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Pope Benedict's addresses from May 2008


                          Benedict XVI from November 2008

 

 

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PROGRAMME OF HOLY FATHER'S TRIP TO THE HOLY LAND

VATICAN CITY, 26 MAR 2009 (VIS) - The programme of Benedict XVI's apostolic trip to the Holy Land, due to take place from 8 to 15 May, was made public today.

The Pope will depart from Rome 's Fiumicino airport at 9.30 a .m. on 8 May, landing at Queen Alia airport in the Jordanian capital, Amman , at 2.30 p.m. At 3.30 p.m. he is due to visit the city's "Regina Pacis" Centre, then make a courtesy visit to the Jordanian monarchs at the al-Husseinye royal palace.

On the morning of Saturday 9 May he will visit the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo , and bless the cornerstone of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem's Madaba University .

Having visited the Hashemite Museum and the Mosque of al-Hussein bin Talal in Amman , he will meet with Muslim religious leaders, the diplomatic corps and rectors of Jordanian universities. Later that day he will preside at the celebration of Vespers with priests, religious, seminarians and ecclesial movements in the Greek-Melkite cathedral of St. George in Amman .

On the morning of Sunday 10 May the Holy Father will celebrate Mass and pray the Regina Coeli at the international stadium in Amman . That afternoon he is scheduled to visit Bethany Beyond the Jordan , site of the Lord's Baptism, where he will bless the cornerstones of the Latin and Greek-Melkite churches.

On Monday 11 May, having celebrated Mass in private at the apostolic nunciature in Amman, he will travel by plane to Tel Aviv, Israel, where the welcome ceremony is due to take place at 11 a .m. in the city's Ben Gurion airport. That afternoon he will make a courtesy visit to the president of Israel at the presidential palace in Jerusalem . Subsequently he will visit the Yad Vashem Memorial and hold a meeting with organisations for inter-religious dialogue.

On Tuesday 12 May he will visit the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem and meet the Grand Mufti. He will also visit the Western Wall and meet with the two Chief Rabbis of Israel at the Hechal Shlomo Centre. At midday he is due to pray the Regina Coeli with ordinaries of the Holy Land in the Cenacle of Jerusalem and to make a brief visit to the co-cathedral of the Latins. That afternoon he will celebrate Mass in the Valley of Josaphat .

At 9 a .m. on Wednesday 13 May the Holy Father will deliver an address on the square in front of the presidential palace in Bethlehem then celebrate Mass in Manger Square at 10 a .m. At 12.30 p.m. he will lunch with the ordinaries of the Holy Land, the Franciscan community and the papal entourage at the Casa Nova monastery in Bethlehem

That afternoon, following a private visit at 3.30 p.m. to the Grotto of the Nativity, Benedict XVI will travel to the Caritas Baby Hospital and, shortly thereafter, to the Aida Refugee Camp, where he will deliver an address. At 6 p.m. he will make a courtesy visit to the president of the Palestine National Authority in the presidential palace of Bethlehem , after which the departure ceremony will take place on the square in front of the palace.

At 10 a .m. on Thursday 14 May the Pope will celebrate Mass on the Mount of Precipice in Nazareth . At 3.50 p.m. he will meet the Israeli prime minister in the city's Franciscan convent, and at 4.30 p.m. greet religious leaders of Galilee in the auditorium of the Basilica of the Annunciation, where he will pronounce an address. Later he will travel to the Grotto of the Annunciation where at 5.30 p.m. he will preside at Vespers with bishops, priests, religious, ecclesial movements and pastoral workers.

On Friday 15 May the Pope will celebrate an early private Mass in the chapel of the apostolic delegation to Jerusalem , then attend an ecumenical meeting at the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. After this he will visit the Holy Sepulchre and the Armenian patriarchal church of St. James in Jerusalem .

Following the departure ceremony at Ben Gurion international airport in Tel Aviv, the papal plane is due to take off at 2 p.m. bound for Rome where it is expected to land at Ciampino airport at 4.50 p.m. Roman time.

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On Mary's Example of Womanly Virtue

"Bearers of Love, Teachers of Mercy and Artisans of Peace"

AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli, after having celebrated an open-air Mass at Amman International Stadium.

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Dear Friends,

During the Mass I spoke about the prophetic charism of women as bearers of love, teachers of mercy and artisans of peace. The supreme example of womanly virtue is the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Mother of Mercy and Queen of Peace. As we turn to her now, let us seek her maternal intercession for all the families of these lands, that they may truly be schools of prayer and schools of love. Let us ask the Mother of the Church to look down in mercy upon all the Christians of these lands, and with the help of her prayers, may they be truly one in the faith they profess and the witness they bear. Let us ask her who responded so generously to the angel's call, and accepted her vocation to become the Mother of God, to give courage and strength to all young people today who are discerning their vocations, so that they too may generously dedicate themselves to carrying out the Lord's will.

In this season of Eastertide, it is with the title Regina Coeli that we call upon the Blessed Virgin. As a fruit of the Redemption won by her Son's death and resurrection, she too was raised to everlasting glory and crowned Queen of Heaven. With great confidence in the power of her intercession, with joy in our hearts and with love for our glorious ever-Virgin Mother, we turn to her now and ask for her prayers.

 

 

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Papal Homily at Amman Stadium Mass

"Fidelity ... Demands of Each of You a Particular Kind of Courage"

AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009 - Here is the text of the homily Benedict XVI gave today during an open-air Mass at Amman International Stadium.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I rejoice that we are able to celebrate this Eucharist together at the beginning of my Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Yesterday, from the heights of Mount Nebo, I stood and looked out upon this great land, the land of Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist, the land where God's ancient promises were fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus our Lord. This land witnessed his preaching and miracles, his death and resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, the sacrament of a reconciled and renewed humanity. As I pondered the mystery of God's fidelity, I prayed that the Church in these lands would be confirmed in hope and strengthened in her witness to the Risen Christ, the Savior of mankind. Truly, as Saint Peter tells us in today's first reading, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Today's joyful celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice expresses the rich diversity of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. I greet all of you with affection in the Lord. I thank His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, for his kind words of welcome. With respect and gratitude I likewise greet His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammad, who represents the King of Jordan, and I thank him for his presence in our midst. My greeting goes also to the many young people from Catholic schools who today bring their enthusiasm to this Eucharistic celebration.

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus proclaims: "I am the good shepherd... who lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn 10:11). As the Successor of Saint Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the care of his flock (cf. Jn 21:15-17), I have long awaited this opportunity to stand before you as a witness to the Risen Savior, and to encourage you to persevere in faith, hope and love, in fidelity to the ancient traditions and the distinguished history of Christian witness which you trace back to the age of the Apostles. The Catholic community here is deeply touched by the difficulties and uncertainties which affect all the people of the Middle East. May you never forget the great dignity which derives from your Christian heritage, or fail to sense the loving solidarity of all your brothers and sisters in the Church throughout the world!

"I am the good shepherd", the Lord tells us, "I know my own, and my own know me" (Jn 10:14). Today in Jordan we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. As we reflect on the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, let us ask the Lord to open our hearts and minds ever more fully to hear his call. Truly, Jesus "knows us", even more deeply than we know ourselves, and he has a plan for each one of us. We know, too, that wherever he calls us, we will find happiness and fulfilment; indeed, we will find our very selves (cf. Mt 10:39). Today I invite the many young people here present to consider how the Lord is calling you to follow him and to build up his Church. Whether it be in the priestly ministry, in consecrated life or in the sacrament of marriage, Jesus needs you to make his voice heard and to work for the growth of his Kingdom.

In today's second reading, Saint John invites us to "think of the love that the Father has lavished on us" by making us his adopted children in Christ. Hearing these words should make us grateful for the experience of the Father's love which we have had in our families, from the love of our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, our brothers and sisters. During the celebration of the present Year of the Family, the Church throughout the Holy Land has reflected on the family as a mystery of life-giving love, endowed in God's plan with its own proper calling and mission: to radiate the divine Love which is the source and the ultimate fulfilment of all the other loves of our lives. May every Christian family grow in fidelity to its lofty vocation to be a true school of prayer, where children learn a sincere love of God, where they mature in self-discipline and concern for the needs of others, and where, shaped by the wisdom born of faith, they contribute to the building of an ever more just and fraternal society. The strong Christian families of these lands are a great legacy handed down from earlier generations. May today's families be faithful to that impressive heritage, and never lack the material and moral assistance they need to carry out their irreplaceable role in service to society.

An important aspect of your reflection during this Year of the Family has been the particular dignity, vocation and mission of women in God's plan. How much the Church in these lands owes to the patient, loving and faithful witness of countless Christian mothers, religious Sisters, teachers, doctors and nurses! How much your society owes to all those women who in different and at times courageous ways have devoted their lives to building peace and fostering love! From the very first pages of the Bible, we see how man and woman, created in the image of God, are meant to complement one another as stewards of God's gifts and partners in communicating his gift of life, both physical and spiritual, to our world. Sadly, this God-given dignity and role of women has not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed. The Church, and society as a whole, has come to realize how urgently we need what the late Pope John Paul II called the "prophetic charism" of women (cf. Mulieris Dignitatem, 29) as bearers of love, teachers of mercy and artisans of peace, bringing warmth and humanity to a world that all too often judges the value of a person by the cold criteria of usefulness and profit. By its public witness of respect for women, and its defence of the innate dignity of every human person, the Church in the Holy Land can make an important contribution to the advancement of a culture of true humanity and the building of the civilization of love.

Dear friends, let us return to the words of Jesus in today's Gospel. I believe that they contain a special message for you, his faithful flock in these lands where he once dwelt. "The good shepherd", he tells us, "lays down his life for his sheep." At the beginning of this Mass, we asked the Father to "give us new strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd", who remained steadfast in fidelity to the Father's will (cf. Opening Prayer, Mass of the Fourth Sunday of Easter). May the courage of Christ our shepherd inspire and sustain you daily in your efforts to bear witness to the Christian faith and to maintain the Church's presence in the changing social fabric of these ancient lands.

Fidelity to your Christian roots, fidelity to the Church's mission in the Holy Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage: the courage of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or family tradition; the courage to engage in dialogue and to work side by side with other Christians in the service of the Gospel and solidarity with the poor, the displaced, and the victims of profound human tragedies; the courage to build new bridges to enable a fruitful encounter of people of different religions and cultures, and thus to enrich the fabric of society. It also means bearing witness to the love which inspires us to "lay down" our lives in the service of others, and thus to counter ways of thinking which justify "taking" innocent lives.

"I am the good shepherd; I know my own, and my own know me" (Jn 10:14). Rejoice that the Lord has made you members of his flock and knows each of you by name! Follow him with joy and let him guide you in all your ways. Jesus knows what challenges you face, what trials you endure, and the good that you do in his name. Trust in him, in his enduring love for all the members of his flock, and persevere in your witness to the triumph of his love. May Saint John the Baptist, the patron of Jordan, and Mary, Virgin and Mother, sustain you by their example and prayers, and lead you to the fullness of joy in the eternal pastures where we will experience for ever the presence of the Good Shepherd and know for ever the depths of his love. Amen.

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Papal Address at Site of Christ's Baptism

"He Is With Us as the Vine Is With Its Own Branches"

BETHANY, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009 - Here is the text of the discourse Benedict XVI gave today at Bethany beyond the Jordan, the site of Christ's baptism. He blessed the cornerstones for two churches, one Latin-rite and the other Greek-Melkite.

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Your Royal Highness,

Dear Brother Bishops,

Dear friends,

It is with great spiritual joy that I come to bless the foundation stones of the two Catholic Churches to be built beside the river Jordan, a place marked by many memorable events in biblical history. The prophet Elijah the Tishbite, was from this area, not far north of Galaad. Near here, facing Jericho, the waters of the Jordan opened before Elijah who was taken up by the Lord in a chariot of fire (cf. 2 Kg 2:9-12). Here the Spirit of the Lord called John the son of Zechariah to preach a conversion of hearts. John the Evangelist also places in this area the meeting between the Baptist and Jesus, who at his baptism was "anointed" by the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and proclaimed the beloved Son of the Father (cf.Jn 1:28; Mk 1:9-11).

I was honored to be received at this important site by Their Majesties King Abdullah II and Queen Rania. I again wish to express my sincere gratitude for the warm hospitality they have shown me during my visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

I greet with joy His Beatitude Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of Antioch for the Greek Melkite Church. I also greet with affection His Beatitude Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. I extend my warm best wishes to His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, to the Auxiliary Bishops present, particularly to Archbishop Joseph Jules Zerey and the Most Reverend Salim Sayegh, whom I thank for his kind words of welcome. I am pleased to greet all the Bishops, priests, religious and faithful who accompany us today. Let us rejoice in the knowledge that the two buildings, one Latin, the other Greek Melkite, will serve to build up, each according to the traditions of its own community, the one family of God.

The foundation stone of a church is a symbol of Christ. The Church rests on Christ, is sustained by him and cannot be separated from him. He is the one foundation of every Christian community, the living stone, rejected by the builders but chosen and precious in God's sight as a cornerstone (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-5, 7). With him, we too are living stones built into a spiritual house, a dwelling place for God (cf. Eph2:20-22; 1 Pet 2:5). Saint Augustine loved to refer to the mystery of the Church as the Christus totus, the whole Christ, the full or complete Body of Christ, Head and members. This is the reality of the Church; it is Christ and us, Christ with us. He is with us as the vine is with its own branches (cf. Jn 15:1-8). The Church is in Christ a community of new life, a dynamic reality of grace that flows from him. Through the Church Christ purifies our hearts, enlightens our minds, unites us with the Father and, in the one Spirit, moves us to a daily exercise of Christian love. We confess this joyful reality as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

We enter the Church through baptism. The memory of Christ's own baptism is brought vividly before us in this place. Jesus stood in line with sinners and accepted John's baptism of penance as a prophetic sign of his own passion, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. Down through the centuries, many pilgrims have come to the Jordan to seek purification, renew their faith and draw closer to the Lord. Such was the pilgrim Egeria, who left a written account of her visit during the late fourth century. The Sacrament of Baptism, drawing its power from Christ's death and resurrection, will be cherished especially by the Christian communities that gather in the new church buildings. May the Jordan always remind you that you have been washed in the waters of baptism and have become members of the family of Jesus. Your lives, in obedience to his word, are being transformed into his image and likeness. As you strive to be faithful to your baptismal commitment of conversion, witness and mission, know that you are being strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the prayerful contemplation of these mysteries enrich you with spiritual joy and moral courage. With the Apostle Paul, I encourage you to grow in the whole range of noble attitudes covered by the blessed name of agape, Christian love (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13). Promote dialogue and understanding in civil society, especially when claiming your legitimate rights. In the Middle East, marked by tragic suffering, by years of violence and unresolved tensions, Christians are called to offer their contribution, inspired by the example of Jesus, of reconciliation and peace through forgiveness and generosity. Continue being grateful to those who lead you and serve you faithfully as ministers of Christ. You do well to accept their guidance in faith knowing that, by receiving the apostolic teaching they transmit, you welcome Christ and you welcome the One who sent him (cf. Mt 10:40).

My dear brothers and sisters, we now proceed to bless these two stones, the beginning of two new sacred buildings. May the Lord sustain, strengthen and increase the communities that will worship in them. And may he bless you all with his gift of peace. Amen!

 

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Welcome Speech by Muslim Prince Ghazi

"We Understand This Visit to Be a Deliberate Gesture of Goodwill"

AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 10, 2009 - Here is a transcription of the welcome speech that Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed gave to Benedict XVI when the Pope visited Jordan's state mosque on Saturday, the first full day of the Pontiff's weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The prince is an advisor to King Abdullah II and also the organizer of the Muslim initiative called "A Common Word," sent by 138 Muslim scholars to Christian leaders.

The speech was in English and Arabic.

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[Greeting in Arabic] Pax vobis. On the occasion of this historic visit to the Al-Hussein Bin Talal mosque here in Amman, I bid Your Holiness Pope Benedict XVI welcome in four ways.

First, as a Muslim. I bid Your Holiness welcome today as we understand this visit to be a deliberate gesture of goodwill and mutual respect from the supreme spiritual leader and pontiff of the largest denomination of the world's largest religion to the world's second-largest religion. Indeed, Christians and Muslims make up over 55% of the world's population and so it is especially significant that this is only the third time in history a reigning pope has visited a mosque, the first being by Your Holiness's much-beloved Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, to the historical remains, to the historical [...] mosque in Damascus, which contains the remains of John the Baptist [...] in 2001, and the second being by Your Holiness to the magnificent Blue Mosque [...] in Istanbul in 2006.

The beautiful King Hussein mosque in Amman, Jordan, is Jordan's state mosque and it was built and personally supervised by His Majesty King Abdullah II in loving honor of his late father, Jordan's great King Hussein, may God have mercy on his soul. Thus, this is the first time in history that a pope has ever visited a new mosque; hence, we see in this visit a clear message of the necessity of interfaith harmony and mutual respect in the contemporary world, as well as concrete proof of the willingness of Your Holiness to personally take a leading role in this.

This gesture is all the more remarkable, given the fact that this visit to Jordan by Your Holiness is primarily a spiritual pilgrimage to the Christian Holy Land, and in particular to the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ [...] by John the Baptist [...] at Bethany beyond the Jordan, John 1:28 and John 3:26.

And yet Your Holiness has made time, in your intense and tiring schedule, tiring for a man of any age, for this visit to the King Hussein mosque, in order to honor Muslims.

I must also thank Your Holiness, for the regret you expressed after the Regensburg lecture of September 13, 2006, for the hurt caused by this lecture, to Muslims. Of course Muslims know that nothing that can be said or done in this world can harm the prophet [...], who is, as his last words attested, with the highest companion [...], God himself, in paradise.

But Muslims were, nevertheless, hurt because of their love for the prophet [...], who is, as God says in the Holy Qu'uran, closer to the believers than their own selves. Hence, Muslims also especially appreciated the clarification by the Vatican that what was said in the Regensburg lecture did not reflect Your Holiness's own opinion, but was rather simply a citation in an academic lecture.

It hardly needs to be said, moreover, that the prophet Mohammed [...], whom Muslims love, emulate, and know as a living reality and spiritual presence, is completely and entirely different from the historical depictions of him in the West, ever since St. John of Damascus. These distorted depictions by those who either do not know Arabic or the Holy Qu'uran [...] or who do not understand the historical and cultural contexts of the prophet's life, and thus misunderstand and misconstrue the spiritual motives and intentions behind many of the prophet's [...] actions and words are unfortunately responsible for much historical and cultural tension between Christians and Muslims.

It is thus incumbent upon Muslims to explain the prophet's example [...] above all, with deeds of virtue, charity, and piety and goodwill, recalling that the prophet himself [...] was of an exalted nature. For God says in the Holy Qu'uran, "Verily ye have in the messenger of God, a beautiful paten of conduct, for whosoever hopes in God and the last day, and remembereth God much."

Finally, I must thank Your Holiness for many other friendly gestures and kindly actions towards Muslims, since your ascension in 2005, including graciously receiving both His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein [...] of Jordan in 2005, and His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Ad-Al-Haziz [...] of Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the two holy places in 2008. And also especially for your warm reception of the historical or common word between us and you, open letter of October 13, 2007 by 138 leading international Muslim scholars, whose numbers continue increasing to this day.

It was as a result of this initiative, which, based on the Holy Qu'uran and the Bible, recognized the primacy of the love of God and love of the neighbor in both Christianity and Islam, that the Vatican, under Your Holiness's personal guidance, held the first seminar of the international Muslim-Catholic forum [...] 2008.

We will shortly be following up [...] with the very able Cardinal Tauran, the work initiated by this meeting, but for now I would like to cite and echo your words from the speech Your Holiness gave on the occasion of the end of the first seminar, and I quote, "The theme which you have chosen for your meeting, Love of God, Love of the Neighbor, the Dignity of the Human Person, and Mutual Respect, is particularly significant. It was taken from the open letter, which presents love of God and love of the neighbor as the heart of Islam and Christianity alike. This theme highlights even more clearly the theological and spiritual foundations of a central teaching of our respective religions. I am well aware that Muslims and Christians have different approaches in matters regarding God, yet we can and must be worshippers of the one God, who created us and is concerned about each person in every corner of the world. There is a great and vast field in which we can act together, in defending and promoting the moral values which are part of our common heritage" end quote.

Now I cannot but help remember God's words in the Holy Qu'uran, [...] "yet they are not all alike." Some of the people of the Scripture are a community upright, who recite God's verses in the watches of the night, prostrating themselves. They believe in God and in the last day, enjoining decency and forbidding indecency, vying with one another in good works. Those are of the righteous, and whatever good they do, they shall not be denied it, and God knows the God-fearing. And also God's words, "and you will find, and you will truly find, the nearest of them to those who believe, to be those who say, verily we are Christians. That is because some of them are priests, and monks. And because they are not proud [...]

Second, as a Hashemite, and a descendant of the prophet Muhammed [...] I also bid Your Holiness welcome to this mosque in Jordan remembering that the prophet [...] welcomed his Christian neighbors [...] to Medina, and invited them to pray in his own mosque, which they did in harmony, without either side compromising their own spiritual beliefs. This too is an invaluable lesson which the world desperately needs to remember.

Third, as an Arab, and a direct descendant of Ishmael Ali-Salaam [...], of whom the Bible says God would make a great nation, Genesis 21:18, and that God was with him, Genesis 21:20. I bid Your Holiness welcome.

One of the cardinal virtues of the Arabs, who traditionally have survived in some of the hottest and most inhospitable climates in the world, is hospitality. Hospitality is born of generosity, and it recognizes the needs of the neighbor and considers those who are far, or who come from far, as neighbors, and indeed this virtue is confirmed by God in the Holy Qu'uran with the words, "And worship God, and associate man [...] with him, be kind to parents, and near kindred, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbor who is far and to the neighbor who is near, and to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the friend at your side. And to the wayfarer, and to what your right hands [...] possess, surely God loves not the conceited and the boastful. Chapter [...] 4,36.

Arab hospitality means not only loving to give and help, but also being generous of spirit, and thus appreciative. In 2000, during the late Pope John Paul II's visit to Jordan, I was working with the Jordanian tribes, and some of the tribesmen were saying that they really liked the late Pope. Someone asked them, "Why do you like him?" since he was a Christian and they were Muslims. They smiled and said, "Because he visited us." And of course, the late Pope John Paul II, like yourself, Holiness, could have easily gone to Israel and Palestine, but instead chose to start his pilgrimage with a visit to us here in Jordan, which we appreciate.

Fourth and finally, as a Jordanian, I bid Your Holiness welcome. In Jordan, everyone is equal before the law, regardless of religion, race, origin or gender, and those who work in the government are responsible to do their utmost to care for everyone in the country with compassion and with justice. This was the personal example and message of the late King Hussein, who over his long reign of 47 years, felt for everyone in the country as he did for his own children. It is also the message of his son, His Majesty King Abdullah II, who accordingly has made it the singular goal of his life and reign, to make the life of every Jordanian and indeed every person in the world that he can reach, as decent, dignified, and happy as he possibly can, with Jordan's meager resources.

Today, Christians in Jordan enjoy, by law, 8% of the seats in Parliament and similar quotas at every level of government and society, even though their numbers are less than that in actual fact. In addition to their own personal status laws and church courts, their holy sites, and their legal educational institutions and other needs are safeguarded by the state. And Your Holiness has just seen this in person, at the new Catholic university of Madaba, and will, God willing, soon see the new Catholic cathedral and the new Melkite church at the baptism site. And so Christians prosper today in Jordan, as they have for the last 2,000 years, in peace and harmony, and with good will and genuine brotherly relations between them and their Muslim neighbors. This is, in part of course, because Christians used to be more numerous in Jordan percentagewise than they are today, but declining Christian birthrates and conversely, high levels of education and prosperity which have led to their being in demand as immigrants to the West, have reduced their numbers. It is also, however, due to the fact that Jordan appreciates that Christians were in Jordan 600 years before Muslims. Indeed, Jordanian Christians are perhaps the oldest Christian community in the world, and the majority have always been Orthodox, adherence to the Orthodox patriarchate of Jerusalem in the Holy Land, which, as Your Holiness knows better than I, is the church of St. James, and was founded during Jesus' own lifetime [...].

Many of them are descended from the ancient Arab [...] tribes, and they have, throughout history, shared the fate and struggles of their fellow Muslim tribesman. Indeed, in 630, during the prophet's own lifetime, they joined the prophet's own army, led by his adopted son, [...] and his cousin [...] and fought against the Byzantine army of their fellow orthodox, at the battle of Mechtar [...]. It is because of this battle, that they earned their tribal name [...], which means "the reinforcements," and Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal himself comes from these tribes.

Then, in 1099, they were slaughtered by Catholic crusaders, at the fall of Jerusalem alongside their Muslim comrades. Later from 1916 to 1918, during the Great Arab revolt, they fought against Muslim Turks, alongside Arab-Muslim comrades. They thereafter languished for a few decades, along with their Muslim fellows, under a Protestant colonial mandate, and in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948, 1967, and 1968, they fought with their Muslim-Arab comrades against Jewish opponents.

Christian Jordanians have always not only defended Jordan but have also tirelessly and patriotically helped to build Jordan, playing leading roles in the fields of education, health, commerce, tourism, agriculture, science, culture, and many other fields. All this is to say, then, that whilst Your Holiness may believe them to be your fellow Christians, we know them to be our fellow Jordanians. And they are as much a part of this country as the land itself. We hope that this unique Jordanian spirit of interfaith harmony, benevolence and mutual respect, will serve as an example to the whole world, and Your Holiness will carry it to places like Mindenau and certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa, where Muslim minorities are hard-pressed by Christian majorities, as well as to other places, where the opposite is the case.

Now, just as we welcome Your Holiness today in four ways, we receive Your Holiness today in four ways.

First, we receive Your Holiness as the spiritual leader, Supreme Pontiff, and Successor of St. Peter, for 1.1 billion Catholics, who are neighbors of Muslims everywhere, and who we greet through receiving you.

Second, we receive Your Holiness as Pope Benedict XVI, in particular whose reign has been marked by the moral courage to do and speak his conscience, no matter what the vogue of the day, who is personally also a master Christian theologian, responsible for historical encyclical letters on the beautiful cardinal virtues of charity and hope, who has refacilitated the traditional Latin Mass for those who choose it, and who has simultaneously made intrafaith and interfaith dialogue a top priority of his reign, in order to spread goodwill and understanding throughout all peoples of the world.

Third, we receive Your Holiness as a Head of State, who is also a world and global leader on the vital issues of morality, ethics, the environment, peace, human dignity, the alleviation of poverty and suffering, and even the global financial crisis.

Fourth and finally, we receive Your Holiness as a simple pilgrim of peace who comes in humility and gentleness to pray where Jesus Christ the Messiah [...], may peace be upon him, was baptized and began his mission 2,000 years ago.

So, welcome to Jordan, Your Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. God says in the Holy Qu'uran to the prophet Muhammed .... "Glory be to your Lord, the Lord of might," above what they allege, "and peace be to the messengers, and praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds." [...]

[Transcription by Vatican Radio]

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Benedict XVI's Farewell Address to Jordan

"It Is Principally as a Pilgrim and a Pastor That I Have Come"

AMMAN, Jordan, MAY 11, 2009 - Here is the text of the farewell address Benedict XVI gave today after the speech of King Abdullah II of Jordan.

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Your Majesties,

Your Excellencies,

Dear Friends,

As I prepare for the next stage of my pilgrimage to the lands of the Bible, I want to thank all of you for the warm welcome that I have received in Jordan over these last few days. I thank His Majesty King Abdullah II for inviting me to visit the Hashemite Kingdom, for his hospitality and his kind words. I also express my appreciation for the immense effort that has gone into making my visit possible, and ensuring the orderly unfolding of the various meetings and celebrations that have taken place. The public authorities, assisted by a great number of volunteers, have worked long and hard in order to direct the crowds and organize the different events. The media coverage has enabled countless people to follow the celebrations even if they could not be physically present. As well as thanking those who have made this possible, I wish to extend a special greeting to all who are listening on the radio or watching on television, especially the sick and those confined to their homes.

It has been a particular joy for me to be present at the launching of a number of major initiatives promoted by the Catholic community here in Jordan. The new wing of the Regina Pacis Centre will open up fresh possibilities of bringing hope to those who struggle with difficulties of various kinds, and to their families. The two churches to be built in Bethany will enable their respective communities to welcome pilgrims and to foster the spiritual growth of all who worship in that holy place. The University at Madaba has a particularly important contribution to offer to the wider community, in forming young people from various traditions in the skills that will enable them to shape the future of civil society. To all who are involved in these projects, I offer good wishes and the promise of my prayers.

One of the highlights of these days was my visit to the Mosque Al-Hussein Bin Talal, where I had the pleasure of meeting Muslim religious leaders together with members of the diplomatic corps and University Rectors. I would like to encourage all Jordanians, whether Christian or Muslim, to build on the firm foundations of religious tolerance that enable the members of different communities to live together in peace and mutual respect. His Majesty the King has been notably active in fostering inter-religious dialogue, and I want to put on record how much his commitment in this regard is appreciated. I also gratefully acknowledge the particular consideration that he shows towards the Christian community in Jordan. This spirit of openness not only helps the members of different ethnic communities in this country to live together in peace and concord, but it has contributed to Jordan's far-sighted political initiatives to build peace throughout the Middle East.

Dear Friends: as you know, it is principally as a pilgrim and a pastor that I have come to Jordan. Hence the experiences from these days that will remain most firmly etched in my memory are my visits to the holy places and the moments of prayer that we celebrated together. Once again I want to express the appreciation of the whole Church to those who look after the places of pilgrimage in this land, and I also thank the many people who contributed to the planning of Saturday's Vespers in Saint George's Cathedral and yesterday's Mass at the International Stadium. It was truly a joy for me to experience these Eastertide celebrations in company with the Catholic faithful from different traditions, united in the Church's communion and in witness to Christ. I encourage all of them to remain faithful to their baptismal commitment, mindful that Christ himself received baptism from John in the waters of the river Jordan.

As I bid you farewell, I want you to know that I hold in my heart the people of the Hashemite Kingdom and all who live throughout this region. I pray that you may enjoy peace and prosperity, now and for generations to come. Thank you once again. And may God bless all of you!

 

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Pope's Address Upon Arriving to Tel Aviv Airport

"The Holy See and the State of Israel Have Many Shared Values"

TEL AVIV, Israel, MAY 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon arriving from Jordan to the Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, where he was received by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the civil authorities and bishops of the Holy Land.

* * *

Mr. President,

Mr. Prime Minister,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your warm welcome to the State of Israel, a land which is held holy by millions of believers around the world. I am grateful to the President, Mr. Shimon Peres, for his kind words, and I appreciate the opportunity that has been offered to me to come on pilgrimage to a land that is hallowed by the footsteps of patriarchs and prophets, a land that Christians hold in particular veneration as the setting for the events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I take my place in a long line of Christian pilgrims to these shores, a line that stretches back to the earliest centuries of the Church's history and which, I am sure, will continue long into the future. I come, like so many others before me, to pray at the holy places, to pray especially for peace -- peace here in the Holy Land, and peace throughout the world.

Mr. President, the Holy See and the State of Israel have many shared values, above all a commitment to give religion its rightful place in the life of society. The just ordering of social relationships presupposes and requires a respect for the freedom and dignity of every human being, whom Christians, Muslims and Jews alike believe to be created by a loving God and destined for eternal life. When the religious dimension of the human person is denied or marginalized, the very foundation for a proper understanding of inalienable human rights is placed in jeopardy.

Tragically, the Jewish people have experienced the terrible consequences of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person. It is right and fitting that, during my stay in Israel, I will have the opportunity to honor the memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah, and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude. Sadly, anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world. This is totally unacceptable. Every effort must be made to combat anti-Semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe.

During my stay in Jerusalem, I will have the pleasure of meeting many of this country's distinguished religious leaders. One thing that the three great monotheistic religions have in common is a special veneration for that holy city. It is my earnest hope that all pilgrims to the holy places will be able to access them freely and without restraint, to take part in religious ceremonies and to promote the worthy upkeep of places of worship on sacred sites. May the words of Isaiah's prophecy be fulfilled, that many nations shall flow to the mountain of the house of the Lord, that he may teach them his ways, that they may walk in his paths -- paths of peace and justice, paths that lead to reconciliation and harmony (cf. Is 2:2-5).

Even though the name Jerusalem means "city of peace," it is all too evident that, for decades, peace has tragically eluded the inhabitants of this holy land. The eyes of the world are upon the peoples of this region as they struggle to achieve a just and lasting solution to conflicts that have caused so much suffering. The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In union with people of good will everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders. In this regard, I hope and pray that a climate of greater trust can soon be created that will enable the parties to make real progress along the road to peace and stability.

To the Catholic bishops and faithful here present, I offer a special word of greeting. In this land, where Peter received his commission to feed the Lord's sheep, I come as Peter's successor to minister among you. It will be my special joy to join you for the concluding celebrations of the Year of the Family, due to take place in Nazareth, home of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As I said in my Message for the World Day of Peace last year, the family is the "first and indispensable teacher of peace" (No. 3), and hence it has a vital role to play in healing divisions in human society at every level. To the Christian communities in the Holy Land, I say: by your faithful witness to him who preached forgiveness and reconciliation, by your commitment to uphold the sacredness of every human life, you can make a particular contribution to ending the hostilities that for so long have afflicted this land. I pray that your continuing presence in Israel and the Palestinian Territories will bear much fruit in promoting peace and mutual respect among all the peoples who live in the lands of the Bible.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, once again I thank you for your welcome and I assure you of my sentiments of good will. May God give his people strength! May God bless his people with peace!

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Papal Address to Interreligious Dialogue Organizers

"We See the Possibility of a Unity Which Is Not Dependent Upon Uniformity"

JERUSALEM, MAY 11, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem in a meeting with organizations involved in interreligious dialogue.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Religious Leaders,

Dear Friends,

It is a source of great joy for me to meet with you this evening. I wish to thank His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal for his kind words of welcome spoken on behalf of everyone present. I reciprocate the warm sentiments expressed and gladly greet all of you and the members of the groups and organizations you represent.

"God said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your kindred and your father's house for a land I shall show you' ... so Abram went ... and took his wife Sarah with him" (Gen 12:1-5). God's irruptive call, which marks the beginning of the history of our faith traditions, was heard in the midst of man's ordinary daily existence. And the history that ensued was shaped, not in isolation, but through the encounter with Egyptian, Hittite, Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian, and Greek cultures.

Faith is always lived within a culture. The history of religion shows that a community of believers proceeds by degrees of faithfulness to God, drawing from and shaping the culture it meets. This same dynamic is found in individual believers from the great monotheistic traditions: attuned to the voice of God, like Abraham, we respond to his call and set out seeking the fulfillment of his promises, striving to obey his will, forging a path in our own particular culture.

Today, nearly four thousand years after Abraham, the encounter of religions with culture occurs not simply on a geographical plane. Certain aspects of globalization and in particular the world of the internet have created a vast virtual culture, the worth of which is as varied as its countless manifestations. Undoubtedly much has been achieved to create a sense of closeness and unity within the world-wide human family. Yet, at the same time, the boundless array of portals through which people so readily access undifferentiated sources of information can easily become an instrument of increasing fragmentation: the unity of knowledge is shattered and the complex skills of critique, discernment and discrimination learned through academic and ethical traditions are at times bypassed or neglected.

The question naturally arises then as to what contribution religion makes to the cultures of the world against the backdrop of rapid globalization. Since many are quick to point out the readily apparent differences between religions, as believers or religious persons we are presented with the challenge to proclaim with clarity what we share in common.

Abraham's first step in faith, and our steps to or from the synagogue, church, mosque or temple, tread the path of our single human history, unfolding along the way, we might say, to the eternal Jerusalem (cf.Rev 21:23). Similarly, every culture with its inner capacity to give and receive gives expression to the one human nature. Yet, the individual is never fully expressed through his or her own culture, but transcends it in the constant search for something beyond. From this perspective, dear friends, we see the possibility of a unity which is not dependent upon uniformity. While the differences we explore in inter-religious dialogue may at times appear as barriers, they need not overshadow the common sense of awe and respect for the universal, for the absolute and for truth, which impel religious peoples to converse with one another in the first place. Indeed it is the shared conviction that these transcendent realities have their source in -- and bear traces of -- the Almighty that believers uphold before each other, our organizations, our society, our world. In this way not only do we enrich culture but we shape it: lives of religious fidelity echo God's irruptive presence and so form a culture not defined by boundaries of time or place but fundamentally shaped by the principles and actions that stem from belief.

Religious belief presupposes truth. The one who believes is the one who seeks truth and lives by it. Although the medium by which we understand the discovery and communication of truth differs in part from religion to religion, we should not be deterred in our efforts to bear witness to truth's power. Together we can proclaim that God exists and can be known, that the earth is his creation, that we are his creatures, and that he calls every man and woman to a way of life that respects his design for the world. Friends, if we believe we have a criterion of judgment and discernment which is divine in origin and intended for all humanity, then we cannot tire of bringing that knowledge to bear on civic life. Truth should be offered to all; it serves all members of society. It sheds light on the foundation of morality and ethics, and suffuses reason with the strength to reach beyond its own limitations in order to give expression to our deepest common aspirations. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, truth makes consensus possible and keeps public debate rational, honest and accountable, and opens the gateway to peace. Fostering the will to be obedient to the truth in fact broadens our concept of reason and its scope of application, and makes possible the genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today.

Each one of us here also knows, however, that God's voice is heard less clearly today, and reason itself has in so many instances become deaf to the divine. Yet that "void" is not one of silence. Indeed, it is the din of egotistical demands, empty promises and false hopes that so often invades the very space in which God seeks us. Can we then make spaces -- oases of peace and profound reflection -- where God's voice can be heard anew, where his truth can be discovered within the universality of reason, where every individual, regardless of dwelling, or ethnic group, or political hue, or religious belief, can be respected as a person, as a fellow human being? In an age of instant access to information and social tendencies which engender a kind of monoculture, deep reflection against the backdrop of God's presence will embolden reason, stimulate creative genius, facilitate critical appreciation of cultural practices and uphold the universal value of religious belief.

Friends, the institutions and groups that you represent engage in inter-religious dialogue and the promotion of cultural initiatives at a wide range of levels. From academic institutions -- and here I wish to make special mention of the outstanding achievements of Bethlehem University -- to bereaved parents groups, from initiatives through music and the arts to the courageous example of ordinary mothers and fathers, from formal dialogue groups to charitable organizations, you daily demonstrate your belief that our duty before God is expressed not only in our worship but also in our love and concern for society, for culture, for our world and for all who live in this land. Some would have us believe that our differences are necessarily a cause of division and thus at most to be tolerated. A few even maintain that our voices should simply be silenced. But we know that our differences need never be misrepresented as an inevitable source of friction or tension either between ourselves or in society at large. Rather, they provide a wonderful opportunity for people of different religions to live together in profound respect, esteem and appreciation, encouraging one another in the ways of God. Prompted by the Almighty and enlightened by his truth, may you continue to step forward with courage, respecting all that differentiates us and promoting all that unites us as creatures blessed with the desire to bring hope to our communities and world. May God guide us along this path!

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Pope's Address at Yad Vashem

"May the Names of These Victims Never Perish"

JERUSALEM, MAY 11, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the Yad Vashem memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

* * *

"I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name ... I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off" (Is 56:5).

This passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah furnishes the two simple words which solemnly express the profound significance of this revered place: yad - "memorial"; shem - "name". I have come to stand in silence before this monument, erected to honor the memory of the millions of Jews killed in the horrific tragedy of the Shoah. They lost their lives, but they will never lose their names: these are indelibly etched in the hearts of their loved ones, their surviving fellow prisoners, and all those determined never to allow such an atrocity to disgrace mankind again. Most of all, their names are forever fixed in the memory of Almighty God.

One can rob a neighbor of possessions, opportunity or freedom. One can weave an insidious web of lies to convince others that certain groups are undeserving of respect. Yet, try as one might, one can never take away the name of a fellow human being.

Sacred Scripture teaches us the importance of names in conferring upon someone a unique mission or a special gift. God called Abram "Abraham" because he was to become the "father of many nations" (Gen17:5). Jacob was called "Israel" because he had "contended with God and man and prevailed" (Gen32:29). The names enshrined in this hallowed monument will forever hold a sacred place among the countless descendants of Abraham. Like his, their faith was tested. Like Jacob, they were immersed in the struggle to discern the designs of the Almighty. May the names of these victims never perish! May their suffering never be denied, belittled or forgotten! And may all people of goodwill remain vigilant in rooting out from the heart of man anything that could lead to tragedies such as this!

The Catholic Church, committed to the teachings of Jesus and intent on imitating his love for all people, feels deep compassion for the victims remembered here. Similarly, she draws close to all those who today are subjected to persecution on account of race, color, condition of life or religion - their sufferings are hers, and hers is their hope for justice. As Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, I reaffirm - like my predecessors - that the Church is committed to praying and working tirelessly to ensure that hatred will never reign in the hearts of men again. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of peace (cf. Ps 85:9).

The Scriptures teach that it is our task to remind the world that this God lives, even though we sometimes find it difficult to grasp his mysterious and inscrutable ways. He has revealed himself and continues to work in human history. He alone governs the world with righteousness and judges all peoples with fairness (cf. Ps 9:9).

Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. I can only imagine the joyful expectation of their parents as they anxiously awaited the birth of their children. What name shall we give this child? What is to become of him or her? Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate!

As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts. It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence. It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood. It is the cry of Abel rising from the earth to the Almighty. Professing our steadfast trust in God, we give voice to that cry using words from the Book of Lamentations which are full of significance for both Jews and Christians:

"The favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent;

They are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness.

My portion is the Lord, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him;

It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the Lord" (Lam 3:22-26).

My dear friends, I am deeply grateful to God and to you for the opportunity to stand here in silence: a silence to remember, a silence to pray, a silence to hope.

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Papal Address to Israeli President

"What Humane Political End Can Ever Be Served Through Conflict and Violence?"

JERUSALEM, MAY 11, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the presidential residence in Jerusalem during a courtesy visit to President Shimon Peres.

* * *

Mr President,

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a kind gesture of hospitality President Peres has welcomed us here to his residence, enabling me to greet you all and to have this opportunity to share a few thoughts with you. Mr President, I thank you for this gracious welcome, and for your courteous greeting which I warmly reciprocate. I also thank the musicians who have entertained us with their fine performance.

Mr President, in the message of congratulations which I sent to you on the occasion of your inauguration, I gladly recalled your distinguished record of public service marked by a strong commitment to the pursuit of justice and peace. This afternoon I wish to assure you, together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his newly formed Government, and all the people of the State of Israel that my pilgrimage to the holy places is one of prayer for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and all of humanity. Indeed, I pray daily for peace born of justice to return to the Holy Land and the entire region, bringing security and renewed hope for all.

Peace is above all a divine gift. For peace is the Almighty's promise to humanity, and harbors unity. In the book of the prophet Jeremiah we read: "I know the plans I have in mind for you - it is the Lord who speaks - plans for peace not disaster, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer 29:11-12). The prophet reminds us of the Almighty's promise that he can "be found", that he "will listen", that he "will gather us together as one". But there is a proviso: we must "seek him", and "seek him with all our heart" (cf. ibid.,12-14).

To the religious leaders present this afternoon, I wish to say that the particular contribution of religions to the quest for peace lies primarily in the wholehearted, united search for God. Ours is the task of proclaiming and witnessing that the Almighty is present and knowable even when he seems hidden from our sight, that he acts in our world for our good, and that a society's future is marked with hope when it resonates in harmony with his divine order. It is God's dynamic presence that draws hearts together and ensures unity. In fact, the ultimate foundation of unity among persons lies in the perfect oneness and universality of God, who created man and woman in his image and likeness in order to draw us into his own divine life so that all may be one.

Religious leaders must therefore be mindful that any division or tension, any tendency to introversion or suspicion among believers or between our communities, can easily lead to a contradiction which obscures the Almighty's oneness, betrays our unity, and contradicts the One who reveals himself as "abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34:6; Ps 138:2; Ps 85:11). My friends: Jerusalem, which has long been a crossroads for peoples of many different origins, is a city which affords Jews, Christians and Muslims both the duty and the privilege to bear witness together to the peaceful coexistence long desired by worshippers of the one God; to lay bare the Almighty's plan for the unity of the human family announced to Abraham; and to proclaim the true nature of man as a seeker of God. Let us resolve to ensure that through the teaching and guidance of our respective communities we shall assist them to be true to who they are as believers, ever aware of the infinite goodness of God, the inviolable dignity of every human being, and the unity of the entire human family.

Sacred Scripture also presents us with an understanding of security. According to the Hebrew usage, security - batah - arises from trust and refers not just to the absence of threat but also to the sentiment of calmness and confidence. In the book of the prophet Isaiah we read of a time of divine blessing: "Once more the Spirit is poured upon us ... and justice will dwell in the wilderness and integrity in the fertile land; integrity will bring peace, and justice everlasting security" (Is 32:15-17). Security, integrity, justice and peace. In God's design for the world, these are inseparable. Far from being simply products of human endeavor, they are values which stem from God's fundamental relationship with man, and dwell as a common patrimony in the heart of every individual.

There is only one way to protect and promote these values: exercise them! Live them! No individual, family, community or nation is exempt from the duty to live in justice and to work for peace. And naturally, civic and political leaders are expected to ensure just and proper security for the people whom they have been elected to serve. That objective forms a part of the rightful promotion of values common to humanity and thus cannot conflict with the unity of the human family. The authentic values and goals of a society, which always safeguard human dignity, are indivisible, universal and interdependent (cf.Address to the United Nations, 18 April 2008). Thus they cannot be satisfied when they fall prey to particular interests or piecemeal politics. A nation's true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, lasting security is a matter of trust, nurtured in justice and integrity, and sealed through the conversion of hearts which stirs us to look the other in the eye, and to recognize the "Thou", as my equal, my brother, my sister. In this way does not society itself become the "fruitful field" (Is 32:15) marked, not by blocks or obstructions, but by cohesion and vibrancy? Can it not become a community with noble aspirations where all are willingly afforded access to education, family housing and the opportunity for employment, a society ready to build upon the lasting foundations of hope?

To conclude, I would like to turn to the ordinary families of this city, of this country. What parents would ever want violence, insecurity, or disunity for their son or daughter? What humane political end can ever be served through conflict and violence? I hear the cry of those who live in this land for justice, for peace, for respect for their dignity, for lasting security, a daily life free from the fear of outside threats and senseless violence. And I know that considerable numbers of men and women and young people are working for peace and solidarity through cultural programs and through initiatives of compassionate and practical outreach; humble enough to forgive, they have the courage to grasp the dream that is their right.

Mr President, I thank you for the courtesy you have shown to me and I assure you again of my prayers for the Government and all the citizens of this State. May a genuine conversion of the hearts of all lead to an ever strengthening commitment to peace and security through justice for everyone.

Shalom!

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Papal Address to Muslim Leaders in Jerusalem

"Here the Paths of the World's Three Great Monotheistic Religions Meet"

JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today in the "al-Kubbah al-Nahawiyya" building, after visiting the Dome of the Rock, the oldest Islamic monument in the Holy Land, where he was greeted by the grand mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein.

* * *

Dear Muslim Friends,

As-salámu 'aláikum! Peace upon you!

I cordially thank the Grand Mufti, Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, together with the Director of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, Sheikh Mohammed Azzam al-Khatib al-Tamimi, and the Head of the Awquaf Council, Sheikh Abdel Azim Salhab, for the welcome they have extended to me on your behalf. I am deeply grateful for the invitation to visit this sacred place, and I willingly pay my respects to you and the leaders of the Islamic community in Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock draws our hearts and minds to reflect upon the mystery of creation and the faith of Abraham. Here the paths of the world's three great monotheistic religions meet, reminding us what they share in common. Each believes in One God, creator and ruler of all. Each recognizes Abraham as a forefather, a man of faith upon whom God bestowed a special blessing. Each has gained a large following throughout the centuries and inspired a rich spiritual, intellectual and cultural patrimony.

In a world sadly torn by divisions, this sacred place serves as a stimulus, and also challenges men and women of goodwill to work to overcome misunderstandings and conflicts of the past and to set out on the path of a sincere dialogue aimed at building a world of justice and peace for coming generations.

Since the teachings of religious traditions ultimately concern the reality of God, the meaning of life, and the common destiny of mankind -- that is to say, all that is most sacred and dear to us -- there may be a temptation to engage in such dialogue with reluctance or ambivalence about its possibilities for success. Yet we can begin with the belief that the One God is the infinite source of justice and mercy, since in him the two exist in perfect unity. Those who confess his name are entrusted with the task of striving tirelessly for righteousness while imitating his forgiveness, for both are intrinsically oriented to the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the human family.

For this reason, it is paramount that those who adore the One God should show themselves to be both grounded in and directed towards the unity of the entire human family. In other words, fidelity to the One God, the Creator, the Most High, leads to the recognition that human beings are fundamentally interrelated, since all owe their very existence to a single source and are pointed towards a common goal. Imprinted with the indelible image of the divine, they are called to play an active role in mending divisions and promoting human solidarity.

This places a grave responsibility upon us. Those who honor the One God believe that he will hold human beings accountable for their actions. Christians assert that the divine gifts of reason and freedom stand at the basis of this accountability. Reason opens the mind to grasp the shared nature and common destiny of the human family, while freedom moves the heart to accept the other and serve him in charity. Undivided love for the One God and charity towards ones neighbor thus become the fulcrum around which all else turns. This is why we work untiringly to safeguard human hearts from hatred, anger or vengeance.

Dear friends, I have come to Jerusalem on a journey of faith. I thank God for this occasion to meet you as the Bishop of Rome and Successor of the Apostle Peter, but also as a child of Abraham, by whom "all the families of the earth find blessing" (Gen 12:3; cf. Rom 4:16-17). I assure you of the Church's ardent desire to cooperate for the well-being of the human family. She firmly believes that the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham is universal in scope, embracing all men and women regardless of provenance or social status. As Muslims and Christians further the respectful dialogue they have already begun, I pray that they will explore how the Oneness of God is inextricably tied to the unity of the human family. In submitting to his loving plan for creation, in studying the law inscribed in the cosmos and implanted in the human heart, in reflecting upon the mysterious gift of God's self-revelation, may all his followers continue to keep their gaze fixed on his absolute goodness, never losing sight of the way it is reflected in the faces of others.

With these thoughts, I humbly ask the Almighty to grant you peace and to bless all the beloved people of this region. May we strive to live in a spirit of harmony and cooperation, bearing witness to the One God by generously serving one another. Thank you!

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Prayer Placed by Pope in Jerusalem's Wailing Wall

"Send Your Peace Upon This Holy Land, Upon the Middle East"

JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 - Here is the text of the prayer Benedict XVI placed in one of the cracks of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem today.

* * *

God of all the ages,

on my visit to Jerusalem, the "City of Peace",

spiritual home to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike,

I bring before you the joys, the hopes and the aspirations,

the trials, the suffering and the pain of all your people throughout the world.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,

hear the cry of the afflicted, the fearful, the bereft;

send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East,

upon the entire human family;

stir the hearts of all who call upon your name,

to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion.

"The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul that seeks him" (Lam 3:25)!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Visit to the Grand Rabbinate

"Our Two Communities Are Challenged to Engage People of Good Will at the Level of Reason"

JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's address during a courtesy visit today to the "Hechal Shlomo" center, seat of the Grand Rabbinate, after he visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

* * *

Distinguished Rabbis,

Dear Friends,

I am grateful for the invitation to visit Heichal Shlomo and to meet with you during this trip of mine to the Holy Land as Bishop of Rome. I thank Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger for their warm words of welcome and the desire they have expressed to continue strengthening the bonds of friendship which the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate have labored so diligently to forge over the past decades. Your visits to the Vatican in 2003 and 2005 are a sign of the good will which characterizes our developing relations.

Distinguished Rabbis, I reciprocate by expressing my own respect and esteem for you and your communities. I assure you of my desire to deepen mutual understanding and cooperation between the Holy See, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Jewish people throughout the world.

A great source of satisfaction for me since the beginning of my pontificate has been the fruit yielded by the ongoing dialogue between the Delegation of the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel's Delegation for Relations with the Catholic Church. I wish to thank the members of both delegations for their dedication and hard work in implementing this initiative, so earnestly desired by my esteemed predecessor Pope John Paul II, as he said during the Great Jubilee Year of 2000.

Our encounter today is a most fitting occasion to give thanks to the Almighty for the many blessings which have accompanied the dialogue conducted by the Bilateral Commission, and to look forward with expectation to its future sessions. The willingness of the delegates to discuss openly and patiently not only points of agreement, but also points of difference, has already paved the way to more effective collaboration in public life. Jews and Christians alike are concerned to ensure respect for the sacredness of human life, the centrality of the family, a sound education for the young, and the freedom of religion and conscience for a healthy society. These themes of dialogue represent only the initial phases of what we trust will be a steady, progressive journey towards an enhanced mutual understanding.

An indication of the potential of this series of meetings is readily seen in our shared concern in the face of moral relativism and the offences it spawns against the dignity of the human person. In approaching the most urgent ethical questions of our day, our two communities are challenged to engage people of good will at the level of reason, while simultaneously pointing to the religious foundations which best sustain lasting moral values. May the dialogue that has begun continue to generate ideas on how Christians and Jews can work together to heighten society's appreciation of the distinctive contribution of our religious and ethical traditions. Here in Israel, given that Christians constitute only a small portion of the total population, they particularly value opportunities for dialogue with their Jewish neighbors.

Trust is undeniably an essential element of effective dialogue. Today I have the opportunity to repeat that the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to the path chosen at the Second Vatican Council for a genuine and lasting reconciliation between Christians and Jews. As the Declaration Nostra Aetate makes clear, the Church continues to value the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews and desires an ever deeper mutual understanding and respect through biblical and theological studies as well as fraternal dialogues. May the seven Bilateral Commission meetings which have already taken place between the Holy See and the Chief Rabbinate stand as evidence! I am thus grateful for your reciprocal assurance that the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Chief Rabbinate will continue to grow in respect and understanding in the future.

My friends, I express again my deep appreciation for the welcome you have extended to me today. I am confident that our friendship will continue to set an example of trust in dialogue for Jews and Christians throughout the world. Looking at the accomplishments achieved thus far, and drawing our inspiration from the Holy Scriptures, we can confidently look forward to even stronger cooperation between our communities -- together with all people of good will -- in decrying hatred and oppression throughout the world. I pray that God, who searches our hearts and knows our thoughts (Ps 139:23), will continue to enlighten us with his wisdom, so that we may follow his commandments to love him with all our heart, soul and strength (cf. Dt 6:5), and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev 19:18). Thank you.

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Papal Address to Holy Land Ordinaries in Upper Room

"The Different Christian Churches Found Here Represent a Rich and Varied Spiritual Patrimony"

JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today in the Upper Room in Jerusalem to the Holy Land ordinaries, including the Latin patriarch, the bishops of the Churches of different rites in communion with Rome, and the custodian of the Holy Land.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

Dear Father Custos,

It is with great joy that I greet you, the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, in this Upper Room where according to tradition the Lord opened his heart to his chosen disciples and celebrated the Paschal Mystery, and where the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost inspired the early disciples to go forth and preach the good news. I thank Father Pizzaballa for the warm words of welcome which he has expressed to me on your behalf. You represent the Catholic communities of the Holy Land who, in their faith and devotion, are like lighted candles illuminating the holy places that were graced by the presence of Jesus our living Lord. This unique privilege gives you and your people a special place of affection in my heart as the Successor of Peter.

"When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn13:1). The Upper Room recalls the last supper of our Lord with Peter and the other apostles and invites the Church to prayerful contemplation. In this vein we gather together, the Successor of Peter with successors of the apostles, in this same place where Jesus revealed in the offering of his own body and blood, the new depths of the covenant of love established between God and his people. In the Upper Room the mystery of grace and salvation, of which we are recipients and also heralds and ministers, can be expressed only in terms of love. Because he has loved us first and continues to do so, we can respond with love (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 2). Our life as Christians is not simply a human effort to live the demands of the Gospel imposed upon us as duties. In the Eucharist we are drawn into the mystery of divine love. Our lives become a grateful, docile and active acceptance of the power of a love which is given to us. This transforming love, which is grace and truth (cf. Jn 1:17), prompts us, as individuals and communities, to overcome the temptation to turn in upon ourselves in selfishness or indolence, isolation, prejudice or fear, and to give ourselves generously to the Lord and to others. It moves us as Christian communities to be faithful to our mission with frankness and courage (cf. Acts 4:13). In the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his flock, in the Teacher who washes the feet of his disciples, you find, my dear brothers, the model of your own ministry in the service of our God who promotes love and communion.

The call to communion of mind and heart, so closely related to the commandment of love and to the central unifying role of the Eucharist in our lives, is of special relevance in the Holy Land. The different Christian Churches found here represent a rich and varied spiritual patrimony and are a sign of the multiple forms of interaction between the Gospel and different cultures. They also remind us that the mission of the Church is to preach the universal love of God and to gather, from far and near, all who are called by him, in such a way that, with their traditions and their talents, they form the one family of God. A new spiritual impulse towards communion in diversity within the Catholic Church and a new ecumenical awareness have marked our times, especially since the Second Vatican Council. The Spirit moves our hearts gently towards humility and peace, towards mutual acceptance, comprehension and cooperation. This inner disposition to unity under the prompting of the Holy Spirit is decisive if Christians are to fulfill their mission in the world (cf. Jn:17:21).

In the measure in which the gift of love is accepted and grows in the Church, the Christian presence in the Holy Land and in the neighboring regions will be vibrant. This presence is of vital importance for the good of society as a whole. The clear words of Jesus on the intimate bond between love of God and love of neighbor, on mercy and compassion, on meekness, peace and forgiveness, are a leaven capable of transforming hearts and shaping actions. Christians in the Middle East, together with other people of good will, are contributing, as loyal and responsible citizens, in spite of difficulties and restrictions, to the promotion and consolidation of a climate of peace in diversity. I wish to repeat to them what I stated in my 2006 Christmas message to Catholics in the Middle East: "I express with affection my personal closeness in this situation of human insecurity, daily suffering, fear and hope which you are living. I repeat to your communities the words of the Redeemer: 'Fear not little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom' (Lk 12:32)" (Christmas Message to Catholics living in the Middle East Region, 21 December 2006).

Dear Brother Bishops, count on my support and encouragement as you do all that is in your power to assist our Christian brothers and sisters to remain and prosper here in the land of their ancestors and to be messengers and promoters of peace. I appreciate your efforts to offer them, as mature and responsible citizens, spiritual sustenance, values and principles that assist them in playing their role in society. Through education, professional preparation and other social and economic initiatives their condition will be sustained and improved. For my part, I renew my appeal to our brothers and sisters worldwide to support and to remember in their prayers the Christian communities of the Holy Land and the Middle East. In this context I wish to express my appreciation for the service offered to the many pilgrims and visitors who come to the Holy Land seeking inspiration and renewal in the footsteps of Jesus. The Gospel story, contemplated in its historical and geographical setting, becomes vivid and colorful, and a clearer grasp of the significance of the Lord's words and deeds is obtained. Many memorable experiences of pilgrims to the Holy Land have been possible thanks also to the hospitality and fraternal guidance offered by you, especially by the Franciscan Friars of the Custody. For this service, I wish to assure you of the appreciation and gratitude of the Universal Church and I express the wish that many more pilgrims will visit in the future.

Dear brothers, as we address together our joyful prayer to Mary, Queen of Heaven, let us place confidently in her hands the well-being and spiritual renewal of all Christians in the Holy Land, so that, under the guidance of their Pastors, they may grow in faith, hope and love, and persevere in their mission as promoters of communion and peace.

 

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Pontiff's Words at Latin Patriarchate Co-Cathedral

I Give Thanks for "the Hidden Apostolate of the Contemplatives Who Are Present Here"

JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's greeting given today to some 300 people, including contemplative religious, at the Latin patriarchate's co-cathedral of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in Jerusalem.

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Your Beatitude, I thank you for your words of welcome. I also greet the Patriarch Emeritus and I assure you both of my fraternal good wishes and prayers.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I am happy to be here with you today in this Co-Cathedral, where the Christian community in Jerusalem continues to gather, as it has been doing for centuries, ever since the earliest days of the Church. Here in this city, Peter first preached the Good News of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost, when about three thousand souls were added to the number of the disciples. Here too the first Christians "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42). From Jerusalem, the Gospel has gone out "to all the earth ... to the ends of the world" (Ps 19:4), yet all the time, the Church's missionary effort has been sustained by the prayers of the faithful, gathered around the altar of the Lord, invoking the mighty power of the Holy Spirit upon the work of preaching.

Above all, it is the prayers of those whose vocation, in the words of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, is to be "love, deep down in the heart of the Church" (Letter to Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart) that sustains the work of evangelization. I want to express a particular word of appreciation for the hidden apostolate of the contemplatives who are present here, and to thank you for your generous dedication to lives of prayer and self-denial. I am especially grateful for the prayers you offer for my universal ministry, and I ask you to continue to commend to the Lord my work of service to God's people all over the world. In the words of the Psalmist, I ask you also to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Ps 122:6), to pray without ceasing for an end to the conflict that has brought so much suffering to the peoples of this land. And now, I give you my blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Latin Patriarch's Welcome Address to Benedict XVI

"You Stand Before a Small Flock that Is Shrinking"

JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the welcoming address the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, gave to Benedict XVI at the beginning of Mass in the Valley of Josaphat, in front of the basilica of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives.

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Holy Father,

The Church of Jerusalem fervently welcomes you to this city where Jesus Christ was welcomed by the crowd shouting "Hosanna in the Highest, Hosanna to the one who comes in the name of the Lord" (Mt. 21:9). Welcome to the city, where He obtained the victory over sin and death, and salvation for those who have faith in him. Here, with you, the Church takes loving care of and comes to pray at those places, where Our Lord carried out his awesome tasks of redemption. These sites are witnesses of the past and the truth of our present lives.

Just a few yards from here, Jesus said to his most favored disciples "Remain here, and watch with me" (Mt. 26:39). But these same disciples closed their eyes, not losing sleep over Jesus' agony, only a short distance away in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Holy Father, today, in many ways, the situation has not changed: around us, we have the agony of the Palestinian people, who dream of living in a free and independent Palestinian State, but have not found its realization; and the agony of the Israeli people, who dream of a normal life in peace and security and, despite all their military and mass media might, have not found its realization.

And the international community, just like Jesus' beloved disciples, stands apart, eyes drooping with indifference, unconcerned with the agony of the Holy Land, which has gone on for sixty-one years, and does not seriously rouse itself, to find a just solution. In this Valley of Jehoshaphat, a valley of tears, we raise our prayer for the realization of the dreams of these two peoples. We raise our prayer for Jerusalem, to be shared by the two peoples and three religions.

On this very Mount of Olives, Jesus wept in vain over Jerusalem, and continues to do so, with the disillusioned refugees, without any hope of return, with the widows of the victims of violence and the many families in this city, who every day see their homes demolished because, it is said, "they were built illegally," when the whole situation is illegal and still looking for a solution

Above where we stand now, Our Lord cried out: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children -- all your children, Jews, Christians and Muslim -- and you would not!" (Lk 13:34)

Dear Holy Father, we ask you to see and understand the lives of your poor children here, and to strengthen our faith and hope. Your visit brings the awareness and solidarity of the entire Church, and the attention of the world to this region, these peoples, their story, their struggles and hopes, their smiles and tears.

For one who suffers -- someone infirm, a refugee, a prisoner or one bearing the weight of injustice -- the greatest distress, is to think that he has been forgotten and that no one sees, knows or is moved by what he undergoes. Your visit today does much to comfort hearts and to say to all, that the God of compassion and those who believe in Him are not blind, have not forgotten and are not unmoved.

Your Holiness, you are the successor to St. Peter, charged by the Lord to "strengthen [his] brethren" in their faith. (Lk 22:32) This we entreat you then, and we cry out with the Apostles in the Gospel, "Increase our faith!" (Lk 17:25)

Holy Father, you stand before a small flock that is shrinking, that suffers from emigration, largely due to the effects of the unjust occupation and all its humiliation, violence and hatred. Yet we know that the faith is the victory that overcomes the world, (1 Jn 5:4) and that through it, we are able to see and recognize Jesus Christ in every person. With Jesus and in Jesus, we can enjoy here and now the peace that the world can neither give nor take out of our hearts. This peace means serenity, faith, a welcoming spirit and the joy of living and working in this Land.

Therefore we take advantage of your blessed presence among us to cry out with the suffering father in the Gospel who begged Jesus to free his son from long lasting torments "I do believe, help my unbelief."

Holy Father, as we welcome you as the successor to St. Peter, help our unbelief. Pray with us now to our Heavenly Father for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land; and to the Mother of Sorrows, who did not shirk from standing beneath the cross of her suffering son, that she help us have her same faith in God's loving providence, accepting all even before we understand.

Oh Lord, Strengthen our faith!

+ Fouad Twal, Patriarch

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Homily of Benedict XVI at the Mount of Olives

"In the Holy Land There Is Room for Everyone"

JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the homily Benedict XVI gave today during a Mass in the Valley of Josaphat in Jerusalem, in front of the basilica of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

"Christ is risen, alleluia!" With these words I greet you with immense affection. I thank Patriarch Fouad Twal for his words of welcome on your behalf, and before all else I express my joy at being able to celebrate this Eucharist with you, the Church in Jerusalem. We are gathered beneath the Mount of Olives, where our Lord prayed and suffered, where he wept for love of this City and the desire that it should know "the path to peace" (Lk 19:42), and whence he returned to the Father, giving his final earthly blessing to his disciples and to us. Today let us accept this blessing. He gives it in a special way to you, dear brothers and sisters, who stand in an unbroken line with those first disciples who encountered the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread, those who experienced the outpouring of the Spirit in the Upper Room and those who were converted by the preaching of Saint Peter and the other apostles. My greeting also goes to all those present, and in a special way to those faithful of the Holy Land who for various reasons were not able to be with us today.

As the Successor of Saint Peter, I have retraced his steps in order to proclaim the Risen Christ in your midst, to confirm you in the faith of your fathers, and to invoke upon you the consolation which is the gift of the Paraclete. Standing before you today, I wish to acknowledge the difficulties, the frustration, and the pain and suffering which so many of you have endured as a result of the conflicts which have afflicted these lands, and the bitter experiences of displacement which so many of your families have known and -- God forbid -- may yet know. I hope my presence here is a sign that you are not forgotten, that your persevering presence and witness are indeed precious in God's eyes and integral to the future of these lands. Precisely because of your deep roots in this land, your ancient and strong Christian culture, and your unwavering trust in God's promises, you, the Christians of the Holy Land, are called to serve not only as a beacon of faith to the universal Church, but also as a leaven of harmony, wisdom and equilibrium in the life of a society which has traditionally been, and continues to be, pluralistic, multiethnic and multireligious.

In today's second reading, the Apostle Paul tells the Colossians to "seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1). His words resound with particular force here, beneath the Garden of Gethsemani, where Jesus accepted the chalice of suffering in complete obedience to the Father's will, and where, according to tradition, he ascended to the right hand of the Father to make perpetual intercession for us, the members of his Body. Saint Paul, the great herald of Christian hope, knew the cost of that hope, its price in suffering and persecution for the sake of the Gospel, yet he never wavered in his conviction that Christ's resurrection was the beginning of a new creation. As he tells us: "When Christ, who is your life, is revealed, you too will be revealed with him in glory!" (Col 3:4).

Paul's exhortation to "set our minds on the things that are above" must constantly echo in our hearts. His words point us to the fulfillment of faith's vision in that heavenly Jerusalem where, in fidelity to the ancient prophecies, God will wipe away the tears from every eye, and prepare a banquet of salvation for all peoples (cf. Is 25:6-8; Rev 21:2-4).

This is the hope, this the vision, which inspires all who love this earthly Jerusalem to see her as a prophecy and promise of that universal reconciliation and peace which God desires for the whole human family. Sadly, beneath the walls of this same City, we are also led to consider how far our world is from the complete fulfillment of that prophecy and promise. In this Holy City where life conquered death, where the Spirit was poured out as the first-fruits of the new creation, hope continues to battle despair, frustration and cynicism, while the peace which is God's gift and call continues to be threatened by selfishness, conflict, division and the burden of past wrongs. For this reason, the Christian community in this City which beheld the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit must hold fast all the more to the hope bestowed by the Gospel, cherishing the pledge of Christ's definitive victory over sin and death, bearing witness to the power of forgiveness, and showing forth the Church's deepest nature as the sign and sacrament of a humanity reconciled, renewed and made one in Christ, the new Adam.

Gathered beneath the walls of this city, sacred to the followers of three great religions, how can we not turn our thoughts to Jerusalem's universal vocation? Heralded by the prophets, this vocation also emerges as an indisputable fact, a reality irrevocably grounded in the complex history of this city and its people. Jews, Muslims and Christians alike call this city their spiritual home. How much needs to be done to make it truly a "city of peace" for all peoples, where all can come in pilgrimage in search of God, and hear his voice, "a voice which speaks of peace" (cf. Ps 85:8)!

Jerusalem, in fact, has always been a city whose streets echo with different languages, whose stones are trod by people of every race and tongue, whose walls are a symbol of God's provident care for the whole human family. As a microcosm of our globalized world, this City, if it is to live up to its universal vocation, must be a place which teaches universality, respect for others, dialogue and mutual understanding; a place where prejudice, ignorance and the fear which fuels them, are overcome by honesty, integrity and the pursuit of peace. There should be no place within these walls for narrowness, discrimination, violence and injustice. Believers in a God of mercy -- whether they identify themselves as Jews, Christians or Muslims -- must be the first to promote this culture of reconciliation and peace, however painstakingly slow the process may be, and however burdensome the weight of past memories.

Here I would like to speak directly to the tragic reality -- which cannot fail to be a source of concern to all who love this City and this land -- of the departure of so many members of the Christian community in recent years. While understandable reasons lead many, especially the young, to emigrate, this decision brings in its wake a great cultural and spiritual impoverishment to the City. Today I wish to repeat what I have said on other occasions: in the Holy Land there is room for everyone! As I urge the authorities to respect, to support and to value the Christian presence here, I also wish to assure you of the solidarity, love and support of the whole Church and of the Holy See.

Dear friends, in the Gospel we have just heard, Saint Peter and Saint John run to the empty tomb, and John, we are told, "saw and believed" (Jn 20:8). Here in the Holy Land, with the eyes of faith, you, together with the pilgrims from throughout the world who throng its churches and shrines, are blessed to "see" the places hallowed by Christ's presence, his earthly ministry, his passion, death and resurrection, and the gift of his Holy Spirit. Here, like the Apostle Saint Thomas, you are granted the opportunity to "touch" the historical realities which underlie our confession of faith in the Son of God. My prayer for you today is that you continue, day by day, to "see and believe" in the signs of God's providence and unfailing mercy, to "hear" with renewed faith and hope the consoling words of the apostolic preaching, and to "touch" the sources of grace in the sacraments, and to incarnate for others their pledge of new beginnings, the freedom born of forgiveness, the interior light and peace which can bring healing and hope to even the darkest of human realities.

In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, pilgrims in every century have venerated the stone which tradition tells us stood before the entrance to the tomb on the morning of Christ's resurrection. Let us return frequently to that empty tomb. There let us reaffirm our faith in the victory of life, and pray that every "heavy stone" that stands before the door of our hearts, blocking our complete surrender to the Lord in faith, hope and love, may be shattered by the power of the light and life which shone forth from Jerusalem to all the world that first Easter morn. Christ is risen, alleluia! He is truly risen, alleluia!

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Pope's Farewell Address to Palestinian Authority

"It Is Necessary to Remove the Walls That We Build Around our Hearts"

BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009 - Here is the text of the farewell address Benedict XVI gave today at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, in the presence of the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

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Mr. President,

Dear Friends,

I thank you for the great kindness you have shown me throughout this day that I have spent in your company, here in the Palestinian Territories. I am grateful to the President, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, for his hospitality and his gracious words. It was deeply moving for me to listen also to the testimonies of the residents who have spoken to us about the conditions of life here on the West Bank and in Gaza. I assure all of you that I hold you in my heart and I long to see peace and reconciliation throughout these tormented lands.

It has truly been a most memorable day. Since arriving in Bethlehem this morning, I have had the joy of celebrating Mass together with a great multitude of the faithful in the place where Jesus Christ, light of the nations and hope of the world, was born. I have seen the care taken of today's infants in the Caritas Baby Hospital. With anguish, I have witnessed the situation of refugees who, like the Holy Family, have had to flee their homes. And I have seen, adjoining the camp and overshadowing much of Bethlehem, the wall that intrudes into your territories, separating neighbors and dividing families.

Although walls can easily be built, we all know that they do not last forever. They can be taken down. First, though, it is necessary to remove the walls that we build around our hearts, the barriers that we set up against our neighbors. That is why, in my parting words, I want to make a renewed plea for openness and generosity of spirit, for an end to intolerance and exclusion. No matter how intractable and deeply entrenched a conflict may appear to be, there are always grounds to hope that it can be resolved, that the patient and persevering efforts of those who work for peace and reconciliation will bear fruit in the end. My earnest wish for you, the people of Palestine, is that this will happen soon, and that you will at last be able to enjoy the peace, freedom and stability that have eluded you for so long.

Be assured that I will continue to take every opportunity to urge those involved in peace negotiations to work towards a just solution that respects the legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike. As an important step in this direction, the Holy See looks forward to establishing shortly, in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority, the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission that was envisioned in the Basic Agreement, signed in the Vatican on 15 February 2000 (cf. Basic Agreement between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization, art. 9).

Mr. President, dear friends, I thank you once again and I commend all of you to the protection of the Almighty. May God look down in love upon each one of you, upon your families and all who are dear to you. And may he bless the Palestinian people with peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address at Aida Refugee Camp

"I Renew My Plea for a Profound Commitment to Cultivate Peace and Non-Violence"

BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's speech delivered today at the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, in the presence of the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

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Mr. President,

Dear Friends,

My visit to the Aida Refugee Camp this afternoon gives me a welcome opportunity to express my solidarity with all the homeless Palestinians who long to be able to return to their birthplace, or to live permanently in a homeland of their own. Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind greeting. And thank you also, Mrs. Abu Zayd, and our other speakers. To all the officials of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency who care for the refugees, I express the appreciation felt by countless men and women all over the world for the work that is done here and in other camps throughout the region.

I extend a particular greeting to the pupils and teachers in the school. By your commitment to education you are expressing hope in the future. To all the young people here, I say: renew your efforts to prepare for the time when you will be responsible for the affairs of the Palestinian people in years to come. Parents have a most important role here, and to all the families present in this camp I say: be sure to support your children in their studies and to nurture their gifts, so that there will be no shortage of well-qualified personnel to occupy leadership positions in the Palestinian community in the future. I know that many of your families are divided -- through imprisonment of family members, or restrictions on freedom of movement -- and many of you have experienced bereavement in the course of the hostilities. My heart goes out to all who suffer in this way. Please be assured that all Palestinian refugees across the world, especially those who lost homes and loved ones during the recent conflict in Gaza, are constantly remembered in my prayers.

I wish to acknowledge the good work carried out by many Church agencies in caring for refugees here and in other parts of the Palestinian Territories. The Pontifical Mission for Palestine, founded some sixty years ago to coordinate Catholic humanitarian assistance for refugees, continues its much-needed work alongside other such organizations. In this camp, the presence of Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary calls to mind the charismatic figure of Saint Francis, that great apostle of peace and reconciliation. Indeed, I want to express my particular appreciation for the enormous contribution made by different members of the Franciscan family in caring for the people of these lands, making themselves "instruments of peace", in the time-honored phrase attributed to the Saint of Assisi.

Instruments of peace. How much the people of this camp, these Territories, and this entire region long for peace! In these days, that longing takes on a particular poignancy as you recall the events of May 1948 and the years of conflict, as yet unresolved, that followed from those events. You are now living in precarious and difficult conditions, with limited opportunities for employment. It is understandable that you often feel frustrated. Your legitimate aspirations for permanent homes, for an independent Palestinian State, remain unfulfilled. Instead you find yourselves trapped, as so many in this region and throughout the world are trapped, in a spiral of violence, of attack and counter-attack, retaliation, and continual destruction. The whole world is longing for this spiral to be broken, for peace to put an end to the constant fighting.

Towering over us, as we gather here this afternoon, is a stark reminder of the stalemate that relations between Israelis and Palestinians seem to have reached -- the wall. In a world where more and more borders are being opened up -- to trade, to travel, to movement of peoples, to cultural exchanges -- it is tragic to see walls still being erected. How we long to see the fruits of the much more difficult task of building peace! How earnestly we pray for an end to the hostilities that have caused this wall to be built!

On both sides of the wall, great courage is needed if fear and mistrust is to be overcome, if the urge to retaliate for loss or injury is to be resisted. It takes magnanimity to seek reconciliation after years of fighting. Yet history has shown that peace can only come when the parties to a conflict are willing to move beyond their grievances and work together towards common goals, each taking seriously the concerns and fears of the other, striving to build an atmosphere of trust. There has to be a willingness to take bold and imaginative initiatives towards reconciliation: if each insists on prior concessions from the other, the result can only be stalemate.

Humanitarian aid, of the kind provided in this camp, has an essential role to play, but the long-term solution to a conflict such as this can only be political. No one expects the Palestinian and Israeli peoples to arrive at it on their own. The support of the international community is vital, and hence I make a renewed appeal to all concerned to bring their influence to bear in favor of a just and lasting solution, respecting the legitimate demands of all parties and recognizing their right to live in peace and dignity, in accordance with international law. Yet at the same time, diplomatic efforts can only succeed if Palestinians and Israelis themselves are willing to break free from the cycle of aggression. I am reminded of those other beautiful words attributed to Saint Francis: "where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon ... where there is darkness, light, where there is sadness, joy."

To all of you I renew my plea for a profound commitment to cultivate peace and non-violence, following the example of Saint Francis and other great peacemakers. Peace has to begin in the home, in the family, in the heart. I continue to pray that all parties to the conflict in these lands will have the courage and imagination to pursue the challenging but indispensable path of reconciliation. May peace flourish once more in these lands! May God bless his people with peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pontiff's Address at Caritas Baby Hospital

"Innocent Children Deserve a Safe Haven"

BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today during his visit to the Caritas Baby Hospital in Bethlehem.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I affectionately greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ "who died, was raised from the dead, and now sits at the right hand of God to intercede for us" (cf. Rom 8:34). May your faith in his Resurrection and his promise of new life through Baptism fill your hearts with joy in this Easter season!

I am grateful for the warm welcome extended to me on your behalf by Father Michael Schweiger, President of the Kinderhilfe Association, Mr. Ernesto Langensand, who is completing his term as Chief Administrator of the Caritas Baby Hospital, and Mother Erika Nobs, Superior of this local community of the Elizabettine Franciscan Sisters of Padua. I also cordially greet Archbishop Robert Zollitsch and Bishop Kurt Koch, representing respectively the German and Swiss Episcopal Conferences, which have advanced the mission of Caritas Baby Hospital by their generous financial assistance.

God has blessed me with this opportunity to express my appreciation to the administrators, physicians, nurses and staff of Caritas Baby Hospital for the invaluable service they have offered -- and continue to offer -- to children in the Bethlehem region and throughout Palestine for over fifty years. Father Ernst Schnydrig founded this facility upon the conviction that innocent children deserve a safe haven from all that can harm them in times and places of conflict. Thanks to the dedication of Children's Relief Bethlehem, this institution has remained a quiet oasis for the most vulnerable, and has shone as a beacon of hope that love can prevail over hatred and peace over violence.

