word "hierourgein" -- serving as a priest -- together with "leitourgos" -- liturgist: he speaks of the cosmic liturgy, in which the world of men itself must become worship of God, an offering in the Holy Spirit. When the whole world will have become the liturgy of God, when in its reality it will have become adoration, then it will have reached its goal, then it will be whole and saved. And this is the ultimate objective of St. Paul's apostolic mission and of ours. It is to such a mystery that the Lord calls us. Let us pray in this hour that he may help us carry it out in the right way, to become true liturgists of Jesus Christ. Amen.
                                       
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Papal Address on Career of Cardinal Ruini
"An Example of Commitment to 'Thinking the Faith'"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address upon receiving Cardinal Camillo Ruini, his vicar for the Diocese of Rome, who retired today. Cardinal Ruini was accompanied by his successor, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and 400 representatives of the Diocese of Rome.

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

I am very happy to receive you and to offer each of you my cordial welcome. I address it in the first place and especially to you, dear Cardinal Camillo Ruini, whom today I wish to publicly thank, at the end of your long service as vicar general of the Diocese of Rome. I already had the occasion a few days ago to express my sentiments to you with a letter, in which I recalled the many aspects of such a long and appreciated ministry, begun in January 1991, when the Servant of God John Paul II called you to succeed Cardinal Ugo Poletti. Now I have the opportunity to renew to you the expression of my gratitude before the auxiliary bishops, prefects, parish priests, and the other representatives of the Diocese of Rome.

The closing years of last century, and the first years of the new were a truly extraordinary time, and all the more so for people who, such as us, had the good fortune to experience them alongside a true giant of the faith and of the mission of the Church, my venerated predecessor. He led the people of God through the historic finish of the year 2000 and, through the Great Jubilee, introducing it in the third millennium of the Christian era.

Collaborating closely with him, we were "drawn along" by his exceptional spiritual strength, rooted in prayer, in profound union with the Lord Jesus Christ and in filial intimacy with his Most Holy Mother. John Paul II's missionary charisma had, as it should, a decisive influence on his pontificate, in particular on the period of preparation for the Jubilee 2000.

And this was directly evident in the Diocese of Rome, the Pope's own diocese, thanks to the constant commitment of the cardinal vicar and his collaborators. As an example of this, I will limit myself to recall Rome's Citizens' Mission and the Dialogues in the Cathedral. These were manifestations of a Church which, at the very moment in which it was gaining a greater awareness of its own diocesan identity and assuming progressively its physiognomy, opened itself decisively to a missionary mentality and a style consistent with it, a mentality and style destined to last not just the length of a season, but, as was often confirmed, to become permanent.

This, venerable brother, is a particularly important aspect, for which I wish to give you merit, to the extent that, as president of the episcopal conference, you promoted and cared for it, not only here in Rome, but also at the level of the entire Italian nation.

Solicitude for the mission was always accompanied and backed up by an outstanding capacity for theological and philosophical reflection, which you manifested and exercised since your youthful years. The apostolate, especially in our own time, must be constantly nourished by thought in order to explain the significance of gestures and actions, which otherwise lapse into sterile activism.

And you, Cardinal, offered in this respect an outstanding contribution, putting at the service of the Holy Father, of the Holy See and of the whole Church your well-noted gifts of intelligence and wisdom. I witnessed this myself in my previous office, and even more so in these last years, in which I have been able to make use of your closeness in serving the Church in Italy, and particularly in Rome. I am pleased to recall in this respect our collaboration on the topics of diocesan ecclesial meetings, called to respond to the most urgent pastoral questions, while taking into account the social and cultural context of the city.

We all know that the "cultural project" is a special initiative of the Italian Church due to the zeal and farsightedness of Cardinal Ruini, but this expression, "cultural project," requires more attention generally and radically to the Church's place in society; in other words, the desire of the Christian community -- responding to the mission of its Lord -- to be present among men and women, and in history, with a plan for mankind, family and social relationships, inspired by the Word of God and expressed through dialogue with the culture of the time.

In this, dear cardinal, you have given an example that goes beyond the initiatives of the moment, an example of commitment to "thinking the faith" in absolute conformity to the magisterium of the Church, with careful attention to the teachings of the bishop of Rome and, at the same time, while constantly listening to the questions that arise from contemporary culture and from the problems of modern society.

While I express my gratitude to Cardinal Camillo Ruini, I am happy to communicate that, in his place, as vicar for the Diocese of Rome, I have appointed Cardinal Agostino Vallini, until now Prefect of the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature. I greet you with great affection and welcome you in the new office. I entrust it to you bearing in mind the pastoral experience you gained first as auxiliary in the great Archdiocese of Naples, then as bishop of Albano, to which experiences you add proven gifts of wisdom and cordiality. At the same time I have appointed you archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran and grand chancellor of the Pontifical Lateran University.

Dear cardinal, from today my prayer for you will be particularly intense, so that the Lord will grant you all the graces necessary in this new office. I encourage you to express fully your pastoral zeal and wish you a serene and profitable ministry, in which -- I am sure -- you will be able to count on the constant and generous collaboration of the auxiliary bishops and priests, religious and laity that work in the Vicariate of Rome. I take advantage also of this happy circumstance, dear brothers and sisters, to express to all of you, who work in the central offices of the diocese, my heartfelt gratitude and my encouragement to do always better, for the good of the Church that is in Rome.

Dear cardinals, may God fill you with an abundance of his gifts. Recompense him who retires and sustain him who takes his place. May he multiply in all thanksgiving for his infinite goodness and always grant each one the joy of serving Christ by working humbly for his Church. May the Virgin Mary, "Salus Populi Romani," watch over us from heaven and accompany us. Invoking her intercession, I impart from my heart to all of you here present and to the entire city of Rome the apostolic blessing.

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Pope's Words to Prelates of Hong Kong and Macao
"Christ Is Also for China a Teacher, Pastor and Loving Redeemer"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 27, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving the bishops of the Chinese dioceses of Hong Kong and Macao at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit.

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My dear Brother Bishops,

Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30). With these words I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to you. I thank His Eminence Cardinal Zen for the kind words of filial devotion which he expressed on your behalf. Please be assured of my personal affection and my prayers for you and for all who have been entrusted to your pastoral care. I am thinking at this moment of the priests, the religious men and women and all the lay faithful of your two diocesan communities. This Ad Limina Apostolorum visit is an occasion to renew your commitment to make Jesus ever more visible in the Church and better known in society by bearing witness to his love and the truth of his Gospel.

As I wrote in my letter of 27 May 2007 to the Catholic Church in China, referring to the invitation Duc in altum (cf. Lk 5:4) which Jesus offered to Peter, to his brother Andrew and to the first disciples, "these words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever' (Heb 13:8)" (cf. No. 3). Your two particular Churches are also called to be witnesses to Christ, to look forward in hope and to announce the Gospel facing up to the new challenges that the people of Hong Kong and Macao must embrace.

The Lord has given every man and woman the right to hear the proclamation that Jesus Christ "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Corresponding to this right is the duty to evangelize: "For I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16; cf Rom 10:14). All of the Church's activities are oriented towards evangelization and may not be separated from the commitment to assist everyone to encounter Christ in faith, which is the primary aim of evangelization: "Social issues and the Gospel are inseparable. When we bring people only knowledge, ability, technical competence and tools, we bring them too little" (Benedict XVI Homily during Holy Mass at Munich's Neue Messe Esplanade [10 September 2006] AAS 98 [2006] 710).

The Church's mission is taking place today in the context of globalization. I observed recently that the forces generated by globalization hold humanity suspended between two poles. On the one hand are the many social and cultural bonds which tend to promote attitudes of world-wide solidarity and shared responsibility for the good of mankind. On the other hand, there are worrying signs of fragmentation and individualism dominated by secularism which pushes the transcendent and the sense of the sacred to the margins and eclipses the very source of harmony and unity of the universe. The negative aspects of this cultural phenomenon draw attention to the need for a solid formation and call for concentrated efforts aimed at supporting the spiritual and moral ethos of your people.

I am aware that in both Dioceses, just as in the rest of the Church, an adequate ongoing formation of the clergy is needed. Hence the invitation extended to you as Bishops who are responsible for your ecclesial communities, to give special attention to young priests confronted with new pastoral challenges arising from the task of evangelizing a society as complex as today's. Ongoing formation of the clergy "is an intrinsic requirement of the gift and sacramental ministry received; and it proves necessary in every age. It is particularly urgent today, not only because of rapid changes in the social and cultural conditions of individuals and peoples among whom the priestly ministry is exercised, but also because of that 'new evangelization' which constitutes the essential and pressing task of the Church at the end of the Second Millennium" (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis [25 March 1992], 70: AAS [1992] 78). Your pastoral solicitude should embrace especially all consecrated men and women, called to render visible in the Church and in the world, the characteristic traits of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient.

Dear Brothers, as you know, Catholic schools offer an important contribution to the intellectual, spiritual and moral formation of the new generations. This crucial aspect of personal growth is what motivates Catholic parents, and those from other religious traditions, to seek out Catholic schools. In this regard I wish to send greetings to all the men and women who offer generous service to the Catholic schools of both Dioceses. They are called to be "witnesses of Christ, epiphany of the love of God in the world" and to posses "the courage of witnessing and the patience of dialogue" serving "human dignity, the harmony of creation, the existence of peoples and peace" (Consecrated Persons and their mission in schools, 1-2). It is therefore of great importance to be close to students and to their families, to watch over the formation of the young in the light of Gospel teaching and to follow closely the spiritual needs of all who form part of the school community. The Catholic schools of your two dioceses have given significant impulse to the social development and cultural growth of your people. Today these educational centres face new difficulties; be assured that I am with you, and I encourage you to ensure that this important service will never fall by the wayside.

In your mission as Pastors, draw confidence from the Paraclete who defends, counsels and protects (cf. Jn 14:16)! Encourage the faithful to welcome all to which the Spirit gives birth! I have recalled on different occasions that ecclesial movements and new communities are a "luminous sign of the beauty of Christ and of the Church his Bride" (cf. Message to the Participants in the Congress of 22 May 2006). Addressing them as my "dear friends of the movements", I encouraged them to act so that they would always be "schools of communion, journeying together and learning the truth and the love that Jesus has revealed and communicated to us through the witness of the Apostles, in the great family of his disciples" (ibid.). I exhort you to support the movements with great love because they are one of the most important new realities fostered by the Spirit in the Church in order to put into practice the Second Vatican Council (cf. Address to the participants of a Seminar promoted by the Pontifical Council for the Laity [17 May 2008]). I pray too that the movements themselves will make every effort to harmonize their activities with the pastoral and spiritual programmes of the Dioceses.

I am personally grateful to you for the affection and devotion you have shown to the Holy See in different ways. As I congratulate you on the many achievements of your well organized Diocesan communities, I encourage you to even greater commitment in the search for adequate means of presenting the Christian message of love in a more comprehensible way to the world in which you live. By doing so you will effectively show to all your brothers and sisters the enduring youthfulness and inexhaustible capacity for renewal of the Gospel of Christ, and bear witness to the fact that one can be authentically Catholic and authentically Chinese at the same time.

I also encourage your Dioceses to continue your contribution to the life of the Church in mainland China, both by offering personnel for formation purposes and by supporting initiatives in the field of human promotion and assistance. In this regard I cannot but recognize the invaluable service which the charitable organization Caritas of both Dioceses has offered to the needy with such generosity and professionalism. We must never forget however that Christ is also for China a Teacher, Pastor and loving Redeemer. The Church must never allow this good news to remain unspoken.

I hope and pray to the Lord that the day will soon come when your Brother Bishops from mainland China come to Rome on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as a sign of communion with the Successor of Peter and the Universal Church. I willingly avail myself of the occasion to send to the Catholic community of China and to all the people of that vast country the assurance of my prayers and my affection.

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On St. Maximus the Confessor
"He Always Had As His Compass the Concrete Reality of the World"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, dedicated to the figure of St. Maximus the Confessor.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to present the figure of one of the great Fathers of the Eastern Church of later times. He is a monk, St. Maximus, who merited from Christian tradition the title of Confessor because of the intrepid courage with which he was able to give witness -- "to confess" -- even while suffering, the integrity of his faith in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, Savior of the world.

Maximus was born in Palestine, the Lord's land, around 580. From his boyhood he was directed to the monastic life and to the study of Scripture, also through the works of Origen, the great teacher who already in the third century had already managed to define the Alexandrian exegetic tradition.

From Jerusalem, Maximus went to Constantinople, and from there, because of the barbarian invasions, he sought refuge in Africa. Here he distinguished himself with extreme courage in the defense of Orthodoxy. Maximus did not accept any attempt to minimize the humanity of Christ. The theory had arisen according to which Christ had only one will, the divine. To defend the uniqueness of his person, they denied he had a true human will.

At first glance, it might appear to be something good that in Christ there was only one will. However, St. Maximus understood immediately that this would have destroyed the mystery of salvation, because a humanity without will -- a man without a will -- is not a true man, but rather an amputated man. Therefore, the man Jesus Christ would not have been a true man, would not have experienced the drama of the human being, which consists precisely in the difficulty of conforming our will with the truth of being.

Thus St. Maximus affirmed with great determination: Sacred Scripture does not show us an amputated man, without a will, but a true complete man: God, in Jesus Christ, has truly assumed the totality of the human being -- obviously except for sin -- hence, also, a human will. Stated that way, the question was clear: Christ is either a true man or not.

However, the problem arises: Does not one end in this way in a sort of dualism? Is not one faced with affirming two complete personalities with reason, will, sentiment? How can this dualism be overcome? How can the completeness of the human being be preserved while protecting the unity of the person of Christ, who was not schizophrenic?

St. Maximus demonstrates that man finds his unity, the integration of himself, his totality not in himself, but in surpassing himself, by coming out of himself. Thus, also in Christ, man, coming out of himself, finds in God, in the Son of God, himself.

Man must not "amputate" the human Christ to explain the Incarnation. One must only understand the dynamism of the human being who is fulfilled only by coming out of himself. Only in God do we find ourselves, our totality and our completeness.

Thus we see that it is not the man who is closed in on himself who is complete the man, but it is the man who opens himself, who comes out of himself -- it is he who becomes complete, who finds himself in the Son of God, he finds in him his true humanity.

For St. Maximus this vision does not remain a philosophical speculation. He sees it realized in the concrete life of Jesus, above all in the drama of Gethsemane.

In this drama of Jesus' agony, of anguish and death, of the opposition between the human will not to die and the divine will that offers itself to death, in this drama of Gethsemane the whole human drama is realized, the drama of our redemption. St. Maximus tells us, and we know that this is true: Adam -- and Adam is us -- thought that the "no" was the apex of liberty; that only he who can say "no" is truly free; that to truly realize his liberty, man must say "no" to God.

Only in this way, he thinks, he is finally himself; he has arrived at the summit of liberty. This tendency was also present in Christ's human nature, but he overcame it, because Jesus saw that "no" is not the greatest liberty. The greatest liberty is to say "yes," to conform with the will of God. Only in saying "yes" does man really become himself. Only in the great opening of the "yes," in the unification of his will with the divine will, does man become immensely open, he becomes "divine."

To be like God was Adam's desire, namely, to be completely free. However, he is not divine, the man who is closed in on himself is not completely free. He is so by coming out of himself, it is in the "yes" that he becomes free. And this is the drama of Gethsemane: not my will but yours.

Transferring one's will to the divine will, that is how a true man is born. That is how we are redeemed.

This, in a few words, is the fundamental point of what St. Maximus wished to say, and we see that here the whole human being is questioned; here is the whole question of our life.

St. Maximus already had problems in Africa defending this vision of man and of God; then he was called to Rome. In 649 he took an active part in the Lateran Council, called by Pope Martin I to defend the two wills of Christ, against the emperor's edict, which -- pro bono pacis -- prohibited the discussion of this question.

Pope Martin paid dearly for his courage: Although he was in poor health, he was arrested and taken to Constantinople. Prosecuted and condemned to death, his sentence was commuted to final exile in Crimea, where he died on Sept. 16, 655, after two long years of humiliation and torments.
Not long after, in 662, it was Maximus' turn who -- also opposing the emperor -- continued to repeat: "It is impossible to affirm only one will in Christ!" (cfr PG 91, cc. 268-269).

Thus, together with two of his disciples, both called Anastasius, Maximus was subjected to an exhausting trial, though he was already older than 80 years of age. The emperor's tribunal condemned him, accused of heresy, to the cruel mutilation of his tongue and right hand -- the two organs with which, through words and writing, Maximus had combated the erroneous doctrine of the one will of Christ.

In the end, the holy monk, thus mutilated, was exiled in Colchide, on the Black Sea, where he died, exhausted by the sufferings undergone, at the age of 82, on Aug. 13 of the same year, 662.
Speaking of the life of Maximus, we referred to his literary work in defense of orthodoxy. We are referred in particular to the dispute with Pirro, then patriarch of Constantinople, in which Maximus succeeded in persuading the adversary of his errors. With great honesty, in fact, Pirro concluded the dispute thus: "I apologize for myself and for those who preceded me. Through ignorance we arrived at these absurd thoughts and arguments. I pray that the way will be found to cancel these absurdities, rescuing the memory of those who erred" (PG 91, c. 352).

There were then added some dozen important works, outstanding among which is the "Mistagoghia," one of St. Maximus' most significant writings, which brings together his theological thought in a well-structured synthesis.
St. Maximus' thought was never only theological, speculative, closed in on itself, because he always had as his compass the concrete reality of the world and of its salvation. In this context, in which had to suffer, he could not evade the question with solely theoretical philosophical affirmations. He had to seek the meaning of life, asking himself: who am I? What is the world?

To man, created in his image and likeness, God has entrusted the mission to unify the cosmos. And as Christ has unified the human being in himself, so the Creator has unified the cosmos in man. He has shown us how to unify the cosmos in communion with Christ and thus truly arrive at a redeemed world.

One of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, Hans Urs von Balthasar, referred to this powerful saving vision when, in "re-launching" the figure of Maximus, he defined his thinking as the representative expression of "cosmic liturgy."

At the center of this solemn liturgy Jesus Christ always remains, the only Savior of the world. The efficacy of his salvific action, which has definitively unified the cosmos, is guaranteed by the fact that he, though being God in everything, is also integrally man -- with the "energy" and the will of man.
The life and thought of Maximus remain powerfully illumined by an immense courage in witnessing to the integral reality of Christ, without any reduction or compromise. And so we see who is truly man, how we must live to respond to our vocation. We must live united to God, and thus be united to ourselves and the cosmos, giving the cosmos itself and humanity their just form.

Christ's universal "yes" shows us with clarity how to give the right place to all the other values. We are thinking of values justly defended today, such as tolerance, liberty and dialogue. However, a tolerance that is no longer able to distinguish between good and evil would become chaotic and self-destructive. So, moreover, would a liberty that does not respect the freedom of others and does not find the common measure of our respective liberties, it would become anarchic and destroy authority. Dialogue that no longer knows what to dialogue about becomes empty chatter.

All these values are great and fundamental, but they can remain true values only if they have the point of reference that unites them and gives them true authenticity. This point of reference is the synthesis between God and the cosmos, and the figure of Christ in which we learn the truth about ourselves and so learn where to place all the other values, because we discover their genuine meaning.

Jesus Christ is the point of reference that gives light to all the other values. This is the end point of the testimony of this great Confessor. And thus, in the end, Christ shows us that the cosmos must become liturgy, glory of God and that adoration is the beginning of the true transformation, of the true renewal of the world.
Because of this, I would like to conclude with a fundamental passage from St. Maximus' works: "We adore the only Son, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, as it is now, and for all times, and the times after time. Amen." (PG 91, c. 269).


[After the audience, the Pope greeted those present in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today's catechesis we turn to Saint Maximus the Confessor, a heroic defender of the Church's faith in the true humanity of Christ amid the bitter theological controversies of the seventh century. Born in Palestine, Maximus became a monk and lived in Constantinople, Roman Africa and Rome itself. In his preaching and writings he defended the mystery of the Incarnation and opposed the Monothelite heresy, which refused to acknowledge the presence of an integral human will in Jesus Christ. Maximus clearly understood that our salvation depends on Christ's complete humanity, which necessarily includes a human will capable of freely cooperating with the divine will in achieving the work of our redemption. The salvation of man, and indeed the entire cosmos, is central to the theology of Saint Maximus. Through the Incarnation of the Son of God, the whole universe is now redeemed and unified. Christ is thus the one absolute Value, to whom all worldly values are directed. This vision of a "cosmic liturgy," centred on the Incarnate Lord, ought to inspire the efforts of Christians today to make our world conform ever more fully to its ultimate meaning and goal in God's saving plan.

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Pope to Catholic Biblical Federation
"God's Word Can Restore Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2008 - Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent to the VII General Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation, underway until July 3 in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The theme of the conference is "Word of God: Source of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."

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To the Most Reverend
Vincenzo Paglia
President of the Catholic Biblical Federation

"Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace" (Eph 6:14-15). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I am pleased to greet the delegates and all those attending the Seventh General Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation taking place in Dar-es-Salaam from 24 June to 3 July 2008, dedicated to the theme: Word of God -- Source of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace. The General Assembly is always a privileged opportunity for the members of the Catholic Biblical Federation to listen together to the word of God and renew their service to the Church, called to proclaim the gospel of peace.

The fact that your meeting is being held in Dar-es-Salaam is an important gesture of solidarity with the Church in Africa, more so in view of next year's special Synod for Africa. "The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel" ("Gaudium et Spes," 4). The message you bring to Dar-es-Salaam is clearly a message of love of the Bible and love of Africa. The theme of your General Assembly draws attention to how God's word can restore humanity in reconciliation, justice and peace. This is the word of life that the Church has to offer to a broken world. "So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:19-20). May the African Continent set the context for the lectio divina which will assist you in these days and may your efforts help the Church in Africa to "pursue its evangelizing mission, in order to bring the peoples of the Continent to the Lord, teaching them to observe all that he has commanded [cf. Mt 28:20]" (cf. "Ecclesia in Africa," 6).

Christianity is the Religion of the Word of God, "not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living" (Saint Bernard, S. Missus est 4, 11 PL 183, 86). It is only Christ, the eternal Word of the living God, who through the Holy Spirit, can open our minds to understand the Scriptures (cf. Lk 24:15, Catechism, 108). I warmly encourage you therefore not only to continue to make known the profound relevance of the Scriptures to the contemporary experience of Catholics and particularly to the younger generations, but also to lead them to interpret them from the central perspective of Christ and his Paschal mystery. The community of believers can be the leaven of reconciliation, but only if "she remains docile to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if she carries the Cross like Jesus and with Jesus" (Homily, Solemnity of Pentecost, 11 May 2008). In this regard, I wish to make my own a reflection from the Servant of God, Pope John Paul ii, who observed: "How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians?" (Ut Unum Sint, 98). Let this observation also find its way into your undertakings these days. May your hearts be guided always by the Holy Spirit in the unifying power of the word of God.

All Christians are called to imitate the openness of Mary who received the Word of God "in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world" (Lumen Gentium, 53). May the peoples of Africa receive this Word as the life-giving source of reconciliation and justice, and especially of the true peace that comes only from the Risen Lord. Commending to the same Virgin Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, all those gathered for this General Assembly, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 12 June 2008

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Papal Homily for Quebec Congress
"The Eucharist Is Not a Meal Among Friends"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2008 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave via satellite Sunday at the closing Mass of the 49th International Eucharistic Congress. The congress was held in Quebec City. The homily was given in English and French.
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Lord Cardinals,

Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
While you are gathered for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, I am happy to join you through the medium of satellite and thus unite myself to your prayer. I would like first of all to greet the Lord Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, and the Lord Cardinal Jozef Tomko, special envoy for the congress, as well as all the cardinals and bishops present. I also address my cordial greetings to the personalities of civil society who decided to take part in the liturgy. My affectionate thought goes to the priests, deacons and all the faithful present, as well as to all Catholics of Quebec, of the whole of Canada and of other continents. I do not forget that your country celebrates this year the 400th anniversary of its foundation. It is an occasion for each one of you to recall the values that animated the pioneers and missionaries in your country.
"The Eucharist, gift of God for the Life of the World," this is the theme chosen for this latest International Eucharistic Congress. The Eucharist is our most beautiful treasure. It is the sacrament par excellence; it introduces us early into eternal life; it contains the whole mystery of our salvation; it is the source and summit of the action and of the life of the Church, as the Second Vatican Council recalled ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 8).
It is, therefore, particularly important that pastors and faithful dedicate themselves permanently to furthering their knowledge of this great sacrament. Each one will thus be able to affirm his faith and fulfill ever better his mission in the Church and in the world, recalling that there is a fruitfulness of the Eucharist in his personal life, in the life of the Church and of the world. The Spirit of truth gives witness in your hearts; you also must give witness to Christ before men, as the antiphon states in the alleluia of this Mass. Participation in the Eucharist, then, does not distance us from our contemporaries; on the contrary, because it is the expression par excellence of the love of God, it calls us to be involved with all our brothers to address the present challenges and to make the planet a place where it is good to live.

To accomplish this, it is necessary to struggle ceaselessly so that every person will be respected from his conception until his natural death; that our rich societies welcome the poorest and allow them their dignity; that all persons be able to find nourishment and enable their families to live; that peace and justice may shine in all continents. These are some of the challenges that must mobilize all our contemporaries and for which Christians must draw their strength in the Eucharistic mystery.

"The Mystery of Faith": this is what we proclaim at every Mass. I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, especially by revisiting and exploring, individually and in groups, the Council's text on the Liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium," so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery. In this way, each person will arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity. Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery. I sincerely hope that this Congress will serve as an appeal to all the faithful to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it. I urge priests especially to give due honor to the Eucharistic rite, and I ask all the faithful to respect the role of each individual, both priest and lay, in the Eucharistic action. The liturgy does not belong to us: it is the Church's treasure.

Reception of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament -- by this we mean deepening our communion, preparing for it and prolonging it -- is also about allowing ourselves to enter into communion with Christ, and through him with the whole of the Trinity, so as to become what we receive and to live in communion with the Church. It is by receiving the Body of Christ that we receive the strength "of unity with God and with one another" (Saint Cyril of Alexandria, In Ioannis Evangelium, 11:11; cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 577).
We must never forget that the Church is built around Christ and that, as Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Albert the Great have all said, following Saint Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:17), the Eucharist is the sacrament of the Church's unity, because we all form one single body of which the Lord is the head. We must go back again and again to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, where we were given a pledge of the mystery of our redemption on the Cross. The Last Supper is the locus of the nascent Church, the womb containing the Church of every age. In the Eucharist, Christ's sacrifice is constantly renewed, Pentecost is constantly renewed. May all of you become ever more deeply aware of the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, because Sunday, the first day of the week, is the day when we honor Christ, the day when we receive the strength to live each day the gift of God.
I would also like to invite the pastors and faithful to a renewed care in their preparation for reception of the Eucharist. Despite our weakness and our sin, Christ wills to make his dwelling in us, asking him for healing. To bring this about, we must do everything that is in our power to receive him with a pure heart, ceaselessly rediscovering, through the sacrament of penance, the purity that sin has stained, "putting our soul and our voice in accord," according to the invitation of the Council (cf. "Sacrosanctum Concilium," No.11). In fact, sin, especially grave sin, is opposed to the action of Eucharistic grace in us. However, those who cannot go to communion because of their situation, will find nevertheless in a communion of desire and in participation in the Mass saving strength and efficacy.
The Eucharist had an altogether special place in the lives of saints. Let us thank God for the history of holiness of Quebec and Canada, which contributed to the missionary life of the Church. Your country honors especially its Canadian martyrs, Jean de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions, who were able to give up their lives for Christ, thus uniting themselves to his sacrifice on the Cross.

They belong to the generation of men and women who founded and developed the Church of Canada, with Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marguerite d'Youville, Marie of the Incarnation, Marie-Catherine of Saint Augustine, Mgr Francis of Laval, founder of the first diocese in North America, Dina Belanger and Kateri Tekakwitha. Put yourselves in their school; like them, be without fear; God accompanies you and protects you; make of each day an offering to the glory of God the Father and take your part in the building of the world, remembering with pride your religious heritage and its social and cultural brilliance, and taking care to spread around you the moral and spiritual values that come to us from the Lord.