To the young patients and the members of their families who benefit from your care, I wish simply to say: "the Pope is with you"! Today he is with you in person, but he spiritually accompanies you each and every day in his thoughts and prayers, asking the Almighty to watch over you with his tender care.

Father Schnydrig described this place as "one of the smaller bridges built for peace". Now, having grown from fourteen cots to eighty beds, and caring for the needs of thousands of children each year, this bridge is no longer small! It brings together people of different origins, languages and religions, in the name of the Reign of God, the Kingdom of Peace (cf. Rom 14:17). I heartily encourage you to persevere in your mission of showing charity to all the sick, the poor and the weak.

On this Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, I would like to conclude by invoking Mary's intercession as I impart my Apostolic Blessing to the children and all of you. Let us pray:

Mary, Health of the Sick, Refuge of Sinners, Mother of the Redeemer: we join the many generations who have called you "Blessed". Listen to your children as we call upon your name. You promised the three children of Fatima that "in the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph". May it be so! May love triumph over hatred, solidarity over division, and peace over every form of violence! May the love you bore your Son teach us to love God with all our heart, strength and soul. May the Almighty show us his mercy, strengthen us with his power, and fill us with every good thing (cf. Lk 1:46-56). We ask your Son Jesus to bless these children and all children who suffer throughout the world. May they receive health of body, strength of mind, and peace of soul. But most of all, may they know that they are loved with a love which knows no bounds or limits: the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding (cf. Eph 3:19). Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Greeting to Palestinian Authority President

"The Holy See Supports the Right of Your People to a Sovereign Palestinian Homeland"

BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Bethlehem, where he was greeted by the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

* * *

Mr. President,

Dear Friends,

I greet all of you from my heart, and I warmly thank the President, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, for his words of welcome. My pilgrimage to the lands of the Bible would not be complete without a visit to Bethlehem, the City of David and the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Nor could I come to the Holy Land without accepting the kind invitation of President Abbas to visit these Territories and to greet the Palestinian people. I know how much you have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades. My heart goes out to all the families who have been left homeless. This afternoon I will pay a visit to the Aida Refugee Camp, in order to express my solidarity with the people who have lost so much. To those among you who mourn the loss of family members and loved ones in the hostilities, particularly the recent conflict in Gaza, I offer an assurance of deep compassion and frequent remembrance in prayer. Indeed, I keep all of you in my daily prayers, and I earnestly beg the Almighty for peace, a just and lasting peace, in the Palestinian Territories and throughout the region.

Mr. President, the Holy See supports the right of your people to a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally recognized borders. Even if at present that goal seems far from being realized, I urge you and all your people to keep alive the flame of hope, hope that a way can be found of meeting the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for peace and stability. In the words of the late Pope John Paul II, there can be "no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness" (Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace). I plead with all the parties to this long-standing conflict to put aside whatever grievances and divisions still stand in the way of reconciliation, and to reach out with generosity and compassion to all alike, without discrimination. Just and peaceful coexistence among the peoples of the Middle East can only be achieved through a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, in which the rights and dignity of all are acknowledged and upheld. I ask all of you, I ask your leaders, to make a renewed commitment to work towards these goals. In particular I call on the international community to bring its influence to bear in favor of a solution. Believe and trust that through honest and persevering dialogue, with full respect for the demands of justice, lasting peace really can be attained in these lands.

It is my earnest hope that the serious concerns involving security in Israel and the Palestinian Territories will soon be allayed sufficiently to allow greater freedom of movement, especially with regard to contact between family members and access to the holy places. Palestinians, like any other people, have a natural right to marry, to raise families, and to have access to work, education and health care. I pray too that, with the assistance of the international community, reconstruction work can proceed swiftly wherever homes, schools or hospitals have been damaged or destroyed, especially during the recent fighting in Gaza. This is essential if the people of this land are to live in conditions conducive to lasting peace and prosperity. A stable infrastructure will provide your young people with better opportunities to acquire valuable skills and to seek gainful employment, enabling them to play their part in building up the life of your communities. I make this appeal to the many young people throughout the Palestinian Territories today: do not allow the loss of life and the destruction that you have witnessed to arouse bitterness or resentment in your hearts. Have the courage to resist any temptation you may feel to resort to acts of violence or terrorism. Instead, let what you have experienced renew your determination to build peace. Let it fill you with a deep desire to make a lasting contribution to the future of Palestine, so that it can take its rightful place on the world stage. Let it inspire in you sentiments of compassion for all who suffer, zeal for reconciliation, and a firm belief in the possibility of a brighter future.

Mr. President, dear friends gathered here in Bethlehem, I invoke upon all the Palestinian people the blessings and the protection of our heavenly Father, and I pray fervently that the song which the angels sang here in this place will be fulfilled: peace on earth, good will among men. Thank you. And may God be with you.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Homily in Bethlehem's Manger Square

"Build up Your Local Churches, Making Them Workshops of Dialogue, Tolerance and Hope"

BETHLEHEM, MAY 13, 2009 - Here is the text of the homily Benedict XVI gave today in a Mass celebrated in Manger Square, in front of the basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I thank Almighty God for giving me the grace to come to Bethlehem, not only to venerate the place of Christ's birth, but also to stand beside you, my brothers and sisters in the faith, in these Palestinian Territories. I am grateful to Patriarch Fouad Twal for the sentiments which he has expressed on your behalf, and I greet with affection my brother Bishops and all the priests, religious and lay faithful who labor daily to confirm this local Church in faith, hope and love. In a special way my heart goes out to the pilgrims from war-torn Gaza: I ask you to bring back to your families and your communities my warm embrace, and my sorrow for the loss, the hardship and the suffering you have had to endure. Please be assured of my solidarity with you in the immense work of rebuilding which now lies ahead, and my prayers that the embargo will soon be lifted.

"Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy ... today in the city of David a Savior is born for you" (Lk 2:10-11). The message of Christ's coming, brought from heaven by the voice of angels, continues to echo in this town, just as it echoes in families, homes and communities throughout the world. It is "good news", the angels say "for all the people". It proclaims that the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of David, has been born "for you": for you and me, and for men and women in every time and place. In God's plan, Bethlehem, "least among the clans of Judah" (Mic 5:2), has become a place of undying glory: the place where, in the fullness of time, God chose to become man, to end the long reign of sin and death, and to bring new and abundant life to a world which had grown old, weary and oppressed by hopelessness.

For men and women everywhere, Bethlehem is associated with this joyful message of rebirth, renewal, light and freedom. Yet here, in our midst, how far this magnificent promise seems from being realized! How distant seems that Kingdom of wide dominion and peace, security, justice and integrity which the Prophet Isaiah heralded in the first reading (cf. Is 9:7), and which we proclaim as definitively established in the coming of Jesus Christ, Messiah and King!

From the day of his birth, Jesus was "a sign of contradiction" (Lk 2:34), and he continues to be so, even today. The Lord of hosts, "whose origin is from old, from ancient days" (Mic 5:2), wished to inaugurate his Kingdom by being born in this little town, entering our world in the silence and humility of a cave, and lying, a helpless babe, in a manger. Here, in Bethlehem, amid every kind of contradiction, the stones continue to cry out this "good news", the message of redemption which this city, above all others, is called to proclaim to the world. For here, in a way which surpassed every human hope and expectation, God proved faithful to his promises. In the birth of his Son, he revealed the coming of a Kingdom of love: a divine love which stoops down in order to bring healing and lift us up; a love which is revealed in the humiliation and weakness of the Cross, yet triumphs in a glorious resurrection to new life. Christ brought a Kingdom which is not of this world, yet a Kingdom which is capable of changing this world, for it has the power to change hearts, to enlighten minds and to strengthen wills. By taking on our flesh, with all its weaknesses, and transfiguring it by the power of his Spirit, Jesus has called us to be witnesses of his victory over sin and death. And this is what the message of Bethlehem calls us to be: witnesses of the triumph of God's love over the hatred, selfishness, fear and resentment which cripple human relationships and create division where brothers should dwell in unity, destruction where men should be building, despair where hope should flourish!

"In hope we were saved", the Apostle Paul says (Rom 8:24). Yet he affirms with utter realism that creation continues to groan in travail, even as we, who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit, patiently await the fulfillment of our redemption (cf. Rom 8:22-24). In today's second reading, Paul draws a lesson from the Incarnation which is particularly applicable to the travail which you, God's chosen ones in Bethlehem, are experiencing: "God's grace has appeared", he tells us, "training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and to live, temperately, justly and devoutly in this age", as we await the coming of our blessed hope, the Savior Jesus Christ (Tit 2:11-13).

Are these not the virtues required of men and women who live in hope? First, the constant conversion to Christ which is reflected not only in our actions but also in our reasoning: the courage to abandon fruitless and sterile ways of thinking, acting and reacting. Then, the cultivation of a mindset of peace based on justice, on respect for the rights and duties of all, and commitment to cooperation for the common good. And also perseverance, perseverance in good and in the rejection of evil. Here in Bethlehem, a special perseverance is asked of Christ's disciples: perseverance in faithful witness to God's glory revealed here, in the birth of his Son, to the good news of his peace which came down from heaven to dwell upon the earth.

"Do not be afraid!" This is the message which the Successor of Saint Peter wishes to leave with you today, echoing the message of the angels and the charge which our beloved Pope John Paul II left with you in the year of the Great Jubilee of Christ's birth. Count on the prayers and solidarity of your brothers and sisters in the universal Church, and work, with concrete initiatives, to consolidate your presence and to offer new possibilities to those tempted to leave. Be a bridge of dialogue and constructive cooperation in the building of a culture of peace to replace the present stalemate of fear, aggression and frustration. Build up your local Churches, making them workshops of dialogue, tolerance and hope, as well as solidarity and practical charity.

Above all, be witnesses to the power of life, the new life brought by the Risen Christ, the life that can illumine and transform even the darkest and most hopeless of human situations. Your homeland needs not only new economic and community structures, but most importantly, we might say, a new "spiritual" infrastructure, capable of galvanizing the energies of all men and women of good will in the service of education, development and the promotion of the common good. You have the human resources to build the culture of peace and mutual respect which will guarantee a better future for your children. This noble enterprise awaits you. Do not be afraid!

The ancient Basilica of the Nativity, buffeted by the winds of history and the burden of the ages, stands before us as a witness to the faith which endures and triumphs over the world (cf. 1 Jn 5:4). No visitor to Bethlehem can fail to notice that in the course of the centuries the great door leading into the house of God has become progressively smaller. Today let us pray that, by God's grace and our commitment, the door leading into the mystery of God's dwelling among men, the temple of our communion in his love, and the foretaste of a world of eternal peace and joy, will open ever more fully to welcome, renew and transform every human heart. In this way, Bethlehem will continue to echo the message entrusted to the shepherds, to us, and to all mankind: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those whom he loves"! Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Words at Shrine of the Annunciation

"It Is Essential that You Should Be United Among Yourselves"

NAZARETH, MAY 14, 2009 - Here is the text of Benedict XVI's address delivered today at the Shrine of the Annunciation in Nazareth, after the celebration of Vespers with the bishops, priests, religious and ecclesial movements of Galilee.

* * *

Brother Bishops,

Father Custos,

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is profoundly moving for me to be present with you today in the very place where the Word of God was made flesh and came to dwell among us. How fitting that we should gather here to sing the Evening Prayer of the Church, giving praise and thanks to God for the marvels he has done for us! I thank Archbishop Sayah for his words of welcome and through him I greet all the members of the Maronite community here in the Holy Land. I greet the priests, religious, members of ecclesial movements and pastoral workers from all over Galilee. Once again I pay tribute to the care shown by the Friars of the Custody, over many centuries, in maintaining holy places such as this. I greet the Latin Patriarch Emeritus, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, who for more than twenty years presided over his flock in these lands. I greet the faithful of the Latin Patriarchate and their current Patriarch, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, as well as the members of the Greek-Melkite community, represented here by Archbishop Elias Chacour. And in this place where Jesus himself grew to maturity and learned the Hebrew tongue, I greet the Hebrew-speaking Christians, a reminder to us of the Jewish roots of our faith.

What happened here in Nazareth, far from the gaze of the world, was a singular act of God, a powerful intervention in history, through which a child was conceived who was to bring salvation to the whole world. The wonder of the Incarnation continues to challenge us to open up our understanding to the limitless possibilities of God's transforming power, of his love for us, his desire to be united with us. Here the eternally begotten Son of God became man, and so made it possible for us, his brothers and sisters, to share in his divine sonship. That downward movement of self-emptying love made possible the upward movement of exaltation in which we too are raised to share in the life of God himself (cf. Phil 2:6-11).

The Spirit who "came upon Mary" (cf. Lk 1:35) is the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of Creation (cf. Gen 1:2). We are reminded that the Incarnation was a new creative act. When our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary's virginal womb through the power of the Holy Spirit, God united himself with our created humanity, entering into a permanent new relationship with us and ushering in a new Creation. The narrative of the Annunciation illustrates God's extraordinary courtesy (cf. Mother Julian of Norwich, Revelations 77-79). He does not impose himself, he does not simply pre-determine the part that Mary will play in his plan for our salvation: he first seeks her consent. In the original Creation there was clearly no question of God seeking the consent of his creatures, but in this new Creation he does so. Mary stands in the place of all humanity. She speaks for us all when she responds to the angel's invitation. Saint Bernard describes how the whole court of heaven was waiting with eager anticipation for her word of consent that consummated the nuptial union between God and humanity. The attention of all the choirs of angels was riveted on this spot, where a dialogue took place that would launch a new and definitive chapter in world history. Mary said, "Let it be done to me according to your word." And the Word of God became flesh.

When we reflect on this joyful mystery, it gives us hope, the sure hope that God will continue to reach into our history, to act with creative power so as to achieve goals which by human reckoning seem impossible. It challenges us to open ourselves to the transforming action of the Creator Spirit who makes us new, makes us one with him, and fills us with his life. It invites us, with exquisite courtesy, to consent to his dwelling within us, to welcome the Word of God into our hearts, enabling us to respond to him in love and to reach out in love towards one another.

In the State of Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Christians form a minority of the population. Perhaps at times you feel that your voice counts for little. Many of your fellow Christians have emigrated, in the hope of finding greater security and better prospects elsewhere. Your situation calls to mind that of the young virgin Mary, who led a hidden life in Nazareth, with little by way of worldly wealth or influence. Yet to quote Mary's words in her great hymn of praise, the Magnificat, God has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, he has filled the hungry with good things. Draw strength from Mary's canticle, which very soon we will be singing in union with the whole Church throughout the world! Have the confidence to be faithful to Christ and to remain here in the land that he sanctified with his own presence! Like Mary, you have a part to play in God's plan for salvation, by bringing Christ forth into the world, by bearing witness to him and spreading his message of peace and unity. For this, it is essential that you should be united among yourselves, so that the Church in the Holy Land can be clearly recognized as "a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race" (Lumen Gentium, 1). Your unity in faith, hope and love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, enabling you to be effective instruments of God's peace, helping to build genuine reconciliation between the different peoples who recognize Abraham as their father in faith. For, as Mary joyfully proclaimed in her Magnificat, God is ever "mindful of his mercy, the mercy promised to our forefathers, to Abraham and his children for ever" (Lk 1:54-55).

Dear friends in Christ, be assured that I constantly remember you in my prayer, and I ask you to do the same for me. Let us turn now towards our heavenly Father, who in this place looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and let us sing his praises in union with the Blessed Virgin Mary, with all the choirs of angels and saints, and with the whole Church in every part of the world.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address at Nazareth Interreligious Meeting

"Peace Itself Is a Gift From God, Yet It Cannot Be Achieved Without Human Endeavor"

NAZARETH, MAY 14, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today in the auditorium of the Annunciation Shrine in Nazareth, during an interreligious meeting with leaders in Galilee, including Christians, Muslims, Jews and Druze.

* * *

Dear Friends,

Grateful for the words of welcome offered by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo and for your warm reception, I cordially greet the leaders of different communities present, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Druze and other religious peoples.

I feel particularly blessed to visit this city revered by Christians as the place where the Angel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. Here too Joseph, her betrothed, saw the Angel in a dream and was directed to name the child "Jesus". After the marvelous events surrounding his birth, the child was brought to this city by Joseph and Mary where he "grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him" (Lk 2:40).

The conviction that the world is a gift of God, and that God has entered the twists and turns of human history, is the perspective from which Christians view creation as having a reason and a purpose. Far from being the result of blind fate, the world has been willed by God and bespeaks his glorious splendor.

At the heart of all religious traditions is the conviction that peace itself is a gift from God, yet it cannot be achieved without human endeavor. Lasting peace flows from the recognition that the world is ultimately not our own, but rather the horizon within which we are invited to participate in God's love and cooperate in guiding the world and history under his inspiration. We cannot do whatever we please with the world; rather, we are called to conform our choices to the subtle yet nonetheless perceptible laws inscribed by the Creator upon the universe and pattern our actions after the divine goodness that pervades the created realm.

Galilee, a land known for its religious and ethnic diversity, is home to a people who know well the efforts required to live in harmonious coexistence. Our different religious traditions have a powerful potential to promote a culture of peace, especially through teaching and preaching the deeper spiritual values of our common humanity. By molding the hearts of the young, we mold the future of humanity itself. Christians readily join Jews, Muslims, Druze, and people of other religions in wishing to safeguard children from fanaticism and violence while preparing them to be builders of a better world.

My dear friends, I know that you accept cheerfully and with a greeting of peace the many pilgrims who flock to Galilee. I encourage you to continue exercising mutual respect as you work to ease tensions concerning places of worship, thus assuring a serene environment for prayer and reflection here and throughout Galilee. Representing different religious traditions, you share a desire to contribute to the betterment of society and thus testify to the religious and spiritual values that help sustain public life. I assure you that the Catholic Church is committed to join in this noble undertaking. In cooperation with men and women of good will, she will seek to ensure that the light of truth, peace and goodness continue to shine forth from Galilee and lead people across the globe to seek all that fosters the unity of the human family. God bless you all.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Homily on Nazareth's Mount of Precipice

"Children Have a Special Role to Play in the Growth of Their Parents in Holiness"

NAZARETH, MAY 14, 2009 - Here is the text of the homily Benedict XVI gave today on the Mount of Precipice in Nazareth, in a Mass that concluded the Year of the Family launched by the Catholic Church in the Holy Land.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"May the peace of the Risen Christ reign in your hearts, for as members of the one body you have been called to that peace!" (Col 3:15). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I greet all of you with affection in the Lord. I rejoice to have come to Nazareth, the place blessed by the mystery of the Annunciation, the place which witnessed the hidden years of Christ's growth in wisdom, age and grace (cf. Lk 2:52). I thank Archbishop Elias Chacour for his kind words of welcome, and I embrace with the sign of peace my brother Bishops, the priests and religious, and all the faithful of Galilee, who, in the diversity of their rites and traditions, give expression to the universality of Christ's Church. In a special way I wish to thank all those who have helped to make this celebration possible, particularly those involved in the planning and construction of this new theatre with its splendid panorama of the city.

Here in the home town of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we have gathered to mark the conclusion of the Year of the Family celebrated by the Church in the Holy Land. As a sign of hope for the future I will bless the first stone of an International Center for the Family to be built in Nazareth. Let us pray that the Center will promote strong family life in this region, offer support and assistance to families everywhere, and encourage them in their irreplaceable mission to society.

This stage of my pilgrimage, I am confident, will draw the whole Church's attention to this town of Nazareth. All of us need, as Pope Paul VI said here, to return to Nazareth, to contemplate ever anew the silence and love of the Holy Family, the model of all Christian family life. Here, in the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we come to appreciate even more fully the sacredness of the family, which in God's plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God's gift of new life. How much the men and women of our time need to reappropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilization of love!

In today's first reading, drawn from the book of Sirach (3:3-7, 14-17), the word of God presents the family as the first school of wisdom, a school which trains its members in the practice of those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfillment. In God's plan for the family, the love of husband and wife bears fruit in new life, and finds daily expression in the loving efforts of parents to ensure an integral human and spiritual formation for their children. In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end. Here we begin to glimpse something of the essential role of the family as the first building-block of a well-ordered and welcoming society. We also come to appreciate, within the wider community, the duty of the State to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossians, speaks instinctively of the family when he wishes to illustrate the virtues which build up the "one body" which is the Church. As "God's chosen ones, holy and beloved", we are called to live in harmony and peace with one another, showing above all forbearance and forgiveness, with love as the highest bond of perfection (cf. Col 3:12-14). Just as in the marriage covenant, the love of man and woman is raised by grace to become a sharing in, and an expression of, the love of Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32), so too the family, grounded in that love, is called to be a "domestic church", a place of faith, of prayer and of loving concern for the true and enduring good of each of its members.

As we reflect on these realities here, in the town of the Annunciation, our thoughts naturally turn to Mary, "full of grace", the mother of the Holy Family and our Mother. Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents. Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that "human ecology" (cf. Centesimus Annus, 39) which our world, and this land, so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.

Here too, we think of Saint Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household. From Joseph's strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one's word, integrity and hard work. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph!

Finally, in contemplating the Holy Family of Nazareth, we turn to the child Jesus, who in the home of Mary and Joseph grew in wisdom and understanding, until the day he began his public ministry. Here I would simply like to leave a particular thought with the young people here. The Second Vatican Council teaches that children have a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48). I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning. In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name (cf. Eph 3:14-15).

Dear friends, in the Opening Prayer of today's Mass we asked the Father to "help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love". Let us reaffirm here our commitment to be a leaven of respect and love in the world around us. This Mount of the Precipice reminds us, as it has generations of pilgrims, that our Lord's message was at times a source of contradiction and conflict with his hearers. Sadly, as the world knows, Nazareth has experienced tensions in recent years which have harmed relations between its Christian and Muslim communities. I urge people of good will in both communities to repair the damage that has been done, and in fidelity to our common belief in one God, the Father of the human family, to work to build bridges and find the way to a peaceful coexistence. Let everyone reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice, which kills men's souls before it kills their bodies!

Allow me to conclude with a word of gratitude and praise for all those who strive to bring God's love to the children of this town, and to educate new generations in the ways of peace. I think in a special way of the local Churches, particularly in their schools and charitable institutions, to break down walls and to be a seedbed of encounter, dialogue, reconciliation and solidarity. I encourage the dedicated priests, religious, catechists and teachers, together with parents and all concerned for the good of our children, to persevere in bearing witness to the Gospel, to be confident in the triumph of goodness and truth, and to trust that God will give growth to every initiative which aims at the extension of his Kingdom of holiness, solidarity, justice and peace. At the same time I acknowledge with gratitude the solidarity which so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world show towards the faithful of the Holy Land by supporting the praiseworthy programs and activities of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

"Let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38). May our Lady of the Annunciation, who courageously opened her heart to God's mysterious plan, and became the Mother of all believers, guide and sustain us by her prayers. May she obtain for us and our families the grace to open our ears to that word of the Lord which has the power to build us up (cf. Acts 20:32), to inspire courageous decisions, and to guide our feet into the path of peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pontiff's Farewell Address to the Holy Land

"This Land Is Indeed a Fertile Ground for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue"

TEL AVIV, MAY 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the farewell address Benedict XVI gave today at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion international airport, before boarding a plane to return to Rome.

* * *

Mr. President,

Mr. Prime Minister,

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I prepare to return to Rome, may I share with you some of the powerful impressions that my pilgrimage to the Holy Land has left with me. I had fruitful discussions with the civil authorities both in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories, and I witnessed the great efforts that both governments are making to secure people's well-being. I have met the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, and I rejoice to see the way that they work together in caring for the Lord's flock. I have also had the opportunity to meet the leaders of the various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities as well as the leaders of other religions in the Holy Land. This land is indeed a fertile ground for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, and I pray that the rich variety of religious witness in the region will bear fruit in a growing mutual understanding and respect.

Mr. President, you and I planted an olive tree at your residence on the day that I arrived in Israel. The olive tree, as you know, is an image used by Saint Paul to describe the very close relations between Christians and Jews. Paul describes in his Letter to the Romans how the Church of the Gentiles is like a wild olive shoot, grafted onto the cultivated olive tree which is the People of the Covenant (cf. 11:17-24). We are nourished from the same spiritual roots. We meet as brothers, brothers who at times in our history have had a tense relationship, but now are firmly committed to building bridges of lasting friendship.

The ceremony at the Presidential Palace was followed by one of the most solemn moments of my stay in Israel -- my visit to the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem to pay my respects to the victims of the Shoah. There I also met some of the survivors. Those deeply moving encounters brought back memories of my visit three years ago to the death camp at Auschwitz, where so many Jews -- mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, friends -- were brutally exterminated under a godless regime that propagated an ideology of anti-Semitism and hatred. That appalling chapter of history must never be forgotten or denied. On the contrary, those dark memories should strengthen our determination to draw closer to one another as branches of the same olive tree, nourished from the same roots and united in brotherly love.

Mr. President, I thank you for the warmth of your hospitality, which is greatly appreciated, and I wish to put on record that I came to visit this country as a friend of the Israelis, just as I am a friend of the Palestinian people. Friends enjoy spending time in one another's company, and they find it deeply distressing to see one another suffer. No friend of the Israelis and the Palestinians can fail to be saddened by the continuing tension between your two peoples. No friend can fail to weep at the suffering and loss of life that both peoples have endured over the last six decades. Allow me to make this appeal to all the people of these lands: No more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead let us break the vicious circle of violence. Let there be lasting peace based on justice, let there be genuine reconciliation and healing. Let it be universally recognized that the State of Israel has the right to exist, and to enjoy peace and security within internationally agreed borders. Let it be likewise acknowledged that the Palestinian people have a right to a sovereign independent homeland, to live with dignity and to travel freely. Let the two-state solution become a reality, not remain a dream. And let peace spread outwards from these lands, let them serve as a "light to the nations" (Is 42:6), bringing hope to the many other regions that are affected by conflict.

One of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was the wall. As I passed alongside it, I prayed for a future in which the peoples of the Holy Land can live together in peace and harmony without the need for such instruments of security and separation, but rather respecting and trusting one another, and renouncing all forms of violence and aggression. Mr. President, I know how hard it will be to achieve that goal. I know how difficult is your task, and that of the Palestinian Authority. But I assure you that my prayers and the prayers of Catholics across the world are with you as you continue your efforts to build a just and lasting peace in this region.

It remains only for me to express my heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed in so many ways to my visit. To the Government, the organizers, the volunteers, the media, to all who have provided hospitality to me and those accompanying me, I am deeply grateful. Please be assured that you are remembered with affection in my prayers. To all of you, I say: thank you, and may God be with you. Shalom!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Words at Armenian Patriarchal Church

Our Meeting Today "Is Another Step Along the Path Towards Unity"

JERUSALEM, MAY 15, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the Armenian patriarchal church of St. James in Jerusalem, in the presence of Patriarch Torkom II Manoukian.

* * *

Your Beatitude,

I greet you with fraternal affection in the Lord, and I offer prayerful good wishes for your health and your ministry. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit this Cathedral Church of Saint James in the heart of the ancient Armenian quarter of Jerusalem, and to meet the distinguished clergy of the Patriarchate, together with the members of the Armenian community of the Holy City.

Our meeting today, characterized by an atmosphere of cordiality and friendship, is another step along the path towards the unity which the Lord desires for all his disciples. In recent decades we have witnessed, by God's grace, a significant growth in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. I count it a great blessing to have met in this past year with the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and with the Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I. Their visits to the Holy See, and the moments of prayer which we shared, have strengthened us in fellowship and confirmed our commitment to the sacred cause of promoting Christian unity.

In a spirit of gratitude to the Lord, I wish also to express my appreciation of the unwavering commitment of the Armenian Apostolic Church to the continuing theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. This dialogue, sustained by prayer, has made progress in overcoming the burden of past misunderstandings, and offers much promise for the future. A particular sign of hope is the recent document on the nature and mission of the Church produced by the Mixed Commission and presented to the Churches for study and evaluation. Together let us entrust the work of the Mixed Commission once more to the Spirit of wisdom and truth, so that it can bear abundant fruit for the growth of Christian unity, and advance the spread of the Gospel among the men and women of our time.

From the first Christian centuries, the Armenian community in Jerusalem has had an illustrious history, marked not least by an extraordinary flourishing of monastic life and culture linked to the holy places and the liturgical traditions which developed around them. This venerable Cathedral Church, together with the Patriarchate and the various educational and cultural institutions attached to it, testifies to that long and distinguished history. I pray that your community will constantly draw new life from its rich traditions, and be confirmed in its witness to Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection (cf. Phil 3:10) in this Holy City. I likewise assure the families present, and particularly the children and young people, of a special remembrance in my prayers. Dear friends, I ask you in turn to pray with me that all the Christians of the Holy Land will work together with generosity and zeal in proclaiming the Gospel of our reconciliation in Christ, and the advent of his Kingdom of holiness, justice and peace.

Your Beatitude, I thank you once more for your gracious welcome, and I cordially invoke God's richest blessings upon you and upon all the clergy and faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Holy Land. May the joy and peace of the Risen Christ be always with you.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address at the Holy Sepulcher

"Here the History of Humanity Was Decisively Changed"

JERUSALEM, MAY 15, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today during a visit to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

* * *

Dear Friends in Christ,

The hymn of praise which we have just sung unites us with the angelic hosts and the Church of every time and place -- "the glorious company of the apostles, the noble fellowship of the prophets and the white-robed army of martyrs" -- as we give glory to God for the work of our redemption, accomplished in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Before this Holy Sepulchre, where the Lord "overcame the sting of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers", I greet all of you in the joy of the Easter season. I thank Patriarch Fouad Twal and the Custos, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, for their kind greeting. I likewise express my appreciation for the reception accorded me by the Hierarchs of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. I gratefully acknowledge the presence of representatives of the other Christian communities in the Holy Land. I greet Cardinal John Foley, Gran Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre and also the Knights and Ladies of the Order here present, with gratitude for their unfailing commitment to the support of the Church's mission in these lands made holy by the Lord's earthly presence.

Saint John's Gospel has left us an evocative account of the visit of Peter and the Beloved Disciple to the empty tomb on Easter morning. Today, at a distance of some twenty centuries, Peter's Successor, the Bishop of Rome, stands before that same empty tomb and contemplates the mystery of the Resurrection. Following in the footsteps of the Apostle, I wish to proclaim anew, to the men and women of our time, the Church's firm faith that Jesus Christ "was crucified, died and was buried", and that "on the third day he rose from the dead". Exalted at the right hand of the Father, he has sent us his Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. Apart from him, whom God has made Lord and Christ, "there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Standing in this holy place, and pondering that wondrous event, how can we not be "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37), like those who first heard Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost? Here Christ died and rose, never to die again. Here the history of humanity was decisively changed. The long reign of sin and death was shattered by the triumph of obedience and life; the wood of the Cross lay bare the truth about good and evil; God's judgment was passed on this world and the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon humanity. Here Christ, the new Adam, taught us that evil never has the last word, that love is stronger than death, that our future, and the future of all humanity, lies in the hands of a faithful and provident God.

The empty tomb speaks to us of hope, the hope that does not disappoint because it is the gift of the Spirit of life (cf. Rom 5:5). This is the message that I wish to leave with you today, at the conclusion of my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. May hope rise up ever anew, by God's grace, in the hearts of all the people dwelling in these lands! May it take root in your hearts, abide in your families and communities, and inspire in each of you an ever more faithful witness to the Prince of Peace! The Church in the Holy Land, which has so often experienced the dark mystery of Golgotha, must never cease to be an intrepid herald of the luminous message of hope which this empty tomb proclaims. The Gospel reassures us that God can make all things new, that history need not be repeated, that memories can be healed, that the bitter fruits of recrimination and hostility can be overcome, and that a future of justice, peace, prosperity and cooperation can arise for every man and woman, for the whole human family, and in a special way for the people who dwell in this land so dear to the heart of the Saviour.

This ancient Memorial of the Anástasis bears mute witness both to the burden of our past, with its failings, misunderstandings and conflicts, and to the glorious promise which continues to radiate from Christ's empty tomb. This holy place, where God's power was revealed in weakness, and human sufferings were transfigured by divine glory, invites us to look once again with the eyes of faith upon the face of the crucified and risen Lord. Contemplating his glorified flesh, completely transfigured by the Spirit, may we come to realize more fully that even now, through Baptism, "we bear in our bodies the death of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our own mortal flesh" (2 Cor 4:10-11). Even now, the grace of the resurrection is at work within us! May our contemplation of this mystery spur our efforts, both as individuals and as members of the ecclesial community, to grow in the life of the Spirit through conversion, penance and prayer. May it help us to overcome, by the power of that same Spirit, every conflict and tension born of the flesh, and to remove every obstacle, both within and without, standing in the way of our common witness to Christ and the reconciling power of his love.

With these words of encouragement, dear friends, I conclude my pilgrimage to the holy places of our redemption and rebirth in Christ. I pray that the Church in the Holy Land will always draw new strength from its contemplation of the empty tomb of the Savior. In that tomb it is called to bury all its anxieties and fears, in order to rise again each day and continue its journey through the streets of Jerusalem, Galilee and beyond, proclaiming the triumph of Christ's forgiveness and the promise of new life. As Christians, we know that the peace for which this strife-torn land yearns has a name: Jesus Christ. "He is our peace", who reconciled us to God in one body through the Cross, bringing an end to hostility (cf. Eph 2:14). Into his hands, then, let us entrust all our hope for the future, just as in the hour of darkness he entrusted his spirit into the Father's hands.

Allow me to conclude with a special word of fraternal encouragement to my brother Bishops and priests, and to the men and women religious who serve the beloved Church in the Holy Land. Here, before the empty tomb, at the very heart of the Church, I invite you to rekindle the enthusiasm of your consecration to Christ and your commitment to loving service of his mystical Body. Yours is the immense privilege of bearing witness to Christ in this, the land which he sanctified by his earthly presence and ministry. In pastoral charity enable your brothers and sisters, and all the inhabitants of this land, to feel the healing presence and the reconciling love of the Risen One. Jesus asks each of us to be a witness of unity and peace to all those who live in this City of Peace. As the new Adam, Christ is the source of the unity to which the whole human family is called, that unity of which the Church is the sign and sacrament. As the Lamb of God, he is the source of that reconciliation which is both God's gift and a sacred task enjoined upon us. As the Prince of Peace, he is the source of that peace which transcends all understanding, the peace of the new Jerusalem. May he sustain you in your trials, comfort you in your afflictions, and confirm you in your efforts to proclaim and extend his Kingdom. To all of you, and to those whom you serve, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of Easter joy and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address at Ecumenical Meeting

"Bear United Witness to the Love of the Father"

JERUSALEM, MAY 15, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today in an ecumenical meeting at the Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Jerusalem.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with profound gratitude and joy that I make this visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; a moment to which I have much looked forward. I thank His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III for his kind words of fraternal greeting, which I warmly reciprocate. I also express to all of you my heartfelt gratitude for providing me with this opportunity to meet once again the many leaders of Churches and ecclesial communities present.

This morning I am mindful of the historic meetings that have taken place here in Jerusalem between my predecessor Pope Paul VI and the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I, and also between Pope John Paul II and His Beatitude Patriarch Diodoros. These encounters, including my visit today, are of great symbolic significance. They recall that the light of the East (cf. Is 60:1; Rev 21:10) has illumined the entire world from the very moment when a "rising sun" came to visit us (Lk 1:78) and they remind us too that from here the Gospel was preached to all nations.

Standing in this hallowed place, alongside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which marks the site where our crucified Lord rose from the dead for all humanity, and near the cenacle, where on the day of Pentecost "they were all together in one place" (Acts 2:1), who could not feel impelled to bring the fullness of goodwill, sound scholarship and spiritual desire to our ecumenical endeavors? I pray that our gathering today will give new impetus to the work of theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches, adding to the recent fruits of study documents and other joint initiatives.

Of particular joy for our Churches has been the participation of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome dedicated to the theme: The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. The warm welcome he received and his moving intervention were sincere expressions of the deep spiritual joy that arises from the extent to which communion is already present between our Churches. Such ecumenical experience bears clear witness to the link between the unity of the Church and her mission. Extending his arms on the Cross, Jesus revealed the fullness of his desire to draw all people to himself, uniting them together as one (cf. Jn 12:32). Breathing his Spirit upon us he revealed his power to enable us to participate in his mission of reconciliation (cf. Jn 19:30; 20:22-23). In that breath, through the redemption that unites, stands our mission! Little wonder, then, that it is precisely in our burning desire to bring Christ to others, to make known his message of reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor 5:19), that we experience the shame of our division. Yet, sent out into the world (cf. Jn 20:21), empowered by the unifying force of the Holy Spirit (ibid. v. 22), proclaiming the reconciliation that draws all to believe that Jesus is the Son of God (ibid. v. 31), we shall find the strength to redouble our efforts to perfect our communion, to make it complete, to bear united witness to the love of the Father who sends the Son so that the world may know his love for us (cf. Jn 17:23).

Some two thousand years ago, along these same streets, a group of Greeks put this request to Philip: "Sir, we should like to see Jesus" (Jn 12:21). It is a request made again of us today, here in Jerusalem, in the Holy Land, in the region and throughout the world. How do we respond? Is our response heard? Saint Paul alerts us to the gravity of our response: our mission to teach and preach. He says: "faith comes from hearing, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ" (Rm 10:17). It is imperative therefore that Christian leaders and their communities bear vibrant testimony to what our faith proclaims: the eternal Word, who entered space and time in this land, Jesus of Nazareth, who walked these streets, through his words and actions calls people of every age to his life of truth and love.

Dear friends, while encouraging you to proclaim joyfully the Risen Lord, I wish also to recognize the work to this end of the Heads of Christian communities, who meet together regularly in this city. It seems to me that the greatest service the Christians of Jerusalem can offer their fellow citizens is the upbringing and education of a further generation of well-formed and committed Christians, earnest in their desire to contribute generously to the religious and civic life of this unique and holy city. The fundamental priority of every Christian leader is the nurturing of the faith of the individuals and families entrusted to his pastoral care. This common pastoral concern will ensure that your regular meetings are marked by the wisdom and fraternal charity necessary to support one another and to engage with both the joys and the particular difficulties which mark the lives of your people. I pray that the aspirations of the Christians of Jerusalem will be understood as being concordant with the aspirations of all its inhabitants, whatever their religion: a life of religious freedom and peaceful coexistence and -- for young people in particular -- unimpeded access to education and employment, the prospect of suitable housing and family residency, and the chance to benefit from and contribute to economic stability.

Your Beatitude, I thank you again for your kindness in inviting me here, together with the other guests. Upon each of you and the communities you represent, I invoke an abundance of God's blessings of fortitude and wisdom! May you all be strengthened by the hope of Christ which does not disappoint!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Words on Return From Holy Land Trip

"I Came as a Pilgrim and I Hope That Many Will Follow"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s remarks to the reporters that accompanied him on his return flight from the Holy Land to Rome on Friday.

* * *

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your work. I imagine that it was difficult, with all the problems, traveling, etc., and I would like to thank you for having accepted all these difficulties to inform the world about this pilgrimage, inviting others on the pilgrimage in this way.

I already gave a brief summary of this trip in the speech at the airport; I do not want to add much. I could give many, many details: the moving descent to the lowest place in the region in Jordan, which for us is also a symbol of God’s descent, the descent of Christ into the deepest points of human existence.

The Cenacle, where the Lord gave us the Eucharist, where the Pentecost occurred, the descent of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Sepulcher, so many other impressions, but I do not think that this is the moment to [go into these details].

Perhaps there are three fundamental impressions: The first is that I found everywhere, in all the environments -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish -- a decisive will for interreligious dialogue, to meeting and cooperation between the religions.

And it is important that everyone see this not only as an action -- let us say -- with political motivations in the given situation, but as a fruit of the nucleus of faith itself, because believing in one God who created all of us, Father of all of us, believing in this God that created humanity as one family, believing that this God is love and wants love to the be dominating force in the world, implies this coming together, this necessity of meeting, of dialogue, of cooperation as a requirement of the faith itself.

Second point: I also found a very encouraging ecumenical climate. We had many very cordial meetings with the Orthodox world; I was also able to speak with a representative of the Anglican Church and two Lutheran representatives, and to see that precisely this climate of the Holy Land also encourages ecumenism.

And the third point: There are very great difficulties -- we know it, we saw and felt it. The difficulties are more visible and we must not hide the difficulties: They exist, they must be cleared up. But the common desire for peace, of fraternity, is not as visible, and it seems to me that we must also speak about this, encourage everyone in this desire to find the certainly not so easy solutions to these difficulties.

I came as a pilgrim of peace. Pilgrimages are an essential element in many religions, so much a part of Islam, of the Jewish religion and of Christianity. It is also an image of our existence, which is a journey forward, toward God and thus toward the communion of humanity.

I came as a pilgrim and I hope that many will follow these paths and in this way encourage the unity of the peoples of this Holy Land and become messengers of peace. Thank you!

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On the Holy Land

"Symbol of God’s Love for His People and for the Whole of Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to those gathered in St. Peter's Square for the praying of the midday Regina Caeli.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

I returned from the Holy Land [on Friday]. I plan to speak to you about this pilgrimage at greater length during the general audience on Wednesday. Now, I would like to thank the Lord, above all, who granted me the possibility of completing this very important apostolic voyage. I also thank all of those who offered their assistance: the Latin patriarch and the pastors of the Church in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories; the Franciscans of the Holy Land Custody, the civil officials of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories; the organizers and the security forces. I thank the priests, religious and faithful who welcomed me with such affection and those who accompanied and supported me with their prayers. Thanks to all from the depths of my heart!

This pilgrimage to the holy places was also a pastoral visit to the faithful who live there, a service to Christian unity, to dialogue with the Jews and Muslims, and to the building up of peace. The Holy Land, symbol of God’s love for his people and for the whole of humanity, is also a symbol of the freedom and the peace that God wants for all his children. In fact, however, the history of yesterday and today shows that precisely that Land has become the symbol of the opposite, that is, of divisions and interminable conflicts between brothers. How is this possible? It is right that such a question should enter our hearts, since we know that God has a mysterious plan for that Land where -- as St. John writes -- God "sent his son as a victim for the expiation of our sins (1 John 4:10). The Holy Land has been called a "fifth Gospel," because here we see, indeed touch, the reality of the history that God realized together with men -- beginning with the places of Abraham’s life to the places of Jesus’ life, from the incarnation to the empty tomb, sign of his resurrection. Yes, God came to this land, he acted with us in this world. But here we can say still more: the Holy Land, because of its very history, can be considered a microcosm that recapitulates in itself God’s arduous journey with humanity. A journey that implicates even the cross with sin, but -- with the abundance of divine love -- the joy of the Holy Spirit too, the resurrection already begun, and it is the journey, through the valley of our suffering, to the Kingdom of God, the kingdom that is not of this world, but that lives in this world and must penetrate it with its power of justice and peace.

Salvation history begins with the election of one man, Abraham, and of people, Israel, but its aim is universality, the salvation of all nations. Salvation history is always marked by this intersection of particularity and universality. We see this nexus well in the first reading of today’s liturgy: St. Peter seeing the faith of the pagans in Cornelius’ household and their desire for God says: "Truly I am beginning to see that God does not distinguish between persons, but welcomes those who, from whatever nation, fear him and practice justice" (Acts (10:34-35). Learn to fear God and practice justice and in this way you will open the world to the Kingdom of God: this is the deeper purpose of every interreligious dialogue.

I cannot conclude this Marian prayer without turning my thoughts to Sri Lanka, to assure those civilians who find themselves in the combat zone in the northern part of the country of my affection and spiritual nearness. There are thousands of children, women, and elderly there from whom the war has taken away years of life and hope. In this respect, I would like once again to address an urgent invitation to the opposing sides to facilitate the evacuation [of the civilians] and join my voice to that of the United Nations’ Security Council which just some days ago asked for guarantees of their safety and security. Furthermore, I ask the humanitarian organizations, including Catholic ones, to do all they can to meet the refugees urgent food and medical needs. I entrust that dear country to the maternal protection of Holy Virgin of Madhu, loved and venerated by all Sri Lankans, and I lift up my prayers to the Lord that he will hasten the day of reconciliation and peace.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this "Regina Caeli" prayer. In today’s Gospel Jesus invites his disciples to remain in his love by their love for one another. These words of the Risen Lord have a special resonance for me as I reflect on my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I ask all of you to join me in praying that the Christians of the Middle East will be strengthened in their witness to Christ’s victory and to the reconciling power of his love. Through the prayers of Mary, Queen of Peace, may the Christians of the Holy Land, in cooperation with their Jewish and Muslim neighbours, and all people of good will, work in harmony to build a future of justice and peace in those lands. Upon them, and upon all of you, I invoke an abundance of Easter joy in Christ our Saviour.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address to Italian Earthquake Victims
"I Would Like to Embrace You One by One With Affection"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on April 28, when he visited L'Aquila and the surrounding regions of Abruzzo, Italy, which had been hit by an earthquake April 6.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I have come in person to your splendid, damaged region, that is living through days of great sorrow and precariousness, in order to express my heartfelt sympathy to you in the most direct way possible.

I have been beside you from the first moment ever since I learned the news of the violent earthquake which, in the night of 6 April last, took a toll of almost 300 victims, injuring many and causing extensive material damage to your homes. I followed the news with apprehension, sharing your dismay and your tears for the dead, together with your anxiety over all that you lost in an instant.

I am now here among you: I would like to embrace you one by one with affection. The whole Church is with me, close to your suffering, sharing in your grief at the loss of your relatives and friends, anxious to help you rebuild the houses, churches and firms that have collapsed or have been seriously damaged by the earthquake.

I admired the courage, dignity and faith with which you have also faced this harsh trial, expressing great determination not to give in to adversity. It was not in fact the first earthquake to have hit your region, and today, as in the past, you have not given up. You have not lost heart. There is in you a strength of mind that inspires hope. Very significant in this regard is a saying dear to your elders: "There are still many days behind the Gran Sasso".

In coming here to Onna, one of the centres that has paid a high price in terms of human lives, I could imagine all the sadness and hardship you have felt during these weeks. If it had been possible, I should have liked to have gone to every village and to every district, to all the tent cities and to have met everyone.

I am well aware that despite the commitment of solidarity shown on all sides, there is much daily hardship involved in living out of one's home, in cars or tents, especially because of the cold and the rain. Then I am thinking of all the young people suddenly forced to come to terms with a harsh reality, of the children who have had to interrupt their studies together with their relations and with the elderly, deprived of their habits.

One might say, dear friends, that in a certain way you are in the state of mind of the two disciples of Emmaus, of whom the Evangelist Luke speaks. After the tragic event of the Crucifixion they were going home disappointed and embittered because of the "end" of Jesus. It seemed as though there was no more hope, that God had hidden and was no longer present in the world. But on the way he approached them and began to converse with them. Although they did not recognize him with their eyes, something stirred in their hearts: The words of that "Stranger" rekindled in them the enthusiasm and trust that the experience of Calvary had extinguished.

So now dear friends: My humble presence among you is intended as a tangible sign of the fact that the Crucified Lord is alive, that he is with us, that he is really Risen and does not forget us, does not abandon you. He does not leave your questions about the future unanswered, nor is he deaf to the anxious cry of so many families who have lost everything: homes, savings, work, and even also human lives.

Of course, his practical response passes through our solidarity, which cannot be limited to the initial emergency but must become a permanent, concrete project in time. I encourage everyone, including institutions and businesses, so that this city and these regions may recover.

The Pope is also here with you today to say a word of comfort about your dead: They are alive in God and expect of you a witness of courage and hope. They are waiting to see reborn this land which must be adorned anew with beautiful, solid houses and churches.

It is precisely on behalf of these brothers and sisters that you must commit yourselves once again to living, with recourse to what never dies and what the earthquake has not destroyed, and cannot destroy: love. Love also endures on the other side of the passage of our precarious earthly existence because true Love is God. Those who love, in God, triumph over death and know that they do not lose those they have loved.

I would like to conclude these words by addressing a special prayer to the Lord for the earthquake victims.

We entrust these our loved ones to you, O Lord, knowing
that you do not take the life of your faithful but transform it
and, at the very moment, in which
the dwelling of our exile on this earth is destroyed,
you are concerned with preparing for it an eternal and immortal dwelling place in Paradise.

Holy Father, Lord of Heaven and earth,
hear the cry of pain and of hope
that is raised by this community harshly tried by the earthquake!

It is the silent cry of the blood of mothers, fathers, young people,
and also of tiny innocents which rises from this land.
They have been torn from the love of their dear ones,
may you welcome them all in your peace, Lord, who are God-with-us,
Love who can give us life without end.

We are in need of you and your power,
for in the face of death we feel small and frail;
We pray you, help us, because your support alone
can raise us and lead us to set out together anew on the path of life,
holding one another trustingly by the hand.

We ask this of you through Jesus Christ, Our Saviour,
in whom shines out the hope of blessed resurrection. Amen!

Now, let us say the prayer the Lord taught us. Our Father ...

[After the Pope had imparted the Blessing he added:]

My prayer is with you. We are together and the Lord will help us. Thank you for your courage, your faith and your hope.

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Papal Homily at Canonization Mass
"Let Us Thank the Lord for the Gift of Holiness"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave on April 26 at the canonization Mass of five newly recognized saints.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Third Sunday in the Easter Season, the liturgy once again focuses our attention on the mystery of the Risen Christ. Victorious over evil and over death, the Author of life who sacrificed himself as a victim of expiation for our sins "is still our priest, our advocate who always pleads our cause. Christ is the victim who dies no more, the Lamb, once slain, who lives for ever" (Easter Preface iii).

Let us allow ourselves to be bathed in the radiance of Easter that shines from this great mystery and with the Responsorial Psalm let us pray: "O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us."

The light of the face of the Risen Christ shines upon us today especially through the Gospel features of the five Blesseds who during this celebration are enrolled in the Roll of Saints: Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli. I willingly join in the homage that the pilgrims are paying to them, gathered here from various nations and to whom I address a cordial greeting with great affection.

The various human and spiritual experiences of these new Saints show us the profound renewal that the mystery of Christ's Resurrection brings about in the human heart; it is a fundamental mystery that orients and guides the entire history of salvation. The Church therefore, especially in this Easter Season, rightly invites us to direct our gaze to the Risen Christ, who is really present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

In the Gospel passage, St Luke mentions one of the appearances of the Risen Jesus (24: 35-48). At the very beginning of the passage the Evangelist notes that the two disciples of Emmaus, who hurried back to Jerusalem, had told the Eleven how they recognized him in "the breaking of the bread" (v. 35).

And while they were recounting the extraordinary experience of their encounter with the Lord, he "himself stood among them" (v. 36). His sudden appearance frightened the Apostles. They were fearful to the point that Jesus, in order to reassure them and to overcome every hesitation and doubt, asked them to touch him -- he was not a ghost but a man of flesh and bone -- and then asked them for something to eat.

Once again, as had happened for the two at Emmaus, it is at table while eating with his own that the Risen Christ reveals himself to the disciples, helping them to understand the Scriptures and to reinterpret the events of salvation in the light of Easter.

"Everything written about me," he says, "in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled" (v. 44). And he invites them to look to the future: "Repentance and forgiveness of sins [shall] be preached in his name to all nations" (cf. v. 47).

This very experience of repentance and forgiveness is relived in every community in the Eucharistic celebration, especially on Sundays. The Eucharist, the privileged place in which the Church recognizes "the Author of life" (Acts 3: 15) is "the breaking of the bread," as it is called in the Acts of the Apostles. In it, through faith, we enter into communion with Christ, who is "the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice" (cf. Preface for Easter, 5) and is among us.

Let us gather round him to cherish the memory of his words and of the events contained in Scripture; let us relive his Passion, death and Resurrection. In celebrating the Eucharist we communicate with Christ, the victim of expiation, and from him we draw forgiveness and life.

What would our lives as Christians be without the Eucharist? The Eucharist is the perpetual, living inheritance which the Lord has bequeathed to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood and which we must constantly rethink and deepen so that, as venerable Pope Paul VI said, it may "impress its inexhaustible effectiveness on all the days of our earthly life" (Insegnamenti, v [1967], p. 779).

Nourished with the Eucharistic Bread, the Saints we are venerating today brought their mission of evangelical love to completion with their own special charisms in the various areas in which they worked.

St Arcangelo Tadini spent long hours in prayer before the Eucharist. Always focusing his pastoral ministry on the totality of the human person, he encouraged the human and spiritual growth of his parishioners. This holy priest, this holy parish priest, a man who belonged entirely to God ready in every circumstance to let himself be guided by the Holy Spirit, was at the same time prepared to face the urgent needs of the moment and find a remedy for them.

For this reason he undertook many practical and courageous initiatives such as the organization of the "Catholic Workers Mutual Aid Association," the construction of a spinning mill and a residence for the workers and, in 1900, the foundation of the "Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth" to evangelize the working world by sharing in the common efforts after the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

How prophetic the charismatic intuition of Father Tadini was and how timely his example remains today in an epoch of serious financial crisis! He reminds us that only by cultivating a constant and profound relationship with the Lord, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, can we bring the Gospel leaven to the various fields of work and to every area of our society.

Love for prayer and for manual labour also distinguished St Bernardo Tolomei, the initiator of a unique Benedictine monastic movement. His was a Eucharistic life, entirely dedicated to contemplation, expressed in humble service to neighbour. Because of his rare spirit of humility and brotherly acceptance, he was re-elected abbot for 27 years, until his death. Moreover, in order to guarantee the future of his foundation, on 21 January 1344 he obtained from Clement VI papal approval of the new Benedictine Congregation called "Our Lady of Monte Oliveto".

During the epidemic of the Black Death in 1348, he left the solitude of Monte Oliveto for the monastery of S. Benedetto at Porta Tufi, Siena, to attend to his monks stricken with the plague, and died, himself a victim, as an authentic martyr of love.

The example of this Saint invites us to express our faith in a life dedicated to God in prayer and spent at the service of our neighbour, impelled by a love that is also ready to make the supreme sacrifice.

"Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him" (Psalm 4: 3). These words of the Responsorial Psalm express the secret of the life of Bl. Nuno de Santa María, a hero and saint of Portugal. The 70 years of his life belong to the second half of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th, which saw this nation consolidate its independence from Castille and expand beyond the ocean not without a special plan of God opening new routes that were to favour the transit of Christ's Gospel to the ends of the earth.

St Nuno felt he was an instrument of this lofty design and enrolled in the militia Christi, that is, in the service of witness that every Christian is called to bear in the world. He was characterized by an intense life of prayer and absolute trust in divine help.

Although he was an excellent soldier and a great leader, he never permitted these personal talents to prevail over the supreme action that comes from God. St Nuno allowed no obstacle to come in the way of God's action in his life, imitating Our Lady, to whom he was deeply devoted and to whom he publicly attributed his victories. At the end of his life, he retired to the Carmelite convent whose building he had commissioned.

I am glad to point this exemplary figure out to the whole Church particularly because he exercised his life of faith and prayer in contexts apparently unfavourable to it, as proof that in any situation, even military or in war time, it is possible to act and to put into practice the values and principles of Christian life, especially if they are placed at the service of the common good and the glory of God.

Since childhood, Geltrude Comensoli felt a special attraction for Jesus present in the Eucharist. Adoration of Christ in the Eucharist became the principal aim of her life, we could almost say the habitual condition of her existence. Indeed, it was in the presence of the Eucharist that St Geltrude realized what her vocation and mission in the Church was to be: to dedicate herself without reserve to apostolic and missionary action, especially for youth.

Thus, in obedience to Pope Leo XIII, her Institute came into being which endeavoured to translate the "charity contemplated" in the Eucharistic Christ, into "charity lived," in dedication to one's needy neighbour.

In a bewildered and all too often wounded society like ours, to a youth, like that of our day in search of values and a meaning for their lives, as a sound reference point St Geltrude points to God who, in the Eucharist, has made himself our travelling companion. She reminds us that "adoration must prevail over all the other charitable works," for it is from love for Christ who died and rose and who is really present in the Eucharistic Sacrament, that Gospel charity flows which impels us to see all human beings as our brothers and sisters.

St Caterina Volpicelli was also a witness of divine love. She strove "to belong to Christ in order to bring to Christ" those whom she met in Naples at the end of the 19th century, in a period of spiritual and social crisis. For her too the secret was the Eucharist. She recommended that her first collaborators cultivate an intense spiritual life in prayer and, especially, in vital contact with Jesus in the Eucharist. Today this is still the condition for continuing the work and mission which she began and which she bequeathed as a legacy to the "Servants of the Sacred Heart."

In order to be authentic teachers of faith, desirous of passing on to the new generations the values of Christian culture, it is indispensable, as she liked to repeat, to release God from the prisons in which human beings have confined him.

In fact, only in the Heart of Christ can humanity find its "permanent dwelling place." St Caterina shows to her spiritual daughters and to all of us the demanding journey of a conversion that radically changes the heart, and is expressed in actions consistent with the Gospel. It is thus possible to lay the foundations for building a society open to justice and solidarity, overcoming that economic and cultural imbalance which continues to exist in a large part of our planet.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness that shines out in the Church with rare beauty today in Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli.

Let us be attracted by their examples, let us be guided by their teachings, so that our existence too may become a hymn of praise to God, in the footsteps of Jesus, worshipped with faith in the mystery of the Eucharist and served generously in our neighbour.

May the maternal intercession of Mary, Queen of Saints and of these five new luminous examples of holiness whom we venerate joyfully today, obtain for us that we may carry out this evangelical mission. Amen!

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On St. John Damascene
"God Wants to Rest in Us"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square. He continued his series on great writers of the Church in the Middle Ages, focusing today on St. John Damascene.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

I would like to speak today about John Damascene, a prominent personality in the history of Byzantine theology, a great doctor in the history of the universal Church. He is above all an eye witness of the passage from the Greek and Syriac culture, shared in the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire, to the culture of Islam, which took over space with its military conquests in the territory ordinarily recognized as the Middle or Near East.

John, born to a rich Christian family, took on while still young the post -- perhaps also held by his father -- as the economic head of the kingdom. Quite soon, however, unsatisfied with life at court, he fully developed a choice for the monastic life, entering the monastery of San Sabas, close to Jerusalem. It was around the year 700. Never leaving the monastery, he dedicated himself with all his strength to ascesis and literary activity, without spurning a certain pastoral activity, of which his numerous homilies give witness. His liturgical memorial is celebrated Dec. 4. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him a doctor of the universal Church in 1890.

In the East, he is remembered above all for his three discourses against those who calumniate holy images, [discourses] which were condemned after his death by the iconoclast Council of Hieria (754). These discourses, however, were the principal motive for his reinstatement and canonization by the orthodox fathers gathered in the Second Council of Nicaea (787), the Seventh Ecumenical Council. In these texts it is possible to find the first important theological attempts to legitimize the veneration of sacred images, uniting to them the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

John Damascene was also one of the first to distinguish between the public and private worship of Christians, and between adoration (latreia) and veneration (proskynesis): The first can only be directed to God, highly spiritual; the second on the other hand can use an image to direct oneself to he who is represented by it.

Obviously, a saint cannot in any way be identified with the material of which an icon is made. This distinction quickly resulted very important to respond in a Christian way to those who claimed as universal and perennial the observance of the severe prohibition in the Old Testament about the use of images in worship. This was a great discussion also in the Islamic world, which accepts this Jewish tradition of the total exclusion of images for worship. Christians on the other hand, in this context, considered the problem and found a justification for the veneration of images.

Damascene wrote: "In other times, God had never been represented in an image, being incorporeal and without a face. But given that now God has been seen in the flesh and has lived among man, I represent what is visible in God. I do not venerate matter, but the Creator of matter, who has made himself matter for me and has deigned to dwell in matter and carry out my salvation through matter. I will never cease because of this to venerate the matter through with salvation has come to me.

"But I do not venerate it absolutely like [I do] God! How could God be that which has received existence from non being? ... Rather I venerate and respect also all the rest of the matter that has procured salvation, inasmuch as it is full of holy energies and graces. Is not perhaps matter the wood of the cross thrice blessed? ... And the ink and the holy book of the Gospels are not matter? The salvific altar that dispenses us the bread of life is not matter? ... And before all, is not matter the flesh and the blood of my Lord? Should the sacred character of all of this be suppressed? Or should it be conceded to the tradition of the Church the veneration of the images of God and that of the friends of God that are sanctified by the name they carry, and because of this reason are dwelt in by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Do not be offended therefore by matter: It is not despicable because nothing that God has made is despicable" (Contra imaginum calumniatores, I, 16, ed. Kotter, pp. 89-90).

We see that, because of the Incarnation, matter appears as divinized, is seen as the dwelling place of God. This is a new vision of the world and material realities. God has become flesh and flesh has become truly the dwelling place of God, whose glory shines forth in the human face of Christ. Therefore the invitations of the doctor of the East are even today extremely current, considering the great dignity that matter has received in the Incarnation, able to come to be, in faith, efficient sign and sacrament of man's encounter with God.

John Damascene is, therefore, a privileged witness of the veneration of icons, which would come to be one of the most distinctive aspects of Eastern theology and spirituality up to today. And nevertheless it is a form of worship that simply belongs to the Christian faith, to the faith in this God that has become flesh and made himself visible. The teaching of St. John Damascene thus is inserted in the tradition of the universal Church, whose doctrine on the sacraments takes into account that material elements taken from nature can change through grace in virtue of the invocation (epiclesis) of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by the confession of the true faith.

United to these underlying ideas, John Damascene also places the veneration of the relics of the saints, on the base of the conviction that holy Christians, having been made participants in the resurrection of Christ, cannot be considered simply as "the dead." Enumerating, for example, those whose relics or images are worthy of veneration, John specifies in his third discourse in defense of images: "Before all (we venerate) those among whom God has rested, the only holy one who dwells among the saints (cf. Isaiah 57:15), such as the holy Mother of God and all the saints. These are those who, inasmuch as possible, have made themselves similar to God with their will and by the indwelling and help of God, [and] are really called gods (cf. Psalm 82:6), not by nature, but rather by contingence, as red-hot iron is called fire, not by nature, but by contingence and through participation in the fire. It is said, in fact: "You will be holy because I am holy" (Leviticus 19:2)" (III, 33, col. 1352 A).

After a series of references of this type, Damascene could serenely deduce, therefore:"God, who is good and superior to all goodness, did not content himself with the contemplation of himself, but rather wanted there to be beings benefited by him who could come to be participants in his goodness: For this he created out of nothing all things, visible and invisible, including man, a visible and invisible reality. And he created him thinking of him and making him a being capable of thinking (ennoema ergon) enriched by the word (logo[i] sympleroumenon) and oriented toward the spirit (pneumati teleioumenon)" (II, 2, PG 94, col. 865A).

And to clarify later this thought, he adds: "It is necessary to leave oneself full of awe (thaumazein) at all the works of providence (tes pronoias erga), praise them all and accept them all, overcoming the temptation to point out in them aspects that to many seem unjust or iniquitous (adika), and admitting instead that God's project (pronoia) goes beyond the cognitive and understanding capacity (agnoston kai akatalepton) of man, meanwhile on the other hand only he knows our thoughts, our actions and even our future" (II, 29, PG 94, col. 964C).

Already Plato, on the other hand, said that all philosophy begins with awe: Also our faith begins with awe at creation, at the beauty of God who becomes visible.

This optimism of natural contemplation (physikè theoria), of this seeing in visible creation the good, the beautiful and the true, this Christian optimism is not a naïve optimism: It takes into account the wound inflicted on human nature by free choice desired by God and used inappropriately by man, with all the consequences of widespread disharmony that have come from it. From here stems the need, clearly perceived by the theology of Damascene, that the nature in which the goodness and beauty of God is reflected, wounded by our fault, "would be strengthened and renewed" by the descent of the Son of God in the flesh, after in many ways and on many occasions God himself had tried to show that he had created man so that he would be not only in "being," but in "being good" (cf. La fede ortodossa, II, 1, PG 94, col. 981).

With a passionate exclamation, John explains: "It was necessary for nature to be strengthened and renewed and that the path of virtue would be indicated and concretely taught (didachthenai aretes hodòn), [the path] that banishes corruption and leads to eternal life ... Thus appeared on the horizon of history the great sea of the love of God for man (philanthropias pelagos) ..."

It is a beautiful expression. We see, on one hand, the beauty of creation and on the other, the destruction caused by human fault. But we see in the Son of God, who descends to renew nature, the sea of the love of God for man.

John Damascene continues: "He himself, the Creator and Lord, fought for his creature, transmitting his teaching to him with his example ... And thus the Son of God, while subsisting in the form of God, descended from the heavens and lowered himself ... toward his servants ... carrying out the newest thing of all, the only thing truly new under the son, through which he manifested in fact the infinite power of God" (III, 1. PG 94, col. 981C-984B).

We can imagine the consolation and the joy that filled the hearts of the faithful with these words so full of fascinating images. We too hear them today, sharing the same sentiments of the Christians of that time: God wants to rest in us, he wants to renew nature also through our conversion, he wants to make us participants in his divinity. May the Lord help us to make these words the essence of our lives.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Saint John Damascene was a towering figure in the history of Eastern theology. He was born into a wealthy Christian family at a time when his native Syria was already under Arab rule. He left a promising career in government in order to enter monastic life. His best-known works are his Discourses against the Iconoclasts, which offer an important contribution to the proper theological understanding of the veneration of sacred images. Saint John Damascene was among the first to distinguish between adoration, which is due to God alone, and veneration, which can rightly be given to an image in order to assist the Christian to contemplate him whom the image represents. It is true that in the Old Testament, divine images were strictly forbidden. But now that God has become incarnate and has assumed visible, material form in Jesus, matter has received a new dignity. The wood of the Cross, the book of the Gospels, the altar of sacrifice: all have been used by God to bring about our salvation. Matter now serves as a sign and sacrament of our encounter with God. When we participate in the sacraments, when we venerate icons, if we do so in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they truly become a means of grace. Despite human sinfulness, God has chosen to dwell within men and women, making them holy, making them sharers in his infinite goodness and holiness. Let us welcome him with joy into our hearts.

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including a group of Felician Sisters serving in health care administration. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

[And at the end of the audience, he addressed a special message in English to the peoples of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories:]

My dear friends, this Friday I leave Rome for my Apostolic Visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I wish this morning to take the opportunity through this radio and television broadcast to greet all the peoples of those lands. I am eagerly looking forward to being with you and to sharing with you your aspirations and hopes as well as your pains and struggles. I will be coming among you as a pilgrim of peace. My primary intention is to visit the places made holy by the life of Jesus, and, to pray at them for the gift of peace and unity for your families, and all those for whom the Holy Land and the Middle East is home. Among the many religious and civic gatherings which will take place over the course of the week, will be meetings with representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities with whom great strides have been made in dialogue and cultural exchange. In a special way I warmly greet the Catholics of the region and ask you to join me in praying that the visit will bear much fruit for the spiritual and civic life of all who dwell in the Holy Land. May we all praise God for his goodness. May we all be people of hope. May we all be steadfast in our desire and efforts for peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Address to Biblical Commission
"God Really Speaks to Men and Women in a Human Way"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave April 23 to the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission gathered in plenary assembly.

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Your Eminence,
Your Excellency,
Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,

I am pleased to welcome you once again at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank Cardinal William Levada for his greeting and for his concise presentation of the theme that has been the object of attentive reflection at your meeting.

You have gathered once again to study a very important topic: Inspiration and Truth of the Bible. This subject not only concerns theology, but the Church herself, because the life and mission of the Church are necessarily based on the word of God, which is the soul of theology and at the same time the inspiration of all Christian life. The topic you have addressed furthermore responds to a concern that I have very much at heart, because the interpretation of Sacred Scripture is of capital importance for the Christian faith and for the life of the Church.

As you have mentioned, Cardinal President, in his Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus," Pope Leo XIII offered Catholic exegetes new encouragement and new directives on the subject of inspiration, truth and biblical hermeneutics. Later, Pius XII in his Encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu," gathered and completed the preceding teaching and urged Catholic exegetes to find solutions in full agreement with the Church's doctrine, duly taking into account the positive contributions of the new methods of interpretation which had developed in the meantime.

The vigorous impetus that these two Pontiffs gave to biblical studies, as you also said, was fully confirmed and developed in the Second Vatican Council, so that the entire Church has benefited and is benefitting from it. In particular, the Conciliar Constitution "Dei Verbum" still illumines the work of Catholic exegetes today and invites Pastors and faithful to be more regularly nourished at the table of the word of God.

In this regard the Council recalls first of all that God is the Author of Sacred Scripture: "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For Holy Mother Church relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the Books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself" (Dei Verbum, n. 11).

Therefore since all that the inspired authors or hagiographers state is to be considered as said by the Holy Spirit, the invisible and transcendent Author, it must consequently be acknowledged that "the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures" (ibid., n. 11).

From the correct presentation of the divine inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture certain norms derive that directly concern its interpretation. The Constitution "Dei Verbum" itself, after stating that God is the author of the Bible, reminds us that in Sacred Scripture God speaks to man in a human fashion and this divine-human synergy is very important: God really speaks to men and women in a human way. For a correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture it is therefore necessary to seek attentively what the hagiographers have truly wished to state and what it has pleased God to express in human words.

"The words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men" (Dei Verbum, n. 13).

Moreover, these indications, very necessary for a correct historical and literary interpretation as the primary dimension of all exegesis, require a connection with the premises of the teaching on the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture. In fact, since Scripture is inspired, there is a supreme principal for its correct interpretation without which the sacred writings would remain a dead letter of the past alone: Sacred Scripture "must be read and interpreted with its divine authorship in mind" (ibid., n. 12).

In this regard, the Second Vatican Council points out three criteria that always apply for an interpretation of Sacred Scripture in conformity with the Spirit that inspired it.

First of all it is essential to pay great attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture: only in its unity is it Scripture. Indeed, however different the books of which it is composed may be, Sacred Scripture is one by virtue of the unity of God's plan whose centre and heart is Jesus Christ (cf. Lk 24: 25-27; Lk 24: 44-46).

Secondly, Scripture must be interpreted in the context of the living tradition of the whole Church. According to a statement of Origen: "Sacra Scriptura principalius est in corde Ecclesiae quam in materialibus instrumentis scripta", that is, "Sacred Scripture is written in the heart of the Church before being written on material instruments".

Indeed, in her Tradition the Church bears the living memory of the Word of God and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her its interpretation according to the spiritual meaning (cf. Origin, Homilae in Leviticum, 5,5).

As a third criterion, it is necessary to pay attention to the analogy of the faith, that is to the consistence of the individual truths of faith with one another and with the overall plan of the Revelation and the fullness of the divine economy contained in it.

The task of researchers who study Sacred Scripture with different methods is to contribute in accordance with the above-mentioned principles to the deepest possible knowledge and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture. The scientific study of the sacred texts is important but is not sufficient in itself because it would respect only the human dimension. To respect the coherence of the Church's faith, the Catholic exegete must be attentive to perceiving the Word of God in these texts, within the faith of the Church herself.

If this indispensable reference point is missing, the exegetical research would be incomplete, losing sight of its principal goal, and risk being reduced to a purely literary interpretation in which the true Author God no longer appears.

Furthermore, the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot only be an individual scientific effort but must always be compared with, inserted in and authenticated by the living Tradition of the Church. This rule is decisive to explain the correct relationship between exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church. The Catholic exegete does not only feel that he or she belongs to the scientific community, but also and above all to the community of believers of all times. In reality these texts were not given to individual researchers or to the scientific community, "to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research" (Divino Afflante Spiritu, eb 566).

The texts inspired by God were entrusted in the first place to the community of believers, to Christ's Church, to nourish the life of faith and to guide the life of charity. Respect for this purpose conditions the validity and efficacy of biblical hermeneutics. The Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus" recalled this fundamental truth and noted that, far from hindering biblical research, respect for this norm encourages authentic progress. I would say, a rationalistic hermeneutic of faith corresponds more closely with the reality of this text than a rationalistic hermeneutic that does not know God.

Being faithful to the Church means, in fact, fitting into the current of the great Tradition. Under the guidance of the Magisterium, Tradition has recognized the canonical writings as a word addressed by God to his People, and it has never ceased to meditate upon them and to discover their inexhaustible riches.

The Second Vatican Council reasserted this very clearly: "all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commisssion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God" (Dei Verbum, n. 12).

As the above-mentioned Dogmatic Constitution reminds us, an inseparable unity exists between Sacred Scripture and Tradition, because both come from the same source:

"Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the Apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. He transmits it to the successors of the Apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. Thus it comes about that the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal feelings of devotion and reverence" (Dei Verbum, n. 9).

As we know, this word "pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia" was created by St Basil and then absorbed into Gratian's Decree, through which it entered the Council of Trent and then the Second Vatican Council. It expresses precisely this inter-penetration between Scripture and Tradition.

The ecclesial context alone enables Sacred Scripture to be understood as an authentic Word of God which makes itself the guide, norm and rule for the life of the Church and the spiritual growth of believers.

As I have said, this is in no way an obstacle to a serious and scientific interpretation but furthermore gives access to the additional dimensions of Christ that are inaccessible to a merely literary analysis, which remains incapable of grasping by itself the overall meaning that has guided the Tradition of the entire People of God down the centuries.

Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, I would like to end my talk by expressing to you all my personal gratitude and encouragement. I thank you warmly for the demanding work you do at the service of the Word of God and of the Church through research, teaching and the publication of your studies. To this I add my encouragement for the ground that has yet to be covered.

In a world in which scientific research is assuming ever greater importance in numerous fields, it is indispensable that exegetical science attain a good level. It is one of the aspects of the inculturation of the faith that is part of the Church's mission, in harmony with acceptance of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate and the divine Teacher who opened the minds of his disciples to an understanding of the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24: 45), guide and sustain you in your reflection.

May the Virgin Mary, model of docility and obedience to the Word of God, teach you to accept ever better the inexhaustible riches of Sacred Scripture, not only through intellectual research but also in your lives as believers, so that your work and your action may contribute to making the light of Sacred Scripture shine ever brighter before the faithful.

As I assure you of my prayerful support in your efforts, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, as a pledge of divine favours.


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Papal Address to Social Sciences Academy
"Natural Law Is a Universal Guide Recognizable to Everyone"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009 - Here is the text of the English-language address Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The members of the academy are gathered in the Vatican through Tuesday for their plenary session, which is focused on Catholic social doctrine and human rights.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you gather for the fifteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you and to express my encouragement for your mission of expounding and furthering the Church's social doctrine in the areas of law, economy, politics and the various other social sciences. Thanking Professor Mary Ann Glendon for her cordial words of greeting, I assure you of my prayers that the fruit of your deliberations will continue to attest to the enduring pertinence of Catholic social teaching in a rapidly changing world.

After studying work, democracy, globalisation, solidarity and subsidiarity in relation to the social teaching of the Church, your Academy has chosen to return to the central question of the dignity of the human person and human rights, a point of encounter between the doctrine of the Church and contemporary society.

The world's great religions and philosophies have illuminated some aspects of these human rights, which are concisely expressed in "the golden rule" found in the Gospel: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Lk 6:31; cf. Mt 7:12). The Church has always affirmed that fundamental rights, above and beyond the different ways in which they are formulated and the different degrees of importance they may have in various cultural contexts, are to be upheld and accorded universal recognition because they are inherent in the very nature of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God. If all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, then they share a common nature that binds them together and calls for universal respect. The Church, assimilating the teaching of Christ, considers the person as "the worthiest of nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, De potentia, 9, 3) and has taught that the ethical and political order that governs relationships between persons finds its origin in the very structure of man's being. The discovery of America and the ensuing anthropological debate in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe led to a heightened awareness of human rights as such and of their universality (ius gentium). The modern period helped shape the idea that the message of Christ - because it proclaims that God loves every man and woman and that every human being is called to love God freely - demonstrates that everyone, independently of his or her social and cultural condition, by nature deserves freedom. At the same time, we must always remember that "freedom itself needs to be set free. It is Christ who sets it free" (Veritatis Splendor, 86).

In the middle of the last century, after the vast suffering caused by two terrible world wars and the unspeakable crimes perpetrated by totalitarian ideologies, the international community acquired a new system of international law based on human rights. In this, it appears to have acted in conformity with the message that my predecessor Benedict XV proclaimed when he called on the belligerents of the First World War to "transform the material force of arms into the moral force of law" ("Note to the Heads of the Belligerent Peoples", 1 August 1917).

Human rights became the reference point of a shared universal ethos - at least at the level of aspiration - for most of humankind. These rights have been ratified by almost every State in the world. The Second Vatican Council, in the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, as well as my predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, forcefully referred to the right to life and the right to freedom of conscience and religion as being at the centre of those rights that spring from human nature itself.

Strictly speaking, these human rights are not truths of faith, even though they are discoverable - and indeed come to full light - in the message of Christ who "reveals man to man himself" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). They receive further confirmation from faith. Yet it stands to reason that, living and acting in the physical world as spiritual beings, men and women ascertain the pervading presence of a logos which enables them to distinguish not only between true and false, but also good and evil, better and worse, and justice and injustice. This ability to discern - this radical agency - renders every person capable of grasping the "natural law", which is nothing other than a participation in the eternal law: "unde...lex naturalis nihil aliud est quam participatio legis aeternae in rationali creatura" (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, 91, 2). The natural law is a universal guide recognizable to everyone, on the basis of which all people can reciprocally understand and love each other. Human rights, therefore, are ultimately rooted in a participation of God, who has created each human person with intelligence and freedom. If this solid ethical and political basis is ignored, human rights remain fragile since they are deprived of their sound foundation.

The Church's action in promoting human rights is therefore supported by rational reflection, in such a way that these rights can be presented to all people of good will, independently of any religious affiliation they may have. Nevertheless, as I have observed in my Encyclicals, on the one hand, human reason must undergo constant purification by faith, insofar as it is always in danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by disordered passions and sin; and, on the other hand, insofar as human rights need to be re-appropriated by every generation and by each individual, and insofar as human freedom - which proceeds by a succession of free choices - is always fragile, the human person needs the unconditional hope and love that can only be found in God and that lead to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 18, and Spe Salvi, 24).

This perspective draws attention to some of the most critical social problems of recent decades, such as the growing awareness - which has in part arisen with globalisation and the present economic crisis - of a flagrant contrast between the equal attribution of rights and the unequal access to the means of attaining those rights. For Christians who regularly ask God to "give us this day our daily bread", it is a shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still goes hungry. Assuring an adequate food supply, like the protection of vital resources such as water and energy, requires all international leaders to collaborate in showing a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the natural law and promoting solidarity and subsidiarity with the weakest regions and peoples of the planet as the most effective strategy for eliminating social inequalities between countries and societies and for increasing global security.

Dear friends, dear Academicians, in exhorting you in your research and deliberations to be credible and consistent witnesses to the defence and promotion of these non-negotiable human rights which are founded in divine law, I most willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

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Mary Ann Glendon's Address to Benedict XVI
"Our Central Focus Has Always Been on the Dignity of the Human Person"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address given today by Mary Ann Glendon, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, to Benedict XVI upon being received by the Pontiff during the plenary session of the academy. The members of the academy are gathered in the Vatican through Tuesday, focusing on Catholic social doctrine and human rights.

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Holy Father,

Your Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences comes before you this morning with immense gratitude for the encouragement you have given us, as we strive to be ever more useful to the Church in the development of her social teachings.

Over the years, no matter what aspect of economics, law, sociology or political sciences claimed our attention, there has been one central theme, one golden thread that has stitched all our work together. Our central focus has always been on the dignity of the human person and the common good. This week, Your Holiness, our Plenary Session has been entirely devoted to the way that theme has found expression in the concept of universal human rights.

In so doing, we have been mindful of the Church's long engagement with human rights, of her own decisive contributions to the dignitarian vision of rights embodied in so many human rights instruments, including a Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and of the Holy See as a fearless champion of that vision in international settings. That engagement has been characterized by a prudent recognition that the modern human rights project, like all human enterprises, constantly needs to be called to what is highest and best in its aspirations.

We have also been mindful of the fact that in today's world, ironically, many threats to the dignity of the person have appeared in the guise of human rights. As you pointed out in your memorable speech to the United Nations last year, there are mounting pressures to "move away from the protection of human dignity towards the satisfaction of simple interests, often particular interests."

Accordingly in these days, with the help of experts in all the social sciences, we have reviewed the long reciprocal relationship between Christianity and human rights ideas. We have explored the expanding circle of human rights protection in an effort to discern how new rights claims are, or are not, conducive to human flourishing. We have paid special attention to rights that are currently under assault such as the right to life, the right to found a family, freedom of conscience and religion, and to rights that have too long awaited fulfillment such as the right to decent subsistence. Then building on our previous studies of globalization, we have taken up the question of the proper roles of states, private actors, and international entities in bringing human rights to life.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of all our members for your teachings on faith, hope and charity that provide an unconditional foundation for human rights, and for the example you set in the difficult Petrine mission to which Providence has called you. We are deeply grateful for your constant solicitude towards our Academy, which is also manifested in the appointment of our new Academician Lubomir Mlcoch.

It only remains for me, dear Holy Father, to ask you to bless this Academy and all those who have generously shared their wisdom with us over the past few days. We thank you most sincerely for the gift of this encounter.

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Pontiff's Address to the Papal Foundation Members
"Continue to Be Beacons of Hope, Strength and Support for Others"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in an audience with members of the Philadelphia based Papal Foundation.

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Dear Cardinal Keeler,
Brother Cardinals and Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is a great pleasure for me to have the opportunity to greet the members of the Papal Foundation once again, on your annual visit to Rome. In this Pauline Year I welcome you with the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:7).

Saint Paul reminds us of how the entire human race yearns for God's grace of peace. Today's world is truly in need of his peace, especially as it faces the tragedies of war, division, poverty and despair. In just a few days I will have the privilege of visiting the Holy Land. I go as a pilgrim of peace. As you are well aware, for more than sixty years, this region -- the land of our Lord's birth, death and Resurrection; a sacred place for the world's three great monotheistic religions -- has been plagued by violence and injustice. This has led to a general atmosphere of mistrust, uncertainty and fear -- often pitting neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. As I prepare for this significant journey I ask in a special way that you join me in prayer for all the peoples of the Holy Land and the region. May they receive the gifts of reconciliation, hope and peace.

Our meeting this year occurs during a time when the entire world is struggling with a very worrying economic situation. At moments such as these it is tempting to overlook those without a voice and think only of our own difficulties. As Christians we are aware, however, that especially when times are difficult we must work even harder to ensure that the consoling message of our Lord is heard. Rather than turning in on ourselves, we must continue to be beacons of hope, strength and support for others, most especially those who have no one to watch over or assist them. For this reason I am pleased to have you here today. You are examples of good Christian men and women who continue to meet the challenges we face with courage and trust. Indeed, the Papal Foundation itself, through the great generosity of many, enables valuable assistance to be carried out in the name of Christ and his Church. For your sacrifice and dedication I am most grateful to you: by means of your support the Easter message of joy, hope, reconciliation and peace is more widely proclaimed.

Entrusting all of you to the loving intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she who remains always in our midst as our Mother, the Mother of Hope, (cf. Spe Salvi, 50), I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and your families as a pledge of joy and peace in the Risen Savior.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Vocations and the Holy Land Trip

VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to those gathered in St. Peter's Square for the praying of the midday Regina Caeli. The Holy Father had just celebrated a Mass in which he ordained 19 new priests for the Diocese of Rome.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

I have just concluded, in St. Peter's Basilica, the Eucharistic celebration in which I consecrated 19 new priests of the Diocese of Rome. Once again, I have chosen this Sunday, the fourth of Easter, for this joyous event, because it is marked by the Gospel of the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:1-18) and offers a particularly suitable context.

Because of this, today is celebrated the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. In my annual message for this occasion, I have invited reflection on the theme: "Faith in the Divine Initiative -- the Human Response." In fact, trust in the Lord, which continuously calls to sanctity and, for some in particular, to a special consecration, is expressed precisely in prayer. As much personally as in community, we have to pray a lot for vocations, so that the greatness and the beauty of the love of God attracts many to follow Christ on the path of the priesthood and the consecrated life.

It is also necessary to pray as well so that there are holy spouses, capable of indicating to their children, above all by example, the horizons to which they should tend toward with their liberty.

The men and women saints that the Church proposes for the veneration of all the faithful give witness to the mature fruit of this union between the divine call and the human response. Let us entrust to their heavenly intercession our prayer for vocations.

There is another intention for which I invite you to pray today: the trip to the Holy Land that I will make, God willing, next Friday, May 8 through Friday, May 15. Following the footsteps of my venerable predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, I will go on pilgrimage to the principle holy places of our faith.

With my visit, I propose to confirm and encourage the Christians of the Holy Land, who must daily confront many difficulties. As a successor of the Apostle Peter, I will show the closeness and support of the whole body of the Church. Moreover, I will be a pilgrim of peace, in the name of the one God, Father of all. I will give witness to the Catholic Church's commitment in favor of those who work to practice dialogue and reconciliation, to arrive to a stable and lasting peace in justice and mutual respect.

Finally, this trip will necessarily have notable ecumenical and interreligious significance. Jerusalem is, from this point of view, the symbolic city par excellence: There Christ died so as to reunite all of the dispersed children of God (cf. John 11:52).

Addressing now the Virgin Mary, let us invoke her as Mother of the Good Shepherd so that she watches over the new priests of the Diocese of Rome, and so that in the whole world, numerous and holy vocations of special consecration to the Kingdom of God may flourish.

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

To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Regina Caeli, I extend a warm welcome. I pray that as you follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, you will grow ever closer to the Risen Lord and share his Gospel with all those you encounter. This Friday I leave for my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where men and women first heard the voice of the Good Shepherd. I ask you all to join me in praying for the afflicted peoples of that region. In a special way I ask that you remember the Palestinian people who have endured great hardship and suffering. May the Lord bless them and all those who live in the Holy Land with the gifts of unity and peace. Upon all of you visiting Rome during this Easter Season, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On St. Germanus
"There Is a Certain Visibility of God in the World"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square, part of a catechetical series he is giving about great writers of the Church in the Middle Ages.
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Dear brothers and sisters,

The patriarch Germanus of Constantinople, of whom I would like to speak today, does not belong to the most characteristic figures of the Eastern Christian world, and yet, his name appears with a certain solemnity in the list of the great defenders of sacred images, compiled in the Second Council of Nicaea, the 7th ecumenical council (787).

The Greek Church celebrates his feast in the liturgy of May 12. He had a significant role in the complex history of the fight for images, during the so-called iconoclast crisis: He knew how to effectively resist pressure from an iconoclast emperor, that is, an adversary of icons, such as was Leo III.

During Germanus' time as patriarch (715-730), Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, suffered a very dangerous besiegement from the Saracens. On that occasion (717-718), a solemn procession was organized in the city with the showing of the image of the Mother of God, the Theotokos, and a relic of the holy cross, to invoke from on high the defense of the city. In fact, Constantinople was liberated from the besiegement. The adversaries decided to permanently let go of the idea of establishing their capital in the city that was the symbol of the Christian empire, and the appreciation for divine help was extremely great among the people.

Patriarch Germanus, after that event, became convinced that the intervention of God should be considered evident approval of the piety shown by the people toward the holy icons. Of an entirely different opinion, on the other hand, was Emperor Leo III, who precisely that year (717), was enthroned as the indisputable emperor in the capital, in which he would reign until 741. After the liberation of Constantinople and after a series of further victories, the Christian emperor began to show ever more openly the conviction that the consolidation of the empire should begin precisely with a reordering of the manifestations of the faith, with particular reference to the risk of idolatry, which according to his opinion, the people were exposed to due to an excessive devotion to icons.

Nothing was gained by Patriarch Germanus' references to the tradition of the Church and the efficacy of certain images, which were unanimously recognized as "miraculous." The emperor became more and more staunch in the application of his restoration project, which included the elimination of icons. And when, on Jan. 7, 730, during a public meeting he openly took a position against devotion to images, Germanus did not want in any way to yield to the will of the emperor on questions that he considered determinant for the Orthodox faith, to which, according to him, belongs precisely the devotion to and love for images. As a result of that, Germanus found himself obligated to turn in his resignation as patriarch and to condemn himself to exile in a monastery where he died forgotten by everyone. His name came to light again precisely in the Second Council of Nicaea (787), when the Orthodox Fathers decided in favor of icons, recognizing the merits of Germanus.

Patriarch Germanus gave much attention to the liturgical celebrations, and for a certain time, he was also considered the one who began the feast of Akathist. As is known, Akathist is an ancient and famous hymn which arose in the Byzantine circle and was dedicated to the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Despite the fact that from the theological point of view, Germanus cannot be classified as a great thinker, some of his works had a certain echo above all because of certain of his intuitions regarding Mariology. From him, in fact, we have various homilies about Marian themes and some of them have profoundly marked the piety of entire generations of faithful, as much in the East as in the West.

His splendid homilies on the Presentation of Mary in the temple are still-living testimonies of the non-written tradition of the Christian Churches. Generations of nuns and monks, and members of countless institutes of consecrated life, continue finding even today precious treasures of spirituality in these texts.

Some Marian texts from Germanus that are part of his homilies pronounced on SS. Deiparae dormitionem, corresponding to our feast of the assumption, still create awe. Among these texts, Pope Pius XII used one that he set as a pearl in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus (1950), with which he declared the dogma of faith, the assumption of Mary. Pope Pius XII cited this text in that constitution, presenting it as one of the arguments in favor of the permanent faith of the Church in the corporal assumption of Mary into heaven. Germanus wrote: "Could it ever happen, most holy Mother of God, that heaven and earth feel honored by your presence, and you, with your departure, would leave man deprived of your protection? No. It is impossible to think of such a thing. In fact when you were in the world you did not feel that the things of heaven were foreign, in the same way, after having emigrated from this world, you have not felt removed from the possibility of communicating in spirit with men. … In fact you have not abandoned those to whom you have guaranteed salvation … indeed your spirit lives eternally, nor has your flesh suffered the corruption of the tomb.

"You, oh Mother, are close to everyone and protect everyone, and even though our eyes cannot see you, we completely know, oh One on high, that you live in the midst of all of us and that you make yourself present in the most varied of ways … You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life.

"In fact it was impossible that that which had been converted into the vase of God and the living temple of the most holy divinity of the Only Begotten would be enclosed in the sepulcher of the dead. Again we believe with certainty that you continue walking with us" (PG 98, coll. 344B-346B, passim).

It has been said that for the Byzantines, the decorum of the rhetorical form in preaching, and even more in hymns or poetic compositions that they call tropari, is as important in the liturgical celebration as the beauty of the sacred building in which the celebration takes place. Patriarch Germanus was recognized, in this tradition, as one of those who has contributed much to keeping alive this conviction, that is, that the beauty of the word, of the language and the beauty of the building and the music should coincide.

I cite, to conclude, the inspired words with which Germanus described the Church at the beginning of this small work of art: "The Church is the temple of God, sacred space, house of prayer, convocation of the people, body of Christ … It is heaven on earth, where the transcendent God dwells as in his house and walks [about] in her, but it is also the fulfilled image (antitype) of the Crucifixion, of the tomb and of the Resurrection. The Church is the house of God in which the life-giving mystical sacrifice is celebrated, at the same time the most intimate part of the sanctuary and the holy grotto. Within her is found those true and authentic precious pearls that are the divine dogmas of the teaching offered directly by the Lord to his disciples" (PG 98, coll. 384B-385A).

At the end remains this question: What does this saint have to tell us today, [being] chronologically and also culturally very far from us? I think substantially three things. The first: There is a certain visibility of God in the world, in the Church, which we should learn to perceive. God has created man in his image, but this image has been covered in so much filth from sin that consequently God is almost not seen anymore in it. Thus the Son of God became true man, perfect image of God: In Christ we can thus contemplate the face of God and learn to ourselves be true men, true images of God.

Christ invites us to imitate him, to come to be similar to him, so that in each man the face of God, the image of God, again shines through. In truth, God had prohibited in the Ten Commandments making images of God, but this was caused by the temptations to idolatry that believers could be exposed to in the context of paganism. Nevertheless, when God became visible in Christ through the incarnation, it became legitimate to reproduce the face of Christ. Holy images teach us to see God in the form of the face of Christ. After the incarnation of the Son of God, it has therefore become possible to see God in the images of Christ and also in the face of the saints, in the face of all men in whom the holiness of God shines.

The second [lesson] is the beauty and dignity of the liturgy. To celebrate the liturgy in the awareness of the presence of God, with this dignity and beauty that allows one to see a bit of his splendor, is the task of every Christian formed in his faith.

The third [lesson] is to love the Church. Precisely concerning the Church, we men are inclined to see above all its sins, the negative; but with the help of faith, which makes us capable of seeing authentically, we can also, today and always, rediscover in her the divine beauty. It is in Church where God makes himself present, offers himself in the holy Eucharist and remains present for adoration. In the Church, God speaks with us, in the Church, "God walks with us," as St. Germanus says. In the Church, we receive the forgiveness of God and we learn to forgive.

Let us pray to God so that he teaches us to see in the Church his presence, his beauty, to see his presence in the world, and that he helps us also to be transparent for his light.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the early Christian writers of East and West, we turn to Saint Germanus, Bishop and Patriarch of Constantinople, whose feast day is celebrated in the Greek Church on 12 May. In 717, while Constantinople was under siege by Saracen armies, Germanus led a procession with the venerated image of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, and relics of the Holy Cross. The siege was lifted, convincing him that God had responded to the people’s devotion. Some time later however, Emperor Leo III initiated his campaign against the use of sacred images, judging them to be a source of idolatry. When Germanus opposed the Emperor publicly in 730 he was forced to retire in exile to a monastery, where he later died. His memory was not forgotten, and in the Second Council of Nicea, which restored devotion to sacred images, his name was honoured. The writings of Germanus, steeped in an ardent love of the Church and devotion to the Mother of God, have had a wide influence on the piety of the faithful both of the East and the West. He promoted a solemn and beautiful Liturgy and is also known for his insights in Mariology. In homilies on the Presentation and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, Germanus extols her virtue and her mission. A text which sees the source of her bodily incorruption in her virginal maternity was included by Pope Pius XII in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus. I pray that through the intercession of Saint Germanus we may all be renewed in our love of the Church and devotion to the Mother of God.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Canada and the United States. Upon all of you I cordially invoke the Lord’s Easter blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Pope's Letter for St. Anselm Celebration
"One of the Brightest Figures in the Tradition of the Church"

AOSTA, Italy, APRIL 28, 2009 - Here is the text of the letter Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, retired archbishop of Bologna, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm. The message was read April 21, the saint's feast day, at a solemn Mass in the Aosta cathedral in honor of the philosopher and theologian.



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In view of the celebrations in which you, venerable brother, will take part as my legate in the illustrious city of Aosta in honor of the ninth centenary of the death of St. Anselm, which took place in Canterbury on 21 April 1109, I would like to give you a special message in which I wish recall the main features of this great monk, theologian and pastor of souls, whose work has left a deep mark on the history of the Church.

The anniversary is indeed an opportunity not to be missed to renew the memory of one of the brightest figures in the tradition of the Church and in the history of Western European thought. The exemplary monastic experience of Anselm, his original method of rethinking the Christian mystery, his subtle philosophical and theological doctrine, his teaching on the inviolable value of conscience and on freedom as the responsible adherence to truth and goodness, his passionate work as a shepherd of souls, dedicated with all his strength to the promotion of "freedom of the Church," have never ceased to arouse in the past the deepest interest, which the memory of his death is happily reigniting and encouraging in many ways and in different places.

In this memorial of the "Magnificent Doctor" -- as St. Anselm is called -- the Church of Aosta cannot but be recognized, the Church in which he was born and which is rightly pleased to consider Anselm as her most illustrious son. Even when he left Aosta in the time of his youth, he continued to carry in his memory and in his heart the bundle of memories that was never far from his thoughts in the most important moments of life. Among those memories, a particular place was certainly reserved for the sweet image of his mother and the majestic mountains of his valley with their high peaks, and perennial snow, in which he saw represented, as if in a fascinating and suggestive symbol, the sublimity of God. To Anselm - "a child raised in the mountains," as Admero his biographer calls him, ("Vita Sancti Anselmi," i, 2) - God appears to be that of which you cannot think of something bigger: perhaps his intuition was not unrelated to the childhood view of those inaccessible peaks. Already as a child he thought that in order to find God it was necessary to "climb to the summit of the mountain" (ibid.). In fact, he will realize more and more that God remains at an inaccessible height, located beyond the horizons which man is able to reach, since God is beyond the thinkable. Because of this, the journey in search of God, at least on this earth, will never end, but will always be thought and desire, the rigorous process of the intellect and the imploring inquiry of the heart.

The intense desire to know and the innate propensity for clarity and logical rigor will push Anselm towards the "scholeae" [schools] of his time. He will therefore join the monastery of Le Bec, where his inclination for dialectic reflection will be satisfied and above all, where his cloistered vocation will enkindle. To dwell on the years of the monastic life of Anselm is to encounter a faithful religious, "constantly occupied in God alone and in the disciplines of heaven" -- as his biographer writes -- in order to achieve "such a summit of divine speculation that would enable him by a path opened by God to penetrate, and, once penetrated, to explain the most obscure and previously unresolved questions concerning the divinity of God and our faith and to prove with clear reasons that what he stated belonged to sure Catholic doctrine" ("Vita Sancti Anselmi," i, 7). With these words, his biographer describes the theological method of St. Anselm, whose thought was ignited and illuminated in prayer. It is he himself that confesses, in his famous work, that the understanding of faith is an approach toward a vision, which we all yearn for and which we all hope to enjoy at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, "Quoniam inter fidem et speciem intellectum quem in hac vita capimus esse medium intelligo: quanto aliquis ad illum proficit, tanto eum propinquare speciei, ad quam omnes anhelamus, existimo (Cur Deus homo, Commendatio).

The saint desired to achieve the vision of the logical relationships inherent to the mystery, to perceive the "clarity of truth," and thus to grasp the evidence of the "necessary reasons," intimately bound to the mystery. A bold plan certainly, and it is one whose success still occupies the reflections of the students of Anselm today. In fact, his search of the "intellectus" [intellect] positioned between "fides" [faith] and "species" [vision] comes out of the source of the same faith and is sustained by confidence in reason, through which faith in a certain way is illuminated. The intent of Anselm is clear: "to raise the mind to contemplation of God" (Proslogion, Proemium). There remain, in any event, for every theological research, his programmatic words: "I do not try, Lord, to penetrate your depth, because I cannot, even from a distance, compare it with my intellect, but I want to understand, at least up to a certain point, your truth, which my heart believes and loves. I do not seek, in fact, to try to understand it in order to believe it, but I believe in order to understand it."[Non quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam] (Proslogion, 1).

In Anselm, prior and abbot of Le Bec, we underline some characteristics that further define his personal profile. What strikes us, first of all, is his charism as an expert teacher of spiritual life, one who knows and wisely illustrates the ways of monastic perfection. At the same time, one is fascinated by his instructive geniality, which is expressed in that discernment method -- which he names, the "via discretionis" (Ep. 61) -- which is a small image of his whole life, an image composed of both mercy and firmness. The peculiar ability which he demonstrates in initiating disciples to the experience of authentic prayer is very peculiar: in particular, his "Orationes sive Meditationes," eagerly requested and widely used, which have contributed to making many people of his time " anime oranti" [praying souls], as with his other works, have proved themselves a valuable catalyst in making the Middle Ages a "thinking" and, we might add, "conscientious" period. One would say that the most authentic Anselm can be found at Le Bec, where he remained thirty three years, and where he was much loved. Thanks to the maturity that he acquired in a similar environment of reflection and prayer, he will be able, as well in the midst of the subsequent trials as bishop, to declare: "I will not retain in my heart any resentment for any one" (Ep. 321).

The nostalgia of the monastery will accompany him for the rest of his life. He confessed it himself when he was constrained, to his deepest sorrow and that of his monks, to leave the monastery to assume the Episcopal ministry to which did not feel well disposed: "It is well known to many," he wrote to Pope Urban II, "the violence which was done to me, and how much I was reluctant and contrary, when I was brought as a bishop to England and how I explained the reasons of nature, age, weakness and ignorance, which were opposed to this office and that absolutely detest and shun scholastic duties, which I cannot dedicate myself to at all without endangering the salvation of my soul" (Ep. 206). He confides later with his monks in these terms: "I have lived for 33 years a monk -- three years without responsibility, 15 as prior, and as many as abbot -- in such a way that all the good people that knew me loved me, certainly not by my own merits but for the grace of God, and the ones that loved me most were those that knew me most intimately and with greatest familiarity" (Ep. 156). And he added: "You have been many to come to Le Bec ... Many of you I surrounded with a love so tender and sweet that each one had the impression that I did not love anyone else in the same way" (ibid.).

Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and beginning, in this way, his most troubled journey, his "love of truth" (Ep. 327), his uprightness, his strict loyalty to conscience, his "Episcopal freedom" (Ep. 206), his " Episcopal honesty" (Ep. 314), his tireless work for the liberation of the Church from the temporal conditionings and from the servitude of calculations that are incompatible with his spiritual nature will appear in their full light. His words to King Henry remain exemplary in this respect, "I reply that in neither baptism nor in any other ordination that I have received, did I promised to observe the law or the custom of your father or of the Archbishop Lanfranco, but the law of God and of all the orders received" (Ep. 319). For Anselm, the primate of the Church of England, one principle applies: "I am a Christian, I am a monk, I am a Bishop: I desire to be faithful to all, according to the debt I have with each" (Ep. 314). In this vein he does not hesitate to say: "I prefer to be in disagreement with men than, agreeing with them, to be in disagreement with God" (Ep. 314). Precisely for this reason he feels ready even for the supreme sacrifice: "I am not afraid to shed my blood, I fear no wound in my body nor the loss of any material good" (Ep. 311).

It is understandable that, for all these reasons, Anselm still retains a great actuality and a strong appeal, in as much as it is fruitful to revisit and republish his writings, and together meditate continuously on his life. For this reason I have rejoiced that Aosta, on the occasion of the ninth centenary of the death of the saint, has distinguished itself with a set of appropriate and intelligent initiatives -- especially with the careful edition of his works -- with the intention to make known and loved the teachings and examples of this, its illustrious son. I entrust to you, Venerable Brother, the task of bringing to the faithful of the ancient and beloved city of Aosta the exhortation to remember with admiration and affection this great fellow citizen of theirs, whose light continues to shine throughout the Church, especially where the love for the truths of faith and the desire for their study by the light of reason are cultivated. And, in fact, faith and reason -- "fides et ratio" -- are united admirably in Anselm. I send, with these heartfelt sentiments through you, venerable brother, to the Bishop, Monsignor Giuseppe Anfossi, the clergy, the religious and the faithful of Aosta and to all those who take part in the celebrations in honor of the "Magnificent Doctor," a special apostolic blessing, propitiatory of an abundant outpouring of heavenly favours.

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On the Goal of Sanctity

"May All of You … Bear Witness to Him Courageously"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to those gathered in St. Peter's Square for the praying of the midday Regina Caeli. The Holy Father had just finished a Mass in which five new saints were proclaimed.

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In concluding this solemn celebration, I wish to offer cordial greetings to all of you who have wanted to come personally to offer homage to the new saints. I express, before all, my recognition of the delegation from the Italian government and the other civil authorities, in particular, the mayors and prefects of the cities of the four compatriots elevated today to the honor of the altars.

I greet the delegation from the Order of Malta. With great affection, I give thanks to the numerous pilgrims coming from many parts of Italy. I hope that this pilgrimage, lived in the mark of sanctity and supported by the grace of the Pauline year, can help each one [of you] to "run" with more joy and energy toward the final "goal," toward "the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus," (cf. Philippians 3:13-14).

In this context, I'd like to mention as well the gathering of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, which is celebrated today. Fifty years after the death of the founder, Father Agostino Gemelli, I hope that the Catholic University be always faithful to its inspiring principles so as to continue offering a valid formation to the young generations.

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

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims who are here with us today, especially those who have travelled to Rome to be present at the canonization of today’s new saints. Through their intercession, may all of you be filled with joy in the Risen Lord, and bear witness to him courageously in your daily lives. I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Prior to praying the Regina Caeli, he concluded the address, saying in Italian:]

We lift up now our filial prayer to the Virgin Mary, who fully followed the Word of God, such that his love in her was truly perfect (cf. 1 John 2:5a).

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On Ambrose Autpert, "1st Mariologist of the West"
"Christ Must Daily Be Born, Die, and Rise in Us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square, part of a catechetical series he is giving about great writers of the Church in the Middle Ages.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Church lives in people and whoever wants to get to know the Church, to understand its mystery, must consider the people who have lived and who continue to live its message, its mystery. It is for this reason that I have spoken in the Wednesday catecheses of people from whom we can learn what the Church is. We started with the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church and have slowly arrived to the eighth century, the period of Charlemagne. Today I would like to talk about Ambrose Autpert, a relatively unknown author: His works were in fact largely attributed to other better-known personalities, from St. Ambrose of Milan to St. Ildephonsus, not to mention those that the monks of Montecassino have held as coming from the pen of a certain one of their abates who lived almost a century later. Apart from some brief autobiographical references inserted in his great commentary on the book of Revelation, we have little definite information about [Autpert's] life. Careful reading of the works that critics gradually recognized as his authorship allows for the discovery in his teaching of a theological and spiritual treasure precious also for our times.

Born in Provenza, from a distinguished family, Ambrose Autpert -- according to his biographer, John -- was an official at the court of King Pepin the Short. He also played, in some way, the role of tutor to the future emperor Charlemagne. Probably as one following Pope Stephen II, who in 753-54 had gone to the court of the Franks, Autpert travelled to Italy and was able to visit the famous Benedictine abbey of St. Vincent, located at the source of the Volturno, in the Duchy of Benevento. Founded at the beginning of that century by the three Beneventan brothers Paldone, Riceman and Tasone, the abbey was known as a haven of classical and Christian culture. Shortly after his visit, Ambrose Autpert decided to embrace the religious life and entered the monastery, where he could train in an appropriate manner, especially in matters of theology and spirituality, according to the tradition of the Fathers. Around the year 761 he was ordained a priest and on October 4, 777, he was elected abbot with the support of the French monks and despite the opposition of some monks in favor of Lombard Potone.

The tension due to nationalistic divisions did not quiet in the months ahead, and as a result, Autpert, a year later in 778, intended to step down and retire with some French monks to Spoleto, where they could count on the protection of Charlemagne. This, however, did not eliminate the dissension in the monastery of St. Vincent, and some years later, when the abbot who succeeded Autpert died and Lombard Potone was elected as successor (a. 782), the conflict flared up again, which eventually lead to the denunciation of the new abbot to Charlemagne. The contenders were referred to the court of the Pope, who summoned them to Rome. Autpert was also called as a witness, but suddenly died during the trip, perhaps killed, January 30, 784.

Ambrose Autpert was a monk and abbot in an age marked by strong political tension, tensions which also had repercussions on life inside the monasteries. Of this we have frequent and concerned echoes in his writings. He denounces, for example, the contradiction between the beautiful outer appearance of the monasteries and the monks' lukewarmness; certainly his own abbey was included in this criticism. For his monastery he wrote the life of the three founders with the clear intention to offer the new generation of monks a benchmark with which to compare themselves. He also wrote the brief ascetic treatise "Conflictus vitiorum et virtutum" [Conflict between the vices and virtues] with the same intention, which had great success in the Middle Ages and was published in 1473 in Utrecht under the name of Gregory the Great, and a year later in Strasbourg under the name of St. Augustine. With these writings Ambrose Autpert intended to train the monks specifically on how to address the spiritual battle on a daily basis. In an important way he applies the truth expressed in 2 Timothy 3:12: "All those who want to live fully in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," no longer external persecution, but he refers to the assault of the forces of evil that Christians must face within themselves. He presents 24 pairs of combatants in a kind of juxtaposition: each vice tries to persuade the soul with subtle reasoning, while the respective virtues refute such insinuations preferably using the words of Scripture.

In this treatise on the conflict between vice and virtue, Autpert opposed the vice of "cupiditas" [greed] to the virtue of "contemptus mundi" [contempt of the world], which becomes an important element in the spirituality of the monks. This contempt of the world is not a contempt of creation, beauty and goodness of creation and the Creator, but a contempt of the false vision of the world presented and insinuated to us by our own greed. This greed affirms that the value of "having" is the supreme value of our being, of our living in the world and our image of ourselves as important. And so greed falsifies the creation of the world and destroys the world. Autpert notes that the desire for profit of the rich and powerful in the society of his time also exists within the souls of the monks and because of this he wrote a treatise titled "De cupiditate" [On Greed], in which, with the Apostle Paul, he denounces from the outset the vice of greed as the root of all evil. He writes: "From the soil of the earth several sharp spines sprout from various roots, however, in the heart of man, the sting of all the defects come from a single root, greed" (De cupiditate 1: CCCM 27B, p. 963 ).

I offer this reflection, which, in light of this global economic crisis, is revealed in all its relevance. We see that from this very root of greed this crisis is born. Ambrose foresaw the objection that the rich and powerful would raise, saying: but we are not monks, these ascetic standards don't apply to us. And he answers: "It is true what you say, but also for you, in your own way and to the best of your ability, the hard and narrow way applies to you, because the Lord has proposed only two doors and two ways -- i.e. the narrow gate and the wide, the hard and comfortable; he did not indicate a third door or a third way"(ibid, p. 978). He saw clearly that the life styles are very different. But even for the man in this world, even for the rich it is necessary to fight against greed, against the desire to possess, to appear, against the false notion of freedom as the right to dispose of everything according to one's own will. Even the rich must find the authentic path of truth, of love and in this way the path of moral rectitude. So Autpert, as a prudent shepherd of souls, knew then to say at the end of his preaching of repentance a word of comfort: "I have not spoken against the greedy, but against greed, not against nature, but against vice" (lc, p. 981).

The most important work of Ambrose Autpert is his commentary on Revelation in ten books: it constitutes, after centuries, the first extensive comment in the Latin world on last book of Sacred Scripture. This was the fruit of a long work, which took place in two stages between 758 and 767, therefore before his election as abate. In the preface, he indicates precisely its sources, which is completely abnormal in the Middle Ages. Through its perhaps most significant source, the comments of the Bishop Primasio Adrumetano, written around the middle of the sixth century, Autpert comes into contact with the interpretation of Revelation of the African Tycho, who had lived a generation before St. Augustine. He was not a Catholic; he belonged to the schismatic church of the Donatists, however, he was a great theologian. In his commentary, he saw the mystery of the Church reveal itself, above all in the book of Revelation. Tycho had reached the conviction that the Church was a body with two parts: One part, he says, belongs to Christ, but there is another part of the Church that belongs to the devil. Augustine read this commentary and benefitted from it, but strongly emphasized that the Church is in the hands of Christ, it remains his body, forming with him a single entity, a participant in the mediation of grace. He emphasizes therefore that the Church can never be separated from Jesus Christ.

In his reading of Revelation, which is similar to that of Tycho, Autpert is interested not so much in the second coming of Christ at the end of time, but in the consequences for the Church of his first coming, the Incarnation in the womb of the Virgin Mary. It tells us something very important: In reality, Christ, "must daily be born, die, and rise in us who are his body." (In Apoc. III: CCCM 27, p. 205). In the context of the mystical dimension that surrounds every Christian, he looks to Mary as a model of the Church, a model for us all, because also in us and between us Christ must be born. On the basis that the Fathers saw in the "woman clothed with the sun" of Revelation 12:1 the image of the Church, Autpert argues: "The blessed and pious Virgin [...] daily gives birth to new people, from which is formed the General Body of the Mediator. It is not therefore surprising that she, in whose blessed womb the Church itself deserved to be united to his head, represents the image of the Church."

In this sense Autpert sees a decisive role of the Virgin Mary in the work of Redemption -- see also his homilies in the occasions of the purification and the assumption of the Blessed Virgin. His great reverence, and his deep love for the Mother of God at times inspired formulations that somehow anticipate those of St. Bernard and the Franciscan spirit, but without diverging toward questionable forms of sentimentalism, because he never separated the mystery of the Church from Mary. With good reason then Ambrose Autpert is considered the first great mariologist in the West. The piety that, in his view, must free the soul from attachment to earthly and transient pleasures, he believes should be united with the deep study of the sacred sciences, especially the meditation of Sacred Scripture, which he describes as a "deep sky, an unfathomable abyss" (In Apoc.IX). In the beautiful prayer with which he concludes his remarks on the book of Revelation, emphasizing the priority which in every theological search for truth relies on love, he speaks to God with these words: "When you are scrutinized intellectually by us, you're not discovered as you truly are; it's only when you are loved that we reach you."

We can see today in Ambrose Autpert a person who lived in a time of intense political exploitation of the Church, in which nationalism and tribalism had disfigured the face of the Church. But he, in the midst of all these difficulties that we also experience, was able to discover the true face of the Church in Mary, in the saints. And so he was able to understand what it means to be Catholic, Christian, to live the Word of God, to enter into this abyss, and so live the mystery of the Mother of God: to give new life to the Word of God, to offer to the Word of God one's own body at the present time. And with all his theological experience, the depth of his knowledge, Autpert understood that with mere theological research God can not be known as he really is. Only love can reach him. Let us listen to this message and ask the Lord to help us live the mystery of the Church today, in this our time.

[The Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like to speak about the writings of a little-known author from the eighth century -- the Benedictine monk and abbot Ambrose Autpert. The turbulence of the times in which he lived affected life within the monasteries, and many of Autpert's writings summon his brethren to rekindle the fervor of their monastic vocation. One of his most widely-read works is his "Conflict between the vices and the virtues," designed to assist his monks in their daily spiritual struggle. For each of twenty-four vices threatening the soul, he indicated the corresponding virtue that would help the Christian to overcome temptation. Observing the widespread thirst for power and wealth in society of that time, he taught that greed is the root of all vices, and he urged his contemporaries to seek the narrow gate that leads to life. In his extensive commentary on the Book of Revelation, viewed as a treatise on the Church, Autpert taught that Christ must "be born, die and rise again every day in us, his body." Hence the Virgin Mary serves as a model of the Church. Indeed, Autpert is considered the first great Marian theologian in the West, and he writes with an almost mystical love for the Blessed Virgin. Love, he says, is the key to our knowledge of God. Intellectual study may point the way, but only when we love God do we truly know him. Following Autpert's teaching, let us strive to grow daily in our love for God.

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Australia, Canada and the United States of America. I extend a special greeting to the young people from India. Upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

[After the greetings, the Holy Father continued in Italian:]

I now greet the young, the sick and the newly married. May the Risen Lord fill with his love the hearts of each of you, dear young people, so that you will be ready to follow him with the enthusiasm and freshness of your age; sustain you, dear sick people, in the serene acceptance of the burden of suffering; guide you, dear new spouses, in forging, through mutual and faithful self giving, families replete with the perfume of evangelical sanctity.

Finally, I would like to say a special word to the youth of the International Youth Center of San Lorenzo, who remember today the 25th anniversary of the delivery of the Cross of the Holy Year to the youth of the world. It was, in fact, April 22, 1984, when at the end of the Holy Year of Redemption, the beloved John Paul II entrusted to the youth of the world the great cross of wood, which by his own desire, was kept at the high altar of the basilica of St. Peter's during the special Jubilee Year. Since then, the cross was accepted in the International Youth Center of San Lorenzo, and from there began to travel to the continents, opening the hearts of many young men and women to Christ the Redeemer. This its pilgrimage continues still, especially in preparation for World Youth Day, so much so as to be known now as "the World Youth Day Cross." Dear friends, I entrust this cross to you again! Continue to carry it to every corner of the earth, so that the next generation may also discover the mercy of God and have the hope in Christ crucified and risen renewed in their hearts!

[Translation by Matthew Pollock]

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to the Franciscan Family
"Attract to Christ Men and Women of All Ages"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 20, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday at the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, in an audience with members of the Franciscan family participating in the "Chapter of Mats."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Franciscan family!

With great joy I welcome you all at this happy and historic occasion that has gathered you all together: the eighth centenary of the approval of the "protoregola" [monastic rule] of St. Francis by Pope Innocent III. Eight hundred years have passed, and those dozen friars have become a multitude, scattered all over the world and now here, by you, worthily represented. In recent days you have gathered in Assisi for what you wanted to call the "Chapter of Mats" to recall your origins. And at the end of this extraordinary experience you have come together with the "Signor Papa" [Lord Pope], as your seraphic founder would say. I greet you all with affection: the Friars Minor of the three branches, guided by the respective Ministers General, among whom I thank Father José Rodriguez Carballo for his kind words, the members of the Third Order, with their Minister General; the Franciscan women religious and members of the Franciscan secular institutes, and knowing them spiritually present, the Poor Clares, which constitute the "second order."

I am pleased to welcome some Franciscan bishops, and in particular I greet the bishop of Assisi, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino, who represents the Church of Assisi, the home of Francis and Clare, and spiritually, of all the Franciscans. We know how important it was for Francis, the link with the bishop of Assisi at the time, Guido, who acknowledged his charisma and supported it. It was Guido who presented Francis to Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, who then introduced him to the Pope and encouraged the adoption of the Rule. Charism and institution are always complementary for the edification of the Church.

What should I tell you, dear friends? First of all I would like to join you in giving thanks to God for the path that he has marked out for you, filling you with his benefits. And as Pastor of the Church, I want to thank him for the precious gift that you are for the entire Christian people. From the small stream that flowed from the foot of Mount Subasio, it has formed a great river, which has made a significant contribution to the universal spread of the Gospel. It all began from the conversion of Francis, who, following the example of Jesus "emptied himself" (cf. Phil 2:7) and, by marrying Lady Poverty, became a witness and herald of the Father who is in heaven. To the "Poverello" [little poor man], one can apply literally some expressions that the apostle Paul uses to refer to himself and which I like to remember in this Pauline Year: "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And this life, I live in the flesh, I live by faith of the Son of God who has loved me and given himself for me" (Gal. 2:19-20). And again: "From now on let no one bother me: for I wear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Gal 6:17).

Francis reflects perfectly the footsteps of Paul and in truth can say with him: "For me, to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21). He has experienced the power of divine grace and he is as one who has died and risen. All his previous wealth, any source of pride and security, everything becomes a "loss" from the moment of encounter with the crucified and risen Jesus (cf. Phil 3:7-11). The leaving of everything at that point becomes almost necessary to express the abundance of the gift received. A gift so great as to require a total detachment, which itself isn't enough; it requires a entire life lived "according to the form of the holy Gospel" (2 Tests, 14: the Franciscan Sources, 116).

And here we come to the point that surely lies at the heart of our meeting. I would summarize it as follows: the Gospel as a rule of life. "The Rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:" this is what Francis writes at the beginning of his Rule (Rb I, 1: FF, 75). He defined himself entirely in the light of the Gospel. This is his charm. This is his enduring relevance. Thomas of Celano relates that the Poverello "always held himself in the heart of Jesus. Jesus on the lips, Jesus in his ears, Jesus is his eyes, Jesus in his hands, Jesus in all the other members [...] In fact finding himself often traveling and meditating or singing about Jesus, he would forget he was traveling and would stop to invite all creatures to praise Jesus" (1 Cel., II, 9, 115: FF115). So the Poverello has become a living gospel, able to attract to Christ men and women of all ages, especially young people, who prefer radical idealism to half-measures. The Bishop of Assisi, Guido, and then Pope Innocent III recognized in the proposal of Francis and his companions the authenticity of the Gospel, and knew how to encourage their commitment for the good of the Church.

Here is a spontaneous reflection: Francis could have also not gone to the Pope. Many religious groups and movements were forming during that time, and some of them were opposed to the Church as an institution, or at least didn't seek the Churches' approval. Certainly a polemical attitude towards the hierarchy would have won Francis many followers. Instead, he immediately thought to put his journey and that of his companions into the hands of the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter. This fact reveals his true ecclesial spirit. The little "we" that had started with his first friars he conceived from the outset inside the context of the great "we" of the one and universal Church. And the Pope recognized and appreciated this. The Pope, in fact, on his part, could have not approved the project of the life of Francis. Indeed, we can well imagine that among the collaborators of Innocent III, some counseled him to that effect, perhaps fearing that his group of monks would end up resembling other heretical groups and pauperisms of the time. Instead the Roman Pontiff, well informed by the Bishop of Assisi and Cardinal Giovanni of St. Paul, was able to discern the initiative of the Holy Spirit and welcomed, blessed and encouraged the nascent community of "Friars Minor."

Dear brothers and sisters, eight centuries have passed, and now you have wanted to renew this gesture of your founder. You are all sons and heirs of those origins, of that "good seed" which was Francis, who was conformed to the "grain of wheat" which is the Lord Jesus, died and risen to bring forth much fruit (cf. Jn 12:24). The saints propose anew the fruitfulness of Christ. As Francis and Clare of Assisi, you also commit yourselves to follow the same logic: to lose your lives for Jesus and the Gospel, to save them and make them abundantly fruitful. While you praise and thank the Lord who has called you to be part of such a great and beautiful family, stay attentive to what the Spirit says to it today, in each of its components, to continue to proclaim with passion the Kingdom of God, the footsteps of your seraphic father. Every brother and every sister should keep always a contemplative mood, happy and simple; always begin from Christ, as Francis set out from the gaze of the Crucifix of San Damiano and from the meeting with the leper, to see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters who suffer and bring to all his peace. Be witnesses to the "beauty" of God, which Francis was able to sing contemplating the wonders of creation, and that made him exclaim to the Most High: "You are beauty!" (Praises of God Most High, 4.6: FF 261).

Dear friends, the last word I would like to leave with you is the same that the risen Jesus gave to his disciples: "Go!" (cf. Mt 28:19, Mk 16:15). Go and continue to "repair the house" of the Lord Jesus Christ, his Church. In recent days, the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region has severely damaged many churches, and you from Assisi know what this means. But there is another "ruin" that is far more serious: that of people and communities! Like Francis, always start with yourselves. We are the first house that God wants to restore. If you are always able to renew yourselves in the spirit of the Gospel, you will continue to assist the pastors of the Church to make more and more beautiful the Church's face, that of the bride of Christ. The Pope, now the same as then, expects this of you. Thank you for coming! Now go and bring to all the peace and love of Christ the Savior. May Mary Immaculate, "Virgin made Church" (cf. Greetings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1 FF, 259), accompany you always. And may my Apostolic Blessing, which I cordially impart to all of you here present, and the entire Franciscan family, support you as well.

[Translation by Matthew Pollock]

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

I am pleased to welcome in a special way the Minister Generals gathered with the priests, Sisters and Brothers of the worldwide Franciscan community present at this audience. As you mark the Eight-hundredth anniversary of the approval of the Rule of Saint Francis, I pray that through the intercession of the Poverello, Franciscans everywhere will continue to offer themselves completely at the service of others, especially the poor. May the Lord bless you in your Apostolates and shower your communities with abundant vocations.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Significance of Christ's Resurrection

"God Reveals Himself and the Power of the Trinitarian Love"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Wednesday at the general audience in the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the customary Wednesday general audience is pervaded by a spiritual joy, that joy that no suffering or pain can destroy, because it is the joy that flows from the certainty that Christ, with his death and resurrection, has definitively triumphed over evil and death. "Christ is risen! Alleluia!" the Church sings in celebration. And this festive climate, these typical Easter sentiments, are prolonged not only during this week -- the Octave of Easter -- but extend through the 50 days until Pentecost. Indeed, we can say: the Easter mystery embraces the whole arc of our existence.

During this liturgical season there are truly many biblical references and stimulations to meditation that are offered to us to delve into the meaning and value of Easter. The "Via Crucis" [Way of the Cross], that in the Holy Triduum we traveled again with Jesus to Calvary reliving the sorrowful passion, becomes the consoling "Via Lucis" [Way of Light] in the solemn Easter Vigil. Seen from the perspective of the resurrection, we can say that this whole way of suffering is the road of light and spiritual rebirth, of interior peace and solid hope. After the weeping, after being lost on Good Friday, followed by the silence of Holy Saturday, charged with expectation, to the dawn of "the first day after the Sabbath" there resounded the proclamation of the life that has defeated death: "Dux vitae mortuus / regnat vivus!" -- "The Lord of life was dead / but now, living, he triumphs!" The unsettling novelty of the resurrection is so important that the Church does not cease to proclaim it, prolonging the recollection especially every Sunday: every Sunday, in fact, is "the Lord's day" and the weekly Easter of the people of God. Our Eastern brothers, highlighting this mystery of salvation that invests our daily Christian life, in the Russian language, call Sunday "Resurrection day" (voskrescénje).

Thus it is fundamental to our Christian faith and witness to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real historical event testified to by many authoritative witnesses. We strongly affirm this because, even in our times, there is no lack of those who deny its historicity, reducing the Gospel account to a myth, to a "vision" of the Apostles, taking up again and presenting old worn-out theories as new and scientific. Certainly for Jesus the resurrection was not a mere return to the former life. In this case, in fact, it would be a thing of the past: 2,000 years ago someone rose from the dead, returned to his old life, just as Lazarus did, for example. The resurrection is oriented in another direction; it is the passage to a dimension of life that is profoundly new, that also implicates us, that involves the whole of the human family, of history and of the universe.

This event that introduced a new dimension of life, an openness of our world to eternal life, changed the existence of the eyewitnesses as the evangelical accounts and the other New Testament writings demonstrate; it is an announcement that entire generations of men and women through the centuries welcomed with faith and often bore witness to at the price of their blood, knowing that precisely in this way they entered into this new dimension of life. This year too, at Easter there resounds unchanged and always new, in every corner of the earth, this good news: Jesus, who has died on the cross and been resurrected, lives in glory because he has defeated the power of death, he has brought human beings into a new communion of life with and in God. This is the victory of Easter, our salvation! And so we can sing with St. Augustine: "Christ's resurrection is our hope," because he leads us into a new future.

It is true: Jesus' resurrection founds our certain hope and illuminates the whole of our earthly pilgrimage, including the human enigma of pain and death. The faith in Christ crucified and risen is the heart of the whole evangelical message, the central nucleus of our "credo." Of such an essential "credo" we can find an authoritative expression in a famous passage in St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (15:3-8), where the Apostle, responding to some of the members of the community at Corinth who paradoxically proclaimed Jesus' resurrection but denied that of the dead -- our hope -- faithfully transmits that which he -- Paul -- had received from the first apostolic community about the death and resurrection of the Lord.

He begins with an almost parenthetical remark: "Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain!" (15:1-2). He immediately adds that he has passed on to them what he himself had received. Then the pericope follows that we listened to at the beginning of our meeting. St. Paul first of all presents the death of Jesus and then, in a very simple text, makes two additions to the news that "Christ died." The first addition is: he died "for our sins"; the second is: "according to the Scriptures" (15:3). This expression, "according to the Scriptures," puts the event of the Lord's death in relation to the history of the Old Testament covenant of God with his people, and he makes us understand that the death of the Son of God belongs to the fabric of the history of salvation, and indeed makes us understand that this history receives its logic and meaning from this death.

Until that moment Christ's death remained almost an enigma, whose outcome was still uncertain. In the Pascal mystery the words of Scripture are fulfilled, that is, this death realized "according to the Scriptures" is an event that carries a "logos" in itself, a logic: Christ's death testifies that the Word of God became human "flesh," human "history," without reserve. How and why this happened, we understand from the other addition Paul makes: Christ died "for our sins." With these words the Pauline text takes up the prophecy of Isaiah contained in the fourth song of the Servant of God (cf. Isaiah 53:12). The Servant of God -- the song says -- "surrendered himself to death," bore "the sins of the world," and interceding for the "guilty" was able to bring the gift of reconciliation among men and between men and God: his is a death therefore that puts an end to death; the way of the cross leads to the resurrection.

In the verses that follow, the Apostle pauses over the Lord's resurrection. He says that Christ "rose on the third day according to the Scriptures." Again: "according to the Scriptures!" Not a few exegetes see in the expression "[he] rose on the third day according to the Scriptures" a significant reference to Psalm 16, where the Psalmist proclaims: "You will not abandon me in the netherworld, nor let his faithful one undergo corruption" (16:10). This is one of the texts of the Old Testament that was cited by early Christians to prove Jesus' messianic character. Since, according to the understanding of Judaism, corruption began after the third day, the word of Scripture is fulfilled in Jesus who rises on the third day, that is, before corruption set in. St. Paul, faithfully transmitting the doctrine of the Apostles, stresses that the victory of Christ over death happens through the creative power of God's Word. This divine power brings hope and joy: this is the definitive liberating content of the Easter revelation. God reveals himself and the power of the trinitarian love that annihilates the destructive forces of evil and death in the events of Easter.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be enlightened by the splendor of the risen Lord. Let us welcome him with faith and adhere generously to his Gospel, as did the first privileged witnesses of the resurrection; as St. Paul did, some years later, encountering the divine Master in an extraordinary way on the road to Damascus. We cannot just hold onto the proclamation of this truth -- which changes the life of everyone -- only for ourselves. And with humble confidence let us pray: "Jesus, who, rising from the dead, anticipated our resurrection, we believe in you!" I would like to conclude with an exclamation that Silvanus of Mount Athos loved to repeat: "Rejoice, my soul. It is always Easter, because the risen Christ is our resurrection!" May the Virgin Mary help us cultivate in ourselves, and around us, this climate of Easter joy, so that we may be witnesses of divine love in every situation of our existence. Once again, a happy Easter to all of you!

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's general audience takes place at the beginning of the liturgical season of Easter, the joyful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The Easter sequence sings the victory of the Lord of life who, after a heroic struggle with death, now lives triumphant. After the Via Crucis of Good Friday, our solemn Easter Vigil sets us on a Via Lucis marked by consolation, peace and hope. It is fundamental for our faith and our Christian witness that we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real, historical event. His resurrection was not a simple return to existence, but an entrance into a new dimension of life meant to transform every human being, all history and the whole cosmos. Saint Paul, writing to the Corinthians, reminded them of what was transmitted from the beginning, namely that Christ died and rose from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures. As the Suffering Servant of God, Jesus purified us from our guilt by carrying our sins and interceding for us. By dying he put an end to death, and by rising he brought new life to the world. May the joy of the resurrection of Christ give us courage to live his Gospel faithfully and bear witness to it generously!

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's audience. I extend particular greetings to the groups from England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Malta, Australia, Indonesia, Canada and the United States of America. May your pilgrimage to the Eternal City strengthen your faith and renew your love for the Lord, the Giver of Life. I wish all of you a happy Easter!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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REGINA CAELI

On Divine Mercy and the Catholic Family

"It Is the Merciful Love of God that Solidly Unites the Church"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 19, 2009 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today before praying the Regina Caeli with the people gathered in the courtyard of the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Sunday that concludes the Easter Octave I renew from my heart fervent Easter wishes to you who are present and to those who are joining us through radio and television broadcasts. In the climate of joy that comes from the faith in the risen Christ, I would like to express a most cordial "thank you" to all of those -- and there are truly many -- who wanted to send me a sign of affection and spiritual nearness whether for the Easter festivities or for my birthday -- April 16 -- or for the anniversary of my election to the Chair of Peter which recurs today. I thank the Lord for this symphony of so much affection. As I was able to affirm recently, I never feel alone.

Even more in this singular week, which, for the liturgy, constitutes a single day, I experienced the communion that surrounds and sustains me: a spiritual solidarity, essentially nourished by prayer, which is manifested in thousands of ways. From my colleagues in the Roman Curia to the parishes that are geographically most distant, we Catholics form -- and we must feel that we are -- one family, animated by the same sentiments of the first Christian community, of which the text of the Acts of the Apostles, which we read this Sunday, says: "The community of believers were of one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32).

The communion of the first Christians had the risen Christ as true center and foundation. The Gospel says that, in the moment of the Passion, when the Divine Master was arrested and condemned to death, the disciples were dispersed. Only Mary and the women, with the apostle John, remain together and follow him to Calvary.

Resurrected, Jesus grants a new unity to his followers, stronger than before, invincible, because it is based not on human resources, but on divine mercy, which makes them all feel loved and forgiven by him. Therefore it is the merciful love of God that solidly unites the Church, today as yesterday, and that makes humanity a single family, divine love, which through Jesus crucified and risen forgives our sins and renews us interiorly. Animated by such a deep conviction, my beloved predecessor, John Paul II, desired that this Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, be named Divine Mercy Sunday, and pointed to the risen Christ as the font of confidence and hope, welcoming the spiritual message given by the Lord to St. Faustina Kowalska, synthesized in the invocation: "Jesus, I trust in you."

As for the first community, it is Mary who accompanies us in life every day. We invoke her as "Queen of Heaven," knowing that her royalty is like that of her Son: all love, and merciful love. I ask you again to entrust to her my service to the Church, while with confidence we say to her: "Mater misericordiae, ora pro nobis [Mother of mercy, pray for us.]"

[After the Regina Caeli the Pope said:]

First of all I address a cordial greeting and fervent wishes to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches that, following the Julian calendar, celebrate Holy Easter today. May the risen Lord renew the light of faith in all and give abundance of joy and peace.

A conference organized by the United Nations on the 2001 Durban Declaration against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance will begin tomorrow in Geneva. This is an important initiative because still today, despite the lessons of history, these deplorable phenomena continue. The Durban Declaration recognizes that "all peoples and individuals constitute one human family, rich in diversity. They have contributed to the progress of civilizations and cultures that form the common heritage of humanity. Preservation and promotion of tolerance, pluralism and respect for diversity can produce more inclusive societies."

These affirmations lead to the demand for firm and concrete action, at the national and international levels, to prevent and eliminate every form of discrimination and intolerance. There must be a vast educational undertaking that exalts the dignity of the person and teaches fundamental rights. The Church, for her part, repeats that only the recognition of the dignity of man, created in the image and likeness of God, can constitute a secure reference for such a task. From this common origin, in fact, there flows a common human destiny that must awaken in everyone and all a strong sense of solidarity and responsibility. I pray that the delegates present at the conference in Geneva will be able to work together, in the spirit of dialogue and reciprocal acceptance, to put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance, marking in this way a fundamental step toward the affirmation of the universal value of the dignity of man and his rights, in a horizon of respect and justice for every person and people.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present for today's Regina Caeli prayer, including the group from Dulwich Preparatory School, Cranbrook in Kent. As we rejoice in the new life that the Risen Christ has won for us, let us renew our resolve to be faithful to our baptismal promises by rejecting Satan and living according to the example of the Lord. In our prayer we commend our perseverance to the intercession of Mary, Queen of Heaven. Upon all of you I invoke God's abundant blessings of peace and joy!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Resurrection and the Eucharist

"He Nourishes Us Spiritually and Infuses Us with Strength"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave Easter Monday, April 13, before praying the Regina Caeli with the people gathered in the courtyard of the pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these days of Easter we shall often hear Jesus' words resound: "I am risen and I am with you always." Echoing this good news, the Church proclaims exultantly: "Yes, we are certain! The Lord is truly risen, alleluia! The power and the glory are his, now and forever." The whole Church rejoices, expressing her sentiments by singing: "This is the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ". In fact, in rising from the dead, Jesus inaugurated his eternal day and has opened the door to our joy, too. "I will not die," he says, "but will have everlasting life."

The crucified Son of man, the stone rejected by the builders, has now become the solid foundation of the new spiritual edifice which is the Church, his mystical Body. The People of God, which has Christ as its invisible Head, is destined to grow in the course of the centuries until the complete fulfillment of the plan of salvation.

Then the whole of humanity will be incorporated into him and every existing reality will be penetrated with his total victory. Then, as St. Paul writes, he will be "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (cf. Eph 1: 23), and "God may be everything to everyone" (1 Cor 15: 28).

Thus it is right for the Christian community to rejoice all of us because the Resurrection of the Lord assures us that the divine plan of salvation, despite all the obscurity of history, will certainly be brought about. This is why his Passover truly is our hope. And we, risen with Christ through Baptism, must now follow him faithfully in holiness of life, advancing towards the eternal Passover, sustained by the knowledge that the difficulties, struggles and trials of human life, including death, henceforth can no longer separate us from him and his love.

His Resurrection has formed a bridge between the world and eternal life over which every man and every woman can cross to reach the true goal of our earthly pilgrimage.

"I am risen and I am with you always." This assurance of Jesus is realized above all in the Eucharist; it is in every Eucharistic Celebration that the Church and every one of her members experience his living presence and benefit from the full richness of his love. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the risen Lord is present and mercifully purifies us from our sins; he nourishes us spiritually and infuses us with strength to withstand the harsh trials of life and the fight against sin and evil.

He is the sturdy support in our pilgrimage towards the eternal dwelling place in Heaven. May the Virgin Mary, who experienced beside her divine Son every phase of his mission on earth, help us to welcome with faith the gift of Easter and make us faithful and joyful witnesses of the risen Lord.

[After the Regina Caeli, the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims to this Regina Caeli. My dear friends, our song of joy on the night of Jesus' Resurrection "Rejoice heavenly powers! Exult all creation!" continues to resound throughout these eight days of solemn celebration. The Lord of heaven and earth has arisen in glory! His splendor continues to shine upon the human race, giving strength to the weak, relief to the suffering and comfort to the dying. I pray that Christ's gift of new life will grow in your hearts and lead you along the way of eternal salvation. God bless you all! To all of you once again, Happy Easter!

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Papal Message to Madrid Youth
"Go in the Footsteps of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Monday to young people of the Archdiocese of Madrid, who are in Rome to receive the cross for World Youth Day 2011.

* * *

Dear Friends:

It is a very great joy for me to receive in this audience such a numerous group from Madrid and Spain, who have come to collect the youth cross, which will be taken to several cities until World Youth Day in Madrid, in the year 2011. I cordially greet the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, who presides over this pilgrimage, the general coordinator of Madrid, Auxiliary Bishop César Augusto Franco Martínez, and the other bishops, priests and catechists who have wished to be here. I especially greet you with affection, dear young people, who, on taking the cross, confess your faith in him who loves you without measure, the Lord Jesus, whose Paschal mystery we celebrate in these holy days. As I said on another occasion, "faith, in its way, needs to see and touch. The encounter with the cross, which is touched and carried, is transformed into an interior encounter with Him who died on the cross for us. The encounter with the cross awakens in the depth of young people the memory of the God who willed to become man and suffer with us" (To the Members of the Roman Curia, Dec. 22, 2008). I am happy to know that this cross you have received will be taken in procession on Good Friday through the streets of Madrid to be acclaimed and venerated.

Therefore, I encourage you to discover in the cross the infinite measure of Christ's love, and thus be able to say, with St. Paul: "I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Yes, dear young people, Christ gave himself for each one of you and loves you in a unique and personal way. Respond to Christ's love by offering him your life with love. In this way, the preparation for World Youth Day, whose works you have begun with much hope and dedication, will be recompensed with the fruits intended by these Days: to renew and strengthen the experience of the encounter with Christ who died and rose from the dead for us.

Go in the footsteps of Christ. He is your end, your way and also your prize. In the motto I chose for Madrid's Day, the Apostle Paul invites us to walk "rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith" (Colossians 2:7). Life is a journey, certainly. But it is not an uncertain journey without a fixed destiny; it leads to Christ, the end of human life and history. On this journey you will meet with Him who gave his life for love, and opens to you the doors of eternal life. I invite you, therefore, to be formed in the faith that gives meaning to your life and strengthens your convictions, so as to be able to remain firm in the difficulties of each day. Moreover, I exhort you, on your journey to Christ, to be able to attract your young friends, your study and work companions, so that they too will know him and confess him as Lord of their lives. To do this, let the force from on high, which is within you, the Holy Spirit, manifest himself with his immense attractiveness. Young people of today need to discover the new life that comes from God, to be satiated by the truth that has its source in Christ who died and was resurrected and who the Church has received as a treasure for all men.

Dear young people, this time of preparation for the youth day of Madrid is, in addition, an extraordinary occasion to experience the grace of belonging to the Church, Body of Christ. World Youth Days manifest the dynamism of the Church and her eternal youth. He who loves Christ, loves the Church with the same passion, as she enables us to live in a close relationship with the Lord. Hence, cultivate the initiatives that enable young people to feel they are members of the Church, in full communion with their pastors and with the Successor of Peter. Pray in common, opening the doors of your parishes, associations and movements so that all can feel at home in the Church, in which they are loved with the very love of God. Celebrate and live your faith with immense joy, which is a gift of the Spirit. In this way your hearts and your friends will prepare to celebrate the great feast that youth day is and we will all experience a new epiphany of the youth of the Church.

In these very beautiful days of Holy Week, which we began yesterday, I encourage you to contemplate Christ in the mysteries of his Passion, Death and Resurrection. In them you will find what surpasses all wisdom and knowledge, namely, the love of God manifested in Christ. Learn from him, who did not come "to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). This is the style of Christ's love, marked with the sign of the glorious cross, in which Christ is exalted, in the sight of all, with his open heart, so that the world can look and see, through his perfect humanity, the love that saves us. Thus the cross becomes the very sign of life, as on it Christ overcomes sin and death through the total giving of himself. That is why we must embrace and adore the cross of the Lord, make it our own, accept its weight as the Cyrenean to participate in the only thing that can redeem the whole of humanity (cf. Colossians 1:24). In baptism you were marked with the cross of Christ and you belong to him totally. Make yourselves ever more worthy of it and never be ashamed of this supreme sign of love.

With this profound Christian attitude, you will carry forward the works of preparation for World Youth Day with success and fruitfulness because, as St. Paul says, we can do all things in him who strengthens us (cf. Philippians 4:13). And, manifested to us in Christ crucified is the strength and wisdom of God (cf. 1 Colossians 1:24). Let yourselves be invaded by this strength and wisdom, communicate it to others and, under the protection of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, prepare the World Youth Day with dedication and joy which will make of Madrid a place radiant of faith and life, where young people from the whole world celebrate Christ with enthusiasm.

Take my affectionate greeting to your families, friends and companions who have been unable to come today, whom I also bless from my heart.

Happy Easter

Thank you very much.

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On Preparation for World Youth Day in Madrid
"The Pilgrim Cross Brings the Message of Christ to All Youth"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 5, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after Palm Sunday Mass, before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square. During his address, a delegation from Sydney handed over the World Youth Day Cross to a group of young people from Madrid.

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Yesterday, April 4, the U.N.'s 4th international day for increasing anti-personnel mine awareness was observed. At the present moment, ten years after the treaty banning the use of these devices came into effect, and after the treaty banning cluster bombs was recently presented for signatures, I would like to encourage the countries who have still not yet done so to sign without delay these important instruments of international humanitarian law, which the Holy See has always supported. Moreover, I express my support for any measure intended to guarantee necessary assistance for the victims of these devastating weapons.

Furthermore, I would like to remember, with deep sorrow, our African brothers and sisters, who met their deaths a few days ago in the Mediterranean Sea, while they were trying to find refuge in Europe. We cannot resign ourselves to such tragedies that, unfortunately, repeat themselves time and time again! The phenomenon's dimensions make coordinated strategies between the European Union and African countries more and more urgent, as well as the adoption of adequate humanitarian measures to impede migrants having recourse to lawless traffickers. As I pray for the victims, that the Lord welcome them into his peace, I would like to observe that this problem, subsequently aggravated by the global crisis, will be solved only when African populations can relieve themselves from suffering and wars with the help of the international community.

I now address a special greeting to the 150 delegates -- bishops, priests and lay people -- who in recent days participated in the international meeting on the World Youth Days, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Thus, there begins the journey of preparation toward the next international gathering of youth, which will take place in August 2011 in Madrid. I have already indicated its theme: "Rooted and Built Up in Christ, Solid in Faith," which is taken from Colossians 2:7. As is tradition, the young people from Australia will give to the young people from Spain the World Youth Day cross, the "pilgrim cross," which brings the message of Christ to all the youth of the world. This "passing on of witness" takes on a highly symbolic value, with which we express immense gratitude to God for the gifts received at the great meeting in Sydney and for those that we will receive at the meeting in Madrid. Tomorrow the cross, accompanied by the icon of the Virgin Mary, will depart for the Spanish capital, and will be present there for the great Good Friday procession. After this a long pilgrimage through the dioceses of Spain will begin, and will end again in Madrid in the summer of 2011. May this cross and this icon of Mary be for all a sign of Christ's invincible love and that of his and our Mother!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[The Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here this Palm Sunday, when we recall the humble entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, our King and Messiah. With vivid memories of my visit to Sydney for World Youth Day, I greet Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, and Bishops Anthony Fisher and Julian Porteous, Auxiliary Bishops of Sydney, who are here together with a large group of young Australians in order to consign to their counterparts from Madrid the World Youth Day Cross and Icon of Our Lady. May the great events of Holy Week strengthen your faith and inspire you to be humble witnesses of charity. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God's blessings of peace and wisdom.

And now let us accompany with prayer the handing over of the Cross.

[After the ceremony of the handing over of the World Youth Day Cross and Icon, he said:]

And now we turn with faith to the Virgin Mary, so that she will always watch over the path of the young and that she will help us to live Holy Week well.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Holy Triduum
"Hope Is Nourished in the Great Silence of Holy Saturday"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Holy Week, which for us Christians is the most important week of the year, offers us the opportunity to be immersed in the central events of Redemption, to relive the Paschal Mystery, the great mystery of the faith. Beginning tomorrow afternoon, with the Mass "In Coena Domini," the solemn liturgical rites will help us to meditate in a more lively manner on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord in the days of the Holy Paschal Triduum, fulcrum of the entire liturgical year.

May divine grace open our hearts to comprehend the inestimable gift that salvation is, obtained for us by Christ's sacrifice. We find this immense gift wonderfully narrated in a famous hymn contained in the Letter to the Philippians (cf. 2:6-11), on which we meditated several times in Lent. The Apostle reviews, both in an essential and effective manner, the whole mystery of the history of salvation referring to Adam's pride who, not being God, wanted to be like God. And he contrasts this pride of the first man, which all of us feel a bit in our being, with the humility of the true Son of God who, becoming man, did not hesitate to take upon himself all the weaknesses of the human being, except sin, and pushed himself to the profundity of death. This descent to the last profundity of the Passion and Death is then followed by his exaltation, the true glory, the glory of the love that went all the way to the end. And that is why it is right -- as Paul says -- that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!" (2:10-11). With these words, St. Paul refers to a prophecy of Isaiah where God says: I am the Lord, to me every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth (cf. Isaiah 45: 23). This -- says Paul -- is also true for Jesus Christ. He really is, in his humility, in the true greatness of his love, the Lord of the world and before him every knee truly bows.

How marvelous, and at the same time amazing, is this mystery! We can never meditate this reality sufficiently. Jesus, though being God, did not want to make of his divine prerogatives an exclusive possession; he did not want to use his being God, his glorious dignity and power, as an instrument of triumph and sign of distance from us. On the contrary, "he emptied himself" assuming our miserable and weak human condition -- in this regard, Paul uses a quite meaningful Greek verb to indicate the kenosis, this descent of Jesus. The divine form (morphe) is hidden in Christ under the human form, namely, under our reality marked by suffering, poverty, human limitations and death. The radical and true sharing of our nature, a sharing in everything except sin, leads him to that frontier that is the sign of our finiteness -- death. But all this was not the fruit of a dark mechanism or a blind fatality: It was instead his free choice, by his generous adherence to the salvific plan of the Father. And the death which he went out to meet -- adds Paul -- was that of the cross, the most humiliating and degrading that one can imagine. The Lord of the universe did all this out of love for us: out of love he willed to "empty himself" and make himself our brother; out of love he shared our condition, that of every man and every woman. In this connection, Theodoret of Cyrus, a great witness of the Eastern tradition, writes: "Being God and God by nature and having equality with God, he did not retain this as something great, as do those who have received some honor beyond their merits, but concealing his merits, he chose the most profound humility and took the form of a human being" (Commentary on the Letter to the Philippians, 2:6-7).

As prelude to the Paschal Triduum, which will begin tomorrow -- as I was saying -- with the thought-provoking afternoon rites of Holy Thursday, is the solemn Chrism Mass, which the bishop celebrates in the morning with his presbytery, and in the course of which at the same time the priestly promises are renewed, made on the day of ordination. It is a gesture of great value, an occasion all the more propitious in which the priests confirm their fidelity to Christ who chose them as his ministers. Moreover, this priestly meeting assumes a particular meaning, because it is almost a preparation to the Priestly Year, which I have proclaimed on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the holy Curé of Ars and which will begin next June 19. Blessed also in the Chrism Mass will be the oil of the sick and of catechumens, and the chrism will be consecrated. These are rites that signify symbolically the fullness of Christ's priesthood and the ecclesial communion that must animate Christian people, gathered for the Eucharistic sacrifice and vivified in the unity of the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In the afternoon Mass, called "In Coena Domini," the Church commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the ministerial priesthood and the new commandment of charity, left by Jesus to his disciples. St. Paul gives one of the earliest testimonies of all that happened in the Cenacle, vigil of the Lord's Passion. "The Lord Jesus," he wrote, at the beginning of the 50's years, based on a text he received from the Lord's own realm, "on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25). Words charged with mystery, which manifest clearly the will of Christ: Under the species of bread and wine he renders himself present in his body given and with his bloodshed. It is the sacrifice of the new and definitive covenant offered to all, without distinction of race or culture. And from this sacramental rite, which he entrusts to the Church as supreme proof of his love, Jesus appointed his disciples as ministers, and those who followed them in the course of the centuries. Holy Thursday is, therefore, a renewed invitation to render thanks to God for the supreme gift of the Eucharist, to be received with devotion and to be adored with lively faith. Because of this, the Church encourages, after the celebration of Holy Mass, watching in the presence of the Most Holy Sacrament, recalling the sad hour that Jesus passed in solitude and prayer in Gethsemane, before being arrested and then being condemned to death.

And so we come to Good Friday, day of the Passion and crucifixion of the Lord. Every year, placing ourselves in silence before Jesus nailed to the wood of the cross, we realize how full of love were the words he pronounced on the eve, in the course of the Last Supper. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). Jesus willed to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins. Just as before the Eucharist, so before the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross the mystery is unfathomable to reason. We are placed before something that humanly might seem absurd: a God who not only is made man, with all man's needs, not only suffers to save man, burdening himself with all the tragedy of humanity, but dies for man.

Christ's death recalls the accumulation of sorrows and evils that beset humanity of all times: the crushing weight of our dying, the hatred and violence that again today bloody the earth. The Lord's Passion continues in the suffering of men. As Blaise Pascal correctly writes, "Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world; one must not sleep during this time" (Pensées, 553). If Good Friday is a day full of sadness, and hence at the same time, all the more propitious a day to reawaken our faith, to strengthen our hope and courage so that each one of us will carry his cross with humility, trust and abandonment in God, certain of his support and victory. The liturgy of this day sings: "O Crux, ave, spes unica" (Hail, O cross, our only hope)."

This hope is nourished in the great silence of Holy Saturday, awaiting the resurrection of Jesus. On this day the Churches are stripped and no particular liturgical rites are provided. The Church watches in prayer like Mary, and together with Mary, sharing the same feelings of sorrow and trust in God. Justly recommended is to preserve throughout the day a prayerful climate, favorable to meditation and reconciliation; the faithful are encouraged to approach the sacrament of penance, to be able to participate truly renewed in the Easter celebrations.

The recollection and silence of Holy Saturday lead us at night to the solemn Easter Vigil, "mother of all vigils," when the singing of the joy of the resurrection of Christ will erupt in all the churches and communities. Proclaimed once again will be the victory of light over darkness, of life over death, and the Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord. We will thus enter into the climate of the Easter of Resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us dispose ourselves to live the Holy Triduum intensely, to participate ever more profoundly in the mystery of Christ. We are accompanied on this journey by the Holy Virgin, who in silence followed her son Jesus to Calvary, taking part with great sorrow in his sacrifice, thus cooperating with the mystery of the Redemption and becoming Mother of all believers (cf. John 19:25-27). Together with her we will enter the Cenacle, we will stay at the foot of the Cross, we will watch next to the dead Christ, awaiting with hope the dawn of the radiant day of the Resurrection. In this perspective, I now express to all of you the most cordial wishes for a happy and holy Easter, together with your families, parishes and communities.

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

I address a cordial welcome to Italian-speaking pilgrims. In the first place I renew my spiritual closeness to the dear community of L'Aquila and of the other regions, harshly stricken by the violent seismic phenomenon of past days, which has caused numerous victims, many wounded and immense material damage. The solicitude with which the authorities, forces of order, volunteers and other workers are helping these brothers of ours shows the importance of solidarity, to overcome together such painful trials. Once again I wish to say to those populations that the Pope shares their sorrow and concern. Very dear ones, I hope to come to see you as soon as possible. Know that the Pope prays for all, imploring the Lord's mercy for the deceased and the maternal comfort of Mary for the families and survivors, and the support of Christian hope.

Then I greet the participants in the UNIV international convention, promoted by the prelature of the Opus Dei. Dear friends, I exhort you to respond with joy to the Lord's call to give full meaning to your lives: in study, in relations with colleagues, in the family and in society. "Don't forget that many great things depend on the fact that you and I," said St. Josemaría Escrivá, "behave as God wishes" (The Way, 755). I greet the faithful of the parish of St. John the Baptist, in Campagnano of Rome, and the directors, teachers and numerous young students of the Don Milani Didactic Circle of Galatone. I hope that the visit to the tombs of the Apostles will arouse in all the desire to always serve Christ and brethren ever more generously.

I greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. Tomorrow we will enter in the Holy Triduum, which will make us relive the central mysteries of our salvation. I invite you, dear young people, to draw from the Cross the necessary light to walk in the footsteps of the Redeemer. For you, dear sick people, may the Passion of the Lord, culminating in the triumph of Easter, always be the source of hope. And you, dear newlyweds, by living the Paschal Mystery, make your existence become a mutual gift.

[In English, he said]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow we begin the Holy Triduum, the heart of the entire liturgical year: a time when we immerse ourselves in the central events of our Redemption. The Chrism Mass serves as a prelude to these three days, as priests renew their promises to the Bishop, who then blesses the holy oils and consecrates the chrism signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit. At the Mass of the Lord's Supper, we recall the institution of the Eucharist, the supreme sign of Christ's love for us. As we venerate his Cross on Good Friday, we contemplate the full meaning of his words: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mk 14:24). Holy Saturday finds us waiting in silent hope for the Easter Vigil, when every church will break forth in a song of joy at the Lord's Resurrection. The celebration of the Paschal mystery recalls the depth of Christ's love: he did not wish to exercise his divinity as an exclusive possession, a means of domination, or a sign of distance between him and us. Rather, "he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant" (Phil 2:7) by sharing fully in our human condition, even to the point of death: not a death imposed by blind chance or fate, but one freely chosen in obedience to the Father's will for the salvation for all. May our fervent celebration of the Triduum draw us ever more deeply into Christ's Paschal mystery!

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience. May your visit to Rome during this Holy Week fill you with the peace, hope and joy of Christ Jesus!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Homily for Palm Sunday
"His Will Is the Truth and Is Love"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 5, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at today's Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young People!

Jesus went up to Jerusalem for Passover along with a growing crowd of pilgrims. On the last stage of the journey, he had cured the blind Bartimaeus, who had addressed him as Son of David, asking for mercy. Now -- being able to see -- with gratitude he joined the pilgrims. When, at the gates of Jerusalem, Jesus mounts a donkey, the animal symbol of Davidic royalty, joyous certainty erupts among the pilgrims: It is he, the Son of David! Thus they greet Jesus with the messianic acclamation: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," and add: "Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest!" (Mark 11:9). We do not know exactly what the enthusiastic pilgrims imagined the coming kingdom of David to be. But we, have we truly understood the message of the Jesus, Son of David? Have we understood what the kingdom is that he spoke of when he was interrogated by Pilate? Do we understand what it means that this kingdom is not of this world? Or would we like it to be of this world?

St. John, in his Gospel, after the account of the entrance into Jerusalem, reports a series of words of Jesus, in which he explains the essentials of this new type of kingdom. In a first reading of these texts we can distinguish three different images of the kingdom in which the same mystery is always reflected in a different way. John first of all reports that among the pilgrims who "wanted to worship God" during the feast, there were also some Greeks (cf. 12:20). Let us note the fact that the true objective of these pilgrims was to worship God. This corresponds perfectly to what Jesus said on the occasion of the purification of the Temple: "My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Mark 11:17). The true scope of the pilgrimage must be that of encountering God, to worship him, and, in this way, put the fundamental relationship of our life in right order. The Greeks are persons in search of God, they are on a journey toward God with their lives. Now, with the help of two Greek-speaking apostles, Philip and Andrew, they send this request to the Lord: "We want to see Jesus" (John 12:21). This is essential. Dear friends, that is why we are gathered here together: We want to see Jesus. Millions of young people went to Sydney last year for this purpose. Certainly they had many expectations about this pilgrimage. But the main objective was this: We want to see Jesus.

What did Jesus say in regard to this request at that time? From the Gospel it is not clear whether there was a meeting between Jesus and those Greeks. Jesus' gaze reaches far higher: "If the grain of wheat falls to the ground and does not die, it will remain alone; but if it dies, it will bear much fruit" (John 12:24). This means that right now a more or less brief discussion with a few persons, who will then return home, is not important. As a grain of wheat dead and risen in a totally new way, that goes beyond the limits of the moment, he will go out to meet the world and the Greeks. Through the resurrection Jesus passes beyond the limits of space and time. As the Risen One, he is on a journey toward the vastness of the world and history. Indeed, as the Risen One he goes to the Greeks and speaks with them, he manifests himself to them in such a way that they, the ones who are faraway, draw near and, precisely in their language, in their culture, his word will be carried forward in a new way and understood in a new way -- his kingdom comes. We can thus recognize two essential characteristics of this kingdom. The first is that this kingdom passes through the cross. Because Jesus gives himself totally, he can as the Risen One belong to everyone and make himself present to all. In the Holy Eucharist we receive the fruit of the dead grain of wheat, the multiplication of the loaves that continues to the end of the world and in all times.

The second characteristic is that his kingdom is universal. It fulfills the ancient hope of Israel: this reign of David knows no more borders. It extends "from sea to sea" -- as the prophet Zachariah says (9:10) -- that is, it embraces the whole world. This, however, is only possible because it is not a political kingdom, but is based solely on the free adhesion of love -- a love that, for its part, answers to the love of Jesus Christ that has given itself for all. I think that we must always be learning both things -- first the universality, the catholicity. It means that no one can posit himself as absolute, his culture, his time and his world. This means that we all welcome each other, renouncing something of ourselves. Universality includes the mystery of the cross -- the overcoming of ourselves, obedience toward the universal word of Jesus Christ in the universal Church. Universality is always an overcoming of ourselves, a renunciation of something that is ours. Universality and the cross go together. Only in this way can peace be created.

The saying about the dead grain of wheat is part of Jesus' answer to the Greeks, it is his answer. Then, however, he formulates once again the fundamental law of human existence: "He who loves his life will lose it and he who hates his life in this world will save it for eternal life" (John 12:25). He who wants to have his life for himself, live only for himself, squeeze out everything for himself and exploit all the possibilities -- he is the one who lose his life. It becomes boring and empty. Only in abandoning ourselves, only in the disinterested gift of the "I" in favor of the "Thou," only in the "Yes" to the greater life, precisely the life of God, our life too becomes full and more spacious. Thus, this fundamental principle that the Lord establishes is, in the final analysis, simply identical with the principle of love. Love, in fact, means leaving yourself behind, giving yourself, not wanting to hold on to yourself, but becoming free from yourself: not getting preoccupied with yourself -- what will become of me -- but looking ahead, toward the other - toward God and the people whom he sends to me. It is this principle of love that defines man's journey, it is once again identical with the mystery of the cross, with the mystery of death and resurrection that we encounter in Christ.