The Eucharist is not a meal among friends. It is a mystery of covenant. "The prayers and the rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice make the whole history of salvation revive ceaselessly before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle, and make us penetrate ever more its significance" (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, [Edith Stein], Wege zur inneren Stille Aschaffenburg, 1987, p. 67). We are called to enter into this mystery of covenant by conforming our life increasingly every day to the gift received in the Eucharist. It has a sacred character, as Vatican Council II reminds: "Every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree " ("Sacrosanctum Concilium," No. 7). In a certain way, it is a "heavenly liturgy," anticipation of the banquet in the eternal Kingdom, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Christ, until he comes (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26).

In order that the People of God never lack ministers to give them the Body of Christ, we must ask the Lord to make the gift of new priests to his Church. I also invite you to transmit the call to the priesthood to young men, so that they will accept with joy and without fear to respond to Christ. They will not be disappointed. May families be the primordial place and the cradle of vocations.

Before ending, it is with joy that I announce to you the meeting of the next International Eucharistic Congress. It will be held in Dublin, in Ireland, in 2012. I ask the Lord to make each one of you discover the depth and grandeur of the mystery of faith. May Christ, present in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit, invoked over the bread and wine, accompany you on your daily way and in your mission. May you, in the image of the Virgin Mary, be open to the work of God in you. Entrusting you to the intercession of Our Lady, of Saint Anne, patroness of Quebec, and of all the saints of your land, I impart to all of you an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, as well as to all the persons present, who have come from different countries of the world.

Dear friends, as this significant event in the life of the Church draws to a conclusion I invite you all to join me in praying for the success of the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2012 in the city of Dublin! I take this opportunity to greet warmly the people of Ireland, as they prepare to host this ecclesial gathering. I am confident that they, together with all the participants at the next Congress, will find it a source of lasting spiritual renewal.

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On Being Unafraid
"He Who Fears God Feels Interiorly the Security of a Child"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 22, 2008.- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus teaches us on the one hand "not to be afraid of men" and on the other hand to "fear" God (cf. Matthew 10:26, 28). We are thus moved to reflect on the difference that exists between human fears and the fear of God.

Fear is a natural part of life. From the time we are children we experience forms of fear that are revealed to be imaginary or that disappear. There are other fears that follow them that have a precise basis in reality: These must be faced and overcome by human effort and confidence in God. But there is also -- and today above all -- a more profound form of fear of an existential type that sometimes overflows into anxiety: It is born from a sense of emptiness that is linked to a culture that is permeated by a widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.

In the face of the ample and diversified panorama of human fears, the word of God is clear: He who "fears" the Lord is "not afraid." The fear of God, which the Scriptures define as the "beginning of true wisdom," coincides with faith in God, with the sacred respect for his authority over life and the world. Being "without the fear of God" is equivalent to putting ourselves in his place, feeling ourselves to be masters of good and evil, of life and death.

But he who fears God feels interiorly the security of a child in the arms of his mother (cf. Psalm 130:2): He who fears God is calm even in the midst of storms, because God, as Jesus has revealed to us, is a Father who is full of mercy and goodness. He who loves God is not afraid: "In love there is no fear," writes the Apostle John. "Perfect love," he goes on, "casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment and whoever is afraid is not perfected in love" (1 John 4:18).

The believer, therefore, is not afraid of anything, because he knows that he is in the hands of God, he knows that evil is irrational and does not have the last word, and that Christ alone is the Lord of the world and life, the Incarnate Word of God, he knows that Christ loved us to the point of sacrificing himself, dying on the cross for our salvation.

The more we grow in this intimacy with God, impregnated with love, the more easily we will defeat every kind of fear. In today's Gospel passage Jesus exhorts us twice not to be afraid. He reassures us as he did the apostles, as he did St. Paul, appearing to him is a vision one night in a particularly difficult moment in his preaching: "Do not be afraid," Jesus said to him, "for I am with you" (Acts 18:9). Strengthened by Christ's presence and comforted by his love, the Apostle of the Gentiles did not even fear martyrdom.

We are preparing to celebrate the bimillennium of St. Paul's birth with a special jubilee year. May this great spiritual and pastoral event awaken in us, too, a renewed confidence in Jesus Christ, who calls us to announce and witness to his Gospel without being afraid of anything.

I invite you, then, dear brothers and sisters, to prepare yourselves to celebrate with faith this Pauline Year, which, if it may please God, I will solemnly open next Saturday evening at 6 p.m. in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, with the first vespers for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. From this moment we entrust this great ecclesial initiative to the intercession of St. Paul and Mary most holy, Queen of the Apostles and Mother of Christ, source of our joy and our peace.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Pakistani Bishops
"The Centrality of the Eucharist Should Be Apparent in the Lives of Priests"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 19, 2008 - Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI gave today to bishops of Pakistan in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Pakistan, as you make your quinquennial pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. Grateful to Archbishop Saldanha for his kind words, I convey warm greetings to the priests, religious and laity of your dioceses, assuring them of my prayers for their well-being. May they never tire in giving thanks for having received the "first fruits" of the Holy Spirit, who is always with them to strengthen them and to intercede on their behalf (cf. Rom 8:23-27).

The seeds of the Gospel, sown in your region by zealous missionaries in the sixteenth century, continue to grow despite conditions that sometimes hinder their capacity to take root. Your visit to the See of Peter not only provides me with an opportunity to rejoice with you over the fruits of your labours, but to listen to your account of the hardships which you and your flock must endure for the sake of the Lord's name. Whenever we courageously shoulder the burdens placed upon us in circumstances often beyond our control, we encounter Jesus himself, who gives us a hope that surpasses the sufferings of the present because it transforms us from within (cf. Spe Salvi, 4).

Your priests, united by a special bond to Christ the Good Shepherd, are heralds of Christian hope as they proclaim that Jesus lives among his people to ease their anguish and strengthen them in their weakness (cf. Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, 75). I would ask you to assure your clergy of my spiritual closeness to them as they carry out this task. Just as the Lord continually gave to his Apostles signs of his love and solicitude for them, so should you strive to create a climate of affection and trust with your clergy who are your principal and irreplaceable co-workers. By looking upon you as a father and brother (cf. Pastores Gregis, 47) and hearing your words of encouragement for their pastoral initiatives, they will be inspired to unite their will to yours and dedicate themselves more completely to the spiritual good of God's people (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 14-15).

The centrality of the Eucharist, both through the worthy celebration of the Lord's Supper and in silent adoration of the Sacrament, should be especially apparent in the lives of priests and Bishops. This will lead the laity to follow your example and come to a deeper appreciation for the Lord's abiding presence among them. As Bishops, you are the chief stewards of the mysteries of God and the main promoters of the liturgical life of your local Churches (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 22). In this regard, I am pleased to note the various programmes you have initiated to raise awareness of the radical change that becomes possible when Christians allow their entire life to take on a "eucharistic form" (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 70-83). The source and summit of the Church's life radically reorients the way Christians think, speak and act in the world and makes present the salvific meaning of Christ's death and resurrection, thus renewing history and vivifying all creation. The breaking of the bread reminds us again and again that the absurdity of violence never has the last word, for Christ has conquered sin and death through his glorious resurrection. The holy Sacrifice assures us that his wounds are the remedy for our sins, his weakness the power of God within us, and his death our life (cf. 1 Pet 2:24; 2 Cor 13:4; 2 Cor 4:10). I am confident that the daily offering of the Mass by you and your priests will lead your people to give constant thanks and praise to God the Father for the graces granted us in his Son, through whom we have received the Spirit of filial adoption (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1110).

Eucharistic spirituality embraces every aspect of the Christian life (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 77). This is evident in the emerging vitality of ecclesial movements within your Dioceses. The charisms of these associations both reflect and meet the particular needs of our time. By exhorting the members of these movements and all the faithful to listen attentively to the word of God and to cultivate a habit of daily prayer, may your people foster genuine fellowship and create ever expanding networks of charitable solicitude for their neighbours.

My dear brothers, I join you in thanking God who calls forth men to serve as priests in your local Churches. The theologate in Karachi, the programme of philosophy in Lahore and your minor seminaries are vital institutions for the future of the Church in Pakistan. Never doubt that your investment of human and material resources will ensure a solid formation for your candidates for the priesthood. Generous collaborators are also to be found among members of religious orders who can help to enhance programmes of priestly formation and strengthen bonds of cooperation between religious and diocesan clergy. Of particular urgency at the present time is the task of preparing these men - and indeed all catechists and lay leaders - to become effective promoters of interreligious dialogue. They share a responsibility with all Christians in Pakistan to foster understanding and trust with members of other religions by constructing peaceful forums for open conversation.

Likewise, other Catholic institutions continue to serve the common good of the Pakistani people. They demonstrate that the love of Christ is no mere abstraction, but reaches out to every man and woman as it passes through real persons working in the Church's charitable institutions. The Gospel teaches us that Jesus cannot be loved in the abstract (cf. Mt 25:31-37). Those who serve in Catholic hospitals, schools, social and charitable agencies respond to the concrete needs of others, knowing well that they are ministering to the Lord himself through their particular acts of charity (cf. Mt 25:40). I encourage you to build on the noble example of service to neighbour etched in the history of these institutions. Priests, religious and the lay faithful in your Dioceses, by caring for the sick, helping young people grow in knowledge and virtue, and meeting the needs of the poor, reveal the human face of God's love for each and every person. May their encounter with the living Christ awaken in their hearts a desire to share with others the joy of living in God's presence (cf. Ps 73:25, 28). In imitation of Saint Paul, may they freely give to others what they themselves have received without cost (cf. 1 Cor 4:7; 2 Cor 11:7; Mt 10:8).

My brothers in the Episcopate, you exercise a special mission as preachers of the Gospel and as agents of love and peace in the Church and in society. May you support one another in prayer and effective collaboration as you face the difficult tasks that lie ahead. Invoking upon you and your priests, religious and lay faithful the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus.

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St. Isidore of Seville.
"Believers Up to Our Times Benefit From His Definitions"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 2008.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, focused on the figure of St. Isidore of Seville.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I wish to speak of St. Isidore of Seville, younger brother of Leander, bishop of Seville, and great friend of Pope Gregory the Great. This relation is important because it leads us to keep in mind a cultural and spiritual approach that is indispensable to understanding Isidore's personality. In fact, he owed much to Leander, a very exacting, studious and austere person, who had created around his younger brother a family context characterized by ascetic demands proper of a monk and the rhythms of work required by serious dedication to study.

In addition, Leander was attentive to prepare in advance what was necessary to address the political-social situation of the moment: In those decades, in fact, the Visigoths, barbarians and Arians, had invaded the Iberian Peninsula and taken over territories belonging to the Roman empire. It was necessary to win them over to Romanism and Catholicism. Leander and Isidore's home had quite a rich library of classical, pagan and Christian works. Isidore, who felt attracted simultaneously to both one and the other, was taught, therefore, to develop, under the watchfulness of his elder brother, a very strong discipline in dedicating himself to their study with discretion and discernment.

In the bishop's residence in Seville one lived, therefore, in a serene and open climate. We can deduce this from Isidore's cultural and spiritual interests, as they emerge from his works themselves, which contain an encyclopedic knowledge of the pagan classical culture and in-depth knowledge of Christian culture. Thus can be explained the eclecticism that characterizes Isidore's literary output, which extends with great ease from Marcial to Augustine, and from Cicero to Gregory the Great.

Indeed, the interior struggle that the young Isidore had to endure, having become his brother Leander's successor in the episcopal chair of Seville in 599, was not light. Perhaps the impression of excessive voluntarism that one detects when reading the works of this great author -- regarded as the last of the Christian fathers of antiquity -- is due precisely to this constant struggle with himself. A few years after his death, which occurred in 636, the Council of Toledo of 653 described him as: "Illustrious teacher of our time and glory of the Catholic Church."

Isidore was without a doubt a man of accentuated dialectical oppositions. And, also in his personal life, he experienced a permanent interior conflict, rather like that which St. Gregory the Great and St. Augustine had already noted, between the desire for solitude, to dedicate themselves solely to meditation on the word of God, and the exigencies of charity toward his neighbors, for whose salvation, as bishop, he felt responsible.

He wrote, for example, in connection with persons responsible for the Churches: "The person responsible for a Church -- "vir ecclesiasticus" -- must on one hand allow himself to be crucified to the world with the mortification of the flesh and, on the other, accept the decision of the ecclesiastical order, when it stems from the will of God, to dedicate himself to governance with humility, even if he does not wish to do it" (Sententiarum liber III, 33, 1: PL 83, col 705 B).

He then adds just another paragraph: "The men of God -- "sancti viri" -- do not in fact desire to dedicate themselves to worldly things and lament when, by a mysterious plan of God, they are entrusted with certain responsibilities. They do anything to avoid it, but accept that which they wish to flee, and do that which they would have wished to avoid. In fact, they enter into the secret of the heart and therein try to understand what the mysterious will of God requests. And when they realize that they must submit to God's plans, they humble their hearts under the yoke of the divine decision" (Sementarium liber III, 33, 3: PL 83, coll. 705-706).
To better understand Isidore, we must recall, first of all, the complexity of the political situations of his time, to which I have already made reference: During the years of his childhood he had experienced the bitterness of exile. Despite this, he was permeated with apostolic enthusiasm: He experienced the rapture of contributing to the formation of a people who were finally rediscovering their unity, whether on the political or the religious plane, with the providential conversion of Erminigild, the heir to the Visigothic throne, from Arianism to the Catholic faith.

However, we must not underestimate the enormous difficulties he faced in adequately addressing very grave problems such as those of relations with the heretics and the Jews -- a whole series of problems that appear very concretely also today, above all, if we consider what happens in certain regions in which it seems that situations somewhat similar to those of the Iberian Peninsula of the 6th century have reappeared. The wealth of cultural knowledge that Isidore possessed allowed him to constantly confront the Christian novelty with the Greco-Roman classical heritage, even if, beyond the precious gift of synthesis, it seems he also had that of "collatio," namely, of compilation, which was expressed in an extraordinary personal erudition, not always ordered as might have been desired.
To be admired, in any case, is his persistent desire not to neglect anything of that which human experience had produced in the history of his homeland and of the whole world. Isidore did not wish to lose anything that was acquired by man in ancient times, whether pagan, Jewish or Christian. We should not be surprised, therefore, if, in pursuing this purpose, at times he was not successful in passing on adequately, as he would have wished, the knowledge he possessed through the purifying waters of the Christian faith.

In fact, however, in Isidore's intentions, the proposals he makes are always in harmony with the Catholic faith, which he firmly upheld. In the discussion of several theological problems, he shows perception of their complexity and often suggests with acuity solutions that take up and express the complete Christian truth. This enabled believers through the course of the centuries and up to our times to benefit with gratitude from his definitions. A significant example of this matter is offered to us by Isidore's teaching on the relationships between the active and contemplative life.

He writes: "Those who seek to attain the repose of contemplation must first train themselves in the stage of the active life; and thus, freed from the dross of sins, will be able to exhibit that pure heart which, alone, allows one to see God" (Differentiarum Lib II, 34, 133: PL 83, col 91A).

The realism of a true pastor convinces him however of the risk that the faithful run of reducing themselves to being one-dimensional men. Hence, he adds: "The middle way, composed of both ways of life, is generally more useful to resolve those tensions that often are acute by the choice of only one kind of life and are better tempered by an alternation of the two ways" (o.c., 134: ivi, col 91B).
Isidore looks for the definitive confirmation of a correct orientation of life in the example of Christ and says: "Jesus the Savior offers us the example of the active life when, during the day he dedicated himself to offer signs and miracles in the city, but he showed the contemplative life when he withdrew to the mountain at night and dedicated himself to prayer" (o.c. 134: ivi).

In the light of the example of the divine Teacher, Isidore could conclude with this precise moral teaching: "Therefore, the servant of God, imitating Christ, must dedicate himself to contemplation without denying himself the active life. To behave otherwise would not be right. In fact, as we must love God with contemplation, so we must love our neighbor with action. It is impossible, therefore, to live without the presence of one and the other way of life, nor is it possible to love if one has no experience of one or the other" (o.c., 135: ivi, col 91C).

I hold that this is the synthesis of a life that seeks the contemplation of God, dialogue with God in prayer and the reading of sacred Scripture, as well as action in the service of the human community and of one's neighbor. This synthesis is the lesson that the great bishop of Seville leaves us, Christians of today, called to witness to Christ at the beginning of a new millennium.

[The Pope then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today's catechesis we turn to Saint Isidore of Seville, the brother of Saint Leander and a contemporary and friend of Saint Gregory the Great. Isidore lived during the Visigothic invasions of Spain, and he devoted much energy to converting the barbarian tribes from heresy and preserving the best fruits of classical and Christian culture. His encyclopedic, albeit somewhat eclectic, learning is reflected in his many writings, including the Etymologies, which were widely read throughout the Middle Ages. Isidore worked to bring the richness of pagan, Jewish and Christian learning to the rapidly changing political, social and religious situations in which he lived. Throughout his life, he was torn between his devotion to study and contemplation, and the demands made by his responsibilities as a Bishop, especially towards the poor and those in need. He found his model in Christ, who joined both the active and contemplative life, and sought to "love God in contemplation and one's neighbor in action" (Differentiarum Liber, 135). This is a lesson which is as valid today as it was in the life of the great Bishop of Seville.

I am pleased to welcome the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles gathered in Rome for their General Chapter, and the participants in the Rome Seminar of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. I also warmly greet a group of survivors of the Holocaust who are present at today's Audience. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from England, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam and the United States, I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

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Pope's Message to U.N. Food Summit
"Hunger and Malnutrition Are Unacceptable"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI sent to the participants attending the U.N.-sponsored High-level Conference on World Food Security, held June 3-5 in Rome. The meeting was titled "The Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy."

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Mr President of the Italian Republic,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Mr Director General of the FAO,
Mr Secretary General of the UN,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to address my respectful and cordial greeting to you, who, in different capacities, represent the various components of the human family and are gathered in Rome to negotiate suitable solutions to face the problem of hunger and malnutrition.

I have asked Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, to express to you the particular attention with which I am following your work and assure you that I attribute great importance to the arduous duty that awaits you. Millions of men and women look to you while new snares threaten their survival and worrisome situations put the security of their Nations at risk. In fact, the growing globalization of markets does not always favour the availability of foodstuffs and the systems of production are often conditioned by structural limits not to mention by political protection and speculative phenomena that relegate entire populations to the margins of development processes. In light of this situation, one must strongly repeat that hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable in a world that, in reality, possesses production levels, resources and sufficient knowledge to put an end to these dramas and their consequences. The great challenge of today is ""to globalize' not only economic and commercial interests, but also the expectations of solidarity, with respect for and valuing the contribution of each component of society" (cf. Address to the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, 31 May 2008).

To the FAO and to its Director General, therefore, go my appreciation and my gratitude, for having again drawn the international community's attention to what obstructs the fight against hunger and for having solicited it to take action, an action that must be united and coordinated in order to be effective.

In this spirit, to the high-level Personages participating in this Summit I should like to renew the wish that I expressed during my recent Visit to the UN Headquarters: it is urgent to overcome the "paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few" (Address to United Nations' General Assembly, 18 April 2008). Furthermore, may I invite you to cooperate in an ever more transparent manner with the organizations of civil society committed to filling the growing gap between wealth and poverty. Again I exhort you to continue with those structural reforms that, on a national level, are indispensable to successfully confront the problems of underdevelopment, of which hunger and malnutrition are direct consequences. I know how arduous and complex it all is!

Yet, how can one remain insensitive to the appeals of those who, on the various continents, are not able to feed themselves enough to live? Poverty and malnutrition are not a mere fatality caused by adverse environmental circumstances or by disastrous natural calamities. On the other hand, considerations of an exclusively technical or economic character must not prevail over the rights of justice toward those who suffer from hunger. "The right to nutrition responds principally to an ethical motivation: "give the hungry to eat' (cf. Mt 25: 35), that prompts a sharing of material goods as a sign of the love which we all need.... This primary right to nutrition is intrinsically linked to the safeguarding and to the defence of human life, the solid and inviolable rock upon which the whole edifice of human rights is founded" (Address to the new Ambassador of Guatemala, 31 May 2008). Each person has the right to life: therefore it is necessary to promote the effective actualization of such rights and the populations that suffer from lack of food must be helped to gradually become capable of satisfying their own needs for sufficient and healthy nutrition.

At this particular moment, in which food security is threatened by the rise in price of agricultural products, new strategies need to be worked out in the fight against poverty and the promotion of rural development. This must also happen through structural reform processes, that would enable the challenges of the same security and of climatic changes to be faced. Furthermore, it is necessary to increase the food available by promoting industrious small farmers and guaranteeing them access to the market. The global increase in the production of agricultural products, however, can be effective only if production is accompanied by effective distribution and if it is primarily destined to satisfy essential needs. It certainly is not easy, but it would allow, among other things, to rediscover the value of the rural family: it would not be limited to preserving the transmission, from parents to children, of the cultivation methods, of conserving and distributing foodstuffs, but above all it would preserve a model of life, of education, of culture and of religiosity. Moreover, from the economic profile, it ensures an effective and loving attention to the weakest and, by virtue of the principle of subsidiarity, it could assume a direct role in the distribution chain and the trading of agricultural food products reducing the costs of intermediaries and favouring small scale production.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today's difficulties show how modern technology by itself, is not sufficient to provide for the lack of food, neither are statistical calculations nor, in emergency situations, the sending of food supplies. All this certainly has a great impact, yet it must be completed and oriented to a political action that, inspired by those principles of the natural law which are written on the human heart, protect the dignity of the person. In this way, also the order of Creation is respected and one has "the good of all as a constant guiding criterion" (Message for the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2008, n. 7). Hence, only by protecting the person is it possible to overcome the main causes of hunger, such as being closed to one's neighbour which dissolves solidarity, justifies models of consumeristic life and unravels the social fabric, preserving, if not actually deepening the furrows of unjust balances and neglecting the most profound demands of good (cf. Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, n. 28). If, therefore, respect for human dignity were given its worth on the negotiation table, in making decisions and accomplishing them, it would be possible to rise above otherwise insurmountable obstacles and it would eliminate, or at least diminish, the disinterest in the good of others. Consequently, it would be possible to adopt courageous measures that would not stop before hunger and malnutrition, as if they were simply considered unsolvable, endemic phenomena. It could help if, in the defence of human dignity, international action - even emergency action - were to estimate the superfluous in the perspective of the needs of others and to administer the fruit of Creation according to justice, placing it at the disposition of all generations.

In the light of these principles, I hope that the Delegations present at this meeting will take on new commitments and be resolved to accomplish them with great determination. The Catholic Church, for her part, desires to join in these efforts! In a spirit of collaboration, drawing on ancient wisdom, inspired by the Gospel, she makes a firm and heartfelt appeal that is very relevant for those participating in the Summit: "Give to eat to the one who is starving of hunger, because, if you do not give to him to eat, you will kill him" (cf. Decretum Gratiani, c. 21, d. LXXXVI). I assure you that, along this path, you can count on the support of the Holy See. Although it differentiates itself from States, it is united to their most noble objectives to seal a commitment that, by her nature, involves the entire international community: to encourage every People to share the needs of other Peoples, placing in common the goods of the earth that the Creator has destined for the entire human family. With these sentiments, I express my most fervent wishes for the success of your work and invoke the Blessing of the Most High upon you and upon those who are committed to the authentic progress of the person and of society.

From the Vatican, 2 June 2008

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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On the Way of Peace
"The Place Where We Find Ourselves Is Permeated With Symbolism"

BRINDISI, Italy, JUNE 15, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Brindisi before praying the midday Angelus.
The Pope was on a two-day pastoral visit to the coastal cities of Santa Maria di Leuca and Brindisi in the southwestern Italian region of Apulia.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before concluding the celebration, I would like to express my gratitude to those who prepared it with such care and animated it with music and song. I thank those who organized my trip and continue to be of assistance so that it goes well: I think of the different local officials, the security, the volunteers and of you, dear citizens of Brindisi. I invite all of you, as I do every Sunday to join with me in praying the Angelus.

The place where we find ourselves -- the port -- is permeated with symbolism. Every port speaks of welcome, of rest, of security; it speaks of the shore that was longed for after the sea voyage that was perhaps long and difficult.

But it also speaks of departure, of projects and aspirations, of the future. The port of Brindisi especially plays an important role for communication with the Mediterranean Sea and the East; because of this, there is a base of the United Nations here that has a vital humanitarian purpose. From this suggestive place, not far from Calimera -- the city known as Italy's "hello" -- I want therefore to renew the Christian message of cooperation and of peace between all peoples, especially between those nations who crown this sea, ancient cradle of civilization, and those of the Near and Middle East.

I would like to renew this message in the words that I used two months ago at the United Nations in New York: "The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty.

"On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation." From this limb of Europe that stretches out into the Mediterranean, between East and West, we turn once again to Mary, Mother who "shows us the way" -- "Odegitria" -- giving us Jesus, the way of peace.

We invoke her with all the titles with which she is venerated in the shrines of Puglia, and especially here, in this ancient port, we pray to her as "port of salvation" for every man and for all of humanity.

May her maternal protection always defend your city and region, Italy, Europe and the whole world against the tempests that threaten the faith and true values; may she permit the young generations to take to the sea without fear, to face the voyage of life with Christian hope. Mary, port of salvation, pray for us!

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Benedict XVI's Homily on Corpus Christi
"God Created Us Free But He Did Not Leave Us Alone"

ROME, JUNE 13, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave May 22 during the Mass for the solemnity of Corpus Christi, which took place in the square of the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the strong season of the liturgical year which, focusing on Easter spreads over three months -- first the 40 days of Lent, then the 50 days of Eastertide -- the liturgy has us celebrate three Feasts which instead have a "synthetic" character: the Most Holy Trinity, then Corpus Christi, and lastly, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What is the precise significance of today's Solemnity, of the Body and Blood of Christ? The answer is given to us in the fundamental actions of this celebration we are carrying out: first of all we gather around the altar of the Lord, to be together in his presence; secondly, there will be the procession, that is walking with the Lord; and lastly, kneeling before the Lord, adoration, which already begins in the Mass and accompanies the entire procession but culminates in the final moment of the Eucharistic Blessing when we all prostrate ourselves before the One who stooped down to us and gave his life for us. Let us reflect briefly on these three attitudes, so that they may truly be an expression of our faith and our life.

The first action, therefore, is to gather together in the Lord's presence. This is what in former times was called "statio". Let us imagine for a moment that in the whole of Rome there were only this one altar and that all the city's Christians were invited to gather here to celebrate the Saviour who died and was raised. This gives us an idea of what the Eucharistic celebration must have been like at the origins, in Rome and in many other cities that the Gospel message had reached. In every particular Church there was only one Bishop and around him, around the Eucharist that he celebrated, a community was formed, one, because one was the blessed Cup and one was the Bread broken, as we heard in the Apostle Paul's words in the Second Reading (cf. I Cor 10: 16-17). That other famous Pauline expression comes to mind: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3: 28). "You are all one"! In these words the truth and power of the Christian revolution is heard, the most profound revolution of human history, which was experienced precisely around the Eucharist: here people of different age groups, sex, social background, and political ideas gather together in the Lord's presence. The Eucharist can never be a private event, reserved for people chosen through affinity or friendship.

The Eucharist is a public devotion that has nothing esoteric or exclusive about it. Here too, this evening, we did not choose to meet one another, we came and find ourselves next to one another, brought together by faith and called to become one body, sharing the one Bread which is Christ. We are united over and above our differences of nationality, profession, social class, political ideas: we open ourselves to one another to become one in him. This has been a characteristic of Christianity from the outset, visibly fulfilled around the Eucharist, and it is always necessary to be alert to ensure that the recurring temptations of particularism, even if with good intentions, do not go in the opposite direction. Therefore Corpus Christi reminds us first of all of this: that being Christian means coming together from all parts of the world to be in the presence of the one Lord and to become one with him and in him.

The second constitutive aspect is walking with the Lord. This is the reality manifested by the procession that we shall experience together after Holy Mass, almost as if it were naturally prolonged by moving behind the One who is the Way, the Journey. With the gift of himself in the Eucharist the Lord Jesus sets us free from our "paralyses", he helps us up and enables us to "proceed ", that is, he makes us take a step ahead and then another step, and thus sets us going with the power of the Bread of Life. As happened to the Prophet Elijah who had sought refuge in the wilderness for fear of his enemies and had made up his mind to let himself die (cf. I Kgs 19: 1-4). But God awoke him from sleep and caused him to find beside him a freshly baked loaf: "Arise and eat", the angel said, "else the journey will be too great for you" (I Kgs 19: 5,7). The Corpus Christi procession teaches us that the Eucharist seeks to free us from every kind of despondency and discouragement, wants to raise us, so that we can set out on the journey with the strength God gives us through Jesus Christ. It is the experience of the People of Israel in the exodus from Egypt, their long wandering through the desert, as the First Reading relates. It is an experience which was constitutive for Israel but is exemplary for all humanity. Indeed the saying: "Man does not live by bread alone, but... by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Dt 8: 3), is a universal affirmation which refers to every man or woman as a person. Each one can find his own way if he encounters the One who is the Word and the Bread of Life and lets himself be guided by his friendly presence. Without the God-with-us, the God who is close, how can we stand up to the pilgrimage through life, either on our own or as society and the family of peoples? The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the God who does not leave us alone on the journey but stays at our side and shows us the way. Indeed, it is not enough to move onwards, one must also see where one is going!

"Progress" does not suffice, if there are no criteria as reference points. On the contrary, if one loses the way one risks coming to a precipice, or at any rate more rapidly distancing oneself from the goal. God created us free but he did not leave us alone: he made himself the "way" and came to walk together with us so that in our freedom we should also have the criterion we need to discern the right way and to take it.

At this point we cannot forget the beginning of the "Decalogue", the Ten Commandments, where it is written: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex 20: 2-3). Here we find the meaning of the third constitutive element of Corpus Christi: kneeling in adoration before the Lord. Adoring the God of Jesus Christ, who out of love made himself bread broken, is the most effective and radical remedy against the idolatry of the past and of the present. Kneeling before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however powerful. We Christians kneel only before God or before the Most Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in it, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son (cf. Jn 3: 16). We prostrate ourselves before a God who first bent over man like the Good Samaritan to assist him and restore his life, and who knelt before us to wash our dirty feet. Adoring the Body of Christ, means believing that there, in that piece of Bread, Christ is really there, and gives true sense to life, to the immense universe as to the smallest creature, to the whole of human history as to the most brief existence. Adoration is prayer that prolongs the celebration and Eucharistic communion and in which the soul continues to be nourished: it is nourished with love, truth, peace; it is nourished with hope, because the One before whom we prostrate ourselves does not judge us, does not crush us but liberates and transforms us.

This is why gathering, walking and adoring together fills us with joy. In making our own the adoring attitude of Mary, whom we especially remember in this month of May, let us pray for ourselves and for everyone; let us pray for every person who lives in this city, that he or she may know you, O Father and the One whom you sent, Jesus Christ and thus have life in abundance. Amen.

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Papal Address to Bangladesh Prelates
"Bishops Are Called to Be Patient, Mild and Gentle"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 12, 2008 - Here is the English-langauge address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving the bishops of Bangladesh, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.
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Dear Brother Bishops,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Bangladesh, on your quinquennial visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Archbishop Costa for the kind words he has addressed to me on your behalf. Your generous love of God, your solicitude for the people entrusted to your care by the Lord Jesus, and your bond of unity in the Holy Spirit are for me a cause of profound joy and thanksgiving.

Personal integrity and holiness of life are essential components of a Bishop’’s witness since "before becoming one who hands on the word, the Bishop must be a hearer of the word" (cf. Pastores Gregis, 15). Again and again our Christian experience demonstrates the Gospel paradox that joy and fulfilment are to be attained through the complete gift of self for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom (cf. Mk 8:35). Bishops are called to be patient, mild and gentle in the spirit of the beatitudes. In this way they lead others to see all human realities in the light of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 5:1-12). Their personal witness of evangelical integrity is complemented and strengthened by the many fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful as they tend to the perfection of charity (cf. Lumen Gentium, 39). For this reason, I join you in giving thanks to Almighty God for the growth and fervour of the Catholic community in Bangladesh, especially amid the daily challenges it faces. Many of your people suffer from poverty, isolation or discrimination, and they look to you for spiritual guidance that will lead them to recognize in faith, and to experience in anticipation, that they are truly blessed by God (cf. Lk 6:22).

As successors of the Apostles, you are called in a special way to teach God’’s chosen people, availing yourselves of the many gifts God has granted his community for the effective transmission of the deposit of Faith. In this regard, I appreciate your efforts to ensure that your lay catechists are sufficient in number, well prepared and given due recognition by the faithful. I pray that their example and dedication will draw other lay men and women to a more active role in the Church’’s apostolates. As you know from your own pastoral experience, catechists play an integral role in preparing laypeople to receive the sacraments. This is especially true in the increasingly important work of preparing young men and women to recognize the Sacrament of Matrimony as a life-long covenant of faithful love and as a path to holiness. I have often mentioned my concern regarding the difficulty modern men and women have in making a lifelong commitment (cf. Address to the Bishops of the United States of America, 16 April 2008) . There is an urgent need on the part of all Christians to reassert the joy of total self-giving in response to the radical call of the Gospel.

One clear sign of this radical commitment is seen in the many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life the Church in your country is currently experiencing. I encourage your efforts to offer these candidates suitable formation that will bring forth abundant fruits. In this regard, I also wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for the generous assistance offered by the Church in other countries, especially Korea, in the preparation of your seminarians and priests.

The Church is Catholic: a community embracing peoples of all races and languages, and not limited to any one culture or particular social, economic or political system (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 42). She is at the service of the entire human family, freely sharing her gifts for the well-being of all. This gives her a connatural ability to foster unity and peace. My dear brothers, you and your people, as promoters of harmony and peace, have much to offer the nation. In your love for your country you inspire tolerance, moderation and understanding. By encouraging people who share important values to cooperate for the common good, you help to consolidate your country’’s stability and to maintain it for the future. These efforts, however subtle, give effective support to the majority of your fellow citizens who uphold the country’’s noble tradition of mutual respect, tolerance and social harmony. May you likewise continue to sustain and counsel Catholic lay people and all who wish to offer their service for the good of society in public office, social communications, in education, healthcare and social assistance. May they always rejoice in the knowledge that Christ accepts as a gesture of personal love whatever good is done to the least of his brothers (cf. Mt 25:40).

I am aware of recent initiatives you have taken in the field of interreligious dialogue, and I exhort you to persevere with patient dedication to this essential component of the Church’’s mission ad gentes (Ecclesia in Asia, 31). Indeed, much good can be accomplished when it is conducted in a spirit of mutual understanding and collaboration in truth and freedom. All men and women have an obligation to seek the truth. When it is found, they are compelled to model their entire lives in accordance with its demands (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 2). Consequently, the most important contribution we can bring to interreligious dialogue is our knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, "the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). Dialogue, based on mutual respect and truth, cannot fail to have a positive influence on the social climate of your country. The delicacy of this task requires thorough preparation of clergy and lay people, first of all by offering them a deeper knowledge of their own faith and then by helping them to grow in their understanding of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions present in your region.

At the end of this month, we will begin the celebration of the Pauline Year, which will be for the whole Church a renewed invitation to announce with unfailing courage the Good News of Christ Jesus. Saint Paul was not ashamed to preach the Gospel; he saw in it the power of God to save (cf. Rom 1:16). I am aware of the difficulties of this mission entrusted to you. Like the first Christians, you live as a small community among a large non-Christian population. Your presence is a sign that the preaching of the Gospel, which began in Jerusalem and Judea, continues to spread to the ends of the earth in accordance with the universal destination the Lord willed for it (cf. Acts 1:8). My prayers accompany you as you lead your priests, men and women religious and lay faithful along the path marked out by so many dedicated missionaries, beginning with Saint Francis Xavier, who brought the Gospel to your country. The Church you represent "proclaims the Good News with loving respect and esteem for her listeners" (Ecclesia in Asia, 20). Continue this task with goodness and simplicity, and with "creativity in charity" (cf. Pastores Gregis, 73), according to your talents, your specific graces and the means at your disposal. Have confidence in the Lord who opens the hearts of listeners to heed what is announced in his name (cf. Acts 16:14).

Dear brother Bishops, I know that you find great courage and inspiration in the words of Christ who commissioned you, "Behold I am with you always, unto the end of time" (Mt 28:20). As you return to your homeland, please convey my prayerful encouragement and affectionate good wishes to your priests, men and women religious, your catechists and all your beloved people. To each of you, and to those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

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On St. Columban
"A Tireless Builder of Monasteries"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, on the Irish monk St. Columban.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to speak of the holy Abbot Columban, the most famous Irishman of the early Middle Ages. With good reason he can be called a "European" saint, because as monk, missionary and writer, he worked in several countries of Western Europe. Along with the Irishmen of his time, he was aware of the cultural unity of Europe.

In a letter, written around the year 600 and addressed to Pope Gregory the Great, we find for the first time the expression "totius Europae" (of all Europe) with reference to the presence of the Church in the Continent (crf. Epistula I,1).
Columban was born around 543 in the province of Leinster, in southeast Ireland. Educated in his own home by outstanding teachers, who led him to the study of the liberal arts, he was later entrusted to the guidance of Abbot Sinell of the community of Cluain-Inis, in Northern Ireland, where he was able to further his study of sacred Scriptures.

At the age of about 20 he entered the monastery of Bangor on the northeastern part of the island, where Comgall was abbot, a monk well-known for his virtue and ascetic rigor. In full agreement with his abbot, Columban zealously practiced the severe discipline of the monastery, leading a life of prayer, ascesis and study. There he was also ordained a priest. Life at Bangor and the abbot's example influenced the concept of monasticism that with time matured in Columban, and which he later spread in the course of his life.
At almost 50 years of age, following the typically Irish ascetic ideal of the "peregrinatio pro Christo," namely, of making himself a pilgrim for Christ, Columban left the island with 12 companions to engage in missionary work on the European continent.

We must, in fact, keep present that the migration of people of the North and East had made entire Christianized regions fall back into paganism. Around the year 590, this small band of missionaries landed on the Breton coast. Received with benevolence by the king of the Franks of Austrasia -- present-day France -- they asked only for a piece of uncultivated land.

They obtained the ancient Roman fortress of Annegray, all demolished and abandoned, and now covered by forest. Used to a life of extreme renunciation, the monks succeeded in a few months in building the first hermitage on the ruins. Thus, their re-evangelization began to be carried out above all through the testimony of life.

With the new cultivation of the land they also began a new cultivation of souls. The fame of those foreign religious, who, living on prayer and in great austerity, built houses and cultivated the earth, spread rapidly and attracted pilgrims and penitents. Above all, many young men asked to be received in the monastic community to live, like them, that exemplary life that renewed the cultivation of the earth and of souls.

Very soon, the foundation of a second monastery was rendered necessary. It was built a few kilometers away, on the ruins of an ancient thermal city, Luxeuil. The monastery then became the center of monastic and missionary radiation of Irish tradition on the European continent. A third monastery was erected at Fontaine, a one-hour walk further north.
Columban lived at Luxeuil for almost 20 years. Here the saint wrote the Regula Monachorum for his followers -- for a certain time more widespread in Europe than that of St. Benedict -- delineating the ideal image of the monk. It is the only ancient Irish monastic rule we possess today. By way of integration, he elaborated the Regula Coenobialis, a sort of penal code for infractions, with rather surprising punishments for modern sensitivity, explainable only with the mentality of the time and the environment.

With another famous work titled "De Poenitentiarum Misura Taxanda," written also at Luxeuil, Columban introduced private and repeated confession and penance on the continent. It was called "tariffed" penance because of the proportion established between gravity of the sin and the type of penance imposed by the confessor. This novelty awakened the suspicion of the bishops of the region, a suspicion that was translated into hostility when Columban had the courage to reprimand them openly for some of their practices.

An occasion to manifest their opposition was the dispute about the date of Easter. Ireland, in fact, followed the Eastern tradition as opposed to the Roman. The Irish monk was called in 603 to Chalon-sur-Saon to render account before a synod of his practices related to penance and Easter. Instead of appearing at the synod, he sent a letter in which he minimized the issue inviting the synodal fathers to discuss not only the problem of the date of Easter, a small problem according to him, "but also of all the necessary canonical normatives that are disregarded -- something more grave -- by many" (cfr. Epistula II,1). At the same time, he wrote to Pope Boniface IV -- as some years earlier he had turned to Pope Gregory the Great (cfr. Epistula I) -- to defend the Irish tradition (cfr. Epistula III).
Intransigent as he was on every moral question, Columban later entered into conflict with the Royal House, because he had severely reprimanded King Theodoric for his adulterous relations. A network of intrigues and maneuvers was born at the personal, religious and political level that, in the year 610, was translated into a decree of expulsion from Luxeuil of Columban and all the monks of Irish origin. They were condemned to a definitive exile. They were escorted to the sea and embarked, at the expense of the court, toward Ireland.

However, the ship ran aground a short distance from the beach and the captain, seeing in this a sign from heaven, gave up the enterprise and, out of fear of being cursed by God, took the monks back to dry land. The monks, instead of returning to Luxeuil, wanted to start a new work of evangelization. They embarked on the Rhine and sailed up the river. After a first stop at Tuggen near the Lake of Zurich, they went around the region of Bregenz near Lake Costanza to evangelize the Germans.
Shortly after, however, Columban -- because of political affairs not favorable to his work -- decided to cross the Alps with the majority of his disciples. Only a monk by the name of Gallus stayed behind; from his hermitage developed later the famous Abbey of St. Gall, in Switzerland. Arriving in Italy, Columban met with a benevolent reception at the Lombard royal court, but he soon was faced with noteworthy difficulties.

The life of the Church was lacerated by the Arian heresy still prevalent among the Lombards and by a schism that had removed the greater part of the Churches of northern Italy from communion with the Bishop of Rome. Columban inserted himself with authority into this context, writing a libel against Arianism and a letter to Boniface IV to convince him to take some decisive steps in view to re-establishing unity (cfr. Epistula V).

When, in 612 or 613, the king of the Lombards assigned him some land in Bobbio, in the valley of Trebbia, Columban founded a new monastery which later became a center of culture comparable to the famous one of Montecassino. Here he reached the end of his days: He died on Nov. 23, 615, and on this date he is commemorated in the Roman rite until today.
St. Columban's message is centered on a firm call to conversion and detachment from the goods of the earth in view of our eternal heritage. With his ascetic life and his conduct free from compromises in face of the corruption of the powerful, he evokes the severe figure of John the Baptist.

His austerity, however, was never an end in itself, but was only the means to open himself freely to the love of God and correspond with his whole being to the gifts received from him, thus reconstructing in himself the image of God and at the same time cultivating the earth and renewing human society. I quote from his Instructiones: "If man makes use correctly of that faculty that God has given his soul he will then be similar to God. Let us remind ourselves that we must restore to him all those gifts that he has deposited in us when we were in our original condition. He has shown us the way with his Commandments. The first of these is that of loving the Lord with all our heart, because he loved us first, since the beginning of time, even before we came to the light of this world" (cfr. Instr. XI).

These words were truly embodied by the Irish saint in his own life. A man of great culture -- he also wrote poetry in Latin and a grammar book -- he proved himself to be rich in gifts of grace. He was a tireless builder of monasteries as well as an intransigent penitential preacher, spending all his energy to nourish the Christian roots of Europe, which was being born. With his spiritual energy, with his faith, with his love for God and for his neighbor, he truly became one of the fathers of Europe: He shows us even today the roots from which our Europe can be reborn.


Dear Brothers and Sisters.
In today's catechesis we turn to Saint Columban, one of the many Irish monks who contributed to the re-evangelization of Europe in the early Middle Ages. Columban made his monastic profession in Bangor and was ordained a priest. At the age of fifty, he left the monastery to begin missionary work in Europe, where entire regions had lapsed into paganism. Beginning in Brittany, Columban and his companions established monasteries at Annegray and Luxeuil. These became centers for the spread of the monastic and missionary ideals brought by the monks from their native Ireland. Columban introduced to Europe the Irish penitential discipline, including private confession. His stern moral teachings led to conflict with the local Bishops and the Frankish court, resulting in the exile of the Irish monks, first to the Rhineland and then to Italy. At Bobbio, where he established a great monastic center, Columban worked for the conversion of the Arian Lombards and the restoration of unity with the Bishop of Rome. It was there that he died, leaving behind not only the example of an austere monastic life, but also a corpus of writings which shaped the monastic culture of the Middle Ages and thus nourished the Christian roots of Europe.

I offer a warm greeting and prayerful good wishes to Cardinal Kitbunchu and the pilgrims from Thailand who are present today, and also to the large group of delegates from the Pope Paul VI Institute in Nebraska. To all the English-speaking visitors, from England, Scotland, Scandinavia, Korea, and the United States of America, I extend a warm welcome. May God bless you all.

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Pope's Homily at End of Genoa Trip
"Human Beings Are All Children of God"

GENOA, Italy, JUNE 11, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's May 18 homily in Genoa's Piazza della Vittoria during the closing Mass of the Pontiff's two-day pastoral visit to the Italian region of Liguria.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of a full day spent in your City, we are gathered around the altar to celebrate the Eucharist on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. From this central square, Piazza della Vittoria, which welcomes us for the communal service of praise and thanksgiving to God with which my Pastoral Visit concludes, I extend my most cordial greeting to the entire Civil and Ecclesial Community of Genoa. I first greet with affection the Archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, whom I thank for the courtesy with which he welcomed me and for his touching words at the beginning of Holy Mass. Then how can I omit greeting Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, former Pastor of this ancient and noble Church? My most cordial thanks to him for his spiritual closeness and his precious collaboration. I next greet Auxiliary Bishop Luigi Ernesto Palletti, the Bishops of Liguria and the other Prelates. I address my respectful thoughts to the Civil Authorities to whom I am grateful for their welcome and the effective support they have lent to the preparations for and execution of this Apostolic Pilgrimage. In particular, I greet Minister Claudio Scaiola, representing the new Government, who in these very days has assumed his full functions at the service of the beloved Italian Nation. I then address with deep gratitude the priests, men and women religious, the deacons, committed lay people, the seminarians and young people. My affectionate greeting to you all, dear brothers and sisters. I extend my thoughts to those who were unable to be present and especially to the sick, to the people who are alone and to all who are in difficulty. I entrust the City of Genoa and all its inhabitants to the Lord at this solemn Eucharistic concelebration which, as on every Sunday, invites us to take part as a community in the double table of the Word of Truth and the Bread of Eternal Life.

In the First Reading (Ex 34: 4b-6, 8-9) we heard a biblical text that presents to us the revelation of God's Name. It is God himself, Eternal and Invisible, who proclaims it, passing before Moses in the cloud on Mount Sinai. And his Name is: "The Lord, a God merciful, and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness". In the New Testament St John sums up this sentence in a single word: "Love" (cf. I Jn 4: 8, 16). Today's Gospel also testifies to this: "God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son" (Jn 3: 16). Consequently this Name clearly expresses that the God of the Bible is not some kind of monad closed in on itself and satisfied with his own self-sufficiency but he is life that wants to communicate itself, openness, relationship. Words like "merciful", "compassionate", "rich in grace" all speak to us of a relationship, in particular, of a vital Being who offers himself, who wants to fill every gap, every shortage, who wants to give and to forgive, who desires to establish a solid and lasting bond. Sacred Scripture knows no other God than the God of the Covenant who created the world in order to pour out his love upon all creatures (cf. Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV) and chose a people with which to make a nuptial pact, to make it become a blessing for all the nations and so to form a great family of the whole of humanity (cf. Gn 12: 1-3; Ex 19: 3-6). This revelation of God is fully delineated in the New Testament though the word of Christ. Jesus showed us the Face of God, one in Essence and Triune in Persons: God is Love, Father Love - Son Love - Holy Spirit Love. And it is precisely in this God's Name that the Apostle Paul greets the Community of Corinth: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God [the Father] and the fellowship of the Holy Sprit be with you all" (II Cor 13: 14).

There is contained, therefore, in these Readings, a principal that regards God and in effect today's Feast invites us to contemplate him, the Lord. It invites us in a certain sense to scale "the mountain" as Moses did. This seems at first sight to take us far from the world and its problems but in fact one discovers that it is precisely by coming to know God more intimately that one receives fundamental instructions for this our life: something like what happened to Moses who, climbing Sinai and remaining in God's presence, received the law engraved on stone tablets from which the people drew the guidance to continue, to find freedom and to form themselves as a people in liberty and justice. Our history depends on God's Name and our journey on the light of his Face. From this reality of God which he himself made known to us by revealing his "Name" to us comes a certain image of man, that is, the exact concept of the person. If God is a dialogical unity, a being in relation, the human creature made in his image and likeness reflects this constitution: thus he is called to fulfil himself in dialogue, in conversation, in encounter.

In particular, Jesus has revealed to us that man is essentially a "son", a creature who lives in the relationship with God the Father, and in this way in relationship with all his brothers and sisters. Man is not fulfilled in an absolute autonomy, deceiving himself that he is God but, on the contrary, by recognizing himself as a child, an open creature, reaching out to God and to his brethren in whose faces he discovers the image of their common Father. One can easily see that this concept of God and man is at the base of a corresponding model of the human community, and therefore of society. It is a model that comes before any normative, juridical or institutional regulations but I would say even before cultural specifications. It is a model of the human family transversal to all civilizations, which we Christians express confirming that human beings are all children of God and therefore all brothers and sisters. This is a truth that has been behind us from the outset and at the same time is always before us, like a project to strive for in every social construction.

The Magisterium of the Church which has developed from this vision of God and of man is a very rich one. It suffices to run through the most important chapters of the Social Doctrine of the Church, to which my venerable Predecessors have made substantial contributions, especially in the past 120 years, making themselves authoritative interpreters and guides of the social movement of Christian inspiration. Here I would like to mention only a recent Pastoral Note of the Italian Episcopate: "Rigenerati per una speranza viva': Testimoni del grande 'si' di Dio all'uomo" [Regenerated by a living hope: witnesses of God's great "yes" to man] (29 June 2007). This Note proposes two priorities. First of all, the choice of the "primacy of God": all the Church's life and work depend on putting God in first place, not a generic God but rather the Lord with his Name and his Face, the God of the Covenant who brought the people out of slavery in Egypt, who raised Christ from the dead and who wants to lead humanity to freedom in peace and justice. The other choice is to put the person and the unity of his life at the centre, in the various contexts in which he is deployed: emotional life, work and celebration, in his own fragility, tradition and citizenship. The Triune God and the person in relationship: these are the two references that the Church has the duty to offer to every human generation as a service to build a free and supportive society. The Church certainly does so with her doctrine, but above all through her witness which, with reason, is the third fundamental choice of the Italian Episcopate: personal and community witness in which the spiritual life, pastoral mission and the cultural dimension converge.

In a society fraught between globalization and individualism, the Church is called to offer a witness of koinonììa, of communion. This reality does not come "from below" but is a mystery which, so to speak, "has its roots in Heaven", in the Triune God himself. It is he, in himself, who is the eternal dialogue of love which was communicated to us in Jesus Christ and woven into the fabric of humanity and history to lead it to fullness. And here then is the great synthesis of the Second Vatican Council: the Church, mystery of communion, "in Christ is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, n. 1). Here too, in this great City, as well as in its territory with the variety of the respective human and social problems, the Ecclesial Community, today as yesterday, is first of all the sign, poor but true, of God Love whose Name is impressed in the depths of the being of every person and in every experience of authentic sociability and solidarity.

After these reflections, dear brothers and sisters, I leave you some special exhortations. Take care of spiritual and catechetical formation, a "substantial" formation that is more necessary than ever to live the Christian vocation well in today's world. I say to adults and young people: foster a thought-out faith that can engage in profound dialogue with all, with our non-Catholic brethren, with non-Christians and with non-believers. Continue your generous sharing with the poor and the weak, in accordance with the Church's original praxis, always drawing inspiration and strength from the Eucharist, the perennial source of charity. With special affection I encourage seminarians and young people involved in a vocational journey: do not be afraid; indeed, may you feel the attraction of definitive choices, of a serious and demanding formative process. The high standard of discipleship alone fascinates and gives joy. I urge all to grow in the missionary dimension which is co-essential to communion. Indeed, the Trinity is at the same time unity and mission: the more intense love is, the stronger is the urge to pour it out, to spread it, to communicate it. Church of Genoa, be united and missionary to proclaim to all the joy of faith and the beauty of being God's Family. My thought extends to the entire City, to all the Genoese and to all who live and work in this territory. Dear friends, look to the future with confidence and seek to build it together, avoiding factiousness and particularism, putting the common good before your own specific legitimate interests.