Dear friends, perhaps it is relatively easy to accept this grand fundamental vision of life. In concrete reality, however, it is not just a simple matter of recognizing a principle, but of living its truth, the truth of the cross and the resurrection. And for this, once again, just one big decision is not enough. It is surely important at some point to dare to make a fundamental decision, to dare the great "Yes" that the Lord asks of us at a certain moment in our life. But the great "Yes" of the decisive moment in our life -- the "Yes" to the truth that the Lord places before us -- must then be daily re-conquered in the everyday situations in which, again and again, we must abandon our "I," make ourselves available, when, at bottom, we just want to hang on to that "I." Sacrifice, renunciation, also belongs to an upright life. He who permits himself a life without this ever renewed gift of self, deceives people. There is no successful life without sacrifice. If I cast a retrospective glance on my own life, I must say that precisely those moments in which I said "Yes" to renunciation were the great and important moments of my life.

Finally, St. John also put Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Olives in a modified form in his composition for "Palm Sunday." There is first of all the statement, "My soul is troubled" (12:27). Here Jesus' fear appears, which is amply illustrated by the other evangelists -- his fear in the face of the power of death, in the face of the entire abyss of evil that he sees and into which he must descend. The Lord suffers our anxieties together with us, he accompanies us in the last anxiety until we come to the light. Then there follow, in John, Jesus' two questions. The first is only expressed conditionally: "What will I say, 'Father, save me from this hour?'" (12:27). As a human being, Jesus also felt driven to ask that he be spared the terror of the passion. We too can pray in this way. We too can lament before the Lord like Job, present all our questions that arise in us in the face of the injustice in the world and the problems affect us personally. Before God we must not take refuge in pious phrases, in a world of make-believe. Praying also means struggling with God, and like Jacob we can say to him: "I will not let you go until you have given me a blessing!" (Genesis 32:37). But then there is Jesus' second request: "Glorify your name!" (John 12:28). The Synoptic Gospels put this request in this way: "Not my will but your will be done!" (Luke 22:42). In the end, God's glory, his lordship, his will is always more important and more true than my thoughts and my will. And this is what is essential in our prayer and in our life: understanding this right order of reality, accepting it interiorly; trusting in God and believing that he is doing the right thing; understanding that his will is the truth and is love; understanding that my life will be a good life if I can learn how to conform to this order. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the guarantee that we can truly entrust ourselves to God. It is in this way that his kingdom is realized.

Dear friends, at the end of this liturgy, the young people from Australia will give the World Youth Day Cross to the young people of Spain. The Cross is on its way from one side of the world to the other, from sea to sea. And we accompany it. Let us go forth with it along this road and, in this way, find our road. When we touch the cross, indeed, when we carry it, we touch the mystery of God, the mystery of Jesus Christ. The mystery that God so loved the world -- us -- that he gave his only-begotten Son for us (cf. John 3:16). We touch the marvelous mystery of God's love, the only truth that is really redemptive. But we also touch the fundamental law, the constitutive norm of our life, that is, that without the "Yes" of the cross, without walking in communion with Christ day after day, life can never be a success.

The more that, for the love of the great truth and the great love -- for love of the truth and love of God -- we can make some sacrifice, the greater and richer our life will become. He who wants to keep his life for himself will lose it. He who gives his life away -- daily in small gestures, that are part of the great decision -- will find it. This is the exigent truth, a truth that is also deeply beautiful and liberating, in which we want to enter, step by step, on the cross' journey over the continents. May the Lord bless this journey. Amen.


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A Key Element of the Crisis Is a Deficit of Ethics

Letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown from Pope Benedict XVI

His Excellency
The Right Honourable Gordon Brown
Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

During your recent visit to the Vatican, you kindly briefed me on the Summit taking place in London from 2 to 3 April 2009 with the participation of representatives from the world’s twenty largest economies. As you explained, the aim of this meeting is to coordinate, with urgency, measures necessary to stabilize financial markets and to enable companies and families to weather this period of deep recession, as well as to restore sustainable growth in the world economy and to reform and substantially strengthen systems of global governance, in order to ensure that such a crisis is not repeated in the future.

It is my intention with this letter to express to you and to the Heads of State and Heads of Government participating in the Summit the Catholic Church’s appreciation, as well as my own, for the meeting’s noble objectives. Such objectives arise from the conviction, shared by all the participating Governments and international organizations, that the way out of the current global crisis can only be reached together, avoiding solutions marked by any nationalistic selfishness or protectionism.

I am writing this message having just returned from Africa, where I had the opportunity to see at first hand the reality of severe poverty and marginalization, which the crisis risks aggravating dramatically. I was also able to witness the extraordinary human resources with which that Continent is blessed and which can be offered to the whole world.

The London Summit, just like the one in Washington in 2008, for practical and pressing reasons is limited to the convocation of those States which represent 90% of global GNP and 80% of world trade. In this framework, sub-Saharan Africa is represented by just one State and some regional organizations. This situation must prompt a profound reflection among the Summit participants, since those whose voice has least force in the political scene are precisely the ones who suffer most from the harmful effects of a crisis for which they do not bear responsibility. Furthermore, in the long run, it is they who have the most potential to contribute to the progress of everyone.

It is necessary, therefore, to turn to the multilateral mechanisms and structures which form part of the United Nations and its associated organizations, in order to hear the voices of all countries and to ensure that measures and steps taken at G20 meetings are supported by all.

At the same time, I would like to note a further reason for the need for reflection at the Summit. Financial crises are triggered when – partially due to the decline of correct ethical conduct – those working in the economic sector lose trust in its modes of operating and in its financial systems. Nevertheless, finance, commerce and production systems are contingent human creations which, if they become objects of blind faith, bear within themselves the roots of their own downfall. Their true and solid foundation is faith in the human person. For this reason all the measures proposed to rein in this crisis must seek, ultimately, to offer security to families and stability to workers and, through appropriate regulations and controls, to restore ethics to the financial world.

The current crisis has raised the spectre of the cancellation or drastic reduction of external assistance programmes, especially for Africa and for less developed countries elsewhere. Development aid, including the commercial and financial conditions favourable to less developed countries and the cancellation of the external debt of the poorest and most indebted countries, has not been the cause of the crisis and, out of fundamental justice, must not be its victim.

If a key element of the crisis is a deficit of ethics in economic structures, the same crisis teaches us that ethics is not “external” to the economy but “internal” and that the economy cannot function if it does not bear within it an ethical component.

Accordingly, renewed faith in the human person, which must shape every step towards the solution of the crisis, will be best put into practice through a courageous and generous strengthening of international cooperation, capable of promoting a truly humane and integral development. Positive faith in the human person, and above all faith in the poorest men and women – of Africa and other regions of the world affected by extreme poverty – is what is needed if we are truly to come through the crisis once and for all, without turning our back on any region, and if we are definitively to prevent any recurrence of a situation similar to that in which we find ourselves today.

I would also like to add my voice to those of the adherents of various religions and cultures who share the conviction that the elimination of extreme poverty by 2015, to which Leaders at the UN Millennium Summit committed themselves, remains one of the most important tasks of our time.

Right Honourable Prime Minister, I invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings upon the London Summit and upon all the multilateral meetings currently searching for ways to resolve the financial crisis and I take this opportunity once again to offer you warm greetings and to express my sentiments of esteem.

From the Vatican, 30 March 2009

BENEDICT XVI

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Benedict XVI Remembers John Paul II
"He Engendered Many Sons and Daughters in the Faith"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the Mass to mark the fourth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death, held in St. Peter's Basilica.

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[In Italian]

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Four years ago, exactly today, my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, ended his pilgrimage on earth, after not a brief period of great suffering. We celebrate the Holy Eucharist for the repose of his soul, while thanking the Lord for giving him to the Church for so many years as zealous and generous Pastor. His memory, which continues to be alive in people's heart, brings us together this afternoon, as demonstrated also by the uninterrupted pilgrimage of faithful to his tomb in the Vatican Grottoes. Therefore, I preside over this Mass with emotion and joy, while greeting you and thanking you for your presence, dear faithful coming from different parts of the world, especially from Poland, for such a significant event.

[In Polish]

I would like to greet the Poles, particularly Polish youth. On the fourth anniversary of the death of John Paul II, accept his appeal "Do not be afraid to entrust yourselves to Christ. He will guide you, he will give you the strength to follow him every day and in every situation" (Tor Vergata, Vigil of Prayer, Aug. 19, 2000). I hope this thought of the Servant of God will guide you on the paths of your life, and lead you to the happiness of the morning of the Resurrection.

[In Italian]

I greet the cardinal Vicar, the cardinal archbishop of Krakow, and the other cardinals and prelates; I greet the priests and the men and women religious. I greet you in a special way, dear young people of Rome, with this celebration you prepare yourselves for the Word Youth Day that we will live together next Sunday, Palm Sunday. Your presence brings to mind the enthusiasm that John Paul II was able to infuse in the new generations. His memory is a stimulus for all of us, gathered in this basilica where on many occasions he celebrated the Eucharist, to let ourselves be illumined and challenged by the Word of God, just proclaimed.

The Gospel of this Thursday of the fifth week of Lent proposes for our meditation the last part of Chapter 8 of John, which contains a long dispute over the identity of Jesus. Shortly before he had presented himself as "the light of the world" (12), using on three occasions (24, 28, 58) the expression "I am," which in a strong sense alludes to the name of God revealed to Moses (cf. Exodus 3:14). And he adds: "If any one keeps my word, he will never see death" (51), thus declaring he was sent by God, who is his Father, to take to men the radical deliverance from sin and death, indispensable to enter into eternal life. However, his words wound the pride of his interlocutors, and also the reference to the great Patriarch Abraham became a motive for conflict. "Truly, truly , I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (8:58).

Without mincing words, he declares his pre-existence and, therefore, his superiority in respect of Abraham, arousing -- understandably -- the scandalized reaction of the Jews. But Jesus cannot be silent about his own identity; he knows that, in the end, the Father himself will vindicate him, glorifying him with death and resurrection so that, precisely when he is raised on the cross, he is revealed as the only begotten of God (cf. John 8:28; Mark 15:39).

Dear friends, meditating on this passage of the Gospel of John, the consideration arises spontaneously of how difficult it is to witness to Christ. And our thought goes to the beloved Servant of God Karol Wojtyla -- John Paul II -- who from his youth showed himself a bold and daring defender of Christ: He did not hesitate to consume all his energies in order to spread the light everywhere; he did not accept to give in to compromises when it was a question of proclaiming and defending [Christ's] truth; he never tired of spreading [Christ's] love. From the beginning of his pontificate until April 2, 2005, he was not afraid to proclaim to all and always that Jesus alone is the Savior and the true Liberator of man and of all men.

"I will make you exceedingly fruitful" (Genesis 17:6). If giving witness of one's adherence to the Gospel has never been easy, we are certainly comforted by the certainty that God makes our commitment fruitful, when it is sincere and generous. The spiritual experience of the Servant of God John Paul II also seems significant to us from this point of view. Looking at his life, we see realized in it the promise of fruitfulness made by God to Abraham, which is echoed in the first reading, taken from the Book of Genesis. It could be said that, especially in the years of his pontificate, he engendered many sons and daughters in the faith. You are visible signs of this, dear young people present this afternoon: you, young people of Rome and you, young people from Sydney and Madrid, who represent ideally the multitude of boys and girls who have participated in the by now 23 World Youth Days in different parts of the world. How many vocations to the priesthood and to consecrated life, how many young families determined to live the evangelical ideal and to tend to holiness are united to the testimony and the preaching of my venerated Predecessor! How many boys and girls have been converted, or have persevered on their Christian path thanks to his prayer, his encouragement, his support and his example!

It is true! John Paul II was able to communicate a great amount of hope, founded on faith in Jesus Christ, who "is the same yesterday and today and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8), as the motto of the Great Jubilee of 2000 stated. As affectionate father and attentive educator, he indicated sure and firm points of reference indispensable for all, in a special way for youth. And in the hour of agony and death, this new generation wished to manifest to him that it had understood his teachings, silently recollected in prayer in St. Peter's Square and in so many other places of the world. Young people felt that his disappearance constituted a loss: "Their" Pope was dying, whom they regarded as "their father" in the faith. They realized at the same time that he was leaving them as inheritance his courage and the consistency of his testimony. Had he not underlined many times the need for a radical adherence to the Gospel, exhorting adults and young people to take this common educational responsibility seriously? I have also wanted to take up this longing of his, pausing on different occasions to speak of the educational emergency that concerns families, the Church, society and especially the new generations today. In the age of growth, young people need adults capable of proposing their principles and values: They see the need for persons that are able to teach with their life, rather than with words, to spend themselves for lofty ideals.

But where can one get the light and wisdom to carry out this mission, which involves every one in the Church and in society? It is certainly not enough to take recourse to human resources; it is necessary to trust in the first place in divine help. "The Lord is faithful forever": This is how we prayed a while ago in the Responsorial Psalm, certain that God never abandons those who remain faithful to him. This reminds us of the theme of the 24th World Youth Day, which will be held at the diocesan level next Sunday. The theme is taken from St. Paul's first Letter to Timothy: "We have our hope set on the living God" (4:10). The Apostle speaks in the name of the Christian community, in the name of all those who have believed in Christ and are different from "others who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13), precisely because they hope, nourish confidence in the future, a confidence not based on ideas or human foresight, but on God, the "living God."

Dear young people, we cannot live without hope. Experience shows that every thing, and our own life, runs the risk, can collapse for any reason internal or external to us, at any moment. It is normal: Everything that is human, hence hope, has no foundation in itself, but needs a "rock" on which to anchor itself. This is why Paul wrote that Christians are called to base human hope on the "living God." He alone is sure and trustworthy. What is more, only God, who has revealed the fullness of his love in Jesus, can be our firm hope. In him, our hope, we have in fact been saved (cf. Romans 8:24).

However, pay attention: In times such as these, given the cultural and social context in which we live, the risk can be stronger of reducing Christian hope to an ideology, to a group slogan, to an exterior coating. There is nothing more contrary to Jesus' message! He does not want his disciples to "recite" a part of his teaching, perhaps that of hope. He wants them to "be" hope, and they can be so only if they remain united to him! He wants each one of you, dear young friends, to be a small source of hope for your neighbor, and to be, all together, an oasis of hope for the society in which you are inserted. Now, this is possible with one condition: That you live of him and in him, through prayer and the sacraments, as I have written you in this year's message. If Christ's words remain in us, we will be able to carry high the flame of that love that he has enkindled in the earth; we can carry high the flame of faith and hope, with which we advance toward him, while we await his glorious return at the end of time. It is the flame that Pope John Paul II has left us as inheritance. He has given it to me, as his Successor; and this afternoon I hand it over once again, in a special way, to you, young people of Rome, so that you continue to be morning watchmen, vigilant and joyful in this dawn of the third millennium. Respond generously to Christ's call! In particular, during the Priestly Year that will begin next June 19, make yourselves readily available if Jesus calls you to follow him on the path of priesthood and of consecrated life.

"This is the favorable moment, this is the day of salvation." Along with the Gospel, the liturgy has exhorted us to renew now -- and every instant is a "favorable moment" -- our determined will to follow Christ, certain that he is our salvation. Finally, this is the message that John Paul II repeats to us this afternoon. While we entrust his chosen soul to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom he always loved tenderly, we very much hope that from heaven he will not cease to accompany us and intercede for us. That he will help each one of us to live, as he did, repeating with full confidence day after day to God, through Mary, Totus tuus. Amen!

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COMMUNIQUE: MEETING ON THE CHURCH IN CHINA

VATICAN CITY, 2 APR 2009 ( VIS ) - The Holy See Press Office released the following communique at midday today:

"From 30 March to 1 April, the commission established by Benedict XVI in 2007 to study questions of importance concerning the life of the Catholic Church in China held its second meeting in the Vatican .

"With intense interest and a deep-felt desire to offer service to the Church in China , the commission examined the main theme of the meeting: the formation of seminarians and of consecrated people, and the permanent formation of priests.

"In association with the bishops of the Church in China - who bear prime responsibility for the ecclesial communities - it will be sought to promote a more adequate human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation of clergy and of consecrated people, who have the important task of acting as faithful disciples of Christ and as members of the Church, and of contributing to the good of their country as exemplary citizens. In this context, the words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI's 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics shone out as guidance: 'The Church, always and everywhere missionary, is called to proclaim and to bear witness to the Gospel. The Church in China must also sense in her heart the missionary ardour of her Founder and Teacher. ... Now it is your turn, Chinese disciples of the Lord, to be courageous apostles of that Kingdom. I am sure that your response will be most generous'.

"The participants, drawing also on their own sometimes-harsh experiences, highlighted complex problems of the current ecclesial situation in China, problems deriving not just from internal difficulties of the Church, but also from the uneasy relations with the civil authorities. In this context, news of the re-arrest of Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding was greeted with profound anguish. Situations of this kind create obstacles to that constructive dialogue with the competent authorities which, as is known, the Holy Father in his above-mentioned Letter expressed the hope might be pursued. This is not, unfortunately, an isolated case. Other ecclesiastics are also deprived of their freedom and subject to undue pressures and limitations in their pastoral activities. To all of them the participants wish to send assurances of fraternal closeness and constant prayers in this time of Lent, illuminated by the Paschal Mystery.

"The meeting concluded with an audience with the Holy Father who, as Peter's Successor, perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity of the episcopate, underlined the importance of helping Catholics in China to tell others of the beauty and reasonableness of Christian faith, and to present it as the proposal offering the best answers from an intellectual and existential standpoint. The Pope also thanked those present for their commitment in the field of formation, and encouraged them to continue their service for the good of the Church in China ".

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On Benedict XVI's Africa Trip
"Build a Future of Reconciliation and Stable Peace for All"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As I announced last Sunday in the Angelus, I will reflect today on my recent apostolic journey to Africa, the first of my pontificate to that continent. It was limited to Cameroon and Angola, but ideally, with my visit I wished to embrace all the African people and bless them in the name of the Lord. I experienced the traditional warm African welcome, given to me everywhere, and I am pleased to take advantage of this occasion to express again my profound gratitude to the episcopates of both countries, to the heads of state, to all the authorities and to all those who in different ways contributed to the success of this pastoral visit of mine.

My stay in African land began on March 17 in Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon, where I found myself immediately in the heart of Africa, and not just geographically. This country, in fact, has many characteristics of that great continent, the first of them being its profound religious soul, which unites the very numerous ethnic groups that inhabit it. In Cameroon, more than a quarter of the population is Catholic, and they coexist peacefully with the other religious communities. This is why in 1995 my beloved Predecessor John Paul II chose precisely the capital of this nation to promulgate the apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa," after the first synodal assembly dedicated precisely to the African continent. This time, the Pope returned to hand over the "instrumentum laboris" of the second Synodal Assembly for Africa, planned in Rome for next October, and whose theme will be: "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace: 'You Are the Salt of the Earth .... You Are the Light of the World' (Matthew 5:13-14)."

In the meetings I had -- two days apart -- with the episcopates of Cameroon, and Angola and São Tomé, I wished -- all the more so in this Pauline Year -- to speak about the urgency of evangelization, which is primarily the province of the bishops, underlining the collegial dimension, based on sacramental communion. I exhorted them to be always an example for their priests and for all the faithful, and to follow closely the formation of seminarians that, thanks be to God, are numerous, and of catechists, who are increasingly necessary for the life of the Church. I encouraged the bishops to promote the pastoral care of marriage and the family, of the liturgy and of culture, also to enable the laity to resist the attack of sects and esoteric groups. I wanted to confirm them with affection in the service of charity and of the defense of the rights of the poor.

I recall the solemn celebration of Vespers that took place in Yaoundé, in the Church of Mary Queen of the Apostles, Patroness of Cameroon, a large and modern church, which rises in the place where the first evangelizers of Cameroon worked, the Spiritan Missionaries. On the eve of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, to whose careful custody God entrusted his most precious treasures, Mary and Jesus, we gave glory to the one Father who is in heaven, together with the representatives of other Churches and ecclesial communities. Contemplating the spiritual figure of St. Joseph, who consecrated his life to Christ and the Virgin Mary, I invited priests, consecrated persons and members of ecclesial movements to be always faithful to their vocation, living in the presence of God and in joyful obedience of his Word.

In the apostolic nunciature of Yaoundé I had the opportunity to meet also with the representatives of the Muslim communities of Cameroon, verifying the importance of interreligious dialogue and collaboration between Christians and Muslims to help the world to open to God. It was a truly cordial meeting.

Undoubtedly one of the culminating moments of the journey was the handing over of the "instrumentum laboris" of the Second Synodal Assembly for Africa, which took place on March 19 -- the feastday of St. Joseph and my name day -- in the stadium of Yaoundé, at the end of the solemn Eucharistic celebration in honor of St. Joseph. This occurred in the cordiality of the people of God, "with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival" -- as the Psalm says (42:5), of which we have had a concrete experience. The Synodal Assembly will take place in Rome, but in a certain sense it has already started in the heart of the African continent, in the heart of the Christian family that lives, suffers and hopes there. That is why the publication of the "working instrument" seemed to me to be a happy coincidence with the feast of St. Joseph, model of faith and hope as Abraham, the first patriarch. Faith in the "God who is close," who has shown us in Jesus his face of love, is the guarantee of a sure hope, for Africa and for the whole world, guarantee of a future of reconciliation, justice and peace.

After the solemn liturgical assembly and the festive presentation of the working document, I was able to spend time in the apostolic nunciature with members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, and to live with them a moment of intense communion: We reflected together on the history of Africa from a theological and pastoral perspective. It was almost as the first meeting of the synod itself, in a fraternal debate between the various episcopates and the Pope in view of the synod of reconciliation and peace in Africa. From the beginning Christianity, in fact, and this was visible, has grown deep roots in African soil, as attested by the numerous martyrs and saints, pastors, doctors and catechists that flourished first in the north and later, in subsequent periods, in the rest of the continent: Let us think of Cyprian, Augustine and his mother Monica, Athanasius and then of the martyrs of Uganda, of Giuseppina Bakhita and so many others. In the present age, which witnesses an Africa determined to consolidate its political independence and the building of its national identities in a globalized context, the Church accompanies Africans offering the great message of Vatican Council II, implemented through the first, and now the second special synodal assembly. In the midst of conflicts, unfortunately numerous and tragic, that still afflict the different regions of this continent, the Church knows she is a sign and instrument of unity and reconciliation so that the whole of Africa can build, united, a future of justice, solidarity and peace, carrying out the teachings of the Gospel.

A strong sign of the humanizing action of Christ's message is without a doubt the Cardinal Leger Center of Yaoundé, dedicated to the rehabilitation of disabled people. Its founder was Canadian cardinal Paul-Émil Léger, who wished to retire there after the council in 1968, to work among the poor. In the center, subsequently ceded to the state, I met with numerous brothers and sisters who live in a situation of suffering, sharing with them -- but also receiving from them -- the hope that comes from faith, also in situations of suffering.

Second stage -- and second part of my journey -- was Angola, a country that in certain aspects is emblematic: Having come out of a long internal war, it is now committed to the work of reconciliation and national reconstruction. But how could this reconciliation and reconstruction be genuine if they took place at the cost of the poorest, who have the right as do all to participate in the resources of their land? Herein is the reason why, with this visit of mine, whose first objective as obviously to confirm the faith of the Church, I also wished to encourage the social process in progress. In Angola one touches with one's hand what my venerated predecessors have repeated: Everything is lost with war, everything can be reborn with peace. But to reconstruct a nation, many moral energies are necessary. And because of this, once again, the role of the Church is important, called to develop an educational function, working in depth to renew and form consciences.

St. Paul is the patron of the city of Luanda, capital of Angola: That is why I wanted to celebrate the Eucharist with the priests, seminarians, religious, catechists and the other pastoral agents on Saturday, March 21, in the church dedicated to the Apostle. Once again St. Paul's personal experience spoke to us of his meeting with the Risen Christ, capable of transforming persons and society. The historical contexts change -- and it is necessary to take this into account -- but Christ remains as the true force of the radical renewal of man and of the human community. That is why to return to God, to be converted to Christ, means to go forward, toward the fullness of life.

To express the Church's closeness to Angola's efforts of reconstruction and of so many African regions, I wished to dedicate two special meetings in Luanda to young people and to women respectively. With young people, in the stadium, it was a celebration of joy and hope, saddened unfortunately by the death of two girls, trampled by the crowd at the entrance. Africa is a very young continent, but many of its sons, children and adolescents, have already suffered serious wounds, that only Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, can heal by infusing in them, with his Spirit, the strength to love and to be committed to justice and peace. Then I paid homage to the women for the service that many of them offer to faith, human dignity, life and the family. I reaffirmed their full right to be involved in public life, without hurting, however, their role in the family, an essential mission to develop, always sharing responsibly with the other elements of the society and above all with husbands and fathers.

This is, therefore, the message I gave to the new generations and to the feminine world, extending it also to all in the great Eucharistic assembly of Sunday, March 22, concelebrated with the bishops of the countries of Southern Africa, with the participation of a million faithful. If the African people -- I said to them -- do as ancient Israel did, and base their hope on the Word of God, rich in their religious and cultural heritage, they will really be able to build a future of reconciliation and stable peace for all.

Dear brothers and sisters, how many considerations I have in my heart and how many memories come to mind thinking of this journey! I ask you to thank the Lord for the wonders he has done and continues to do in Africa thanks to the generous action of missionaries, men and women religious, volunteers, priests, catechists, and young communities full of enthusiasm and faith. I also ask you to pray for the peoples of Africa, very dear to me, so that they will be able to address with courage the great social, economic and spiritual challenges of the present moment. I entrust everything and everyone to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Africa and of the African saints and blessed.

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Text of Pope's Letter to British Prime Minister
"A Key Element of the Crisis Is a Deficit of Ethics"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the letter Benedict XVI sent Monday to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown ahead of the Group of 20 summit to be held this week in London.

* * *

His Excellency
The Right Honourable Mr. Gordon Brown
Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

During your recent visit to the Vatican, you kindly briefed me on the Summit taking place in London from 2 to 3 April 2009 with the participation of representatives from the world’s twenty largest economies. As you explained, the aim of this meeting is to coordinate, with urgency, measures necessary to stabilize financial markets and to enable companies and families to weather this period of deep recession, in order to restore sustainable growth in the world economy and to reform and substantially strengthen systems of global governance, in order to ensure that such a crisis is not repeated in the future.

It is my intention with this letter to express to you and to the Heads of State and Heads of Government participating in the Summit the Catholic Church’s appreciation, as well as my own, for the meeting’s noble objectives based on the conviction, shared by all the participating Governments and international organizations, that the way out of the current global crisis can only be reached together, avoiding solutions marked by any nationalistic selfishness or protectionism.

I am writing this message having just returned from Africa, where I had the opportunity to see at first hand the reality of severe poverty and marginalization, which the crisis risks aggravating dramatically. I was also able to witness the extraordinary human resources with which that Continent is blessed and which can be offered to the whole world.

The London Summit, just like the one in Washington in 2008, for practical and pressing reasons is limited to the convocation of those States who represent 90% of the world’s gross production and 80% of world trade. In this framework, sub-Saharan Africa is represented by just one State and some regional organizations. This situation must prompt a profound reflection among the Summit participants, since those whose voice has least force in the political scene are precisely the ones who suffer most from the harmful effects of a crisis for which they do not bear responsibility. Furthermore, in the long run, it is they who have the most potential to contribute to the progress of everyone.

It is necessary, therefore, to turn to the multilateral mechanisms and structures which form part of the United Nations and its associated organizations, in order to hear the voices of all countries and to ensure that measures and steps taken at G20 meetings are supported by all.

At the same time, I would like to note a further reason for the need for reflection at the Summit. Financial crises are triggered when -- partially due to the decline of correct ethical conduct -- those working in the economic sector lose trust in its modes of operating and in its financial systems. Nevertheless, finance, commerce and production systems are contingent human creations which, if they become objects of blind faith, bear within themselves the roots of their own downfall. The only true and solid foundation is faith in the human person. For this reason all the measures proposed to rein in this crisis must seek, ultimately, to offer security to families and stability to workers and, through appropriate regulations and controls, to restore ethics to the financial world.

The current crisis has raised the spectre of the cancellation or drastic reduction of external assistance programmes, especially for Africa and for less developed countries elsewhere. Development aid, including the commercial and financial conditions favourable to less developed countries and the cancellation of the external debt of the poorest and most indebted countries, has not been the cause of the crisis and, out of fundamental justice, must not be its victim.

If a key element of the crisis is a deficit of ethics in economic structures, the same crisis teaches us that ethics is not “external” to the economy but “internal” and that the economy cannot function if it does not bear within it an ethical component.

Accordingly, renewed faith in the human person, which must shape every step towards the solution of the crisis, will be best put into practice through a courageous and generous strengthening of international cooperation, capable of promoting a truly humane and integral development. Positive faith in the human person, and above all faith in the poorest men and women -- of Africa and other regions of the world affected by extreme poverty -- is what is needed if we are truly to come through the crisis once and for all, without turning our back on any region, and if we are definitively to prevent any recurrence of a situation similar to that in which we find ourselves today.

I would also like to add my voice to those of the adherents of various religions and cultures who share the conviction that the elimination of extreme poverty by 2015, to which Leaders at the UN Millennium Summit committed themselves, remains one of the most important tasks of our time.

Right Honourable Prime Minister, I invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings upon the London Summit and upon all the multilateral meetings currently searching for ways to resolve the financial crisis and I take this opportunity once again to offer you warm greetings and to express my sentiments of esteem.

From the Vatican, 30 March 2009

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Gordon Brown's Letter to Benedict XVI
"This Is a Decisive Moment for the World Economy"

LONDON, MARCH 31, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the response of British prime minister Gordon Brown to a letter sent by Benedict XVI on Monday regarding the Group of 20 summit to be held in London this week.

* * *

Your Holiness

Thank you for your letter of 30 March about the London G20
Summit. It was a pleasure to meet you recently. I was inspired by our discussion to redouble my efforts to ensure the G20 Summit does not forget the poor or climate change.

Millions of families around the world are struggling as the recession takes its toll. We must provide real help to get people through these tough times and take action to lay the foundations for recovery. That is why we must get an ambitious outcome from the London Summit on 2 April.

As you say, the world's poorest are most at risk from this crisis, even though they have not been responsible for creating it. Protecting the poorest is one of my top priorities and we stand ready to support the most vulnerable in society. It is vital that rich countries keep their promises on aid, even in these tough times.

The UK has also already announced a contribution to the World
Bank's Rapid Social Response Fund that will protect some of the poorest from the impact of the crisis. We are calling on others to make a contribution, to provide real help for people in difficulty. We must not turn away from the poor at a time when they most need our help.

I hope the G20 will also help create momentum for the vital Copenhagen Climate talks and back a low carbon recovery. I am committed to doing all I can to help ensure our transition to a greener future.

As well as helping the poorest and supporting a low carbon recovery, the G20 must also take bold action to help kickstart global trade and give the IMF the funds it needs to support big emerging economies, increasingly starved of global finance. Millions of jobs will depend on this.

Finally we must agree tough measures to better regulate banks and hedge funds and ensure the shadow banking system is regulated.

As you say, the poorest, particularly Africa, need a greater voice in the G20. This is why we have extended the participation at the London Summit beyond the traditional members of the G20 to include African and Asian regional representation, in the form of the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). We will of course also have the heads of the IMF and World Bank, who work to support the economies of the emerging and developing world, and I am delighted that the UN Secretary General will be joining us. Additionally, in advance of the London Summit, I hosted detailed discussions in London with African leaders to hear views and have taken these into account.

This is a decisive moment for the world economy. We have a choice to make. We can either let the recession run its course, or we can resolve as a world community to unite, to stand with millions of people struggling in these tough times, to fight back against this global recession that is hurting so many people in every continent. I hope that the world's leaders can come together to rise to this challenge.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon Brown


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Pontiff's Message for Vocation Prayer Day
"Faith in the Divine Initiative -- the Human Response"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the 46th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be observed May 3.

The theme for this year is "Faith in the Divine Initiative -- the Human Response."

* * *

Brothers and Sisters,

On the occasion of the next World Day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life, which will be celebrated on 3 May 2009, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, I want to invite all the People of God to reflect on the theme: Faith in the divine initiative - the human response. The exhortation of Jesus to his disciples: "Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest" (Mt 9:38) has a constant resonance in the Church. Pray! The urgent call of the Lord stresses that prayer for vocations should be continuous and trusting. The Christian community can only really "have ever greater faith and hope in God's providence" (Sacramentum Caritatis, 26) if it is enlivened by prayer.

The vocation to the priesthood and to the consecrated life constitutes a special gift of God which becomes part of the great plan of love and salvation that God has for every man and woman and for the whole of humanity. The Apostle Paul, whom we remember in a special way during this Pauline Year dedicated to the Two-thousandth anniversary of his birth, writing to the Ephesians says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him" (Ef 1:3-4). In the universal call to holiness, of particular relevance is God’s initiative of choosing some to follow his Son Jesus Christ more closely, and to be his privileged ministers and witnesses. The divine Master personally called the Apostles "to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons" (Mk 3:14-15); they, in turn, gathered other disciples around them as faithful collaborators in this mission. In this way, responding to the Lord’s call and docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, over the centuries, countless ranks of priests and consecrated persons placed themselves totally at the service of the Gospel in the Church. Let us give thanks to God, because even today he continues to call together workers into his vineyard. While it is undoubtedly true that a worrisome shortage of priests is evident in some regions of the world, and that the Church encounters difficulties and obstacles along the way, we are sustained by the unshakable certitude that the one who firmly guides her in the pathways of time towards the definitive fulfilment of the Kingdom is he, the Lord, who freely chooses persons of every culture and of every age and invites them to follow him according to the mysterious plans of his merciful love.

Our first duty, therefore, is to keep alive in families and in parishes, in movements and in apostolic associations, in religious communities and in all the sectors of diocesan life this appeal to the divine initiative with unceasing prayer. We must pray that the whole Christian people grows in its trust in God, convinced that the "Lord of the harvest" does not cease to ask some to place their entire existence freely at his service so as to work with him more closely in the mission of salvation. What is asked of those who are called, for their part, is careful listening and prudent discernment, a generous and willing adherence to the divine plan, and a serious study of the reality that is proper to the priestly and religious vocations, so as to be able to respond responsibly and with conviction.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church rightly reminds us that God’s free initiative requires a free response on the part of men and women; a positive response which always presupposes acceptance of and identification with the plan that God has for everyone; a response which welcomes the Lord’s loving initiative and becomes, for the one who is called, a binding moral imperative, an offering of thanksgiving to God and a total cooperation with the plan which God carries out in history (cf. n. 2062).

Contemplating the mystery of the Eucharist, which expresses in a sublime way the free gift of the Father in the Person of his Only Begotten Son for the salvation of mankind, and the full and docile readiness of Christ to drink to the dregs the "cup" of the will of God (cf. Mt 26:39), we can more readily understand how "faith in the divine initiative" models and gives value to the "human response". In the Eucharist, that perfect gift which brings to fulfilment the plan of love for the redemption of the world, Jesus offers himself freely for the salvation of mankind. "The Church", my beloved predecessor John Paul II wrote, "has received the Eucharist from Christ her Lord not as a gift – however precious – among so many others, but as the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of himself, of his person in his sacred humanity, as well as the gift of his saving work" (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 11).

It is priests who are called to perpetuate this salvific mystery from century to century until the Lord’s glorious return, for they can contemplate, precisely in the Eucharistic Christ, the eminent model of a "vocational dialogue" between the free initiative of the Father and the faithful response of Christ. In the celebration of the Eucharist it is Christ himself who acts in those whom he chooses as his ministers; he supports them so that their response develops in a dimension of trust and gratitude that removes all fear, even when they experience more acutely their own weakness (cf. Rm 8:26-28), or indeed when the experience of misunderstanding or even of persecution is most bitter (cf. Rm 8:35-39).

The awareness of being saved by the love of Christ, which every Mass nourishes in the faithful and especially in priests, cannot but arouse within them a trusting self-abandonment to Christ who gave his life for us. To believe in the Lord and to accept his gift, therefore, leads us to entrust ourselves to Him with thankful hearts, adhering to his plan of salvation. When this does happen, the one who is "called" voluntarily leaves everything and submits himself to the teaching of the divine Master; hence a fruitful dialogue between God and man begins, a mysterious encounter between the love of the Lord who calls and the freedom of man who responds in love, hearing the words of Jesus echoing in his soul, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16).

This intertwining of love between the divine initiative and the human response is present also, in a wonderful way, in the vocation to the consecrated life. The Second Vatican Council recalls, "The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift, which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of His grace" (Lumen Gentium, 43).

Once more, Jesus is the model of complete and trusting adherence to the will of the Father, to whom every consecrated person must look. Attracted by him, from the very first centuries of Christianity, many men and women have left families, possessions, material riches and all that is humanly desirable in order to follow Christ generously and live the Gospel without compromise, which had become for them a school of deeply rooted holiness. Today too, many undertake this same demanding journey of evangelical perfection and realise their vocation in the profession of the evangelical counsels. The witness of these our brothers and sisters, in contemplative monasteries, religious institutes and congregations of apostolic life, reminds the people of God of "that mystery of the Kingdom of God is already at work in history, even as it awaits its full realization in heaven" (Vita Consecrata, 1).

Who can consider himself worthy to approach the priestly ministry? Who can embrace the consecrated life relying only on his or her own human powers? Once again, it is useful to reiterate that the response of men and women to the divine call, whenever they are aware that it is God who takes the initiative and brings His plan of salvation to fulfilment, is never patterned after the timid self-interest of the worthless servant who, out of fear, hid the talent entrusted to him in the ground (cf. Mt 25:14-30), but rather expresses itself in a ready adherence to the Lord’s invitation, as in the case of Peter who, trusting in the Lord’ word, did not hesitate to let down the net once more even after having toiled all night and catching nothing (cf. Lk 5:5). Without in any sense renouncing personal responsibility, the free human response to God thus becomes "co-responsibility", responsibility in and with Christ, through the action of his Holy Spirit; it becomes communion with the One who makes it possible for us to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:5).

An emblematic human response, full of trust in God’s initiative, is the generous and unmitigated "Amen" of the Virgin of Nazareth, uttered with humble and decisive adherence to the plan of the Most High announced to her by God’s messenger (cf. Lk 1:38). Her prompt "Yes" allowed Her to become the Mother of God, the Mother of our Saviour. Mary, after this first "fiat", had to repeat it many times, even up to the culminating moment of the crucifixion of Jesus, when "standing by the cross of Jesus" as the Evangelist John notes, she participated in the dreadful suffering of her innocent Son. And it was from the cross, that Jesus, while dying, gave her to us as Mother and entrusted us to her as sons and daughters (cf. Jn 19:26-27); she is especially the Mother of priests and consecrated persons. I want to entrust to her all those who are aware of God’s call to set out on the road of the ministerial priesthood or consecrated life.

Dear friends, do not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and doubts; trust in God and follow Jesus faithfully and you will be witnesses of the joy that flows from intimate union with him. Imitating the Virgin Mary whom all generations proclaim as blessed because she believed (cf. Lk 1:48), commit yourselves with every spiritual energy, to realise the heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, cultivating in your heart, like her, the ability to be astonished and to adore him who is mighty and does "great things", for Holy is his name (cf. Lk 1:49).

From the Vatican, 20 January 2009

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Cardinal Bertone's Letter to Legion of Christ
"Continue Seeking the Good of the Church and Society"

ROME, MARCH 31, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter Benedict XVI's secretary of state sent March 10 to Father Álvaro Corcuera, the general director of the Legionaries of Christ, announcing an apostolic visitation to the congregation. The letter was released by the Legionaries of Christ today.

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Reverend Father,

In this holy season of Lent, a time of grace and salvation, I am pleased to remember that many people benefit from the works of education and apostolate which the Legionaries of Christ carry out in various parts of the world, moved by your desire to establish Christ’s Kingdom according to the demands of justice and charity, among intellectuals, professional people and those engaged in teaching and social action.

Since this mission is of fundamental importance and is worth devoting oneself to with broadmindedness and an unsullied heart. I wish to let you as General Director know that in these delicate moments His Holiness Benedict XVI renews his solidarity with and prayers for the Legionaries of Christ, the members of Regnum Christi and those who are spiritually close to you.

The Holy Father is aware of the noble ideals that inspire you and the fortitude and prayerful spirit with which you are facing the current vicissitudes, and he encourages you to continue seeking the good of the Church and society by means of your own distinctive initiatives and institutions. In this regard, you can always count on the help of the Holy See, so that with truth and transparency, in a climate of fraternal and constructive dialogue, you will overcome the present difficulties. In this respect, the Holy Father has decided to carry out an Apostolic Visitation to the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ through a team of Prelates.

As I unite myself with the Holy Father’s sentiments, I entrust all Legionaries and Regnum Christi members to the motherly protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I take the opportunity to express to you once more my best wishes and esteem in Christ.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone
Secretary of State to His Holiness

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Father Corcurea's Letter to Legion of Christ
"The Holy Father Has Decided That There Will Be an Apostolic Visitation"

ROME, MARCH 31, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the letter Father Álvaro Corcuera, the general director of the Legionaries of Christ, sent Monday to the members of the congregation to annonce an apostolic visitation. The letter was released by the Legionaries of Christ today.

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To all Legionaries of Christ,

Dear Fathers and Brothers in Christ,

With deep gratitude we have experienced the closeness of the Holy See at this phase in the life of our congregation. The Holy Father and his closest collaborators have confirmed us in our mission at the service of the Church, and with fatherly concern they have offered us their advice and support.

I want to share with you the letter that His Eminence, the Cardinal Secretary of State to His Holiness wrote to me on March 10 past (cf. attachment). In it, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone assures us that the Holy Father renews his nearness, “his solidarity and prayers”, and he informs us that the Holy Father has decided that there will be an Apostolic Visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ.

I have thanked the Holy Father from my heart for offering us this additional help to face our present vicissitudes related to the grave facts in our father founder’s life that already were the object of the investigations by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which were concluded in May of 2006, and those which have come to light more recently. We are deeply saddened and sorry, and we sincerely ask for forgiveness from God and from those who have been hurt through this.

Full of confidence in divine Providence and in our Mother the Church, guardian of the authentic good of her children, we are now preparing to receive the Apostolic Visitors who, over the next months, will visit us to familiarize themselves closely with the life and apostolate of the Legion of Christ.

Let us reaffirm our commitment, and lift up our prayers to God that he will grant us the grace to continue to seek the holiness to which He is calling us, and that we will be able to bring to its fullness the charism He has entrusted to us. May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany us and lead us to love every day more her Son Jesus Christ.

Sincerely yours in Christ and the Legion,

Father Álvaro Corcuera

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On the Challenges Facing Africa
"It Is No Longer Time for Words and Speeches"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

First I would like to thank God, and those who helped in various ways, for the success of the apostolic trip that I was able to make to Africa recently, and I invoke the abundance of the blessings of heaven on the seeds that were sown in the African soil. I plan to speak at greater length about this significant pastoral experience at the general audience on Wednesday, but I cannot pass up welcoming the present occasion to manifest the deep emotion that I experienced meeting the Catholic communities and the people of Cameroon and Angola. There were two aspects -- both very important -- that above all made an impression on me.

The first is the visible joy in the faces of the people, the joy of feeling part of the family of God, and I thank the Lord for having been able to share moments of simple choral and faith-filled celebration with great numbers of our brothers and sisters. The second aspect is precisely the strong sense of the sacred that one breathes in the liturgical celebrations, a characteristic common to all the peoples of Africa, which I could say emerged in every moment of my stay among those dear people. The visit permitted me better to see and understand the reality of the Church in Africa in the variety of the experiences and challenges that she finds before her at this time.

Thinking of the challenges that mark the path of the Church on the African continent, and in every other part of the world, we recognize how relevant the words of the Gospel of this Fifth Sunday of Lent are. Jesus, with his passion drawing near, declares: “If the grain of wheat that falls to the earth does not die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit” (John 12:24). It is no longer time for words and speeches; the decisive hour has arrived, the hour for which the Son of God has come into the world, and despite his troubled soul, he makes himself available to accomplish the Father’s will to the end. And this is God’s will: To give eternal life to us who have lost it. But that this be realized Jesus must die, like a grain of wheat that God the Father has sown in the world. Only in this way can a new humanity sprout and grow, free from the domination of sin and able to live in fraternity, as the sons and daughters of the one Father who is in heaven.

In the great feast of faith that was experienced together in Africa, we saw that this new humanity is alive, even with its human limitations. There where, like Jesus, missionaries gave, and continue to spend, their lives for the Gospel, abundant fruit is harvested. I would like to express my gratitude for the good that they do. These missionaries are men and women, religious and lay. It was beautiful to see the fruit of their love for Christ and observe the deep thankfulness that the Christians have for them. Let us give thanks to God and pray to Mary Most Holy that Christ’s message of hope and love be spread through whole world.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

I greet with affection the numerous Africans who live in Rome, among whom there are many students, who are here today with Monsignor Robert Sarah, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Dear friends, you wanted to come to manifest your joy for my apostolic trip to Africa. I thank you from my heart. I pray for you, for your families and your homelands. Thank you!

On Thursday at 6:00 in the evening in St. Peter’s I will preside at the Mass for the 4th anniversary of the death of my beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II. I especially invite the young people of Rome to participate, to prepare together for World Youth Day, which will be celebrated at a diocesan level on Palm Sunday.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims to this Angelus, especially students and teachers from Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Edmonton, Canada. In today's liturgy, Jesus teaches that "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit". In these final weeks of Lent, let us intensify our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In this way, we will prepare ourselves to meditate on Christ's passion and death, so as to rejoice fully in the glory of his Resurrection. God bless you all!

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Papal Address to Rome's Politicians
"Christianity Brings a Luminous Message on the Truth About Man and the Church"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 9 to Rome's mayor and city administrators at the seat of the municipal government on the Capotiline Hill.

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Mr Mayor,
Mr President of the Municipal Council,

Ladies and Gentlemen, Assessors and Councillors of the Municipality of Rome,

Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Friends,

As has been recalled, it is not the first time that a Pope has been welcomed with such warmth at this Senatorial Palace and has taken the floor in this solemn council hall, the meeting place of the most important representatives of the municipal administration. The annals of history first record the brief Visit of Blessed Pius IX to Piazza del Campidoglio, Capitoline Square, after his Visit to the Basilica of Ara Coeli on 16 September 1870. The Visit by Pope Paul VI, made on 16 April 1966, is much more recent and it was followed by that of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, on 15 January 1998. These gestures witness to the affection and esteem that the Successors of Peter, Pastors of the Roman Catholic community and of the universal Church, have always felt for Rome, the centre of Latin and Christian civilization, a "welcoming mother of peoples" (cf. Prudentius, Liber Peristephanon, Poem 11, 191), and "a disciple of truth" (cf. Leo the Great, Tract. septem et nonaginta).

It is therefore with understandable emotion that I now take the floor during my Visit today. I speak first of all to express my gratitude, Mr Mayor, for the kind invitation to visit the Capitol which you addressed to me at the beginning of your mandate as Mayor of the City. I also thank you for the profound words interpreting the thoughts of those present with which you have welcomed me. I extend my greeting to the President of the Municipal Council, whom I thank for his noble sentiments, expressed also on behalf of his colleagues. I followed most attentively the reflections of both the Mayor and the President and I could see in them the determination of the Administration to serve this city, pointing to its true and integral material, social and spiritual wellbeing. I offer a cordial greeting lastly to the municipal authorities and councillors, to the government representatives, to the authorities and to the important figures, as well as to all the Roman citizens.

With my presence on this hill today, the seat and emblem of the history and role of Rome, I am anxious to renew the assurance of the fatherly attention that the Bishop of the Catholic community pays not only to its members but also to all Romans and all who come to the Capital from various parts of Italy and the world for reasons of religion, tourism or work, or to settle, integrating themselves into the fabric of the City. I am here today to encourage the difficult task you have as Administrators at the service of this unique metropolis. I am here to share in the expectations and hopes of the inhabitants, and to listen to their worries and problems, of whom you make yourselves responsible interpreters in this Senatorial Palace. It is the natural and dynamic centre of the projects with which, in the third millennium, the "building Palace" of Rome is teeming. Mr Mayor, I recognized in your discourse the firm intention to work to ensure that Rome continues to be a beacon of life and freedom, of moral civilization and sustainable development, promoted with respect for the dignity of every human being and his or her religious faith. I wish to assure you and your collaborators that, as always, the Catholic Church will never let her active support be wanting for any cultural and social initiative aimed at promoting the authentic good of every person and of the City as a whole. The gift of the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church, which I offer with affection to the Mayor and the Administrators, is intended as a sign of this collaboration.

Mr Mayor, Rome has always been a welcoming City. Especially in recent centuries, it has opened its civil and ecclesiastical university institutes and research centres to students from every part of the world. Returning to their countries, they are later called to assume roles and offices of high responsibility in various sectors of society as well as in the Church. Today, this City of ours, like Italy and the whole of humanity, finds itself facing unheard-of cultural, social and economic challenges because of the profound transformations and numerous changes which have occurred in recent decades. Rome has become increasingly populated by people who come from other nations and belong to different cultures and religious traditions. Consequently it now has the features of a multi-racial and multi-religious metropolis, in which integration is sometimes difficult and complex. On the part of the Catholic community, the sincere contribution to finding ever more suitable ways to safeguard the fundamental rights of the person with respect for legality will never lessen. I am also convinced, as you yourself said, Mr Mayor, that by drawing new sap from the roots of its history modeled by ancient law and the Christian faith Rome will be able to find the strength to demand respect for the rules of civil coexistence from all and to reject every form of intolerance and discrimination.

Allow me furthermore to point out that episodes of violence, deplored by all, show a deeper unrest. I would say that they are signs of the true spiritual impoverishment that afflicts the human heart today. The elimination of God and of his law as a condition for the achievement of human happiness has in no way reached its goal; on the contrary, it deprives human beings of the spiritual certainties and hope they need to face the daily difficulties and challenges. For example, when a wheel is disconnected from its central axle it loses its drive. Likewise, morals do not achieve their ultimate aim if they are not hinged on inspiration and submission to God, the source and judge of all good. In the face of the disturbing enfeeblement of the human and spiritual ideals that made Rome a "model" of civilization for the whole world, through the parish communities and other ecclesial structures the Church is becoming involved in a far-reaching educational effort, striving to make people, and in particular the new generations, discover those perennial values once again. In the post-modern era, if Rome wants to champion a new humanism centred on the question of the human being recognized in his full reality, it must recover its deepest soul, its civil and Christian roots. The human being cut off from God would be deprived of his transcendent vocation. Christianity brings a luminous message on the truth about man and the Church, which is the depositary of this message, is aware of her responsibility with regard to contemporary culture.

How many other things I would like to say now! As Bishop of this City I cannot forget that even in Rome, because of the current economic crisis that I mentioned earlier, an increasing number of people are losing their jobs. They are finding themselves in such precarious conditions that sometimes they cannot cope with the financial commitments they have made; I am thinking, for example, of those buying or renting a house. Therefore, a unanimous effort between the various Institutions in order to help those who live in poverty is required. The Christian community, through the parishes and other charitable structures, is already involved in providing daily support for numerous families that are toiling to maintain a dignified standard of living and, as has recently happened, is ready to collaborate with the authorities responsible for the common good. In this case, too, the values of solidarity and generosity that are deeply rooted in the hearts of Romans can be sustained by the light of the Gospel, in order that all may reassume responsibility for the needs of those in the worst hardship, so that they may feel they belong to a single family. In fact, the greater each citizen's awareness is that he is personally responsible for the life and future of our City's inhabitants, the greater will be his confidence that he can surmount the difficulties of the present time.

And what can be said of families, children and youth? Thank you, Mr Mayor, because on the occasion of my Visit, you have offered me as a gift a sign of hope for youth, giving it my name, that of an elderly Pontiff who looks trustingly to the young people and prays for them every day. Families and youth can hope in a better future to the extent that individualism leaves room for sentiments of fraternal collaboration among all the members of civil society and of the Christian community. May this new institution also be an incentive for Rome to weave a social fabric of acceptance and respect, where the encounter between culture and faith, between social life and religious testimony cooperates to form communities that are truly free and enlivened by sentiments of peace. The "Observatory for religious freedom" which you have just mentioned will also be able to make a unique contribution to this.

Mr Mayor, dear friends, at the end of my Discourse, permit me to turn my gaze to the Madonna and Child, which for several centuries has watched maternally over the work of the Municipal Administration in this hall. I entrust to her each one of you, your work and the resolutions of good that motivate you. May you all be always in agreement at the service of this beloved city, in which the Lord has called me to carry out the episcopal ministry. Upon each one of you, I wholeheartedly invoke an abundance of divine Blessings, as I assure you all of my remembrance in prayer. Thank you for your hospitality!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Benedict XVI's Address to Clergy Congregation
"The Missionary Identity of the Priest in the Church"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday upon receiving in audience participants of the plenary assembly of the Congregation for Clergy.

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Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood

I am happy to be able to receive you in special audience, on the eve of my departure for Africa, where I will go to hand over the "instrumentum laboris" of the Second Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa, which will take place here in Rome next October. I thank the prefect of the congregation, lord cardinal Cláudio Hummes, for the affable expressions with which he interpreted the sentiments of all. With him I greet all of you, superiors, officials and members of the congregation, with a grateful spirit for all the work you carry out in the service of such an important sector in the life of the Church.

The topic you have chosen for this plenary assembly -- "The Missionary Identity of the Priest in the Church, as Intrinsic Dimension of the Exercise of the 'Tria Munera'" -- allows for some reflections for the work of these days and for the abundant fruits that it will certainly bring. If the entire Church is missionary and if every Christian, by virtue of baptism and Confirmation, receives quasi ex officio (cf. CCC, 1305) the mandate to profess the faith publicly, the ministerial priesthood also from this point of view is distinguished ontologically, and not only by degree, from baptismal priesthood, called also common priesthood. Constitutive of the first, in fact, is the apostolic mandate: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15). We know that this mandate is not a simple charge entrusted to his collaborators; its roots are deeper and must be sought much further afield.

The missionary dimension of the priest is born from his sacramental configuration to Christ the Head: this brings with it, as a consequence, a cordial and total adherence to that which the ecclesial tradition has recognized as the "apostolica vivendi" forma. The latter consists of participation in a "new life" understood spiritually, in that "new style of life" that was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and which was made their own by the Apostles. By the imposition of the bishop's hands and the consecrating prayer of the Church, the candidates become new men, they become "priests." In light of this it seems clear how the "tria munera" are in the first place a gift, and only as a consequence an office, participation in a life and because of this "a potestas." Certainly, the great ecclesial tradition has justly detached the sacramental efficacy of the concrete existential situation of the priest, and thus the legitimate expectations of the faithful are adequately safeguarded. However, this correct doctrinal precision does not take anything way from the necessary, more than that, the indispensable, tension to moral perfection, which should dwell in every genuinely priestly heart.

Precisely to foster this tension of priests toward spiritual perfection, on which, above all, the efficacy of their ministry depends, I have decided to convoke a "Priestly Year," which will run from next June 19, 2009, to June 19, 2010. Being celebrated, in fact, is the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the Cure of Ars, true example of pastor at the service of Christ's flock. It will be your task, congregation, in accordance with the diocesan ordinaries and the superiors of religious Institutes, to promote and coordinate the different spiritual and pastoral initiatives that seem useful to make the role and the mission of the priest in the Church and in contemporary society increasingly perceived.

As the topic of the Plenary Assembly shows, the mission of the priest is carried out "in the Church." Such an ecclesial, communional, hierarchical and doctrinal dimension is absolutely indispensable for any genuine mission and, on its own, guarantees its spiritual efficacy. The four aspects mentioned must always be recognized as profoundly related: the mission is "ecclesial" because no one priest proclaims or takes himself, rather within and through his own humanity, every priest must be very conscious of taking another, God himself, to the world. God is the only richness that, in the end, men wish to find in a priest. The mission is "communial" because it takes place in a unity and communion that only in a secondary way also has relevant aspects of social visibility. Moreover, these derive essentially from that divine intimacy of which the priest is called to be expert, to be able to lead, with humility and confidence, the souls entrusted to him to the encounter itself with the Lord. Finally the "hierarchical" and "doctrinal" dimensions suggest reaffirming the importance of ecclesiastical discipline (the term is joined to "disciple") and of doctrinal formation, and not only theological, initial and permanent.

Awareness of the radical social changes of the last decades should move the best ecclesial energies to take care of the formation of candidates to the ministry. In particular, it should stimulate the constant solicitude of pastors toward their first collaborators, either by cultivating truly paternal human relations, or being concerned for their permanent formation, above all in the doctrinal aspect. In a special way the mission has its roots in a good formation, carried out in communion with the uninterrupted ecclesial Tradition, free of ruptures and temptations to discontinuity. In this connection, it is important to foster in priests, above all in the young generations, a correct perception of the texts of the Second Vatican Council, interpreted in the light of all the doctrinal baggage of the Church. It also seems urgent to recover that consciousness that drives priests to be present, identifiable and recognizable both by the judgment of faith, or by personal virtues, or also by their dress, in the realms of culture and charity, ever at the heart of the mission of the Church.

As Church and as priests we proclaim Jesus of Nazareth Lord and Christ, crucified and resurrected, sovereign of time and history, in the joyful certainty that this truth coincides with the profoundest hopes of the human heart. In the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, namely, in the fact that God became a man like us, is both the content as well as the method of the Christian proclamation. The mission has here its propellant center: precisely in Jesus Christ. The centrality of Christ brings with it the correct appreciation of the ministerial priesthood, without which neither the Eucharist nor, consequently, the mission and the Church herself would exist. In this connection it is necessary to watch so that the "new structures" of pastoral organizations are not thought out for a time in which the ordained ministry is "undervalued," starting from an erroneous interpretation of the correct promotion of the laity, because in such a case the premises would be established for an ultimate dissolution of the ministerial priesthood and the eventual presumed "solutions" would coincide dramatically with the real causes of the current problems linked to the ministry.

I am sure that in these days the work of the plenary assembly, under the protection of the Mater Ecclesiae, will be able to reflect further on these brief notes that I allow myself to submit to the attention of the cardinals and the archbishops and bishops, invoking on all the copious abundance of heavenly gifts, in pledge of which I impart to you and to your loved ones a special and affectionate apostolic blessing.


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On the Pope's Trip to Cameroon and Angola

"I Intend to Embrace the Whole African Continent"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I will be making my first apostolic visit to Africa from Tuesday, March 17, to Monday, March 23. I will travel to Cameroon and to its capital, Yaoundé, to deliver the "instrumentum laboris" for the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October here in the Vatican. From there I will travel to Luanda, the capital of Angola, a country that, after a long civil war, has found peace again and is now called to rebuild itself in justice.

With this visit I intend to embrace the whole African continent: its thousands of differences and profound religious soul; its ancient cultures and its toilsome road to development and reconciliation; its grave problems, its painful wounds and its enormous possibilities and hopes. I intend to confirm the African Catholics in faith, to encourage the Christians in their ecumenical commitment, and bring to all the announcement of peace that the Lord has entrusted to his Church.

As I prepare myself for this missionary journey, in my soul resounds the words of the Apostle Paul that the liturgy proposes for our meditation on this third Sunday of Lent: "We proclaim Christ crucified," the Apostle writes to the Christians of Corinth, "a scandal to the Jews and foolishness to the pagans; but for those who are called, whether Jews or Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).

Yes, dear brothers and sisters! I depart for African with the awareness of having nothing else to propose and give to those whom I will meet if not Christ and the Good News of his cross, mystery of supreme love, of divine love that defeats all human resistance and in the end makes forgiveness and love of enemies possible. This is the grace of the Gospel that is capable of transforming the world; this is the grace that can renew Africa, because it generates an irresistible power of peace and of deep and radical reconciliation. The Church does not pursue economic, social and political objectives; the Church proclaims Christ, certain that the Gospel can touch the hearts of all and transform them, renewing persons and society from within.

On March 19, during the pastoral visit to Africa, we will celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church, and my personal patron. St. Joseph, warned in a dream by an angel, had to flee with Mary to Egypt, in Africa, to take the newly born Jesus to a safe place, far from King Herod who wanted to kill him. The Scriptures were thus fulfilled: Jesus followed in the footsteps of the patriarchs of old and, like the people of Israel, reentered the Promised Land after having been in exile in Egypt. To the heavenly intercession of this great saint I entrust this upcoming pilgrimage and the peoples of all of Africa, with the challenges that face them and the hopes that animate them. I think especially of the victims of hunger, disease, injustices, of the fratricidal conflicts and of every form of violence that, unfortunately, continues to strike adults and children, without sparing missionaries, priests, religious, and volunteers. Brothers and sisters, accompany me on this trip with your prayers, invoking Mary, Mother and Queen of Africa.

[The Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

This morning the Pauline Jubilee of University Students and Professors, promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture, and organized by the Vicariate of Rome, concludes in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. The Jubilee’s theme was "What You Unknowingly Worship, I Proclaim to You: Gospel and Culture Toward a New Humanism."

I am very glad for the presence of illustrious professors and delegates from university chaplaincies from every continent here in Rome. I would like for pastoral ministries at universities to develop in all the local Churches, for the formation of young people and the elaboration of a culture inspired by the Gospel. Dear university students and professors, I encourage you and I accompany you in prayer.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. As we continue our Lenten journey may our resolve to follow Jesus be strengthened through prayer, forgiveness, fasting and assistance to those in need. This Tuesday I leave Rome for my visit to Cameroon and Angola. My presence in the great Continent of Africa forms part of the preparation for the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme: "The Church in Africa in Service to Reconciliation, Justice and Peace". I ask each of you to join me in praying that my visit will be a time of spiritual renewal for all Africans and an occasion in which civic and religious leaders will strengthen their resolve to walk the path of justice, integrity and compassion. May the lives of African men, women and children be transformed in hope! Upon all of you gathered and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of Christ the Lord.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address on Capitoline Hill

"The Heart of Rome Is a Poetic Heart"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 9 to the people gathered in the square outside the senatorial palace at the Capitoline Hill.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After meeting the Administrators of the City, I am very glad to offer my cordial greeting to all of you who have gathered on this square on the Capitoline Hill, towards which the colonnade, with which Bernini completed the splendid structure of the Vatican Basilica, reaches out embracing it in spirit.

Having lived for so many years in Rome, by now I have become somewhat Roman; but I feel more Roman as your Bishop. Thus with deeper participation I address my thoughts, through each one of you, to all "our" fellow citizens, who in a certain way you are representing today: to the families, communities and parishes, to the children, to the young and the old and to the disabled and the sick, to the volunteers, to the social workers, the immigrants and pilgrims. I thank the Cardinal Vicar who has accompanied me on my Visit and I encourage all those priests, consecrated and lay people who actively collaborate with the public Administrations for the good of Rome, its suburbs and bordering towns, to persevere in their commitment.

A few days ago, while I was speaking with the parish priests and clergy of Rome, I said that the heart of Rome is a "poetic heart", to stress that beauty is as it were "a natural privilege... a natural charism". Rome is beautiful because of the vestiges of her antiquity, the cultural institutions and monuments that tell of her history, the churches and their numerous artistic masterpieces. However, Rome is beautiful above all because of the generosity and holiness of so many of her children who have left eloquent traces of their passion for the beauty of God, the beauty of love that does not age or wither. The Apostles Peter and Paul were witnesses to this, as were the throng of martyrs at the beginning of Christianity; many men and women who Roman by birth or by adoption did their utmost through the centuries to serve young people, the sick, the poor and all the needy. I limit myself to mentioning but a few: St Lawrence the Deacon, St Frances of Rome, whose feast is celebrated today, St Philip Neri, St Gaspare del Bufalo, St Giovanni Battista de Rossi, St Vincent Pallotti, Bl. Anna Maria Taigi and the husband and wife Blesseds Luigi and Maria Beltrami Quattrocchi. Their example shows that when a person encounters Christ he does not withdraw into himself but is open to the needs of others and, in every social milieu, puts the good of others before his own interests.

There is a real need for such men and women in our time too because many families and many young people and adults are in precarious and sometimes even dramatic situations; these situations can only be overcome together, as Rome's history, which knew many a difficult time, also teaches. In this regard, a verse by Ovid, the great Latin poet, springs to mind. In one of his elegies he encouraged the Romans of his time with these words: "Perfer et obdura: multo graviora tulisti hold out and persist: you have got through far more difficult situations"(cf. Trist., lib. v, el. xi v. 7). In addition to the necessary solidarity and the proper commitment of all, we can always count on the unfailing help of God who never abandons his children.

Dear friends, when you return to your homes, your communities and your parishes, tell everyone you meet that the Pope assures them all of his understanding, his spiritual closeness and his prayers. Please bring each one, especially the sick, the suffering and those in the most difficult situations my remembrance and God's Blessing, which I now impart to you through the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul, St Frances of Rome, Co-Patron of Rome. And especially of Mary Salus populi romani. May God bless and protect Rome and all its inhabitants always!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to Benedictine Sisters
"Mary's Heart Is the Cloister Where the Word Continues to Speak in Silence"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave March 9 upon visiting the monastery of the Benedictine Oblate Sisters of St. Frances of Rome at Tor de' Specchi.

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Dear Oblate Sisters,

After my Visit to the nearby Municipal Hall on the Capitoline Hill, I come with great joy to meet you at this historic Monastery of Santa Francesca Romana, while you are still celebrating the fourth centenary of her canonization on 29 May 1608. Moreover, the Feast of this great Saint occurs this very day, commemorating the date of her birth in Heaven. I am therefore particularly grateful to the Lord to be able to pay this tribute to the "most Roman of women Saints", in felicitous continuity with the meeting I have just had with the Administrators at the municipal headquarters. As I address my cordial greeting to your community, and in particular to the President, Mother Maria Camilla Rea whom I thank for her courteous words expressing your common sentiments I also extend my greeting to Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara, to the students who live here and to everyone present.

As you know, together with my collaborators in the Roman Curia, I have just completed the Spiritual Exercises which coincided with the first week of Lent. In these days I have experienced once again how indispensable silence and prayer are. And I also thought of St Frances of Rome, of her unreserved dedication to God and neighbour which gave rise to the experience of community life here, at Tor de' Specchi. Contemplation and action, prayer and charitable service, the monastic ideal and social involvement: all this has found here a "laboratory" rich in fruits, in close connection with the Olivetan nuns of Santa Maria Nova. But the real impetus behind all that was achieved in the course of time was the heart of Frances, into which the Holy Spirit had poured out his spiritual gifts and at the same time inspired a multitude of good initiatives.

Your monastery is located in the heart of the city. How is it possible not to see in this, as it were, the symbol of the need to bring the spiritual dimension back to the centre of civil coexistence, to give full meaning to the many activities of the human being? Precisely in this perspective your community, together with all other communities of contemplative life, is called to be a sort of spiritual "lung" of society, so that all that is to be done, all that happens in a city, does not lack a spiritual "breath", the reference to God and his saving plan. This is the service that is carried out in particular by monasteries, places of silence and meditation on the divine word, places where there is constant concern to keep the earth open to Heaven. Then your monastery has its own special feature which naturally reflects the charism of St Frances of Rome. Here you keep a unique balance between religious life and secular life, between life in the world and outside the world. This model did not come into being on paper but in the practical experience of a young woman of Rome; it was written one might say by God himself in the extraordinary life of Francesca, in her history as a child, an adolescent, a very young wife and mother, a mature woman conquered by Jesus Christ, as St Paul would say. Not without reason are the walls of these premises decorated with scenes from her life, to show that the true building which God likes to build is the life of Saints.

In our day too, Rome needs women and of course also men but here I wish to emphasize the feminine dimension women, as I was saying, who belong wholly to God and wholly to their neighbour; women who are capable of recollection and of generous and discreet service; women who know how to obey their Pastors but also how to support them and encourage them with their suggestions, developed in conversation with Christ and in first-hand experience in the area of charity, assistance to the sick, to the marginalized, to minors in difficulty. This is the gift of a motherhood that is one with religious self-gift, after the model of Mary Most Holy. Let us think of the mystery of the Visitation. Immediately after conceiving the Word of God in her heart and in her flesh, Mary set out to go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Mary's heart is the cloister where the Word continues to speak in silence, and at the same time it is the crucible of a charity that is conducive to courageous gestures, as well as to a persevering and hidden sharing.

Dear Sisters, thank you for the prayers with which you always accompany the ministry of the Successor of Peter and thank you for your invaluable presence in the heart of Rome. I hope that you will experience every day the joy of preferring nothing to love of Christ, a motto we have inherited from St Benedict but which clearly mirrors the spirituality of the Apostle Paul, venerated by you as Patron of your Congregation. To you, to the Olivetan monks and to everyone present here, I warmly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Words to Delegation from Israel's Chief Rabbinate
"I Am Preparing to Visit the Holy Land As a Pilgrim"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving a delegation from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

* * *

Distinguished representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel,

Dear Catholic Delegates,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you, the delegation of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, together with Catholic participants led by the Holy See's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. The important dialogue in which you are engaged is a fruit of the historical visit of my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land in March 2000. It was his wish to enter into a dialogue with Jewish religious institutions in Israel and his encouragement was decisive to attaining this goal. Receiving the two Chief Rabbis of Israel in January 2004 he called this dialogue a "sign of great hope".

During these seven years not only has the friendship between the Commission and the Chief Rabbinate increased, but you have also been able to reflect on important themes which are relevant to the Jewish and Christian traditions alike. Because we recognize a common rich spiritual patrimony a dialogue based on mutual understanding and respect is, as Nostra Aetate (n. 4) recommends, necessary and possible.

Working together you have become increasingly aware of the common values which stand at the basis of our respective religious traditions, studying them during the seven meetings held either here in Rome or in Jerusalem. You have reflected on the sanctity of life, family values, social justice and ethical conduct, the importance of the word of God expressed in Holy Scriptures for society and education, the relationship between religious and civil authority and the freedom of religion and conscience. In the common declarations released after every meeting, the views which are rooted in both our respective religious convictions have been highlighted, while the differences of understanding have also been acknowledged. The Church recognizes that the beginnings of her faith are found in the historical divine intervention in the life of the Jewish people and that here our unique relationship has its foundation. The Jewish people, who were chosen as the elected people, communicate to the whole human family, knowledge of and fidelity to the one, unique and true God. Christians gladly acknowledge that their own roots are found in the same self-revelation of God, in which the religious experience of the Jewish people is nourished.

As you know, I am preparing to visit the Holy Land as a pilgrim. My intention is to pray especially for the precious gift of unity and peace both within the region and for the worldwide human family. As Psalm 125 brings to mind, God protects his people: "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from this time forth and for evermore". May my visit also help to deepen the dialogue of the Church with the Jewish people so that Jews and Christians and also Muslims may live in peace and harmony in this Holy Land.

I thank you for your visit and I renew my personal commitment to advancing the vision set out for coming generations in the Second Vatican Council's declaration Nostra Aetate.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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The Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on St Pius X bishops

VATICAN CITY, 12 MAR 2009 (VIS) - Made public today was the Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre.

The Letter is dated 10 March and has been published in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese. The complete text of the English-language version is given below:

"Dear brothers in the episcopal ministry.

"The remission of the excommunication of the four Bishops consecrated in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre without a mandate of the Holy See has for many reasons caused, both within and beyond the Catholic Church, a discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time. Many bishops felt perplexed by an event which came about unexpectedly and was difficult to view positively in the light of the issues and tasks facing the Church today. Even though many bishops and members of the faithful were disposed in principle to take a positive view of the Pope's concern for reconciliation, the question remained whether such a gesture was fitting in view of the genuinely urgent demands of the life of faith in our time. Some groups, on the other hand, openly accused the Pope of wanting to turn back the clock to before the Council: as a result, an avalanche of protests was unleashed, whose bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment. I therefore feel obliged to offer you, dear brothers, a word of clarification, which ought to help you understand the concerns which led me and the competent offices of the Holy See to take this step. In this way I hope to contribute to peace in the Church.

"An unforeseen mishap for me was the fact that the Williamson case came on top of the remission of the excommunication. The discreet gesture of mercy towards four bishops ordained validly but not legitimately suddenly appeared as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and thus as the reversal of what the Council had laid down in this regard to guide the Church's path. A gesture of reconciliation with an ecclesial group engaged in a process of separation thus turned into its very antithesis: an apparent step backwards with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council - steps which my own work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support. That this overlapping of two opposed processes took place and momentarily upset peace between Christians and Jews, as well as peace within the Church, is something which I can only deeply deplore. I have been told that consulting the information available on the internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news. I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who, after all, might have had a better knowledge of the situation, thought they had to attack me with open hostility. Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the atmosphere of friendship and trust which - as in the days of Pope John Paul II - has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues to exist.

"Another mistake, which I deeply regret, is the fact that the extent and limits of the provision of 21 January 2009 were not clearly and adequately explained at the moment of its publication. The excommunication affects individuals, not institutions. An episcopal ordination lacking a pontifical mandate raises the danger of a schism, since it jeopardises the unity of the College of Bishops with the Pope. Consequently the Church must react by employing her most severe punishment - excommunication - with the aim of calling those thus punished to repent and to return to unity. Twenty years after the ordinations, this goal has sadly not yet been attained. The remission of the excommunication has the same aim as that of the punishment: namely, to invite the four bishops once more to return. This gesture was possible once the interested parties had expressed their recognition in principle of the Pope and his authority as Pastor, albeit with some reservations in the area of obedience to his doctrinal authority and to the authority of the Council. Here I return to the distinction between individuals and institutions. The remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline: the individuals were freed from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. This disciplinary level needs to be distinguished from the doctrinal level. The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers - even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty - do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

"In light of this situation, it is my intention henceforth to join the Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei' - the body which has been competent since 1988 for those communities and persons who, coming from the Society of Saint Pius X or from similar groups, wish to return to full communion with the Pope - to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This will make it clear that the problems now to be addressed are essentially doctrinal in nature and concern primarily the acceptance of the Vatican Council II and the post-conciliar Magisterium of the Popes. The collegial bodies with which the congregation studies questions which arise (especially the ordinary Wednesday meeting of cardinals and the annual or biennial plenary session) ensure the involvement of the prefects of the different Roman congregations and representatives from the world's bishops in the process of decision-making. The Church's teaching authority cannot be frozen in the year 1962 - this must be quite clear to the Society. But some of those who put themselves forward as great defenders of the Council also need to be reminded that Vatican II embraces the entire doctrinal history of the Church. Anyone who wishes to be obedient to the Council has to accept the faith professed over the centuries, and cannot sever the roots from which the tree draws its life.

"I hope, dear brothers, that this serves to clarify the positive significance and also the limits of the provision of 21 January 2009. But the question still remains: Was this measure needed? Was it really a priority? Aren't other things perhaps more important? Of course there are more important and urgent matters. I believe that I set forth clearly the priorities of my pontificate in the addresses which I gave at its beginning. Everything that I said then continues unchanged as my plan of action. The first priority for the Successor of Peter was laid down by the Lord in the Upper Room in the clearest of terms: 'You ... strengthen your brothers'. Peter himself formulated this priority anew in his first Letter: 'Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you'. In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God Who spoke on Sinai; to that God Whose face we recognise in a love which presses 'to the end' - in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.

"Leading men and women to God, to the God Who speaks in the Bible: this is the supreme and fundamental priority of the Church and of the Successor of Peter at the present time. A logical consequence of this is that we must have at heart the unity of all believers. Their disunity, their disagreement among themselves, calls into question the credibility of their talk of God. Hence the effort to promote a common witness by Christians to their faith - ecumenism - is part of the supreme priority. Added to this is the need for all those who believe in God to join in seeking peace, to attempt to draw closer to one another, and to journey together, even with their differing images of God, towards the source of Light - this is inter-religious dialogue. Whoever proclaims that God is Love 'to the end' has to bear witness to love: in loving devotion to the suffering, in the rejection of hatred and enmity - this is the social dimension of the Christian faith, of which I spoke in the Encyclical 'Deus caritas est'.

"So if the arduous task of working for faith, hope and love in the world is presently (and, in various ways, always) the Church's real priority, then part of this is also made up of acts of reconciliation, small and not so small. That the quiet gesture of extending a hand gave rise to a huge uproar, and thus became exactly the opposite of a gesture of reconciliation, is a fact which we must accept. But I ask now: Was it, and is it, truly wrong in this case to meet half-way the brother who 'has something against you' and to seek reconciliation? Should not civil society also try to forestall forms of extremism and to incorporate their eventual adherents - to the extent possible - in the great currents shaping social life, and thus avoid their being segregated, with all its consequences? Can it be completely mistaken to work to break down obstinacy and narrowness, and to make space for what is positive and retrievable for the whole? I myself saw, in the years after 1988, how the return of communities which had been separated from Rome changed their interior attitudes; I saw how returning to the bigger and broader Church enabled them to move beyond one-sided positions and broke down rigidity so that positive energies could emerge for the whole. Can we be totally indifferent about a community which has 491 priests, 215 seminarians, 6 seminaries, 88 schools, 2 university-level institutes, 117 religious brothers, 164 religious sisters and thousands of lay faithful? Should we casually let them drift farther from the Church? I think for example of the 491 priests. We cannot know how mixed their motives may be. All the same, I do not think that they would have chosen the priesthood if, alongside various distorted and unhealthy elements, they did not have a love for Christ and a desire to proclaim Him and, with Him, the living God. Can we simply exclude them, as representatives of a radical fringe, from our pursuit of reconciliation and unity? What would then become of them?

"Certainly, for some time now, and once again on this specific occasion, we have heard from some representatives of that community many unpleasant things - arrogance and presumptuousness, an obsession with one-sided positions, etc. Yet to tell the truth, I must add that I have also received a number of touching testimonials of gratitude which clearly showed an openness of heart. But should not the great Church also allow herself to be generous in the knowledge of her great breadth, in the knowledge of the promise made to her? Should not we, as good educators, also be capable of overlooking various faults and making every effort to open up broader vistas? And should we not admit that some unpleasant things have also emerged in Church circles? At times one gets the impression that our society needs to have at least one group to which no tolerance may be shown; which one can easily attack and hate. And should someone dare to approach them - in this case the Pope - he too loses any right to tolerance; he too can be treated hatefully, without misgiving or restraint.

"Dear Brothers, during the days when I first had the idea of writing this letter, by chance, during a visit to the Roman Seminary, I had to interpret and comment on Galatians 5:13-15. I was surprised at the directness with which that passage speaks to us about the present moment: 'Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another'. I am always tempted to see these words as another of the rhetorical excesses which we occasionally find in St. Paul . To some extent that may also be the case. But sad to say, this 'biting and devouring' also exists in the Church today, as expression of a poorly understood freedom. Should we be surprised that we too are no better than the Galatians? That at the very least we are threatened by the same temptations? That we must always learn anew the proper use of freedom? And that we must always learn anew the supreme priority, which is love? The day I spoke about this at the Major Seminary, the feast of Our Lady of Trust was being celebrated in Rome . And so it is: Mary teaches us trust. She leads us to her Son, in Whom all of us can put our trust. He will be our guide - even in turbulent times. And so I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the many bishops who have lately offered me touching tokens of trust and affection, and above all assured me of their prayers. My thanks also go to all the faithful who in these days have given me testimony of their constant fidelity to the Successor of St. Peter. May the Lord protect all of us and guide our steps along the way of peace. This is the prayer that rises up instinctively from my heart at the beginning of this Lent, a liturgical season particularly suited to interior purification, one which invites all of us to look with renewed hope to the light which awaits us at Easter

"With a special Apostolic Blessing, I remain Yours in the Lord". Benedict XVI

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VATICAN CITY, 12 MAR 2009 (VIS) - In an explanatory note accompanying the Holy Father's Letter to bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the remission of the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre, Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. explains that "it is an unusual document worthy of great attention. Never before in his pontificate has Benedict XVI expressed himself so personally and intensely on a matter of public debate".