I would like to conclude with a wish that I have taken from the stupendous prayer of Moses which we heard in the First Reading: let the Lord always walk in the midst of you and make you his heritage (cf. Ex 34: 9). May the intercession of Mary Most Holy, whom the Genoese, at home and throughout the world, invoke as the Madonna della Guardia obtain this for you. With her help and that of the Holy Patrons of your beloved City and Region, may your faith and works always be in praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Following the example of the Saints of this earth, be a missionary community: listening to God and at the service of men and women! Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass in Savona
"Praise God ... for Who He Is"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's May 17 homily in Savona's Piazza del Popolo during the Pontiff's two-day pastoral visit to the Italian region of Liguria.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a great joy for me to be in your midst and to celebrate the Eucharist for you on the solemn Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. I greet with affection your Pastor, Bishop Vittorio Lupi, whom I thank for the words with which he introduced the diocesan Community at the beginning of the celebration and, even more, for the sentiments of charity and pastoral hope that he expressed. I also thank the Mayor for his cordial greeting to me on behalf of the entire City. I greet the Civil Authorities, the priests, the Religious, the deacons, and the leaders of the Associations, Movements and Ecclesial Communities. I renew to you all in Christ my best wishes for grace and peace.
On this Solemnity, the liturgy invites us to praise God not merely for the wonders that he has worked, but for who he is; for the beauty and goodness of his being from which his action stems. We are invited to contemplate, so to speak, the Heart of God, his deepest reality which is his being One in the Trinity, a supreme and profound communion of love and life. The whole of Sacred Scripture speaks to us of him. Indeed, it is he who speaks to us of himself in the Scriptures and reveals himself as Creator of the universe and Lord of history. Today we have heard a passage from the Book of Exodus in which - something quite exceptional - God proclaims his own Name! He does so in the presence of Moses with whom he spoke face to face, as with a friend. And what is God's Name? It never fails to move us: "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34: 6). These are human words but were prompted and, as it were, uttered by the Holy Spirit. They tell us the truth about God. They were true in the past, they are true today and they will always be true; they make us see in our mind's eye the Face of the Invisible One, they tell us the Name of the Ineffable One. This Name is Mercy, Grace, Faithfulness.
Dear friends, how can I fail to rejoice with you here in Savona for the fact that this is the very Name with which the Virgin Mary introduced herself, appearing on 18 March 1536 to a peasant, a son of this land? "Our Lady of Mercy" is the title by which she is venerated - and for some years now we have a large statue of her in the Vatican Gardens too. But Mary did not speak of herself, she never speaks of herself but always of God, and she did so with this name, so old yet ever new: mercy, which is a synonym of love, of grace. This is the whole essence of Christianity because it is the essence of God himself. God is One since he is all and only Love but precisely by being Love he is openness, acceptance, dialogue; and in his relationship with us, sinful human beings, he is mercy, compassion, grace and forgiveness. God has created all things for existence and what he wills is always and only life.
For those in danger he is salvation. We have just heard this in John's Gospel: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3: 16): in God's gift of himself in the Person of the Son the whole of the Trinity is at work. It is the Father who places at our disposal what is dearest to him; the Son who, consenting to the Father, empties himself of his glory in order to give himself to us; the Spirit who leaves the peace of the divine embrace to water the deserts of humanity. For this work of his mercy, in preparing himself to take on our flesh, God chose to need a human "yes", the "yes" of a woman who would become the Mother of his Incarnate Word, Jesus, the human Face of Divine Mercy. Mary thus became and remains for ever the "Mother of Mercy" as she also made herself known here in Savona.
In the course of the Church's history, the Virgin Mary did none other than to invite her children to return to God, to entrust themselves to him in prayer, to knock with trusting insistence at the door of his merciful Heart. In truth, all he wants is to pour out into the world the superabundance of his Grace. "Mercy and not justice", Mary implored, knowing that she would certainly have been heard by her Son Jesus but also knowing of the need for the conversion of sinners' hearts. For this reason she asked for prayer and penance. Therefore, my Visit to Savona on Trinity Sunday is first of all a pilgrimage, through Mary, to the sources of faith, hope and love. It is a pilgrimage that is also a memory and a tribute to my Venerable Predecessor Pius VII, whose dramatic experience is indissolubly linked to this City and its Marian Shrine. Two centuries later, I come to renew the expression of gratitude of the Holy See and of the entire Church for the faith, love and courage with which your fellow citizens supported the Pope under house arrest in this City, imposed upon him by Napoleon Bonaparte. Many testimonies of the manifestations of solidarity for the Pontiff, sometimes even at personal risk, have been preserved. They are events that the people of Savona can well be proud to commemorate today. As your Bishop rightly observed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that dark page of Europe's history has become rich in graces and teachings for our day too. It teaches us courage in facing the challenges of the world: materialism, relativism, secularism without ever yielding to compromises, ready to pay in person while remaining faithful to the Lord and his Church. The example of serene firmness set by Pope Pius VII invites us to keep our trust in God unaltered in trials, aware that although he permits the Church to experience difficult moments he never abandons us. The episode the Great Pontiff went through in your land invites us always to trust in the intercession and motherly assistance of Mary Most Holy.
The apparition of the Virgin at a tragic moment in Savona's history and the terrible experience that the Successor of Peter faced here are helpful in passing on a message of hope to the Christian generations of our time and encourage us to trust in the means of grace that the Lord makes available to us in every situation. And among these means of salvation I would like first of all to recall prayer: personal, family and community prayer. On today's Feast of the Trinity, I would like to emphasize the dimension of praise, contemplation and adoration. I am thinking of young families and I would like to ask them not to be afraid to adopt, from the first years of marriage, a simple style of domestic prayer, encouraged by the presence of small children who are often prompted to speak spontaneously to the Lord and to Our Lady. I urge parishes and associations to give time and space to prayer since activities are pastorally sterile if they are not constantly preceded, accompanied and sustained by prayer.
And what can be said of the Eucharistic Celebration, especially Sunday Mass? The Lord's Day is rightly at the centre of the Italian Bishops' attention: the Christian root of Sunday must be rediscovered, starting with the celebration of the Risen Lord, encountered in the Word of God and recognized in the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread. Then the Sacrament of Reconciliation also asks to be reassessed as a fundamental means for spiritual growth and for facing today's challenges with strength and courage. Together with prayer and the Sacraments, other inseparable instruments for growth are works of charity, which should be practised with a lively faith. I also chose to reflect on this aspect of Christian life in my Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. In the modern world, which often makes beauty and physical efficiency an idea to be pursued in every possible way, we are called as Christians to discover the Face of Jesus Christ, "the fairest of the sons of men" (Ps 45[44]: 2[3]), precisely in people who are suffering and marginalized. Today, the moral and material emergencies that worry us are unfortunately numerous. In this regard, I gladly take this opportunity to address a greeting to the prisoners and personnel of the St Augustine Penitentiary in Savona, who have lived for some time in a situation of particular hardship. I also extend an equally warm greeting to the sick who are patients in the hospital, in clinics or in private homes.
I would like to address a special word to you, dear priests, to express my appreciation of your silent work and the demanding fidelity with which you carry it out. Dear brothers in Christ, always believe in the effectiveness of your daily priestly service! It is precious in the eyes of God and of the faithful and its value cannot be quantified in figures and statistics: we shall only know the results in Paradise! Many of you are quite elderly: this reminds me of that wonderful passage by the Prophet Isaiah which says: "Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Is 40: 30-31). Together with the deacons at the service of the diocese, live communion with the Bishop and among yourselves, expressing it in active collaboration, mutual support and shared pastoral coordination. Persevere in the courageous and joyful witness of your service. Search people out, as did the Lord Jesus: in visits to families, in contact with the sick, in dialogue with young people, making yourselves present in every context of work and life. To you, dear men and women religious, whom I thank for your presence, I confirm that the world needs your witness and your prayer. Live your vocation in daily fidelity and make your life an offering pleasing to God: the Church is grateful to you and encourages you to persevere in your service.
I want, of course, to give a special warm greeting to you young people! Dear friends, put your youth at the service of God and of your brethren. Following Christ always requires the courage to go against the tide. However, it is worth it: this is the way to real personal fulfilment and hence to true happiness. With Christ, in fact, one experiences that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20: 35). This is why I encourage you to take the ideal of holiness seriously. A well known French writer has left us in one of his works a sentence I would like to consign to you today: "There is only one real sadness: not to be saints" (Lééon Bloy, La femme pauvre, II, 27). Dear young people, dare to dedicate your life to courageous choices, not alone of course, but with the Lord! Give this City the impetus and enthusiasm that flow from your living experience of faith, an experience that does not spoil the expectations of human life but exalts them by participation in the very experience of Christ.
And this also applies for Christians who are no longer young. My hope for all is that faith in the Triune God will imbue in every person and in every community the fervour of love and hope, the joy of loving one another as brothers and sisters and of putting oneself humbly at the service of others. This is the "leaven" that causes humanity to grow, the light that shines in the world. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of Mercy, together with all your Patron Saints help you to express in living your life the Apostle's exhortation which we have just heard. I make it my own with great affection: "Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you" (II Cor 13: 11). Amen.

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Pope's Speech at Children's Hospital in Genoa
"Authentic 'Sanctuary of Life' and 'Sanctuary of the Family'"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's May 18 address at the "Giannina Gaslini" Pediatric Hospital in Genoa, during the Pontiff's two-day pastoral visit to the Italian region of Liguria.

* * *

Madam Mayor,
Mr Extraordinary Commissioner,
Dear Children,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After praying at the foot of the Madonna della Guardia in the beautiful Shrine that overlooks the City, my first Meeting is with you, in this place of suffering and hope which was inaugurated on 15 May 1938, exactly 70 years ago. I embrace you, dearest children who are admitted to and cared for with attention and love in this Hospital, "a place of excellence" for paediatrics at the service of Genoa, Italy, and the entire Mediterranean area. Your spokesperson has expressed to me your sentiments of affection, which I warmly reciprocate and accompany with a special thought for your parents too. A cordial greeting to Mrs Marta Vincenzi, Mayor of Genoa, who has expressed the City's welcome. I greet Prof. Vincenzo Lorenzelli, Extraordinary Commissioner of the "Giannina Gaslini" Institute who has recalled this Hospital's aims and the future developments planned.

The Gaslini project was born in the heart of a generous benefactor, the industrialist and Senator Gerolamo Gaslini, who dedicated this institute to his daughter who died when she was only 12 years old. It is part of the history of charity which makes Genoa a "city of Christian charity". Today too, faith inspires in many people of good will acts of love and material support for this Institute, which, with justifiable pride, the Genoese regard as a precious patrimony. I thank you all and encourage you to continue. In particular, I rejoice at the new complex whose foundation stone was laid recently and which has found a munificent donor. The effective, cordial attention of the public Administration is also a sign of recognition for the social value of the Gaslini institute for the children of the City and beyond. Indeed, when a good is destined for all it deserves the contribution of all, with the proper respect for roles and competence.

I now address you, dear doctors, researchers, paramedical and administrative staff; and you, dear chaplains, volunteers and all who are involved in offering spiritual assistance to the small patients and their relatives. I know that you are unanimously committed to ensuring that the Gaslini Institute is an authentic "sanctuary of life" and a "sanctuary of the family", where workers in every sector combine loving attention for the person with their professionalism. The decision of the Founder, who held that the President of the Foundation must be the pro-tempore Archbishop of Genoa, expresses the wish that the Christian inspiration of the Institute may never be lacking and that everyone may always be sustained by the Gospel values.

In 1931, when he was laying the foundations of the structure, Senator Gerolamo Gaslini predicted "the perennial work of good that must shine out from the Institute itself". Hence your Hospital's aim is to radiate goodness through the loving care of sick children. Therefore, while I thank all the personnel - managerial, administrative and medical - for their professionalism and dedicated service, I express the hope that this excellent Paediatric Institute may continue to develop its technologies, treatments and services, but also to extend its horizons increasingly in that perspective of positive globalization for which resources, services and needs are recognized, creating and reinforcing a network of solidarity that is so urgently needed today. And all this must never lack that supplement of affection which the little patients feel to be as important as the indispensable treatment. The Hospital will then become ever more a place of hope.

Hope at the Gaslini institute is expressed in the care of paediatric patients, for whom help is provided through the continuous formation of health-care workers. In fact, as an esteemed Institute for scientific research and treatment, your Hospital is known for being monothematic and multifunctional, covering almost all the specializations in the paediatric sector. Hence the hope that is fostered here is well-founded. Yet, to face the future effectively, it is indispensable that this hope be sustained by a loftier vision of life that enables the scientist, the doctor, the professional, the nurse and the parents themselves to devote all their capacities, sparing no efforts to obtain the best results that science and technology can offer today at the level of prevention and treatment. Then comes the thought of God's silent presence which, almost imperceptibly, accompanies the human being on his long journey through history. True "dependable" hope is God alone, who in Jesus Christ and in his Gospel opened wide the dark door of time to the future. "I am risen and now I am always with you", Jesus repeats to us, especially at the most difficult moments: "my hand supports you. Wherever you might fall, you will fall into my arms. I am present even at the threshold of death".

It is children who are treated here at the Gaslini institute. How is it possible not to recall Jesus' special love for children? He wanted them beside him, he pointed them out to the Apostles as models to follow in their spontaneous, generous faith, in their innocence. With harsh words he warned people against despising or shocking them. He was moved by the widow of Nain, a mother who had lost her son, her only son. The Evangelist Luke wrote that the Lord reassured her and said to her: "Do not weep" (cf. Lk 7: 13). Still today Jesus repeats these comforting words to those in pain: "Do not weep". He shows solidarity to each one of us and asks us if we want to be his disciples, to bear witness to his love for anyone who gets into difficulty.

Lastly, I address you, dearest children, to repeat to you that the Pope loves you. I see your relatives beside you, who share with you moments of anxiety and hope. You may all rest assured: God never abandons us. Stay united to him and you will never lose your calm, not even in the darkest and most difficult moments. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and entrust you to Mary Most Holy who, as a Mother, suffered for the sufferings of her divine Son but now dwells with him in glory. I thank each one of you again for this meeting, which will remain impressed on my heart. I bless you all with affection.

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Pope's Speech to University Media Faculty
"Employ Social Communications in a Passion for Truth"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 23 upon receiving in audience participants from a congress on social communication in Catholic universities.

The theme of the congress was "Identity and Mission of a Communications' Faculty in a Catholic University."

* * *

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, ?Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to address my welcome to all of you, academicians and educators of Catholic Institutions of higher culture, gathered in Rome to reflect, together with members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, on the identity and mission of the Communications Faculty in Catholic Universities.

Through you I wish to greet your colleagues, your students and all those who are part of the Faculty that you represent. A particular thanks goes to your President, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, for the kind words of tribute that he addressed to me. Along with him I greet the Secretaries and the Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The diverse forms of communication -- dialogue, prayer, teaching, witness, proclamation -- and their different instruments -- the press, electronics, the visual arts, music, voice, gestural art and contact -- are all manifestations of the fundamental nature of the human person.  ?It is communication that reveals the person, that creates authentic and community relationships, and which permits human beings to mature in knowledge, wisdom and love.

However, communication is not the simple product of a pure and fortuitous chance or of our human capacity. In the light of the biblical message, it reflects, rather, our participation in the creative, communicative and unifying Trinitarian Love which is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. ?God has created us to be united to him and he has given us the gift and the duty of communication, because he wants us to obtain this union, not alone, but through our knowledge, our love and our service to him and to our brothers and sisters in a communicative and loving relationship.

Truthfulness in communications

It is self-evident that at the heart of any serious reflection on the nature and purpose of human communications there must be an engagement with questions of truth. A communicator can attempt to inform, to educate, to entertain, to convince, to comfort; but the final worth of any communication lies in its truthfulness.

In one of the earliest reflections on the nature of communication, Plato highlighted the dangers of any type of communication that seeks to promote the aims and purposes of the communicator or those by whom he or she is employed without consideration for the truth of what is communicated. No less worth recalling is Cato the Elder's sober definition of the orator; "vir bonus dicendi peritus" a good or honest man skilled in communicating.
The art of communication is by its nature linked to an ethical value, to the virtues that are the foundation of morality. In the light of that definition, I encourage you, as educators, to nourish and reward that passion for truth and goodness that is always strong in the young. Help them give themselves fully to the search for truth.
Teach them as well, however, that their passion for truth, which can be well served by a certain methodological scepticism, particularly in matters affecting the public interest, must not be distorted to become a relativistic cynicism in which all claims to truth and beauty are routinely rejected or ignored.

I encourage you to give more attention to academic programmes in the area of the means of social communication, in particular to the ethical dimensions of communication between people, in a period in which the phenomenon of communication is occupying an ever greater place in all social contexts.

It is important that this formation is never considered as a simple technical exercise, or a mere wish to give information. Primarily it should be more like an invitation to promote the truth in information and to help our contemporaries reflect on events in order to be educators of humankind today and to build a better world.

It is likewise necessary to promote justice and solidarity, and to respect in whatever circumstance the value and dignity of every person, who also has a right not to be wounded in what concerns his private life.

Avoid widening the information gap

It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it would contribute only to increasing the gap that separates those people from the new network that is developing at the service of human socialization, of information and of understanding.

On the other hand, it would be equally grave if the tendency toward globalization in the world of communications were to weaken or eliminate the traditional customs and the local cultures, particularly those which are able to strengthen family and social values: love, solidarity, and respect for life. ?In this context I desire to express my esteem to those religious communities who, notwithstanding the heavy financial burden or the generous human input, have opened Catholic universities in developing countries and I am pleased that many of these institutions are represented here today. Their efforts will ensure the countries where they are present the benefits of young men and women who receive a deep professional formation, inspired by the Christian ethic which promotes education and teaching as a service to the whole community.

I appreciate, in a particular way, their commitment to offer a sound education to all, independent of race, social condition or creed, which constitutes the mission of the Catholic University. In these days you will examine together the question of the identity of a university or a Catholic school. In this regard, I would like to recall that such an identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is above all a question of conviction: it concerns truly believing that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man become clear. The consequence is that the Catholic identity lies, in the first place, in the decision to entrust oneself, intellect and will, mind and heart, to God.

As experts in the theory and in the practice of communication and as educators who are forming a new generation of communicators, you have a privileged role, not only in the life of your students, but also in the mission of your local Churches and of your Pastors to make the Good News of God's love known to all peoples.  ?Dear friends, in confirming my appreciation for this, your interesting meeting that opens the heart to hope, I wish to assure you that I follow your precious activity with prayer and accompany it with a special Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to all those who are dear to you.

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Papal Address to Dialogue Council
"Church’’s Activities Are to be Imbued With Love"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 9, 2008 - Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI gave Saturday upon receiving participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

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I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet you at the conclusion of the Tenth Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. To all of you taking part in this important gathering I extend cordial greetings. I thank in particular Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran for his gracious words.

"Dialogue in 'veritate et caritate': Pastoral Orientations" -- this is the theme of your Plenary Assembly. I am happy to learn that during these days you have sought to arrive at a deeper understanding of the Catholic Church’’s approach to people of other religious traditions. You have considered the broader purpose of dialogue -- to discover the truth -- and the motivation for it, which is charity, in obedience to the divine mission entrusted to the Church by our Lord Jesus Christ.

At the inauguration of my Pontificate I affirmed that "the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole" (Address to Delegates of Other Churches and Ecclesial Communities and of Other Religious Traditions, 25 April 2005). Through the ministry of the Successors of Peter, including the work of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the efforts of local Ordinaries and the People of God throughout the world, the Church continues to reach out to followers of different religions. In this way she gives expression to that desire for encounter and collaboration in truth and freedom. In the words of my venerable Predecessor, Pope Paul VI, the Church’’s principal responsibility is service to the Truth -- "truth about God, truth about man and his hidden destiny, truth about the world, truth which we discover in the Word of God" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 78).

Human beings seek answers to some of the fundamental existential questions: What is the origin and destiny of human beings? What are good and evil? What awaits human beings at the end of their earthly existence? All people have a natural duty and a moral obligation to seek the truth. Once it is known, they are bound to adhere to it and to order their whole lives in accordance with its demands (cf. Nostra Aetate, 1 and Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

Dear friends, "Caritas Christi urget nos" (2 Cor 5:14). It is the love of Christ which impels the Church to reach out to every human being without distinction, beyond the borders of the visible Church. The source of the Church’’s mission is Divine Love. This love is revealed in Christ and made present through the action of the Holy Spirit. All the Church’’s activities are to be imbued with love (cf. Ad Gentes, 2-5; Evangelii Nuntiandi, 26, and Dialogue and Mission, 9). Thus, it is love that urges every believer to listen to the other and seek areas of collaboration. It encourages Christian partners in dialogue with the followers of other religions to propose, but not impose, faith in Christ who is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:16). As I said in my recent Encyclicals, the Christian faith has shown us that "truth, justice and love are not simply ideals, but enormously weighty realities" (Spe Salvi, 39). For the Church, "charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (Deus Caritas Est, 25).

The great proliferation of interreligious meetings around the world today calls for discernment. In this regard, I am pleased to note that during these days you have reflected on pastoral orientations for interreligious dialogue. Since the Second Vatican Council, attention has been focused on the spiritual elements which different religious traditions have in common. In many ways, this has helped to build bridges of understanding across religious boundaries. I understand that during your discussions you have been considering some of the issues of practical concern in interreligious relations: the identity of the partners in dialogue, religious education in schools, conversion, proselytism, reciprocity, religious freedom, and the role of religious leaders in society. These are important issues to which religious leaders living and working in pluralistic societies must pay close attention.

It is important to emphasize the need for formation for those who promote interreligious dialogue. If it is to be authentic, this dialogue must be a journey of faith. How necessary it is for its promoters to be well formed in their own beliefs and well informed about those of others. It is for this reason that I encourage the efforts of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to organize formation courses and programmes in interreligious dialogue for different Christian groups, especially seminarians and young people in tertiary educational institutions.

Interreligious collaboration provides opportunities to express the highest ideals of each religious tradition. Helping the sick, bringing relief to the victims of natural disasters or violence, caring for the aged and the poor: these are some of the areas in which people of different religions collaborate. I encourage all those who are inspired by the teaching of their religions to help the suffering members of society.

Dear friends, as you come to the end of your Plenary Assembly, I thank you for the work you have done. I ask you to take the message of good will from the Successor of Peter to your Christian flock and to all our friends of other religions. Willingly I impart my Apostolic blessing to you as a pledge of grace and peace in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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On the Call of Matthew (June 8, '08)
"True Religion Consists in the Love of God and Neighbour"

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the center of the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday there is an expression of the prophet Hosea that Jesus takes up again in the Gospel: “I want love and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than holocausts” (Hosea 6:6).

We have a key word here, one that opens for us the door to the heart of sacred Scripture. The context in which Jesus makes it his own, is the call of Matthew, a “publican” by profession, a tax collector for the imperial Roman authorities: Because of this he was considered a public sinner by the Jews.

Called while he was sitting on the tax collector’s bench -- this scene is beautifully depicted in a celebrated painting of Caravaggio -- Jesus goes to Matthew’s house with his disciples and sits down to dinner with other publicans. To the scandalized Pharisees Jesus replies: “The healthy do not need the doctor but the sick do … I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13).

The Evangelist Matthew, who is always attentive to the link between the Old and the New Testament, puts the words of Hosea’s prophecy on Jesus’ lips: “Go, therefore, and learn the meaning of the words: ‘It is mercy that I want and not sacrifice.’”

The importance of this expression of the prophet is such that the Lord repeats it again in another context, in regard to the observance of the Sabbath (cf. Matthew 12:1-8). Even in this context he assumes the responsibility for the interpretation of this precept, revealing himself as the “Lord” of the legal institutions themselves.

Turning to the Pharisees he adds: “If you would have understood the meaning of the words ‘It is mercy that I want and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned those who were without fault” (Matthew 12:7). So, in this pronouncement of Hosea Jesus, the Word made man, is fully rediscovered, so to speak.

He made these words his own with all of his heart and he realized them in his conduct even at the cost of vexing the leaders of his people. This word of God has reached us, through the Gospels, as one of the syntheses of the entire Christian message: True religion consists in the love of God and neighbor. This is what gives liturgical worship and the observance of the precepts their value.

Turning now to the Virgin Mary, let us ask through her intercession always to live in the joy of the Christian experience. May the Mother of Mercy, the Madonna, awaken in us the sentiments of filial abandonment to God, who is infinite mercy; may she help us to make our own the prayer that St. Augustine formulates in a famous passage of the “Confessions”: “Have mercy on me, Lord! See, I do not hide my wounds: You are my doctor, I am the sick one; you are merciful, I am miserable. All of my hope is placed in your great mercy” (X, 28, 39; 29, 40).

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Papal Speech to Southeast Asian Bishops
"If the Faith Is to Flourish ... It Needs to Strike Deep Roots"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience the bishops of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,
  am pleased to welcome you on your ad Limina visit, as you renew the bonds of communion in faith and love between yourselves as Pastors of God's people in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, and the Successor of Peter in the See of Rome. I thank you for the kind words that Archbishop Pakiam has addressed to me on your behalf, and I offer you the assurance of my prayers and good wishes for all of you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care.

By a happy coincidence, your visit to the city of the Apostles Peter and Paul comes at a time when the Church all over the world is preparing to celebrate a year dedicated to Saint Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, on the two-thousandth anniversary of his birth. I pray that you will draw inspiration from the example of this zealous apostle, outstanding teacher, and courageous witness to the truth of the Gospel. Through his intercession, may you experience renewed fervour in the great missionary task for which you, like Saint Paul, have been set apart and called (cf. Gal 1:15-16) –– that of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Echoing the words addressed by Saint Paul to the elders at Ephesus, I urge you to "take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28).

"The Church's faith in Jesus is a gift received and a gift to be shared; it is the greatest gift which the Church can offer to Asia" (Ecclesia in Asia, 10). Happily, the peoples of Asia display an intense yearning for God (cf. ibid., 9). In handing on to them the message that you also received (cf. 1 Cor 15:3), you are sowing the seeds of evangelization in fertile ground. If the faith is to flourish, however, it needs to strike deep roots in Asian soil, lest it be perceived as a foreign import, alien to the culture and traditions of your people. Mindful of the manner in which Saint Paul preached the Good News to the Athenians (cf. Acts 17:22-34), you are called to present the Christian faith in ways that resonate with the "innate spiritual insight and moral wisdom in the Asian soul" (Ecclesia in Asia, 6), so that people will welcome it and make it their own.

In particular, you need to ensure that the Christian Gospel is in no way confused in their minds with secular principles associated with the Enlightenment. On the contrary, by "speaking the truth in love" (Eph 4:15) you can help your fellow citizens to distinguish the wheat of the Gospel from the chaff of materialism and relativism. You can help them to respond to the urgent challenges posed by the Enlightenment, familiar to Western Christianity for over two centuries, but only now beginning to have a significant impact upon other parts of the world. While resisting the "dictatorship of positivist reason" that tries to exclude God from public discourse, we should welcome the "true conquests of the Enlightenment" –– especially the stress on human rights and the freedom of religion and its practice (cf. Address to the Members of the Roman Curia at the Traditional Exchange of Christmas Greetings, 22 December 2006). By stressing the universal character of human rights, grounded in the dignity of the human person created in God's image, you carry out an important task of evangelization, since this teaching forms an essential aspect of the Gospel. In so doing, you are following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, who knew how to express the essentials of Christian faith and practice in a way that could be assimilated by the Gentile communities to which he was sent.

This Pauline apostolate requires a commitment to interreligious dialogue, and I encourage you to carry forward this important work, exploring every avenue open to you. I realize that not all the territories you represent offer the same degree of religious liberty, and many of you, for example, encounter serious difficulties in promoting Christian religious instruction in schools. Do not become disheartened, but continue to proclaim with conviction the "unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8), so that all may come to hear of the love of God made manifest in Jesus. In the context of open and honest dialogue with Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and the followers of other religions present in your respective countries, you assist your fellow citizens to recognize and observe the law "written on their hearts" (Rom 2:15) by clearly articulating the truth of the Gospel. In this way, your teaching can reach a wide audience and help to promote a unified vision of the common good. This in turn should help to foster growth in religious freedom and greater social cohesion between members of different ethnic groups, which can only be conducive to the peace and well-being of the entire community.

In terms of the pastoral care that you offer to your people, I would encourage you to show particular concern for your priests. Using the image evoked by Saint Paul in writing to the young Timothy, urge them to rekindle the gift of God that is within them through the laying on of hands (cf. 2 Tim 1:6). Be a father, brother and friend to them, as Paul was to Timothy and to Titus. Lead them by example, showing them the way to imitate Christ, the Good Shepherd. Saint Paul famously proclaimed "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). By modelling your whole life and conduct upon Christ, let your priests see what it is to live as alter Christus in the midst of your people. In this way, not only will you inspire them to offer their whole lives "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom 12:1), but more young people will aspire to this sublime life of priestly service.

  I am aware that in the territories you represent there are some regions where it is rare for the people to see a priest and others where the people have not yet heard the Gospel. They too have a particular claim on your pastoral solicitude and your prayers. For "how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?" (Rom 10:14). Here the formation of the laity takes on added importance, so that through sound catechesis the scattered children of God can know the hope to which they have been called, "the riches of his glorious inheritance" (Eph 1:18). In this way they can be prepared to welcome the priest when he comes among them. Tell your catechists, both lay and religious, that I remember them in my prayers, and that I appreciate the enormous contribution they make to the life of the Christian communities in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Through their vital work, countless men, women and children are enabled "to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" and so come to be "filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19).

Dear brother Bishops, I pray that, as you return to your respective countries, you will "rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess 5:16). Commending all of you and your priests, religious and lay faithful to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord.
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Papal Speech to Religious of Genoa
"Persevere in Your Institutions and Especially in Your Presence"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's May 18 address to members of the Cathedral Chapter and consecrated religious, gathered at St. Lawrence's Cathedral in Genoa. The gathering took place during the Pontiff's two-day pastoral visit to the Italian region of Liguria.
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Your Eminences,
Dear Members of the Cathedral Chapter,
Dear Men and Women Religious,

In this brief but intense Pastoral Visit to Genoa I could not omit a visit to your famous Cathedral, dedicated to St Lawrence, which preserves the relics of St John the Baptist, the Precursor of Jesus. I am happy to meet the Canons of the venerable Metropolitan Chapter and the men and women Religious present and working in the Archdiocese. This church, surrounded by a network of alleys, seems to be the point of convergence and arrival of every path as though people desired to come out from the shade of the narrow streets into the light of their Cathedral, as if they wanted to come out into the light of God that welcomes, embraces, illumines and restores all. I offer my cordial greeting to each one of you. I address a special greeting to Mons. Mario Grone, Head of the Cathedral Chapter, and Fr Domenico Rossi, Diocesan Delegate for Consecrated Life who have expressed your devout sentiments.

In past centuries, the Church of Genoa had a rich tradition of holiness and generous service to the brethren, thanks to the work of zealous priests and men and women religious of both active and contemplative life. Here the names of various Saints and Blesseds spring to mind: Antonio Maria Gianelli, Agostino Roscelli, Tommaso Reggio, Francesco Maria da Camporosso, Caterina Fieschi Adorno, Virginia Centurione Bracelli, Paola Frassinetti, Eugenia Ravasco, Maria Repetto, Benedetta Cambiagio Frassinello. But even now, notwithstanding the difficulties that society is going through, the enthusiasm for evangelization is strong in your communities. What has grown in particular is the common desire to have closer relations of ever more brotherly understanding in order to collaborate in the missionary action promoted throughout the Archdiocese. In fact, in compliance with the guidelines of the Italian Bishops' Conference, you wish to adopt an ongoing state of mission as a testimony of the joy of the Gospel and an explicit invitation to encounter Jesus Christ that is addressed to all. Here I am among you, dear friends, to encourage you to walk in this direction.

In particular, I would like to point out to you as an example the Apostle Paul, whose special Jubilee we are preparing to celebrate on the occasion of the 2,000th anniversary of his birth. After his conversion to Christ on the road to Damascus he dedicated himself without reserve to the Gospel cause. For Christ he faced trials of all kinds and stayed faithful to him until the sacrifice of his life. Having come to the end of his earthly pilgrimage, he wrote to Timothy his faithful disciple: "For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (II Tim 4: 6-7). May each one of us, dear brothers and sisters, be able to say the same thing on the last day of his/her own life. In order for this to happen, and it is what the Lord expects of his friends, we must cultivate the same missionary spirit that animated St Paul with constant spiritual, ascetic and pastoral formation. Above all, we must become "specialists" in listening to God and credible examples of a holiness that is expressed in fidelity to the Gospel without yielding to the spirit of the world. As Cardinal Giuseppe Siri, a zealous Pastor of this Archdiocese for several decades and now buried in this Cathedral of yours, wrote: "Religious life pivots around God and arranges all things around God and thus becomes a witness of God and the call of God" (Letter to all the Women Religious Praying and Working in the Diocese of Genoa on the Congress on: "Worship of the Lord", 15 August 1953).
<>Dear Members of the Chapter of Canons of the Cathedral, in attending to the liturgies which take place here, may you remember that everything in us is invigorated by personal and liturgical prayer. Once again it was Cardinal Siri who stressed that "the most venerable and holiest action, worthy of all consideration and regard, of all honour and distinction which is carried out in a diocese is the solemn celebration of the Divine Office, in other words what you do.... The entire Diocese, and in a certain sense the entire Church, prays through your lips. The debt of the diocesan family of the faithful is discharged before God primarily with this prayer of yours" (Towards the Congress on "Worship of the Lord", Pastoral Letter to the Canons, 24 January 1953).

Dear brothers and sisters and in particular you Consecrated People, I thank you for your presence. It is a presence old and ever new, despite your dwindling numbers and strength. But be confident: our times are not those of God and of his Providence. It is necessary to pray and to increase in personal and community holiness. The Lord provides. I ask you never to consider yourselves as though you were in the "twilight" of life: Christ is the eternal dawn, our light. I ask you to persevere in your institutions and especially in your presence: the death of your communities impoverishes you but also Genoa. The poor, the sick, families, children, our Parishes: all this forms a valuable context for service and gift in order to build the Church and serve humankind. I especially recommend to you the education of children and young people: you know that it is the educational challenge which is most urgent because without an authentic human education it is impossible to go far. And all of you, although in different ways, have had an educational experience in the past. We must help parents in their extraordinary and difficult educational task; we must help Parishes and groups; we must continue even with great sacrifices, Catholic schools which are a great treasure of the Christian community and a true resource for the Country.

Dear Canons and dear men and women Religious, the long spiritual tradition of Genoa includes six Popes, among whom I remember above all Benedict XV of venerable memory, the Pope of peace.

In Humani Generis Redemptionem he wrote, "What gives a man's words life and vigour and makes them promote wonderfully the salvation of souls is divine grace" [n. 17]. Let us never forget it: being called to proclaim together the joy of Christ and the beauty of the Church is what binds us. This joy and this beauty, which come from the Spirit, are a gift and a sign of God's presence in our souls. In order to be witnesses and heralds of the saving message we cannot rely solely on our human forces. It is God's own fidelity that encourages and shapes fidelity to him: for this reason let us be guided by the Spirit of truth and love. This is the invitation that I address to each one of you, corroborating it with a special remembrance in prayer. I entrust you all to the Madonna della Guardia, to St Lawrence, to St John the Baptist and to your Patron Saints. With these sentiments I bless you wholeheartedly.

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Pope's Address to Genoa's Youth
"Being Young Implies Being Good and Generous"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 18 to a meeting with youth in Genoa's Piazza Matteotti, during his two-day pastoral visit to the Italian region of Liguria.
* * *
Dear Young People,

Unfortunately I am being pursued by the rain in these days but let us take it as a sign of blessing, of fertility for the land, as well as a symbol of the Holy Spirit who comes and renews the earth, even the arid terrain of our souls. You are the youth of Genoa! I am happy to see you here! I embrace you with the Heart of Christ! I thank the two representatives who have acted as your "spokespersons".

And I thank you all for your work of preparation, not only external but above all spiritual: with the Eucharistic adoration and the prayer vigil you have really reached out to the Holy Spirit and, in the Spirit, you enter the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity that we are celebrating today. Thank you for this journey you have made! And I thank you for the enthusiasm that must always be a feature of your soul, not only in the years of your youth, full of expectations and dreams, but always, even when the years of youth are over and you will be called to live other seasons. But we must all remain young in heart!

It is beautiful to be young and today everyone wants to be young, to stay young, and they disguise themselves as young, even if the time of youth has passed, visibly passed. And I wonder - I have thought about it - why is it beautiful to be young? What is the reason for the dream of eternal youth? It seems to me that there are two crucial elements: youth still has the whole future before it. Everything is in the future, a time of hope. The future is full of promises. To be sincere, we must say that for many people the future is also dark, full of threats. One wonders: will I find a job? Will I find somewhere to live? Will I find love? What will my true future be? And in the face of these threats, the future can also appear as a great void.

Today, therefore, many desire to stop time for fear of a future in emptiness. They want to enjoy all the beauties of life instantly - and in this way the oil in the lamp is consumed just as life is beginning. Thus it is important to choose the true promises that pave the way to the future, even with sacrifices. Those who have chosen God still have before them in old age a future without end and without threats. It is therefore vital to choose well, not to destroy the future.

And the first and fundamental choice must be God, God revealed in the Son Jesus Christ, and in the light of this choice which at the same time offers us company on the way, trustworthy company that never abandons me, in the light of this choice criteria are found to make the other necessary choices. Being young implies being good and generous and once again true goodness is Jesus himself, that Jesus whom you know or whom your heart is seeking: he is the Friend who never betrays, faithful to the point of giving his life on the Cross. Surrender to his love!

As you have printed on the tee-shirts made for this Meeting, "scioglietevi" [soften] before Jesus for he alone can melt your anxieties and fears and fulfil your expectations. He gave his life for us, for each one of us. Could he ever betray your trust? Could he lead you on the wrong paths? His are the ways of life, the ways that lead to the pastures of the soul, even if they rise steeply and are daunting. It is the spiritual life that I am asking you to cultivate, dear friends. Jesus said: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15: 5). Jesus comes to the point, he is clear and direct. Everyone understands him and takes a stand. The life of the soul is the encounter with him, the actual Face of God; it is silent, persevering prayer, it is sacramental life, it is the Gospel meditated upon, it is spiritual guidance, it is cordial membership in the Church, in your Ecclesial Communities.
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<>Yet how can one love, how can one enter into friendship with someone unknown? Knowledge is an incentive to love and love stimulates knowledge. This is how it is with Christ too. To find love with Christ, to truly find him as the companion of our lives, we must first of all be acquainted with him.
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<>Like the two disciples who followed him after hearing the words of John the Baptist and asked him timidly, "Rabbi, where are you staying?", they wanted to know him better. It was Jesus himself, talking to his disciples who made the distinction: "Who do people say that I am", referring to those who knew him from afar, so to speak, by hear-say, and "Who do you say that I am?", referring to those who knew him personally, having lived with him and having truly penetrated his private life, to the point of witnessing his prayer, his dialogue with the Father. Thus, it is also important for us not to reduce ourselves merely to the superficiality of the many who have heard something about him - that he was an important figure, etc. - but to enter into a personal relationship to know him truly. And this demands knowledge of Scripture, especially of the Gospels where the Lord speaks to us. These words are not always easy, but in entering into them, entering into dialogue, knocking at the door of words, saying to the Lord, "Let me in", we truly find words of eternal life, living words for today, as timely as they were then and as they will be in the future.

This conversation with the Lord in Scripture must always be a conversation that is not only individual but communal, in the great communion of the Church where Christ is ever present, in the communion of the liturgy, of the very personal encounter with the Holy Eucharist and of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where the Lord says to me "I forgive you". And another very important step to take is to help the poor in need, to make time for others. There are many dimensions for entering into knowledge of Jesus; also, of course the lives of saints. You have plenty of Saints here in Liguria, in Genoa, who help us discover the true Face of Jesus. Only in this way, by being personally acquainted with Jesus, can we also communicate this friendship to others. We can overcome indifference. Because even if it seems invincible - in fact, indifference sometimes appears not to need a God - in fact, everyone knows that something is missing in his life. Only after discovering Jesus do we realize "this is what I was waiting for". And, the truer a friend of Jesus we are, the better able we are to open our hearts to others so that they too may become truly young and have a great future before them.

At the end of our Meeting I shall have the joy of presenting the Gospel to some of you as a sign of a missionary mandate. Dear young people, venture forth into the milieus of life, your parishes, the most difficult districts, the streets! Proclaim Christ the Lord, the hope of the world. The further people drift from God, their Source, the more they lose themselves, the more difficult human coexistence becomes and the more society crumbles. Stay united to one another, help one another to live and to increase in faith and in Christian life to be daring witnesses of the Lord. Be united but not closed. Be humble but not fearful. Be simple but non ingenuous. Be thoughtful but not complicated. Enter into dialogue with all, but be yourselves. Remain in communion with your Pastors: they are ministers of the Gospel, of the Divine Eucharist, of God's forgiveness. They are fathers and friends for you, your companions on the way. You need them and they - we all - need you.

If each one of you, dear young people, remains united to Christ and to the Church, he or she can do great things. This is the hope I leave you to carry out. I say goodbye until Sydney to those of you who have enrolled to go to the World Meeting in July, and I extend it to all, because anyone will be able to follow the event from here as well. I know that in those days the dioceses will be organizing some special community events so that there will truly be a new Pentecost for the young people of the whole world. I entrust you to the Virgin Mary, a model of availability and of humble courage in accepting the Lord's mission. Learn from her to make your life a "yes" to God! In this way Jesus will come to dwell within you and you will take him joyfully to all. With my Blessing!

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On the Thought of Gregory the Great
"Holiness Is Always Possible, Even in Difficult Times"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience, the second catechesis he dedicated to the figure of Pope Gregory the Great.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I return today, in this our Wednesday meeting, to the extraordinary figure of Pope Gregory the Great, to glean additional light from his rich teaching. Despite the many commitments connected with his work as Bishop of Rome, he has left us numerous works, which in succeeding centuries the Church has received with open hands.

Beyond the conspicuous collection of letters -- the Register to which I referred in the last catechesis contains an additional 800 letters -- he left us letters written primarily in an exegetic character; outstanding among them is the Moral Commentary on Job -- known under the Latin title of "Moralia in Iob." He also left the Homilies on Ezekiel, and the Homilies on the Gospel.

There is moreover an important work of hagiographic character, the Dialogues, written by Gregory for the Lombard Queen Theodolinda. The principal and best-known work is without a doubt the Pastoral Rule, which the Pope wrote at the beginning of the pontificate with a clearly programmatic end.
In wishing to consider these works briefly, we must note, however, that in his writings, Gregory never seems concerned to delineate "his" doctrine, his originality. Instead, he seeks to echo the traditional teaching of the Church, he wishes simply to be the mouth of Christ and of his Church on the way that must be followed to reach God.

Exemplary in this respect are his exegetical comments. He was a passionate reader of sacred Scripture, which he approached not only with speculative understanding. He thought that from sacred Scripture the Christian must distill not just theoretical knowledge, but also daily nourishment for his soul, for his life as a man in this world.

In the Homilies on Ezekiel, for example, he energetically underlines this function of the sacred text: To approach Scripture simply to satisfy one's desire to know, means to give in to the temptation of pride and thus expose oneself to the risk of falling into heresy. Intellectual humility is the main rule for one who seeks to penetrate supernatural realities flowing from the sacred book.

Humility, obviously, does not exclude serious study; but in order to make this result in spiritual profit, consenting to truly enter into the profundity of the text, humility remains indispensable. Only with this interior attitude does one finally truly hear and perceive the voice of God. Moreover, when it is a question of the word of God, understanding is nothing if the comprehension does not lead to action.

Found also in these homilies on Ezekiel is that beautiful expression according to which "the preacher must dip his pen into the blood of his heart; thus he too will be able to reach his neighbor's ear." Reading these homilies of his, one sees that Gregory has really written with the blood of his heart and, consequently, speaks to us also today.
Gregory develops this discourse, also, in the Moral Commentary on Job. In keeping with the patristic tradition, he examines the sacred text in the three dimensions of its meaning: the literal dimension, the allegorical dimension and the moral. These are dimensions of the singular meaning of sacred Scripture. But Gregory attributes a clear prevalence to the moral meaning.

In this perspective, he proposes his thought through some significant binomials -- know how/do, speak/live, know something/act -- in which he evokes the two aspects of human life which should be complementary, but which often end up by being antithetical. The moral ideal, he comments, consists in achieving always a harmonious integration between word and action, thought and commitment, prayer and dedication to the duties of one's state: This is the road to attain that synthesis thanks to which the divine descends into man and man is raised to identification with God.

The great Pope thus traces, for the authentic believer, a complete plan of life. Because of this, in the course of medieval times, the Moral Commentary on Job was seen as a sort of "Summa" of Christian morality.
The Homilies on the Gospel are also of noteworthy relevance and beauty. The first of these was delivered in St. Peter's Basilica during Advent in 590, and therefore, a few months after his election to the pontificate. The last was given in St. Lawrence's Basilica on the second Sunday after Pentecost in 593. The Pope preached to the people in churches where "stations" were celebrated -- particular ceremonies of prayer at intense times in the liturgical year -- or the feasts of titular martyrs.

The inspirational principle, which links together the various addresses, is summarized in the word "praedicator": Not only the minister of God, but also every Christian, has the duty to make himself a "preacher" of what he has experienced in his own interior, following the example of Christ who became man to take to all the proclamation of salvation. The horizon of this commitment is eschatological: The expectation of fulfillment in Christ of all things is a constant thought of the great Pontiff and ends by being the inspirational motive of his every thought and activity. From here flow his incessant calls to vigilance and commitment to good works.
Perhaps the most organic text of Gregory the Great is the Pastoral Rule, written in the first years of his pontificate. In it Gregory intends to delineate the figure of the ideal bishop, teacher and guide of his flock. To this end he illustrates the gravity of the office of pastor of the Church and the duties it entails: Therefore, those who are called to such a task were not called and did not search for it superficially, those instead who assume it without due reflection feel arising in their spirit an onerous trepidation.

Taking up again a favorite topic, he affirms that the bishop is above all the "preacher" par excellence. As such, he must be above all an example to others, so that his behavior can be a reference point for all. Effective pastoral action requires therefore that he know the recipients and adapt his addresses to each one's situation. Gregory pauses to illustrate the different categories of faithful with acute and precise annotations, which can justify the appraisal of those who have seen in this work a treatise of psychology. From here one understands that he really knew his flock and spoke about everything with the people of his time and of his city.
The great Pontiff, moreover, stresses the daily duty that a pastor has to acknowledge his own misery, so that pride will not render vain -- before the eyes of the supreme Judge -- the good he accomplished. Therefore, the last chapter of the rule is dedicated to humility. "When one is pleased about having attained many virtues it is good to reflect on one's own insufficiencies and humble oneself. Instead of considering the good accomplished, it is necessary to consider what one has failed to accomplish."

All these precious indications demonstrate the very lofty concept St. Gregory had of the care of souls, defined by him as "ars artium," the art of arts. The rule had great success to the point that, something rather rare, it was soon translated into Greek and Anglo-Saxon.
Significant also is the other work, the Dialogues, in which to his friend and deacon Peter, convinced that the customs were now so corrupt so as not to allow for the emergence of saints as in past times, Gregory demonstrates the contrary: Holiness is always possible, even in difficult times.

He proves it by recounting the life of contemporary and recently deceased persons, who can well be considered saints, even if not canonized. The account is accompanied by theological and mystical reflections that make the book a singular hagiographic text, able to fascinate whole generations of readers.

The material is drawn from the living traditions of the people and has the objective of edifying and forming, attracting the attention of the reader to a series of questions such as the meaning of miracles, the interpretation of Scripture, the immortality of the soul, the existence of hell, the representation of the above -- all topics that were in need of opportune clarification.

Book II is entirely dedicated to the figure of Benedict of Nursia, and is the only ancient testimony on the life of the holy monk, whose spiritual beauty appears in the text in full evidence.

In the theological design that Gregory develops through his works, the past, present and future are relativized. What counts most of all for him is the entire span of salvific history, which continues to unravel through the dark meanderings of time. In this perspective, it is significant that he inserts the announcement of the conversion of the Anglos right in the middle of the Moral Commentary on Job. To his eyes the event constituted an advancement of the Kingdom of God which Scripture addresses. With good reason, therefore, it is to be mentioned in the commentary on a sacred book.

According to him, the leaders of the Christian community must be committed to reread events in the light of the word of God. In this respect, the great Pontiff felt the need to guide pastors and faithful in the spiritual itinerary of an illumined and concrete "lectio divina," placed in the context of their lives.
Before concluding, it is only right to say a word on the relationship that Pope Gregory cultivated with the patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria and Constantinople. He was always concerned with acknowledging and respecting their rights, allowing himself no interference that would limit their legitimate authority.

If, however, in the context of his historical situation, St. Gregory was opposed to the title "ecumenical" on the part of the patriarch of Constantinople, he did not do so to limit or deny this legitimate authority, but because he was concerned about the fraternal unity of the universal Church. He did so above all by his profound conviction that humility should be the fundamental virtue of every bishop, even more so of a patriarch.

Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and that explains why he was decidedly opposed to great titles. He wished to be -- this is his expression -- "servus servorum Dei." This word, coined by him, was not a pious formula in his mouth, but the true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was profoundly impressed by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our slave; he washed and washes our dirty feet.

Therefore, he was convinced that, above all, a bishop must imitate this humility of God and, for love of God, be able to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulations and sufferings, to make himself the "servant of the servants." Precisely because he was this, he is great and shows us also the measure of true greatness.


[The Pope then greeted those present in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today's audience we return to the writings of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, whose constant aim was to present the Church's teaching on the ways that lead to the contemplation of God. His Homilies on Ezekiel and his Moral Commentary on Job present a model of spiritual life which integrates prayer and action. In his Homilies on the Gospels Saint Gregory explained how the preacher's own spiritual experience of Christ should form the basis of his exhortations. The Pastoral Rule describes the ideal Bishop as a teacher and guide who leads by example and adapts his preaching to the specific background of those he addresses. The Dialogues, a work full of rich theological and spiritual insights, describe the lives of the saints of Gregory's epoch. In all things he insists on intellectual humility as a key to the meaning of Scripture, and proposes to Pastors and the faithful alike, the continual practice of lectio divina in order to better understand and follow God's will. Pope Gregory defended the prerogatives of the See of Rome, but with humility as the servant of the servants of God, and respected the rights of other Pastors, especially the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria. May the life and teaching of Saint Gregory guide and inspire us on our way to the joyous contemplation of God in eternity!

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Pontiff's Address to Nigerian Representative
"One of the Most Influential Countries on the Continent"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Obed Wadzani , the new ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See.

* * *
Your Excellency,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, President of the Republic. I gladly reciprocate them, and I ask you kindly to convey my personal gratitude and good wishes to His Excellency, to the civil authorities and to the Nigerian people.

It is not only a humanitarian duty, but a source of real joy to come to the aid of those in need. Indeed, assisting others in a spirit of respect, integrity and impartiality is a rich, formative experience both for individuals and societies. In this regard, the size, population, economic resources and generosity of your people make Nigeria one of the most influential countries on the continent and give her a unique opportunity to support other African countries in achieving the well-being and stability they deserve. The nation has contributed to the many efforts to bring social reconciliation to other lands through its peacekeeping forces, material aid and diplomatic efforts. I encourage Nigeria to continue to use her considerable human and material resources in ways conducive to the peace and prosperity of neighbouring countries. Indeed, when this assistance is provided with both integrity and sacrifice it brings honour to a country's citizens and government.

In this same spirit, support must be given at home and abroad to all who seek to alleviate human suffering through research and practical assistance. The Church is confident that the services she provides in the sectors of education, social programmes and health care will continue to have a positive impact on the struggle against poverty and disease. She is a constant advocate for life from conception until natural death. As you are well aware, the Church takes seriously her part in the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS by fostering programmes which emphasize fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of it. Catholic personnel, doctors, nurses, assistants and educators will continue to remind all men and women, and especially young people, to reaffirm family values, and to act with moral courage, based in faith, in the struggle against this disease and related conditions. At the same time she is already assisting on a practical level countless people suffering from this affliction on your continent and throughout the world.

Mr Ambassador, the people of Nigeria desire a vibrant democracy and you have mentioned some of the priorities that your country has identified as necessary steps on her way to significant growth and sustained development. These include democratic governance and the rule of law, internal security, and the efficient administration of justice. As Your Excellency is well aware, good governance requires that elections are clearly seen to be free, fair and transparent. It also depends on internal security, always founded in the democratic ideal of respect for individual rights and the rule of law. To implement properly this building block of democracy requires public officials to address first of all the root causes of social unrest and second to form the populace in the virtues of respect and tolerance.
I am aware that, in the past, friction between different groups has given cause for concern. Conflict of this kind can often be traced to a variety of factors, including errors of administration, isolated grievances or ethnic tension. In this regard, I am pleased to note that in the last few years tensions appear to have eased. This can be seen as a true indicator of progress and a sign of hope for the future. In the promotion of understanding, reconciliation and good will among different groups, the Church continues to encourage a community spirit by working to eradicate prejudice and supporting openness towards all. She is especially interested in fostering interreligious dialogue, in the hope that a strong attitude of solidarity among religious leaders will progressively become embodied in popular nationwide expressions of peaceful acceptance, mutual understanding and cooperation.

A disturbing reality that is present in many countries today is criminal violence. Homicide, kidnapping for extortion, and the exploitation of women, children and foreign workers are some of the worst manifestations of this intolerable practice. Insecurity, distress and aggressiveness caused by family breakdown, unemployment, poverty or despair are some of the social and psychological factors behind this phenomenon. An already fragile situation is compounded by a pervasive materialistic mentality and a loss of reverence for the human person. At times, the feeling of hopelessness can lead people to search for a deceptively simple solution to their problems. Young people in such circumstances must be given every possible encouragement to seek improvement through education, extracurricular activities, voluntary assistance to others and, ideally, opportunities for employment. Corruption can follow in the wake of violent crime and has the effect of discouraging enterprise and investments, and undermining confidence in the political, judiciary and economic institutions of the nation. The dynamism Nigeria has introduced into the struggle against corruption and crime and the strengthening of the rule of law is extremely important and must be sustained and applied with equity and impartiality. I pray that politicians and social workers, professional people in the fields of economy, medicine and law, police officers and judges, and all involved in combating crime and corruption will work together diligently for the protection of life and property, supported by the loyal cooperation of all citizens. The Church will not fail to make her specific contribution by offering an integral education based on honesty, integrity and love of God and neighbour. She strives to create opportunities for young people in difficult circumstances, always reminding them that "all serious and upright human conduct is hope in action" (Spe Salvi, 35).

Mr Ambassador, I wish you every success in your mission and assure you of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. I recall with appreciation the warm reception my predecessor, Pope John Paul II, was given on the two occasions he visited Nigeria. I pray that the fond memory of this messenger of Peace will continue to unite and inspire the Nigerian people. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant and lasting blessings of well-being and peace!

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Papal Address to Sri Lankan Envoy
"Acts of Terrorism Are Never Justifiable"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Tikiri Bandara Maduwegedera, the new ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Holy See.

* * *
Your Excellency,

It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican today and to accept the Letters of Credence whereby His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa has appointed you Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Holy See. I thank you for the greetings you have extended on his behalf, and I ask you to assure His Excellency of my prayers for the peace and well-being of the entire nation. Our meeting today is a propitious occasion for me to affirm my deep respect for the people of Sri Lanka and its rich heritage, as well as my desire to strengthen further the diplomatic ties between your country and the Holy See.
Mr Ambassador, I am grateful for the appreciation you have expressed on behalf of your fellow citizens for the Catholic Church's ongoing charitable activity in your nation. In particular, you have highlighted the Church's contribution to the relief efforts after the devastating tsunami struck your nation in 2004. Such action is a concrete example of the Church's willing and prompt response to the mission she has received to serve those most in need (cf. Lk 10:25-37; Deus Caritas Est, 29). I wish to assure your Government that the Church will continue in her efforts to reach out with compassion to all, and I commend any future measures which will help guarantee that Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies can continue to care for the sick, the young and the vulnerable regardless of ethnic or religious background (cf. ibid., 30)
Catholics in Sri Lanka, together with other Christians, are united with many Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims in the ardent longing for lasting peace in the country and a definitive end to long-standing grievances. Sadly, violence continues to take its toll on the populace, causing grave concern to the Holy See and the international community. Frank and sincere negotiations, regardless of the investment of time and resources they require, are the only sure means to achieving reconciliation and addressing problems that have long hindered peaceful coexistence in Sri Lanka. In particular, acts of terrorism are never justifiable and always constitute an affront to humanity (cf. Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 4). Indeed, arbitrary attacks fail to give effective voice to the interests of the various groups on whose behalf they are purportedly carried out. They can regrettably provoke indiscriminate reactions that similarly place the innocent in harm's way. Such cycles of violence obfuscate the truth, perpetuate a volley of accusations and counter-accusations, and leave people disillusioned and despondent. For this reason, the struggle against terrorism must always be carried out with respect for human rights and the rule of law (cf. Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 8). I exhort all parties to spare no effort in creating a climate of trust, forgiveness and openness by listening to one another and showing reasonable respect for each other's legitimate aspirations.

Your Excellency has also drawn attention to the disturbing trend of recruiting children to engage in combat or in terrorist activities. Such practices must be condemned at the outset, for they inevitably stunt the moral development of children, leaving scars that last a lifetime (cf. Message for the 1996 World Day of Peace, 3) and tearing the moral fibre of society itself. Jesus admonished men and women to avoid causing scandal towards these "little ones" (cf. Lk 17:2), even instructing adults to imitate their virtue and purity (cf. Mt 18:2). I implore leaders in your country and throughout the world to remain vigilant so that no compromise will be made in this regard. Children and adolescents must receive a solid formation in moral values today which will strengthen the social fabric of your country tomorrow. Indeed, an appreciation of these values and an attitude of respect for others are just as important as any technical skills young people may acquire in view of their professional vocation.

Initiatives aimed at achieving peace need to be rooted in a proper understanding of the human person and the inviolability of his or her innate rights. As I recently remarked, the "universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity" (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 April 2008). Your Excellency has pointed to new mechanisms which have been set in motion to monitor human rights and redress humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka. In this regard, it is encouraging to note your Government's decision to set up a special Commission of Inquiry for the purpose of investigating cases where there seems to have been a disregard for justice and human rights. It is hoped that every effort will be made to ensure that the Commission completes its work expeditiously so that the truth about all of these cases may come to light. I think in particular of Father Jimbrown and his assistant, whose whereabouts are still unknown, almost two years after their disappearance. The Government's interest in these cases reflects the responsibility of political authorities to guarantee an ordered and upright community life based on the principles of justice and directed towards the attainment of the common good (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 74).

Mr Ambassador, as you assume your new responsibilities, I offer you my good wishes for the successful fulfilment of your mission, confident that the bonds of friendship which exist between the Holy See and Sri Lanka will be further strengthened in the years to come. I assure you that the various offices and departments of the Holy See are ready to offer their resources in a spirit of collaboration. Upon Your Excellency, your family and the people of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Belarus Ambassador
"Part of the Great Family of Free and Sovereign European Nations"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Sergei Aleinik, the new ambassador from Belarus to the Holy See.

* * *
Your Excellency,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Holy See. I wish to express my gratitude for the message of greeting which you bring from President Aleksandr Lukashenko, and I ask you to convey to him my own good wishes and the assurance of my heartfelt affection for the people of your country.
Mr Ambassador, I am grateful for the kind words which you have shared with me concerning the progress that has been made in Belarus. In this regard, I am also appreciative of the many encouraging signs and challenges that are present in the country today. Please be assured that the Holy See will continue to support your nation in her efforts to affirm proper and legitimate aspirations for freedom and in her labours to foster the democratic process as a part of the great family of free and sovereign European nations.
For decades now Europe has actively sought to construct a future of peace and progress by removing walls of separation and overcoming painful divisions. This noble project, motivated by a sense of shared responsibility for the common destiny of European peoples, is of enormous value. Achieving such an ambitious goal is not easy; in fact, it requires all the parties involved to engage in constant, frank and reasonable dialogue, based on genuine solidarity and respectful of the legitimate aspirations, historical circumstances and diversity of others. To this end, every nation on the continent, Belarus included, is called to contribute to the construction of a common European home in which borders are seen as places of encounter and not as lines of division, or worse, as insurmountable walls. Indeed, the history, the spiritual and cultural roots and the geography of Belarus give her an integral role to play in this process. That which unites the nations of Europe is far greater than any political, economic and cultural factors that divide them. To give new impetus to its own history, Europe must "recognize and reclaim with creative fidelity those fundamental values, acquired through a decisive contribution of Christianity, which can be summarized in the affirmation of the transcendent dignity of the human person, the value of reason, freedom and democracy, the constitutional state and the distinction between political life and religion" (Ecclesia in Europa, 109).