"The Pope experienced the ... remission of the excommunication and the consequent reactions with evident concern and suffering", and felt the obligation "to intervene in order to contribute to peace in the Church".

"With his habitual lucidity and humility he recognises the limitations and errors that had a negative influence on the affair, and with great nobility he does not seek to attribute the responsibility for them to others, but expresses solidarity with his collaborators. He speaks of inadequate information in the Williamson case and of insufficient clarity in explaining the procedure and significance of remitting excommunication".

The Williamson case, "fortunately now surpassed", gives the Pope "an opportunity to recall with satisfaction" that moves towards reconciliation with Jews, "beginning with Vatican Council II, is something his own 'work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support'".

Above all, however, the Holy Father wishes "to clarify the nature, significance and aims of the remission of excommunication. He explains that since the excommunication was a punishment for individuals who had performed an act that put the unity of the Church at risk by failing to recognise the authority of the Pope, now - after the individuals concerned have expressed their recognition of the Pope's authority - the remission of the excommunication is a warm invitation for them to return to unity".

"Benedict XVI is profoundly aware of his responsibility as pastor of the universal Church and feels the need to give his brothers in the episcopate unambiguous clarification ... of the priorities and spirit with which he is undertaking his service". These are: "leading men and women to God, the God Who speaks in the Bible and in Christ; unity among Christians; dialogue among believers in God in the service of peace; witness of charity in the social dimension of Christian life.

"The Pope continues his considerations", Fr. Lombardi adds in his note, "by inviting his interlocutors to serious reflection, at both the personal and the ecclesial level. The paradoxical fact that a gesture that aimed to be merciful and conciliatory actually created a situation of acute tension, means we must ask questions to discern what spiritual attitudes where ... at work in this case", he says.

Moved by his "deep concern for unity", Benedict XVI does not lose his "critical realism" as he recalls "the grave defects of many of the traditionalists' statements"; yet he reserves the same critical realism "for the members of the Church and society who meet all efforts of reconciliation, or even of the recognition of positive elements in others, with rigid intransigence".

The Pope's Letter concludes, says Fr. Lombardi, "by reiterating an impassioned appeal for love as the absolute priority for Christians, and by expressing a hope for peace in the community of the Church".


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On St. Boniface
"His Ardent Zeal for the Gospel Always Impresses Me"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

Today we pause to consider a great missionary of the 8th century, who spread Christianity in Central Europe, precisely in my homeland as well: St. Boniface, who has been recorded in history as the "apostle of the Germans."

We have not a little information about his life, thanks to the diligence of his biographers: He was born to an Anglo Saxon family in Wessex around the year 675 and was baptized with the name Winfred. He joined the monastery very young, attracted by the monastic ideal. Possessing notable intellectual capacities, he seemed headed toward a tranquil and brilliant career as a scholar: He was a professor of Latin grammar, wrote a few treatises and also composed some poems in Latin.

Ordained a priest at close to 30 years of age, he felt called to the apostolate among the pagans of the continent. Great Britain, his land, evangelized just 100 years before by the Benedictines guided by St. Augustine, manifested a faith that was so solid and a charity that was so ardent that it sent missionaries to Central Europe to announce there the Gospel. In 716, Winfred, with some companions, headed to Friesland (in present day Holland), but he clashed with the opposition of the local leader and the attempt at evangelization failed.

Having returned to his homeland, he didn't lose his zest and two years later, he went to Rome to speak with Pope Gregory II and to receive direction. The Pope, according to a biographer's account, received him "with a smiling face and a gaze full of kindness," and in the following days, had with him "important discussions" (Willibaldo, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. Levison, pp. 13-14). And finally, after having given him the new name of Boniface, he entrusted him with official letters and the mission to preach the Gospel among the peoples of Germany.

Comforted and sustained by the support of the Pope, Boniface got to work in the preaching of the Gospel in those regions, fighting against the pagan cults and strengthening the bases of Christian and human morality. With a great sense of duty, he wrote in one of his letters: "We are firm in the fight in the day of the Lord, because days of affliction and misery have arrived ... We are not muted dogs, nor tacit observers, nor mercenaries who flee before the wolves. We are instead diligent pastors who watch over the flock of Christ, who announce to important persons and normal ones, to the rich and the poor, the will of God ... in opportune moments and inopportune ones ... " (Epistulae, 3,352.354: MGH).

With his tireless activity, with his organizational gifts, with his flexible and amiable character despite its firmness, Boniface obtained great results. The Pope then "declared that he wanted to confer on him episcopal dignity, so that with greater determination he could thus correct and return to the path of truth those who were mistaken, feel that he was supported by the greater authority of the apostolic dignity, and would be more accepted by everyone in the office of preaching since all the more for this reason it seemed he had been ordained by the apostolic prelate" (Otloho, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. Levison, lib. I, p. 127).

It was the Supreme Pontiff himself who consecrated him "regional bishop" -- that is, for all of Germany, and Boniface revived his apostolic efforts in the territories entrusted to him and extended his action as well to the Church of Gaul. With great prudence, he restored ecclesiastical discipline, convoked various synods to ensure the authority of the sacred canons, and reinforced the necessary communion with the Roman Pontiff, a point that he carried especially in his heart. The successors of Pope Gregory II also held him in most high consideration: Gregory III named him archbishop of all the Germanic tribes, sent him the pallium and gave him the faculty to organize the ecclesiastical hierarchy in those regions (cf. Epist. 28: S. Bonifatii Epistulae, ed. Tangl, Berolini 1916). Pope Zachary confirmed him in his post and praised his work (cf. Epist. 51, 57, 58, 60, 68, 77, 80, 86, 87, 89: op. cit.). And Pope Stephen III, recently elected, received from him a letter in which he expressed his filial attention (cf. Epist. 108: op. cit.).

The great bishop, besides this work of evangelization and organization of the Church through the foundation of dioceses and the celebration of synods, did not fail to favor the foundation of various monasteries, masculine and feminine, so that they would be like a lighthouse to irradiate the faith and human and Christian culture in the territory. From the Benedictine cenobites of his homeland, he had called men and women monks who lent a most valuable and precious service in the task of announcing the Gospel and spreading the human sciences and arts among the populations.

He considered in fact that the work for the Gospel should be also work for a true human culture. Above all the monastery of Fulda -- founded around 743 -- was the heart and center of the irradiation of the spirituality and the religious culture: There the monks, in prayer, in work and in penance, endeavored to tend toward sanctity; they formed themselves in the study of sacred and secular disciplines, preparing themselves for the announcement of the Gospel, to be missionaries. Therefore thanks to Boniface, to his men and women monks -- the women too had a very important part in this work of evangelization -- this human culture also flourished, which is inseparable from the faith and reveals its beauty.

Boniface himself has left us significant intellectual works -- above all his copious collection of letters, wherein the pastoral letters alternate with official letters and those of a private nature, which reveal social events and above all his rich human temperament and deep faith. He composed as well a treatise of "Ars grammatica," in which he explained the declinations, verbs and syntax of Latin, but which for him was also an instrument to spread the faith and the culture. Attributed to him as well is an "Ars metrica," that is, an introduction to how to make poetry, and various poetic compositions, and finally, a collection of 165 sermons.

Though he was already advanced in years -- he was close to 80 -- he prepared himself for a new evangelizing mission: With some 50 monks, he returned to Friesland, where he had begun his work. Almost as a foretelling of his imminent death, alluding to the journey of life, he wrote to his disciple and successor in the See of Mainz, Bishop Lullus: "I want to complete the aim of this trip, I cannot in any way renounce the desire to depart. The day of my end is near and the time of my death draws near; leaving the mortal remains, I will rise to the eternal reward. But you, most dear son, ceaselessly call the people from the labyrinth of error, complete the construction of the already begun basilica of Fulda, and there you will place my body grown old with long years of life" (Willibaldo, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. cit., p. 46).

While he was beginning the celebration of Mass in Dokkum (in present day North Holland), on June 5, 754, he was assaulted by a band of pagans. Placing himself at the front with a serene face, he "prohibited his [companions] to fight, saying: "Cease, sons, to combat, abandon the war, because the testimony of Scripture warns us not to return evil for evil, but good for evil. This is the day awaited for some time, the time of our end has arrived. Courage in the Lord!" (ibid. pp. 49-50).

Those were his last words before falling beneath the blows of his aggressors. The remains of the bishop-martyr were taken to the monastery of Fulda, where he received a dignified burial. Already one of his first biographers described him with this affirmation: "The holy Bishop Boniface can be called the father of all the inhabitants of Germany, because he was the first to engender them in Christ with the word of his holy preaching; he confirmed them with his example and finally gave his life for them, greater love than this cannot be given" (Otloho, Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. cit., lib. I, p. 158).

After centuries, what message can we take from the teaching and the prodigious activity of this great missionary and martyr? A first point is evident to one who approaches Boniface: the centrality of the Word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, a Word that he lived, preached and gave testimony to unto the supreme gift of himself in martyrdom. He was so impassioned by the Word of God that he felt the urgency and the duty of taking it to others, even at his personal risk. Upon it, he supported his faith, the spreading of which he had solemnly made a pledge to in the moment of his episcopal consecration: "I integrally profess the purity of the holy Catholic faith and with the help of God, I want to remain in the unity of this faith, in which without any doubt is all of the salvation of Christians" (Epist. 12, in S. Bonifatii Epistolae, ed. cit., p. 29).

The second obvious point, a very important one, which emerges from the life of Boniface is his faithful communion with the Apostolic See, which was a firm and central point in his missionary work. He always conserved that communion as a rule of his mission and he left it almost as a testament. In a letter to Pope Zachary, he affirmed: "I never fail to invite and to submit to the obedience of the Apostolic See those who want to remain in the Catholic faith and in the unity of the Roman Church and all those that in this mission God gives me as listeners and disciples" (Epist. 50: in ibid. p. 81).

A fruit of this determination was the firm spirit of cohesion around the Successor of Peter that Boniface transmitted to the Churches in his mission territory, uniting England, Germany and France with Rome and contributing in such a determinant way to plant the Christian roots of Europe that they have produced fecund fruits in successive centuries.

For a third characteristic that Boniface draws to our attention: He promoted the encounter between the Roman-Christian culture and the Germanic culture. He knew in fact that to humanize and evangelize the culture was an integral part of his mission as a bishop. Transmitting the ancient patrimony of Christian values, he implanted in the German peoples a new style of life that was more human, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person were better respected. As an authentic son of St. Benedict, he knew how to unite prayer and work (manual and intellectual), pen and plow.

The valiant testimony of Boniface is an invitation for all of us to welcome in our life the Word of God as an essential point of reference, to passionately love the Church, to feel that we are co-responsible for its future, to seek unity around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, he reminds us that Christianity, favoring the spreading of culture, promotes the progress of man. It falls to us, then, to measure up to a patrimony that is so prestigious and make it bear fruit for the good of the generations to come.

His ardent zeal for the Gospel always impresses me: At 40 years old, he leaves a beautiful and fruitful monastic life, the life of a monk and a professor, to announce the Gospel to the simple, to the barbarians; at 80 years of age, once again, he goes to a zone where he foresaw his martyrdom. Comparing this ardent faith of his, this zeal for the Gospel, to our faith so often lukewarm and bureaucratic, we see that we have to renew our faith and how to do it, so as to give as a gift to our times the precious pearl of the Gospel.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the early Christian writers of East and West, we now turn to Saint Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans. Born in England and baptized with the name Winfrid, he embraced the monastic life and was ordained a priest. Despite his promise as a scholar, he sensed the call to proclaim the Gospel to the pagans of the Continent. After an initial setback, he visited Rome and was charged by Pope Gregory II with the mission to evangelize the Germanic peoples. Taking the name Boniface, he worked tirelessly for the spread of the faith and the promotion of Christian morality, established bishoprics and monasteries throughout northern Europe, and contributed in no small way to the growth of a Christian culture. He crowned his witness to Christ by a martyr's death, and was buried in the great monastery of Fulda. Saint Boniface continues to inspired us by his example of missionary zeal, his complete fidelity to the word of God and the integrity of the Catholic faith, his strong sense of communion with the Apostolic See, and his efforts to promote the fruitful encounter of Germanic culture with the Roman-Christian heritage.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
 

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On Prayer and Christ's Transfiguration
"Find in This Time of Lent Moments of Prolonged Silence"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

As you know, this past week I was on retreat together with my colleagues in the Roman curia. It was a week of silence and prayer: the mind and heart were able to dedicate themselves entirely to God, to listening to his Word, to meditation on the mysteries of Christ. In a certain way, it was little like what happened to the apostles Peter, James and John when Jesus took them away with him up the mountain alone, and while he prayed was "transfigured": his face and his person appeared luminous, shining. The liturgy re-proposes this celebrated episode today in fact, the second Sunday of Lent (cf. Mark 9:2-10). Jesus wanted his disciples, especially those who would have the responsibility of leading the newborn Church, to directly experience his divine glory, to be able to face the scandal of the cross. Indeed, when the hour of betrayal comes and Jesus retires to Gethsemane to pray, he will keep the same Peter, James and John close by, asking them to keep watch with him (cf. Matthew 26:38). They cannot do it, the grace of Christ will sustain them and help them to believe in the Resurrection.

I would like to stress that Jesus' transfiguration was essentially an experience of prayer (cf. Luke 9:28-29). Prayer, in fact, reaches its culmination -- and thus becomes the source of interior light -- when the spirit of man adheres to that of God and their wills join almost to form a single will. When Jesus ascends the mountain he immerses himself in the contemplation of the Father's plan of love, who sent him into the world to save humanity. Elijah and Moses appear alongside Jesus, signifying that the Sacred Scriptures were in agreement in announcing the paschal mystery: that Jesus had to suffer and die to enter into his glory (cf. Luke 24:26, 46). In that moment Jesus sees the cross outlined before him, the extreme sacrifice necessary to liberate us from the reign of sin and death. And in his heart he once again repeats his "Amen." He says yes, here I am, let your will of love be done, Father. And, as happened after the baptism in the Jordan, the signs of God's pleasure came from heaven: the light that transfigured Christ and the voice that proclaimed him "my beloved Son" (Mark 9:7).

Together with fasting and works of mercy, prayer forms the essential structure of our spiritual life. Dear brothers and sisters, I exhort you to find in this time of Lent moments of prolonged silence, perhaps a retreat, to reflect again on your life in the light of heavenly Father's plan of love. Let the Virgin Mary, teacher and model of prayer, be your guide in this more intense listening to God. Even in the deepest darkness of Christ's passion she did not lose but safeguarded the light of the Divine Son in her soul. For this reason let us call upon Mary with confidence and hope!

[After the Angelus the Pope said:]

Today's date, March 8, [International Women's Day] invites us to reflect on the condition of women and to renew our commitment, that always and everywhere every woman can live and fully manifest her particular abilities, obtaining complete respect for her dignity. This is the sense in which the Second Vatican Council and the pontifical magisterium -- especially in the servant of God John Paul II's apostolic letter "Mulieris Dignitatem" (August 15, 1988) -- have expressed themselves. Of more worth than the documents themselves is the testimony of the saints. And in our time there was that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: humble daughter of Albania, who became, by God's grace, an example of charity in the service of human promotion to all the world. How many other women work in a hidden way every day for the good of humanity and for the Kingdom of God! Today I pledge my prayer for all women, that they be evermore respected in their dignity and valued in their positive possibilities.

Dear brothers and sisters, in the climate of intense prayer that marks Lent, I entrust to your remembrance the two apostolic journeys upon which, if it pleases God, I will soon embark. The week after next, on March 17-23, I will travel to Africa, first to Cameroon and then to Angola, to show my concrete nearness and that of the Church to the Christians and peoples of that continent, which is particularly dear to me. Then, on May 8-15, I will be on pilgrimage in the Holy Land to ask the Lord, while visiting the places sanctified by his life on earth, for the precious gift of unity and peace for the Middle East and for all of humanity. From this point forward I will count on the spiritual support of all of you, that God will accompany me and fill those whom I meet along the way with his graces.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[The Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]


I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. On this, the Second Sunday of Lent, the Gospel invites us to ponder the mystery of Christ's Transfiguration, to acknowledge him as the incarnate Son of God, and to follow him along the way that leads to the saving mystery of his Cross and Resurrection. During this Lenten season, may you grow closer to the Lord in prayer, and may he shed the light of his face upon you and your families!


© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Comments at Conclusion of Lenten Retreat
"We Must Walk With Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the comments made by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the retreat on the theme "The Priest Meets Jesus and Follows Him," given to the Roman curia by Cardinal Francis Arinze, retired prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

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Your Eminence, My Dear Venerable Brothers,

Saying "thank you" is one of the wonderful tasks of the Pope. At this time I would like, in the name of all of us and all of you, to say thank you, Eminence, from the heart, for these meditations which you have given us. You have led, enlightened, helped and renewed us in our priesthood. Yours has not been a theological acrobatic act. You have not given us theological acrobatics, but you have given us sound doctrine, the good bread of our faith.

Listening to your words, there came to my mind a prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel, on which St. Augustine comments. In the Book of Ezekiel the Lord, God the Shepherd, says to the people: I will lead my sheep upon the hills of Israel, to green pastures. And St. Augustine asks: Where are these hills of Israel? What are these green pastures? And he answers: the hills of Israel, the green pastures are the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God that gives us true nourishment.

Your preaching has been permeated with Sacred Scripture, with a great familiarity with the Word of God read in the context of the living Church, from the Fathers to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, always contextualized in the reading, in the liturgy. Precisely in this way Scripture has been presented in its complete relevance. Your theology, as you told us, was not an abstract theology but one marked by healthy realism. I admired and enjoyed this concrete experience of your 50 years in the priesthood that you spoke to us about and in the light of which you helped us concretize our faith. What you said to us was sound, concrete for our life, for our comportment as priests. I hope that many will read these words and take them to heart.

You first began with this always fascinating and beautiful account of the first disciples who followed Jesus. Still a little uncertain and timid they ask: Master, where do you live? And the answer, which you commented on, is: "Come and see." To see we must come, we must walk with Jesus, who always precedes us. Only in walking with and following Jesus can we see. You have showed us where Jesus lives, where his dwelling is: in the Church, in his Word, in the most holy Eucharist.

Thank you, Your Eminence, for this guidance. With a new spirit and new joy we will set out on the way to Easter. I wish everyone a good Lent and a good Easter.


[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Papal Message for Youth Day '09
"Jesus Also Wants to Encounter Each One of You"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for World Youth Day 2009, to be celebrated at the diocesan level this Palm Sunday. The message was released today.

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"We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10)

My dear friends,

Next Palm Sunday we shall celebrate the twenty-fourth World Youth Day at the diocesan level. As we prepare for this annual event, I recall with deep gratitude to the Lord the meeting held in Sydney in July last year. It was a most memorable encounter, during which the Holy Spirit renewed the lives of countless young people who had come together from all over the world. The joy of celebration and spiritual enthusiasm experienced during those few days was an eloquent sign of the presence of the Spirit of Christ. Now we are journeying towards the international gathering due to take place in Madrid in 2011, which will have as its theme the words of the Apostle Paul: "Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith" (cf. Col 2:7). As we look forward to that global youth meeting, let us undertake a path of preparation together. We take as our text for the year 2009 a saying of Saint Paul: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10), while in 2010 we will reflect on the question put to Jesus by the rich young man: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mk 10:17)

Youth, a time of hope

In Sydney, our attention was focussed upon what the Holy Spirit is saying to believers today, and in particular to you, my dear young people. During the closing Mass, I urged you to let yourselves be shaped by him in order to be messengers of divine love, capable of building a future of hope for all humanity. The question of hope is truly central to our lives as human beings and our mission as Christians, especially in these times. We are all aware of the need for hope, not just any kind of hope, but a firm and reliable hope, as I wanted to emphasize in the Encyclical Spe Salvi. Youth is a special time of hope because it looks to the future with a whole range of expectations. When we are young we cherish ideals, dreams and plans. Youth is the time when decisive choices concerning the rest of our lives come to fruition. Perhaps this is why it is the time of life when fundamental questions assert themselves strongly: Why am I here on earth? What is the meaning of life? What will my life be like? And again: How can I attain happiness? Why is there suffering, illness and death? What lies beyond death? These are questions that become insistent when we are faced with obstacles that sometimes seem insurmountable: difficulties with studies, unemployment, family arguments, crises in friendships or in building good loving relationships, illness or disability, lack of adequate resources as a result of the present widespread economic and social crisis. We then ask ourselves: where can I obtain and how can I keep alive the flame of hope burning in my heart?

In search of "the great hope"

Experience shows that personal qualities and material goods are not enough to guarantee the hope which the human spirit is constantly seeking. As I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi, politics, science, technology, economics and all other material resources are not of themselves sufficient to provide the great hope to which we all aspire. This hope "can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain" (no. 31). This is why one of the main consequences of ignoring God is the evident loss of direction that marks our societies, resulting in loneliness and violence, discontent and loss of confidence that can often lead to despair. The word of God issues a warning that is loud and clear: "Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes" (Jer 17:5-6).

The crisis of hope is more likely to affect the younger generations. In socio-cultural environments with few certainties, values or firm points of reference, they find themselves facing difficulties that seem beyond their strength. My dear young friends, I have in mind so many of your contemporaries who have been wounded by life. They often suffer from personal immaturity caused by dysfunctional family situations, by permissive and libertarian elements in their education, and by difficult and traumatic experience. For some - unfortunately a significant number - the almost unavoidable way out involves an alienating escape into dangerous and violent behaviour, dependence on drugs and alcohol, and many other such traps for the unwary. Yet, even for those who find themselves in difficult situations, having been led astray by bad role models, the desire for true love and authentic happiness is not extinguished. But how can we speak of this hope to those young people? We know that it is in God alone that a human person finds true fulfilment. The main task for us all is that of a new evangelization aimed at helping younger generations to rediscover the true face of God, who is Love. To you young people, who are in search of a firm hope, I address the very words that Saint Paul wrote to the persecuted Christians in Rome at that time: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). During this Jubilee Year dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles on the occasion of the two thousandth anniversary of his birth, let us learn from him how to become credible witnesses of Christian hope.

Saint Paul, witness of hope

When Paul found himself immersed in difficulties and trials of various kinds, he wrote to his faithful disciple Timothy: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10). How did this hope take root in him? In order to answer that question we must go back to his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. At that time, Saul was a young person like you in his early twenties, a follower of the Law of Moses and determined to fight with every means, and even to kill those he regarded as God's enemies (cf. Acts 9:1). While on his way to Damascus to arrest the followers of Christ, he was blinded by a mysterious light and he heard himself called by name: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" He fell to the ground, and asked: "Who are you, Lord?" The reply came: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9:3-5). After that encounter, Paul's life changed radically. He received Baptism and became an Apostle of the Gospel. On the road to Damascus, he was inwardly transformed by the Divine Love he had met in the person of Jesus Christ. He would later write: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). From being a persecutor, he became a witness and a missionary. He founded Christian communities in Asia Minor and Greece, and travelled thousands of miles amid all kinds of perils, culminating in his martyrdom in Rome. All this for love of Christ.

The great hope is in Christ

For Paul, hope is not simply an ideal or sentiment, but a living person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Profoundly imbued with this certainty, he could write to Timothy: "We have set our hope on the living God" (1 Tim 4:10). The "living God" is the Risen Christ present in our world. He is the true hope: the Christ who lives with us and in us and who calls us to share in his eternal life. If we are not alone, if he is with us, even more, if he is our present and our future, why be afraid? A Christian's hope is therefore to desire "the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1817).

The way towards the great hope

Just as he once encountered the young Paul, Jesus also wants to encounter each one of you, my dear young people. Indeed, even before we desire it, such an encounter is ardently desired by Jesus Christ. But perhaps some of you might ask me: How can I meet him today? Or rather, in what way does he approach me? The Church teaches us that the desire to encounter the Lord is already a fruit of his grace. When we express our faith in prayer, we find him even in times of darkness because he offers himself to us. Persevering prayer opens the heart to receive him, as Saint Augustine explains: "Our Lord and God ... wants our desire to be exercised in prayer, thus enabling us to grasp what he is preparing to give" (Letter 130:8,17). Prayer is the gift of the Spirit that makes us men and women of hope, and our prayer keeps the world open to God (cf. Spe Salvi, 34).

Make space for prayer in your lives! To pray alone is good, although it is even more beautiful and fruitful to pray together, because the Lord assured us he would be present wherever two or three are gathered in his name (cf. Mt 18:20). There are many ways to become acquainted with him. There are experiences, groups and movements, encounters and courses in which to learn to pray and thus grow in the experience of faith. Take part in your parish liturgies and be abundantly nourished by the word of God and your active participation in the Sacraments. As you know, the summit and centre of the life and mission of every believer and every Christian community is the Eucharist, the sacrament of salvation in which Christ becomes present and gives his Body and Blood as spiritual food for eternal life. A truly ineffable mystery! It is around the Eucharist that the Church comes to birth and grows - that great family of Christians which we enter through Baptism, and in which we are constantly renewed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The baptised, through Confirmation, are then confirmed in the Holy Spirit so as to live as authentic friends and witnesses of Christ. The Sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony enable them to accomplish their apostolic duties in the Church and in the world. Finally, the Sacrament of the Sick grants us an experience of divine consolation in illness and suffering.

Acting in accordance with Christian hope

If you find your sustenance in Christ, my dear young people, and if you live profoundly in him as did the Apostle Paul, you will not be able to resist speaking about him and making him known and loved by many of your friends and contemporaries. Be his faithful disciples, and in that way you will be able to help form Christian communities that are filled with love, like those described in the Acts of the Apostles. The Church depends on you for this demanding mission. Do not be discouraged by the difficulties and trials you encounter. Be patient and persevering so as to overcome the natural youthful tendency to rush ahead and to want everything immediately.

My dear friends, follow the example of Paul and be witnesses to the Risen Christ! Make Christ known, among your own age group and beyond, to those who are in search of "the great hope" that would give meaning to their lives. If Jesus has become your hope, communicate this to others with your joy and your spiritual, apostolic and social engagement. Let Christ dwell within you, and having placed all your faith and trust in him, spread this hope around you. Make choices that demonstrate your faith. Show that you understand the risks of idolizing money, material goods, career and success, and do not allow yourselves to be attracted by these false illusions. Do not yield to the rationale of selfish interests. Cultivate love of neighbour and try to put yourselves and your human talents and professional abilities at the service of the common good and of truth, always prepared to "make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). True Christians are never sad, even if they have to face trials of various kinds, because the presence of Jesus is the secret of their joy and peace.

Mary, Mother of hope

May Saint Paul be your example on this path of apostolic life. He nourished his life of constant faith and hope by looking to Abraham, of whom he wrote in the Letter to the Romans: "Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become the father of many nations" (Rom 4:18). Following in the footsteps of the people of hope - composed of prophets and saints of every age - we continue to advance towards the fulfilment of the Kingdom, and on this spiritual path we are accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope. She who incarnated the hope of Israel, who gave the world its Saviour, and who remained at the foot of the Cross with steadfast hope, is our model and our support. Most of all, Mary intercedes for us and leads us through the darkness of our trials to the radiant dawn of an encounter with the Risen Christ. I would like to conclude this message, my dear young friends, with a beautiful and well-known prayer by Saint Bernard that was inspired by one of Mary's titles, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea: "You who amid the constant upheavals of this life find yourself more often tossed about by storms than standing on firm ground, do not turn your eyes from the brightness of this Star, if you would not be overwhelmed by boisterous waves. If the winds of temptations rise, if you fall among the rocks of tribulations, look up at the Star, call on Mary ... In dangers, in distress, in perplexities, think on Mary, call on Mary ... Following her, you will never go astray; when you implore her aid, you will never yield to despair; thinking on her, you will not err; under her patronage you will never wander; beneath her protection you will not fear; she being your guide, you will not weary; with her assistance, you will arrive safely in the port" (Homilies in Praise of the Virgin Mother, 2:17).

Mary, Star of the Sea, we ask you to guide the young people of the whole world to an encounter with your Divine Son Jesus. Be the celestial guardian of their fidelity to the Gospel and of their hope.

Dear young friends, be assured that I remember all of you every day in my prayers. I give my heartfelt blessing to you and to all who are dear to you.

From the Vatican, 22 February 2009

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Q-and-A Session With Parish Priests of Rome
"Let Us Not Lose the Simplicity of the Truth"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2009 - Following a Lenten tradition, Benedict XVI met last Thursday with parish priests and clergy of the Diocese of Rome for a question-and-answer session. Here is a translation of the first question and the Holy Father's answer.

ZENIT will be publishing these transcriptions over the coming days.

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[Father Gianpiero Palmieri:]

Holy Father, I am Father Gianpiero Palmieri, pastor of St. Frumenzio ai Prati Fiscali parish. I would like to ask you a question on the evangelizing mission of the Christian community and, in particular, on the role and formation of priests within this evangelizing mission.

To explain myself, I will start with a personal experience. When I was a young priest, I began my pastoral service in a parish and school; I felt strong because of the weight of my studies and the formation received, well affirmed in the realm of my convictions of the systems of thought. A believing and wise woman, seeing me in action, shook her head smiling and said to me: "Father Gianpiero, when will you wear long pants, when will you be a man?" It was an incident that remained engraved in my heart.

That wise woman was trying to explain to me that life, the real world, God himself, are greater and more surprising than the concepts we elaborate. She was inviting me to listen to the human to try to understand, to comprehend, without being in a hurry to judge. She was asking me to learn how to enter into relationship with reality, without fears, because reality is inhabited by Christ himself who acts mysteriously in his Spirit.

In face of the evangelizing mission today, we priests feel unprepared and inadequate, always with short pants. Whether under the cultural aspect -- detailed knowledge of the great guidelines of contemporary thought escapes us, in its positivity and its limits -- or, especially, under the human aspect. We run the risk of being too schematic, incapable of knowing in a wise way the heart of the men of today. Is not the proclamation of salvation in Jesus also the proclamation of the new man Jesus, Son of God, in which our poor humanity is redeemed, made genuine, transformed by God?

Therefore, this is my question: do you share these thoughts? Many people wounded by life come to our Christian communities. What venues and ways can we invent to help others' humanity in the encounter with Jesus? And how can we priests construct a beautiful and fruitful humanity? Thank you, Your Holiness.

[Benedict XVI:]

Thank you! Dear brothers, first of all I would like to express my great joy at being with you, parish priests of Rome: my pastors, we are in family. The cardinal vicar has told me that it is a moment of spiritual rest. And in this sense I am also grateful to be able to begin Lent with a moment of spiritual rest, of spiritual breath, in contact with you.

And he also said: We are together so that you can tell me your experiences, your sufferings, also your successes and joys. Therefore, I wouldn't say that the oracle speaks here, to whom you ask questions. We are, rather, in a family exchange, in which it is very important for me to know, through you, life in the parishes, your experiences with the Word of God in the context of our world today. I also would like to learn, to come close to the reality, of which in the Apostolic Palace one is also a bit removed. And this is also the limit of my answers. You live in direct contact, day by day, with today's world; I live in diversified contacts, which are very useful.

For example, I have now had the ad limina visit of the bishops of Nigeria, and I have been able to see, through individuals the life of the Church in an important country of Africa, with 140 million inhabitants, a large number of Catholics, and touch the joys and also the sufferings of the Church.

But for me this is obviously a spiritual rest, because it is a Church as we see her in the Acts of the Apostles. A Church where there is a fresh joy of having found Christ, of having found God's Messiah. A Church that lives and grows each day. People are happy that they have found Christ. They have vocations, so they can give fidei donum priests to the different countries of the world. And to see, not a tired Church, as we often find in Europe, but a young Church, full of the joy of the Holy Spirit, is certainly a spiritual refreshment. However, with all these universal experiences, it is also important for me to see my diocese, the problems and all the realities you live in this diocese.

In this sense, I am essentially in agreement with you: It is not enough to preach or to do pastoral work with the precious cargo acquired in theology studies. This is important, it is essential, but it must be personalized: from academic knowledge, which we have learned and also reflected upon, in a personal vision of my life, in order to reach other people. In this sense, I would like to say that it is important, on one hand, to make the great word of the faith concrete with our personal experience of faith, in our meeting with our parishioners, but also to not lose its simplicity. Naturally, great words of the tradition -- such as sacrifice of expiation, redemption of Christ's sacrifice, original sin -- are incomprehensible as such today. We cannot simply work with great formulas, [although] truths, without putting them in the context of today's world. Through study and what the masters of theology and our personal experience with God tell us, we must translate these great words, so that they enter into the proclamation of God to the man of today.

And, on the other hand, I would say that we must not conceal the simplicity of the Word of God in valuations that are too heavy for human approaches. I remember a friend who, after hearing homilies with long anthropological reflections in order to bring others near the Gospel, said: But I am not interested in these approaches, I want to understand what the Gospel says! And it seems to me that often instead of long summaries of approaches, it would be better to say -- I did so when I was still in my normal life: I don't like this Gospel, we are the opposite of what the Lord says! But what does it mean? If I say sincerely that at first glance I am not in agreement, I already have their attention: It is understood that I would like, as a man of today, to understand what the Lord is saying. Thus we can, without circumlocution, enter fully into the Word.

And we must also keep in mind, free of false simplifications, that the Twelve Apostles were fishermen, artisans, of the province of Galilee, without special preparation, without knowledge of the great Greek and Latin worlds. And yet they went to all the places of the Empire, even outside of it, to India, and proclaimed Christ with simplicity, with the force of simplicity of what is true. And this also seems important to me: Let us not lose the simplicity of the truth. God exists and he is not a distant, hypothetical being, rather, he is close, he has spoken to us, he has spoken to me. And so we say simply what it is and how naturally it should be explained and developed. However, we must not lose the awareness that we do not propose reflections, we do not propose a philosophy, but rather the simple proclamation of the God who has acted, and who has also acted with me.

And then, in regard to the Roman cultural context, which is absolutely necessary, I would say that the first assistance is our personal experience. We don't live on the moon. I am a man of this time if I live my faith sincerely in today's culture, being one who lives with today's media, with dialogues, with the realities of the economy, with everything; if I myself take seriously my own experience and try to personalize these realities in myself. Thus we'll be on the way to making ourselves understood also by others. St. Bernard of Clairvaux said in his book of reflections to his disciple, Pope Eugene: "Try to drink from your own fount, that is, from your own humanity."

If you are sincere with yourself and you begin to see in yourself what faith is, with your human experience in this time, drinking from your own well, as St. Bernard says, you can also say to others what must be said. And in this sense it seems important to me to be really attentive to today's world, but also to be attentive to the Lord in oneself: to be a man of this time and at the same time a believer in Christ, who in himself transforms the eternal message into a current message.

And who knows the men of today better than the parish priest? The sacristy is not in the world, but in the parish. And there, to the pastor, men often come normally, without a mask, without other pretexts, but in situations of suffering, infirmity, death, family issues. They come to the confessional unmasked, with their own being. It seems to me that no other profession gives this possibility of knowing man as he is in his humanity, and not in the role he has in society. In this sense, we can really study man in his depth, far from his roles, and we ourselves also learn about the human being, to be a man in the school of Christ. In this sense, I would say that it is absolutely important to know man, the man of today, in ourselves and in others, but always in attentive listening to the Lord and accepting in myself the seed of the Word, because in me it is transformed into wheat and is able to be communicated to others.

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[Father Fabio Rosini:]

I am Father Fabio Rosini, parish priest of St. Francesca Romana all'Ardeatino. In the face of the present process of secularization and of its evident social and existential consequences, [and] the exhortation to the urgency of the first proclamation -- which on many occasions we have opportunely received from your magisterium, in admirable continuity with your venerable predecessor -- [the exhortation] to pastoral zeal for evangelization or re-evangelization, to the assumption of a missionary mentality, we have understood the importance of the conversion of ordinary pastoral action, no longer presupposing the faith of the masses and contenting ourselves with taking care of that portion of believers that perseveres, thank God, in the Christian life, but becoming involved more decisively and organically with the many lost, or at least disoriented, sheep.

In many and with different points of view, we Roman priests have tried to respond to this objective urgency to reignite or even ignite the faith. The experiences of first proclamation are multiplying, and there is no lack of very encouraging experiences. Personally, I can confirm how the Gospel, proclaimed with joy and frankness, takes no time to win the hearts of the men and women of this city, precisely because it is the truth and corresponds to what the human person most profoundly needs. The beauty of the Gospel and of the faith, in fact, if presented with kind authenticity, are evident in themselves. But the numeric result, perhaps surprisingly high, does not in itself guarantee the goodness of an initiative. There is no lack of examples in the history of the Church, including recently. A pastoral success, paradoxically, might conceal an error, a defect in its approach, which perhaps is not seen immediately.

That is why I want to ask you: What must be the indispensable criteria of this urgent action of evangelization? In your view, what are the elements that guarantee that one does not run in vain in the pastoral effort of proclamation to this generation contemporary to us? I ask you humbly to point out to us, in your prudent discernment, the parameters, the elements that must be respected and valued to be able to carry out an evangelizing endeavor that is genuinely Catholic and that bears fruits for the Church. My heartfelt thanks for your illumined magisterium. Bless us.

[Benedict XVI:]

I am happy to hear that this first proclamation is being made, which goes beyond the limits of the faithful community, of the parish, in search of the so-called lost sheep, that an attempt is being made to go to the man of today who lives without Christ, who has forgotten Christ, to proclaim the Gospel to him. And I am happy to hear that not only is this being done, but that numerically comforting successes also are obtained from this. I see, therefore, that you are able to talk to those people in which the faith must be re-ignited or even ignited.

I can give no recipes for this concrete endeavor, because there are different paths to follow, according to the individuals, their professions, the distinct situations. The Catechism points out the essence of what must be proclaimed. But it is he who knows the situations who must apply the indications, find a method to open hearts and invite persons to walk on the path with the Lord and with the Church.

You speak of the criteria of discernment so as not to run in vain. I would like to say first of all that the two parts are important. The community of the faithful is something precious that we must not underestimate -- even looking at the many who are far away -- the beautiful and positive reality that these faithful constitute, who say yes to the Lord in the Church, trying to live the faith, trying to follow in the footsteps of the Lord. We must help these faithful, as we said a moment ago responding to the first question, to see the presence of the faith, to understand that it is not something of the past, but that it shows the way today, it teaches how to live as a man. It is very important that these faithful really find in their parish priest a pastor who loves them and helps them to listen today to the Word of God, to understand that it is a Word for them and not only for people of the past or the future, to help them even more, in the sacramental life, in the experience of prayer, in listening to the Word of God, and on the path of justice and charity, because Christians should be the leaven of our society with so many problems, with so many dangers and with as much corruption as there is.

In this way I believe that they can also play a missionary role "without words," given that they are people who really live a just life. And thus they offer a testimony of how it is possible to live well on the paths indicated by the Lord. Our society needs precisely these communities that are able to live justice today, not only for themselves but for others. Persons who are able to live, as we heard in the first reading, the life. At the beginning, this reading says: "Choose life;" it's easy to say yes. But then it continues: "Your life is God." Therefore, to choose life is to choose the option for life, because it is the option for God. If there are persons or communities that make this choice of life and make visible the fact that the life they have chosen is really life, they give witness of very great value.

And I come to a second reflection. We need two elements for the proclamation: the Word and witness. As we know from the Lord himself, the Word is necessary, which says what he has said to us, which makes the truth of God appear, the presence of God in Christ, the path that opens before us. Hence, it is about proclamation in the present, as you have said, which translates the words of the past into the world of our experience. It is something that is absolutely indispensable, fundamental, with witness to give credibility to this Word, so that it does not appear to be only a pretty philosophy, or a pretty utopia, but rather a reality. A reality with which one can live, but not only this: a reality that makes one live. In this sense, I think that the witness of the believing community of the proclamation, as background to the Word, is of the greatest importance. With the Word we must open venues of experience of the faith to those who are seeking God. This is what the primitive Church did with the catechumens, which was not simply a catechesis, something doctrinal, but a place of progressive experience of the life of faith, in which the Word also opens, which becomes comprehensible only if it is interpreted by life, carried out in life.

Therefore, it seems to me important, together with the Word, that there be a place of hospitality of the faith, a place where there is a progressive experience of the faith. And here I also see one of the tasks of the parish: hospitality toward those who do not know this life that is typical of the parish community. We must not be a circle enclosed in ourselves. We have our customs, but nevertheless we must open ourselves and try to create vestibules, that is, venues of closeness. One who comes from afar cannot enter immediately into the formed life of a parish, which already has its customs. For the former at present everything is very surprising, far from his life. Therefore, we must try to create, with the help of the Word, what the primitive Church created with the catechumens: venues in which to begin to live the Word, to follow the Word, to make it comprehensible and realistic, corresponding to real forms of experience. In this sense, what you have pointed out seems very important to me, namely, the need to unite the Word with the witness of a just life, of being for others, of being open to the poor, to the needy, but also to the rich, who need to be open in their hearts, to feel that their hearts are called. Hence, it's a question of different venues, according to the situation.

It seems to me that in theory little can be said, but the concrete experience will show the paths to be followed. And, naturally it is necessary to be always in great communion with the Church -- always an important criterion to follow -- although perhaps still in a somewhat distant interval: that is, in communion with the bishop, with the Pope, thus in communion with the great past and with the great future of the Church. In fact, to be in the Catholic Church does not only imply to be on the great path that precedes us, but it means to be in the prospect of a great opening to the future. A future that opens only in this way. We could perhaps continue talking about the contents, but we can find another occasion for this.

[Father Giuseppe Forlai:]

Holy Father, I am Father Giuseppe Forlai, parish vicar of San Giovanni Crisostomo parish, in the northern sector of our diocese. The educational emergency, of which Your Holiness has spoken authoritatively, is also, as we all know, an emergency of teachers, especially, I believe, under two aspects. First of all, it is necessary to have a broader view on the continuity of the presence of the teacher-priest. A young person does not establish a pact of growth with someone who leaves after two or three years, also because he is emotionally involved in managing his relations with parents who leave their home, the father's or mother's new relations, precarious teachers who change every year. One must be present in order to educate. Therefore, I feel that the primary need is that of a certain stability of position of the teacher-priest.

The second aspect [is this]: I believe that what is essentially at stake in youth pastoral care is related to culture. Culture understood as emotive-emotional competence and as possession of the words contained in the concepts. A youth without this culture might be the poor man of tomorrow, a person who runs the risk of failing in the affective [dimension] and of drowning in the world of work. A youth of this culture runs the risk of being a nonbeliever, or worse still, a practicing [Catholic] without faith, because incompetence in relationships deforms one's relationship with God, and the ignorance of words blocks the understanding of the excellence of the Word of the Gospel.

It is not enough that young people physically fill the spaces of our parishes to spend some free time. I would like the parish to be a place where they learn to develop relational competencies and where they are heard and given school support. A place that is not the constant refuge of those who do not want to study or make an effort, but a community of people that ask the right questions opening them to religious meaning and where the great work of charity that is helping one to think is practiced. And here a serious reflection should also be initiated on the collaboration between parishes and religion teachers.

Your Holiness, give us one more authoritative word on these two aspects of the educational emergency: the necessary stability of the agents and the urgency of having culturally capable teacher-priests. Thank you.

[Benedict XVI:]

Let us begin with the second point. We can say that it is broader and, in a certain sense, easier. Needless to say, a parish in which only games are played and drinks are shared would be absolutely superfluous. The meaning of a parish should really be the cultural, human and Christian formation of a personality, which must become a mature personality. On this we are in absolute agreement and, it seems to me, today there is a cultural poverty in which many things are known, but without the heart, without an inner unity because there is no common vision of the world. For this reason, a cultural solution inspired in the faith of the Church, in the knowledge that God has given us, is absolutely necessary. I would say that this is precisely the function of the parish: that one not only find possibilities for one's free time, but above all that one can find an integral human formation that completes his personality.

And for this reason, naturally, the priest as teacher must himself be well formed and be positioned in today's culture, rich in culture, to also help young people enter into a culture inspired by faith. I would add, of course, that in the end the point of orientation of all culture is God, the God present in Christ. Today we see people who have much knowledge, but no interior orientation. Thus science can also be dangerous for man, because without more profound ethical guidelines, it leaves man to his own free will and, consequently, without the necessary orientation to really become a man. In this sense, the heart of all cultural formation, which is so necessary, must be without a doubt the faith: to know the face of God which has been shown to us in Christ and thus to have the orientation point for the rest of culture, which otherwise is disoriented and becomes disorienting. A culture without personal knowledge of God, and without knowledge of the face of God in Christ, is a culture that could even be destructive, because it does not know the necessary ethical guidelines. In this sense, I believe, we really have a mission of profound cultural and human formation, which opens to all the riches of the culture of our time, but which gives the criterion, the discernment to test what is true culture and what could become anti-cultural.

The first question is much harder for me -- the question is also [addressed] to Your Eminence [the vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini] -- namely, the permanence of the young priest to give guidance to young people. Undoubtedly, a personal relationship with the teacher is important and must also have the possibility of a certain period to get to know each other. And, in this sense, I can agree that the priest, point of orientation for young people, cannot change every day, because in this way, in fact, he loses this orientation. On the other hand, the young priest must also have different experiences in different cultural contexts, precisely to obtain, in the end, the cultural equipment necessary to be, as pastor, the point of reference for a long time in the parish. And I would say that in the life of the young person, the dimensions of time are different from those of the life of the adult. The three years, from 16 to 19, are at least as long and as important as the years between 40 and 50. Precisely here is where the personality is formed: It is an interior journey of great importance, of great existential extent.

In this sense, I would say that three years for an assistant pastor is a good period of time to form a generation of young people; and in this way, moreover, he can also know other contexts, learn about other situations in other parishes, enrich his human knowledge. The time is not that brief in order to give a certain continuity, an educational path of the common experience, to learn to be a man. On the other hand, as I have said, for youth three years is a decisive and very long time, because the future personality is really being formed. It seems to me, therefore, that both needs can be reconciled: on one hand, that the young priest have the possibility of different experiences to enrich his store of human experience; and on the other, the need to stay for a determined period of time with the young people to really introduce them to life, to teach them to be human persons. In this sense, I think that both aspects can be reconciled: different experiences for a young priest, continuity in the accompaniment of the young people in order to guide them in life. However, I do not know if the cardinal vicar can say something to us in this regard.

[Cardinal Vicar for Rome, Agostino Vallini:]

Holy Father, of course I share these two needs, the combination between the two needs. It seems to me, from the little I have been able to learn, that in Rome somehow we still have a certain stability of young priests in the parishes, for at least a few years, with exceptions. There can always be exceptions. But the real problem stems, perhaps, from serious needs or concrete situations, above all in the relations between the pastor and the assistant pastor -- and here I touch a raw nerve -- and also in the lack of young priests. I was also able to mention this to you when you received me in audience, one of the grave problems of our diocese is, in fact, the number of vocations to the priesthood. Personally, I am convinced that the Lord calls, that he continues to call. Perhaps we should do more. Rome can give vocations, it will give them, I am certain. But in all this complex matter perhaps many aspects interfere. I surely think that a certain stability already exists and I also will follow, insofar as I can, the lines pointed out to us by the Holy Father.

[Father Giampiero Ialongo:]

Holiness, I am Father Giampiero Ialongo, one of the many parish priests that exercises his ministry on the outskirts of Rome, specifically in Torre Angela, together with Torbellamonaca, Borghesiana, Borgata Finocchio, Colle Prenestino, the latter being suburbs, as many others, which are often forgotten and ignored by public institutions. I am happy because the president of the municipality has called us to a meeting this afternoon: We will see what materializes from this meeting with the town council. Perhaps more than in other areas of our city, in our suburbs people are experiencing in a very intense way the unease caused by the international economic crisis, which is beginning to be felt in the concrete conditions of the life of many families.

As a parish Caritas, but above all as a diocesan Caritas, we promote many initiatives that are oriented, first of all, to listening, as well as to specific material aid for those who request it, regardless of race, culture or religion. Despite this, we realize increasingly that we are faced with a genuine emergency. I think that many, too many people, not only those who have retired but also those who have work, a contract for an indeterminate time, are experiencing serious difficulties in having their families reach the end of the month. The food and clothes packages that we offer, and on occasion concrete financial aid to pay light and water bills or the rent, can be a help, but is certainly not the solution.

I am convinced that, as the Church, we must ask ourselves what more we can do, but above all we should ask ourselves what are the reasons that have led to this generalized situation of crisis. We should have the courage to denounce an economic and financial system that is unjust at its roots. Given the injustice introduced in this system, I do not think a bit of optimism is enough.

What is needed is an authoritative word, a free word, which will help Christians, as you have already said in a certain sense, Holy Father, to administer the goods that God has given, and that he has given for all and not only for a few, with evangelical wisdom and responsibility. In this context, I would like to hear this word once again, as you have already expressed it on other occasions. Thank you, Your Holiness.

[Benedict XVI:]

First of all, I would like to thank the cardinal vicar for his words of confidence: Rome can give more candidates for the Lord's harvest. Above all we must pray to the Lord of the harvest, but also do our part to encourage young people to say yes to the Lord. And, of course, young priests are called to give an example to today's youth: that it is good to work for the Lord. In this sense, we are full of hope. Let us pray to the Lord and do what we should.

I now answer the question that touches the sensitive point of the problems of our time. I would make a distinction between two levels. The first is the level of macroeconomics, which is made a reality and reaches even the last citizen, who suffers the consequences of an erroneous construction. Naturally, to denounce this is a duty of the Church. As you know, for a long time we have been preparing an encyclical on these issues. And on this long path I see how difficult it is to speak competently, because if the economic reality is not addressed competently, one cannot be credible. And, on the other hand, we must speak with a great ethical consciousness, created and inspired by a conscience forged by the Gospel. Hence, these fundamental errors must be denounced, the underlying errors, which have now manifested themselves with the bankruptcy of the large American banks.

In the end, it is about human avarice as sin or, as the Letter to the Colossians says, of avarice as idolatry. We must denounce that idolatry that is opposed to the true God and that falsifies the image of God through another god, "mammon." We must do so with courage, but also by being specific. Because great morality is not helpful if it is not based on knowledge of the reality, which also helps to understand what can be done concretely to change the situation gradually. And, of course, to be able to do so, knowledge of that truth and the good will of all is necessary.

We are faced with the central point: Does original sin really exist? If it did not exist, we could appeal to lucid reason, with arguments that are irrefutable and accessible to all, and to the good will that is in everyone. With that alone we could adequately proceed and reform humanity. But it is not like this: reason -- ours also -- is confused; we see it every day. Because egoism, the root of avarice, consists in loving myself more than anything else and of loving the world in reference to myself. It happens in all of us.

It is the obscuring of reason, which can be very learned, with extremely beautiful scientific arguments but which, nevertheless, can be confused by false premises. So one goes forward with great intelligence and makes great strides on an erroneous path. As the Fathers [of the Church] say, the will is also "twisted:" it does not simply try to do good, but above all seeks itself or seeks the good of its own group. For this reason, it is not easy to really find the path of reason, of true reason; it is developed with difficulty through dialogue. Without the light of faith, which penetrates the darkness of original sin, reason cannot go forward. But it is faith, precisely, that then runs into the resistance of our will. It does not want to see the way, which would be a path of self-denial and of correction of one's own will in favor of the other, not of oneself.

That is why I would say that what is needed is the reasonable and reasoned denunciation of the errors, not with great moral statements, but rather with concrete reasons that prove to be understandable in today's economic world. The denunciation is important, it has always been a mandate for the Church. We know that in the new situation that was created by the industrial world, the social doctrine of the Church, beginning with Leo XIII, has attempted to make these denunciations -- and not only the denunciations, which are not sufficient -- but also to show the difficult paths in which, step by step, the assent of reason and of the will is called for, together with the correction of my conscience, to deny my own will, in a certain sense, to deny myself in order to be able to collaborate in the true objective of human life, of humanity.

Having said this, the Church always has the duty to remain vigilant; she must discover with her best efforts the reasons of the economic world, to enter its reasoning and to illumine this reasoning with the faith that frees us from the egoism of original sin. It is a task of the Church, to enter into this discernment, into this reasoning, to make itself heard, including at the various national and international levels, to help and to correct. And it is no easy task, given that so many personal interests and national groups are opposed to a radical correction.

Perhaps it is pessimism, but for me it seems to be realism: While there is original sin, we will never achieve a radical and total correction. Nevertheless, we must do everything possible to implement corrections that are at least provisional, sufficient to enable humanity to live and to put obstacles to the dominance of egoism, which presents itself under pretexts of science and of national and international economy.

This is the first level. The other consists in being realistic. To realize that these great objectives of macro-science are not realized in micro-science -- the macroeconomics in the microeconomics -- without the conversion of hearts. If there are no just men, there is no justice either. We have to accept this. For this reason, education in justice is a priority objective, we can even say it is the priority. Because St. Paul says that justification is the effect of the work of Christ, it is not an abstract concept related to sins that do not interest us today, but refers precisely to integral justice. Only God can give it to us, but he gives it to us with our cooperation at various levels, at all possible levels.

Justice cannot be created in the world only with good economic models, even if these are necessary. Justice is only brought about if there are just men. And there are no just men without the humble, daily endeavour of converting hearts, and of creating justice in hearts. Only in this way is corrective justice extended. That is why the work of the parish priest is so essential, not only for the parish, but for humanity. Because if there are no just men, as I have said, justice remains something abstract. And good structures are not put in place if they face the opposition of egoism, including that of competent people.

Our humble, daily work is essential to attain the great objectives of humanity. And we must work together at all levels. The universal Church must denounce, but she must also proclaim what can be done and how it can be done. The episcopal conferences and the bishops must act. But we must all educate in justice. I believe that even today Abraham's dialogue with God is genuine and realistic (Genesis 18:22-23), when he says: "Will you really destroy the city? Perhaps there are 50 just men, perhaps 10." And 10 just men are enough for the city to survive. That is why we must do what is necessary to educate and guarantee at least 10 just men, but if it is possible, many more. With our proclamation we make it possible to have many just men, for justice to really be present in the world.

Hence, the two levels are inseparable. If, on one hand, we do not proclaim macro-justice, micro-justice does not grow. But, on the other, if we do not carry out the humble endeavour of micro-justice, macro-justice will not grow either. And always, as I said in my first encyclical, with all the systems that can grow in the world, in addition to the justice we seek, charity continues to be necessary. To open hearts to justice and charity is to educate in the faith, to lead to God.

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[Father Marco Valentini:]

Holy Father, I am Father Marco Valentini, vicar of St. Ambrose parish. When I was being formed, I was not aware, as I am now, of the importance of the liturgy. Of course there was no lack of celebrations, but I did not understand how this was "the highest point to which the action of the Church tends and the source from which her energy emanates" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10). Instead, I regarded it as a technical matter for the success of a celebration, or a pious practice and not, rather, as a contact with the saving mystery, allowing oneself to be conformed to Christ to be the light of the world, a source of theology, a means to bring about the longed for integration between what is studied and the spiritual life. On the other hand, I did not believe that the liturgy was strictly necessary to be Christian and to be saved, and that it was enough to put the Beatitudes into practice. Now I wonder what charity would be without the liturgy, and if without it our faith would be reduced to morality, an idea, a doctrine, an event of the past, and we priests would not be so much teachers and advisers as mystagogues who introduce people in the mystery. The very Word of God is a proclamation that is realized in the liturgy and that has an amazing relationship with it. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 6; Praenotanda of the Lectionary 4 and 10). And let's also think of the passage of Emmaus or the Ethiopian minister (Acts 8).

Hence, this is my question: Given our specificity, and without lessening our human, philosophical and psychological formation, should not the universities and seminaries offer greater liturgical formation, or does the practice and structure of the studies at present already satisfy sufficiently the Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium" 16, which states that the liturgy must be considered among the necessary and most important and principal subjects, and should be taught under the theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral and legal aspects, and that professors of other subjects must make the connection with the liturgy clear? I have asked this question because, taking note of the decree, "Optatam Totius," I think that the many actions of the Church in the world and our own pastoral efficacy depends a lot on our own consciousness of the inexhaustible mystery of our being baptized, anointed and priests.

[Benedict XVI:]

If I have understood correctly, the question is, what is the space and place of liturgical education and of the reality of the celebration of the mystery in the whole of our pastoral work, which is multiple and of so many dimensions. In this sense, it seems to me that it is also a question about the unity of our proclamation and of our pastoral work, which has so many dimensions. We must seek the unifying point, so that our many concerns are all together the work of a pastor. If I have understood well, you seem to think that the unifying point, which creates the synthesis of all the dimensions of our work and our faith, might be, precisely, the celebration of the mysteries; hence, mystagogy, which teaches us to celebrate.

What is really important for me is that the sacraments, the Eucharistic celebration of the sacraments, not be something foreign along with more contemporary endeavors such as moral education, economics, and all the things we have already mentioned. It can easily happen that the sacrament remains somewhat isolated in a more pragmatic context and becomes a reality that is not altogether inserted in the totality of our being. Thank you for the question, because we must really teach what it means to be men. We must teach this great art: how to be a man. As we have seen, this calls for many things: from the great denunciation of original sin in the roots of our economy and of so many aspects of our life, to concrete guidelines on justice, to the proclamation to non-believers. But the mysteries are not something exotic in the cosmos of the most practical realities.

The mystery is the heart from which comes our strength, and to which we return to find this center. And that is why I think that catechesis, let us say mystagogic [catechesis], is really important. Mystagogic also means realistic, referred to our life of men of today. If it is true that man in himself knows not his measure -- that he is just and that he is not just -- but that he finds his measure outside of himself, in God; it is important that this God not be distant but reconcilable, concrete, that he enter our lives and really be a friend with whom we can talk and who talks with us. We must learn to celebrate the Eucharist, learn to know Jesus Christ, the God with a human face, up close, really enter into contact with him, learn to listen to him and to allow him to enter into us. Because sacramental communion is precisely this interpenetration between two persons. I am not taking a piece of bread, or flesh, but I take or I open my heart so that the Risen One will enter the context of my being, so that he is within me and not just outside of me, and thus speaks with me and transforms my being. He gives me the sense of justice, the dynamism of justice, in zeal for the Gospel.

This celebration, in which God not only comes close to us, but enters into the fabric of our existence, is essential to really be able to live with God and for God and to take the light of God to this world. Let us not go into too many details now. But it is always important that the sacramental catechesis be an existential catechesis. Of course, even accepting and increasingly learning the mystic aspect -- where words and reasoning fail -- the latter is totally realistic, because it leads me to God, and God to me. It leads me to the other because the other receives the same Christ, as I do. Hence, if the same Christ is in him and me, we also are no longer separate individual beings. Herein lies the birth of the doctrine of the Body of Christ, because we have all been incorporated if we receive the Eucharist correctly in the same Christ. Hence, my neighbor is truly close: we are no longer two separate "I"s, but we are united in the same "I" of Christ.

In other words, Eucharistic and sacramental catechesis must really go to the depth of our existence, to be, in fact, education to open myself to the voice of God, to let myself be opened to break this original sin of egoism and to open my existence profoundly, so that I will really be just. In this sense, it seems to me that we must all learn the liturgy better, not as something exotic but as the heart of our being Christian, which does not open easily to a distant man, but which is, on the other hand, precisely openness to the other, to the world. We must all collaborate in celebrating the Eucharist ever more profoundly: not only as a rite but as an existential process that touches me profoundly, more than anything else, and changes me, transforms me and, by transforming me, sparks the transformation of the world that the Lord desires and of which He wishes to make me an instrument.

[Father Lucio Maria Zappatore:]

Most Blessed Father, I am Father Lucio Maria Zappatore, Carmelite, parish priest of Santa Maria Regina Mundi parish in Torrespaccata.

To justify my intervention, I refer to what you said last Sunday, during the recitation of the Angelus, in regard to the Petrine ministry. You spoke of the singular and specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome, who presides over the universal communion of charity. I ask you to continue this reflection, extending it to the universal Church: What singular charism does the Church of Rome have and what are the characteristics that make her, by a mysterious gift of Providence, unique in the world? To have as bishop the Pope of the universal Church -- what does this entail in your mission, today in particular? We do not want to know what privileges we have: once it was said "Parochus in urbe, episcopus in orbe"; but we want to know how to live this charism, this gift of living as priests in Rome, and what you expect from us, the Roman parish priests.

In a few days you will go to the Campidoglio to meet with the civil authorities of Rome, and you will speak about the material problems of our city. Today we ask you to speak to us about the spiritual problems of Rome and of its Church. And, in regard to your visit to the Campidoglio, I have taken the liberty to dedicate a sonnet to you in Roman dialect, requesting that you be pleased to hear it.

Er Papa che salisce al Campidojo / e un fatto che te lassa senza fiato / perche 'sta vortas sorte for dar sojo, / pe creanza che tie 'n bon vicinato. / Er sindaco e la giunta con orgojo / janno fatto 'n invito, er piu accorato, / perche Roma, se sa, vojo o nun vojo / nun po' fa' proprio a meno der papato. / Roma, tu ciai avuto drento ar petto / la forza pe porta la civirta. / Quanno Pietro t'ha messo lo zicchetto / eterna Dio t'ha fatto addiventa. / Accoji allora er Papa Benedetto / che sale a beneditte e a ringrazia!

[Benedict XVI:]

Thank you. We have heard the Roman heart speak, which is a heart of poetry. It is lovely to hear a bit of Roman dialect spoken and to feel that poetry is profoundly rooted in the Roman heart. This is, perhaps, a natural privilege that the Lord has given Romans. It is a natural charism that precedes the ecclesial.

If I have understood correctly, your question is made up of two parts. First of all, what concrete responsibility does the Bishop of Rome have today? And then you correctly extend the Petrine privilege to the whole Church of Rome -- it was thus regarded also in the early Church -- and you ask what are the obligations of the Church of Rome to respond to this vocation of hers.

It is not necessary to develop the doctrine of the primacy here; you all know it very well. It is important to reflect on the fact that the Successor of Peter, Peter's ministry, really guarantees the universality of the Church, the transcendence of nationalism and other borders that exist in humanity today, to be truly one Church in diversity and in the wealth of so many cultures.

We also see how the other ecclesial communities, the other Churches see the need of a unifying point so as not to fall prey to nationalism, identification with a determined culture, to be really open, all for all and to be almost obliged to be always open to others. I think this is the essential ministry of the Successor of Peter: to guarantee this catholicity which implies multiplicity, diversity, cultural wealth, respect of differences and that, at the same time, excludes absolutism and unites all, obliges them to open themselves, to come out of their own absolutism to meet in the unity of the family of God that the Lord has desired and of which the Successor of Peter is the guarantee, as unity in diversity.

Of course, the Church of the Successor of Peter must bear, with her Bishop, this burden, this joy of the gift of her responsibility. In Revelation the bishop appears in fact as the angel of his Church, that is, somewhat like the incorporation of his Church, to which he must respond being of the same Church. Hence, the Church of Rome, together with the Successor of Peter and as his particular Church, must guarantee precisely this universality, this openness, this responsibility for the transcendence of love, this presiding in love which excludes particulars. It must also guarantee fidelity to the Word of the Lord, to the gift of faith, which we have not invented, but which is really a gift that could only come from God himself. This will always be the duty, but also the privilege, of the Church of Rome, against the fashion, against the particular, against absolutism in some aspects, against heresies which are always the absolutizing of an aspect. Also the duty to guarantee universality and fidelity to the integrity, to the richness of her faith, of her path in history that is always open to the future. And, together with this testimony of faith and universality, she must of course give example of charity.

So said St. Ignatius, identifying in this somewhat enigmatic word the sacrament of the Eucharist, the action of loving others. And, to return to the previous point, this is very important: namely, this identification with the Eucharist which is agape, charity, the presence of charity which was given to us in Christ. She must always be charity, sign and cause of charity in openness to others, in giving herself to others, in responsibility towards the needy, the poor, the forgotten. This is a great responsibility.

Presiding over the Eucharist must be followed by presiding in charity, which can be witnessed only by the community itself. I think this is the great duty, the great question posed to the Church of Rome: to really be an example and point of departure of charity. In this sense, she presides in charity.

In the presbytery of Rome we are from all the continents, all the races, all the philosophies and all the cultures. I am happy that the presbytery of Rome expresses precisely the universality; [it expresses], in the unity of the small local Church, the presence of the universal Church. More difficult and exacting is to be bearers also of the testimony of charity, of being with others with our Lord. We can only pray to the Lord to help us in each parish, in each community, so that all together we will be really faithful to this gift, to this command to preside in charity.

[Father William M. Cassone:]

Holy Father, I am Father William M. Cassone, of the Community of Schoenstatt Fathers in Rome, parish vicar in the parish of Italy's patron saints, St. Francis and St. Catherine, in Trastevere.

Following the synod on the Word of God, reflecting on Proposition 55, "Maria Mater Dei et Mater Fidei," I wonder how we could improve the relationship between the Word of God and Marian devotion, be it in the priestly spiritual life or in pastoral action. Two images are helpful to me: the Annunciation for listening and the Visitation for the proclamation. I would like to ask you, Your Holiness, to enlighten us with your teaching on this subject. Thank you for this gift.

[Benedict XVI:]

I think that you yourself have answered your question. Mary is really the woman who listens: We see it in the meeting with the angel, and we see it again in all the scenes of her life, from the wedding at Cana to the cross and to the day of Pentecost, when she was in the midst of the Apostles precisely to receive the Spirit. She is the symbol of openness, of the Church that awaits the coming of the Holy Spirit.

At the moment of the proclamation we can already have an attitude of listening -- a true listening, a listening that is internalized, which does not simply say yes, but which assimilates the Word, takes the Word, and then follows with true obedience, as if it were an internalized Word, that is, converted into a Word in me and for me, almost the form of my life. This seems very beautiful to me: to see this active listening, a listening that attracts the Word so that it enters and becomes Word in me, reflecting on it and accepting it in the depth of my heart. Thus the Word becomes incarnate.

We see the same in the Magnificat. We know that it is a fabric made up of words of the Old Testament. We see that Mary is really a woman who listens, who knew the Scriptures in her heart. She did not just know some texts, but was so identified with the Word that the words of the Old Testament became synthesized, a song in her heart and on her lips. We see that her life was really penetrated by the Word, she had entered the Word, had assimilated it and it had become life in her, transforming itself again in a Word of praise and proclamation of the greatness of God.

Referring to Mary, I think that St. Luke says at least three times, perhaps four times, that she assimilated and kept the Word in her heart. For the Fathers, she was the model of the Church, the model of the believer that keeps the Word, bears the Word in himself; who does not just read it or interpret it with his intelligence in order to know what happened at that time, what the philological problems are. All this is interesting and important, but it is more important to listen to the Word that is kept and that becomes Word in me, life and the Lord's presence in me. That is why I find the connection important between Mariology and theology of the Word, of which the synodal fathers spoke and of which we shall speak in the post-synodal document.

It is obvious: The Virgin is the word of listening, silent word, but also word of praise, of proclamation, because in listening, the Word again becomes flesh and thus becomes the presence of God's greatness.

[Father Pietro Riggi:]

Holy Father, I am Pietro Riggi and I am a Salesian. I work in the Borgo Ragazzi Don Bosco. I would like to ask you: The Second Vatican Council brought many very important novelties in the Church, but it did not abolish the things she already had. I think that many priests and theologians would like to make things happen as coming from the spirit of the Council, which have nothing to do with the Council itself. For example, indulgences. We have the Manual of Indulgences of the Apostolic Penitentiary. Through indulgences we have access to the treasure of the Church and help can be offered for the souls in Purgatory. There is a liturgical calendar that states when and how plenary indulgences can be obtained, but many priests no longer speak about them, preventing very important assistance from reaching the souls in Purgatory. [Also,] blessings. We have the Manual of Blessings which provides for the blessing of individuals, environments, objects and even foods. But many priests do not know these things; others consider them pre-Conciliar, and pay no attention to those faithful who request what they should have by right.

More known pious practices: The first Fridays of the month were not abolished by the Second Vatican Council, but many priests no longer speak about this, or even speak badly about it. Today there is a sense of aversion to all this, because they are regarded as old and harmful, as old things and pre-Conciliar, whereas I think that all these Christian prayers and practices are very timely and very important; they must be recovered and properly explained to the People of God, in a healthy balance and in truth in the integrity of Vatican II.

I would also like to ask you: speaking of Fatima, you once said that there is a link between Fatima and Akita, the lacrimation of the Virgin in Japan. Both Paul VI and John Paul II celebrated a solemn Mass in Fatima and used the same passage of sacred Scripture, Revelation 12, the woman clothed with the sun who struggles in a decisive battle against the ancient serpent, the devil, Satan. Is there an affinity between Fatima and Revelation 12?

I conclude: last year a priest gave you a picture. I cannot paint but I also wanted to give you a gift, so I thought I would give you three books which I wrote recently. I hope you will like them.

[Benedict XVI:]

There are realities of which the Council did not speak, but which are implied as realities in the Church. They live in the Church and develop. Now is not the time to go into the great subject of indulgences. Paul VI re-ordered this subject and showed us the way to understand it. I would say that it is simply about an exchange of gifts, that is, whatever is good in the Church is there for all. With this key [understanding] of the indulgence we can enter into this communion with the goods of the Church.

Protestants are opposed, saying that Christ is the only treasure. But for me, what is marvelous is that Christ -- who is more than sufficient in his infinite love, in his divinity and humanity -- wished to add our poverty also to all that he had made. He does not regard us only as objects of his mercy, but makes us subjects of his mercy and love together with him so that -- though not quantitatively, at least in the mystical sense -- he would like to add us to the great treasure of the Body of Christ. He wishes to be the head with his body, in which all the wealth of what he has done is fulfilled. As a result of this mystery there is, in fact, a "tesaurus ecclesiae," that the body, as well as the head, gives so much, which we can receive from one another and give to one another.

And so it is with other things. For example, the Friday of the Sacred Heart is something very beautiful in the Church. They are not necessary things, but have arisen in the richness of meditation on the mystery. So the Lord offers us these possibilities in the Church. I do not think that now is the time to enter into all the details. Each one can understand more or less what is most important and what is not; but no one should scorn this wealth, which has grown over the centuries as an offering and as the multiplication of lights in the Church. The only light is that of Christ. It appears in all its colors and offers knowledge of the richness of his gift, the interaction between the head and the body, the interaction between the members, so that we can really be together a living organism, in which one gives to all, and all give to the Lord, who has given himself completely to us.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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On the Role of Angels

"Let Us Call Upon Them Often"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 1, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today is the First Sunday of Lent, and the Gospel, with the sober and concise style of St. Mark, introduces us to the climate of this liturgical season: "The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan" (Mark 1:12). In the Holy Land, west of the Jordan and the oasis of Jericho, there is the desert of Judah, which ascends to a height of over 1,000 meters through rocky valleys, stretching all the way to Jerusalem.

After having received baptism from John, Jesus enters that empty place, led by the Holy Spirit himself, which had descended upon him, consecrating him and revealing him as the Son of God. In the desert, the place of trial -- as the experience of the people of Israel shows -- there appears the dramatic reality of the "kenosis," the emptying of Christ, who is stripped of the form of God (cf. Philippians 2:6-7). He, who did not sin and cannot sin, submits himself to trial and thus can have compassion for our infirmities (cf. Hebrews 4:15). He lets himself be tempted by Satan, the adversary, who had opposed himself to God's salvific plan for men from the very beginning.

In the brevity of the account, in the face of this obscure and darksome figure who dares to tempt the Lord, the angels, luminous and mysterious figures, fleetingly appear. The Gospel says that the angels "serve" Jesus (Mark 1:13); they are the counterpoint to Satan. "Angel" means "one who is sent." We find these figures throughout the Old Testament who help and guide men in the name of God. Just consider the Book of Tobit, in which the figure of the angel Raphael appears to assist the protagonist through many vicissitudes. The reassuring presence of the angel of the Lord accompanies the people of Israel through every event, good and bad. On the threshold of the New Testament, Gabriel is sent to announce to Zachariah and Mary the joyous happenings that are the beginnings of our salvation; and an angel, whose name is not mentioned, warns Joseph, directing him in that moment of uncertainty. A chorus of angels reports the glad tidings of Jesus' birth to the shepherds, as the glad tidings of his resurrection will also be announced by angels to the women. At the end of time the angels will accompany Jesus in his glorious return (cf. Matthew 25:31).

The angels serve Jesus, who is certainly superior to them, and this dignity of his is proclaimed in a clear though discreet way here in the Gospel. Indeed, even in the situation of extreme poverty and humility, when he is tempted by Satan, he remains the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, we would take away a significant part of the Gospel if we left aside these beings sent by God to announce his presence among us and be a sign of that presence. Let us call upon them often, that they sustain us in the task of following Jesus to the point of identifying ourselves with him. Let us ask them, especially today, to watch over me and my co-workers in the Roman Curia as we begin our retreat this week, as we do every year. Mary, Queen of Angels, pray for us!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus prayer. On this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of Saint Mark speaks of Jesus being lead into the desert by the Holy Spirit, tempted by Satan and assisted by the angels. Let us pray that our Lenten journey will strengthen us in the struggle against all forms of temptation. Upon all of you I invoke God's abundant blessings, and I wish you a pleasant Sunday and a happy stay in Rome!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Charitable Groups
"By Combating Poverty We Give Greater Possibility to Peace"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today to members of the "Pro Petri Sede" and "Etrennes Pontificales" charitable associations. The groups hail from Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

* * *

Dear Friends,

I am especially pleased to receive you on the occasion of the pilgrimage that you undertake every other year to the tomb of the apostles, to ask the Lord to strengthen your faith and bless your efforts to give generous witness of his love.

The Pauline year offers us the occasion, through meditation on the word of the Apostles to the Gentiles, to be acutely conscious that the Church is a Body, through which the very life of Jesus circulates -- hence the fact that every member of the ecclesial body is united in a very profound way to all the others, and cannot ignore their needs. Nourished by the same Eucharistic Bread, the baptized cannot be indifferent when bread is lacking on men's tables. Again this year you have accepted the call to enlarge your hearts to the needs of the disinherited, so that the members of the Body of Christ affected by poverty are alleviated and thus become more alive and free to give witness of the Good News.

By entrusting the fruit of your collection to the Successor of Peter, you enable him to exercise concrete and active charity, which is the sign of his solicitude for all the Churches, for all the baptized, and for all men. I sincerely thank you on behalf of all those persons who will be sustained by your generosity in the struggle against the evils that threaten their dignity. By combating poverty we give greater possibility to peace so that it will enter and take root in hearts.

Entrusting you and your loved ones to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, I impart to you from my heart the apostolic blessing, as well as to the members of your associations and their families.

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Pope's "Lectio Divina" on Paul's Letter to Galatians
"Only a Shared Freedom Is Human Freedom"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the "lectio divina" Benedict XVI delivered Friday during a visit to Rome's Major Seminary on the eve of the feast of the seminary's patroness, Our Lady of Confidence. The "lectio divina" is a reflection on St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians.

* * *

Lord Cardinal,
Dear Friends,

For me it is always a great joy to be in my seminary, to see the future priests of my diocese, to be with you under the sign of Our Lady of Confidence. We go forward with her, who helps and accompanies us, and who really gives us the certainty of always being helped by divine grace.

Let us now see what St. Paul says to us with this text: "You were called to freedom." At all times, freedom has been humanity's great dream, since the beginning, but particularly in modern times. We know that Luther was inspired by this text of the Letter to the Galatians, and his conclusion was that the monastic Rule, the hierarchy, the magisterium seemed a yoke of slavery from which he had to free himself. Subsequently, the age of the Enlightenment was totally guided, penetrated by this desire for freedom, which it was thought had already been attained. However, Marxism also presented itself as the path to freedom.

Tonight we ask: What is freedom? How can we be free? St. Paul helps us to understand the complicated reality which freedom is by inserting this concept in a context of fundamental anthropological and theological divisions. He says: "Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another." The rector has already told us that "flesh" is not the body, but, in St. Paul's language, it is the absolutizing of the I, of the I that wants to be all and have everything for itself. In short, the absolute I, which does not depend on anything or anyone, seems really to possess freedom. I am free if I do not depend on anyone, if I can do everything I wish. However, precisely this absolutizing of the I is "flesh," namely, the degradation of man, it is not the victory of freedom: libertinism is not freedom, instead, it is the failure of freedom.

And Paul dares to propose a strong paradox: "Through charity, be of service " (in Greek "douleuete"); in other words, paradoxically, freedom is realized in service: We are free if we become one another's servants. And so Paul puts the whole problem of freedom in the light of the truth of man. To reduce oneself to the flesh, apparently raising oneself to the rank of divinity -- "I, man alone" -- introduces a lie. Because in fact, it is not like this: Man is not an absolute, being able to isolate himself and behave according to his own will. This goes against the truth of our being. Our truth is, above all, that we are creatures, creatures of God and we live in relationship with the Creator. We are rational beings, and only by accepting this relationship do we enter into truth, otherwise we fall into falsehood and, in the end, are destroyed by it.

We are creatures, hence dependents of the Creator. In the age of the Enlightenment, especially for atheism, this dependency seemed like something from which it was necessary to free oneself. In reality, however, it would be a fatal dependency only if this Creator God was a tyrant, not a good Being, only if he was as human tyrants are. If, however, this Creator loves us and our dependence implies being in the realm of his love, in this case, in fact, dependency is freedom. Thus, we are, indeed, in the love of the Creator, we are united to him, to the whole of his reality, to all his power. This, therefore, is the first point: To be a creature means to be loved by the Creator, to be in this relationship of love that he gives us, with which he provides for us. From this derives above all the truth about ourselves, which at the same time is a call to love.

And because of this to see God, to orient oneself to God, to know God, to know the will of God, to insert oneself in his will, that is, in the love of God is to enter increasingly into the realm of truth. And this path of knowledge of God, of the relationship of love with God, is the extraordinary adventure of our Christian life: Because in Christ we know the face of God, the face of God who loves us even to the cross, to the gift of himself.

However, the creaturely relationship also implies a second type of relationship: We are in relationship with God but, at the same time, as human family, we are also in relationship with one another. In other words, human freedom is, on one hand, to be in the joy and great realm of the love of God, but it also implies being only one thing with the other and for the other. There is no freedom in being against the other. If I absolutize myself, I become the other's enemy, we can no longer coexist on earth and the whole of life becomes cruelty and failure. Only a shared freedom is human freedom; in being together we can enter the symphony of freedom.

Hence, this is another point of great importance: Only by accepting the other, by accepting also the apparent limitation that respect for the other implies for my freedom, only by inserting myself in the network of dependencies that makes us, finally, only one human family, will I be on the way to common liberation.

A very important element appears here. What is the measure of this sharing of freedom? We see that man needs order and law, to be able to realize his freedom, which is a freedom lived in common. And how can we find this just order, in which no one is oppressed, but each one can make his own contribution to form this sort of concert of freedom? If there is no common truth of man as it appears in the vision of God, only positivism remains and one has the impression of something imposed even in a violent manner. Hence the rebellion against order and law as if it was a question of slavery.

However, if we can find the order of the Creator in our nature, the order of truth that gives each one his place, order and law can be in fact instruments of freedom against the slavery of egoism. To serve one another becomes an instrument of freedom, and here we can include a whole philosophy of politics according to the social doctrine of the Church, which helps us to find this common order that gives each one his place in the common life of humanity. The first reality that must be respected, therefore, is truth: Freedom against truth is not freedom. To serve one another creates the common realm of freedom.

And then Paul continues, saying: "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" After this affirmation the mystery of the Incarnate God appears, the mystery of Christ appears who in his life, Death and Resurrection becomes the living law.