The newfound independence of your country and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See have resulted in the development of a good working relationship between the institutions of the State and those of the Church. These relations are marked by the openness of both parties towards strengthening and improving these bonds, which in turn encourage the well-being and prosperity of the country. I am grateful for Your Excellency's kind words regarding the Church's activity in your country, and I am certain that the Government of Belarus will continue to assist the Catholic Church in addressing her needs. This year the Catholic Church in Belarus will mark two significant Anniversaries: the two hundred and twenty-fifth Anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Mohylev and the two hundred and tenth Anniversary of the Diocese of Minsk. In this regard one must acknowledge with gratitude the recognition your country has already given to the Church's spiritual, cultural and historic contribution to the life of the nation.

Church and State, in their own particular ways and in the light of their specific missions, are at the service of mankind. It is necessary therefore that they cooperate with one another, always respecting the autonomy and competence of each, in ways that will assist men and women in obtaining both material and spiritual prosperity. Such cooperation can only contribute to the strengthening of ever more dynamic democratic institutions. Considered as an integral part of the life and destiny of Belarus, the Catholic Church for her part looks forward to continuing to exercise her role in society through her various structures and institutions (such as the Episcopal Conference, dioceses, parishes and religious communities). These entities seek only to serve men and women and all of society through the transmission of universal values inspired by the Gospel. In this regard the Catholic Church in Belarus, from both the Latin and Byzantine Traditions, does not ask for special privileges but only to contribute to the growth and development of the country. All she requests is the freedom to be able to fulfil serenely the mandate received from the divine Founder in service of his creation. In this same spirit and with the same sense of mutual responsibility, the Catholics of Belarus are committed to moving forward in the area of ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Orthodox Church in your country. It is my prayer that ecumenical contacts will continue to develop in peace, harmony and fruitful dialogue, contributing in this way to an ever greater social harmony.

Mr Ambassador, as you begin your mission to the Holy See, I offer you wholehearted good wishes, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Roman Curia to assist you. Upon yourself, your co-workers, your family and all the beloved people of Belarus I invoke abundant divine blessings.
   
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Pope's Address to Ambassador of Bangladesh
"Democracy Needs More Than a Set of Rules to be Sustainable"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Debapriya Bhattacharya, Bangladesh's new ambassador to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to receive you today as you present the Letters of Credence whereby His Excellency President Iajuddin Ahmed has appointed you Ambassador of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the Holy See. I would ask you to convey my cordial greetings to him and to the members of the Government, together with an assurance of my good wishes for the well-being of all your fellow citizens.

Established thirty-five years ago, diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Bangladesh have been strengthened by a mutual concern for promoting goodwill in a world increasingly more connected, yet not without signs of new divisions and deeply troubling forms of violence and injustice. These phenomena present new challenges to the whole human family, eliciting an acute sense that more vigorous international cooperation is needed to ensure that the aspirations of all, especially the poor and the weak, are given full voice (cf. Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 43). Mr Ambassador, I am confident that your country’s active participation in bodies such as the United Nations Organization will contribute to the "culture of peace" which Bangladesh desires to build at home and abroad. By engaging in these conversations at the international level, your country will play a role in harmonizing the actions of the global community to attain the common objectives of peace and development (cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 18 April 2008).

As Your Excellency has suggested, a robust democracy needs more than a set of rules to be sustainable; it requires citizens to embrace the underlying values which inspire democratic institutions and procedures, such as the dignity of the human person, a genuine respect for human rights, and a commitment to the common good as the guiding criterion for political life (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46). By striving to enhance a general consensus about the central importance of these fundamental values, the leaders of your nation will pave the way for stable governance and the harmonious coexistence of all who call Bangladesh their home. As your country prepares to hold general elections within the current year, I am confident that its citizens will reflect upon and renew their appreciation for the moral underpinnings which make authentic democracy possible. Social advancement and cohesion requires all – individuals, families, elected officials, civil servants and professionals – to embrace willingly their responsibility to contribute to community life with integrity, honesty and a sense of service (cf. Pacem in Terris, 55; Centesimus Annus, 46). In particular, those running for public office must be willing to set aside personal interests to safeguard the common good of the people whom they represent and serve. Your Excellency has pointed to the challenge of rebuilding representative institutions which have deteriorated despite the country’s observance of democratic processes in selecting recent governments. This crucial task of restoring confidence in these and other democratic institutions will call for strong leadership on the part of men and women who are trustworthy, fair and competent. No doubt the people of Bangladesh will look for these qualities in their candidates as they exercise the right to vote in a polling process that itself reflects the very values upon which democracy depends (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46).

A vibrant educational system is essential to strong democracies. Both the State and the Church have respective roles in helping families impart wisdom, knowledge and moral virtue to their children, so that they will come to recognize the dignity common to all men and women, including those belonging to cultures and religions different from their own. The Church seeks to contribute to this end by establishing schools that attend not only to the cognitive development of children, but the spiritual and moral as well. Insofar as these and other faith-based schools perform the public service of training young people in tolerance and respect, they should therefore receive the support they need, including financial assistance, so as to benefit the entire human family.

Yours is a country that has made significant strides in economic growth over the last several years. Yet this has not always translated into a proportionate alleviation of poverty and an increase in opportunities for employment. Long-term stability in the economic sector is organically linked to other spheres of civic life, including public institutions and a well-functioning educational system. The former promotes the efficiency and transparency that foster economic growth (cf. Centesimus Annus, 48), and the latter is "society’s most valuable tool for furthering development and economic progress" (Populorum Progressio, 35). For this reason, a nation’s economic goals must always be placed within the broader horizon of its moral, civil and cultural growth (cf. Centesimus Annus, 29). Furthermore, lasting economic development occurs as a result of the dynamic interaction between private initiative, public authority and the support of international organizations (cf. ibid., 10; 32; 49). For her part, the Church, in her constant solicitude for the integral good of the human person, echoes mankind’s aspirations to secure the material goods necessary for corporal and spiritual well-being (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 14). Indeed, she is firmly convinced that development is ultimately a question of peace, "because it helps to achieve what is good for others and for the human community as a whole" (Message for the 1987 World Day of Peace, 7).

Mr Ambassador, as you begin your service, I renew my good wishes for the success of your mission. I assure you that the various offices of the Holy See stand ready to assist you in fulfilling your duties. Upon you, your family and all the people of Bangladesh, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of strength and peace.

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Benedict XVI's Address to Liberian Envoy
"Heal the Wounds Inflicted in the Course of the Civil War"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2008  - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave Thursday to Wesley Momo Johnson, Liberia's new ambassador to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Liberia to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from your President, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Please convey to Her Excellency my cordial greetings and assure her of my continued prayers for all the people of your nation.

Let me assure you, Mr Ambassador, that the Holy See values its diplomatic links with your country, and looks forward to developing them further in the years ahead. As the international community strives to fulfil its humanitarian obligations towards the people of Africa, the Holy See regards with particular concern the many citizens of Liberia who were left destitute by the violent conflict that ravaged your country for so many years. After two years of stable elected government, significant progress has been made in the immense task of reconstruction. It was with satisfaction that I learned of the decision by the International Monetary Fund last November to take steps towards cancelling Liberia's debt. This is good news indeed, and it is greatly to be hoped that recent signs of economic growth will be sustained in the years to come. After decades of war and instability, the people of your country deserve to be delivered from the poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment that have afflicted them for so long.

I am sure your people realize that a peaceful and prosperous future can only be attained if a serious attempt is made to acknowledge past failures and to heal the wounds inflicted in the course of the civil war. The "truth and reconciliation process" in Liberia, as in other African countries, is a courageous and necessary step along the path to national renewal, and if it is pursued with integrity and determination, it can only lead to a strengthening of the values on which civilized society depends. When the people of a nation have witnessed violence, mismanagement and corruption, practised with impunity at the highest levels of society, it is not easy to regain trust in the machinery of government. Indeed, it is tempting to withdraw from national life altogether, seeking only to promote one's particular interests or those of one's region or ethnic group. Such partisan attitudes must be overcome by a renewed commitment to promote the common good of all citizens, a profound respect for all members of society, irrespective of ethnic origin or political allegiance, and a willingness to contribute one's own gifts and resources so as to bring about the greater well-being and prosperity of others.

In my World Day of Peace Message at the start of this year, I underlined the importance of the family as a fundamental building block in society, one where the values essential for peaceful coexistence can be learned and then transmitted to future generations. From the responsible and definitive "yes" of a man and a woman, and the conscious "yes" of the children who gradually join the family, its members give their consent to the building up of the common good. This is what makes it possible for the wider community to prosper, locally, nationally, and even internationally (cf. Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 6). I know that the people of Africa place a high value on maintaining family bonds, and I encourage your Government to ensure that public policy continues to assist and strengthen the family in every way. Only thus will firm foundations be laid for renewing the social infrastructure that has been so badly damaged by decades of violent conflict.

You can be sure, Mr Ambassador, that the Church in Liberia is eager to contribute to the building up of family life, and to the provision of education and health care that are so sorely needed throughout the country. I greatly appreciate President Johnson-Sirleaf's words of praise for the Church's activity in these areas throughout Liberia's history, and indeed for the courageous witness of the martyrs who dedicated themselves to serving the country even at the cost of their lives. The many devoted men and women - priests, religious and lay faithful - who carry out their apostolate in your country today are no less committed to the people they serve, and to the promotion of justice, peaceful coexistence and reconciliation between the warring factions of the recent past.

The educational apostolate is perhaps their most significant investment in Liberia's future. Many of your children and young people have been traumatized by the experience of war, some of them forced to become soldiers and to abandon their education, resulting in low levels of literacy across the population. The Church in such circumstances seeks to offer the people hope, to give them faith in the future, and to show them that they are loved and cared for, to lead them, in other words, towards an encounter with Christ the Saviour of humanity. In this way, Your Excellency, I am confident that the cordial relations existing between Liberia and the Holy See will bear abundant fruit for the growth and increasing prosperity of your beloved country for many years to come.

In offering my best wishes for the success of your mission, I would like to assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of Liberia, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

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On the Sacred Heart
"Every Person Needs a 'Center' in His Life"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2008

(Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Sunday, the first day of June, I would like to note that this month is traditionally dedicated to the Heart of Christ, a symbol of the Christian faith that is dear to the faithful, to the mystics and to theologians because it expresses in a simple and authentic way the ““glad tidings”” of love, summarizing the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption in itself.

Friday we celebrated the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the third and final of the feasts that follow Easter, after the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi. This succession of feasts brings to mind a movement toward the center: a movement of the Spirit that is guided by God himself.

From the infinite horizon of his love, in fact, God desired to enter into the limits of history and the human condition, he took on a body and a heart; thus we can contemplate and meet the infinite in the finite, the mystery of the invisible and ineffable human heart of Jesus, the Nazarene.

In my first encyclical on the theme of love, the point of departure was the gaze turned toward Christ’’s pierced side, of which John speaks in his Gospel (cf. John 19:37; ““Deus Caritas Est,”” 12). And this center of the faith is also the font of the hope in which we have been saved, the hope that I made the object of my second encyclical.
Every person needs a ““center”” in his life, a source of truth and goodness to draw from in the flux of the different situations of everyday life and its toil. Everyone of us, when he pauses for a moment of silence, needs to feel not only the beating of his own heart, but more deeply, the beating of a trustworthy presence, perceptible to the senses of faith and yet more real: the presence of Christ, heart of the world.

And so I invite everyone to renew his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ in the month of June, making use of the traditional prayer of the offering of the day and keeping in mind the intentions that I have proposed to the whole Church.
Along with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the liturgy invites us to venerate the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Let us always entrust ourselves to her with great confidence.

Once again I would like to invoke the Virgin’’s maternal intercession for the people of China and Myanmar, stricken by natural disasters, and for those who are dealing with the many situations of suffering, of sickness and material and spiritual misery that mark the journey of humanity.

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Pope's Address at End of Marian Month
"She Is Blessed Because She Believed"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening during a gathering in St. Peter's Square marking the conclusion of May, the month dedicated to the Mary.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
We conclude the month of May with this suggestive meeting of Marian prayer. I greet you with affection and I thank you for your participation. I greet, first of all, Cardinal Angelo Comastri; along with him I also greet the other cardinals, archbishops, bishops and priests who have participated in this evening celebration.

I extend my greeting to all consecrated persons and to you, my dear lay faithful, who have desired to offer homage to the Most Holy Virgin with your presence. This day we celebrate the feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin and the memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

All of this invites us to cast our gaze upon Mary with trust. To her, again this evening, we turn with the ancient and always relevant holy practice of the rosary. The rosary, when it is not a mechanical repetition of traditional formulas, is a biblical meditation that permits us to reflect on the events of the Lord’’s life in the company of the Blessed Virgin, treasuring them, as she did, in our heart.

In many Christian communities there is the beautiful custom of reciting the rosary in a more solemn way together with the family and in parishes. Now that the month is ending, this good practice should not also end; indeed it should be continued with a still greater commitment, so that, in the school of Mary, the lamp of faith may shine ever brighter in the heart of Christians and in their houses.
On today’’s feast of the Visitation the liturgy invites us to listen again to the passage of the Gospel of Luke that retells the journey of Mary from Nazareth to the house of he elderly cousin Elizabeth. Let us imagine the state of the Virgin after the Annunciation, when the angel left her. Mary found herself with a great mystery in her womb; she knew that something extraordinarily unique had happened; she realized that the last chapter in the history of the world’’s salvation had begun. But everything around her remained as it was before, and the village of Nazareth knew nothing of that which had happened to her.
Before being concerned about herself, Mary thinks rather of the elderly Elizabeth, whom she knew was already in an advanced stage of pregnancy, and, driven by the mystery of love that she had just received into herself, she made her way ““with haste”” to go help Elizabeth. This is the simple and sublime greatness of Mary!

When she arrived at Elizabeth’’s house, something happened that no painter could ever render with the same beauty and profundity as the actual event. The interior light of the Holy Spirit enveloped them. And Elizabeth, enlightened from on high, exclaims: ““Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! To what do I owe this visit of my Lord’’s mother to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the child leapt for joy in my womb. Blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of the Lord’’s words”” (Luke 1:42-45).
These words might seem to be excessive to us given the actual context. Elizabeth is one of the many elderly women in Israel, and Mary is an unknown girl from a remote village of Galilee. What can they be and what can they do in a world in which other persons count and other powers hold sway? Nevertheless, Mary once again stupefies us; her heart is limpid, totally open to God’’s light; her soul is without sin, not weighed down by pride and by egoism.

Elizabeth’’s words ignite a canticle of praise in her heart, which is an authentic and profound ““theological”” reading of history: a reading that we must continually learn from her whose faith is without shadows and without cracks. ““My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”” Mary acknowledges God’’s greatness. This is the first indispensable sentiment of faith; the sentiment that gives certainty to the human creature and liberates the creature from fear, even in the midst of history’’s storms.
Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” with the eyes of faith God’’s work in history. For this reason she is blessed, because she believed: by faith, in fact, she welcomed the word of the Lord and conceived the incarnate Word. Her faith allowed her to see that the thrones of the powerful of this world are all provisional, while the throne of God is the only rock that does not change and does not fall. And Mary’’s “Magnificat,” after centuries and millennia, remains the truest and the deepest interpretation of history, while the readings of the many wise persons of this world have been disproved by the facts over the course of the centuries.
Dear brothers and sisters! Let us return home with the Magnificat in our heart. Let us carry in us Mary’’s same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment into the hands of divine providence. Let us imitate her example of availability and generosity in serving our brothers and sisters. In fact, we are only able to raise a canticle of praise to the Lord by welcoming God’’s love and making of our existence a disinterested and generous service of neighbor. May the Madonna obtain this grace for us, she who this night invites us to find refuge in her immaculate heart.

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Papal Letter to Moscow Patriarch Alexy II
"I Reflect on the Experience of Growing Closeness Between Us"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language letter he sent to Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia. The letter was delivered by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, during his 10-day visit to Russia, which ends today.

* * *

The visit to Russia of His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper offers me a welcome opportunity to extend my cordial greetings, to express my esteem for your ministry in the Russian Orthodox Church and to restate my appreciation for your commitment to fostering relations between Catholics and Orthodox. It is with joy that I reflect on the experience of growing closeness between us, accompanied by the shared desire to promote authentic Christian values and to witness to our Lord in ever deeper communion. I think with gratitude of the recent visit of Your Holiness to Strasbourg and Paris, and the warm welcome given to the Catholic Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow during the Christmas celebrations last year.

Another sign of fraternity and friendship towards the Catholic Church is to be seen in the invitation extended to Cardinal Kasper by His Eminence Kirill, Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, President of the Department for External Church Affairs of the Patriarchate of Moscow, to visit that Eparchy on the occasion of his name–day. This is not only a sign of personal goodwill, but also a gesture towards the Catholic Church which Cardinal Kasper represents.

During his time in Russia, Cardinal Kasper will visit Kazan to venerate the icon of the Mother of God which my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, conveyed to Your Holiness through the good offices of Cardinal Kasper, who personally accompanied the sacred image back to its homeland. This icon bears a likeness to all the other venerable icons of the Mother of God, and as such offers a powerful sign of the closeness which exists between us. It also offers an opportunity for encounter with Muslims, who show great respect for Mary, the Mother of God. Your Holiness has been increasingly committed to dialogue with other Christians and the members of other religions, and it is with deep gratitude that I have followed with prayerful interest the signs of friendship and trust which your Church and its representatives have demonstrated in various ways.

With gratitude for your commitment to dialogue with different ecclesial, religious and social bodies, I extend in this Easter season my warmest best wishes for your ministry, entrusting to the Lord my prayer that the great mystery of our salvation, the Death and Resurrection of our Lord, may ever more deeply guide your life and your service to the Church. May the Risen Saviour grant you health, peace and inner joy, and may he bring us closer to each other, that we may undertake together our journey towards full communion in him.

From the Vatican, 19 May 2008

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Pope's Address to Myanmar Bishops
"Universal Church Is Joined Spiritually With Those Who Mourn"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address he gave today to the bishops of Myanmar, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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My dear brother Bishops,
I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Myanmar, who have come to the City of Rome to venerate the tombs of the holy Apostles and to strengthen your communion with the Successor of Peter. Our encounter today bears witness to the unity, charity and peace that bind us together and animate our mission to teach, guide and sanctify the people of God (cf. Lumen Gentium, 22). I am grateful for the kind greetings and the assurance of prayers which Archbishop Paul Grawng has expressed to me in your name and on behalf of the clergy, the Religious and laity of your respective Dioceses. I wish to reciprocate with my cordial greetings and sincere prayer that "the Lord may give you peace at all times and in all ways" (cf. 2 Thess 3:16).

The Church in Myanmar is known and admired for its solidarity with the poor and needy. This has been especially evident in the concern you have shown in the aftermath of the cyclone Nargis. The numerous Catholic agencies and associations in your land show that the people under your care have heeded the Baptist's cry: "Let he who has two coats share with him who has none; let he who has food do likewise!" (Lk 3:11). I am confident that under your guidance, the faithful will continue to demonstrate the possibility of establishing "a fruitful link between evangelization and works of charity" (Deus Caritas Est, 30), so that others will "experience the richness of their humanity" and that "God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (ibid., 31; cf. 1 Pt 4:8-11).

During these difficult days, I know how grateful the Burmese people are for the Church's efforts to provide shelter, food, water, and medicine to those still in distress. I am hopeful that, following the agreement recently reached on the provision of aid by the international community, all who are ready to help will be able to furnish the type of assistance required and enjoy effective access to the places where it is needed most. At this critical time, I render thanks to Almighty God that he has brought us together "face to face" (1 Thess 2:17), for it gives me the occasion to reassure you that the universal Church is joined spiritually with those who mourn the loss of loved ones (cf. Rm 12:15), as she holds out to them the Lord's promise of comfort and consolation (cf. Mt 5:4). May God open the hearts of all so that a concerted effort may be made to facilitate and coordinate the ongoing endeavour to bring relief to the suffering and rebuild the country's infrastructure.

The Church's mission of charity shines forth in a particular way through the Religious life, by which men and women devote themselves with "undivided" heart to the service of God and neighbour (cf. 1 Cor 7:34; cf. Vita Consecrata, 3). I am pleased to note that an increasing number of women are responding to the call to consecrated life in your region. I pray that their free and radical acceptance of the evangelical counsels will inspire others to embrace the life of chastity, poverty and obedience for the sake of the Kingdom. Preparing candidates for this service of prayer and apostolic work requires an investment of time and resources. The formation courses offered by the Catholic Religious Conference of Myanmar attest to the cooperation possible between different religious communities with due respect for the particular charism of each, and point to the need for sound academic, spiritual and human formation.

Similar signs of hope are seen in the rising number of vocations to the priesthood. These men are both "called together" and "sent out to preach" (cf. Lk 9:1-2) to be examples of faithfulness and holiness for the People of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit and led by your fatherly care, may priests perform their sacred duties in humility, simplicity and obedience (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 15). As you know, this requires a thorough formation that accords with the dignity of their priestly office. I therefore encourage you to continue making the necessary sacrifices to ensure that seminarians receive the integral formation that will enable them to become authentic heralds of the New Evangelization (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 2).

My dear brothers, the Church's mission to spread the Good News depends on a generous and prompt response from the lay faithful to become labourers in the vineyard (cf. Mt 20:1-16; 9:37-38). They too are in need of a robust and dynamic Christian formation which will inspire them to carry the Gospel message to their workplaces, families, and to society at large (cf. Ecclesia in Asia, 22). Your reports allude to the enthusiasm with which the laity are organizing many new catechetical and spiritual initiatives, often involving great numbers of young people. As you foster and oversee these activities, I encourage you to remind those under your care to turn continually to the nourishment of the Eucharist through participation in the liturgy and silent contemplation (cf. Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 6). Effective programs of evangelization and catechesis also require clear planning and organization if they are to achieve the desired end of teaching Christian truth and drawing people into the love of Christ. It is desirable that they make use of appropriate aids, including booklets and audio-visual materials, to complement oral instruction and to provide common points of reference for authentic Catholic doctrine. I am certain that other local Churches throughout the world will do what they can to furnish materials whenever possible.

Your active participation in the First Asian Mission Congress has led to new initiatives for promoting goodwill with Buddhists in your country. In this regard, I encourage you as you develop ever better relations with Buddhists for the good of your individual communities and of the entire nation.

Finally, my dear brothers, I wish to express my sincere gratitude for your faithful ministry in the midst of difficult circumstances and setbacks often beyond your control. Next month, the Church inaugurates a special Jubilee year in honour of Saint Paul. This "Apostle to the Gentiles" has been admired through the centuries for his undaunted perseverance in trials and tribulations vividly recounted in his Epistles and in the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 2 Tim 1:8-13; Acts 27:13-44). Paul exhorts us to keep our gaze fixed on the glory that awaits us so as never to despair in the pain and sufferings of today. The gift of hope which we have received-and in which we are saved (cf. Rom 8:24)-imparts grace and transforms our way of living (cf. Spe Salvi, 3). Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, I invite you to join Saint Paul in the sure confidence that nothing-neither distress, or persecution, or famine, nor things present, nor things to come-can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (cf. Rom 8:35-39).

Commending you to the intercession of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to your clergy, Religious and lay faithful.

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Benedict's  Address to Ugandan Envoy
"New Hope Has Arisen for the People of Northern Uganda"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address today to Nyine Bitahwa, Uganda's new ambassador to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uganda to the Holy See. I appreciate the greetings which you have conveyed on behalf of His Excellency Mr Yoweri Museveni, President of the Republic, and I gladly reciprocate with my own good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for His Excellency and all the people of Uganda.

The Holy See establishes diplomatic relations with States with a view to achieving mutual cooperation for the spiritual and material good of their populations. In this regard, the efforts made in your country in the struggle against poverty and its underlying causes are most encouraging. Human development, through the availability of employment, suitable housing and the extension of educational opportunities, is an indispensable factor in the economic and social progress of a nation. Much has been achieved in Uganda in the fields of education, development and health care, especially in the struggle against HIV/AIDS with dedicated attention to those affected and a successful policy of prevention based on continence and the promotion of faithfulness in marriage. True to her commitment to preach love of God and neighbour, the Catholic Church will continue to cooperate with civil authorities, especially in these areas which help to better the human condition.

Mr Ambassador, you have spoken of your people's joy at seeing the culmination of efforts to formalize peace agreements and to bring to a conclusion the long years of warfare marked by cruel and senseless violence. The Church, in view of her call to enlighten consciences, cannot but express her joy at what has been achieved, and her earnest hope that conditions of full security will soon prevail, allowing all displaced people to return to their homes and resume a peaceful and productive existence. In this regard, I wish to convey the Holy See's appreciation to all who have raised their voice against violence and hatred, and to all who have contributed to a negotiated search for peace. I encourage all involved to take part generously in the task of repair and rebuilding after so many years of turmoil and abandonment. That this task is taking place amid fears of a world-wide food shortage and rising prices should be a further stimulus to dedication and perseverance in consolidating peace, reconciliation and reconstruction. I trust that the population's strong desire for peace will inspire the Government to continue to carry out its regional responsibilities and to do all that is in its power to ensure stability and reconciliation throughout the region, where lasting peace will only be possible when all parties involved adhere to international agreements and commit themselves to full respect for national borders. Much has to be done in these years but new hope has arisen for the people of Northern Uganda and their neighbours. May Almighty God assist them in their efforts to begin life anew.

No nation today is free from the influence of globalization with its benefits and its challenges. This phenomenon facilitates trade opportunities, access to information and the communication of values. Unfortunately, it can also promote superficial lifestyles and attitudes that undermine healthy customs based on moral truth and virtue. Men and women of goodwill in Africa rightly reject destructive outlooks which are associated with greed, corruption and the many forms of personal and social disintegration. Democracy and the rule of law are not nurtured by materialism, individualism and moral relativism but by integrity and mutual confidence, especially when sustained by committed and selfless leaders who are willing to offer their service to their fellow citizens for the building up of the common good. It is my fervent prayer that the genuine benefits of contemporary culture will enrich the existence of all Ugandans in harmony with what is true and healthy in the values that have been transmitted from generation to generation.

In this regard the country you represent, Mr Ambassador, embodies many important characteristics found in African culture, such as: a respectful attitude to parental authority and a religious way of seeing important moments of human existence, promoting deep respect for the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death. This is the rich background in which generations of Africans have been educated and from which the seed of the Christian Gospel has produced abundant fruits. The Catholic Church appreciates this heritage for its own sake and because of its harmonious relationship with fundamental truths of the natural moral order and with basic tenets of the faith. I assure you, Mr Ambassador, that the Church will continue to play her part in the defence and promotion of these principles. She sees it as her mission to consolidate and complement them in the marvellous plenitude of the Gospel.

Your Excellency, I have spoken of topics of essential interest both to State and Church and areas in which undoubtedly cooperation will continue to bear fruit for a better future for all Ugandans. The various departments of the Roman Curia will be happy to assist you in your mission as your country's representative to the Holy See. I am pleased to assure you of my prayers as you begin your mandate and I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and your family, and upon the people of Uganda.

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Papal Address to Tanzanian Ambassador
"Education ... Is One of the Most Important Factors in Development"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 29, 2008 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's English-language address today to Ahmada Rweyemamu Ngemera, Tanzania's new ambassador to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Republic of Tanzania to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of His Excellency, Mr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the Republic, whom I had the pleasure of meeting. I ask you kindly to convey my gratitude and my personal good wishes to His Excellency the President, to the Government and to the Tanzanian people.