Immediately, the first words of our reading -- "You were called to freedom" -- point to this mystery. We have been called by the Gospel, we have really been called in baptism, to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ, and in this way we have passed from the "flesh," from egoism, to communion with Christ. And so we are in the fullness of the law.

You probably all know St. Augustine's beautiful words: "Dilige et fac quod vis -- Love and do what you will." What Augustine says is the truth, if we have truly understood the word "love." "Love, and do what you will," but we must really be penetrated by communion with Christ, having identified ourselves with his death and resurrection, being united to him in the communion of his body. By participation in the sacraments, by listening to the Word of God, the Divine Will, the divine law really enters our will, our will identifies with his, they become only one will and thus we are really free, we can really do what we will, because we love with Christ, we love in truth and with truth.

Therefore, let us pray to the Lord that he will help us on this path that began with baptism, a path of identification with Christ that is always realized again in the Eucharist. In the third Eucharistic Prayer we say: "To be one body and one spirit in Christ." It is a moment in which, through the Eucharist and through our true participation in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, we become one spirit with Him, we identify with his will, and thus we truly attain freedom.

After this word -- the law has been fulfilled -- after this unique word that becomes reality in communion with Christ, all the figures of the saints who have entered into this communion with Christ appear behind the Lord, in this unity of being, in this unity with his will. Above all, the Virgin appears, in her humility, her goodness, her love. The Virgin gives us this confidence, she takes us by the hand, guides us and helps us on the path of uniting ourselves with the will of God, as she was from the first moment, expressing this union in her "Fiat."

And, finally, after these beautiful things, the letter points out once more the rather sad situation of the community of the Galatians, when Paul says: "But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another ... walk by the Spirit." It seems to me that in this community -- which was no longer on the path of communion with Christ, but in the external law of the "flesh" -- naturally controversies also emerged and Paul says: "You become wild beasts, one bites the other." He refers thus to the controversies that arise when faith degenerates into intellectualism and humility is substituted by the arrogance of being better than the other.

We see clearly that also today there are similar things when, instead of being inserted in communion with Christ, in the Body of Christ which is the Church, each one wants to be better than the other and with intellectual arrogance wants to be regarded as the best. And thus controversies arise which are destructive, born is a caricature of the Church, which should be one soul and one heart.

In St. Paul's warning we should find today a reason to examine our conscience: not to think of being better than the other, but to meet one another in the humility of Christ, in the humility of the Virgin, to enter into the obedience of the faith. Precisely in this way the great realm of truth and freedom in love is really opened also for us.

Finally, we want to thank God because He has shown us his face in Christ, because he has given us the Virgin, the saints, because He has called us to be only one body, one spirit with him. And let us pray that He will help us to insert ourselves ever more in this communion with his will, so as to find love and joy in freedom.

[At the end of the dinner with the community of the Roman Seminary, the Holy Father said]

I am told that yet another word is expected from me. I have already spoken perhaps too much, but I would like to express my gratitude, my joy at being with you. In my conversation now at table I have learned something more about the history of the Lateran, begun by Constantine, Sixtus V, Benedict XIV, Pope Lambertini.

So I have seen all the problems of the history and ever-new rebirth of the Church in Rome. And I have understood that in the discontinuity of external historical events lies the great continuity of the unity of the Church at all times. And also in regard to the composition of the seminary, I have understood that it is an expression of the catholicity of our Church. From all the continents we are one Church and we have the future in common. Let us only hope that vocations will grow because, as the rector said, there is a need for laborers in the Lord's vineyard. Thank you all!

[Translation of Italian original by Inma Alvarez]

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On the Primacy of the Chair of Peter

"Called to Perform a Special Service"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Gospel passage that today's Sunday liturgy offers for our meditation is the one in which the paralytic is forgiven and healed (Mark 2:1-12). While Jesus was preaching, among the many sick people who were brought to him, a paralytic was brought to him on a mat. Seeing him, the Lord said: "Son, your sins are forgiven you" (Mark 2:5). And because some of those present were scandalized on hearing these words, he added: "'So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth' -- he said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home'" (Mark 2:10-11). And the paralytic went away healed. This Gospel episode shows that Jesus has the power not only to heal the sick body but also to forgive sins; and indeed, the physical healing is a sign of the spiritual healing that his forgiveness produces. In effect, sin is a kind of paralysis of the spirit, from which only the power of the merciful love of God can liberate us, allowing us to pick ourselves up and set out again along the path of goodness.

This Sunday is also the feast of the Chair of Peter, an important liturgical feast that highlights the office of the successor of the Prince of the Apostles. The chair of Peter symbolizes the authority of the Bishop of Rome, who is called to perform a special service for the whole People of God. Immediately after the martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul, the primacy of the Church of Rome in the Catholic community was recognized. This role was already attested to in the 2nd century by St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Romans, Pref.: Funk, I, 252) and by St. Irenaeus of Lyons (Contra Haereses, III, 3, 2-3). This singular and specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome was stressed again by the Second Vatican Council. "Moreover, within the Church," we read in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, "particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans, Pref.) and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it" (Lumen Gentium, 13).

Dear brothers and sister, this feast provides me with the occasion to ask you to accompany me with your prayers, so that I may faithfully carry out this great task, entrusted to me by Providence, as successor to the Apostle Peter. We invoke the Virgin Mary, whom we celebrated yesterday, here in Rome, under the title of Our Lady of Confidence. We ask her to help us to enter into the Lenten season -- which will begin on Wednesday with the evocative Rite of Ashes -- with devout dispositions of soul. May Mary open our hearts to conversion and to a docile listening to the Word of God.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus. In today's liturgy, we witness Jesus healing the paralytic lowered to him through the roof because of a large crowd. This passage reminds us that the Lord has power to forgive sins, and that nothing stands in the way of his mercy when we seek him with pure and contrite hearts! Let us never hesitate to ask his pardon - especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation - so that we may become better instruments of his love for others. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Academy for Life Conference

"Confidence in Science Cannot Forget the Primacy of Ethics"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday to participants in a conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life on the theme "New Frontiers of Genetics and the Danger of Eugenics." The conference coincided with the Pontifical Academy for Life's 15th general assembly.

* * *

Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,

Illustrious Academicians,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am especially pleased to receive you on the occasion of the 15th ordinary assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life. In 1994 my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, instituted this body under the presidency of a scientist, Professor Jerôme Lejeune, understanding with foresight the delicate work that it would have to undertake over the course of years. I thank the president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, for the words with which he wished to introduce this meeting, confirming the Academy's great dedication to the promotion and defense of human life.

From the time that the laws of heredity were discovered in the middle of the 19th century by the Augustinian abbot Gregor Mendel, who has been considered the founder of genetics, this science has truly taken giant steps in understanding the language at the basis of biological information, which determines the development of a living being. It is for this reason that modern genetics occupies a place of special prominence in the biological disciplines, which have contributed to the prodigious development of the knowledge of the invisible architecture of the human body and the cellular and molecular processes that preside over its multiple activities. Today science has arrived at revealing the recondite mechanisms of human physiology as well as the processes that are linked to the appearance of certain defects that are inheritable from parents along with processes that make some persons more susceptible to contract an illness. This knowledge, the fruit of the genius and toil of countless scholars, make it possible to more easily arrive at not only a more effective and early diagnosis of genetic maladies, but also to create therapies to alleviate the contraction of illnesses and, in some cases, to restore, in the end, the hope of regaining health. Moreover, from the time that the whole sequence of the human genome became available, the differences between one person and another and between different human populations have also become the object of genetic investigations, which allowed a glimpse of the possibility of new conquests.

Today the area of research still remains open and every day new horizons, in a large part unexplored, are disclosed. The work of researchers in such enigmatic and precious areas requires a special support; the cooperation between different sciences is a support that can never be lacking if results are to be arrived at that are effective and productive of authentic progress for the whole of humanity. This complementarity makes it possible to avoid the danger of a genetic reductionism that would identify the person exclusively with his genetic information and his interaction with his environment. It is again necessary to emphasize that man is greater than all of that which makes up his body; in fact, he carries with him the power of thought, which is always drawn to the truth about himself and the world. The words of Blaise Pascal, who was a great thinker as well as a gifted scientist, return: "Man is only a reed, the weakest in nature, but he is a thinking reed. There is no need for the whole universe to take up arms to crush him: a vapor, a drop of water is enough to kill him. But even if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than his slayer, because he is able to know that he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe, however, knows nothing of this" ("Pensées," 347).

Every human being, then, is much more than a singular combination of genetic information that is transmitted to him by his parents. The generation of man can never be reduced to the mere reproduction of a new individual of the human species, as is the case with all other animals. Every appearance of a person in the world is always a new creation. The words Psalm 139 recall this with deep wisdom: "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb ... My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret" (13, 15). If we want to enter into the mystery of human life, then it is necessary that no science isolate itself, pretending to have the last word. Rather, the common vocation to arrive at the truth -- according to the different methodologies and contents proper to each science -- must be shared.

Your conference, in any case, does not only analyze the great challenges that genetics is held to face; but it also extends to the dangers of eugenics, which is certainly not a new practice and which in the past has been the cause of real forms of discrimination and violence. The disapproval of eugenics used with violence by a regime, as the fruit of the hatred of a race or group, is so rooted in consciences that it found a formal expression in the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Despite this, there are appearing in our days troubling manifestations of this hateful practice, which present themselves with different traits. Certainly ideological and racist eugenics, which in the past humiliated man and provoked untold suffering, are not again being proposed. But a new mentality is insinuating itself that tends to justify a different consideration of life and personal dignity based on individual desire and individual rights. There is thus a tendency to privilege the capacities for work, efficiency, perfection and physical beauty to the detriment of other dimensions of existence that are not held to be valuable.

In this way the respect that is due to every human being -- even in the presence of a defect in his development or a genetic illness that could manifest itself in the course of his life -- is weakened, and those children whose life is judged unworthy of being lived are punished from the moment of conception.

It is necessary to reemphasize that every discrimination exercised by any power in regard to persons, peoples or ethnic groups on the basis of differences that stem from real or presumed genetic factors is an act of violence against all of humanity. What must be forcefully reemphasized is the equal dignity of every human being according to the fact itself of having life. Biological, psychological or cultural development or state of health can never become an element of discrimination. It is necessary, on the contrary, to consolidate a culture of hospitality and love that concretely testifies to solidarity with those who suffer, razing the barriers that society often erects, discriminating against those who are disabled and affected by pathologies, or worse - selecting and rejecting in the name of an abstract ideal of health and physical perfection. If man is reduced to an object of experimental manipulation from the first stage of development, that would mean that biotechnologies would surrender to the will of the stronger. Confidence in science cannot forget the primacy of ethics when human life is at stake.

I hope that your research in this sector, dear friends, will continue with due scientific care and the attention that ethical principles require in matters that are so important and decisive for the fitting development of personal existence. This is the wish with which I would like to conclude this meeting. As I invoke copious heavenly light upon your work, I affectionately impart to all of you a special apostolic blessing.

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Papal Address to Agricultural Development Fund
"Theirs Is a Work Which Carries With It a Dignity All Its Own"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development on the occasion of celebrations marking the 30th anniversary of its establishment.

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Mr President of the Governing Council,

Governors, Permanent Representatives of the Member States,

Officials of the IFAD,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to meet all of you at the conclusion of the celebrations marking the Thirtieth Anniversary of the establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. I thank the outgoing President, Mr Lennart Båge, for his kind words and I offer congratulations and good wishes to Mr Kanayo Nwanze on his election to this high office. I thank all of you for coming here today and I assure you of my prayers for the important work that you do to promote rural development. Your work is particularly crucial at the present time in view of the damaging effect on food security of the current instability in the prices of agricultural products. This requires new and far-sighted strategies for the fight against rural poverty and the promotion of rural development. As you know, the Holy See fully shares your commitment to overcome poverty and hunger, and to come to the aid of the world's poorest peoples. I pray that IFAD's anniversary celebration will provide you with an incentive to pursue these worthy goals with renewed energy and determination in the years ahead.

Since its earliest days, the International Fund has achieved an exemplary form of cooperation and coresponsibility between nations at different stages of development. When wealthy countries and developing nations come together to make joint decisions and to determine specific criteria for each country's budgetary contribution to the Fund, it can truly be said that the various Member States come together as equals, expressing their solidarity with one another and their shared commitment to eradicate poverty and hunger. In an increasingly interdependent world, joint decision-making processes of this kind are essential if international affairs are to be conducted with equity and foresight.

Equally commendable is the emphasis placed by IFAD on promoting employment opportunities within rural communities, with a view to enabling them, in the long term, to become independent of outside aid. Assistance given to local producers serves to build up the economy and contributes to the overall development of the nation concerned. In this sense the "rural credit" projects, designed to assist smallholder farmers and agricultural workers with no land of their own, can boost the wider economy and provide greater food security for all. These projects also help indigenous communities to flourish on their own soil, and to live in harmony with their traditional culture, instead of being forced to uproot themselves in order to seek employment in overcrowded cities, teeming with social problems, where they often have to endure squalid living conditions.

This approach has the particular merit of restoring the agricultural sector to its rightful place within the economy and the social fabric of developing nations. Here a valuable contribution can be made by Non-Governmental Organizations, some of which have close links with the Catholic Church and are committed to the application of her social teaching. The principle of subsidiarity requires that each group within society be free to make its proper contribution to the good of the whole. All too often, agricultural workers in developing nations are denied that opportunity, when their labour is greedily exploited, and their produce is diverted to distant markets, with little or no resulting benefit for the local community itself.

Almost fifty years ago, my predecessor Blessed Pope John XXIII had this to say about the task of tilling the soil: "Those who live on the land can hardly fail to appreciate the nobility of the work they are called upon to do. They are living in close harmony with Nature - the majestic temple of Creation ... Theirs is a work which carries with it a dignity all its own" (Mater et Magistra, 130-131). All human labour is a participation in the creative providence of Almighty God, but agricultural labour is so in a pre-eminent way. A truly humane society will always know how to appreciate and reward appropriately the contribution made by the agricultural sector. If properly supported and equipped, it has the potential to lift a nation out of poverty and to lay the foundations for increasing prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we give thanks for the achievements of the past thirty years, there is a need for renewed determination to act in harmony and solidarity with all the different elements of the human family in order to ensure equitable access to the earth's resources now and in the future. The motivation to do this comes from love: love for the poor, love that cannot tolerate injustice or deprivation, love that refuses to rest until poverty and hunger are banished from our midst. The goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, as well as promoting food security and rural development, far from being over-ambitious or unrealistic, become, in this context, imperatives binding upon the whole international community. It is my fervent prayer that the activities of such organizations as yours will continue to make a significant contribution to the attainment of these goals. In thanking you and encouraging you to persevere in the good work that you do, I commend you to the constant care of our loving Father, the Creator of Heaven and Earth and all that is therein. May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope to Latin America Commission
"Seminary Was a Decisive Time of Discernment and Preparation"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, on the occasion of their plenary assembly.

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Lord Cardinals,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I cordially greet the consultants and members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who in their plenary assembly have reflected on "the present situation of priestly formation in the seminaries" of that region. I am grateful for the words that, on behalf of all, were addressed to me by the president of the commission, Lord Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, giving me the central lines of the pastoral works and recommendations that have arisen in this meeting.

I thank God for the ecclesial fruits of this pontifical commission since its creation in 1958, when Pope Pius XII saw the need to create an organization of the Holy See to intensify and coordinate more closely the work carried out in favor of the Church in Latin America, given its scarcity of priests and missionaries. My venerated predecessor, John Paul II, corroborated and promoted this initiative, in order to highlight the special pastoral solicitude of the Successor of Peter for the pilgrim Churches in those beloved lands. In this new stage of the commission, I cannot but mention with keen gratitude the work carried out during long years by its vice president, Bishop Cipriano Calderón Polo, recently deceased, whom the Lord must have rewarded for his abnegated and faithful service to the Church.

Last year I received many bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean during their "ad limina" visits. With them I spoke about the reality of the local Churches that have been entrusted to them, thus being able to know more closely the hopes and difficulties of their apostolic ministry. I accompany all with my prayer, so that they will continue to exercise their service to the People of God with fidelity and joy, stimulating in this present hour the "continental mission" that is under way as a fruit of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean (cf. Conclusive Document, No. 362).

I cherish a happy memory of my stay in Aparecida, when we lived an intense experience of ecclesial communion, with the sole desire to receive the Gospel with humility and sow it generously. The theme chosen -- Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, So That Our Peoples May Have Life in Him -- continues to orient the efforts of the members of the Church in those beloved nations.

When I presented an evaluation of my apostolic journey to Brazil to the members of the Roman Curia, I wondered: "Was Aparecida right to give priority to the discipleship of Jesus Christ and to evangelization in the quest for the life of the world? Might it have been an erroneous withdrawal into interiority?" To this I answered with certainty: "No! Aparecida decided correctly because it is precisely through the new encounter with Jesus Christ and his Gospel -- and only in this way -- that forces are inspired which enable us to give the right response to the challenges of the time. (Address to the Roman Curia, December 21, 2007).

That personal encounter with the Lord continues to be essential, nourished by listening to his Word and participating in the Eucharist, as well as the need to transmit our own experience of Christ with great enthusiasm.

We bishops, successors of the Apostles, are the first who must always maintain alive the Lord's free and loving call, as he did to the first disciples (cf. Mark 1:16-20). Like them, we have also been chosen to "be with him" (Mark 3:14), to receive his Word and his strength, and thus live like him, proclaiming to all peoples the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

For all of us, the seminary was a decisive time of discernment and preparation. There, in profound dialogue with Christ, our desire to be deeply rooted in him was strengthened. In those years, we learned to see the Church as our own home, accompanied by Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our most loving Mother, always obedient to the will of God. That is why I am pleased that this plenary assembly has dedicated its attention to the current situation in the seminaries of Latin America.

To have priests according to the heart of Christ, confidence must be placed in the action of the Holy Spirit, more than in human strategies and calculations, asking the Lord with great faith, "Lord of the harvest," to send numerous and holy vocations to the priesthood (cf. Luke 10:2), always joining to this supplication affection and closeness to those who are in the seminary in preparation for sacred orders. On the other hand, the need for priests to address the challenges of today's world must not lead to the abandonment of a painstaking discernment of the candidates, or the neglect of necessary -- even rigorous -- demands, so that their formative process helps to make them exemplary priests.

Therefore, the pastoral recommendations of this assembly must be an indispensable point of reference to enlighten the task of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean in this delicate area of priestly formation. Today more than ever, it is necessary that seminarians, with the right intention and beyond any other interest, aspire to the priesthood moved solely by the will to be genuine disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ who, in communion with his bishops, make him present with their ministry and witness of life. Of great importance for this is being very attentive to their human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation, as well as the adequate choice of their formators and professors, who must be outstanding in their academic capacity, their priestly spirit and their fidelity to the Church, so that they can instill in the young men what the People of God need and expect from their pastors.

I entrust to the maternal care of the Most Holy Virgin Mary the initiatives of this plenary assembly, praying that she will accompany those who are preparing for the priestly ministry following in the footsteps of her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, our redeemer. With these sentiments, I impart to you with affection the apostolic blessing.

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Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
"Forge Your Heart as True Apostles"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience 150 members of the community of the Pius Pontifical Latin American College in Rome.

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Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Father Rector, Superiors, Women Religious and Students of the Latin American Pontifical College of Rome

1. I am grateful for the kind words addressed to me on your behalf by Archbishop Carlos José Ñáñez, archbishop of Cordoba and president of the episcopal commission of the Latin American Pontifical Pius College. I am happy to receive you when you are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the foundation of this worthy institution.

Nov. 27, 1858, marked the beginning of the fruitful course of this college as a valuable center of formation, first of seminarians and, for just over three decades, of deacons and priests. Today, more than 4,000 students feel themselves members of this great family. All of them have regarded this alma mater with profound affection, as it has distinguished itself from the beginning by a climate of simplicity, hospitality, prayer and fidelity to the magisterium of the Supreme Pontiff, which contributes powerfully to the college students' growth in love of Christ and the desire to serve the Church humbly, always seeking the greater glory of God and the good of souls.

2. You, dear students of the Latin American Pius College, are heirs of this rich human and spiritual patrimony, which must be perpetuated and enriched with a serious cultivation of the various ecclesiastical disciplines and by the joyful living of the universality of the Church. Here, in this city, the Apostles Peter and Paul proclaimed the Gospel with boldness and laid solid foundations to propagate it throughout the world, in fulfillment of the Master's mandate: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time" (Matthew 28:19-20).

You yourselves are the fruit of that wonderful sowing of Christ's redeeming message in the course of history. In fact, you come from different countries, in which, more than 500 years ago, some courageous missionaries made Jesus our Savior known. Thus, through baptism, those peoples were opened to the life of grace that made them children of God by adoption and received, in addition, the Holy Spirit, which fertilized their cultures, purifying them and developing the seeds that the Incarnate Word had put in them, thus orienting them on the paths of the Gospel (cf. Address in the inaugural session of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean, No. 1).

In Rome, united to the Chair of the Prince of the Apostles, you have the privileged opportunity to forge your heart as true apostles, in which your whole being and endeavor is firmly anchored in the Lord, who must always be for you the foundation, compass and goal of your efforts. Moreover, the College allows you to share your human and priestly experience fraternally and gives you a favorable occasion to be open permanently to knowledge of other cultures and ecclesial expressions. This will help you to be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ and intrepid missionaries of his Word, with longsighted and greatness of soul. Thus, you will be more capable of being men of God who know Him in depth, abnegated laborers in his vineyard and solicitous dispensers of the charity of Jesus Christ to those most in need.

3. Your bishops have sent you to the Latin American Pontifical Pius College to be filled with the wisdom of Christ crucified, so that, on returning to your dioceses, you will be able to put this treasure at the disposition of others in the various tasks entrusted to them. This requires taking good advantage of the time of your stay in Rome. Constancy in study and rigorous research, in addition to making you inquire into the mysteries of the faith and the truth about man in the light of the Gospel and of the Tradition of the Church, will foster a spiritual life in you rooted in the Word of God and always nourished by the incomparable wealth of the sacraments.

4. Love and adherence to the Apostolic See is one of the most striking characteristics of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. That is why, my meeting with you reminds me of the days I spent in Aparecida, when, deeply moved, I saw the manifestations of collegiality and fraternal communion in the episcopal ministry of the representatives of the episcopal conferences of those noble countries. With my presence there, I wished to encourage the bishops in their reflection on something fundamental to enliven the faith of the pilgrim Church in those beloved lands: to lead all our faithful to be "disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that, in Him, our peoples have life."

I invite you to associate yourselves with enthusiasm to that spirit, demonstrated in the dynamism with which all those dioceses have initiated, or are doing, the "continental Mission," promoted in Aparecida, an initiative that will facilitate the start of catechetical and pastoral programs destined to the formation and development of evangelized and missionary Christian communities. Accompany these intentions with your fervent prayer, so that the faithful will know, dedicate themselves and increasingly imitate Jesus Christ, taking part frequently in the Sunday celebrations of each community and witnessing to Him, so that they become effective instruments of that "New Evangelization," to which the Servant of God John Paul II, my venerated predecessor, repeatedly convoked.

5. On concluding this meeting, I would like to renew my cordial gratitude to all present, in particular to the episcopal commission for the College, which has the mission to encourage its students to strengthen their sense of communion and fidelity to the Roman Pontiff and their own pastors. Likewise, I wish to manifest in the persons of the College's superiors my acknowledgment of the Society of Jesus, to which my predecessor St. Pius X commended in perpetuity the direction of this illustrious institution, as well as to the women religious and the staff that accompany these young people with care and hope. I also think with gratitude of those who finance this ecclesial work with their economic aid and sustain it with their generosity and prayer.

6. I place in the hands of Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of Guadalupe, each and every one of you, as well as your families and communities of origin, so that her maternal protection will lovingly assist you in your tasks and help you to be rooted very deeply in her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, blessed fruit of her womb.

Thank you very much.

[Translation by ZENIT]


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On the Life of St. Bede
He "Contributed Effectively to the Making of a Christian Europe"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave on the life of St. Bede during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The saint on whom we reflect today is called Bede. He was born in Northeast England, in fact in Northumbria, in the year 672/673. He himself narrates that, when he was seven years old his parents entrusted him to the abbot of the neighboring Benedictine monastery, to be educated. "In this monastery," he recalls, "I lived from then on, dedicating myself intensely to the study of Scripture, while observing the discipline of the Rule and the daily effort to sing in church, I always found it pleasant to learn, teach and write" (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, V, 24). In fact, Bede was one of the most illustrious figures of erudition of the High Middle Ages because he was able to make use of many precious manuscripts that his abbots, who went on frequent trips to the Continent and to Rome, were able to bring back to him. His teaching and the fame of his writings enabled him to have many friendships with the principal personalities of his time, who encouraged him to continue in his work, from which so many benefited. Falling ill, he did not cease to work, always having an interior joy that was expressed in prayer and song. He concluded his most important work, "The Ecclesiastical History of the English People," with this invocation: "I pray, O good Jesus, who benevolently has allowed me to draw from the sweet words of your wisdom, that I may reach you one day, source of all wisdom, and to always be before your face." Death came to him on May 26, 735: It was Ascension day.

Sacred Scriptures were the constant source of Bede's theological reflection. Having made a careful critical study of the text (we have a copy of the monumental Codex Amiatinus of the Vulgate, on which Bede worked), he commented on the Bible, reading it in a Christological vein, namely, re-uniting two things: On one hand, he listened to what the text was saying exactly, he really wanted to listen and understand the text itself; on the other hand, he was convinced that the key to understanding sacred Scripture as the unique Word of God is Christ and with Christ, in his light, one understands the Old and the New Testament as "a" sacred Scripture.

The events of the Old and New Testament go together, they are together the path toward Christ, though expressed in different signs and institutions (it is what he calls "concordia sacramentorum"). For example, the tent of the covenant that Moses raised in the desert and the first and second temple of Jerusalem are images of the Church, new temple built on Christ and the Apostles with living stones, cemented by the charity of the Spirit. And, as was the case for the construction of the ancient temple of Jerusalem, even pagan people contributed, making available valuable materials and the technical experience of their master builders, thus apostles and masters not only from ancient Hebrew, Greek and Latin stock contributed to the building of the Church, but also new peoples, among which Bede is pleased to enumerate the Iro-Celts and the Anglo-Saxons. St. Bede witnessed the universality of the Church grow, which is not restricted to a certain culture, but is made up of all the cultures of the world which must open themselves to Christ and find in him their point of arrival.

Another topic loved by Bede is the history of the Church. After having taken interest in the period described in the Acts of the Apostles, he reviewed the history of the Fathers of the Church and the councils, convinced that the work of the Holy Spirit continues in history. In the "Cronica Maiora," Bede traces a chronology that would become the basis of the universal calendar "ab incarnatione Domini." Up to then, time was calculated from the foundation of the city of Rome. Bede, seeing that the true point of reference, the center of history is the birth of Christ, gave us this calendar that reads history beginning with the Lord's Incarnation. He registered the first six ecumenical councils and their development, presenting faithfully the Christian, Mariological and Soteriological doctrine, and denouncing the Monophysite and Monothelite, iconoclastic and neo-Pelagian heresies. Finally, he wrote with documentary rigor and literary expertise the already mentioned "Ecclesiastical History of the English People," for which he is recognized as "the father of English historiography." The characteristic traits of the Church that Bede loved to evidence are: a) its catholicity, as fidelity to tradition together with openness to historical developments, and as the pursuit of unity in multiplicity, in the diversity of history and cultures, according to the directives that Pope Gregory the Great gave to the apostle of England, Augustine of Canterbury; b) its apostolicity and Romanness: In this regard he considers of primary importance to convince the whole Iro-Celtic Churches and that of the Picts to celebrate Easter uniformly according to the Roman calendar. The calculation elaborated scientifically by him to establish the exact date of the Easter celebration, and thus of the entire cycle of the liturgical year, became the text of reference for the whole Catholic Church.

Bede was also an illustrious teacher of liturgical theology. In the homilies on the Sunday Gospels and those of feast days, he develops a true mystagogy, educating the faithful to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of the faith and to reproduce them consistently in life, while expecting their full manifestation of the return of Christ, when, with our glorified bodies, we will be admitted in offertory procession to the eternal liturgy of God in heaven. Following the "realism" of the catecheses of Cyril, Ambrose and Augustine, Bede teaches that the sacraments of Christian initiation make every faithful person "not only a Christian but Christ." In fact, every time that a faithful soul receives and guards the Word of God with love, in imitation of Mary, he conceives and generates Christ again. And every time that a group of neophytes receives the Easter sacraments, the Church is "self-generated," or to use a still more daring expression, the Church becomes "Mother of God," participating in the generation of her children, by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks to this way of making theology, interlacing the Bible, the liturgy and history, Bede has a timely message for the different "states of life":

a) For scholars (doctores ac doctrices) he recalls two essential tasks: to scrutinize the wonders of the Word of God to present it in an attractive way to the faithful; to show the dogmatic truths avoiding the heretical complications and keeping to the "Catholic simplicity," with attention to the small and humble to whom God is pleased to reveal the mysteries of the Kingdom.

b) For pastors, that for their part, must give priority to preaching, not only through the verbal or hagiographic language, but also valuing icons, processions and pilgrimages. Bede recommends to them the use of the vernacular, as he himself does, explaining in Northumbria the "Our Father," and the "Creed" and carrying forward until the last day of his life, the commentary to John's Gospel in the common language.

c) For consecrated people who are dedicated to the Divine Office, living in the joy of fraternal communion and progressing in the spiritual life through ascesis and contemplation, Bede recommends to take care of the apostolate -- no one has the Gospel just for himself, but must regard it as a gift also for others -- either by collaborating with the Bishops in pastoral activities of various types in favor of the young Christian communities, or being available to the evangelizing mission to the pagans, outside their own country, as "peregrini pro amore Dei."

Placed in this perspective, in the commentary to the Canticle of Canticles, Bede presents the synagogue and the Church as collaborators in the propagation of the Word of God. Christ the Spouse desires an industrious Church, "bronzed by the fatigues of evangelization" -- clear is the reference to the word of the Canticle of Canticles (1:5), where the Bride says: "Nigra sum sed formosa" (I am brown, but beautiful) -- attempts to till other fields or vines and to establish among the new populations "not a provisional bell but a stable dwelling, namely, to insert the Gospel in the social fabric and the cultural institutions. In this perspective, the saintly Doctor exhorts the lay faithful to be assiduous to the religious instruction, imitating those "insatiable evangelical multitudes who did not even give the Apostles time to eat." He teaches them how to pray constantly, "reproducing in life what they celebrate in the liturgy," offering all actions as spiritual sacrifices in union with Christ. To parents he explains that also in their small domestic realm they can exercise "the priestly office of pastors and guides," by giving Christian formation to the children and states that he knows many faithful (men and women, spouses and celibates) "capable of an irreproachable conduct that, if suitably pursued, could approach daily Eucharistic communion ("Epist. ad Ecgbertum," ed. Plummer, p. 419).

The fame of holiness and wisdom that Bede enjoyed already in life, served to merit him the title of "Venerable." He is thus called also by Pope Sergius I, when he wrote his abbot in 701 requesting to make him come temporarily to Rome for consultation on questions of universal interest. The great missionary of Germany, Bishop St. Boniface (d. 754), requested the archbishop of York several times and the abbot of Wearmouth to have some of his works transcribed and to send him to them so that they and their companions could also enjoy the spiritual light he emanated. A century later Notkero Galbulo, abbot of St. Gall (d. 912), being aware of the extraordinary influence of Bede, equated him with a new sun that God had made arise not in the East but in the West to illumine the world. Apart from the rhetorical emphasis, it is a fact that, with his works, Bede contributed effectively to the making of a Christian Europe, in which the different populations and cultures amalgamated among themselves, conferring on them a uniform physiognomy, inspired by the Christian faith.

Let us pray that also today there be personalities of Bede's stature, to keep the whole Continent united; let us pray so that all of us are willing to rediscover our common roots, to be builders of a profoundly human and genuinely Christian Europe.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the early Christian writers of East and West, we now turn to Saint Bede the Venerable. A monk of the monastery of Wearmouth in England, Bede became one of the most learned men of the early Middle Ages and a prolific author, while also gaining a reputation for great holiness and wisdom. His scriptural commentaries highlight the unity of the Old and New Testaments, centred on the mystery of Christ and the Church. Bede is best known, however, for his historical writings, in which he traced the history of the Church from the Acts of the Apostles, through the age of the Fathers and Councils, and down to his own times. His Ecclesiastical History recounts the Church’s missionary expansion and growth among the English people. Bede’s rich ecclesial, liturgical and historical vision enable his writings to serve as a guide for the Church’s teachers, pastors and religious in living out their vocations in the service of the Church’s mission. His great learning and the sanctity of his life, earned Bede the title of "Venerable", while the rapid spread of his writings made him a highly influential figure in the building of a Christian Europe.

I offer a warm welcome to the pilgrimage group from the Diocese of Arlington led by Bishop Paul Loverde, and to the School Sisters of Notre Dame taking part in a program of spiritual renewal. I also greet the many student groups present. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the visitors from England, Ireland, Sweden, Japan and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Words on Vatican City State 80th Anniversary
"A Small Territory for a Great Mission"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address last Saturday at an audience with participants in a meeting held on the 80th anniversary of the creation of Vatican City State.

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Lord Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am very pleased to address a cordial greeting to all of you, organizers, reporters and participants in the congress organized to commemorate the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Vatican City State. "A small territory for a great mission" is the theme on which you have focused your attention, reflecting together on the spiritual and civil value of this small sovereign state, placed totally at the service that Jesus Christ entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his successors. I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo not only for his words of greeting addressed to me on your behalf, but also for the commitment that he and his collaborators of the governorate have shown to solemnize this significant date of the 80 years of existence and activity of Vatican State.

I express my true pleasure for the celebrations and the different commemorative initiatives of these days, oriented to deepening knowledge of and to knowing better the history and physiognomy of the Civitas Vaticana. Eighty years after its foundation, it is a reality achieved peacefully, though not always well understood in its reasons for being and in the many tasks that it is called to carry out. For those who work daily at the service of the Holy See or who live in the city, it is a given that in the heart of Rome there is a small sovereign state, but not all know that it is the fruit of quite a tormented historical process, which made possible its constitution, motivated by lofty ideals of faith and wide consciousness of the objectives it must fulfill. Thus we could say that the celebration, which justifies our meeting today, invites one to a more profound awareness of what Vatican City State means and is.

When the memory harkens back to Feb. 11, 1929, it is impossible not to feel a profound recognition for he who was the first and main architect and protagonist of the Lateran Pacts, my venerated predecessor, Pius XI. He was the Pope of my childhood, whom we looked upon with so much veneration and love. Precisely in these days his name has resonated on several occasions, as with the lucidity of a lofty outlook and indomitable will he was the real founder and first builder of Vatican City State. Moreover, the historical studies on his pontificate, which continue to take place, make us perceive increasingly the greatness of Pope Ratti, who guided the Church in the difficult years between the two World Wars. With a firm hand he stimulated ecclesial action in its many dimensions: Let us recall the missionary expansion, attention to the formation of God's ministers, promotion of the activity of the lay faithful in the Church and in society, and the intense relationship with the civil community.

During his pontificate, the "librarian Pope" had to address the difficulties and persecutions that the Church was suffering in countries such as Mexico and Spain, and the confrontations triggered by totalitarianism -- national socialism and fascism -- which arose and were consolidated in those years. In Germany, his great encyclical "Mit Brennender Sorge" has not been forgotten, as a strong sign against Nazism. The wise and strong work of this Pontiff truly awakens admiration, who only wished for the Church the freedom that would allow her to carry out her mission integrally. Vatican City State, which arose as a consequence of the Lateran Pacts and, in particular, of the Treaty, was also considered by Pius XI as an instrument to guarantee the necessary independence from all human authority, to give the Church and her supreme Pastor the possibility to fully comply with the mandate received from Christ the Lord. The usefulness and benefit of this small but complete reality for the Holy See, for the Church, as well as for Rome and the whole world, was seen just 10 years later, when World War II broke out, a war whose violence and sufferings reached the doors of the Vatican.

Hence, it can be affirmed that in the eight decades of its existence, Vatican State has demonstrated that it is a flexible instrument and that it has always measured up to the needs posed and that continue to be posed both in the mission of the Pope and the needs of the Church, as well as the ever changing conditions of society. Precisely for this reason, under the guidance of my venerated predecessors, from the Servant of God Pius XII to Pope John Paul II, a constant adaptation of the norms, of the structures and of the means of this singular state, built around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, continue to be carried out before the eyes of all.

The significant anniversary we are celebrating these days is, therefore, the reason for profound gratitude to the Lord, who guides the fortunes of his Church in the often turbulent vicissitudes of the sea of history, and assists his Vicar on earth in carrying out his office of Christianae religionis summus Antistes. My gratitude extends to all those who in the past have been and are today protagonists of the life of Vatican City State, some known, but many others unknown in their humble and precious service. My thoughts go to the members of the present community of life and work of the governorate and the other structures of the state, thus interpreting the sentiments of the whole people of God. At the same time, I would like to encourage all those who work in the different Vatican offices and services to carry out their tasks with honesty and professional competence, but also with an ever more lively awareness that their work constitutes a precious service to the cause of the Kingdom of God.

The Civitas Vaticana is, in truth, an almost invisible point on the world map, a diminutive and defenseless state, deprived of fearful armies, seemingly irrelevant to the great international geopolitical strategies. And yet, this shelter of absolute independence of the Holy See has been and is a center of radiation of constant action in favor of solidarity and the common good. Is it not true, in fact, that for this reason this small handful of earth is looked upon in all parts of the world with great attention?

Vatican State, which encloses treasures of faith, of history, of art, is custodian of a precious patrimony for humanity. From its heart, where the Pope lives near the tomb of St. Peter, an incessant message rises of genuine social progress, of hope, of reconciliation and of peace. Now our state, after solemnly observing the 80th anniversary of its foundation, takes up the path again with a stronger apostolic thrust. May Vatican City be increasingly a genuine "city on the hill," luminous, thanks to the conviction and generous dedication of those who work in it at the service of the ecclesial mission of the successor of Peter. With this hope, I invoke the maternal protection of Mary, the intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul and the other martyrs who have made this soil sacred, and impart my heartfelt blessing to all of you gathered here, extending it with affection to the great family of Vatican City State.

[Translation by ZENIT]

Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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On Transgressions and Forgiveness
"The Sins We Commit Distance Us From God"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On these Sundays the Evangelist Mark offers a sequence of various miraculous healings for our reflection. Today he presents a very special one -- that of a healed leper (cf. Mark 1:40-45) -- who, coming to Jesus, gets on his knees and says: “If you wish, you can make me clean!” Jesus, moved, stretches out his hand, touches him and says: “I do wish it. Be made clean!”

The man is healed instantly and Jesus asks him not to tell anyone and present himself to the priests to offer the sacrifice prescribed by the Mosaic law. The healed leper is unable to be quiet and proclaims to everyone what happened to him so that, the evangelist reports, still more sick people ran to Jesus from every part to the point of forcing him to stay out of the cities so as not to be besieged by the crowds.

Jesus says to the leper: “Be made clean!” According to the ancient Jewish law (Leviticus 13-14), leprosy was not only considered a sickness but the gravest form of “impurity.” It was the duty of the priests to diagnose it and declare the person afflicted with leprosy unclean. This person then had to keep his distance from the community and stay away from towns until he was certified to be healed.

Leprosy thus constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing was a kind of resurrection. We might see in leprosy a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart, distancing us from God. It is not, in effect, physical malady that distances us from him, as the ancient norms supposed, but sin, the spiritual and moral evil.

This is way the Psalmist exclaims: “Blessed is he whose fault is taken away / and whose sin is covered.” And then, turning to God: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you, / my guilt I covered not. / I said: ‘I shall confess my faults to the Lord,’ / and you took away my guilt and my sin” (Psalm 31:1, 5 [32:1, 5]).

The sins we commit distance us from God, and, if they are not humbly confessed, trusting in the divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul. This miracle thus has powerful symbolic value. Jesus, as Isaiah prophesied, is the servant of the Lord who “bore our infirmities, / endured our sufferings” (Isaiah 53:4). In his passion he will become like a leper, made impure by our sins, separated from God: He will do all this for love, with the aim of obtaining reconciliation, forgiveness and salvation for us.

In the Sacrament of Penance Christ crucified and risen, through his ministers, purifies us with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and our brothers, and makes a gift of his love, joy and peace to us.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the Virgin Mary, whom God preserved from every stain of sin, that she help us to avoid sin and to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, the Sacrament of Forgiveness, whose value and importance for our Christian life needs to be rediscovered today.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today for the Angelus, especially the members of the joint Catholic-Orthodox pilgrimage from Finland. I pray that the time you spend in Rome may deepen your love for Jesus Christ our Lord, and for his Church. In this Sunday's Gospel, we hear how Jesus healed a leper who came to him and pleaded to be cured. To those who turn to him today, Jesus continues to offer healing and strength. I encourage all of you to place your trust in him, and to bring before him your hopes and your needs, for yourselves and for your loved ones. May the Lord grant your prayers and pour out upon all of you his abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Address to Nigerian Bishops
"There Is No Place in the Church for Any Kind of Division"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday when he received in audience bishops from Nigeria at the conclusion of their five-yearly visit to Rome.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

It is with great joy that I welcome you, the Bishops of Nigeria, on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. As the Successor of Peter I cherish this encounter which strengthens our bond of communion and fraternal love and allows us to renew together the sacred responsibility which we exercise in the Church. I thank Archbishop Job for the kind words which he addressed to me on your behalf. For my part, I am pleased to express my sentiments of respect and gratitude to you and to all the faithful of Nigeria.

Brothers, since your last Ad Limina visit Almighty God has blessed the Church in your country with generous growth. This is especially visible in the number of new Christians who have received Christ into their hearts and accept joyfully the Church as "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15). The abundant priestly and religious vocations are also a clear sign of the work of the Spirit among you. For these graces I give thanks to God and express my appreciation to you and to the priests, religious and catechists who have laboured in the Lord's vineyard.

Expansion in the Church calls for special care in diocesan planning and the training of personnel through ongoing activities of formation in order to facilitate the necessary deepening of the faith of your people (cf. Ecclesia in Africa, 76). From your reports I see that you are well aware of the basic steps involved: teaching the art of prayer, encouraging participation in the liturgy and the sacraments, wise and relevant preaching, catechetical instruction, and spiritual and moral guidance. From this foundation faith flourishes in Christian virtue, and gives rise to vibrant parishes and generous service to the wider community. You yourselves, together with your priests must lead by humility, detachment from worldly ambitions, prayer, obedience to the will of God and transparency in governance. In this way you become a sign of Christ the Good Shepherd.

The celebration of the liturgy is a privileged source of renewal in Christian living. I commend you in your efforts to maintain the proper balance between moments of contemplation and external gestures of participation and joy in the Lord. To this end attention must be given to the liturgical formation of priests and the avoidance of extraneous excesses. Continue on this path keeping in mind that the dialogue of love and veneration of the Lord is greatly enhanced by the practice of Eucharistic adoration in parishes, religious communities and other suitable places (cf. Sacramentum Caritatis, 67).

The coming Synod of Bishops for Africa will address among other themes the topic of ethnic unrest. The marvelous image of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the gathering of innumerable men and women from every tribe and tongue and people and nation who have been ransomed by the blood of Christ (cf. Rev 5:9), encourages you to confront the challenge of ethnic conflict wherever present, even within the Church. I express my appreciation to those of you who have accepted a pastoral mission outside the limits of your own regional or linguistic group and I thank the priests and people who have welcomed and supported you. Your readiness to adapt to others is an eloquent sign that, as the new family of all who believe in Christ (cf. Mk 3:31-35) there is no place in the Church for any kind of division. Catechumens and neophytes must be taught to accept this truth as they make their commitment to Christ and to a life of Christian love. All believers, especially seminarians and priests, will grow in maturity and generosity by allowing the Gospel message to purify and overcome any possible narrowness of local perspectives.

Wise and discerning selection of seminarians is vital to the spiritual well-being of your country. Their personal formation must be assured through regular spiritual direction, sacramental reconciliation, prayer and meditation on Sacred Scripture. In the word of God seminarians and priests will find the values that distinguish the good priest who is consecrated to the Lord in body and spirit (cf. 1 Cor 7:34). They will learn to serve with personal detachment and pastoral charity those entrusted to their care, strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Tim 2:1).

I would like to highlight the Bishop's task of sustaining the important social and ecclesial reality of marriage and family life. With the cooperation of well prepared priests and lay people, experts and married couples, you will exercise with responsibility and zeal your solicitude in this area of pastoral priority (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 73). Courses for engaged couples, and general and specific catechetical teaching on the value of human life, marriage and the family will strengthen your faithful people for the challenges presented to them by changes in society. Likewise do not fail to encourage associations or movements that validly assist married couples in living their faith and marriage commitments.

As an important service to the nation, you have shown your commitment to interreligious dialogue especially with Islam, where with patience and perseverance, strong relations of respect, friendship and practical cooperation are being forged with other religious people. Through your efforts as diligent and untiring promoters of goodwill, the Church will become a clearer sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the whole human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, 1).

Your dedication to derive from Catholic principles enlightened comments on current national problems is greatly appreciated. The natural law, inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being (cf. World Day of Peace Message 2009, 8), and the Gospel, properly understood and applied to civic and political realities, do not in any way reduce the range of valid political options. On the contrary, they constitute a guarantee offered to all citizens of a life of freedom, with respect for their dignity as persons, and protection from ideological manipulation and abuse based on the law of the strongest (cf. Address to the Plenary Session of the International Theological Commission, 5 December 2008). With confidence in the Lord, continue to exercise your Episcopal authority in the struggle against unjust practices and corruption and against all causes and forms of discrimination and criminality, especially the degrading treatment of women and the deplorable practice of kidnapping. By promoting Catholic Social Doctrine you offer your loyal contribution to your country and assist in the consolidation of a national order based on solidarity and a culture of human rights.

My dear Brother Bishops, I exhort you with the words of the Apostle Paul: "be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong; let all that you do be done in love" (1 Cor 16:13-14). Please convey my greetings to your beloved people, especially to those many believers who bear witness to Christ in hope through prayer and suffering (cf. Spe Salvi, 35 and 36). My warm affection goes also to those who serve in the family, in parishes and mission stations, in education, health care and other spheres of Christian charity. Commending you and those entrusted to your pastoral care to the prayers of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi and to the maternal protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Message for 2009 World Day of the Sick
"The Witness of Charity Is Part of the Very Life of Every Christian Community"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the 17th World Day of the Sick, which was celebrated Wednesday on the diocesan level.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated next 11 February, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, will see the diocesan communities gathering with their Bishops at prayer meetings in order to reflect and decide on initiatives of sensitization concerning the reality of suffering.

The Pauline Year that we are celebrating is a favorable opportunity to pause and meditate with the Apostle Paul on the fact that "as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too" (2 Corinthians 1:5).

The spiritual connection with Lourdes also calls to mind the motherly concern of the Mother of Jesus for the brethren of her Son, "who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home" ("Lumen Gentium," No. 62).

This year our attention focuses in particular on children, the weakest and most defenseless creatures, and on those of them who are sick and suffering. There are tiny human beings who bear in their bodies the consequences of incapacitating diseases, and others who are fighting illnesses that are still incurable today, despite the progress of medicine and the assistance of qualified researchers and health-care professionals.

There are children injured in body and in mind, subsequent to conflicts and wars, and other innocent victims of the insensate hatred of adults. There are "street" children, who are deprived of the warmth of a family and left to themselves, and minors defiled by degenerate people who violate their innocence, causing them psychological damage that will mark them for the rest of their lives.

Then we cannot forget the incalculable number of minors who die of thirst, hunger and the lack of medical help, as well as the small exiles and refugees who flee from their countries together with their parents in search of a better life. A silent cry of pain rises from all these children which questions our consciences as human beings and believers.

The Christian community, which cannot remain indifferent to such tragic situations, feels the impelling duty to intervene. Indeed, as I wrote in the Encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," the Church "is God's family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life" (No. 25,b).

I therefore hope that the World Day of the Sick will offer the parish and diocesan communities an opportunity to be ever more aware that they are the "family of God" and will encourage them to make the love of the Lord, who asks that "within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need", visible in villages, neighborhoods and cities (ibid).

The witness of charity is part of the very life of every Christian community. And from the outset the Church has expressed the Gospel principles in practical gestures, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles.

Today, given the changed conditions of health-care assistance, people are feeling the need for closer collaboration between health-care professionals who work in the various health-care institutions and the ecclesial communities present in the territory. In this perspective the value of an institution linked to the Holy See such as the Bambino Gesù Pediatric Hospital this year celebrating its 140th anniversary is confirmed in every way.

But this is not all. Since the sick child belongs to a family that frequently shares in his or her suffering with serious hardship and difficulties, Christian communities cannot but also feel duty-bound to help families afflicted by the illness of a son or daughter.

After the example of the "Good Samaritan", it is necessary to bend over the people so harshly tried and offer them the support of their concrete solidarity.

In this way the acceptance and sharing of suffering is expressed in the practical support of sick children's families, creating in them an atmosphere of serenity and hope and making them feel that they are in the midst of a larger family of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus' compassion for the widow of Nain (cf. Luke 7:12-17) and for Jairus' supplication (cf. Luke 8:41-56) constitute, among others, useful reference points for learning to share in the moments of physical and moral suffering of the many sorely tried families.

All this implies disinterested and generous love, a reflection and a sign of the merciful love of God who never abandons his children in trial but always provides them anew with wonderful resources of heart and mind to equip them to face life's difficulties adequately.

The daily devotion and continuous commitment to serving sick children is an eloquent testimony of love for human life, particularly for the life of those who are weak and dependant on others in all things and for all things.

In fact, it is necessary to assert vigorously the absolute and supreme dignity of every human life. The teaching that the Church ceaselessly proclaims does not change with the passing of time: Human life is beautiful and should be lived to the full, even when it is weak and enveloped in the mystery of suffering.

We must turn our gaze to the Crucified Jesus: in dying on the Cross he wished to share in the suffering of all humanity. We may discern in his suffering for love a supreme sharing in the plight of little ones who are ill and of their parents.

My venerable Predecessor John Paul II who offered a shining example of patient acceptance of suffering, particularly towards the end of his life, wrote: "On this Cross is the "Redeemer of man', the Man of Sorrows, who has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions" ("Salvifici Doloris," No. 31).

I would like here to express my appreciation and encouragement to the international and national organizations which care for sick children, especially in the poor countries, and which with generosity and abnegation make their contribution to assuring them adequate and loving care.

At the same time, I address a heartfelt appeal to the leaders of nations that they will strengthen the laws and provisions for sick children and their families. For her part, the Church always, but especially when a child's life is at stake is prepared to offer cordial collaboration with the intention of transforming the whole human civilization into a "civilization of love" ("Salvifici Doloris," No. 30).

To conclude, I would like to express my spiritual closeness to all of you, dear brothers and sisters who are suffering from an illness. I address an affectionate greeting to all those who assist you: the Bishops, priests, consecrated people, health-care workers, volunteers and all who devote themselves lovingly to treating and alleviating the sufferings of those who are grappling with illness.

Here is a special greeting for you, dear sick and suffering children: the Pope embraces you with fatherly affection together with your parents and relatives, and assures you of his special remembrance in prayer, as he asks you to trust in the maternal help of the Immaculate Virgin Mary who last Christmas we once again contemplated joyfully holding in her arms the Son of God who became a Child. As I invoke upon you and upon every sick person the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin, Health of the Sick, I cordially impart to all a special Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2009


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Papal Address on Day for Consecrated Life
"Paul Lives For, With and In Christ"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 2, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.

A Mass was held in St. Peter's Square to mark the 13th World Day of Consecrated Life. The Pope delivered this message after the Mass.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I meet you with great joy at the end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, on this liturgical Feast which for 13 years now has gathered men and women religious for the Day for Consecrated Life. I cordially greet Cardinal Franc Rodé, with special gratitude to him and to his collaborators at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life for their service to the Holy See and to what I would call the "cosmos" of consecrated life. I greet with affection the men and women Superiors General present here and all of you, brothers and sisters who, with your witness as consecrated persons modeled on the Virgin Mary, carry Christ's light in the Church and in the world. In this Pauline Year, I make my own the Apostle's words: "I give thanks to my God every time I think of you which is constantly, in every prayer I utter rejoicing, as I plead on your behalf, at the way you have all continually helped promote the gospel from the very first day" (Phil 1: 3-5). In this greeting addressed to the Christian community of Philippi, Paul expresses the affectionate remembrance he cherishes of all who live the Gospel personally and toil to pass it on, combining the care of their interior life with the effort of the apostolic mission.

In the Church's tradition, St Paul has always been recognized as father and teacher of those, called by the Lord, who have chosen unconditional dedication to him and to his Gospel. Various religious Institutes are named after St. Paul and draw from him a specific charismatic inspiration. One can say that he repeats to all consecrated men and women a forthright and affectionate invitation: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11: 1). What in fact is consecrated life other than a radical imitation of Jesus, a total "sequela" of him? (cf. Mt 19: 27-28). Well, in all this Paul represents a sound pedagogical mediation: imitating him in the following of Jesus, dear friends, is the privileged way to correspond fully to your vocation of special consecration in the Church.

Indeed, from his own voice we can recognize a lifestyle that expresses the substance of consecrated life inspired by the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. He sees the life of poverty as the guarantee of a Gospel proclamation carried out totally gratuitously (cf. 1 Cor 9:1-23), while at the same time he expresses concrete solidarity to his brethren in need. In this regard we all know of Paul's decision to support himself with the work of his hands and of his commitment to collecting offerings for the poor of Jerusalem (cf. 1 Thes 2: 9; 2 Cor 8-9).

Paul is also an apostle who, in accepting God's call to chastity, gave his heart to the Lord in an undivided manner to be able to serve his brethren with even greater freedom and dedication (cf. 1 Cor 7: 7; 2 Cor 11: 1-2). Furthermore, in a world in which the values of Christian chastity were far from widespread (cf. 1 Cor 6: 12-20) he offered a reliable reference for conduct. Then concerning obedience it suffices to note that doing God's will and the "daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Cor 11: 28) motivated, shaped and consummated his existence, rendered a sacrifice that found favor with God. All this brought him to proclaim, as he wrote to the Philippians: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil 1: 21).

Another fundamental aspect of Paul's consecrated life is the mission.

He belongs wholly to Jesus in order, like Jesus, to belong to all; indeed, to be Jesus for all: "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9: 22). In him, so closely united to the person of Christ, we recognize a profound capacity for combining spiritual life and missionary action. In him the two dimensions refer to each other reciprocally. And thus we can say that he belongs to the ranks of those "mystical builders" whose existence is both contemplative and active, open to God and to the brethren, in order to carry out an effective service to the Gospel. In this mystic and apostolic tension, I would like to remark on the Apostle's courage as he faced the sacrifice of confronting terrible trials, even to the point of martyrdom (cf. 2 Cor 11: 16-33) and on his steadfast faith based on the words of his Lord: "my grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection" (2 Cor 12: 9-10). His spiritual experience thus appears to us as a lived-out expression of the Paschal Mystery, which he investigated intensely and proclaimed as a form of Christian life. Paul lives for, with and in Christ. "I have been crucified with Christ", he writes, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2: 20); and again: "for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil 1: 21).

This explains why he does not tire of urging us to behave in such a way that Christ's word may dwell within us in its richness (cf. Col 3: 16). This brings to mind the invitation addressed to you in the recent Instruction on The Service of Authority and Obedience, to seek "every morning... a living and faithful contact with the Word which is proclaimed that day, meditating on it and holding it in [your] heart as a treasure, making of it the root of every action and the primary criterion of each choice". I therefore hope that the Pauline Year will nourish still more in you the determination to accept the testimony of St Paul, meditating every day upon the word of God with the faithful practice of lectio divina, praying with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness..." (Col 3: 16). May he also help you to carry out your apostolic service in and with the Church with a spirit of communion without reservation, making a gift of your own charisms to others (cf. 1 Cor 14: 12), and witnessing in the first place to the greatest charism which is charity (cf. 1 Cor 13).

Dear brothers and sisters, today's liturgy urges us to look at the Virgin Mary, the "consecrated one" par excellence. Paul speaks of her with concise but effective words that describe her greatness and her task: she is the "woman" from whom, in the fullness of time, the Son of God was born (cf. Gal 4: 4).

Mary is the Mother who today presents her Son to the Father at the Temple, also continuing in this action the "yes" she spoke at the moment of the Annunciation. May she once again be the mother who accompanies and sustains us, God's children and her children, in carrying out a generous service to God and to the brethren. To this end, I invoke her heavenly intercession as I warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to all of you and to your respective religious families.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Greeting to New Envoy From Australia
"World Youth Day Was an Event of Singular Importance"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving the letters of credence of Timothy Andrew Fischer, the first residential ambassador from Australia to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

It is with particular pleasure that I welcome you to the Vatican and accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce, and the Government and people of your nation my gratitude for their greetings. With vivid memories of my recent visit to your beautiful country, I assure you of my prayers for the country’s well-being and in particular I wish to send my condolences to the grieving individuals and families in Victoria who have lost loved ones in the recent bush fires.

Your Excellency’s appointment as Australia’s first residential Ambassador to the Holy See marks a welcome new stage in our diplomatic relations and provides an opportunity to deepen mutual understanding and to extend our already significant collaboration. The Church’s engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that human progress -- whether as individuals or communities -- is dependent upon the recognition of the supernatural vocation proper to every person. It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity (cf. Gen 1:27) and the capacity to seek truth and goodness. Within this broad perspective we can counter tendencies to pragmatism and consequentialism, so prevalent today, which engage only with the symptoms and effects of conflicts, social fragmentation, and moral ambiguity, rather than their roots. When humanity’s spiritual dimension is brought to light, individuals’ hearts and minds are drawn to God and to the marvels of human life: being itself, truth, beauty, moral values, and other persons. In this way a sure foundation to unite society and sustain a vision of hope can be found.

World Youth Day was an event of singular importance for the universal Church and for Australia. Echoes of appreciation continue to resound within your own nation and across the globe. Above all, every World Youth Day is a spiritual event: a time when young people, not all of whom have a close association with the Church, encounter God in an intense experience of prayer, learning, and listening, thus coming to experience faith in action. Sydney residents themselves, as Your Excellency observed, were inspired by the sheer joy of the pilgrims. I pray that this young generation of Christians in Australia and throughout the world will channel their enthusiasm for all that is true and good into forging friendships across divides and creating places of living faith in and for our world, settings of hope and practical charity.

Mr Ambassador, cultural diversity brings much richness to the social fabric of Australia today. For decades that collage was tarnished by the injustices so painfully endured by the Indigenous Peoples. Through the apology offered last year by Prime Minister Rudd, a profound change of heart has been affirmed. Now, renewed in the spirit of reconciliation, both government agencies and aboriginal elders can address with resolution and compassion the plethora of challenges that lie ahead. A further example of your Government’s desire to promote respect and understanding among cultures is its laudable effort to facilitate inter-religious dialogue and cooperation both at home and in the region. Such initiatives help to preserve cultural heritages, nourish the public dimension of religion, and kindle the very values without which civic society’s heart would soon wither.

Australia’s diplomatic activity in the Pacific, Asia and more recently in Africa is multifaceted and growing. The nation’s active support of the Millennium Development Goals, numerous regional partnerships, initiatives to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and keen concern for just economic development are well known and respected. And as the shadows and lights of globalization cast their reach over our world in increasingly complex ways, your nation is showing itself ready to respond to a growing variety of exigencies in a principled, responsible and innovative manner. Not least of these are the menacing threats to God’s creation itself through climate change. Perhaps more than ever before in our human history the fundamental relationship between Creator, Creation and Creature needs to be pondered and respected. From this recognition we can discover a common code of ethics, consisting of norms rooted in the natural law inscribed by the Creator on the heart of every human being.

In my message this year for the World Day of Peace, I drew particular attention to the need for an ethical approach to the creation of positive partnerships between markets, civil society and States (cf. no. 12). In this regard I note with interest the Australian Government’s determination to establish relations of cooperation based on the values of fairness, good governance, and the sense of a regional neighbourhood. A genuinely ethical stance is at the heart of every responsible, respectful and socially inclusive development policy. It is ethics which render imperative a compassionate and generous response to poverty; they render urgent the sacrificing of protectionist interests for fair accessibility of poor countries to developed markets just as they render reasonable donor nations’ insistence upon accountability and transparency in the use of financial aid by receiver nations.

For her part, the Church has a long tradition within the healthcare sector where she brings to the fore an ethical approach to every individual’s particular needs. Especially in poorer nations, Religious Orders and church organizations – including many Australian missionaries – fund and staff a vast network of hospitals and clinics, often in remote areas where States have been unable to serve their own people. Of particular concern is the provision of medical care for families, including high-quality obstetrical care for women. How ironic it is, however, when some groups, through aid programmes, promote abortion as a form of ‘maternal’ healthcare: taking a life, purportedly to improve the quality of life.

Your Excellency, I am sure that your appointment will further strengthen the bonds of friendship which already exist between Australia and the Holy See. As you exercise your new responsibilities you will find the broad range of offices of the Roman Curia ready to assist you in the fulfilment of your duties. Upon you and your family together with your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


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Papal Address to American Jewish Organizations
"Shoah Was a Crime Against God and Against Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience members of a delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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Dear Friends,

I am pleased to welcome all of you today, and I thank Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Mr Alan Solow for the greetings they have addressed to me on your behalf. I well recall the various occasions, during my visit to the United States last year, when I was able to meet some of you in Washington D.C. and New York. Rabbi Schneier, you graciously received me at Park East Synagogue just hours before your celebration of Pesah. Now, I am glad to have this opportunity to offer you hospitality here in my own home. Such meetings as this enable us to demonstrate our respect for one another. I want you to know that you are all most welcome here today in the house of Peter, the home of the Pope.

I look back with gratitude to the various opportunities I have had over many years to spend time in the company of my Jewish friends. My visits to your communities in Washington and New York, though brief, were experiences of fraternal esteem and sincere friendship. So too was my visit to the Synagogue in Cologne, the first such visit in my Pontificate. It was very moving for me to spend those moments with the Jewish community in the city I know so well, the city which was home to the earliest Jewish settlement in Germany, its roots reaching back to the time of the Roman Empire.

A year later, in May 2006, I visited the extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. What words can adequately convey that profoundly moving experience? As I walked through the entrance to that place of horror, the scene of such untold suffering, I meditated on the countless number of prisoners, so many of them Jews, who had trodden that same path into captivity at Auschwitz and in all the other prison camps. Those children of Abraham, grief-stricken and degraded, had little to sustain them beyond their faith in the God of their fathers, a faith that we Christians share with you, our brothers and sisters. How can we begin to grasp the enormity of what took place in those infamous prisons? The entire human race feels deep shame at the savage brutality shown to your people at that time. Allow me to recall what I said on that sombre occasion: "The rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people, to cancel it from the register of the peoples of the earth. Thus the words of the Psalm, ‘We are being killed, accounted as sheep for the slaughter’, were fulfilled in a terrifying way."

Our meeting today occurs in the context of your visit to Italy in conjunction with your annual Leadership Mission to Israel. I too am preparing to visit Israel, a land which is holy for Christians as well as Jews, since the roots of our faith are to be found there. Indeed, the Church draws its sustenance from the root of that good olive tree, the people of Israel, onto which have been grafted the wild olive branches of the Gentiles (cf. Rom 11: 17-24). From the earliest days of Christianity, our identity and every aspect of our life and worship have been intimately bound up with the ancient religion of our fathers in faith.

The two-thousand-year history of the relationship between Judaism and the Church has passed through many different phases, some of them painful to recall. Now that we are able to meet in a spirit of reconciliation, we must not allow past difficulties to hold us back from extending to one another the hand of friendship. Indeed, what family is there that has not been troubled by tensions of one kind or another? The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration "Nostra Aetate" marked a milestone in the journey towards reconciliation, and clearly outlined the principles that have governed the Church’s approach to Christian-Jewish relations ever since. The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities. If there is one particular image which encapsulates this commitment, it is the moment when my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II stood at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, pleading for God’s forgiveness after all the injustice that the Jewish people have had to suffer. I now make his prayer my own: "God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant" (26 March 2000).

The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the Holy Scriptures, according to which every human being is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27). It is beyond question that any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable. Recently, in a public audience, I reaffirmed that the Shoah must be "a warning for all against forgetfulness, denial or reductionism, because violence committed against one single human being is violence against all" (January 28, 2009).

This terrible chapter in our history must never be forgotten. Remembrance -- it is rightly said -- is memoria futuri, a warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation. To remember is to do everything in our power to prevent any recurrence of such a catastrophe within the human family by building bridges of lasting friendship. It is my fervent prayer that the memory of this appalling crime will strengthen our determination to heal the wounds that for too long have sullied relations between Christians and Jews. It is my heartfelt desire that the friendship we now enjoy will grow ever stronger, so that the Church’s irrevocable commitment to respectful and harmonious relations with the people of the Covenant will bear fruit in abundance.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Spiritual Ladder of John Climacus
"A Great Symbol of the Life of the Baptized"
 

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.
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Dear brothers and sisters,

After 20 catecheses dedicated to the Apostle Paul, I would like to take up again today the presentation of the great writers of the Church of East and West in the Middle Ages. And I propose the figure of John called Climacus, a Latin transliteration of the Greek term klímakos, which means ladder (klímax).

This is the title of his principal work [rendered in English "Climax," or "Ladder to Perfection"], in which he describes the ascent of human life toward God.

He was born around 575. His life unfolded in the years in which Byzantium, capital of the Roman Empire of the East, experienced the greatest crisis of its history. Suddenly the geographical layout of the empire changed and the torrent of barbarian invasions brought all of its structures to crumble. Only the structure of the Church remained, which in these difficult times continued with its missionary, humanistic and socio-cultural activities, especially through the network of monasteries, in which operated great religious personalities, as was precisely John Climacus.

Among the mountain of Sinai, where Moses encountered God and Elias heard his voice, John lived and narrated his spiritual experiences. An account of him has been conserved in a brief biography (PG 88, 596-608), written by the monk Daniel of Raithu: At age 16, John, monk at Mt. Sinai, became a disciple of the abbot Martyrius, an "elder," that is to say, "a wise one." Toward age 20, he chose to live as a hermit in a cave at the foot of a mountain, in the region of Tola, eight kilometers from the feet of the current monastery of St. Catherine.

But solitude did not keep him from meeting people who desired a spiritual guide, or from visiting certain monasteries close to Alexandria. His hermitic withdrawal, in fact, far from being flight from the world and human reality, led him to an ardent love for others (Life, 5) and for God (Life, 7). After 40 years of hermitic life lived in the love of God and for others, years in which he cried, prayed and fought against the demons, he was named abbot of the great monastery of Mt. Sinai and thus returned to the cenobitic life in the monastery.

But a few years before his death, nostalgic for the hermitic life, he transferred to a brother, a monk of the same monastery, the guidance of the community. He died after the year 650. The life of John developed between two mountains, Sinai and Tabor, and truly it can be said of him that he radiated the light that Moses saw on Sinai and the apostles contemplated on Tabor.

He became famous, as I already mentioned, with his work "The Ladder" (klímax), called in the West the "Ladder of Paradise" (PG 88, 632-1164). Composed because of the insistent petitions of the abbot of the nearby monastery of Raithu, close to Sinai, "The Ladder" is a complete treatise of the spiritual life, in which John describes the path of a monk, from the renunciation of the world till the perfection of love. It is a path that -- according to this book -- takes place through 30 steps, each one of which is united to the one that comes after.

The path can be summarized in three successive phases: the first shows the rupture with the world with the aim of returning to the state of Gospel childlikeness. The essential, therefore, is not the rupture, but the union with which Jesus has called, the return to the true childlikeness in the spiritual sense, the coming to be like children. John comments: "A good foundation is that formed by three bases and three columns -- innocence, fasting and chastity. All the newborns in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1) should begin with these three things, following the example of physical newborns" (1,20; 636).

The voluntary separation from dear people and places permits the soul to enter into deeper communion with God. This renunciation leads to obedience, which is the path of humility through humiliations -- which are never lacking -- on the part of humans. Juan comments: "Blessed is he who has mortified his own will to the end and has entrusted the care of his person to his master in the Lord: He will be placed at the right of the Crucified One" (4,37; 704).

The second phase of the path is made up of spiritual combat against the passions. Each step of the ladder is united with a principal passion, which is defined and diagnosed, indicating as well the therapy and proposing the corresponding virtue. The whole of these steps undoubtedly constitutes the most important treatise of the spiritual strategy that we possess. The fight against the passions is seen in a positive light -- it's not viewed as a negative thing -- thanks to the image of the "fire" of the Holy Spirit:

"All those who undertake this beautiful fight (cf. 1 Timothy 6:12), difficult and arduous […] should know that they have come to throw themselves in a fire, if they truly desire that the immaterial fire dwells in them" (1,18; 636). The fire of the Holy Spirit, which is the fire of love and truth. Only the strength of the Holy Spirit assures victory. But, according to John Climacus, it is important to be aware that the passions are not evil in themselves; they become so because of the poor use that human freedom makes of them. If they are purified, the passions open to man the path toward God with energies unified by asceticism and grace and "if they have received from the Creator an order and principle … the limit of virtue is endless" (26/2,37; 1068).

The last phase of the path of Christian perfection is developed in the last seven rungs of the ladder. These are the highest phases of the spiritual life, able to be experienced by the "esicasti," the solitary ones, who have arrived to tranquility and interior peace. But they are phases accessible as well to the most fervent cenobites. Of the three first ones -- simplicity, humility and discernment -- John, in line with the desert fathers, considers the latter the most important, that is, the capacity to discern.

Every action should be submitted to discernment, everything depends in fact on deep motives, which it is necessary to explore. Here one enters into the depths of the person and tries to awaken in the hermit, in the Christian, the spiritual sensitivity and the "sense of the heart," gifts of God: "As guide and rule of all things, after God, we should follow our conscience" (26/1,5, 1013). In this way, one arrives to the tranquility of the soul, the "esichía," thanks to which the soul can peer into the abyss of divine mysteries.

The state of tranquility, of interior peace, prepares the "esicasta" for prayer, which in John is double: "corporal prayer" and "prayer of the heart." The first is proper to one who must avail of postures of the body: extend the hands, express groans, strike the chest, etc. (15,26; 900); the second is spontaneous, because it is an effect of awakening the spiritual sensitivity, gift of God to whom is dedicated the corporal prayer. In John, this takes the name of "Jesus prayer" (Iesoû euché) and it is made up of the invocation of the name of Jesus, a continuous invocation like breathing: "The memory of Jesus becomes one with your respiration, and then you will discover the truth of the esichía," of interior peace (27/2,26; 1112). In the end, prayer becomes something very simple, simply the word "Jesus" becomes one with our breathing.

The last rung of the scale (30), full of the "sober intoxication of the Spirit" is dedicated to the supreme "trinity of virtues": faith, hope and above all, charity. Regarding charity, John speaks also of eros (human love), figure of the matrimonial union of the soul with God. And he chooses yet again the image of fire to express the ardor, light and purification of love by God. The strength of human love can be reoriented toward God, as the good olive tree can be grafted onto the wild olive (cf. Romans 11:24) (15,66; 893).

John is convinced that an intense experience of this eros makes the soul advance more than the hard fight against the passions, because its power is great. Thus the positiveness of our path prevails. But charity is seen as well in direct relation with hope: "The strength of charity is hope: Thanks to it we hope for the recompense of charity … hope is the gate of charity … the absence of hope destroys charity: our troubles are linked to it, with it we sustain ourselves in our problems and thanks to it we are surrounded by the mercy of God" (30,16; 1157). The end of "The Ladder" contains the synthesis of the work with the words the authors puts in the mouth of God himself. "May this ladder teach you the spiritual disposition of the virtues. I am at the top of this ladder, as that great mystic of mine said (St. Paul): Now therefore three things remain: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13)" (30,18; 1160).

At this point, a last question arises: "The Ladder," a work written by a hermit monk who lived 1,400 years ago: Can it say something to us today? The existential itinerary of a man who always lived on the mountain of Sinai in a time so long ago: Can it be current for us? At first glance, it seems the answer should be "no" because John Climacus is very far from us. But if we look a little closer, we see that such a monastic life is only a great symbol of the life of the baptized, of Christian life. It shows, to say it one way, in large letters what we write every day with little letters. It is a prophetic symbol that reveals what is the life of the baptized, in communion with Christ, with his death and resurrection. For me, it is of particularly importance the fact that the culmination of the scale, the last rungs are at the same time the fundamental, initial, simplest virtues: faith, hope and charity.

These are not virtues accessible only to moral heroes, but are the gift of God for all the baptized. In them our life too grows. The beginning is also the end; the starting point is also the arriving point: The whole path goes toward an ever more radical fulfillment of faith, hope and charity. In these virtues, the ladder is present. Fundamentally is faith, because this virtue implies that I renounce arrogance, my thoughts, the pretension to judge for myself, without entrusting myself to others.

This path toward humility, toward spiritual childlikeness is necessary: It is necessary to overcome the attitude of arrogance that makes one say: I am better, in this age of mine of the 21st century, than what those who lived then knew. It is necessary, instead, to entrust oneself only to sacred Scripture, the Word of the Lord, approach with humility the horizon of faith, to thus enter into the enormous vastness of the universal world, of the world of God.

In this way, our soul grows, the sensitivity of the heart toward God grows. Precisely John Climacus says that only hope makes us capable of living charity. Hope in which we transcend the things of each day; we do not hope for the success of our earthly days but we hope finally for the revelation of God himself. Only in this extension of our soul, in this self-transcendence, our life is made great and we can bear the tiredness and disillusionment of each day, we can be good to others without expecting a reward.

Only if God exists, this great hope to which I tend, can I take the little steps of my life each day and thus learn charity. In charity, the mystery of prayers is hidden, of the personal knowledge of Jesus: a simple prayer that alone tends to touch the heart of the divine Teacher. And thus one's heart opens, learns from him his own goodness, his love. Let us use, therefore, this ladder of faith, of hope and of charity, and we will thus arrive to true life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we recommence our catechesis on the great Christian writers of both East and West. John Climacus, whose name means "ladder", was born around 575, and wrote an outstanding tract near Mount Sinai on the spiritual journey leading from renunciation of the world to perfection in love. The journey takes place in three stages. The first involves detachment from worldly goods in order to return to a state of Gospel innocence and enter into a deeper communion with God. In the second phase, the soul engages in a spiritual battle with the passions by cultivating virtues corresponding to each. When purified, these passions can show us the way to God through self-denial and grace. In the third phase, John emphasizes the importance of discernment: we must examine every aspect of our behaviour in order to ascertain our deepest motivations and reawaken a "sense of the heart".

This leads to tranquillity of soul – esichía – which prepares us to probe the depths of the divine mysteries. The last "rung" of the ladder consists in faith, hope and charity. John’s account of charity includes eros, or human love, which points towards the nuptial union of the soul with God. May John’s spiritual "ladder" remind all of us who share in the death and resurrection of Christ through Baptism that we are called to continual conversion and purification with the help of the Holy Spirit.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially pilgrims from Japan, Taiwan, Denmark, England, Ireland and the United States. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Tribunal of the Roman Rota
"The Truth About Marriage and About Its Intrinsic Juridical Nature"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Jan. 29 to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.

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Distinguished Judges, Officials and Collaborators of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota,

The solemn inauguration of the judiciary activity of your Tribunal offers me again this year the joy of receiving you its distinguished members: Monsignor Dean, who I thank for the noble opening address, the College of Prelate Auditors, the Officials of the Tribunal and the Advocates of the Studio Rotale. I address to all of you my cordial greeting, together with the expression of my appreciation for the important task to which you attend as faithful collaborators of the Pope and of the Holy See.

You are expecting the Pope, at the beginning of your working year, to say a word of light and guidance on carrying out your delicate duties. We could dwell upon many topics in this circumstance, but at the distance of 20 years from the Addresses of John Paul ii on psychiatry's incapacity in the nullification of matrimony, of 5 February 1987 (Address to the Roman Rota, L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 23 February 1987, p. 6), and of 25 January 1988 (ORE, 15 February 1988, n. 7, p. 7), it seems opportune to ask oneself whether and to what extent these interventions have had an adequate reception in the ecclesiastical tribunals.

This is not the moment to draw up the balance sheet, but the fact of a problem that continues to be very real is visible to everyone. In some cases one can, unfortunately, still sense the pressing need of which my venerable Predecessor spoke: that of preserving the ecclesial community "from the scandal of seeing in practice the value of Christian marriage being destroyed by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity, in cases of the failure of marriage, on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness on the part of the contracting parties" (Address to the Roman Rota, n. 9, 5 February 1987, ORE, 23 February 1987, p. 7).

At our meeting today I am intent on recalling the attention of lawyers to the need to treat the cases with the due depth required by the ministry of truth and charity that is proper to the Roman Rota. To the need for a rigorous procedure, in fact, the above mentioned Addresses, on the basis of Christian anthropological principles, furnish the basic criteria, not only for the close examination of psychiatric and psychological evidence, but also for the judicial definition of the causes.

In this regard it is opportune to recall again some distinctions that draw the demarcation line above all between "psychic maturity which is seen as the goal of human development" and "canonical maturity which instead, is the basic minimum required for establishing the validity of marriage" (ibid., n. 6, p. 7). Secondly, the distinction between incapacity and difficulty insofar as "only incapacity and not difficulty in giving consent and in realizing a true community of life and love invalidates a marriage" (ibid., n. 7). Thirdly, the distinction between the canonistic dimension of normality, that is inspired by an integral vision of the human person "also includes moderate forms of psychological difficulty", and the clinical dimension that excludes from the concept of it every limitation of maturity and "every form of psychic illness" (Address to the Roman Rota, n. 5, 25 January 1988, ORE, 15 February 1988, p. 6). And lastly, the distinction between the "minimum capacity sufficient for valid consent" and the idealized capacity "of full maturity in relation to happy married life" (ibid., p. 7).

I then attest to the involvement of the faculties of the intellect and the will in the formation of matrimonial consent, Pope John Paul II, in the above mentioned Address of 5 February 1987, reaffirmed the principle according to which a true incapacity "is to be considered only when an anomaly of a serious nature is present which, however it may be defined, must substantially vitiate the capacity to understand and/or to consent" (Address to the Roman Rota, n. 7, ORE, 23 February 1987, p. 7).

In this regard it seems opportune to recall that the Code of Canon Law's norm concerning mental incapacity, and the application thereof, was further enriched and integrated by the recent Instruction "Dignitas connubii" of 25 January 2005. In fact, in order for this incapacity to be recognized, there must be a particular mental anomaly (art. 209 1) that seriously disturbs the use of reason (art. 209 2, n. 1; can. 1095, n. 1), at the time of the celebration of marriage and the use of reason or the critical and elective faculty in regard to grave decisions, particularly in freely choosing a state of life (art. 209 2, n. 2; can. 1095, n. 2) or that puts the contracting party not only under a serious difficulty but even the impossibility of sustaining the actions inherent in the obligations of marriage (art. 209 2, n. 3; can. 1095, n. 3).

However, on this occasion, I would also like to reconsider the theme of the incapacity to contract marriage, of which canon 1095 speaks, in the light of the relationship between human persons and marriage and recalling some fundamental principles that must enlighten lawyers.

First of all it is necessary to rediscover the positive capacity that in principle every human person has to marry by virtue of his very nature as man or woman. Indeed, we run the risk of falling into a form of anthropological pessimism which, in the light of the cultural situation today, considers marriage as almost impossible. Besides the fact that such a situation is not uniform in the various regions of the world, one cannot confuse the real difficulties confronting many, especially young people who conclude that marital union is normally unthinkable and impracticable with the true incapacity of consent. Rather, reaffirming the innate human capacity for marriage is precisely the starting point for helping couples discover the natural reality of marriage and the importance it has for salvation. What is actually at stake is the truth about marriage and about its intrinsic juridical nature (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Rota, 27 January 2007), which is an indispensable premise if people are to understand and evaluate the capacity required to wed.

In this sense the capacity must be associated with the essential significance of marriage, that is "the intimate partnership of life and the love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by him with its own proper laws" (Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et spes, n. 48), and, in a particular way, with the essential obligations inherent to it, that must be assumed by the couple (can. 1095, n. 3).

This capacity is not measured in relation to a determined level of existential or effective realization of the conjugal union through the fulfillment of the essential obligations, but in relation to the effective will of each one of the partners, who makes possible and operative this realization already at the moment of contracting marriage.

The issue of the capacity or incapacity, therefore, has sense in the measure in which it regards the very act of the marriage contract, since the bond put in act by the will of the spouses constitutes the juridical act of a lofty biblical interpretation of "one flesh" (Gn 2: 24; Mk 10: 8; Eph 5: 31; cf. can. 1061 1), whose valid subsistence does not depend on the successive behavior of the couple during their married life.

On the other hand, in the reductionist optic that fails to recognize the truth on matrimony, the effective relationship of a true communion of life and love, idealized on a level of pure human well-being, essentially becomes dependent only on accidental factors, and not, instead, on the exercise of human freedom sustained by grace.

It is true that this freedom of human nature, "wounded in the natural powers" and "inclined to sin" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 405), is limited and imperfect, but not for this reason does it become inauthentic and insufficient to accomplish that act of self-determination of the parties who form the conjugal pact, that give life to matrimony and to the family founded on it.

Obviously some anthropological and "humanistic" currents aimed at self-realization and egocentric self-transcendence idealize human beings and marriage to such an extent that they then deny the mental capacity of many people, basing this on elements that do not correspond to the essential requirements of the conjugal bond.

Faced with this concept, canon law experts cannot fail to take into account the healthy realism that my venerable Predecessor indicated (cf. John Paul ii, Address to the Roman Curia, 27 January 1997, n. 4, ORE, n. 6 5 February 1997, p. 3), because the capacity makes reference to a basic minimum so that the couple can give their being as a male or as a female to establish that bond to which the great majority of human beings are called.

It follows, in principle, that the causes of nullity through mental incapacity require the judge to employ the services of experts to ascertain the existence of a real incapacity (can. 1680; art. 203 1, DC), that is always an exception to the natural principle of the capacity necessary to understand, decide and accomplish the giving of self upon which the conjugal bond is founded.

This is what, venerable members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, I wished to set forth on this solemn occasion, that is always a pleasant circumstance for me. In exhorting you to persevere with a lofty Christian conscience in the exercise of your office, whose great importance for the life of the Church emerges also from the things just said. May the Lord accompany you always in your delicate work with the light of his grace, to which the Apostolic Blessing that I impart to each one with deep affection is a pledge.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Sickness and God's Healing Love

"We Are Made for Life"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today the Gospel (cf. Mark 1:29-39) -- in direct continuation with last Sunday -- presents us with Jesus, who after having preached on the Sabbath in the synagogue of Capernaum, cured many ill people, beginning with Simon's mother-in-law. Entering his house, he found her in bed with a fever and immediately, taking her by the hand, he healed her and had her get up. After sunset, he healed a multitude of people afflicted with all sorts of ills.

The experience of the healing of the sick occupies a good portion of the public mission of Christ and it invites us once again to reflect on the meaning and value of illness in every situation in which the human being can find himself. This opportunity comes also because of the World Day of the Sick, which we will celebrate next Wednesday, Feb. 11, liturgical memorial of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes.

Despite the fact that illness is part of human existence, we never manage to get used to it, not only because sometimes it comes to be burdensome and grave, but essentially because we are made for life, for complete life. Precisely our "internal instinct" makes us think of God as plenitude of life, and even more, as eternal and perfect Life. When we are tested by sickness and our prayers seem in vain, doubt wells up in us and, filled with anguish, we ask ourselves: What is God's will?

It is precisely to this question that we find an answer in the Gospel. For example, in the passage of today we read: "He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him" (Mark 1:34). In another passage from St. Matthew, it says: "He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people" (Matthew 4:23).

Jesus does not leave room for doubt: God -- whose face he himself has revealed -- is the God of life, who frees us from all evil. The signs of this, his power of love are the healings that he carries out: He thus shows that the Kingdom of God is near, restoring men and women to their full integrity in spirit and body. I refer to these healings as signs: They guide toward the message of Christ, they guide us toward God and make us understand that man's truest and deepest illness is the absence of God, who is the fount of truth and love. And only reconciliation with God can give us true healing, true life, because a life without love and without truth would not be a true life. The Kingdom of God is precisely the presence of truth and love, and thus it is healing in the depths of our being.

Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, the work of Jesus is prolonged in the mission of the Church. Through the sacraments, it is Christ who communicates his life to the multitude of brothers and sisters, as he cures and comforts innumerable sick people through so many activities of health care service that Christian communities promote with fraternal charity, thereby showing the face of God, his love. It is true: How many Christians all over the world -- priests, religious and laypeople -- have given and continue giving their hands, eyes and hearts to Christ, true physician of bodies and souls!

Let us pray for all the ill, especially for those who are most grave, and who can in no way take care of themselves, but depend entirely on the care of others; may every one of them be able to experience, in the solicitude of those who are near to them, the power of the love of God and the richness of his grace that saves us. Mary, health of the sick, pray for us.

[After praying the Angelus, he said:]

In these weeks, strong political tensions are taking place in Madagascar, which have also provoked popular disturbances. Because of this, the bishops of the island have convoked for today a day of prayer for national reconciliation and social justice. Intensely concerned by the particularly critical moment that the country is going through, I invite you to unite yourselves to the Catholics of Madagascar to entrust to the Lord those who have died in the manifestations and to invoke from him, through the intercession of Most Holy Mary, the return of harmony of thought, social tranquility and civil co-existence.

As I said just a moment ago, next Feb. 11, memorial of the Virgin Mary of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick is celebrated. In the afternoon, I will meet with the sick and other pilgrims in St. Peter's Basilica, after the holy Mass that the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, Cardinal Lozano Barragán, will preside over. From now, I assure my special blessing to all the sick, the health care workers and the volunteers of every part of the world.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today including those from the Saint Patrick's Evangelization school in London. Today's Gospel reminds us of the duty to bring Christ's Good News to all the world. May your time in Rome be filled with joy and deepen your resolve to draw others to our Lord and his love. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Paul's Death and Heritage
"The Figure of St. Paul Is Magnified Beyond His Earthly Life"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

He concluded today his series of catechesis on St. Paul.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

The series of our catechesis on the figure of St. Paul has arrived to its conclusion: We wish to speak today of the end of his earthly life. Ancient Christian tradition testifies unanimously that the death of Paul came as a consequence of martyrdom suffered here in Rome. The writings of the New Testament do not take up this fact. The Acts of the Apostles ends its report indicating the Apostle's condition as a prisoner, who nevertheless could receive all those who visited him (cf. Acts 28:30-31).

Only in the Second Letter to Timothy do we find these, his foreboding words: "For I am at the point of being poured out like a libation, and the time of my releasing the canvas [departure] is at hand" (2 Timothy 4:6; cf. Philippians 2:17). Two images are used here, the liturgical one of sacrifice, which he had already used in the Letter to the Philippians, interpreting martyrdom as part of the sacrifice of Christ; and the seafaring [image] of casting off: two images that together discreetly allude to the event of death, and of a bloody death.

The first explicit testimony about the end of St. Paul comes to us from the middle of the 90s of the first century, and therefore, something more than 30 years after his death took place. It comes precisely from the letter that the Church of Rome, with its bishop, Clement I, wrote to the Church of Corinth.

In that epistolary text, the invitation is made to have the example of the apostles before our eyes, and immediately after the mention of Peter's martyrdom, it reads thus: "Owing to envy and discord, Paul was obligated to show us how to obtain the prize of patience. Arrested seven times, exiled, stoned, he was the herald of Christ in the East and in the West, and for his faith, obtained a pure glory. After having preached justice in the whole world, and after having arrived to the corners of the West, he accepted martyrdom before the governors; thus he parted from this world and arrived to the holy place, thereby converted into the greatest model of patience" (1 Clement 5,2).

The patience of which it speaks is the expression of his communion with the passion of Christ, of the generosity and constancy with which he accepted a long path of suffering, to the point of being able to say: "I bear the marks of Jesus on my body" (Galatians 6:17).

We heard in the text of St. Clement that Paul had arrived "to the corners of the West." It is debated whether this refers to a trip to Spain that Paul would have carried out. There is not certainty about this, though it is true that St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans expresses his intention to go to Spain (cf. Romans 15:24).

It is very interesting, in the letter from Clement, the succession of the two names of Peter and Paul, even though these will be inverted in the testimony of Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century. When speaking of the Emperor Nero he wrote: "During his reign Paul was beheaded precisely in Rome and Peter was there crucified. The report is confirmed by the names of Peter and of Paul, which even today are conserved in their sepulchers in this city" (Hist. Eccl. 2,25,5).

Eusebius later would continue relating a previous declaration of a Roman presbyter by the name of Gaius, who dates back to the beginnings of the second century: "I can show you the trophies of the apostles: If you go to the Vatican or the Via Ostiense, there you will find the trophies of the founders of the Church" (ibid. 2,25,6-7).

The "trophies" are the sepulchral monuments, and these are the same sepulchers of Peter and Paul that even today we venerate, after two millenniums in the same place: here in the Vatican regarding St. Peter, in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on the Via Ostiense regarding that of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

It is interesting to point out that the two great apostles are mentioned together. Though no ancient source speaks of a contemporary ministry of theirs in Rome, the successive Christian awareness, on the basis of their common burial in the capital of the empire, will also associate them as founders of the Church of Rome. Thus it is read, in fact, in Irenaeus of Lyons, from the end of the second century, regarding the apostolic succession in the distinct Churches: "It would be tedious to enumerate the successions of all the Churches, we do take the very great and very ancient and well-known Church, the Church founded and established in Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul" (Adv. Haer. 3,3,2).

Let us leave aside the figure of Peter and concentrate on that of Paul. His martyrdom comes recounted for the first time in the Acts of Paul, written toward the end of the second century. These report that Nero condemned him to death by beheading, carried out immediately afterward (cf. 9:5). The date of the death varies according to the ancient sources, which place it between the persecution unleashed by Nero himself after the burning of Rome in July of 64 and the last year of his reign, in 68 (cf. Jerome, De Viris Ill. 5,8).

The calculation depends a lot on the chronology of Paul's arrival in Rome, a discussion that we cannot get into here. Successive traditions would pin down two other elements. One, the most legendary, is that the martyrdom took place on the Acquae Salviae, on the Via Laurentina, with a triple bounce of the head, each one of which caused a current of water to spring out, due to which even today the place is called "Tre Fontane" (Acts of Peter and Paul of Pseudo Marcellus of the fifth century).

The other, in consonance with the ancient testimony already mentioned, of the presbyter Gaius, is that the burial occurred "not only outside of the city, in the second mile of the Via Ostiense," but more precisely "in the field of Lucina," who was a Christian matron (Passion of Paul of Pseudo Abdias, of the sixth century).

There in the fourth century, the emperor Constantine erected a first church, later enormously amplified after the fourth and fifth century by Emperors Valentinianus II, Theodosius and Arcadius. After the fire of 1800, there was erected the current Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

In any case, the figure of St. Paul is magnified beyond his earthly life and his death; he has left in fact an extraordinary spiritual heritage. He as well, as a true disciple of Jesus, became a sign of contradiction. While among the so-called ebionites -- a Judeo-Christian current -- he was considered as an apostate of the Mosaic Law, already in the book of Acts of the Apostles, there appears a great veneration for the Apostle Paul.

I would like now to set aside the apocryphal literature, such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla and an apocryphal collection of letters between the Apostle Paul and the philosopher Seneca. It is important to confirm that very soon the Letters of St. Paul enter into the liturgy, where the prophet-apostle-Gospel structure is determinant for the form of the liturgy of the Word. Thus, thanks to this "presence" in the liturgy of the Church, the thought of the Apostle at once becomes spiritual nourishment for the faithful of all times.

It is obvious that the fathers of the Church and afterward all the theologian have drawn form the Letters of St. Paul and his spirituality. He has remained during the centuries, until today, as true teacher and apostle to the Gentiles. The first patristic commentary that has arrived to us regarding a writing of the New Testament is from the great Alexandrian theologian Origen, who comments on the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans.

This commentary is unfortunately conserved only in part. St. John Chrysostom, besides commenting his letters, has written of him his seven memorable panegyrics. St. Augustine owes him the decisive step of his own conversion and he will return to Paul during all of his life. From this permanent dialogue with the Apostle derives his great Catholic theology and also for Protestants of all times. St. Thomas Aquinas has left us a beautiful commentary on the Pauline letters, which represents the most mature fruit of medieval exegesis.

A true point of inflection was verified in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation. The decisive moment in Luther's life was the so-called Turmerlebnis (1517) in which in one moment he encountered a new interpretation of the Pauline doctrine on justification. An interpretation that liberated him from the scruples and anxieties of his preceding life and that gave him a new, radical confidence in the goodness of God, who pardons everything without condition. From that moment, Luther identified the Judeo-Christian legalism condemned by the Apostle with the order of life of the Catholic Church. And the Church appeared to him as an expression of the slavery to the law to which he opposed the liberty of the Gospel. The Council of Trent, between 1545 and 1563, deeply interpreted the question of justification and encountered in the line of all Catholic tradition the synthesis between law and Gospel, conforming to the message of sacred Scripture read in its totality and unity.

The 19th century, gathering the best heritage of the Enlightenment, witnessed a new renovation of Paulinism, now above all in the plane of scientific work developed for the historical-critical interpretation of sacred Scripture. Let us set aside here the fact that also in that century, as in the 20th, there emerged a true and proper denigration of St. Paul. I think above all of Nietzsche, who poked fun at the theology of humility in St. Paul, opposing to it his theology of the strong and powerful man. But let us leave that aside and look at the essential current of the new scientific interpretation of sacred Scripture and the new Paulinism of that century.

Here is emphasized as central above all the Pauline thought of the concept of liberty: In this is seen the heart of the thought of Paul, as on the other hand, Luther had already intuited. Now, nevertheless, the concept of liberty was reinterpreted in the context of modern liberalism. And later, the differentiation between the proclamation of St. Paul and the proclamation of Jesus was strongly emphasized. And St. Paul appears almost as a new founder of Christianity. It is certain that in St. Paul, the centrality of the Kingdom of God, determinant for the proclamation of Jesus, is transformed in the centrality of Christology, whose determinant point is the Paschal mystery. And from the Paschal mystery, come the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, as a permanent presence of this mystery, from which the Body of Christ grows, and the Church is built.

But I would say, without entering here into details, that precisely in the new centrality of Christology and the Paschal mystery, the Kingdom of God is fulfilled, the authentic proclamation of Jesus is made concrete, present, operative. We have seen in the preceding catechesis that precisely this Pauline novelty is the deepest fidelity to the proclamation of Jesus. In the progress of exegesis, above all in the last 200 years, the convergences between Catholic and Protestant exegesis also grow, thus bringing about a notable consensus precisely in the point that was at the origin of the greatest historical dissent. Therefore a great hope for the cause of ecumenism, so central for the Second Vatican Council.

Briefly, I would like at the end to still point out the various religious movements, arising in the modern age in the heart of the Catholic Church, that refer back to St. Paul. That's what came about in the 16th century with the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, called the Barnabites; in the 19th century with the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle, better known as the Paulist Fathers; and in the 20th century with the multifaceted Pauline Family, founded by Blessed James Alberione; to not speak of the secular institute of the Company of St Paul.

Substantially, there remains luminous before us the figure of an extremely fruitful and deep apostle and Christian thinker, from whose closeness, every one of us can benefit. In one of his panegyrics, St. John Chrysostom made an original comparison between Paul and Noah, expressing it like this: Paul "did not place together the shafts to build an ark, instead, in place of uniting tablets of wood, he composed letters, and thus dug out of the waters not two or three or five members of his own family, but the entire inhabited world that was about to perish" (Paneg. 1,5).

Precisely still and always the Apostle Paul can do this. To tend toward him, as much to his apostolic example as to his doctrine, would be therefore a stimulus, if not a guarantee, to consolidate the Christian identity of each one of us and for the renewal of the whole Church.

[During his greetings, the Holy Father added:]

The situation in Sri Lanka continues to cause worry.

News of a worsening of the conflict and the growing number of innocent victims moves me to offer a pressing appeal to the combatants to respect humanitarian law and people's freedom of movement."

May they do everything possible to guarantee assistance for the wounded and security for civilians, and permit their urgent food and medical needs to be satisfied."

May Our Lady of Madhu, so venerated by Catholics and also by members of other religions, hasten the day of peace and reconciliation in that dear country.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[To the English-speakers, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Concluding our catechesis on Saint Paul today, we look briefly at the end of his earthly life and his ongoing legacy. Though there is no account of Paul’s death in the New Testament, a strong tradition holds that he was martyred in Rome during the reign of Nero and buried along the Via Ostiense on the site of the present Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. Saint Clement of Rome, in a first-century letter to the Corinthians, extols Paul’s patience in suffering as a model for all Christians to imitate. Paul himself alluded to his agony in sacrificial terms when he wrote: "for I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Tim 4:6). Paul’s writings have inspired countless commentaries through the centuries. New studies continue to shed light on his character, the churches he founded and the Gospel he preached. Paul was a generous apostle and an original thinker,but not the "new founder" of Christianity, as some have claimed. By listening to his teaching, may we be strengthened in our commitment to Christ, so as to take part joyfully in the Church’s mission of evangelization!

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s audience. I particularly welcome students from the Bossey Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies in Geneva, as well as pilgrims from Hong Kong and the United States of America. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Vatican Clarification on Lefebvrites, Holocaust
"The Holy Father Asks Accompaniment in Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a note issued today by the Vatican Secretariat of State regarding last month's lifting of the excommunication of four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X.

* * *

In the wake of the reactions elicited by the recent decree from the Congregation for Bishops, with which the excommunication of four prelates of the Fraternity of St. Pius X were lifted, and in relation to negationist or reductionist declarations on the Shoah from Bishop Williamson of that same fraternity, it is considered opportune to clarify certain aspects of the issue.

1. Remission of the excommunication.

As has already been published previously, the decree of the Congregation for Bishops, dated Jan. 21, 2009, was an act by which the Holy Father graciously took in the reiterated petitions from the superior-general of the Fraternity of St. Pius X.

His Holiness wished to remove an impediment that adversely affected the opening of a door to dialogue. Now he expects that the same willingness be expressed by the four bishops, in total adhesion to the doctrine and discipline of the Church.

The most grave penalty of excommunication latae sententiae, which these bishops incurred June 30, 1988, afterward declared formally on July 1 of the same year, was a consequence of their illegitimate ordination by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

The lifting of the excommunication has freed the four bishops from a most grave canonical penalty, but it has not changed in any way the juridical situation of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, which for the moment does not enjoy any canonical recognition in the Catholic Church. Neither do the four bishops, though liberated from the excommunication, have a canonical function in the Church and they do not licitly exercise a ministry in it.

2. Tradition, doctrine and the Second Vatican Council.

For a future recognition of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, the full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition.

As has already been affirmed in the decree of Jan. 21, 2009, the Holy See will not cease, in the ways in which it judges opportune, to go deeper with the interested parties in the questions that remain open, in such a way that a full and satisfactory solution to the problems that have given rise to this painful fracture can be reached.

3. Declaration on the Shoah.

The viewpoints of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself noted last Jan. 28, when, referring to that savage genocide, he reaffirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide should induce "humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart," adding that the Shoah remains "for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all."

Bishop Williamson, to be admitted to episcopal functions in the Church, must also distance himself in an absolutely unmistakable and public way from his position on the Shoah, which was unknown to the Holy Father in the moment of the lifting of the excommunication.

The Holy Father asks accompaniment in prayer from all the faithful, that the Lord may enlighten the path of the Church. May there be an increase in the determination of the pastors and all the faithful in support of the delicate and heavy mission of the Successor of the Apostle Peter as "guardian of the unity" of the Church.

From the Vatican, February 4, 2009


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Pope's Address to Envoy From Hungary
The Family: "Heart of Every Culture and Nation"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience Signor János Balassa, the new ambassador from Hungary 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 Republic of Hungary to the Holy See. I thank you for your kind words and for the greetings you bring from President László Sólyom. Please convey to him my respectful good wishes and the assurance of my prayers for all the people of your nation.

The Holy See’s reestablishment of full diplomatic relations with the countries of the former Eastern bloc, after the momentous events of 1989, opened up new horizons of hope for the future. In the twenty years that have passed since, Hungary has made great progress in establishing the structures of a free and democratic society, able and willing to play its part in an increasingly globalized world community. As you have observed, the forces that govern economic and political affairs in the modern world need to be properly directed – they need, in other words to be built upon an ethical foundation, giving priority always to the dignity and the rights of the human person and the common good of humanity. In view of its strong Christian heritage, stretching back over a thousand years, Hungary is well placed to assist in the promotion of these humane ideals within the European community and the wider world community, and it is my hope that our diplomatic relations will serve to support this vital dimension of your country’s contribution to international affairs.

The experience of newly gained freedom has, at times, brought with it the risk that those same Christian and human values, so deeply rooted in the history and culture of individual peoples, and indeed of the whole continent of Europe, can be supplanted by others, based on unsound visions of man and his dignity and harmful to the development of a truly flourishing society. In my 2008 World Day of Peace Message, I stressed the primordial importance of the family for building peaceful community relations at every level. In much of modern Europe the vital cohesive role that the family has to play in human affairs is being called into question and even endangered as a result of misguided ways of thinking that at times find expression in aggressive social and political policies. It is my earnest hope that ways will be found of safeguarding this essential element of our society, which is the heart of every culture and nation. One of the specific ways government can support the family is by assuring that parents are allowed to exercise their fundamental right as the primary educators of their children, which would include the option to send their children to religious schools when they so desire.

The Catholic Church in Hungary has lived with particular intensity the transition between the period of totalitarian government and the freedom that your country now enjoys. After decades of oppression, sustained by the heroic witness of so many Christians, she has emerged to take her place in a transformed society, able once more to proclaim the Gospel freely. She seeks no privileges for herself, but is eager to play her part in the life of the nation, true to her nature and mission. As the process continues of implementing the agreements between Hungary and the Holy See -- I think of the recently signed memorandum on religious assistance for the armed forces and border police -- I am confident that any outstanding questions affecting the life of the Church in your country will be resolved in the spirit of good will and fruitful dialogue which has characterized our diplomatic relations ever since they were so happily restored.

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 the Republic of Hungary. 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 your fellow citizens abundant blessings of peace and prosperity. May God bless Hungary!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Message on Patriarch Kirill's Enthronement
"It Is My Earnest Hope That We Will Continue to Cooperate"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the letter Benedict XVI wrote Patriarch Kirill, elected last Tuesday, on the occasion of Sunday's enthroning ceremony. The message was made public today.

* * *

To His Holiness Kirill
Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia

I greet Your Holiness with joy as you undertake the great responsibility of shepherding the venerable Russian Orthodox Church. I readily recall the good will which characterized our meetings at the time of your service as President of the Department of External Church Relations. On the occasion of your enthronement I wish, therefore, to reaffirm my esteem and my spiritual closeness. I pray that our heavenly Father will grant you the abundant gifts of the Holy Spirit in your ministry and enable you to guide the Church in the love and peace of Christ.

You are now the successor of our beloved brother of revered memory, His Holiness Alexy II, who left his people a deep and abiding inheritance of ecclesial renewal and development, as he led the Russian Orthodox Church out of the long and difficult period of suffering under the totalitarian and atheistic system to a new, active presence and service in today’s society. Patriarch Alexis II worked assiduously for the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church and for communion with the other Orthodox Churches. He likewise maintained a spirit of openness and cooperation with other Christians, and with the Catholic Church in particular, for the defence of Christian values in Europe and in the world. I am certain that Your Holiness will continue to build on this solid foundation, for the good of your people and for the benefit of Christians everywhere.

As President of the Department of External Church Relations, you yourself played an outstanding role in forging a new relationship between our Churches, a relationship based on friendship, mutual acceptance and sincere dialogue in facing the difficulties of our common journey. It is my earnest hope that we will continue to cooperate in finding ways to foster and strengthen communion in the Body of Christ, in fidelity to our Saviour’s prayer that all may be one, so that the world may believe (cf. Jn 17:21).

Conscious of the enormous responsibilities which accompany the spiritual and pastoral ministry to which the Holy Spirit has called you, I renew to Your Holiness the assurance of my prayers and fraternal good will. I ask Almighty God to bless you with his love, to watch over the beloved Russian Church, and to sustain the Bishops, priests and all the faithful in the unfailing hope which is ours in Christ Jesus.

From the Vatican, 28 January 2009

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI


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On the Messiah

"Suffering Is an Integral Part of His Mission"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This year, at Sunday Mass, the liturgy proposes the Gospel of St. Mark for our meditation. A special characteristic of this Gospel is the so-called "messianic secret," the fact that, for the moment, Jesus does not want anyone outside the restricted group of his disciples to know that he is the Christ, the Son of God. This is why he often admonishes the apostles and the sick people whom he heals to not reveal his identity to anyone.

For example, the Gospel passage this Sunday (Mark 1:21-28) tells of a man possessed by a demon, who suddenly cries out: "What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the holy one of God!" Jesus answers him: "Be quiet! Come out of him!" And immediately, the evangelist notes, the evil spirit came out of the man with a loud cry. Not only does Jesus chase demons out of people, freeing them from the worst slavery, but he prohibits the demons themselves from revealing his identity. And he insists on this "secret" because the fulfillment of his mission is at stake, on which our salvation depends.

He knows in fact that to liberate humanity from the dominion of sin he must be sacrificed on the cross as the true paschal lamb. The devil, for his part, tries to divert his attention and direct it instead toward a human logic of a powerful and successful messiah. The cross of Christ will be the demon’s ruin, and this is why Jesus does not cease to teach his disciples that in order to enter into his glory he must suffer much, be rejected, condemned and crucified (cf. Luke 24:26). Suffering is an integral part of his mission.

Jesus suffers and dies on the cross for love. When we consider this, we see that it is in this way that he gave meaning to our suffering, a meaning that many men and women of every age understood and made their own, experiencing profound serenity even in the bitterness of difficult physical and moral trials.

Indeed, "the strength of life in suffering" is the theme that the Italian bishops have chosen for their customary message for today’s Day for Life. I wholeheartedly join in their message in which we see the love of pastors for their people, and the courage to proclaim the truth, the courage to state with clarity, for example, that euthanasia is a false solution to the drama of suffering, a solution unworthy of man. The true answer cannot be putting someone to death, however "kindly," but to bear witness to the love that helps us to face pain and agony in a human way. We are certain: No tear, whether it be of those who suffer or those who stand by them, goes unnoticed before God.

The Virgin Mary carried in her mother’s heart the Son’s secret, she shared in the painful moments of the passion and crucifixion, sustained by the hope of the resurrection. To her we entrust those who suffer and those who dedicate themselves to supporting them each day, serving life in all its phases: parents, health care workers, priests, religious, researchers, volunteers, and many others. We pray for all of them.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Tomorrow we celebrate the liturgical feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Forty days after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph brought him to Jerusalem, following the prescriptions of the Law of Moses. Every first born, in fact, according to the Scriptures, belonged to the Lord, and so had to be ransomed by a sacrifice. In this event Jesus’ consecration to God the Father is manifested and, linked to it, that of the Virgin Mary. For this reason my beloved predecessor, John Paul II, desired that this feast, in which many consecrated persons take or renew their vows, be the Day of Consecrated Life. So, tomorrow afternoon, at the end of Holy Mass, at which the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life will preside, I will meet with the consecrated men and women who are present in Rome in St. Peter’s Basilica. I invite everyone to thank the Lord for the precious gift of these brothers and sisters, and to ask him, through the intercession of the Madonna, for many new vocations, in the variety of charisms with which the Church is rich.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In today's Gospel, Jesus reveals his divine authority in his teaching and his work of healing. Let us ask the Lord to open our minds ever more fully to his saving truth, and our hearts to his merciful and gracious love. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

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Papal Address to Catholic-Orthodox Commission
"The World Needs a Visible Sign of the Mystery of Unity"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

* * *

Dear brothers in Christ,

I extend a warm welcome to you, the members of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. At the end of this week of dedicated work we can give thanks together to the Lord for your steadfast commitment to the search for reconciliation and communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church.

Indeed, each of you brings to this task not only the richness of your own tradition, but also the commitment of the Churches involved in this dialogue to overcome the divisions of the past and to strengthen the united witness of Christians in the face of the enormous challenges facing believers today.

The world needs a visible sign of the mystery of unity that binds the three divine Persons and, that two thousand years ago, with the Incarnation of the Son of God, was revealed to us. The tangibility of the Gospel message is conveyed perfectly by John, when he declares his intention to express what he has heard and his eyes have seen and his hands have touched, so that all may have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4). Our communion through the grace of the Holy Spirit in the life that unites the Father and the Son has a perceptible dimension within the Church, the Body of Christ, "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:23), and we all have a duty to work for the manifestation of that essential dimension of the Church to the world.

Your sixth meeting has taken important steps precisely in the study of the Church as communion. The very fact that the dialogue has continued over time and is hosted each year by one of the several Churches you represent is itself a sign of hope and encouragement. We need only cast our minds to the Middle East -- from where many of you come -- to see that true seeds of hope are urgently needed in a world wounded by the tragedy of division, conflict and immense human suffering.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has just concluded with the ceremony in the Basilica dedicated to the great apostle Paul, at which many of you were present. Paul was the first great champion and theologian of the Church's unity. His efforts and struggles were inspired by the enduring aspiration to maintain a visible, not merely external, but real and full communion among the Lord's disciples. Therefore, through Paul's intercession, I ask for God's blessings on you all, and on the Churches and the peoples you represent.

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On Paul's Letters to Early Bishops
"Scripture Is Read Correctly by Putting Oneself in Dialogue"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Paul VI Hall at the general audience.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

The final letters of the Pauline collection, about which I would like to speak today, are called the pastoral letters, because they were sent to unique figures among the pastors of the Church: two to Timothy and one to Titus, close collaborators with St. Paul.

In Timothy, the Apostle saw almost an alter ego; in fact he entrusted him with important missions (in Macedonia: cf. Acts 19:22; in Thessalonica: cf. 1 Timothy 3:6-7; in Corinth: cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10-11) and afterward he wrote flattering praise of him: "For I have no one comparable to him for genuine interest in whatever concerns you" (Philippians 2:20).

According to the 4th-century Church History of Eusebius of Caesarea, Timothy was later the first bishop of Ephesus (cf. 3,4).

Regarding Titus, he must have also been very beloved by the Apostle, who defined him explicitly as "full of zeal … my companion and collaborator" (2 Corinthians 8:17,23), and even more "my true son in the common faith" (Titus 1:4). He had been entrusted with a couple very delicate missions in the Church of Corinth, the results of which comforted Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:6-7,13; 8:6). Straight away, from what we know, Titus caught up to Paul in Nicopolis of Epirus, in Greece (cf. Titus 3:12) and was later sent by him to Dalmatia (cf. 2 Timothy 4:10). According to the letter directed to him, he ended up being the bishop of Crete (cf. Titus 1:5).

The letters directed to these two pastors occupy an entirely unique spot in the New Testament. It seems to the majority of exegetes today that these letters wouldn't have been written by Paul himself, and that their origin would be in the "Pauline school" and reflected his inheritance to a new generation, perhaps integrating some brief writing or word from the Apostle himself. For example, some words from the Second Letter to Timothy seem so authentic that they could only have come from the heart and lips of the Apostle.

Undoubtedly the ecclesial situation that emerges in these letters is distinct from that of the central years of Paul's life. He now, retrospectively, defines himself as "herald, apostle and teacher" of the pagans in the faith and in the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11); he presents himself as one who has obtained mercy because Jesus Christ -- he writes thus -- "might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life" (1 Timothy 1:16).

Therefore the essence is that truly in Paul, persecutor converted by the presence of the Risen One, appears the magnanimity of the Lord for our encouragement, to motivate us to hope and have trust in the mercy of the Lord who, despite our littleness, can do great things. Besides the central years of Paul's life, the [letters] imply as well new cultural contexts. In fact, there is allusion to the appearance of teachings considered totally erroneous or false (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5), such as those who professed that matrimony was not good (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3a).

We see how modern this concern is, because today as well Scripture is sometimes read as an object of historical curiosity and not as the Word of the Holy Spirit, in which we can hear the very voice of the Lord and recognize his presence in history. We could say that, with this brief list of errors in the Letters, an outline is appearing from beforehand of that successive erroneous orientation we know by the name of Gnosticism (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 2 Timothy 3:6-8).

The author confronts these doctrines with two underlying calls. One consists in a return to a spiritual reading of sacred Scripture (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14-17), that is, a reading that considers it truly as "inspired" and coming from the Holy Spirit, such that with it one can be "instructed for salvation." Scripture is read correctly by putting oneself in dialogue with the Holy Spirit, to take from it light "for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). In this sense, the letter adds: "so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17).

The other call consists in the reference to the good "deposit" (parathéke): It is a special word from the pastoral letters with which is indicated the tradition of the apostolic faith that must be protected with the help of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. This so-called deposit should be considered as the sum of apostolic Tradition and as the standard for fidelity to the proclamation of the Gospel. And here we should keep in mind that in the pastoral letters, as in all of the New Testament, the term "Scriptures" explicitly means the Old Testament, because the writings of the New Testament either didn't exist yet or still did not form part of a canon of Scriptures.

Therefore the Tradition of the apostolic proclamation, this "deposit," is the reading key to understand Scripture, the New Testament. In this sense, Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and the apostolic proclamation as key for reading, approach and almost merge to form together "God's solid foundation" (2 Timothy 2:19). The apostolic proclamation, that is, Tradition, is necessary to introduce oneself in the understanding of Scripture and capture in it the voice of Christ. It is necessary in fact to be "holding fast to the true message as taught" (Titus 1:9). At the base of everything is precisely faith in the historical revelation of the goodness of God, who in Jesus Christ has concretely manifested his "love for man," a love that in the original Greek text is meaningfully designated as filanthropía (cf. Titus 3:4; 2 Timothy 1:9-10); God loves humanity.

Taken together, it is clearly seen that the Christian community goes configuring itself in very clear terms, according to an identity that not only stays distant from incongruent interpretations, but above all affirms its own anchor in the essential points of the faith, that here is synonymous with "truth" (1 Timothy 2:4,7; 4:3; 6:5; 2 Timothy 2:15,18,25; 3:7,8; 4:4; Titus 1:1,14).

In the faith, the essential truth of who we are appears, of who is God, and how we should live. And from this truth (the truth of the faith) the Church is defined as "pillar and foundation" (1 Timothy 3:15). In any case, it remains as an open community, of universal reach, that prays for all men of every class and condition so they come to know the truth. "God wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth" because "Jesus has given himself as ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:4-5).

Thus the sense of universality, though the communities are still small, is strong and determinant for these letters. Moreover this Christian community "slanders no one" and "exercises all graciousness toward everyone" (Titus 3:2). This is a first important component of these letters: the universality of the faith as truth, as the reading key to sacred Scripture, to the Old Testament, and thus it delineates a unity in the proclamation of Scripture and a living faith open to all and witness of the love of God for all.

Another typical component of these letters is a reflection on the ministerial structure of the Church. It is these [letters] that present for the first time the triple subdivision of bishops, presbyters and deacons (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 4:13; 2 Timothy 1:6; Titus 1:5-9). We can observe in the pastoral letters the joining of two distinct ministerial structures and thus the make-up of the definitive form of ministry in the Church. In the Pauline letters of the central years of his life, Paul speaks of "episcopi" (Philippians 1:1) and of "diaconi": This is the typical structure of the Church that formed in the epoch of the pagan world. The figure of the apostle himself remains, therefore, dominant, and because of this only little by little are the rest of the ministries developed.

If, as I have said, in the Churches formed in the pagan world we have bishops and deacons, and not presbyters, in the Churches formed in the Judeo-Christian world, the presbyters are the dominant structure. At the end in the pastoral letters, the two structures unite: Now appears the "episcopo" (the bishop) (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7), always in singular, accompanied by the determinant article "the." And together with the "episcopo" we find the presbyters and deacons. Still now the figure of the apostle is determinant, but the three letters, as I have said, are directed not now to communities, but to people: Timothy and Titus, who on one hand appear as bishops, and on the other, begin to be in the place of the Apostle.

Thus is noted initially the reality that will later be called "apostolic succession." Paul says with a tone of great solemnity to Timothy: "Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate" (1 Timothy 4:14). We can say that in these words appears initially also the sacramental character of the ministry. And thus we have the essential of the catholic structure: Scripture and Tradition, Scripture and proclamation, forming a whole; but to this structure that we could call doctrinal, should be added the personal structure, the successors of the apostles, as witnesses of the apostolic proclamation.

It is important finally to indicate that in these letters the Church understands herself in very human terms, in analogies with the house and the family. Particularly in 1 Timothy 3:2-7, very detailed instructions for the episcopo are given, such as: "Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once, temperate, self-controlled, decent, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle, not contentious, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God? … He must also have a good reputation among outsiders."

One should note here above all the important aptitude for teaching (also cf. 1 Timothy 5:17), of which we find echoes as well in other passages (cf. 1 Timothy 6:2c; 2 Timothy 3:10; Titus 2:1) and then a special personal characteristic, that of "paternity." The episcopo in fact is considered as father of the Christian community (cf. also 1 Timothy 3:15). Futhermore the idea of the Church as "house of God" sinks its roots in the Old Testament (cf. Numbers 12:7) and is found reformulated in Hebrews 3:2,6, meanwhile in another place it is read that all Christians are no longer foreigners nor guests, but fellow citizens of the saints and family members in the house of God (cf. Ephesians 2:19).

Let us pray to the Lord and to St. Paul so that also today, as Christians, we can be ever more characterized, in relation with the society in which we live, as members of the "family of God." And let us pray also that the pastors of the Church have more and more paternal sentiments, simultaneously gentle and strong, in the formation of the house of God, of the community, of the Church.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the writings of Saint Paul, we come now to the Pastoral Epistles, the two Letters addressed to Timothy and the one to Titus. Although their authorship remains debated, these three Letters, while subsequent to the central years of Paul’s life and activity, clearly appeal to his authority and draw from his teaching. Against threats to the purity of the apostolic tradition, they insist on a discerning understanding of the Scriptures and fidelity to the deposit of faith. Scripture and Tradition are seen as the "firm foundation laid by God" for the life of the Church (cf. 2 Tim 2:19), and the basis of her mission of leading all people to the knowledge of God’s saving truth (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-4). The Pastoral Epistles also reflect the development of the Church’s ministerial structures, and in particular the emergence of the figure of the Bishop within the group of presbyters. They present the Church in very human terms as God’s household, a family in which the Bishop acts with the authority of a father. Inspired by this vision, let us ask Saint Paul to help all Christians to live as members of God’s family, and their Pastors to be strong and loving fathers, committed to building up their flocks in faith and unity.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including the groups from England and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I willingly invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[After his greetings in various languages, the Pope added in Italian:]

Before greeting the Italian pilgrims, I have three more announcements to make.

First:

I have received with joy the news of the election of Metropolitan Kirill as the new Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. I invoke upon him the light of the Holy Spirit for a generous service to the Russian Orthodox Church, entrusting him to the special protection of the Mother of God.

Second:

In the homily delivered on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of my pontificate, I said that the "call to unity" is an "explicit" duty of the pastor and I commented on the Gospel passages about the miraculous catch of fish, saying: "Though there were so many fish, the net did not break." I continued after these Gospel words: "Alas, beloved Lord, with sorrow we must now acknowledge that it has been torn!" And I continued, "But no -- we must not be sad! Let us rejoice because of your promise, which does not disappoint, and let us do all we can to pursue the path towards the unity you have promised. … Do not allow your net to be torn, help us to be servants of unity!"

Precisely in fulfilling this service to unity, which determines in a specific way my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I decided some days ago to concede the remission of the excommunication incurred by four bishops ordained without pontifical mandate in 1988 by Archbishop Lefebvre. I have carried out this act of paternal mercy because repeatedly these prelates have manifested their sharp suffering in the situation in which they found themselves. I trust that following from this gesture of mine will be the prompt effort on their part to complete final necessary steps to arrive to full communion with the Church, thus giving testimony of true fidelity and true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope and the Second Vatican Council.

Third:

In these days in which we remember the Shoah, my memory turns to the images taken in during my repeated visits to Auschwitz, one of the concentration camps in which was carried out the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, innocent victims of a blind racial and religious hate. As I renew with affection the expression of my total and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, I hope that the memory of the Shoah moves humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart.

May the Shoah be for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all. No man is an island, a well-known poet has written. May the Shoah teach especially, as much the old generations as the new ones, that only the tiring path of listening and dialogue, of love and pardon, leads peoples, cultures and religions of the world to the desired encounter of fraternity and peace in the world. May violence never again humiliate the dignity of man!

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Pope's Telegram to New Russian Patriarch Kirill
"May the Almighty Bless Your Efforts to Maintain Communion"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the telegram that Benedict XVI sent today to Metropolitan Kirill, the newly elected patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia.

* * *
To His Holiness Kirill

Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia

I have received with gladness the news of your election as patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. I warmly congratulate you and wish you every strength and joy in the fulfillment of the great task which lies before you as you guide the Church over which you now preside along the path of spiritual growth and unity.

In prayer, I ask the Lord to grant you an abundance of wisdom to discern his will, to persevere in loving service of the people entrusted to your patriarchal ministry, and to sustain them in fidelity to the Gospel and the great traditions of Russian Orthodoxy. May the Almighty also bless your efforts to maintain communion among the Orthodox Churches and to seek that fullness of communion which is the goal of Catholic-Orthodox collaboration and dialogue.

I assure Your Holiness of my spiritual closeness and of the Catholic Church's commitment to cooperate with the Russian Orthodox Church for an ever clearer witness to the truth of the Christian message and to the values which alone can sustain today's world along the way of peace, justice and loving care of the marginalized. With brotherly affection in the Lord Jesus Christ, I invoke upon you the Holy Spirit's gifts of wisdom, strength and peace.

From the Vatican, 28 January 2009

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI


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On Conversion
"I Can Get Out of the Quicksand of Pride and Sin"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this Sunday's Gospel resound the words of Jesus' first preaching in Galilee: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).

Precisely today, Jan. 25, we remember the conversion of St. Paul. It is a happy coincidence -- especially in this Pauline year -- which allows us, as we contemplate the experience of the Apostle, to understand the true meaning of evangelical conversion -- "metanoia." In Paul's case some prefer not to use the term "conversion" because, they say, he was already a believer, indeed he was a fervent Jew, and so he did not go from non-belief to belief, from idols to God, nor did he have to abandon the Jewish faith to adhere to Christ. In reality, the Apostle's experience can be a model of every authentic Christian conversion.

Paul's conversion matured in the encounter with the Risen Christ; it was this encounter that radically changed his existence. That which Jesus asks in the Gospel today happened to him on the road to Damascus: Saul converted because, thanks to the divine light, "he believed in the Gospel." His conversion and ours consists in this: in believing in Jesus dead and risen and in opening up to the illumination of his divine grace. In that moment Saul understood that his salvation did not depend on good works done according to the law, but on the fact that Jesus died even for him -- the persecutor - and he was, and is, risen. This truth, which through baptism illuminates the existence of every Christian, turns our way of life completely upside down.

Converting means, for each one of us also, believing that Jesus "gave himself up for me," dying on the cross (cf. Galatians 2:20) and, risen, lives with me and in me. Entrusting myself to the power of his forgiveness, letting myself be led by the hand by him, I can get out of the quicksand of pride and sin, of lies and sadness, of selfishness and every false certainty, to know and live the richness of his love.

Dear friends, the invitation to conversion, confirmed by the witness of St. Paul, is particularly urgent today, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, even at the ecumenical level. The Apostle shows us the right spiritual attitude for progress toward communion. "It is not that I have already taken hold of it," he writes to the Philippians, "or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been conquered by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).

Of course we Christians have not yet achieved the goal of full unity, but if we let ourselves be continually converted by the Lord Jesus, we will certainly arrive there. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the one, holy Church, obtain for us the gift of a true conversion, so that the desire of Christ, "ut unum sint," be realized. To her we entrust the prayer meeting at which I will preside this afternoon in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, in which, as every year, the representatives of the Churches and ecclesial Communities present in Rome will participate.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Today is World Leprosy Day, which was started 55 years ago by Raoul Follereau. The Church, following Jesus, has always had special concern for those persons stricken with this disease, as the message circulated by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry also testifies. I am happy that the United Nations, with a recent declaration of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has asked countries to protect those suffering from leprosy and their families. For my part, I assure them of my prayers and I renew my encouragement of those who struggle with them for complete healing and good social integration.

The peoples of various East Asian countries are preparing to celebrate the lunar new year. I wish them joy in their celebrations. Joy is an expression of being in harmony with oneself: and that can only come from being in harmony with God and with his creation. May joy always live in the hearts of the citizens of those nations, which are so dear to me, and spread throughout the world!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Papal Homily at Conclusion of Unity Week
"Why Have You Wounded the Unity of My Body?"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at the celebration of vespers for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. With this ceremony, held at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concluded.

Representatives of Churches and ecclesial communities of Rome were present at the event.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a great joy every time we find ourselves gathered at the tomb of the Apostle Paul on the liturgical feast of his conversion to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet all of you with affection. I greet in a special way Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, the abbot and the community of monks who are hosting us. I also greet Cardinal Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. I greet along with him the lord cardinals who are present, the bishops and the pastors of the various Churches and ecclesial communities gathered here this evening.

A special word of recognition goes to those who worked together in preparing the prayer guides, experiencing firsthand the exercise of reflecting and meeting in listening to each other and, all together, to the Word of God.

St. Paul's conversion offers us a model that shows us the way to full unity. Unity in fact requires a conversion: from division to communion, from broken unity to healed and full unity. This conversion is the gift of the Risen Christ, as it was for St. Paul. We heard this from the Apostle himself in the reading proclaimed just a moment ago: "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

The same Lord, who called Saul on the road to Damascus, addresses himself to the members of the Church -- which is one and holy -- and calling each by name asks: Why have you divided me? Why have you wounded the unity of my body?

Conversion implies two dimensions. In the first step we recognize our faults in the light of Christ, and this recognition becomes sorrow and repentance, desire for a new beginning. In the second step we recognize that this new road cannot come from us. It consists in letting ourselves be conquered by Christ. As St. Paul says: "I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been conquered by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).

Conversion demands our yes, my "pursuit"; it is not ultimately my activity, but a gift, a letting ourselves be formed by Christ; it is death and resurrection. This is why St. Paul does not say: "I converted" but rather "I died" (Galatians 2:19), I am a new creature. In reality, St. Paul's conversion was not a passage from immorality to morality, from a mistaken faith to a right faith, but it was a being conquered by Christ: the renunciation of his own perfection; it was the humility of one who puts himself without reserve in the service of Christ for the brethren. And only in this renunciation of ourselves, in this conforming to Christ are we also united among ourselves; we become "one" in Christ. It is communion with the risen Christ that gives us unity.

We can observe an interesting analogy with the dynamic of St. Paul's conversion also in meditating on the biblical text of the prophet Ezekiel (37:15-28), which was chosen as a basis for our prayer this year. In it, in fact, the symbolic gesture is presented of two sticks being joined into one in the prophet's hand, who represents God's future action with this gesture. It is the second part of Chapter 37, which in the first part contains the celebrated vision of the dry bones and the resurrection of Israel, worked by the Spirit of God.

How can we not see that the prophetic sign of the reunification of the people of Israel is placed after the great symbol of the dry bones brought to life by the Spirit? There follows from this a theological pattern analogous to that of St. Paul's conversion: God's power is first and he works the resurrection as a new creation by his Spirit. This God, who is the Creator and is able to resurrect the dead, is also able to bring a people divided in two back to unity.

Paul -- like Ezekiel but more than Ezekiel -- becomes the chosen instrument of the preaching of the unity won by Christ through his cross and resurrection: the unity between the Jews and the pagans, to form one new people. Christ's resurrection extends the boundary of unity: not only the unity of the tribes of Israel, but the unity of the Jews and the pagans (cf. Ephesians 2; John 10:16); the unification of humanity dispersed by sin and still more the unity of all who believe in Christ.

We owe this choice of the passage from the prophet Ezekiel to our Korean brothers, who felt the call of this biblical passage strongly, both as Koreans and Christians. In the division of the Jewish people into two kingdoms they saw themselves reflected, the children of one land who, on account of political events, have been divided, north from south. Their human experience helped them to better understand the drama of the division among Christians.

Now, from this Word of God, chosen by our Korean brothers and proposed to all, a truth full of hope emerges: God allows his people a new unity, which must be a sign and an instrument of reconciliation and peace, even at the historical level, for all nations. The unity that God gives his Church, and for which we pray, is naturally communion in the spiritual sense, in faith and in charity; but we know that this unity in Christ is also the ferment of fraternity in the social sphere, in relations between nations and for the whole human family. It is the leaven of the Kingdom of God that makes all the dough rise (cf. Matthew 13:33).

In this sense, the prayer that we offer up in these days, taking our cue from the prophecy of Ezekiel, has also become intercession for the different situations of conflict that afflict humanity at present. There where human words become powerless, because the tragic noise of violence and arms prevails, the prophetic power of the Word of God does not weaken and it repeats to us that peace is possible, and that we must be instruments of reconciliation and peace. For this reason our prayer for unity and peace always requires confirmation by courageous gestures of reconciliation among us Christians.

Once again I think of the Holy Land: how important it is that the faithful who live there, and the pilgrims who travel there, offer a witness to everyone that diversity of rites and traditions need not be an obstacle to mutual respect and to fraternal charity. In the legitimate diversity of different positions we must seek unity in faith, in our fundamental "yes" to Christ and to his one Church. And thus the differences will no longer be an obstacle that separates but richness in the multiplicity of the expressions of a common faith.

I would like to conclude this reflection of mine with a reference to an event that we older people here have certainly not forgotten. In this place on Jan. 25, 1959, exactly 50 years ago, Blessed Pope John XXIII announced for this first time his desire to convoke "an ecumenical Council for the universal Church" (AAS LI [1959], p. 68). He made this announcement to the cardinals in the chapter room of the Monastery of St. Paul, after having celebrated solemn Mass in the Basilica.

From the providential decision, suggested to my venerable predecessor, according to his firm conviction, by the Holy Spirit, there also derived a fundamental contribution to ecumenism, condensed in the decree "Unitatis Redintegratio." In that document we read: "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart. For it is from renewal of the inner life of our minds, from self-denial and an unstinted love that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way" (7).

The attitude of interior conversion in Christ, of spiritual renewal, of increased charity toward other Christians, created a new situation in ecumenical relations. The fruits of theological dialogues, with their convergences and with the more precise identification of the differences that still remain, led to a courageous pursuit in two directions: in the reception of what was positively achieved and a renewed dedication to the future.

Opportunely, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which I thank for the service it renders to all the disciples of the Lord, has recently reflected on the reception and future of ecumenical dialogue. Such a reflection, if on one hand rightly desires to emphasize what has already been achieved, on the other hand intends to find new ways to continue the relations between the Churches and the ecclesial Communities in the present context.

The horizon of full unity remains open before us. It is an arduous task, but it is exciting for those Christians who want to live in harmony with the prayer of the Lord: "that all be one so that the world believes" (John 17:21). The Second Vatican Council explained to us "that human powers and capacities cannot achieve this holy objective -- the reconciling of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ" ("Unitatis redintegratio," 24).

Trusting in the prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ, and encouraged by the significant steps made by the ecumenical movement, with faith we invoke the Holy Spirit that he continue to illumine our path. May the Apostle Paul, who worked so hard and suffered for the unity of the mystical body of Christ, spur us on from heaven; and may the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the unity of the Church, accompany and sustain us.

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Decree Lifting Traditionalist Bishops' Excommunication
"A Sign for the Promotion of Unity in Charity"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the decree released Saturday by the Congregation for Bishops, advising of the lifting of excommunication of the four bishops ordained without papal permission by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

* * *

With a letter of Dec. 15, 2008, sent to His Eminence Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Monsignor Bernard Fellay, in his name and in that of the other bishops consecrated June 30, 1988, again requested the lifting of the excommunication latae sententiae formally declared by decree of the prefect of this Congregation for Bishops on July 1, 1988.

In the mentioned letter, Monsignor Fellay affirms, among other things:

"We are always fervently determined in the will to be and to remain Catholics and to place all of our strength at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept all of her teachings with a filial spirit. We firmly believe in the primacy of Peter and in his prerogatives and because of this, the present situation makes us suffer so much."

His Holiness Benedict XVI, paternally sensitive to the spiritual unrest manifested by the interested parties because of the sanction of excommunication, and trusting in the commitment expressed by them in the cited letter to spare no effort in going deeper in the necessary conversations with the authorities of the Holy See in matters still unresolved, and to be able to thus arrive quickly to a full and satisfactory solution of the problem existing from the beginning, has decided to reconsider the canonical situation of the bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta, which arose with their episcopal consecration.

With this act it is desired to consolidate the mutual relations of trust, [and] to intensify and make more stable the relationship of the Fraternity of St. Pius X with the Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the celebrations of Christmas, also aims to be a sign for the promotion of unity in charity of the universal Church, and with this means, come to remove the scandal of division.

It is desired that this step be followed by the solicitous fulfillment of full communion with the Church of the Society of St. Pius X, thereby witnessing to authentic fidelity and a true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the Pope, with the proof of visible unity.

In virtue of the faculties that have been expressly conceded to me by the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present decree, I lift from Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of excommunication latae sententiae declared by this congregation on July 1, 1988, and declare void of juridical effects beginning today the decree published then.

Rome, Congregation for the Bishops,

Jan. 21, 2009

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops


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Bishop's Response to Lifting of His Excommunication
"We Express Our Filial Gratitude to the Holy Father"

ROME, JAN. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a statement from Bishop Bernard Fellay, secretary-general of the Society of St. Pius X, in response to a decree published Saturday by the Congregation for Bishops, advising of the lifting of his excommunication and that of the three other bishops ordained without papal permission by Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.

* * *

Response From Leader of Society of St. Pius X

The excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregation for Bishops in a decree dated July 1, 1988, and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009.

We express our filial gratitude to the Holy Father for this gesture which, beyond the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, will benefit the whole Church. Our Society wishes to be always more able to help the pope to remedy the unprecedented crisis which presently shakes the Catholic world, and which Pope John Paul II had designated as a state of "silent apostasy."

Besides our gratitude towards the Holy Father and towards all those who helped him to make this courageous act, we are pleased that the decree of January 21 considers as necessary "talks" with the Holy See, talks which will enable the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the Church.

In this new atmosphere, we have the firm hope to obtain soon the recognition of the rights of Catholic Tradition.

Menzingen, January 24, 2009

Bernard Fellay

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Pope: Shrine Is Key to Europe's Christian Identity

Mary's Greatness Is in Her Availability to All

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 22, 2009 - Benedict XVI gave an improvised discourse on the Virgin Mary, in gratitude for receiving honorary citizenship of Mariazell, home of one of the most important Marian shrines in Europe.

This distinction was conferred on the Pope after Wednesday's general audience. Mariazell is the site of the Basilica of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which houses a statue of Our Lady believed to be miraculous. For centuries, the town has been one of Europe's principal pilgrimage sites. Today, some 1 million pilgrims visit it annually.

The Holy Father spoke in German about being joyful "at being a citizen of Mariazell and at being able to live so close to the Mother of God," and he spoke to the others about Mary's role as "promoter of unity" between men.

The Pontiff last visited the shrine in September 2007, and he noted that "according to human foresight, in this life I will not be able to return to making a pilgrimage there physically, but now I live there truly and in this sense I am always present."

He recalled two previous visits to the shrine, and he told some stories that he lived through with the bishop and the rector, especially during his last visit in which they were surprised by a torrential rain.

European identity

Benedict XVI also affirmed the importance that this shrine has had on European history.

"Mariazell is much more than a 'place,'" he said. It also represents "the living history of a pilgrimage of faith and prayer down the centuries."

Yet, he added: "It is not only the prayers and invocations of men that are present, but rather a real answer is also present.

"We feel that the answer exists, that we do not extend a hand toward something unknown, that God exists, and that, through his mother, he wants to remain particularly close to us.

"For this reason I am happy to be at home in my heart and now, so to say, also by law, in Mariazell."

The Holy Father noted that Mariazell expresses all that Europe has been able to build. He affirmed that Mariazell is that "from which proceeds all that today forms [Europe's] identity, and through which Europe would always be able to return anew to be what it is: through the encounter with the Lord, to whom his mother guides us."

True greatness

The Pope recalled that the Virgin of Mariazell has received important titles throughout history, like "great mother" of Austria and of the Slavic towns, in this sanctuary visited by thousands of people during the centuries, until Mariazell was even considered the spiritual center of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

However, he added, the Virgin shows us that greatness does not arise from the quality of being unattainable.

He explained that Mary's "greatness is evident precisely in the fact that she addresses herself to the smallest, that she is present for them, that we can turn to her at any moment without having to pay an entrance fee, just with our hearts."

This greatness has nothing to do with "exterior majesty," the Pontiff continued, but rather with "goodness of heart that offers to all the experience of what it means to be together."

"In the trips that I make through the fields of memory," he said, "I always make a stop in Mariazell, precisely because I feel that there the Mother goes out to meet us and reunites us to all."

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On Seeking Christian Unity
"We Should Respond With Generosity"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 21, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Sunday and will conclude this Sunday, feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle. This is a beautiful spiritual initiative, which is spreading more and more among Christians, in harmony, and we could say, in response to the pressing invocation that Jesus directed to the Father from the Upper Room: "That they may all be one, that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:21).

On four occasions during this priestly prayer, the Lord asks that his disciples be one, according to the image of the unity between the Father and the Son. This is a unity that can only grow in the example of the surrender of the Son to the Father, that is, going out of oneself and uniting oneself to Christ. Twice, moreover, in this prayer, Jesus adds as the objective of this union: That the world may believe. Full unity is connected, therefore with the life and the very mission of the Church in the world. [The Church] should live a unity that can only be derived from her unity with Christ, with its transcendence, as a sign that Christ is the truth.

This is our responsibility: That the gift of unity be visible for the world, in virtue of which our faith is made credible. For this, it is important that each Christian community become aware of the urgency of working in every way possible to reach this grand objective. Only going out of ourselves and toward Christ, only in this relationship with him can we come to be truly united among ourselves. This is the invitation that, with the present week [of prayer], is directed to believers in Christ of every Church and ecclesial community; to him, dear brothers and sisters, we should respond with generosity.

This year, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity proposes for our meditation and prayer words taken from the book of the prophet Ezekiel: "That They May Become One in Your Hand" (37:17). The theme was chosen by an ecumenical group from Korea and then revised for its international use by the Mixed Committee of Prayer, formed by representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Ecumenical Council of the Churches of Geneva. The process itself of preparation has been a stimulating and fruitful exercise of authentic ecumenism.

In the passage of the book of the prophet Ezekiel from which the theme has been taken, the Lord orders the prophet to take two sticks, one as a symbol of Judah and his tribes and the other as a symbol of Joseph and of the whole house of Israel united to him, and he asks him to "join" the two such that they form "just one stick" in his hand. The parable of unity is transparent. To the "sons of the people" who ask for an explanation, Ezekiel, enlightened from on high, will say that the Lord himself takes the two sticks and joins them, such that the two kingdoms with their respective tribes, divided among themselves, become "one in your hand." The hand of the prophet, which joins the two shoots, is considered as the hand of God himself that gathers and unites his people and finally, the whole of humanity.

We can apply the words of the prophet to Christians, as an exhortation to pray and to work, doing everything possible so that the unity of all the disciples of Christ is fulfilled, to work so that our hand is an instrument of the unifying hand of God. This exhortation appears particularly moving and urgent in the words of Jesus after the Last Supper. The Lord wants his entire people to walk -- and he sees in this the Church of the future, of future centuries -- with patience and perseverance toward the fulfillment of full union. This is a commitment that implies the docile and humble adherence to the commandment of the Lord, who blesses it and makes it fruitful. The prophet Ezekiel assures us that it will be precisely him, our only Lord, the only God, who takes us in "his hand."

In the second part of the biblical reading, the meaning and the conditions for the unity of the various tribes in just one kingdom are considered in depth. In the dispersion among the Gentiles, the Israelites had learned erroneous cults, had assimilated mistaken concepts of life, had taken on customs foreign to divine law. Now the Lord declares that they will no longer be contaminated with idols from the pagan peoples, with their abominations, with all of their iniquities (cf. Ezekiel 37:23). He reclaims the need to liberate them from sin, to purify their heart: "I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy," he affirms" and cleanse them." And thus, "they may be my people and I may be their God" (ibid.)

In this condition of interior renovation, they will "live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees." And the prophetic text concludes with the definitive and fully salvific promise: "I will make with them a covenant of peace … and put my sanctuary among them forever" (Ezekiel 37:26).

Ezekiel's vision is particularly eloquent for the whole ecumenical movement because it makes clear the unavoidable demand of an authentic interior renewal in every component of the People of God, which only the Lord can bring about. We too should be open to this renewal, because we too, dispersed among the peoples of the world, have learned customs very far from the Word of God: "Every renewal of the Church," reads the decree on ecumenism from the Second Vatican Council, "is essentially grounded in an increase of fidelity to her own calling. Undoubtedly this is the basis of the movement toward unity" ("Unitatis Redintegratio," 6), that is, greater fidelity to the vocation from God.

The decree emphasizes as well the interior dimension of the conversion of the heart. "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name," it adds, "without a change of heart. For it is from renewal of the inner life of our minds, from self-denial and an unstinted love that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way" ("Unitatis Redintegratio," 7). The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity becomes for all of us, in this way, a stimulant toward a sincere conversion and an ever more docile listening to the Word of God, toward an ever deeper faith.

The week is also a conducive occasion for thanking the Lord for how much he has conceded already "to join" one to another, divided Christians, and the Churches themselves and ecclesial communities. This spirit has animated the Catholic Church, which, during the last year, has progressed with firm conviction and sure hope, maintaining fraternal and respectful relations with all the Churches and ecclesial communities of East and West. In the diversity of situations, sometimes more positive, and sometimes more difficult, it has worked to never fail in the effort of implementing every effort for the restoration of full unity. The relationships between the Churches and the theological dialogues have continued giving encouraging signs of spiritual convergence. I myself have had the joy of meeting, here in the Vatican and in the course of my apostolic trips, Christians coming from every horizon.

I have welcomed with joy on three occasions the ecumenical patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, and -- an extraordinary happening -- we heard him take the floor, with fraternal ecclesial warmth and with convinced trust in the future, during the recent assembly of the synod of bishops. I have had the pleasure of receiving the two catholicoi of the Armenian Apostolic Church, His Holiness Karekin II of Etchmiadzin and His Holiness Aram I of Antelias. And finally, I have shared the sorrow of the Patriarchate of Moscow at the passing of our beloved brother in Christ, Patriarch His Holiness Alexy II, and I continue remaining in communion of prayer with these our brothers who prepare to choose the new patriarch of that venerated and great Orthodox Church.

Likewise, I have had the chance to meet with representatives of the diverse Christian Communions of the West, with whom continues the dialogue about the important testimony that Christians should give today in harmony, in a world ever more divided and facing so many challenges of a cultural, social, economic and ethical character. For these and for so many other meetings, dialogues and gestures of fraternity that the Lord has permitted us to be able to carry out, let us give thanks together with joy.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us take advantage of the opportunity that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity offers us to ask the Lord for a continuation, and if it is possible, an intensification of ecumenical dialogue and commitment. In the context of the Pauline year, which commemorates the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul, we cannot fail to refer to what the Apostle Paul left written for us regarding the unity of the Church.

Every Wednesday, I am dedicating my reflections to his letters and his beautiful teaching. I take up again here simply what he wrote to the community of Ephesus: "One body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:4-5). Let us make our own the desire of St. Paul, who dedicated his entire life for the one Lord and for the unity of his mystical body, the Church, giving with his martyrdom, a supreme testimony of fidelity and love for Christ.

Following his example and counting on his intercession, may each community grow in the determination for unity, thanks to the diverse spiritual and pastoral initiatives and the assemblies of common prayer, which tend to become more numerous and intense in this week, bringing us to already foretaste, in a certain way, the joy of full union.

Let us pray so that between the Churches and ecclesial communities, dialogue in the truth continues, indispensable for resolving divergences, and [dialogue] in charity, which conditions the theological dialogue and helps to live united for a common testimony. The desire that dwells in our hearts is that the day of full communion arrives soon, when all of the disciples of our one Lord can finally celebrate the Eucharist together, the divine sacrifice for the life and salvation of the world. We invoke the maternal intercession of Mary so that she helps all Christians to cultivate a more attentive listening to the Word of God and a more intense prayer for unity.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Sunday we began the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity dedicated this year to the theme: "that they may become one in your hand" (Ezek 37:17). This scripture passage recalls God’s command to Ezekiel to take two sticks, one representing Judah and the other Israel, and join them together as a symbol of the Lord’s power to gather his people into one. As Christians, we read these words as an exhortation to pray and work for the full unity of Christ’s disciples. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, "there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart" (Unitatis Redintegratio, 7). This week offers us an opportunity to thank God for all he has done and continues to do to bring Christians closer to one another. I am personally grateful for the many opportunities I have had to meet with representatives of Churches and Ecclesial Communities, both in the Vatican and during my travels abroad. Let us pray that the various initiatives this week at the local and universal levels will encourage all who confess "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism" to listen more attentively to the Word of God, to deepen prayer, and to intensify dialogue, so as to imitate Saint Paul’s example of a life completely devoted to the Lord and the unity of his Body, the Church.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience. My particular greeting goes to the pilgrimage group from Malta led by Archbishop Paul Cremona. Upon all of you I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Ecumenical Delegation
"Let Us Pray That the Spirit of Truth Will Guide Us Toward Ever Greater Unity"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday to an ecumenical delegation from Finland, visiting Rome on the occasion of the feast of their patron.

* * *

Dear distinguished Friends from Finland,

It is with great joy that I welcome all of you on this annual visit to Rome for the feast of your patron, Saint Henrik, and I thank Bishop Gustav Björkstrand for the kind words addressed to me on your behalf.

These pilgrimages are an occasion for shared prayer, reflection and dialogue in the service of our quest for full communion. Your visit is taking place during the Week of Prayer of Christian Unity whose theme this year is taken from the Book of Ezekiel: "That they may become one in your hand" (Ez 37:15-23). The prophet's vision is that of two pieces of wood, symbolizing the two kingdoms into which God's people had been divided, being brought together again into one (Ezekiel 37:15-23). In the context of ecumenism, it speaks to us of God who constantly draws us into deeper unity in Christ, by renewing us and liberating us from our divisions.

The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Commission in Finland and Sweden continues to consider the Joint Declaration on Justification. This year we celebrate the tenth anniversary of this significant statement, and the Commission is now studying its implications and the possibility of its reception. Under the theme Justification in the Life of the Church, the dialogue is taking ever fuller account of the nature of the Church as the sign and instrument of the salvation brought about in Jesus Christ, and not simply a mere assembly of believers or an institution with various functions.

Your pilgrimage to Rome takes place within the Pauline Year - the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Nations, whose life and teaching were tirelessly committed to the unity of the Church. Saint Paul reminds us of the marvellous grace we have received by becoming members of Christ's body through baptism (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31). The Church is this mystical Body of Christ, and is continuously guided by the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of the Father and the Son. It is only based on this incarnational reality that the sacramental character of the Church as communion in Christ can be understood. A consensus with regard to the profoundly Christological and pneumatological implications of the mystery of the Church would prove a most promising basis for the Commission's work.

From Paul we also learn that the unity we seek is nothing less than the manifestation of our full incorporation into the Body of Christ, whereby "all you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:27-28). To this end, dear friends, it is my fervent hope that your visit to Rome will further strengthen the ecumenical relations between Lutherans and Catholics in Finland, which have been so positive for many years. Together, let us thank God for all that has been achieved to date in Catholic-Lutheran relations, and let us pray that the Spirit of truth will guide us towards ever greater unity, in the service of the Gospel.

With these sentiments of affection in the Lord, and at the beginning of this new year, I invoke upon you and your families God's gifts of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Address to Family Meeting
"It Is in the Home Where One Learns to Truly Live"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2009 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI gave via video linkup at the conclusion of Sunday's closing Mass of the 6th World Meeting of Families. The world meeting was held last week in Mexico City.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

I greet all of you with affection at the end of this solemn Eucharistic celebration with which the 6th World Meeting of Families is concluding in Mexico City. I give thanks to God for so many families that, without counting the cost, have gathered around the altar of the Lord.

I greet in a special way the Cardinal Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, who has presided over this celebration as my legate. I want to express my affection and my gratitude to Cardinal Ennio Antonelii and to the members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, over which he presides, to the Cardinal Archbishop Primate of Mexico, Norberto Rivera Carrera, and the central commission that has been responsible for the organization of this 6th World Meeting. My recognition goes to all those who with their abnegated dedication and surrender have made its fulfillment possible.

I also greet the cardinals and bishops present in this celebration, in particular those of the Mexican episcopal conference, and the authorities of this dear nation, who generously have welcomed and made possible this important event.

The Mexican people know well that they are very close to the heart of the Pope. I think of them and I present to God the Father their joys and hopes, their projects and concerns. In Mexico, the Gospel has taken deep roots, forging its traditions and culture, and the identity of its noble people. This rich patrimony must be protected so that it continues being a spring of moral and spiritual energies to courageously and creatively face the challenges of today and so that it can be offered as a precious gift to new generations.

I have participated with joy and interest in this World Meeting, above all with my prayer, giving specific guidelines and attentively following its preparation and development. Today, through the communications media, I have spiritually made a pilgrimage to this Marian shrine, heart of Mexico and of all of America, so as to entrust all the families of the world to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

2. This World Meeting of Families has aimed to encourage Christian homes so that their members be free persons, rich in human and Gospel values, on the way toward sanctity, which is the best service that Christians can offer today's society. The Christian response to the challenges that must be confronted by families and human life in general, consists in intensifying trust in the Lord and the vigor that springs from one's faith, which is nourished by attentive listening to the Word of God. How beautiful it is to gather as a family to allow God to speak to the hearts of the members through his living and effective Word. In prayer, especially with the praying of the rosary, as was done yesterday, the family contemplates the mysteries of the life of Jesus, interiorizes the values that it meditates and feels called to incarnate them in their lives.

3. The family is an indispensable base for society and for peoples, as well as an irreplaceable good for children, worthy of coming into life as a fruit of love, of the parents' total and generous surrender. As Jesus showed in honoring the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, the family occupies a primary place in the education of the person. It is a true school of humanity and perennial values. No one has given being to himself. We have received life from others, which is developed and matured with the truths and values that we learn in relation and communion with the rest. In this sense, the family founded on the indissoluble matrimony between a man and a woman expresses this relational, filial and communitarian dimension, and is the realm where man can be born with dignity, grow and develop in an integral way (cf. Homily in the Holy Mass of the 5th World Meeting of Families, Valencia, July 9, 2006).

Nevertheless, this education task is made difficult by a deceptive concept of liberty, in which whims and the subjective impulses of the individual are exalted to the point of leaving each one locked within the prison of his own "I." The true liberty of the human being comes from having been created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore should be exercised with responsibility, always opting for the true good so that it becomes love, gift of self. For this, more than theories, the intimacy and love characteristic of the familial community are needed. It is in the home where one learns to truly live, to value life and health, liberty and peace, justice and truth, work, concord and respect.

4. Today more than ever is needed the testimony and public commitment of all the baptized to reaffirm the dignity and the unique and irreplaceable value of the family founded on the marriage of a man and a woman and open to life, as well as the [value] of human life in all its stages. Legislative and administrative measures that support families in their inalienable rights, necessary to carry forward their extraordinary mission, should also be promoted. The testimonies presented in yesterday's celebration show that today, too, the family can show itself to be firm in the love of God and renew humanity in the new millennium.

5. I want to express my closeness and assure my prayers for all families that give a testimony of fidelity in especially difficult circumstances. I encourage numerous families that, living sometimes in the midst of contradictions and incomprehension, give an example of generosity and trust in God, expressing my desire that needed help is not lacking for them. I think also of the families that suffer poverty, illness, marginalization or emigration. And very especially of the Christian families that are persecuted because of their faith. The Pope is very close to all of you and he accompanies you in your efforts of every day.

6. Before concluding this meeting, it pleases me to announce that that 7th World Meeting of Families will take place, God willing, in Italy, in the city of Milan, in 2012, with the theme, "Family, Work and Celebration." I sincerely thank Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Milan, for his hospitality in accepting this important commitment.

I entrust all the families of the world to the protection of the Most Holy Virgin, so highly venerated in the noble Mexican land in her image from Guadalupe. To her, who always reminds us that our happiness is in doing the will of Christ (cf. John 2:5), I say now:

Most Holy Mother of Guadalupe
who has shown your love and tenderness
to the peoples of the American continent,
shower with joy and hope all the peoples
and all the families of the world.

To you, who goes before [us] and guides our journey in the faith
toward the eternal homeland,
we entrust the joys, the projects,
the concerns and the desires of every family.

Oh Mary,
to you we turn, trusting in your motherly tenderness;
do not ignore the petitions we direct to you
for the families of all the world
in this crucial period of history.
Instead, gather all of us in your maternal heart
and accompany us in our journey to the celestial home.

Amen.

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On World Day of Migrants
"Work in Every Part of the World for Peaceful Coexistence"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 18, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Because this year we are celebrating the Pauline Year, and thinking of St. Paul as the great itinerant missionary of the Gospel, I chose the theme: "St. Paul Migrant, Apostle of the Gentiles." Saul, his Jewish name, was born into a family of immigrants in Tarsus, an important city of Cilicia, and grew up in three cultures -- Jewish, Hellenistic, and Roman -- and with a cosmopolitan mentality. When he converted from being a persecutor of Christians to being an apostle of the Gospel, Paul became the "ambassador" of the risen Christ to make him known to all, in the conviction that in him all peoples are called to form the great family of the children of God.

This is also the Church's mission, more than ever in this time of globalization. As Christians it is impossible for us not to feel the need to transmit Jesus' message of love, especially to those who do not know him, or who find themselves in difficult and painful situations. Today I have immigrants particularly in mind. Their reality is indeed diverse: In some cases, thanks be to God, it is peaceful and they are well integrated; in other cases, unfortunately, it is painful, difficult and sometimes even dramatic.

I want to insure that the Christian community looks on every person and every family with attention and asks St. Paul for the strength of a renewed dedication to work in every part of the world for peaceful coexistence of men and women of different ethnicities, cultures and religions.

The Apostle tells us what was the secret of his new life: "I too," he writes, "have been conquered by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12); and he adds: "Be my imitators" (Philippians 3:17). Indeed, each one of us, according to his own vocation and in the place where he lives and works, is called to bear witness to the Gospel, with a greater concern for those brothers and sisters who have come from different countries for various reasons to live among us, giving value to the phenomenon of migration as an occasion of the meeting of civilizations. Let us pray and act so that this always takes place in a peaceful and constructive way, in respect and dialogue, preventing every temptation to conflict and abuse.

I would like to add a special word for sailors and fisherman, who for some time have been experiencing great uneasiness. Besides the usual difficulties, they are also suffering from the restrictions of bringing chaplains on board, as well as from the dangers of pirates and the damage of illegal fishing. I express my nearness to them and the wish that their generosity in being of assistance at sea be compensated by greater consideration.

Finally, my thoughts to turn to the World Meeting of Families, which is concluding in Mexico City, and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which begins today. Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to pray for all these intentions, invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

I continue to follow the conflict in the Gaza Strip with deep trepidation. Let us also bring before the Lord today the hundreds of children, old people, women who are innocent victims of the inconceivable violence, the wounded, those who are grieving for their loved ones and those who have lost their possessions.

I also invite you to accompany with your prayers the efforts of numerous persons of good will who are trying to stop the tragedy. I sincerely hope that it is seen how to profit, with wisdom, from the space opened up to reinstate the truce and move toward peaceful and durable solutions.

In this regard, I renew my encouragement of those who, on the one side and on the other, believe that in the Holy Land there is room for all, that they help their people to rise up from the rubble and terror and courageously take up again the thread of dialogue in justice and truth. This is the only way that they can effectively unlock a future of peace for the children of that dear land!

Today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will conclude next Sunday, Jan. 25. In the southern hemisphere, following the suggestion made by Leo XIII at the end of the 19th century, the time between Ascension and Pentecost will be set aside for prayer for Christian unity.

The Biblical theme is common to all. This year it was suggested by an ecumenical group from Korea and is taken from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel: "One in your hand" (Ezekiel 37:17). Let us too welcome this invitation and pray with greater intensity that Christians walk in a resolute way toward full communion with each other. I especially address Catholics throughout the world that, united in prayer, they do not tire to work to overcome obstacles that still impede full communion among Christ's disciples. The ecumenical task is even more urgent today, to give to our society, which is marked by tragic conflicts and lacerating divisions, a sign and an impulse toward reconciliation and peace. We will conclude this Week of Prayer in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls with the celebration of vespers, next Sunday, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, who made the unity of the body of Christ an essential nucleus of his preaching.

Today the Diocese of Rome celebrates the Diocesan Day of Catholic Schools. I greet the leaders, directors, teachers, parents and students who are gathered here. Dear friends, the educational service of the Catholic school is more precious today than ever, because children, adolescents and young people need to receive valid instruction in the framework of a coherent vision of man and life. I am near in my prayer to those who teach and study in the Catholic schools of Rome, and I encourage them to always dedicate themselves to the forming of an educational community rich in human and Christian values.

I cordially greet the representatives of Catholic migrant communities present in Rome. Dear friends, I repeat the words of the Apostle Paul: In the Church you are not foreigners or guests, but you are part of the family of God. Know how to insert yourselves well in the ecclesial and civil community, with the wealth of your faith and your traditions.

[In English, he said]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Angelus. As we celebrate the week of prayer for Christian unity, let us continue to ask the Lord that all who invoke his name may be one, so that the world may believe.

On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, I encourage individuals, communities and institutions to be generous to all who have left their homeland. May the Father of mercies open our eyes and our hearts to the sufferings and needs of those who have entrusted themselves to our hospitality. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On Christ as Head

"The Whole Cosmos Is Submitted to Him"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

Among the letters of the Pauline collection, there are two, those directed to the Colossians and the Ephesians, that to a point could be considered twins. In fact, both have ways of speaking that are only found in those two, and it is calculated that more than a third of the Letter to the Colossians is found also in Ephesians.

For example, while in Colossians the invitation is read literally to "admonish one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God" (3:16), in Ephesians, it is similarly recommended to "address one another (in) psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts" (5:19).

We could meditate on these words: The heart should sing, and also the voice, with psalms and hymns, to enter into the tradition of the prayer of the whole Church of the Old and New Testament. We thus learn to be united among ourselves and with God. Moreover, in both letters is found a "domestic code," missing in the other Pauline letters, that is, a series of recommendations directed to husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves (Cf. Colossians 3:18-4:1 and Ephesians 5:22-6:9).