Your country, Mr Ambassador, is looked upon with respect and appreciation by people in East Africa for its stability and its climate of tolerance and peace. Tanzania is also held in esteem for the important role undertaken by its political leaders in the process of pacification of the Great Lakes Region and other international peacekeeping initiatives. The generous hospitality offered to refugees fleeing from hostilities in neighbouring countries, in spite of domestic economic difficulties, has also awakened due appreciation for the noble sentiments of the Tanzanian people. Some negative trends such as an increase in the regional traffic of arms and interruptions in important initiatives of dialogue and reconciliation have cast doubts recently on the immediate future of the peace process. It is not surprising in this regard that responsible leaders and many men and women of good will are eager to see this process sustained at all costs and brought to fulfilment. No effort should be spared in order to recreate the indispensable conditions for normal living, development and cultural advancement of the populations affected. The Holy See joins its voice to this appeal and continues to exhort all who hold responsibility in the region not to loose confidence in the value of dialogue, but to explore with an open mind and follow all possibilities that may lead to the conclusion of a lasting peace.

Tanzania can be proud of its inheritance of harmonious coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups handed down to the present generations from founding President Julius Nyerere and other important statesmen. Every generation must continue to cherish and protect this treasure. Care must be taken that the common good of all Tanzanians and the dignity and the authentic rights of all persons may prevail over the particular demands or interests of certain groups. In this regard discernment and decisive action on the part of authorities are needed to curb favouritism or initiatives that would be incompatible with a political project based on universal human rights and the rule of law, and could carry in some circumstances seeds of intolerance and violence. The Catholic Church is committed to fostering positive ethnic relations and dialogue with members of other religions as a fundamental component of her desire to give witness to God’s universal love. It gives her great joy to assist society in establishing an environment of good will between all men and women based on mutual knowledge, appreciation and respect.

Creating the proper environment and structures for the economic development of a country is one of the important goals in the task of good governance. International trust and goodwill towards Tanzania has been successfully generated not least by efforts to combat corruption, and the economy has responded with steady progress. Experience in many developing countries shows that accountability and transparency, especially in the use of public funds, not only upholds the necessary moral integrity of those in office, but is in itself an indispensable economic factor for stable progress. Great care has to be taken in order to continue along this path, together with a clear will to bring the less favoured sectors to a just and active participation in the common economic growth. As your country continues to undertake works of infrastructure and promote investments in support of agriculture and industry, it is my hope that your people will work with confidence for the good of their homeland and that Tanzania will always find openness, trust and effective support at international levels.

I am pleased to note that considerable efforts have been made to promote wider access to education in the knowledge that it is one of the most important factors in development. Training programmes have also been wisely established for teachers and for other personnel in schools and health centres since the construction of adequate facilities cannot be separated from the complementary effort to prepare qualified staff. I thank you Mr Ambassador for your words of appreciation of the service that the Catholic Church offers to the people of your country. Both in education and health services, care must be taken to provide financial resources to the different projects or institutions on the basis of pressing need or merit. Equity and transparency in this area greatly facilitate a spirit of loyal cooperation between private initiative and public agencies. In these same fields of development institutions must continue to expand and improve in quality in order to respond to the needs of the population. I am sure that Tanzanian Catholics will not fail to offer their specific contribution through the Church’s institutions and initiatives, animated by Christian service of neighbour and generous love of their country.

Your Excellency, on the occasion of your presentation as the United Republic of Tanzania’s representative at the Vatican, I have given expression to some of the Holy See’s perspectives and sincere hopes for your country. May your mission serve to strengthen the ties existing between the Tanzanian people and the Holy See. Be assured that the various departments of the Roman Curia will be ready to assist you in your task. With my prayers and best wishes for the success of your mission, I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings upon you and your family, and upon the people of your country.

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On Gregory the Great
"He Was a Man Immersed in God"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience, which he dedicated to the figure of Pope Gregory the Great.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Last Wednesday I spoke about a Father of the Church little known in the West -- Romanus the Melodius. Today I wish to present the figure of one of the greatest fathers in the history of the Church, one of the four doctors of the West, Pope Gregory, who was bishop of Rome between the years 590 and 604, and who merited on the part of tradition the title "magnus" -- great.

Gregory was truly a great Pope and great doctor of the Church! He was born in Rome, around 540, of a rich patrician family of the "gens Anicia," which was distinguished not only for its nobility of blood, but also for its attachment to the Christian faith and for the services rendered to the Apostolic See. Two Popes proceeded from this family: Felix III (483-492), great-great grandfather of Gregory, and Agapitus (535-536).

The house where Gregory grew up was built on the "Clivus Scauri," surrounded by the majestic building that attested to the greatness of ancient Rome and the spiritual strength of Christianity. To inspire him with lofty Christian sentiments he counted, moreover, with the examples of his parents, Gordian and Sylvia, both venerated as saints, and those of his paternal aunts Emiliana and Tarsilia, who lived in the house as consecrated virgins in a shared journey of prayer and ascesis.
Gregory soon entered an administrative career, which his father had also followed, and in 572 he reached the top, becoming prefect of the city. This office, complicated by the sadness of that time, allowed him to apply himself to a vast range of administrative problems, gleaning from them light for his future endeavors. In particular, a profound sense of order and discipline were instilled in him. When he became Pope, he would suggest to bishops to take as model in the management of ecclesiastical affairs the diligence and respect of the laws proper to civil employees.

That life did not satisfy him, and it was not long before he decided to leave all civil posts to retire to his home and begin the life of a monk, transforming the family home into the monastery of St. Andrew in Celio.

From this period of monastic life, a life of permanent dialogue with the Lord and listening to his word, there remained in him a constant nostalgia which repeatedly and increasingly appears in his homilies. In the midst of relentless pastoral concerns, he would recall it several times in his writings as a happy time of recollection in God, of dedication to prayer, and of serene immersion in study. He was thus able to acquire that profound knowledge of sacred Scripture and of the Fathers of the Church of which he was to make use later in his works.
However, Gregory's cloistered retirement did not last long. The valuable experience that matured in civil administration, at a time weighed down by problems, the relationships he had developed with the Byzantines, the universal esteem he had won, led Pope Pelagius to appoint him deacon and to send him to Constantinople as his "apocrisiario" -- today we would say apostolic nuncio -- to help overcome the last remains of the monophysite controversy, and above all to obtain the emperor's support in the effort to contain the Lombard invaders.

His stay in Constantinople, where he again took up the monastic life with a group of monks, was most important for Gregory, as it allowed him to gain direct experience in the Byzantine world, as well as to address the problem of the Lombards, which would later acutely test his ability and energy in the years of his pontificate.

After some years, he was recalled to Rome by the Pope, who appointed him his secretary. They were difficult years: constant rains, rivers bursting their banks and famine afflicted many areas of Italy and Rome itself. In the end, the plague was unleashed, which caused numerous victims, among them also Pope Pelagius II. The clergy, the people, and the Senate were unanimous in electing Gregory as Successor to the See of Peter. He tried to resist, even seeking to flee, but it was all to no avail: In the end, he had to give in. It was the year 590.
Recognizing in all that had happened the will of God, the new Pontiff began to work immediately with determination. From the beginning he revealed a singularly lucid vision of reality against which he should be measured, an extraordinary capacity for work in addressing both ecclesial as well as civil issues, a constant balance in his decisions, including the difficult ones that his mission imposed on him. An ample documentation is kept of his governance thanks to the Register of his letters -- approximately 800 -- which reflect the daily confrontation of complex questions that arrived on his desk. They were questions that came from bishops, from abbots, from clergymen, and also from civil authorities of all orders and degrees.

Among the problems that afflicted Italy and Rome at that time there was one of particular relevance in both the civil as well as ecclesial ambits: the Lombard question. To it the Pope dedicated all possible energy in the hope of a truly peaceful solution. Unlike the Byzantine emperor, who began from the assumption that the Lombards were only rude and predatory individuals who had to be defeated or exterminated, St. Gregory looked on these people with the eyes of the Good Shepherd, concerned about proclaiming to them the word of salvation, establishing with them relations of fraternity oriented toward a future peace founded on reciprocal respect and peaceful coexistence among Italians, imperalists and Lombards. He was concerned with the conversion of young peoples and immigrants in Britain and the Lombards were the privileged beneficiaries of his evangelizing mission. Yesterday we celebrated the liturgical memorial of St. Augustine of Canterbury, leader of a group of monks whom Gregory sent to Britain to evangelize England.
To obtain an effective peace in Rome and Italy, to which the Pope was fully committed -- he was a real peacemaker -- he undertook a close negotiation with the Lombard King Agilulfo. This conversation led to a period of truce that lasted some three years -- 598-601 -- after which it was possible to stipulate in 603 a more stable armistice. This positive result was achieved thanks also to parallel contacts that, in the meantime, the Pope maintained with Queen Theodolinda, who was a Bavarian princess and, unlike the heads of other German peoples, was a Catholic -- profoundly Catholic.

Preserved is a series of letters of Pope Gregory to this queen, in which he expresses his esteem and friendship to her. Theodolinda succeeded, little by little, in directing the king toward Catholicism, thus preparing the way to peace. The Pope also took the trouble to send her the relics for the basilica of St. John the Baptist, which she had built in Monza, and did not fail to send her congratulations and precious gifts for the same cathedral of Monza on the occasion of the birth and baptism of her son, Adaloaldo. This queen's vicissitude constitutes a beautiful testimony of the importance of women in the history of the Church.

In the end, the objectives on which Gregory constantly focused were three: to contain the expansion of the Lombards in Italy, to remove queen Theodolina from the influence of schismatics, and to reinforce the Catholic faith, as well as to mediate between the Lombards and Byzantines in the hope of an agreement that would guarantee peace in the peninsula and consist at the same time of an evangelizing action among the Lombards themselves. Therefore, his constant orientation in the complex situation was twofold: to promote agreements on the diplomatic-political level, and to spread the proclamation of the true faith among the peoples.
Along with his purely spiritual and pastoral action, Pope Gregory was also an active protagonist of a multi-faceted social activity. With the income of the conspicuous patrimony that the Roman See had in Italy, especially in Sicily, he purchased and distributed wheat, assisted those in need, helped priests, monks and nuns who lived in indigence, paid the ransom for citizens who had been made prisoners of the Lombards, and obtained armistices and truces. Moreover, he carried out -- both in Rome as well as in other parts of Italy -- a determined effort for administrative reorganization, giving precise instructions so that the goods of the Church, useful for its subsistence and evangelizing work in the world, could be managed with absolute rectitude and according to the rules of justice and mercy. He demanded that tenant farmers be protected from the abuses of the managers of lands that were the property of the Church and, in case of fraud, that they be speedily indemnified, so that the face of the Bride of Christ not be contaminated with dishonest profits.
Gregory carried out this enormous activity despite his delicate health, which often obliged him to stay in bed for long days. The fasts he engaged in during the years of monastic life had caused him serious digestive problems. Moreover, his voice was very weak, so much so that he often had to entrust the deacon with the reading of his homilies so that the faithful of the Roman basilicas could hear him. In any case he did everything possible to celebrate the "Missarum sollemnia" on feast days, that is, solemn Mass, and then he would meet personally with the people of God, who greatly appreciated him because they saw in him the authoritative reference to obtain certainty: It was no accident that he was soon attributed the title "consul Dei." Despite the most difficult conditions in which he had to act, he succeeded in winning, thanks to the holiness of his life and his rich humanity, the trust of the faithful, obtaining for his time and for the future truly great results.

He was a man immersed in God: The desire for God was always alive in the depth of his soul and precisely because of this he was always very close to his neighbor, to the needs of the people of his time. During a disastrous and desperate time, he was able to create peace and hope. This man of God shows us the true fonts of peace, from which true hope comes, and so becomes a guide also for us today.
[At the end of the Audience, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today's catechesis we turn to Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who governed the Church of Rome at the end of the sixth century and is venerated as a Doctor of the Church. Born of a noble Roman family, Gregory entered the civil service, in which he rose to the dignity of Prefect of the City, and then embraced the monastic life. Gregory's learning and experience, and his outstanding personal gifts, led to his appointment as the papal representative to the imperial court in Constantinople, and then as the Pope's secretary. In the year 590, Gregory was elected Pope. His papal ministry was marked by tireless energy and a clear vision of the grave problems facing civil society and the Church. Gregory made every effort to contain the Lombard invasion, to provide for the evangelization of that people, and to establish peace throughout Italy. In addition to his preaching, teaching and pastoral activity, he also reorganized the management of the Church's goods and ensured a more effective administration of her charitable works. At a time of great social instability, and despite his frequent ill health, Gregory proved an effective, prudent and saintly pastor, whose life and teaching continue to inspire us today.

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On Daily Bread
"He Became Our Food to Give Us Life"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 25, 2008 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The solemnity of Corpus Domini is celebrated in Italy and in various countries today. It was observed in the Vatican and in other countries Thursday. It is the feast of the Eucharist, the wondrous gift of Christ, who in the Last Supper wanted to leave us a memorial of his Passover, the sacrament of his Body and his Blood, pledge of his immense love for us.

Last week our gaze was attracted by the mystery of the most holy Trinity; today we are invited to look upon the consecrated Host: It is the same God! The same Love! This is the beauty of Christian truth: The Creator and Lord of all things became "a grain of wheat" to be sown in our earth, in the furrow of our history; he became bread to be broken, shared, eaten; he became our food to give us life, his own divine life. He was born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means "House of Bread," and when he began to preach to the crowds he revealed that the Father sent him into the world as "living bread come down from heaven," as "bread of life."

The Eucharist is the school of charity and solidarity. Those who eat the Bread of Christ cannot remain indifferent before those who, even in our days, lack daily bread. Many parents are barely able to provide for themselves and their children. It is a grave and growing problem that the international community finds hard to solve. The Church does not only pray "give us this day our daily bread," but, following the Lord's example, works in every way "to multiply the five loaves and two fish" with countless humanitarian efforts and sharing so that no one remains without the necessities of life.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the feast of Corpus Domini be an occasion to grow in this concrete attention to our brothers, especially the poor. May the Virgin Mary obtain this grace for us. From her, the Son of God took his flesh and blood, as we say in a celebrated Eucharistic hymn, set to music by great composers: "Ave verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine," and which concludes with the invocation: "O Jesu dulcis, o Jesu pie, o Jesu fili Mariae!"

May Mary, who, carrying Jesus in her womb, was the living "tabernacle" of the Eucharist, communicate to us her faith in the holy mystery of the Body and Blood of her divine Son, that he may truly be the center of our life. We will be gathered around her next Saturday, May 31, at 8 in the evening in St. Peter's Square for a special celebration and conclusion of the month of Mary.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father made the following remarks:]
I greet the Chinese-speaking pilgrims who have come to Rome from all over Italy on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. I entrust to God's mercy all of your countrymen who died in the earthquake that recently struck a vast area of your homeland. I renew my personal nearness to those who are experiencing hours of anxiety and tribulation. Thanks to the fraternal solidarity of all, the populations of these zones can soon return to the normality of daily life.

Together with you I ask Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, to support "the efforts of those who, among their daily toil, continue to believe, to hope, to love so that they never fear to speak of Jesus to the world and of the world to Jesus," ever remaining "credible witnesses" of his love and "keeping themselves united with the rock of Peter on which the Church is built."

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today the Church celebrates in different places the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ. On Thursday with many of the faithful, I had the joy of taking part in the Corpus Christi procession and venerating this Holy Sacrament in prayer and adoration. Our faith invites us to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with pure hearts so as to enter into communion with him. May his presence always renew our Christian love as we journey with him to Eternal Life. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

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On Romanus the Melodist
"If faith Is Alive, Christian Culture Will Never Be

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the series of catecheses on the Fathers of the Church, I would like to speak today of one who isn't well known: Romanus the Melodist, born around the year 490 in Emesa (today Homs) in Syria. Theologian, poet, composer, he belongs to the group of theologians that have transformed theology into poetry. We think of his countryman, St. Ephraim of Syria, who lived 200 years before he did. We can also think of theologians of the West, such as Ambrose, whose hymns form part of our liturgy and touch our hearts to this day; or in a theologian, a thinker of great vigor, such as St. Thomas, gave us the hymns of the feast of Corpus Christi, which we celebrate tomorrow; we think in St. John of the Cross and in many others. Faith is love, and so it creates poetry and music. Faith is joy, and so it creates beauty.

Romanus the Melodist is one of these, poet, theologian and composer. He learned the foundations of Greek and Syrian culture in his native city, and then moved to Beritus (now Beirut), to complete his classical education and knowledge of rhetoric. After being ordained permanent deacon -- around 515 -- he was a preacher in this city for three years. He then moved to Constantinople, until the end of the reign of Anastasius I -- around 518 -- and from there he settled in at the monastery of the Church of the Theotokos, Mother of God.

A key moment of his life took place there: the Synaxar tells us that Mary appeared to him in his dreams and gave him the gift of poetic charism. Mary, in fact, asked him to swallow a scroll. Upon waking the next day, it was Christmas, Romanus began to recite from the pulpit: "Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent" (Hymn On the Nativity, I. Proemium). He became in this way a preacher-cantor until his death (around 555).

Romanus is known in history as one of the most representative authors of liturgical hymns. At the time the homily was for the faithful practically the only opportunity of catechesis. Thus Romanus was not only an eminent witness of the religious sentiment of his day, but also of a lively and original method of catechesis. Through his compositions we can see the creativity of this form of catechesis, of the creativity of the theological thought, of the aesthetic and the sacred hymnography of the era.

The place where Romanus preached was a shrine on the outskirts of Constantinople: he would ascend the pulpit, located in the center of the Church, and he would speak to the community using a rather elaborate setting -- he used images on the walls or icons on the pulpit to illustrate his homilies, and even used dialogue. He recited chanted metrical hymns, called kontakia. The word "kontakion" --"small rod" -- seems to make reference to the small rod around which he rolled the scroll of the liturgical manuscript, or another such scroll. There are 89 kontakia attributed today to Romanus, but tradition attributes a thousand to him.

In Romanus, each kontakion is composed of stanzas, at the most 18-24, with the same number of syllables structured according to the model of the first stanza (irmo); the rhythmic accents of the verses of all the stanzas are modeled according to the "irmo." Each stanza ends with a refrain (efimnio), in general identical, to create poetic unity.

Furthermore, the beginning of each stanza indicates the name of the author (acrostico), frequently preceded with the adjective "humble." A prayer referring to the celebrated or evoked events ends the hymn.

Upon ending the biblical reading, Romanus sung the Proemium, generally in the form of a prayer or supplication. He thus announced the theme of the homily, explaining the refrain that was repeated all together at the end of each stanza, which he recited aloud in cadence.

A significant example is the kontakion for Holy Friday: It is a dialogue between Mary and her son that takes place on the way of the cross.

Mary says: "Where are you going, son? Why have you completed the path of you life so rapidly? / I would never have thought, my son, that I would see you like this. / And I could never have imagined that that the fury of the wicked could go so far, / laying their hands on you against all sense of justice."

Jesus responds: "Why are you crying, mother? [...] I shouldn't go? I shouldn't die? / How will I save Adam?"

Mary's son consoles his mother, but also reminds her of his role in salvation history: "Lay down, then, mother, lay down your pain: / It is not fitting for you to cry out, for you were called 'full of grace.'" (Mary at the Foot of the Cross, 1-2; 4-5).

In the hymn on the sacrifice of Abraham, Sarah reserves for herself the decision on the life of Isaac. Abraham says: "When Sarah hears, my Lord, your words, / upon knowing your will, she will tell me: / If the one who has given wants to take back, why has he given? / [...] You, watchful one, leave me my son, / and when he who called you wants him, he should say so to me" (The Sacrifice of Abraham, 7).

Romanus did not use the solemn Byzantine Greek of the imperial court, but the simple Greek that was close to the language of the people. I would like to cite here an example of his lively and very personal way of speaking about the Lord Jesus: he calls him the "spring that does not burn and the light against the shadows," and says: "I desire to have you in my hands like a lamp; / in fact, he who carries the light among man is illuminated without being burned. / Illuminate me, then, you who are the light that never burns out" (The Presentation, or Feast of Encounter, 8).

The strength of conviction in his preaching was based on the great coherence between his words and his life. One prayer says: "Make clean my tongue, my savior, open my mouth / and, after having filled it, penetrate my heart so that I may act / that I be coherent with my words" (Mission of the Apostles, 2).

Let us now examine some of his main themes. A fundamental theme of his preaching is the unity of the action of God in history, the unity between creation and the history of salvation, unity between the Old and New Testaments.

Another important theme is pneumatology, the doctrine on the Holy Spirit. During the celebration of Pentecost he underlines the continuity that exists between Christ, who ascended to heaven, and the apostles, that is to say, the Church, and he exalts missionary action in the world: "With divine virtue they have conquered all men; / they have taken up the cross of Christ like a pen, / they have used words like fishing nets and with them they have fished all over the world, / they have used the word of God as a sharp hook, / and they have used as bait / the meat of the Sovereign One of the universe" (Pentecost 2:18).

Another central theme is, of course, Christology. He does not involve himself in the difficult theological concepts, highly debated at that time, which tore at the unity among theologians and Christians in the Church. He preached a simple Christology, but fundamental, the Christology of the great councils. But above all he spoke of popular piety, in fact the concepts of the councils came from popular piety and the knowledge of the Christian heart, and in this way Romanus underlined that Christ is true man and true God, and being true man-God, is only one person, the synthesis of creation and Creator, in whose human words we hear the voice of the Word of God himself. "He was man," he said, "Christ, but he was also God, / now, he wasn't divided in two: He is one, son of a Father who is only one" (The Passion, 19).

Regarding what he said about Mariology, in thanksgiving to the Virgin for the give of poetic charism, Romanus remembers her at the end of almost all of his hymns, and he dedicated to her some of his most beautiful kontakia: Christmas, Annunciation, Divine Motherhood, New Eve.

Lastly, his moral teachings are related to the last judgment (The Ten Virgins, [II]). He takes us to this moment of truth of our lives, the appearance before the just Judge, and for this he exhorts us to conversion in penitence and fasting. The Christian should practice charity and almsgiving.

He accentuated the primacy of charity over continence in two hymns -- The Wedding at Cana and The Ten Virgins. Charity is the greatest of the virtues: "Ten virgins possessed intact the virtue of virginity, / But for five of them the practice prove futile. / The others shown with their lamps of love for humanity, / And for this the bridegroom invited them in." (The Ten Virgins, 1).

Palpitating humanity, arduous faith and profound humility pervade the songs of Romanus the Melodist. This great poet and composer reminds us of the entire treasure of Christian culture, born of faith, born of the heart that has found Christ, the Son of God. From this contact of the heart with the truth that is love, culture is born, the entire great Christian culture.

And if the faith continues to live, this cultural inheritance will not die, but rather it will continue to live and be current. Icons continue to speak to the hearts of believers to this day, they are not things of the past. The cathedrals are not medieval monuments, rather houses of life, where we feel "at home": where we find God and each other. Neither is great music -- the Gregorian chant, Bach or Mozart -- something of the past, rather it lives in the vitality of the liturgy and our faith.

If faith is alive, Christian culture will never be "outdated," but rather will remain alive and current. And if faith is alive, we can respond to the imperative that is always repeated in the psalms: "Sing an new song unto the Lord."

Creativity, innovation, new song, new culture, and presence of the entire cultural inheritance are not mutually exclusive, but one reality: the presence of the beauty of God and of the joy of being his sons and daughters.

[Translation by Karna Swanson]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s catechesis we turn to the Christian poetry of Romanus the Melodist. Born in Syria at the end of the fifth century, Romanus received a classical education, was ordained a deacon, and settled in Constantinople. His preaching took the form of chanted metrical hymns known as "kontakia", consisting of an introduction and a series of stanzas punctuated by a refrain. Some eighty-nine of these have come down to us, and they testify to the rich theological, liturgical and devotional content of the hymnography of that time. Composed in simple language accessible to his hearers, these kontakia are notable for their dramatic dialogues and their use of sustained metaphors. Romanus was a catechist concerned to communicate the unity of God’s saving plan revealed in Christ. His hymns, steeped in Scripture, develop the teaching of the early Councils on the divinity of the Son, the mystery of the Incarnation, the person and role of the Holy Spirit, and the dignity of the Virgin Mary. Romanus shows us the power of symbolic communication which, in the liturgy, joins earth to heaven and uses imagery, poetry and song to lift our minds to God’s truth.

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Pope's Address to Armenian Patriarch Karekin II
"It Is the Holy Spirit Who Brings About the Church

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered on the occasion of the May 9 visit of Karekin II, patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

* * *

Your Holiness, ?Dear Brothers in Christ,

It is with heartfelt joy that I welcome Your Holiness, and the distinguished delegation accompanying you. I cordially greet the prelates, priests and lay-people who represent the worldwide family of the Catholicosate of All Armenians. We come together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who promised his disciples that "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them" (Mt 18:20). May the spirit of brotherly love and service, which Jesus taught to his disciples, enlighten our hearts and minds, as we exchange our greetings, hold our conversations and gather in prayer.

I gratefully recall the visits of Catholicos Vasken I and Catholicos Karekin I to the Church of Rome, and their cordial relations with my venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. Their striving for Christian unity opened a new era in relations between us. I recall with particular joy Your Holiness' visit to Rome in 2000 and your meeting with Pope John Paul II. The ecumenical liturgy in the Vatican Basilica, celebrating the gift of a relic of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was one of the most memorable events of the Great Jubilee in Rome. Pope John Paul II returned that visit by travelling to Armenia in 2001, where You graciously hosted him at Holy Etchmiadzin. The warm welcome you gave him on that occasion further increased his esteem and respect for the Armenian people. The Eucharist celebrated by Pope John Paul II on the great outdoor altar, within the enclosure of Holy Etchmiadzin, was a further sign of growing mutual acceptance, in expectation of the day when we will be able to celebrate together at the one table of the Lord.

Tomorrow evening, each of us, in our respective traditions, will begin the liturgical celebration of Pentecost. Fifty days after the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will pray earnestly to the Father, asking him to send his Holy Spirit, the Spirit whose task it is to maintain us in divine love and lead us into all truth. We will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. On Pentecost day, it was the Holy Spirit who created from the many languages of the crowds assembled in Jerusalem one single voice to profess the faith. It is the Holy Spirit who brings about the Church's unity. The path towards the restoration of full and visible communion among all Christians may seem long and arduous. Much remains to be done to heal the deep and painful divisions that disfigure Christ's Body. The Holy Spirit, however, continues to guide the Church in surprising and often unexpected ways. He can open doors that are locked, inspire words that have been forgotten, heal relations that are broken. If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ.

The recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colours of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual re-birth. Your Holiness and the members of your delegation have personally lived through these contrasting experiences in your families and in your own lives. The restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all. An immense task of rebuilding the Church has been laid on your shoulders. I cannot but voice my great esteem for the remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time, both in Armenia and abroad, for the Christian education of young people, for the training of new clergy, for building new churches and community centres, for charitable assistance to those in need, and for promoting Christian values in social and cultural life. Thanks to your pastoral leadership, the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more. Of course, you are still facing many challenges on the social, cultural and spiritual levels. In this regard, I must mention the recent difficulties suffered by the people of Armenia, and I express the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in their search for justice and peace and the promotion of the common good.

In our ecumenical dialogue, important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us, particularly over questions of Christology. During the last five years, much has been achieved by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which the Catholicosate of All Armenians is a full member. I thank Your Holiness for the support given to the work of the Joint Commission and for the valuable contribution made by your representatives. We pray that its activity will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist. Until that day, the bonds between us are best consolidated and extended by agreements on pastoral issues, in line with the degree of doctrinal agreement already attained. Only when sustained by prayer and supported by effective cooperation, can theological dialogue lead to the unity that the Lord wishes for his disciples.

Your Holiness, dear friends: in the twelfth century, Nerses of Lambron addressed a group of Armenian Bishops. He concluded his famous Synodal Discourse on the restoration of Christian unity with visionary words, that still affect us today:"You are not wrong, Venerable Fathers: it is meritorious to weep over days past in discord. However, today is the day that the Lord has made, a day of gladness and joy (…) Let us then pray in order that our Lord give tenderness, sweetness in greater abundance still, and that He develop on earth, by the dew of the Holy Spirit, this seed; perhaps, thanks to His power may we also produce fruits; so that we may restore the peace of the Church of Christ today in intention, tomorrow in fact". This is also my prayerful wish on the occasion of your visit. I thank you most warmly and assure you of my deep affection in the Lord.

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On Mary's Intercession
"'Trust in me!' Mary Repeats This Again to Us Today"

GENOA, Italy, MAY 18, 2008- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Angelus in Piazza Matteotti during his pastoral visit to Genoa.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the heart of my pastoral visit to Genoa, we have arrived at the customary moment for the Sunday Angelus and my thoughts naturally return to the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Guardia, where I stopped to pray this morning. Many times Pope Benedict XV, your illustrious fellow citizen, went as a pilgrim to that mountain oasis, and in the Vatican Gardens he had a reproduction made of that dear image of the Madonna della Guardia. And just as my venerable predecessor, John Paul II did, in his first apostolic pilgrimage to Genoa, I too wanted to begin my pastoral visit by offering homage to the heavenly Mother of God, who from the height of Mount Figogna watches over the city and all its inhabitants.

Tradition tells of how the Madonna, in her first appearance to Benedetto Pareto -- who was worried about how he would go about building a church in that place so far from the city -- said: ““Trust in me! You will not lack the means. With my help everything will be easy. Only be firm in your will.”” ““Trust in me!”” Mary repeats this again to us today. An ancient prayer, very dear to popular tradition, has us address these words to her, that today we make our own: ““Remember, O, most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession was left unaided.””

It is with this certainty that we invoke the maternal assistance of the Madonna della Guardia for your diocesan community, your pastors, consecrated persons, faithful laypeople, young people, families, old people. We ask her especially to watch over the sick and the suffering, and to make fruitful the missionary initiatives that are under way to bring the proclamation of the Gospel to all. Together we entrust to Mary the whole city, with its diverse population, its cultural, social and economic activities, the problems and the challenges of our times, and the commitment of those who work together for the common good.

My gaze now turns to all of Liguria, spangled with churches and Marian shrines, placed like a crown between the sea and the mountains. With you I thank God for the robust and tenacious faith of past generations that, in the course of centuries, authored memorable passages of sanctity and human civilization. Liguria, and Genoa in particular, has always been a land open to the Mediterranean and the whole world: How many missionaries have set out from this port for the Americas and other distant lands! How many people have immigrated from here to other countries, poor perhaps in material resources, but rich in faith and human and spiritual values, which they transplanted in the places where they settled! Mary, Star of the Sea, continue to shine on Genoa! Mary, Star of Hope, continue to guide the journey of the Genovese, especially the new generations, that they find the right way in the often tempestuous sea of life!

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PRAYER OF THE POPE TO OUR LADY OF SHESHAN

 VATICAN CITY, 16 MAY 2008 - Benedict XVI has composed a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan to mark the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which is due to be celebrated on 24 May. In a Letter written to the faithful of the Catholic Church in China in May 2007, the Holy Father expressed the hope that 24 May, liturgical memorial of Our Lady Help of Christians who is venerated with such devotion at the Marian shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai , would become a day of prayer for the Church in China .

  The full text of the English-language version of the Holy Father's prayer is given below:


"Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,

venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title 'Help of Christians',

the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.

We come before you today to implore your protection.

Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them

along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be

a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.

 

"When you obediently said 'yes' in the house of Nazareth,

you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb

and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.

You willingly and generously co-operated in that work,

allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,

until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,

standing beside your Son, Who died that we might live.

 

"From that moment, you became, in a new way,

the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith

and choose to follow in His footsteps by taking up His Cross.

Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed

with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.

Grant that your children may discern at all times,

even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.

 

"Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,

who, amid their daily trails, continue to believe, to hope, to love.

May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,

and of the world to Jesus.

In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,

offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.

Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,

ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.

Mother of China and all Asia , pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!"

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Benedict XVI on the Rosary
"This Prayer Helps to Put Christ at the Center"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 13, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's May 3 address at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, where he prayed the rosary with the faithful.

* * *

RECITATION OF THE HOLY ROSARY

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of Saint Mary Major
Saturday, 3 May 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the conclusion of this moment of Marian prayer, I would like to address my cordial greeting to all of you and thank you for your participation. In particular I greet Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Archpriest of this stupendous Basilica of St Mary Major. In Rome this is the Marian temple par excellence, in which the people of the City venerate the icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani with great affection. I gladly welcomed the invitation addressed to me to lead the Holy Rosary on the First Saturday of the month of May, according to the beautiful tradition that I have had since my childhood. In fact, in my generation's experience, the evenings of May evoke sweet memories linked to the vespertine gatherings to honour the Blessed Mother. Indeed, how is it possible to forget praying the Rosary in the parish or rather in the courtyards of the houses and in the country lanes?

Today, together we confirm that the Holy Rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the Rosary is experiencing a new Springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the centre, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what he did and said. When reciting the Rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ's mission are traced. With Mary the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the centre of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of his holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can "water" society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The Rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the centre of each "Hail Mary".

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God who has allowed us to live such a beautiful hour this evening, and in the following evenings of this Marian month, even if we will be far away, each in their own family and community, may we, just the same, feel close and united in prayer. Especially in these days that prepare us for the Solemnity of Pentecost, let us remain united with Mary, invoking for the Church a renewed effusion of the Holy Spirit. As at the origins, Mary Most Holy helps the faithful of every Christian community to form one heart and soul. I entrust to you the most urgent intentions of my ministry, the needs of the Church, the grave problems of humanity: peace in the world, unity among Christians, dialogue between all cultures. And thinking of Rome and Italy, I invite you to pray for the pastoral goals of the Diocese, and for the united development of this beloved Country. To the new Mayor of Rome, Honourable Gianni Alemanno, who I see present here, I address the wish of a fruitful service for the good of the city's entire community. To all of you gathered here and to those who are linked to us by radio and television, in particular the sick and the infirm, I gladly impart the Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Israeli Envoy
"Christians Are Not Alone in Suffering the Effects of Violence"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 12, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today in English upon receiving in audience Mordechay Lewy, the new ambassador of Israel to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you at the start of your mission and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Israel to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words, and I ask you to convey to President Shimon Peres my respectful greetings and the assurance of my prayers for the people of your country.

Once again I offer cordial good wishes on the occasion of Israel's celebration of sixty years of statehood. The Holy See joins you in giving thanks to the Lord that the aspirations of the Jewish people for a home in the land of their fathers have been fulfilled, and hopes soon to see a time of even greater rejoicing when a just peace finally resolves the conflict with the Palestinians. In particular, the Holy See values its diplomatic relations with Israel, established fifteen years ago, and looks forward to developing further the growing respect, esteem and collaboration that unites us.

Between the State of Israel and the Holy See there are numerous areas of mutual interest that can be profitably explored. As you have pointed out, the Judeo-Christian heritage should inspire us to take a lead in promoting many forms of social and humanitarian action throughout the world, not least by combating all forms of racial discrimination. I share Your Excellency's enthusiasm for the cultural and academic exchanges that are taking place between Catholic institutions worldwide and those of the Holy Land, and I too hope that these initiatives will be developed further in the years ahead. The fraternal dialogue that is conducted on an international level between Christians and Jews is bearing much fruit and needs to be continued with commitment and generosity. The holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem represent a source of faith and wisdom of central importance for Western civilization, and in consequence, the links between Israel and the Holy See have deeper resonances than those which arise formally from the juridical dimension of our relations.

Your Excellency, I know that you share my concern over the alarming decline in the Christian population of the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration. Of course Christians are not alone in suffering the effects of insecurity and violence as a result of the various conflicts in the region, but in many respects they are particularly vulnerable at the present time. I pray that, in consequence of the growing friendship between Israel and the Holy See, ways will be found of reassuring the Christian community, so that they can experience the hope of a secure and peaceful future in their ancestral homelands, without feeling under pressure to move to other parts of the world in order to build new lives.

Christians in the Holy Land have long enjoyed good relations with both Muslims and Jews. Their presence in your country, and the free exercise of the Church's life and mission there, have the potential to contribute significantly to healing the divisions between the two communities. I pray that it may be so, and I invite your Government to continue to explore ways of harnessing the good will that Christians bear, both towards the natural descendants of the people who were the first to hear the word of God, and towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who have lived and worshipped for centuries in the land that all three religious traditions call "holy".

I do realize that the difficulties experienced by Christians in the Holy Land are also related to the continuing tension between Jewish and Palestinian communities. The Holy See recognizes Israel's legitimate need for security and self-defence and strongly condemns all forms of anti-Semitism. It also maintains that all peoples have a right to be given equal opportunities to flourish. Accordingly, I would urge your Government to make every effort to alleviate the hardship suffered by the Palestinian community, allowing them the freedom necessary to go about their legitimate business, including travel to places of worship, so that they too can enjoy greater peace and security. Clearly, these matters can only be addressed within the wider context of the Middle East peace process. The Holy See welcomes the commitment expressed by your Government to carry forward the momentum rekindled at Annapolis and prays that the hopes and expectations raised there will not be disappointed. As I observed in my recent address to the United Nations in New York, it is necessary to explore every possible diplomatic avenue and to remain attentive to "even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation" if long-standing conflicts are to be resolved. When all the people of the Holy Land live in peace and harmony, in two independent sovereign states side by side, the benefit for world peace will be inestimable, and Israel will truly serve as ??? ????? ("light to the nations", Is 42:6), a shining example of conflict resolution for the rest of the world to follow.

Much work has gone into formulating the agreements which have been signed thus far between Israel and the Holy See, and it is greatly hoped that the negotiations regarding economic and fiscal affairs may soon be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Thank you for your reassuring words concerning the Israeli Government's commitment to a positive and expeditious resolution of the questions that remain. I know that I speak on behalf of many when I express the hope that these agreements may soon be integrated into the Israeli internal legal system and so provide a lasting basis for fruitful cooperation. Given the personal interest taken by Your Excellency in the situation of Christians in the Holy Land, which is greatly appreciated, I know you understand the difficulties caused by continuing uncertainties over their legal rights and status, especially with regard to the question of visas for church personnel. I am sure you will do what you can to facilitate the resolution of the problems that remain in a manner acceptable to all parties. Only when these difficulties are overcome, will the Church be able to carry out freely her religious, moral, educational and charitable works in the land where she came to birth.

Your Excellency, I pray that the diplomatic mission which you begin today will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that exist between the Holy See and your country. I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are always ready to offer help and support in the fulfilment of your duties. With my sincere good wishes, I invoke upon you, your family, and all the people of the State of Israel, God's abundant blessings.

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On Pentecost
"The Baptism of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2008 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Regina Caeli with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father had just finished celebrating Mass for the feast of Pentecost.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we celebrate the solemnity of Pentecost, an ancient Hebrew feast in which the covenant made between God and his people on Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19) was celebrated. It became a Christian feast on account of what happened during this celebration 50 days after Jesus' resurrection.

We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples were gathered together in prayer in the Cenacle when the Holy Spirit descended upon them with power like wind and fire. They then began to proclaim the glad tidings of Christ's resurrection in many languages (cf. Acts 2:1-4). That was the "baptism in the Holy Spirit," which had already been announced by John the Baptist: "I have baptized you with water," he said to the crowds, "but he who comes after me is more powerful than me. (...) He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 3:11).

In effect, Jesus' whole mission was aimed at giving the Spirit of God to men and baptizing them in the "bath" of regeneration. This was realized through his glorification (cf. John 7:39), that is, through his death and resurrection: Then the Spirit of God was poured out in a superabundant way, like a waterfall able to purify every heart, to extinguish the flames of evil and ignite the fire of divine love in the world.

The Acts of the Apostles present Pentecost as a fulfillment of such a promise and therefore as the crowning moment of Jesus' whole mission. After his resurrection, he himself ordered his disciples to stay in Jerusalem, because, he said, "In a short time you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:8); and he added: "You will have the power of the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Galilee and Samaria unto the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Pentecost is, thus, in a special way, the baptism of the Church who undertakes her universal mission beginning from the streets of Jerusalem with prodigious preaching in the different languages of humanity. In this baptism of the Holy Spirit the personal and communal dimensions -- the "I" of the disciple and the "we" of the Church -- are inseparable. The Spirit consecrates the person and at the same time makes him a living member of the mystical body of Christ, a participant in the mission to witness to his love.

And this is actualized through the sacraments of Christian initiation: baptism and confirmation. In my message for World Youth Day 2008, I invited young people to rediscover the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and, therefore, the importance of these sacraments. Today I would like to extend this invitation to everyone: Let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us be aware again of our baptism and of our confirmation, sources of grace that are always present.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain a renewed Pentecost for the Church again today, a Pentecost that will spread in everyone the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.

[After the Regina Caeli, the Pope continued:]

With great concern in recent days I have followed the situation in Lebanon, where, political initiatives having stalled, verbal violence and then armed confrontations followed, with many dead and wounded. Even if in these last hours the tensions have slackened, I believe that it is a duty today to exhort the Lebanese to abandon every argument for aggressive opposition that would cause their country irreparable damage.

Dialogue, mutual understanding and the search for reasonable compromise are the only way to restore to Lebanon its institutions, and to the people, the necessary security for a daily life that is dignified and rich with hope for tomorrow.

May Lebanon, through the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon, know how to respond with courage to its vocation of being, for the Middle East and for the whole world, a sign of the real possibility of constructive and peaceful coexistence among men. The different communities that make up Lebanon, as the postsynodal exhortation "A New Hope for Lebanon" observed (cf. No. 1), are at the same time "a richness, an originality and a difficulty. But bringing Lebanon to life is a common task for all of its inhabitants."

With Mary, the Virgin in prayer at Pentecost, we ask the Almighty for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity and concord, who inspires inspirations of peace and reconciliation in all.

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Benedict XVI's Pentecost Homily
"In the Act Itself of Her Birth the Church Is Already 'Catholic'"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2008 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square for the feast of Pentecost.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The account of the event of Pentecost that we heard in the first reading is placed by St. Luke at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. The second chapter is introduced with these words: "When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together" (Acts 2:1). These words refer to the previous chapter in which Luke described the little group of disciples that assiduously gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus' ascension into heaven (cf. Acts 1:12-14). It is a description that is rich in details: The place "where they lived" -- the cenacle -- is an environment "in the upper room"; the 11 apostles are listed by name, and the first three are Peter, John and James, the "pillars" of the community, already integrated into this new family, no longer based on family bonds but on faith in Christ.

The total number of persons, which was "about 120," a multiple of the 12 of the apostolic college, clearly alludes to this "new Israel." The group constitutes an authentic "qa-ha-l," an assembly on the model of the first covenant, the community convoked to hear the voice of the Lord and to walk in his ways. The Book of Acts emphasizes that "all of them devoted themselves with one accord to prayer" (1:14). Prayer, therefore, is the principal activity of the nascent Church. It is through prayer that she receives her unity from the Lord and allows herself to be guided by his will, as the decision to cast lots for the one to take Judas' place shows (cf. Acts 2:25).

This community found itself gathered together again in the same place, the cenacle, on the morning of the Jewish feast of Pentecost, a feast of the covenant, in which there was commemorated the event on Sinai where, through Moses, God proposed that Israel be his property among all the nations, to be a sign of his holiness (cf. Exodus 19). According to the Book of Exodus, that ancient covenant was accompanied by a terrifying sign of power on the part of the Lord: "Mount Sinai," one reads there, "was all wrapped in smoke, for the Lord came down upon it in fire. The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently" (Exodus 19:18).

We find the elements of wind and fire again at the Pentecost of the New Testament but without the resonances of fear. In particular the fire takes the form of tongues that come to rest upon all the disciples, "who were all full of the Holy Spirit" and on account of that outpouring, "began to speak in other languages" (Acts 2:4). We have here the community's true "baptism" with fire, a kind of new creation. At Pentecost the Church is not constituted by a human will, but by the power of the Spirit of God. And it immediately appears how this Spirit gives life to a community that is at the same time one and universal, thus overcoming the curse of Babel (cf. John 11:7-9). Only the Spirit, in fact, which creates unity in love and in the reciprocal acceptance of diversity, can liberate humanity from the constant tension of an earthly will-to-power that wants to dominate and make everything uniform.

"Societas Spiritus," society of the Spirit: This is what St. Augustine calls the Church in one of his sermons (71, 19, 32: PL 38, 462). But already before him, St. Irenaeus formulated a truth that I would like to recall here: "Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every grace, and the Spirit is truth; to distance yourself from the Church is to reject the Spirit" and thus "to exclude yourself from life" (Adv. Haer. III, 24, 1). Beginning with the event of Pentecost, this connubium or "marriage" is manifested between the Spirit of Christ and his mystical body, that is, the Church.

I would like to reflect on a particular aspect of the Holy Spirit, on the intertwining of multiplicity and unity. The second reading speaks about this, treating of the harmony of the different charisms in the communion of the same Spirit. But already in the passage from Acts that we have listened to, this intertwining reveals itself with extraordinary evidence. In the event of Pentecost it is made clear that multiple languages and different cultures belong to the Church; they can understand and make each other fruitful. St. Luke clearly wants to convey a fundamental idea, namely, in the act itself of her birth the Church is already "catholic," universal. She speaks all languages from the very beginning, because the Gospel that is entrusted to her is destined for all peoples, according to the will and the mandate of the risen Christ (cf. Matthew 28:19). The Church that is born at Pentecost is not above all a particular community -- the Church of Jerusalem -- but the universal Church, that speaks the language of all peoples. From her, other communities in every corner of the world will be born, particular Churches that are all and always actualizations of the one and only Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of churches, but a single reality: The universal Church has ontological priority. A community that is not catholic in this sense would not even be a Church.

In this regard it is necessary to add another aspect: that of the theological vision of the Acts of the Apostles in respect of the journey of the Church from Jerusalem to Rome. Luke notes that among the peoples represented in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost there are also "foreigners from Rome" (Acts 2:10). At that time Rome was still distant, "foreign" for the nascent Church: It was a symbol of the pagan world in general. But the power of the Holy Spirit will guide the steps of the witnesses "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8), to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles ends precisely when Paul, by providential design, arrives at the empire's capital and proclaims the Gospel there (cf. Acts 28:30-31). Thus the journey of God's Word, begun in Jerusalem, arrives at its goal, because Rome represents the whole world and thus incarnates the Lucan idea of catholicity. The universal Church is realized, the catholic Church, which is the continuation of the chosen people and makes its history and mission her own.

At this point, and to conclude, John's Gospel offers us a word, which accords very well with the mystery of the Church created by the Spirit. The word spoken twice by the risen Jesus when he appears in the midst of the disciples in the Cenacle on Easter evening: "Shalom -- Peace to you!" (John 20:19, 21). The expression "shalom" is not a simple greeting; it is much more: It is the gift of the promised peace (cf. John 14:27) and is won by Jesus with the price of his blood, it is the fruit of this victory and his struggle against the spirit of evil. It is thus a peace "not as given by the world" but as God alone can give it.

On this feast of the Spirit of the Church we would like to thank God for having given to his people, chosen and formed from all nations, the inestimable gift of peace, of his peace! At the same time we renew the awareness of the responsibility connected with this gift: the Church's responsibility to constitutionally be a sign and an instrument of the peace of God for all peoples. I tried to be a conveyor of this message when I recently went to the headquarters of the U.N. to speak to the representatives of the nations. But one must not only think of these "summits." The Church realizes her service to the peace of Christ above all in her ordinary presence and action among men, with the preaching of the Gospel and with the signs of love and mercy that accompany it (cf. Matthew 16:20).

Among these signs, the sacrament of reconciliation must naturally be emphasized, the sacrament that the risen Christ instituted at the same time that he gave his disciples the gift of his peace and his Spirit. As we heard in the passage from the Gospel, Jesus breathed upon his disciples and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained" (John 20:21-23). How important and, unfortunately, how insufficiently understood is the gift of reconciliation that brings peace to hearts! Christ's peace spreads only through the renewed hearts of men and women who have been reconciled and made themselves servants of justice, ready to spread peace in the world only with the force of truth, without compromising with the mentality of the world, because the world cannot give Christ's peace: This is how the Church can be a ferment of that reconciliation that comes from God. She can do this only if she remains docile to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if she carries the cross like Jesus and with Jesus. This is precisely what the saints of every age testify to!

In light of this word of life, dear brothers and sisters, may the prayer that today we address to God in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary become ever more fervent and intense. May the Virgin who listens, the Mother of the Church, obtain for our community and for all Christians a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit the Paraclete. "Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae -- Send forth your Spirit and everything will be recreated and you will renew the face of the earth." Amen!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Pope to Young French Pilgrims to Lourdes
"Happiness Is First of All a Gift of God"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 8, 2008- Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris and the president of the French episcopal conference, on the occasion of the centenary of the "Frat" pilgrimage organized by the dioceses of the Île-de-France.

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Dear Young People,

By coming to the Marian city of Lourdes in this Jubilee Year that marks the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to young Bernadette, you are taking part in the thanksgiving of the entire Church for the message the Virgin gave to Bernadette. With simple words, the Mother of Christ pointed out the way of spiritual renewal through the call to conversion and love of the Church.

It was in this place that the Virgin came to visit Bernadette. During your pilgrimage to Lourdes, receive this visitation of Mary, who entrusts to you today the words the Angel spoke to her on the Lord's behalf: "Hail, full of grace, you have found favour with God!" (Lk 1: 30).

Indeed, through his grace Christ makes you worthy of his trust and wants you to be able to make your noblest and loftiest dreams of true happiness come true. Happiness is first of all a gift of God that is received by following the unexpected paths of his will. These ways are demanding but they are also a source of deep joy. Look at Mary: invited to take a surprising and disconcerting path, her willingness makes her enter a joy that all generations will sing.

It was the secret she revealed to her cousin Elizabeth when she went to visit and help her: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden... he who is mighty has done great things for me" (Lk 1: 47-48). May you in turn allow yourselves to be led so that the Lord may make something great of your humble life.

It is our "yes" to God that makes the source of true happiness flow: this "yes" frees the self of all that closes in on itself. It makes the poverty of our lives enter the riches and power of God's plan but without threatening our freedom and responsibility. He opens our narrow hearts to the dimensions of divine charity which are universal. He configures our lives to the very life of Christ, by which we were marked at the moment of our Baptism.

Dear young people, I encourage you during these days to celebrate enthusiastically the joy of believing, loving and hoping in Christ, and of walking confidently on the path of initiation that is proposed to you. I ask you in particular to note with attention the witness of your elders in the faith and to learn to welcome God's Word in silence and meditation so that it can model your hearts and bear generous fruit within you. Indeed, the Lord has given each one of you something special to say. Do not be afraid to listen to him. In this spirit the "Frat" is also a special time to allow oneself to be questioned by Christ: "What do you want to do with your life?". May those of you who hear the call to follow him in the priesthood or consecrated life, in the wake of numerous young people who have taken part in the "Frat", accept the Lord's invitation to put yourselves totally at the service of the Church in a life entirely given for the Kingdom of Heaven. They will not be disappointed.

Lastly, I want to thank the Lord for all, priests, Religious and lay people, who, forming an immense chain, have contributed for a century to making this pilgrimage an important moment in the life of a large number of young Christians.

Dear young people, I entrust each one of you to the motherly intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and of St Bernadette. To you, to the Bishops who are the Pastors of your Dioceses of Île-de-France, to your chaplains, to the lay people who accompany you and who bear witness among you to their faith with joy and simplicity, I willingly impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 12 April 2008.

BENEDICTUS XVI

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On Christian Unity
"Keep Alive the Flames of Faith, Charity and Hope"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2008 - Here is the text of the greetings Benedict XVI gave today to Catholicos Karekin II, supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and a translation of the catechesis he gave afterward during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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[English Greetings to Catholicos Karekin II]

It is my great joy today to greet His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and the distinguished delegation accompanying him. Your Holiness, I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit will illumine your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the important meetings you will have here, and particularly our personal conversations. I ask all who are present today to pray for God’s blessing upon this visit.

Your Holiness, I thank you for your personal commitment to the growing friendship between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church. In 2000, soon after your election, you came to Rome to meet Pope John Paul II, and a year later, you graciously received him in Holy Etchmiadzin. You came once again to Rome together with many Church leaders from East and West, for the funeral liturgy of Pope John Paul II. I am sure that this spirit of friendship will be further deepened during the coming days.

In an external niche of Saint Peter’s Basilica, there is a fine statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church. It serves to remind us of the severe persecutions suffered by Armenian Christians, especially during the last century. Armenia’s many martyrs are a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit working in times of darkness, and a pledge of hope for Christians everywhere.

Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends, together with you I implore Almighty God, through the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, to help us grow in unity, in one holy bond of Christian faith, hope and love.

[Catechisis]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As you see, among us today is His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, accompanied by a distinguished delegation. I express again my joy at having been able to welcome him this morning: His presence revives in us the hope of full unity among all Christians. I also would like to take advantage of the opportunity to thank him for the amiable welcome he recently offered in Armenia to the cardinal secretary of state. For me it is a pleasure to remember the unforgettable visit that the Catholicos made to Rome in 2000, a little after his election. In his encounter with him, my beloved predecessor, John Paul II, offered to him a distinguished relic of St. Gregory the Illuminator and then returned the visit by traveling to Armenia.

The commitment of the Apostolic Armenian Church in favor of ecumenical dialogue is known, and I am sure that this visit of the venerable supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians will contribute to intensify the fraternal friendship that unites our Churches. These days of immediate preparation for Pentecost encourages us to revive hope in the help of the Holy Spirit to advance in the path of ecumenism. We have the certainty that the Lord Jesus will never abandon us in the search for unity, given that the Spirit acts tirelessly to bolster our efforts oriented toward overcoming every division and to mend every tear in the living cloth of the Church.

This is precisely what Jesus promised to the disciples in his last days of his earthly mission, as we just heard in the Gospel passage: He assured them of the assistance of the Holy Spirit, that he would send so they will continue to experience his presence (John 14:16-17). This promise he made a reality when, after the resurrection, Jesus entered in the Cenacle, greeted the disciples with the words, "Peace be with you" and, blowing over them, he told them, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). He gave them the authority to forgive sins. The Holy Spirit, then, is presented as the power of the forgiveness of sins, of the renewal of our hearts and of our existence, and in this way renews the earth and creates unity where there was division. Afterward, at the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is shown through other signs: an impetuous wind, tongues of fire, and the apostles speaking all languages. This last one is a sign that the Spirit, who is charity and who fosters unity in diversity, has overcome the Babylonian Diaspora, fruit of the pride that separates men. From the first moment of its existence the Church spoke all languages, thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire, and lives in all cultures. It does not destroy the gifts or the history of a culture, rather it assumes them all in a great new unity, which reconciles unity with the multiplicity of forms.

The Holy Spirit, which is eternal charity, the link of unity in the Trinity, unites with its power in divine charity the dispersed men, creating in this way the great and multiform community of the Church in the entire world. In the days that passed between the Ascension of the Lord and the Sunday of Pentecost, the disciples were united with Mary in the Cenacle to pray. They knew that alone they couldn't found, organize the Church: the Church had to be established and organized by a divine initiative; it is not a creature of ours, but rather a gift of God. Only in this way is unity also created, a unity that has to grow. The Church in all times, and in particular in those nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost, unites itself spiritually in the Cenacle with the apostles and with Mary to implore incessantly the effusion of the Holy Spirit. Moved by the impetuous wind it will be capable of announcing the Gospel to the furthest confines of the earth.

For this reason, despite the difficulties and divisions, Christians cannot resign themselves, nor give in to discouragement. This is what the Lord asks us: Hold fast in prayer to keep alive the flames of faith, charity and hope, which nourish the longing for full unity. "Ut unum sint!" says the Lord. This invitation from Christ always resounds in our hearts; an invitation that I launched again in my recent apostolic trip to the United States of America, where I referred to the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement. In this time of globalization, and at the same time, of fragmentation, "without [prayer], ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul" (ecumenical encounter in the Church of St. Joseph in New York, April 18, 2008). Let us give thanks to the Lord for the goals reached in ecumenical dialogue thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. Let us be docile, listening to his voice so that our hearts, full of hope, set out without delay on the path that leads to the communion of all Christ's disciples.

St. Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, recalls that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we also invoke today over all Christians, so that in the mutual and generous service of the Gospel, they can be in the world a sign of the love of God for humanity. Let us direct, with trust, our gaze to Mary, sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, and through her, let us pray, "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love." Amen.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After his address, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we welcome to our Audience His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, together with a delegation from the Armenian Apostolic Church. His presence among us, in these days before the Solemnity of Pentecost, spurs us to pray more fervently for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all Christians as we seek to advance along the path of ecumenism. The Risen Lord sent the Spirit upon his disciples, and from the day of Pentecost, the Church has constantly implored the Spirit’s gifts, which impel her to proclaim the Gospel before all th