Even more important is to see that only in these two letters is confirmed the title "head," kefalé, given to Jesus Christ. And this title is used on two levels. In the first sense, Christ is understood as the head of the Church (cf. Colossians 2:18-19 and Ephesians 4:15-16). This means two things: above all, that he is the governor, the director, the one in charge who guides the Christian community as its leader and lord (cf. Colossians 1:18: "He is the head of the body, the church.") And the other meaning is that it is as the head that he raises and vivifies all the members of the body of which he is head. (In fact, according to Colossians 2:19, it is necessary to "stay united to the head, from which the entire body, through ligaments and joints, receives nutrition and cohesion.") That is, he is not just one who directs, but one who is organically connected to us, from whom comes also the strength to act in an upright way.

In both cases, the Church considers itself submitted to Christ, both to follow his superior leading -- the commandments -- and to welcome all of the vital flow that come from him. His commandments are not just words, mandates, but are vital forces that come from him and help us.

This idea is particularly developed in Ephesians, where even the ministries of the Church, instead of being attributed to the Holy Spirit (as in 1 Corinthians 12), are conferred on the Risen Christ. It is he who "gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers" (4:11). And it is because of him that "the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament ... brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love" (4:16).

Christ in fact is dedicated to "present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (5:27). With this he tells us that the strength with which he builds up the Church, with which he guides the Church, with which also he gives correct direction to the Church, is precisely his love.

Therefore the first meaning is Christ, Head of the Church: be it in regard to the leading, be it above all in regard to the inspiration and organic vitalization in virtue of his love.

Then, in a second sense, Christ is considered not only as head of the Church, but as head of the celestial powers and the entire cosmos.

Thus in Colossians, we read that Christ, "despoiling the principalities and the powers, made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph" (2:15). Analogously in Ephesians, we find that with his resurrection, God put Christ "far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come" (1:21).

With these words, the two letters bestow us with a highly positive and fruitful message. It is this: Christ need not fear any eventual competitor, because he is superior to any type of power that would try to humiliate man. Only he has "loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God" 5:2). That's why, if we are united to Christ, we should fear no enemy and no adversity; but, this also means that we should remain closely united to him, without letting go!

For the pagan world, which believed in a world full of spirits, mostly dangerous and against which one had to defend oneself, the proclamation that Christ is the only victor and that he who is united to Christ did not have to fear anyone, appeared as a true liberation. The same is true also for the paganism of today, because also the current followers of these ideologies see the world as full of dangerous powers. To these people, it is necessary to announce that Christ is the conqueror, such that one who is with Christ, who remains united to him, should not fear anything or anyone. It seems to me that this is also important for us, who should learn to face all fears, because he is above every domination, he is the true Lord of the world.

Even the whole cosmos is submitted to him, and to him it converges as to its own head. Well-known are the words of the Letter to the Ephesians that speak of the project of God to "sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth" (1:10). Analogously in the Letter to the Colossians, it is read that "in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible" (1:16) and that "through the blood of his cross, he has reconciled all things for him and through him whether those on earth or those in heaven" (1:20).

Therefore, there is not, on one hand, a great material world and on the other hand, this small reality of the history of our land, the world of people: Everything is one in Christ. He is the head of the cosmos; also the cosmos has been created by him, it has been created for us insofar as we are united to him. This is a rational and personalistic vision of the universe. And I would add that a more universalistic vision than this one, it was not possible to conceive, and this converges only in the Risen Christ. Christ is the Pantokrátor, to whom are submitted all things: thought goes toward Christ Pantokrátor, who fills the apse of Byzantine churches, sometimes presented seated on high over the entire world, or even above a rainbow to indicate his comparison with God himself, at whose right hand he is seated (cf. Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1), and therefore his unsurpassable role as conductor of human destinies.

A vision of this type is conceivable only by the Church, not in the sense that it wants to wrongfully take for itself that which does not belong to it, but rather in another double sense. On one hand, the Church recognizes that Christ is greater than she is, given that his lordship also extends beyond her limits. On the other hand, only the Church is classified as the body of Christ, not the cosmos. All of this means that we should consider positively earthly realities, because Christ recapitulates them in himself, and at the same time, we should live our specific ecclesial identity in plenitude, which is the most homogeneous to the identity of Christ himself.

There is also a special concept that is typical of these two letters, and it is the concept of "mystery." Once the "mystery of the will" of God is spoken of (Ephesians 1:9) and other times, the "mystery of Christ" (Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:3), or even the "mystery of God, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2-3).

This makes reference to the inscrutable divine design over the destiny of man, of peoples and of the world. With this language, the two epistles tell us that it is in Christ where the fulfillment of this mystery is found. If we are with Christ, even though we cannot intellectually understand everything, we know that we are in the nucleus and on the path of truth. He is in his totality, and not only one aspect of his person or one moment of his existence, he who gathers in himself the plenitude of the unsearchable divine plan of salvation.

In him takes shape what is called the "manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10), since in him "dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily" (Colossians 2:9). From now on, then, it is not possible to think of and adore the approval of God, his sovereign disposition, without confronting ourselves personally with Christ in person, in whom the "mystery" is incarnate and can be tangibly perceived. Thus one comes to contemplate "the inscrutable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8), which is beyond all human understanding.

It is not that God has not left the mark of his passing, since Christ himself is the footprint of God, his maximum mark, but rather that one realizes "what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of this mystery "that surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:18-19). Mere intellectual categories here prove insufficient, and recognizing that many things are beyond our rational capacities, we should trust in the humble and joyful contemplation, not just of the mind, but also of the heart. The fathers of the Church, on the other hand, tell us that love understands much more than reason alone.

A last word should be said on the concept, already indicated before, concerning the Church as spouse of Christ.

In the Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul had compared the Christian community to a bride, writing: "For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). The Letter to the Ephesians develops this image, specifying that the Church is not just a fiancé, but the real spouse of Christ. He, we could say, has conquered her for himself, and he has done this with the price of his life. As the text says, he "handed himself over for her" (Ephesians 5:25).

What demonstration of love can be grander than this one? But moreover, he is concerned for her beauty, not just that already acquired in baptism, but also that which should grow each day thanks to a blameless life, "without wrinkle or spot" in her moral behavior (cf. Ephesians 5:26-27).

From here to the common experience of Christian marriage, the step is a small one; conversely, it's not even clear what is the author's point of initial reference -- whether it is the relationship Christ-Church, from whose light the union between man and woman should be conceived; or if instead it is the datum of the experience of conjugal union, from whose light the relationship between Christ and the Church should be conceived.

But both aspects mutually enlighten one another: We lean what matrimony is in the light of the communion between Christ and the Church; and we learn how Christ unites himself to us thinking of the mystery of matrimony. In any case, our letter is situated almost at the halfway point between the Prophet Hosea, who indicated the relationship between God and his people in terms of a wedding that has already occurred (cf. Hosea 2:4, 16, 21); and the prophet of Revelation, who will announce the eschatological encounter between the Church and the Lamb as a joyful and indestructible wedding (cf. Revelation 19:7-9; 21:9).

There is much more to say, but it seems to me that, from what I have presented, it can be understood that these two letters are a great catechesis, from which we can learn not just how to be good Christians, but also how to come to be truly persons. If we begin to understand that the cosmos is the footprint of Christ, we learn our right relationship with the cosmos, with all of the problems of its conservation. We learn to see [the problems] with reason, but with reason moved by love, and with the humility and the respect that permits acting in a correct way.

And if we think that the Church is the body of Christ, that Christ has given himself for her, we learn how to live with Christ in reciprocal love, the love that unites us to God and that makes us see the other as an image of Christ, as Christ himself.

Let us pray to the Lord so that he helps us to meditate well on sacred Scripture, his Word, and thus truly learn to live well.

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on Saint Paul, we turn to the "twin" letters: Colossians and Ephesians. Similar in language, they are unique in developing the theme of Christ as "head" - kephalé - not only of the Church, but also of the entire universe. These letters assure us that Christ is above any hostile earthly power. Christ alone "loved us and gave himself up for us" (Eph 5:2), so that if we remain close to him, we need not fear any adversity. It was God's plan to "recapitulate" all things in Jesus "through whom all things were created", so that "by the blood of his Cross" we might be reconciled to the Father. Christ's headship also implies that, in a certain sense, he is greater than the Church in that his dominion extends beyond her boundaries, and that the Church, rather than the entire cosmos, is referred to as the Body of Christ. These letters are also notable for the spousal image they use to describe how Christ has "won" his bride - the Church - by giving his life for her (cf. Eph 5:25). What greater sign of love could there be than this? Christ thus desires that we grow more beautiful each day through irreproachable moral conduct, "without wrinkle or defect" (Eph 5:27). By living uprightly and justly, may we bear witness to the nuptial union which has already taken place in Christ as we await its fulfilment in the wedding feast to come.

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On Baptism and the World Family Meeting
"You Are My Sons and Daughters, My Beloved"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2009 .- Angelus Address with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Sunday, which follows the solemnity of the Epiphany, we celebrate the baptism of the Lord. This was the first act of his public life and all four Gospels give an account of it. At the age of 30, Jesus left Nazareth and traveled to the Jordan River and, along with many other people, had himself baptized by John. The evangelist Mark writes: "On coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him" (Mark 1:10-11). In these words: "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased," the nature of eternal life is revealed: It is the filial relationship with God, as Jesus lived, revealed, and gave it to us.

This morning, following tradition, in the Sistine Chapel, I administered the sacrament of baptism to three newborn children. To the parents, the godfather and the godmother, the celebrant customarily asks: "What do you ask of the Church of God for your children?" They answer "baptism," and the celebrant replies: "And what does Baptism give us?" They answer: "Eternal life." This is a stupendous thing: Through Baptism the human person is brought into Jesus' unique and singular relationship with the Father, in such a way that the words that are spoken from heaven about the only-begotten Son become true for every man and woman who is reborn from the water of the Holy Spirit: You are my sons and daughters, my beloved.

Dear friends, how great is the gift of baptism! If we make ourselves fully aware of it, our life will become a continual "grace." What a joy for Christian parents, who have seen a new creature blossom from their love, who have brought this child to the baptismal font and seen the child be reborn in the womb of the Church, for a life that will never end! Gift, joy, but also responsibility! The parents, in fact, together with the godparents, must bring up their children according to the Gospel.

This brings to mind the theme of the 6th World Meeting of Families in Mexico City, which will take place next week, "The Family as Educator in Human and Christian Values." This great meeting of families, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family, will unfold in three parts: first the theological and pastoral congress, in which the theme will be explored and in which there will also be a sharing of significant experiences; then there will be a moment of celebration and testimony, which will bring to light the beauty of the meeting of families from every part of the world, united by the same faith and by the same commitment; and finally the solemn Eucharistic celebration, as a thanksgiving to the Lord for the gifts of marriage, the family and life.

I have asked Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to represent me, but I myself will also follow the extraordinary event with lively participation, accompanying it with prayer and through a televised talk.

Until then, dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to implore an abundance of divine grace for this important international meeting of families. Let us do so invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Family.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, I extend affectionate greetings. On this feast of the Lord's Baptism, Jesus descends into the waters of the Jordan, taking on himself the weight of our sins. When he rises from the water, the Spirit comes down upon him and the Father's voice declares: "This is my beloved Son". Let us rejoice that the Son of God came to share our human condition, so that we might rise with him to everlasting life. Upon all who are here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Papal Homily for Mass With Baptisms
"We Restore to God That Which Has Come From Him"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 11, 2009 - Here is the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Mass and administered the sacrament of baptism in the Sistine Chapel.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The words that the Evangelist Mark recounts at the beginning of his Gospel: "You are my Son, my beloved: in you I am well pleased" (1:11) bring us to the heart of today's feast of the baptism of the Lord, with which the Christmas season concludes. The cycle of Christmas solemnities brings us to meditate on the birth of Jesus announced by the angels suffused with the luminous splendor of God; Christmas time speaks to us of the star that guided the magi from the east to the house of Bethlehem, and it invites us to look to the heavens opened above the Jordan as the voice of God resounds.

They are all signs through which the Lord does not tire of repeating to us: "Yes, I am here. I know you. I love you. There is a road that leads from me to you. And there is a road that leads from you to me." In Jesus, the Creator assumed the dimensions of a Child, of a human being like us, who we may see and touch. At the same time, in making himself small, God made the light of his greatness shine -- because, by lowering himself to the defenseless impotence of love, he shows the nature of true greatness, indeed, what it means to be God.

The meaning of Christmas, and more generally the meaning of the liturgical year, is precisely that of us drawing near to these divine signs, to recognize in them the events of every day, so that our hearts will open to the love of God. And if Christmas and Epiphany serve above all to make us capable of seeing, to opening our eyes and hearts to the mystery of a God who comes to be with us, the feast of the baptism of Jesus introduces us, we could say, to the everydayness of a personal relationship with him. In fact, through the immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united himself to us.

Baptism is, so to speak, the bridge that he has built between him and us, the road by which he is accessible to us; it is the divine rainbow over our life, the promise of the great yes of God, the gateway to hope and, at the same time, the sign that indicates the road we must take in an active and joyous way to meet him and feel loved by him.

Dear friends, I am truly happy that this year too, on this feast day, I have been given the opportunity to baptize children. Today God's pleasure is upon them. From the time that the only-begotten Son of the Father was baptized, heaven has truly opened and continues to open itself, and we can entrust every new life that blossoms to the hands of God, who is stronger than the dark powers of evil. This in effect leads to baptism: We restore to God that which has come from him. The child is not the parents' property, but is rather entrusted by the Creator to their responsibility, freely and in an ever new way, so that they help him to be a free child of God.

Only if the parents cultivate such an awareness will they succeed in finding the right balance between the pretence of being able to dispose of their own children as if they were a private possession, forming them according to their own ideas and desires, and the liberal attitude that expresses itself in giving them total freedom, satisfying all their desires and aspirations, seeing that as the right way to develop their personality.

If, with this sacrament, the newly baptized infant becomes an adoptive child of God, object of his infinite love that safeguards and defends him, then he must be taught to recognize God as his Father and to know how to relate to him with a filial attitude. For this reason, when, following the Christian tradition, as we do today, we baptize children, bringing them into God's light and his teachings, we are not doing violence to them; rather we are giving them the wealth of divine life in which true freedom is rooted, which is that of being children of God; a freedom that must be educated and formed with the passing of years, so that it become capable of responsible personal choices.

Dear parents, dear godfathers and godmothers, I greet you with affection and I share your joy over these little ones that today are reborn into eternal life. You are conscious of the gift that has been received and you do not cease to thank the Lord who, with today's sacrament, introduces your children into a new family, greater and more stable, more open and numerous than your own: I am talking about the family of believers, the Church, a family that has God for Father and in which all gather as brothers in Jesus Christ.

Today, therefore, you entrust your children to the goodness of God, who is power of light and love; and they, though they will face difficulties in life, will never feel abandoned if they remain united with him. Concern yourselves with educating them in the faith, with teaching them to pray and to grow as Jesus did and with his help, "in wisdom, age and grace before God and men" (cf. Luke 2:52).

Turning now to the Gospel passage, we will try to understand still further that which is happening today. St. Mark says that, while John the Baptist preached on the shores of the Jordan, proclaiming the urgency of conversion in view of the coming of the Messiah who is now drawing near, Jesus, mixed in with the crowds, presents himself to be baptized.

John's baptism of repentance is certainly quite different from the one Jesus will institute. Nevertheless, at that moment, the mission of the Redeemer is glimpsed, for, when he comes out of the water, a voice from heaven resounds and the Holy Spirit descends upon him (cf. Mark 1:10). The heavenly Father proclaims him his beloved Son and publicly bears witness to his universal mission of salvation, which he will fully accomplish with his death on the cross and his resurrection. Only then, with the Paschal sacrifice, will the remission of sins be made universal and total.

With baptism we do not merely immerse ourselves in the waters of the Jordan to proclaim our commitment to conversion, but there is poured out upon us the redemptive blood of Christ that purifies us and saves us. It is the beloved Son of the Father, in whom he is well pleased, which reacquires for us the dignity and the joy of calling ourselves and truly being "children" of God.

Soon we will relive this mystery evoked by today's solemnity; the signs and symbols of the sacrament of baptism will help us to understand that which the Lord works in the hearts of these little ones of ours, making them "his" forever, a dwelling place chosen by his Spirit and "living stones" for the building up of the spiritual edifice which is the Church.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, beloved Son of God, keep watch over them and their families, always be with them, so that they may realize the project of salvation that baptism accomplishes in their lives.

And we, dear brothers and sisters, let us accompany them with our prayer; let us pray for the parents, godfathers and godmothers and for their relatives, that they help them to grow in the faith; let us pray for all of us here present that, devotedly participating in this celebration, we will renew the promises of our baptism and give thanks to the Lord for his constant help. Amen!

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Papal State of the World Address
"Fighting Poverty to Build Peace"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2009 - Here is the Vatican translation of the traditional annual address Benedict XVI delivered today to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 177 nations. In his French-language address, the Pontiff took up the theme of his message for the Jan. 1 World Peace Day, considering the need to fight poverty to build peace.

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Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The mystery of the incarnation of the Word, which we re-live each year on the Solemnity of Christmas, invites us to reflect on the events marking the course of history. And it is precisely in the light of this hope-filled mystery that this traditional meeting takes place with you, the distinguished members of the diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See – a meeting which, at the beginning of this new year, offers us a fitting occasion to exchange cordial good wishes. I express my gratitude to His Excellency Ambassador Alejandro Valladares Lanza for the good wishes he has kindly offered me, for the first time as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. My respectful greeting also goes to each of you, along with your families and staff, and, through you, to the peoples and governments of the countries which you represent. For everyone I ask God to grant the gift of a year rich in justice, serenity and peace.

At the dawn of this year 2009, I think with affection of all those who have suffered – whether as a result of grave natural catastrophes, particularly in Vietnam, Myanmar, China and the Philippines, in Central America and the Caribbean, and in Columbia and Brazil; or as a result of violent national or regional conflicts; or again as a result of terrorist attacks which have sown death and destruction in countries like Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Algeria. Despite so many efforts, the peace we so desire still remains distant! Faced with this reality, we must not grow discouraged or lessen our commitment to a culture of authentic peace, but rather redouble our efforts on behalf of security and development. In this regard, the Holy See wished to be among the first to sign and ratify the "Convention on Cluster Munitions", a document which also has the aim of reaffirming international humanitarian law. On the other hand, while noting with concern the signs of crisis appearing in the area of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, the Holy See has continued to reaffirm that peace cannot be built when military expenses divert enormous human and material resources from projects for development, especially the development of the poorest peoples.

It is towards the poor, the all too many poor people on our planet, that I would like to turn my attention today, taking up my Message for the World Day of Peace, devoted this year to the theme: "Fighting Poverty To Build Peace". The insightful analysis of Pope Paul VI in the Encyclical Populorum Progressio has lost none of its timeliness: "Today we see people trying to secure a sure food supply, cures for disease, and steady employment. We see them trying to eliminate every ill, to remove every obstacle which offends man’s dignity. They are constantly striving to exercise greater personal responsibility; to do more, to learn more and to have more, in order to be more. And yet, at the same time, so many people continue to live in conditions which frustrate these legitimate desires" (No. 6). To build peace, we need to give new hope to the poor. How can we not think of so many individuals and families hard pressed by the difficulties and uncertainties which the current financial and economic crisis has provoked on a global scale? How can we not mention the food crisis and global warming, which make it even more difficult for those living in some of the poorest parts of the planet to have access to nutrition and water? There is an urgent need to adopt an effective strategy to fight hunger and to promote local agricultural development, all the more so since the number of the poor is increasing even within the rich countries. In this perspective, I am pleased that the recent Doha Conference on financing development identified some helpful criteria for directing the governance of the economic system and helping those who are most in need. On a deeper level, bolstering the economy demands rebuilding confidence. This goal will only be reached by implementing an ethics based on the innate dignity of the human person. I know how demanding this will be, yet it is not a utopia! Today more than in the past, our future is at stake, as well as the fate of our planet and its inhabitants, especially the younger generation which is inheriting a severely compromised economic system and social fabric.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if we wish to combat poverty, we must invest first and foremost in the young, setting before them an ideal of authentic fraternity. During my apostolic visits in the past year, I was able to meet many young people, especially in the extraordinary context of the celebration of the Twenty-third World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. My apostolic journeys, beginning with my visit to the United States, also allowed me to assess the expectations of many sectors of society with regard to the Catholic Church. In this sensitive phase of the history of humanity, marked by uncertainties and questioning, many people expect the Church to exercise clearly and courageously her mission of evangelization and her work of human promotion. It was in this context that I gave my address at the headquarters of the United Nations Organization: sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I wished to stress that this document is founded on the dignity of the human person, which in turn is based on our shared human nature, which transcends our different cultures. A few months later, during my pilgrimage to Lourdes for the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the appearances of the Virgin Mary to Saint Bernadette, I sought to emphasize that the message of conversion and love which radiates from the grotto of Massabielle remains most timely, as a constant invitation to build our own lives and the relations between the world’s peoples on the foundation of authentic respect and fraternity, in the awareness that this fraternity presupposes that all men and women have a common Father, God the Creator. Moreover, a society which is "secular" in a healthy way does not ignore the spiritual dimension and its values, since religion – and I thought it helpful to repeat this during my pastoral visit to France – is not an obstacle but rather a solid foundation for the building of a more just and free society.

Acts of discrimination and the very grave attacks directed at thousands of Christians in this past year show to what extent it is not merely material poverty, but also moral poverty, which damages peace. Such abuses, in fact, are rooted in moral poverty. As a way of reaffirming the lofty contribution which religions can make to the struggle against poverty and the building of peace, I would like to repeat in this assembly, which symbolically represents all the nations of the world, that Christianity is a religion of freedom and peace, and it stands at the service of the true good of humanity. To our brothers and sisters who are victims of violence, especially in Iraq and in India, I renew the assurance of my paternal affection; to the civil and political authorities, I urgently request that they be actively committed to ending intolerance and acts of harassment directed against Christians, to repairing the damage which has been done, particularly to the places of worship and properties; and to encouraging by every means possible due respect for all religions, outlawing all forms of hatred and contempt. I also express my hope that, in the Western world, prejudice or hostility against Christians will not be cultivated simply because, on certain questions, their voice causes disquiet. For their part, may the disciples of Christ, in the face of such adversity, not lose heart: witness to the Gospel is always a "sign of contradiction" vis-à-vis "the spirit of the world"! If the trials and tribulations are painful, the constant presence of Christ is a powerful source of strength. Christ’s Gospel is a saving message meant for all; that is why it cannot be confined to the private sphere, but must be proclaimed from the rooftops, to the ends of the earth.

The birth of Christ in the lowly stable of Bethlehem leads us naturally to think of the situation in the Middle East and, in the first place, in the Holy Land, where, in these days, we have witnessed a renewed outbreak of violence provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian population. This situation further complicates the quest for a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, something fervently desired by many of them and by the whole world. Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned. I express my hope that, with the decisive commitment of the international community, the ceasefire in the Gaza strip will be re-established – an indispensable condition for restoring acceptable living conditions to the population –, and that negotiations for peace will resume, with the rejection of hatred, acts of provocation and the use of arms. It is very important that, in view of the crucial elections which will involve many of the inhabitants of the region in coming months, leaders will emerge who can decisively carry forward this process and guide their people towards the difficult yet indispensable reconciliation. This cannot be reached without the adoption of a global approach to the problems of these countries, with respect for the legitimate aspirations and interests of all parties. In addition to renewed efforts aimed at the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which I have just mentioned, wholehearted support must be given to dialogue between Israel and Syria and, in Lebanon, to the current strengthening of institutions; this will be all the more effective if it is carried out in a spirit of unity. To the Iraqis, who are preparing again to take full control of their future, I offer a particular word of encouragement to turn the page and to look forward in order to rebuild without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnic group or religion. As far as Iran is concerned, tireless efforts must be made to seek a negotiated solution to the controversy concerning the nation’s nuclear programme, through a mechanism capable of satisfying the legitimate demands of the country and of the international community. This would greatly favour détente in the region and in the world.

Looking to the great continent of Asia, I note with concern that, while in certain countries acts of violence continue, and in others the political situation remains tense, some progress has been made, enabling us to look to the future with greater confidence. I think for example of the new negotiations for peace in Mindanao, in the Philippines, and the new direction being taken in relations between Beijing and Taipei. In this same context of the quest for peace, a definitive solution of the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka would also have to be political, since the humanitarian needs of the peoples concerned must continue to receive ongoing attention. The Christian communities living in Asia are often numerically small, yet they wish to contribute in a convincing and effective way to the common good, stability and progress of their countries, as they bear witness to the primacy of God which sets up a healthy order of values and grants a freedom more powerful than acts of injustice. The recent beatification, in Japan, of 188 martyrs brought this eloquently to mind. The Church, as has often been said, does not demand privileges, but the full application of the principle of religious freedom. In this perspective, it is important that, in central Asia, legislation concerning religious communities guarantee the full exercise of this fundamental right, in respect for international norms.

In a few months, I will have the joy of meeting many of our brothers and sisters in the faith and in our common humanity who dwell in Africa. In anticipation of this visit, which I have so greatly desired, I ask the Lord to open their hearts to welcome the Gospel and to live it consistently, building peace by fighting moral and material poverty. A very particular concern must be shown for children: twenty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, they remain very vulnerable. Many children have the tragic experience of being refugees and displaced persons in Somalia, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are waves of migration involving millions of persons in need of humanitarian assistance and who above all have been deprived of their elementary rights and offended in their dignity. I ask political leaders on the national and international levels to take every measure necessary to resolve the current conflicts and to put an end to the injustices which caused them. I express my hope that in Somalia the restoration of the State will finally make progress, in order to end the interminable sufferings of the inhabitants of that country. In Zimbabwe, likewise, the situation remains critical and considerable humanitarian assistance is needed. The peace agreement in Burundi has brought a glimmer of hope to the region. I ask that it be applied fully, and thus become a source of inspiration for other countries which have not yet found the path of reconciliation. The Holy See, as you know, follows with special attention the continent of Africa and is pleased to have established diplomatic relations with Botswana in the past year.

In this vast panorama embracing the whole world, I wish likewise to dwell for a moment on Latin America. There too, people desire to live in peace, liberated from poverty and able freely to exercise their fundamental rights. In this context, the needs of emigrants need to be taken into consideration by legislation which would make it easier to reunite families, reconciling the legitimate requirements of security with those of inviolable respect for the person. I would also like to praise the overriding commitment shown by some governments towards re-establishing the rule of law and waging an uncompromising battle against the drug trade and political corruption. I am pleased that, thirty years after the start of the papal mediation between Argentina and Chile concerning their dispute over the southern territories, those two countries have in some way sealed their desire for peace by raising a monument to my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II. I hope, moreover, that the recent signing of the Agreement between the Holy See and Brazil will facilitate the free exercise of the Church’s mission of evangelization and further strengthen her cooperation with the civil institutions for an integral human development. For five centuries the Church has accompanied the peoples of Latin America, sharing their hopes and their concerns. Her Pastors know that, to favour the authentic progress of society, their proper task is to enlighten consciences and to form lay men and women capable of engaging responsibly in temporal affairs, at the service of the common good.

Turning lastly to the nations which are nearer at hand, I wish to greet the Christian community of Turkey, while recalling that, during this special Holy Year marking the two-thousandth anniversary of the birth of the Apostle Paul, numerous pilgrims are making their way to Tarsus, his native city, a fact which once more indicates how closely this land is linked to the origins of Christianity. The hope of peace is alive in Cyprus, where negotiations for a just solution to problems associated with the division of the Island have resumed. As for the Caucasus, I wish to affirm once more that the conflicts involving the states of the Region cannot be settled by recourse to arms; and, in thinking of Georgia, I express my hope that all the commitments subscribed to in the ceasefire of last August – an agreement concluded thanks to the diplomatic efforts of the European Union – will be honoured, and that the return of the displaced to their homes will be provided for as quickly as possible. Finally, with regard to the Southeast of Europe, the Holy See pursues its commitment to stability in the region, and hopes that conditions will continue to be created for a future of reconciliation and of peace between the populations of Serbia and Kosovo, with respect for minorities and commitment to the preservation of the priceless Christian artistic and cultural patrimony which constitutes a treasure for all humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, at the conclusion of this overview which, due to its brevity, cannot mention all the situations of suffering and poverty close to my heart, I return to my Message for the celebration of this year’s World Day of Peace. There I recalled that the poorest human beings are unborn children (No. 3). But I cannot fail to mention, in conclusion, others who are poor, like the infirm, the elderly left to themselves, broken families and those lacking points of reference. Poverty is fought if humanity becomes more fraternal as a result of shared values and ideals, founded on the dignity of the person, on freedom joined to responsibility, on the effective recognition of the place of God in the life of man. In this perspective, let us fix our gaze on Jesus, the lowly infant lying in the manger. Because he is the Son of God, he tells us that fraternal solidarity between all men and women is the royal road to fighting poverty and to building peace. May the light of his love illumine all government leaders and all humanity! May that light guide us throughout this year which has now begun! I wish all of you a happy New Year.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On True Worship
"The Era of the Temple and Its Worship Had Ended"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered during today's general audience in Paul VI Hall.
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Dear brothers and sisters,

In this first general audience of 2009, I want to offer all of you fervent best wishes for the New Year that just began. Let us renew our determination to open the mind and heart to Christ, to be and live as his true friends. His company will make this year, even with its inevitable difficulties, be a path full of joy and peace. In fact, only if we remain united to Jesus will the New Year be good and happy.

The commitment of union with Christ is the example that St. Paul offers us. Continuing the catecheses dedicated to him, we pause today to reflect on one of the important aspects of his thought, the worship that Christians are called to offer. In the past, there was a leaning toward speaking of an anti-worship tendency in the Apostle, of a "spiritualization" of the idea of worship. Today we better understand that St. Paul sees in the cross of Christ a historical change, which transforms and radically renews the reality of worship. There are above all three passages from the Letter to the Romans in which this new vision of worship is presented.

1. In Romans 3:25, after having spoken of the "redemption brought about by Christ Jesus," Paul goes on with a formula that is mysterious to us, saying: God "set [him] forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood." With this expression that is quite strange for us -- "instrument of expiation" -- St. Paul refers to the so-called propitiatory of the ancient temple, that is, the lid of the ark of the covenant, which was considered a point of contact between God and man, the point of the mysterious presence of God in the world of man. This "propitiatory," on the great day of reconciliation -- Yom Kippur -- was sprinkled with the blood of sacrificed animals, blood that symbolically put the sins of the past year in contact with God, and thus, the sins hurled to the abyss of the divine will were almost absorbed by the strength of God, overcome, pardoned. Life began anew.

St. Paul makes reference to this rite and says: This rite was the expression of the desire that all our faults could really be put in the abyss of divine mercy and thus made to disappear. But with the blood of animals, this process was not fulfilled. A more real contact between human fault and divine love was necessary. This contact has taken place with the cross of Christ. Christ, Son of God, who has become true man, has assumed in himself all our faults. He himself is the place of contact between human misery and divine mercy; in his heart, the sad multitude of evil carried out by humanity is undone, and life is renewed.

Revealing this change, St. Paul tells us: With the cross of Christ -- the supreme act of divine love, converted into human love -- the ancient worship with the sacrifice of animals in the temple of Jerusalem has ended. This symbolic worship, worship of desire, has now been replaced by real worship: the love of God incarnated in Christ and taken to its fullness in the death on the cross. Therefore, this is not a spiritualization of the real worship, but on the contrary, this is the real worship, the true divine-human love, that replaces the symbolic and provisional worship. The cross of Christ, his love with flesh and blood, is the real worship, corresponding to the reality of God and man. Already before the external destruction of the temple, for Paul, the era of the temple and its worship had ended: Paul is found here in perfect consonance with the words of Jesus, who had announced the end of the temple and announced another temple "not made by human hands" -- the temple of his risen body (cf. Mark 14:58; John 2:19 ff). This is the first passage.

2. The second passage about which I would like to speak today is found in the first verse of Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans. We have heard it and I repeat it once again: "I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship."

In these words, an apparent paradox is verified: While sacrifice demands as a norm the death of the victim, Paul makes reference to the life of the Christian. The expression "offer your bodies," united to the successive concept of sacrifice, takes on the worship nuance of "give in oblation, offer." The exhortation to "offer your bodies" refers to the whole person; in fact, in Romans 6:13, [Paul] makes the invitation to "present yourselves to God." For the rest, the explicit reference to the physical dimension of the Christian coincides with the invitation to "glorify God in your bodies" (1 Corinthians 6:20): It's a matter of honoring God in the most concrete daily existence, made of relational and perceptible visibility.

Conduct of this type is classified by Paul as "living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God." It is here where we find precisely the term "sacrifice." In prevalent use, this term forms part of a sacred context and serves to designate the throat-splitting of an animal, of which one part can be burned in honor of the gods and another part consumed by the offerers in a banquet. Paul instead applied it to the life of the Christian. In fact he classifies such a sacrifice by using three adjectives. The first -- "living" -- expresses a vitality. The second -- "holy" -- recalls the Pauline concept of a sanctity that is not linked to places or objects, but to the very person of the Christian. The third -- "pleasing to God" -- perhaps recalls the common biblical expression of a sweet-smelling sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 1:13, 17; 23:18; 26:31, etc.).

Immediately afterward, Paul thus defines this new way of living: this is "your spiritual worship." Commentators of the text know well that the Greek expression (tçn logikçn latreían) is not easy to translate. The Latin Bible renders it: "rationabile obsequium." The same word "rationabile" appears in the first Eucharistic prayer, the Roman Canon: In it, we pray so that God accepts this offering as "rationabile." The traditional Italian translation, "spiritual worship," [an offering in spirit], does not reflect all the details of the Greek text, nor even of the Latin. In any case, it is not a matter of a less real worship or even a merely metaphorical one, but of a more concrete and realistic worship, a worship in which man himself in his totality, as a being gifted with reason, transforms into adoration and glorification of the living God.

This Pauline formula, which appears again in the Roman Eucharistic prayer, is fruit of a long development of the religious experience in the centuries preceding Christ. In this experience are found theological developments of the Old Testament and currents of Greek thought. I would like to show at least certain elements of this development. The prophets and many psalms strongly criticize the bloody sacrifices of the temple. For example, Psalm 50 (49), in which it is God who speaks, says, "Were I hungry, I would not tell you, for mine is the world and all that fills it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer praise as your sacrifice to God" (verses 12-14).

In the same sense, the following Psalm 51 (50), says, " …for you do not desire sacrifice; a burnt offering you would not accept. My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart" (verse 18 and following).

In the Book of Daniel, in the times of the new destruction of the temple at the hands of the Hellenistic regime (2nd century B.C.), we find a new step in the same direction. In midst of the fire -- that is, persecution and suffering -- Azariah prays thus: "We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks … So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly" (Daniel 3:38ff).

In the destruction of the sanctuary and of worship, in this situation of being deprived of every sign of the presence of God, the believer offers as a true holocaust a contrite heart, his desire of God.

We see an important development, beautiful, but with a danger. There exists a spiritualization, a moralization of worship: Worship becomes only something of the heart, of the spirit. But the body is lacking; the community is lacking. Thus is understood that Psalm 51, for example, and also the Book of Daniel, despite criticizing worship, desire the return of the time of sacrifices. But it is a matter of a renewed time, in a synthesis that still was unforeseeable, that could not yet be thought of.

Let us return to St. Paul. He is heir to these developments, of the desire for true worship, in which man himself becomes glory of God, living adoration with all his being. In this sense, he says to the Romans: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice … your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).

Paul thus repeats what he had already indicated in Chapter 3: The time of the sacrifice of animals, sacrifices of substitution, has ended. The time of true worship has arrived. But here too arises the danger of a misunderstanding: This new worship can easily be interpreted in a moralist sense -- offering our lives we make true worship. In this way, worship with animals would be substituted by moralism: Man would do everything for himself with his moral strength. And this certainly was not the intention of St. Paul.

But the question persists: Then how should we interpret this "reasonable spiritual worship"? Paul always supposes that we have come to be "one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28), that we have died in baptism (Romans 1) and we live now with Christ, through Christ and in Christ. In this union -- and only in this way -- we can be in him and with him a "living sacrifice," to offer the "true worship." The sacrificed animals should have substituted man, the gift of self of man, and they could not. Jesus Christ, in his surrender to the Father and to us, is not a substitution, but rather really entails in himself the human being, our faults and our desire; he truly represents us, he assumes us in himself. In communion with Christ, accomplished in the faith and in the sacraments, we transform, despite our deficiencies, into living sacrifice: "True worship" is fulfilled.

This synthesis is the backdrop of the Roman Canon in which we pray that this offering be "rationabile," so that spiritual worship is accomplished. The Church knows that in the holy Eucharist, the self-gift of Christ, his true sacrifice, is made present. But the Church prays so that the celebrating community is really united to Christ, is transformed; it prays so that we ourselves come to be that which we cannot be with our efforts: offering "rationabile" that is pleasing to God. In this way the Eucharistic prayer interprets in an adequate way the words of St. Paul.

St. Augustine clarified all of this in a marvelous way in the 10th book of his City of God. I cite only two phrase: "This is the sacrifice of the Christians: though being many we are only one body in Christ" … "All of the redeemed community (civitas), that is, the congregation and the society of the saints, is offered to God through the High Priest who has given himself up" (10,6: CCL 47,27ff).

3. Finally, I want to leave a brief reflection on the third passage of the Letter to the Romans referring to the new worship. St. Paul says thus in Chapter 15: "the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service (hierourgein) of the gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the holy Spirit" (15:15ff).

I would like to emphasize only two aspects of this marvelous text and one aspect of the unique terminology of the Pauline letters. Before all else, St. Paul interprets his missionary action among the peoples of the world to construct the universal Church as a priestly action. To announce the Gospel to unify the peoples in communion with the Risen Christ is a "priestly" action. The apostle of the Gospel is a true priest; he does what is at the center of the priesthood: prepares the true sacrifice.

And then the second aspect: the goal of missionary action is -- we could say in this way -- the cosmic liturgy: that the peoples united in Christ, the world, becomes as such the glory of God "pleasing oblation, sanctified in the Holy Spirit." Here appears a dynamic aspect, the aspect of hope in the Pauline concept of worship: the self-gift of Christ implies the tendency to attract everyone to communion in his body, to unite the world. Only in communion with Christ, the model man, one with God, the world comes to be just as we all want it to be: a mirror of divine love. This dynamism is always present in Scripture; this dynamism should inspire and form our life. And with this dynamism we begin the New Year. Thanks for your patience.


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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of this New Year, I offer all of you my cordial good wishes! In the coming months, may our minds and hearts be opened ever more fully to Christ, following the example of Saint Paul, whose life and doctrine we have been considering during this Pauline Year. Today we turn to the meaning of "true worship" as highlighted in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. In uniting us to himself, Christ, a temple "not made with human hands", has made us a "living sacrifice". Paul thus exhorts us to offer our own "bodies" – meaning our entire selves – as a "spiritual worship": not in the abstract, but in our concrete daily life. At the same time, this true worship does not come about merely through human effort. Rather, through baptism, we have become "one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28), who took upon himself our human nature and has thus "assumed" us into himself. Only he has the power, by joining us to his body, to unite all people. Thus, the goal of the Church’s missionary activity is to call everyone into this "cosmic liturgy", in which the world becomes the glory of God: "a pleasing sacrifice, sanctified by the Holy Spirit".

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, including the groups from Finland and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I willingly invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace throughout the new year!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Epiphany
"Jesus Came to the World With Great Humility and in Secret"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Epiphany, the "manifestation" of the Lord. The Gospel recounts how Jesus came to the world with great humility and in secret. St. Matthew, nonetheless, refers to the arrival of the Magi, who came from the East, guided by a star, to render homage to the recently born king of the Jews. Each time I listen to this narrative, I am impressed by the clear contrast between the attitude of the Magi, on one hand, and that of Herod and the Jews.

The Gospel says that, upon listening to the worlds of the Magi, "King Herod [...] was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthwe 2:3). This reaction can be understood in various ways: Herod became alarmed because he saw in the one the Magi searched for a competitor for him and his sons. The authorities and inhabitants of Jerusalem, however, seemed astonished more than anything else, as if they woke up from a certain lethargy and needed time to think. Isaiah, in reality, had announced: "For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:5).

So then, why did Jerusalem become worried? It seems that the Evangelist wanted to anticipate the position that the high priests and the Sanhedrin would take, as well as that of the populous, with regard to Jesus during his public life. Certainly, it highlights the fact that knowledge of Scripture and the messianic prophecies don't lead all to open themselves to him and his word. Christ recalls this, before the passion, when he cries over Jerusalem because it had not recognized the time of its visitation (cf. Luke 19:44).

He we touch upon one of the crucial points of the theology of history: the drama of the faithful love of God in the person of Jesus, who "came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him" (John 1:11). In light of the entire Bible, this attitude of hostility, ambiguity or superficiality represents that of every man and of the "world" -- in the spiritual sense -- when it closes itself to the mystery of the true God, who comes to meet us with the disarming meekness of love. Jesus, the "King of the Jews" (cf. John 18:37), is the God of mercy and fidelity; he wants to reign with in love and truth, and asks us to convert, to abandon evil works and that we take up with decision the path of the good.

"Jerusalem," as such, in this sense, is all of us. May the Virgin Mary, who welcomed Jesus with faith, help us to not close our heart to his Gospel of salvation. Let us allow ourselves to be conquered and transformed by him -- the "Emmanuel" (God with us) -- to give us peace and love.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope said:]

I direct my heartfelt congratulation to the brothers and sisters of the Eastern Churches who follow the Julian calendar and will celebrate Christmas tomorrow. May the memory of the birth of the Savior spark in your hearts more and more the joy of being loved by God. Recalling our brothers and sisters in faith takes me spiritually to the Holy Land and to the Middle East. I am deeply worried about the violent armed confrontations that are taking place on the Gaza border. While I confirm that hate and the rejection of dialogue doesn't bring anything but war, I would like to encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who, loving peace, are trying to help the Israelis and Palestinians to sit down at a table and talk. May God support the commitment of these builders of peace!

In many countries, the feast of the Epiphany is also a celebration of children. I am thinking especially of all children, who are the treasure and blessing of the world, and above all of those who are denied a serene childhood. I wish to call attention, in particular, to the situation of hundreds of children and adolescents who, in these past months, which included Christmas, have been kidnapped by armed gangs that have attacked small towns in the eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which have resulted in numerous victims and wounded.

I call out to the authors of these inhuman brutalities to return these young people to their families and to a future of security and development, which is their right, together with these beloved populations. I wish to express at the same time my spiritual closeness to the local Churches, whose members and works have been hurt, while I exhort the pastors and faithful to remain strong and firm in hope.

Episodes of violence against children, which unfortunately also occurs in other parts of the world, are even more deplorable give that in 2009 the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child will be celebrated: a commitment that the international community is called to renew so that it can defend and promote childhood throughout the world.

May the Lord help those who work on a daily basis to serve the new generations -- and they are innumerable! -- helping them to be protagonists of the future. Furthermore, the Day of the Child Missionary, which is celebrated on the feast of the Epiphany, is an opportune occasion to highlight that children and adolescents have an important role to play in the diffusion of the Gospel and in the works of solidarity with those of their same age who are in need. May the Lord reward them!

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

I greet all the English-speaking visitors who join us for this Angelus prayer. On this feast of the Epiphany, the Church celebrates the revelation of Christ, the Eternal Son of the Father, as the light of the nations and the Saviour of all mankind. May the radiance of the Lord's glory fill you and your families with deep spiritual joy, and draw men and women everywhere to faith and new life in him!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Feast of Mary, Mother of God
"We Can Always Hope Anew That the Future Will Be Better"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Angelus on Jan. 1 together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

On this first day of the year, I am happy to offer all of you here present in St. Peter's Square and those who are tuned in by radio and television my most fervent best wishes for peace and every good thing. They are wishes that, we could say, the Christian faith makes "reliable," anchoring them in the events that we are celebrating during these days: the incarnation of the Word of God, born of the Virgin Mary. Indeed, with the grace of the Lord -- and only with it -- we can always hope anew that the future will be better than the past.
   
This is not about, in fact, trusting in better luck or in the modern secrets of the market and finances, but rather in we ourselves making the effort to be a little better and more responsible, so as to be able to count on the Lord's benevolence. And this is always possible because "God has spoken to us through a son" (Hebrews 1:2) and he continually speaks to us, through the preaching of the Gospel and through the voice of our conscience. In Jesus Christ, he has shown to all people the path of salvation, which is above all a spiritual redemption, but which takes in everything human, also including the social and historical dimension.

That's why, as the Church celebrates the divine maternity of most holy Mary, on this date that for more than 40 years has been World Peace Day, it indicates to everyone that Jesus Christ is the prince of peace. According to the tradition begun by Servant of God Pope Paul VI, I have written for this occasion a special message, choosing the theme: "Fighting Poverty to Build Peace."

In this way, I wish to once again enter into dialogue with the leaders of nations and international groups, offering the contribution of the Catholic Church for the promotion of a world order worthy of man. At the beginning of a new year, my first objective is precisely that of inviting everyone -- political leaders and simple citizens -- to not become discouraged in the face of difficulties and failures, but to renew their commitments.

The second part of 2008 has brought an economic crisis of vast proportions. This crisis should be interpreted in its depths, as a grave symptom that requires intervention at the level of the causes. It is not enough -- as Jesus would say -- to put a new patch on an old cloak (cf. Mark 2:21). To put the poor in first place means to decidedly move to this global solidarity that John Paul II had already indicated as a necessity, harmonizing the potential of the market with that of civil society (cf. Message, 12), in constant respect for legality and always taking into account the common good.

Jesus Christ did not organize campaigns against poverty, but he announced to the poor the Gospel, for a complete rescue from moral and material misery. The Church does the same, with its endless work of evangelization and human promotion. Let us invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so that she helps all men to walk together along the path of peace.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

I am very pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus, and I wish you all a happy New Year! I pray that Christians everywhere, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, will be filled with spiritual joy. During this year, may all who believe in Christ promote justice and charity, and bear constant witness to forgiveness, reconciliation and peace! May the Lord bless you and keep you!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On John's Synthesis of Christian Faith
"The Fulfilment of the Whole of the Old Covenant"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Angelus last Sunday together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The liturgy proposes to us to return to the meditation of the same Gospel proclaimed on Christmas day, that is, St. John's Prologue. After the hustle and bustle of recent days to buy gifts, the Church invites us to contemplate again the mystery of the birth of Christ to understand better its profound meaning and importance for our lives. This is an admirable text that offers a staggering synthesis of the entire Christian faith.

It begins on high: "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1); [and] here is the unprecedented and humanly inconceivable novelty: "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14a).

This is not a rhetorical image, but a lived experience! John, an eyewitness, relates it: "and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14b). It is not the erudite word of a rabbi or a doctor of the law, but the passionate testimony of a humble fisherman who, attracted when he was young by Jesus of Nazareth, in the three years of common life with him and the other apostles, experienced love -- to the point of defining himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He saw him die on the cross and appear resurrected, and he received together with the others his Spirit. From this whole experience, meditated upon in his heart, John arrived to a certainty: Jesus is the Wisdom of God incarnated, in his eternal Word, who became a mortal man.

For a true Israelite, who knows sacred Scripture, this is not a contradiction; on the contrary, it is the fulfillment of the whole of the Old Covenant. In Jesus Christ, the mystery of a God who speaks to man as friends, who reveals himself to Moses in the Law, to the wise and the prophets, arrives to its fullness. In knowing Jesus, being with him, hearing his preaching and seeing the signs he performed, the disciples recognized that in him, all the Scriptures were fulfilled. As a Christian author would later affirm: "All of divine Scripture constitutes just one book, and this book is Christ; it speaks of Christ and finds in Christ its fulfillment" (Hugo of St. Victor, De Arca Noe, 2, 8).

Every man and every woman needs to find a deep meaning for their own existence. And for this, books are not enough, not even sacred Scripture. The Child of Bethlehem reveals and communicates to us the true "face" of the good and faithful God, who loves us and who does not abandon us even in death: "No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him" (John 1:18).

The first one who opened her heart and contemplated "the Word made flesh" was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. A humble girl from Galilee thus became the "seat of wisdom." Like the Apostle John, each one of us is invited to "take her into our homes" (cf. John 19:27), to deeply know Jesus and experience faithful and unfailing love. This is my hope for each of you, dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of this new year.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father added:]

Today, in all the churches of the Holy Land, the patriarchs and leaders of the Christian Churches of Jerusalem are inviting the faithful to pray for the end of the conflict in the Gaza Strip and implore justice and peace for their land. I unite myself to them and I also ask you to do the same, remembering, as they say, "the victims, the wounded who have their hearts broken, those who live in anguish and fear, so that God blesses them with the consolation, patience and peace that come from him."

The dramatic news that comes from Gaza shows how the rejection of dialogue leads to situations that weigh indescribably on the population, who once again become victims of hate and war.

Hate and war are not the solution to problems. Recent history confirms it as well. Let us pray, therefore, so that "the Child of the manger … inspires in the authorities and leaders of both fronts, Israeli and Palestinian, an immediate action to finish with the current tragic situation."

With joy, I greet the participants in the international conference on the "Preventive System of Don Bosco and Human Rights," organized by the Salesians. This is a very important theme, since also in the field of human rights the educational aspect is decisive. I wish you, therefore, fruitful work, and I assure you of my prayers. I also welcome with joy the numerous seminarians who have come from various countries to participate in the formation encounter of the Focolare Movement. Dear young people: From my heart I bless your journey. May the Virgin always watch over you.

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

I cordially greet all the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer! In these first days of the New Year, as the Church celebrates the birth of the Saviour, let us pray that the peace proclaimed by the angels at Bethlehem will take ever deeper root in human hearts, banish all discord and violence, and inspire the human family to live in harmony and solidarity. Upon you and your loved ones I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Hope In Facing Current Difficulties

by Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The year that is ending and that which is approaching on the horizon are both under the blessed gaze of the Most Holy Mother of God. The artistic polychrome sculpture set here next to the altar, which portrays her on a throne with the Child giving his Blessing, also recalls her motherly presence. We are celebrating the First Vespers of this Marian Solemnity, in which there are numerous liturgical references to the mystery of the Virgin's divine motherhood.

"O admirabile commercium! O marvelous exchange!". Thus begins the Antiphon of the first Psalm, to then continue: "man's Creator has become man, born of a virgin". "By your miraculous birth of the Virgin you have fulfilled the Scriptures", proclaims the Antiphon of the Second Psalm, which is echoed by the words of the third Antiphon that introduce us to the canticle taken from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians: "Your blessed and fruitful virginity is like the bush, flaming yet unburned, which Moses saw on Sinai. Pray for us, Mother of God". Mary's divine motherhood is also highlighted in the brief Reading proclaimed shortly beforehand, which proposes anew the well-known verses of the Letter to the Galatians: "When the designated time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman... so that we might our status as adopted sons" (Gal 4: 4-5). And again, in the traditional Te Deum that we will raise at the end of our celebration before the Most Holy Sacrament solemnly exposed for our adoration singing, "Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum", in English: "when you, O Christ, became man to set us free you did not spurn the Virgin's womb".

Thus everything this evening invites us to turn our gaze to the one who "received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world", and for this very reason the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council recalls "is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God" (Lumen gentium, n. 53). Christ's Nativity, which we are commemorating in these days, is entirely suffused with the light of Mary and, while we pause at the manger to contemplate the Child, our gaze cannot fail to turn in gratitude also to his Mother, who with her "yes" made possible the gift of Redemption. This is why the Christmas Season brings with it a profoundly Marian connotation; the birth of Jesus as God and man and Mary's divine motherhood are inseparable realities; the mystery of Mary and the mystery of the Only-Begotten Son of God who was made man form a single mystery, in which the one helps to better understand the other.

Mary Mother of God Theotokos, Dei Genetrix. Since ancient times Our Lady has been honoured with this title. However, for many centuries in the West there was no feast specifically dedicated to the divine Motherhood of Mary. It was introduced into the Latin Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931 on the occasion of the 15th centenary of the Council of Ephesus, and he chose to establish it on 11 October. On that date, in 1962, the Second Vatican Council was inaugurated. It was then the Servant of God Paul VI who restored an ancient tradition in 1969, fixing this Solemnity on 1 January. In the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus of 2 February 1974, he explained the reason for his decision and its connection with the World Day of Peace. "In the revised ordering of the Christmas period it seems to us that the attention of all should be directed towards the restored Solemnity of Mary the holy Mother of God," Paul VI wrote. "This celebration... is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the "holy Mother'.... It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration to the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels (cf. Lk 2: 14), and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace" (n. 5).

This evening, let us place in the hands of the heavenly Mother of God our choral hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord for the gifts he has generously granted us during the past 12 months. The first sentiment which spontaneously rises in our hearts this evening is precisely that of praise and thanksgiving to the One who gave us time, a precious opportunity to do good; let us combine with it our request for forgiveness for perhaps not always having spent it usefully. I am glad to share this thanksgiving with you, dear brothers and sisters who represent the whole of our diocesan community to which I address my cordial greeting, extending it to all the inhabitants of Rome. I extend a particular greeting to the Cardinal Vicar and to the Mayor, both of whom have begun their different missions this year one spiritual and religious, the other civil and administrative at the service of this city of ours. I extend my greeting to the Auxiliary Bishops, priests, consecrated people and the very many lay faithful who have gathered here, as well as to the authorities present. By coming into the world, the eternal Word of the Father revealed to us God's closeness and the ultimate truth about man and his eternal destiny; he came to stay with us to be our irreplaceable support, especially in the inevitable daily difficulties. And this evening the Virgin herself reminds us of what a great gift Jesus gave us with his Birth, of what a precious "treasure" his Incarnation constitutes for us. In his Nativity Jesus comes to offer us his Word as a lamp to guide our steps; he comes to offer us himself and we must always affirm him as our unfailing hope in our daily life, aware that "it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et spes, n. 22).

Christ's presence is a gift that we must be able to share with everyone. It is for this purpose that the diocesan community is making an effort to form pastoral workers, so as to equip them to respond to the challenges modern culture poses to the Christian faith. The presence of numerous highly qualified academic institutions in Rome and the many initiatives promoted by the parishes enable us to look confidently to the future of Christianity in this city. As you well know, encountering Christ renews our personal life and helps us to contribute to building a just and fraternal society. This is why we as believers can also make a great contribution to overcoming the current educational emergency. Thus, for a profound evangelization and a courageous human promotion that can communicate the riches that derive from the encounter with Christ to as many people as possible, an increase in synergy among families, school and parishes is more important than ever. For this I encourage each member of our diocese to continue on the journey they have undertaken, together carrying out the programme for the current pastoral year which aims precisely to "educate to hope through prayer, action and suffering".

In our times, marked by uncertainty and concern for the future, it is necessary to experience the living presence of Christ. It is Mary, Star of Hope who leads us to him. It is she, with her maternal love, who can guide young people especially who bear in their hearts an irrepressible question about the meaning of human existence to Jesus. I know that various groups of parents, meeting in order to deepen their vocation, are seeking new ways to help their children respond to the big existential questions. I cordially urge them, together with the whole Christian community, to bear witness to the new generations of the joy that stems from encountering Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem and did not come to take something from us but rather to give us everything.

On Christmas night I had a special thought for children; instead, this evening it is young people above all on whom I wish to focus my attention. Dear young people, responsible for the future of this our city, do not be afraid of the apostolic task that the Lord is entrusting to you. Do not hesitate to choose a lifestyle that does not follow the current hedonistic mindset. The Holy Spirit assures you of the strength you need to witness to the joy of faith and the beauty of being Christian. The growing need for evangelization requires many labourers in the Lord's vineyard; do not hesitate to respond to him promptly if he calls you. Society needs citizens who are not concerned solely with their own interests because, as I recalled on Christmas Day, "If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart".

Dear brothers and sisters, this year is ending with an awareness of the spreading social and financial crisis that now involves the whole world; a crisis that asks for greater moderation and solidarity from all, so that they may go to the aid especially of the individuals and families who are in the most serious difficulty. The Christian community is already making efforts toward this and I know that the diocesan Caritas and other relief agencies are doing their utmost. Nonetheless, everyone's collaboration is necessary, for no one can think of building his own happiness alone. Although many clouds are gathering on the horizon of our future, we must not be afraid. Our great hope as believers is eternal life in communion with Christ and the whole family of God. This great hope gives us the strength to face and to overcome the difficulties of life in this world. This evening the motherly presence of Mary assures us that God never abandons us if we entrust ourselves to him and follow his teachings. Therefore, while we take our leave of 2008 and prepare to welcome 2009, let us present to Mary our expectations and hopes, as well as our fears and the difficulties that dwell in our hearts, with filial affection and trust. She, the Virgin Mother, offers us the Child who lies in the manger as our sure hope. Full of trust, we shall then be able to sing at the end of the Te Deum: "In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum - In you, Lord, is our hope: and we shall never hope in vain". Yes, Lord, in you we hope, today and for ever; you are our hope. Amen!

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Fighting Poverty through Sobriety and Solidarity

by Pope Benedict XVI

Venerable Brothers,
Mr Ambassadors,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the first day of the year, divine Providence brings us together for a celebration that moves us each time because of the riches and beauty of its correspondence: the civil New Year converges with the culmination of the Octave of Christmas on which the divine Motherhood of Mary is celebrated, and this gathering is summed up felicitously in the World Day of Peace. In the light of Christ's Nativity, I am pleased to address my best wishes to each one for the year that has just begun. I address them in particular to Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and his collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, with special gratitude for their precious service. I also address them to the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and to the entire Secretariat of State; and likewise, with deep cordiality, I address them to the large number of Ambassadors present today. My good wishes echo the good wishes that the Lord himself has just addressed to us in the liturgy of the Word. A Word which, starting with the event in Bethlehem, recalled in its historical actuality by the Gospel of Luke (2: 16-21) and reinterpreted in all its saving importance by the Apostle Paul (Gal 4: 4-7), becomes a Blessing for the People of God and for all humanity.

Thus the ancient Jewish tradition of blessing is brought to completion (Nm 6: 22-27): the priests of Israel blessed the people by putting the Lord's Name upon them: "so shall they put my name upon the people of Israel". With a triple formula present in the First Reading the sacred Name was invoked upon the faithful three times, as a wish for grace and peace. This remote custom brings us back to an essential reality: to be able to walk on the way of peace, men and women and peoples need to be illumined by the "Face" of God and to be blessed by his "Name". Precisely this came about definitively with the Incarnation: the coming of the Son of God in our flesh and in history brought an irrevocable blessing, a light that is never to be extinguished and offers believers and people of good-will alike the possibility of building the civilization of love and peace.

The Second Vatican Council said in this regard that "by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man" (Gaudium et spes, n. 22). This union confirms the original design of a humanity created in the "image and likeness" of God. In fact, the Incarnate Word is the one, perfect and consubstantial image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ is the perfect man. "Human nature", the Council reaffirms: "by the very fact that it was assumed... in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare" (ibid.). For this reason the earthly history of Jesus that culminated in the Paschal Mystery is the beginning of a new world, because he truly inaugurated a new humanity, ever and only with Christ's grace, capable of bringing about a peaceful "revolution". This revolution was not an ideological but spiritual revolution, not utopian but real, and for this reason in need of infinite patience, sometimes of very long periods, avoiding any short cuts and taking the hardest path: the path of the development of responsibility in consciences.

Dear friends, this is the Gospel way to peace, the way that the Bishop of Rome is called to reproprose with constancy every time that he sets his hand to writing the annual Message for the World Day of Peace. In taking this path it is at times necessary to review aspects and problems that have already been faced but that are so important that they constantly require fresh attention. This is the case of the theme I have chosen for the Message this year: "Fighting poverty to build peace". This is a theme that lends itself to a dual order of considerations which I can only mention briefly here. On the one hand the poverty Jesus chose and proposed and on the other, the poverty to be combated in order to bring the world greater justice and solidarity.

The first aspect acquires its ideal context during these days in the Christmas Season. The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem reveals to us that God chose poverty for himself in coming among us. The scene that the shepherds were the first to see and that confirmed the angel's announcement to them, was a stable in which Mary and Joseph had found shelter, and a manger in which the Virgin had laid the newborn Child wrapped in swaddling clothes (cf. Lk 2: 7, 12, 16). God chose this poverty. He wanted to be born thus but we can immediately add: he wanted to live and also to die in this condition. Why? St Alphonsus Maria Liguori explains it in a Christmas carol that is known all over Italy: "You, Creator of the world had no clothes, no fire, O my Lord. My dear Divine Child, how I love this poverty, since for love you made yourself poorer still". This is the answer: love for us impelled Jesus not only to make himself man, but also to make himself poor. Along these same lines we can quote St Paul's words in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "For you are well acquainted", he writes, with "the favour shown you by our Lord Jesus Christ: how for your sake he made himself poor though he was rich, so that you might become rich by his poverty" (8: 9). St Francis of Assisi was an exemplary witness of this poverty chosen for love. The Franciscan charism, in the history of the Church and of Christian civilization, constitutes a widespread trend of evangelical poverty which has done and continues to do such great good for the Church and for the human family. Returning to St Paul's wonderful synthesis on Jesus, it is significant also for our reflection today that it was inspired in the Apostle precisely while he was urging the Christians of Corinth to be generous in collecting money for the poor. He explains: "I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want" (2 Cor 8: 13).

This is a crucial point that brings us to the second aspect: there is a poverty, a deprivation, which God does not desire and which should be "fought" as the theme of this World Day of Peace says; a poverty that prevents people and families from living as befits their dignity; a poverty that offends justice and equality and that, as such, threatens peaceful co-existence. This negative acceptation also includes all the non-material forms of poverty that are also to be found in the rich and developed societies: marginalization, relational, moral and spiritual poverty (cf. Message for the World Day of Peace 2009, n. 2). In my Message I wanted once again, following in the wake of my Predecessors, to consider attentively the complex phenomenon of globalization and its relation to widespread poverty. In the face of widespread scourges such as pandemic diseases (ibid., n. 4), child poverty (ibid., n. 5), the food crisis (ibid., n. 7), I have unfortunately had to return to denouncing the unacceptable arms race. On the one hand the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is being celebrated, and on the other, military expenditure is increasing, thereby violating the Charter of the United Nations, which endeavours to reduce this expenditure to the minimum (cf. art. 26). Furthermore, globalization eliminates certain barriers but it can build others (op. cit. Message for the World Day of Peace 2009, n. 8). The international community and the individual States must therefore always be alert; they must never lose sight of the dangers of conflict. On the contrary, they must strive to keep the level of solidarity high. The current global financial crisis must be seen in this regard also as a bench test: are we ready to interpret it, in its complexity, as a challenge for the future and not only as an emergency to which we must find short-term solutions? Are we prepared to undertake a profound revision of the prevalent model of development in order to correct it with concerted, far-sighted interventions? In reality, this is required by the state of the planet's ecological health and especially the cultural and moral crisis whose symptoms have been visible for some time in every part of the world, far more than by the immediate financial problems.

Thus it is necessary to seek to establish a "virtuous circle" between the poverty "to be chosen" and the poverty "to be fought". This gives access to a path rich in fruits for humanity's present and future and which could be summarized thus: to fight the evil poverty that oppresses so many men and women and threatens the peace of all, it is necessary to rediscover moderation and solidarity as evangelical, and at the same time universal, values. More practically, it is impossible to combat poverty effectively unless one does what St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in other words if one does not seek "to create equality", reducing the gap between those who waste the superfluous and those who lack what they need. This entails just and sober decisions, which are moreover made obligatory by the need to administer the earth's limited resources wisely. When he says that Jesus Christ "for [our] sake became poor", St Paul offers an important indication not only from the theological point of view but also at the sociological level; not in the sense that poverty is a value in itself, but because it is a condition that demonstrates solidarity. When Francis of Assisi stripped himself of his possessions, it was a decision to witness that was inspired in him directly by God, but at the same time it shows everyone the way of trust in Providence. Thus, in the Church, the vow of poverty is the commitment of some, but it reminds all of the need to be detached from material goods and of the primacy of spiritual riches. This is therefore the message for us today: the poverty of Christ's Birth in Bethlehem, as well as being the subject of adoration for Christians, is also a school of life for every man. It teaches us that to fight both material and spiritual poverty, the path to take is the path of solidarity that impelled Jesus to share our human condition.

Dear brothers and sisters, I believe that the Virgin Mary must have asked herself this question several times: why did Jesus choose to be born of a simple, humble girl like me? And then, why did he want to come into the world in a stable and have his first visit from the shepherds of Bethlehem? Mary received her answer in full at the end, having laid in the tomb the Body of Jesus, dead and wrapped in a linen shroud (cf. Lk 23: 53). She must then have fully understood the mystery of the poverty of God. She understood that God made himself poor for our sake, to enrich us with his poverty full of love, to urge us to impede the insatiable greed that sparks conflicts and divisions, to invite us to moderate the mania to possess and thus to be open to reciprocal sharing and acceptance. Let us trustingly address to Mary, Mother of the Son of God who made himself our brother, our prayer that she will help us follow in his footsteps, to fight and overcome poverty, to build true peace, which is opus iustitiae. Let us entrust to her the profound desire to live in peace that wells up in the hearts of the vast majority of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, once again jeopardized by the outbreak of violence on a massive scale in the Gaza Strip, in response to other violent incidents. Even violence, even hatred and distrust are forms of poverty perhaps the most appalling "to fight". May they not get the upper hand! In this regard the Pastors of those Churches, in these distressing days, have made their voices heard. Together with them and their beloved faithful, especially those of the small but fervent parish of Gaza, let us place at Mary's feet our anxieties for the present and our fears for the future, and likewise the well-founded hope that with the wise and far-sighted contribution of all it will not be impossible to listen to one another, to come to one another's help and to give concrete responses to the widespread aspiration to live in peace, safety and dignity. Let us say to Mary: accompany us, heavenly Mother of the Redeemer, throughout the year that begins today, and obtain from God the gift of peace for the Holy Land and for all humanity. Holy Mother of God, pray for us. Amen.

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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We Restore to God That Which Has Come From Him

by Pope Benedict XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The words that the Evangelist Mark recounts at the beginning of his Gospel: "You are my Son, my beloved: in you I am well pleased" (1:11) bring us to the heart of today's feast of the baptism of the Lord, with which the Christmas season concludes. The cycle of Christmas solemnities brings us to meditate on the birth of Jesus announced by the angels suffused with the luminous splendor of God; Christmas time speaks to us of the star that guided the magi from the east to the house of Bethlehem, and it invites us to look to the heavens opened above the Jordan as the voice of God resounds.

They are all signs through which the Lord does not tire of repeating to us: "Yes, I am here. I know you. I love you. There is a road that leads from me to you. And there is a road that leads from you to me." In Jesus, the Creator assumed the dimensions of a Child, of a human being like us, who we may see and touch. At the same time, in making himself small, God made the light of his greatness shine -- because, by lowering himself to the defenseless impotence of love, he shows the nature of true greatness, indeed, what it means to be God.

The meaning of Christmas, and more generally the meaning of the liturgical year, is precisely that of us drawing near to these divine signs, to recognize in them the events of every day, so that our hearts will open to the love of God. And if Christmas and Epiphany serve above all to make us capable of seeing, to opening our eyes and hearts to the mystery of a God who comes to be with us, the feast of the baptism of Jesus introduces us, we could say, to the everydayness of a personal relationship with him. In fact, through the immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united himself to us.

Baptism is, so to speak, the bridge that he has built between him and us, the road by which he is accessible to us; it is the divine rainbow over our life, the promise of the great yes of God, the gateway to hope and, at the same time, the sign that indicates the road we must take in an active and joyous way to meet him and feel loved by him.

Dear friends, I am truly happy that this year too, on this feast day, I have been given the opportunity to baptize children. Today God's pleasure is upon them. From the time that the only-begotten Son of the Father was baptized, heaven has truly opened and continues to open itself, and we can entrust every new life that blossoms to the hands of God, who is stronger than the dark powers of evil. This in effect leads to baptism: We restore to God that which has come from him. The child is not the parents' property, but is rather entrusted by the Creator to their responsibility, freely and in an ever new way, so that they help him to be a free child of God.

Only if the parents cultivate such an awareness will they succeed in finding the right balance between the pretence of being able to dispose of their own children as if they were a private possession, forming them according to their own ideas and desires, and the liberal attitude that expresses itself in giving them total freedom, satisfying all their desires and aspirations, seeing that as the right way to develop their personality.

If, with this sacrament, the newly baptized infant becomes an adoptive child of God, object of his infinite love that safeguards and defends him, then he must be taught to recognize God as his Father and to know how to relate to him with a filial attitude. For this reason, when, following the Christian tradition, as we do today, we baptize children, bringing them into God's light and his teachings, we are not doing violence to them; rather we are giving them the wealth of divine life in which true freedom is rooted, which is that of being children of God; a freedom that must be educated and formed with the passing of years, so that it become capable of responsible personal choices.

Dear parents, dear godfathers and godmothers, I greet you with affection and I share your joy over these little ones that today are reborn into eternal life. You are conscious of the gift that has been received and you do not cease to thank the Lord who, with today's sacrament, introduces your children into a new family, greater and more stable, more open and numerous than your own: I am talking about the family of believers, the Church, a family that has God for Father and in which all gather as brothers in Jesus Christ.

Today, therefore, you entrust your children to the goodness of God, who is power of light and love; and they, though they will face difficulties in life, will never feel abandoned if they remain united with him. Concern yourselves with educating them in the faith, with teaching them to pray and to grow as Jesus did and with his help, "in wisdom, age and grace before God and men" (cf. Luke 2:52).

Turning now to the Gospel passage, we will try to understand still further that which is happening today. St. Mark says that, while John the Baptist preached on the shores of the Jordan, proclaiming the urgency of conversion in view of the coming of the Messiah who is now drawing near, Jesus, mixed in with the crowds, presents himself to be baptized.

John's baptism of repentance is certainly quite different from the one Jesus will institute. Nevertheless, at that moment, the mission of the Redeemer is glimpsed, for, when he comes out of the water, a voice from heaven resounds and the Holy Spirit descends upon him (cf. Mark 1:10). The heavenly Father proclaims him his beloved Son and publicly bears witness to his universal mission of salvation, which he will fully accomplish with his death on the cross and his resurrection. Only then, with the Paschal sacrifice, will the remission of sins be made universal and total.

With baptism we do not merely immerse ourselves in the waters of the Jordan to proclaim our commitment to conversion, but there is poured out upon us the redemptive blood of Christ that purifies us and saves us. It is the beloved Son of the Father, in whom he is well pleased, which reacquires for us the dignity and the joy of calling ourselves and truly being "children" of God.

Soon we will relive this mystery evoked by today's solemnity; the signs and symbols of the sacrament of baptism will help us to understand that which the Lord works in the hearts of these little ones of ours, making them "his" forever, a dwelling place chosen by his Spirit and "living stones" for the building up of the spiritual edifice which is the Church.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, beloved Son of God, keep watch over them and their families, always be with them, so that they may realize the project of salvation that baptism accomplishes in their lives.

And we, dear brothers and sisters, let us accompany them with our prayer; let us pray for the parents, godfathers and godmothers and for their relatives, that they help them to grow in the faith; let us pray for all of us here present that, devotedly participating in this celebration, we will renew the promises of our baptism and give thanks to the Lord for his constant help. Amen!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic, provided by ZENIT]

© Copyright 2008 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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On the Feast of the Holy Family
"Family of Nazareth, Expert in Suffering, Give Peace to the World"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2009  - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address lastSunday, feast of the Holy Family, before and after the praying of the midday Angelus in St. Peter's Square. He gave the address in Spanish and Italian.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

On this Sunday that follows the birth of the Lord, we celebrate with joy the Holy Family of Nazareth. The context is more than adequate, since Christmas is the feast of the family, par excellence. So many traditions and social customs demonstrate this, especially that of gathering together, in family, for the festive meals and the congratulations and the interchange of gifts. And, how can we not see that in these circumstances, the discontent and the sorrow caused by family strife is amplified?

Jesus wanted to be born and grow up in a human family; he wanted the Virgin Mary to be his mom and Joseph to fulfill the role of father. They raised and educated him with immense love. Jesus' family truly merits the title of "holy," since it is entirely focused on the desire of fulfilling the will of God, incarnated in the adorable presence of Jesus. In one sense it is a family like all others, and as such, it is a model of conjugal love, collaboration, sacrifice, confidence in divine providence, a spirit of work and solidarity. Certainly, it presents all these values that the family protects and promotes, contributing in a basic sense to form the fabric of every society.

At the same time, though, the family of Nazareth is unique, different from all others, because of its singular vocation, linked to the mission of the Son of God. Precisely because of its unique character, it presents to every family, and in the first place to Christian families, the horizon of God, the sweet and demanding priority of his will, the perspective of heaven, to which we are destined.

For all of this, today let us give thanks to God, like the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who with such faith and willingness cooperated in the Lord's plan of salvation.

To express the beauty and the value of the family, today thousands of people have gathered in Madrid. To them, I want to address myself in Spanish:

I offer now a cordial greeting to the participants who are gathered in Madrid in this intimate gathering to pray for the family and to commit oneself to work in favor of the family with strength and hope. The family is certainly a grace from God, which reveals what he, himself, is: love. A love that is entirely gratuitous, that sustains fidelity without limits, even in the moments of difficulty or dejection.

These qualities are incarnated in an eminent way in the Holy Family, in which Jesus came to the world and grew and filled himself with wisdom, with the exquisite care of Mary and the faithful guardianship of St. Joseph.

Dear families, do not allow the love, openness to life, and the incomparable bonds that unite your homes to be spoiled. Ask this constantly of the Lord, pray together, so that your resolutions are enlightened by faith and extolled by divine grace in the path toward sanctity.

In this way, with the joy of your sharing everything in love, you will give to the world a beautiful testimony of how important the family is for the human being and for society. The Pope is at your side, praying especially to the Lord for those in each family who have greatest need of health, work, consolation and company. In this prayer of the Angelus, I entrust all of you to our Mother in heaven, the most holy Virgin Mary.

Dear brothers and sisters, speaking of the family, I cannot fail to recall that from the 14th to 18th of January, 2009, the 6th World Meeting of Families will take place in Mexico City. Let us pray starting now for this important ecclesial event and entrust to the Lord every family, especially those most tried by the difficulties of life and the wounds of misunderstanding and division. May the Redeemer, born in Bethlehem, give to all the serenity and the strength to walk united in the path of good.

[After praying the Angelus, the Pope continued:]

Dear brothers and sisters:

The Holy Land, which in these days of Christmas is in the center of the thoughts and the affections of the faithful of every part of the world, finds itself again jolted by an explosion of unparalleled violence. I am deeply bereaved for those who have died and the wounded, by the material damages, the suffering and the tears of the populations that are victims of this tragic chain of attacks and retaliation.

Jesus' homeland cannot continue to be witness of so much bloodshed, which continues endlessly! I implore an end to the violence, which must be condemned in every one of its manifestations, and the re-establishment of the truce in the Gaza Strip. I ask for a show of humanity and wisdom from all those who have responsibility in the situation. I implore the international community to do everything possible to help Israelis and Palestinians to get out of this dead-end street and to not resign themselves -- as I said a few days ago in the "urbi et orbi" message -- to the perverse logic of confrontation and violence, but rather to give priority to the path of dialogue and negotiation.

Let us entrust to Jesus, Prince of Peace, our fervent prayer for these intentions, and to him, to Mary and Joseph, let us implore: "Family of Nazareth, expert in suffering, give peace to the world." Give peace today above all to the Holy Land!

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

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims at this Angelus. Today we recall how Mary and Joseph, after presenting Jesus in the temple, took the child to Nazareth and began their life as a family. May all families strive to imitate their faith, hope and charity, so as to bear greater witness to the singular importance of the "domestic church" for the life of the universal Church and for society. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Christmas Eve Homily
"God Dwells on High, Yet He Stoops Down to Us!"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?" This is what Israel sings in one of the Psalms (113 [112], 5ff.), praising God's grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity. God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us! God is infinitely great, and far, far above us. This is our first experience of him. The distance seems infinite. The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning. But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who "is seated on high", looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me. God's looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God's looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me. The Psalm tells us this in the following verse: "He raises the poor from the dust." In looking down, he raises me up, he takes me gently by the hand and helps me to rise from depths towards the heights. "God stoops down". This is a prophetic word. That night in Bethlehem, it took on a completely new meaning. God's stooping down became real in a way previously inconceivable. He stoops down: he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity's neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable. In the Old Testament the Temple was considered almost as God's footstool; the sacred ark was the place in which he was mysteriously present in the midst of men and women. Above the temple, hidden, stood the cloud of God's glory. Now it stands above the stable. God is in the cloud of the poverty of a homeless child: an impenetrable cloud, and yet a cloud of glory!

How, indeed, could his love for humanity, his solicitude for us, have appeared greater and more pure? The cloud of hiddenness, the cloud of the poverty of a child totally in need of love, is at the same time the cloud of glory. For nothing can be more sublime, nothing greater than the love which thus stoops down, descends, becomes dependent. The glory of the true God becomes visible when the eyes of our hearts are opened before the stable of Bethlehem.

Saint Luke's account of the Christmas story, which we have just heard in the Gospel, tells us that God first raised the veil of his hiddenness to people of very lowly status, people who were looked down upon by society at large: to shepherds looking after their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem. Luke tells us that they were "keeping watch". This phrase reminds us of a central theme of Jesus's message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, even to the Agony in the Garden: the command to stay awake, to recognize the Lord's coming, and to be prepared. Here too the expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly "watchful" people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives. To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: for you this night the Saviour is born. Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instil the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a "watchful" people.

Saint Luke tells us, moreover, that the shepherds themselves were "surrounded" by the glory of God, by the cloud of light. They found themselves caught up in the glory that shone around them. Enveloped by the holy cloud, they heard the angels' song of praise: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to people of his good will". And who are these people of his good will if not the poor, the watchful, the expectant, those who hope in God's goodness and seek him, looking to him from afar?

The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment -- the Fathers say -- the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him. They had heard, so to speak, creation's silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them. The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands: he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history. From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God's new and further way of making himself known -- say the Fathers -- a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: "Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth". We might say that, following the structure of Hebrew poetry, the two halves of this double verse say essentially the same thing, but from a different perspective. God's glory is in the highest heavens, but his high state is now found in the stable: what was lowly has now become sublime. God's glory is on the earth, it is the glory of humility and love. And even more: the glory of God is peace. Wherever he is, there is peace. He is present wherever human beings do not attempt, apart from him, and even violently, to turn earth into heaven. He is with those of watchful hearts; with the humble and those who meet him at the level of his own "height", the height of humility and love. To these people he gives his peace, so that through them, peace can enter this world.

The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God -- from the time of Adam -- saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom. Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now, this God who has become a child says to us: you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.

With these thoughts, we draw near this night to the child of Bethlehem -- to the God who for our sake chose to become a child. In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love. This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul. The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated. Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.

And speaking of the Child of Bethlehem, let us think also of the place named Bethlehem, of the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease. Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night.

In Psalm 96 [95], Israel, and the Church, praises God's grandeur manifested in creation. All creatures are called to join in this song of praise, and so the Psalm also contains the invitation: "Let all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes" (v. 12ff.). The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy and also as a task. The coming of God to Bethlehem took place in silence. Only the shepherds keeping watch were, for a moment, surrounded by the light-filled radiance of his presence and could listen to something of that new song, born of the wonder and joy of the angels at God's coming. This silent coming of God's glory continues throughout the centuries. Wherever there is faith, wherever his word is proclaimed and heard, there God gathers people together and gives himself to them in his Body; he makes them his Body. God "comes". And in this way our hearts are awakened. The new song of the angels becomes the song of all those who, throughout the centuries, sing ever anew of God's coming as a child -- and rejoice deep in their hearts. And the trees of the wood go out to him and exult. The tree in Saint Peter's Square speaks of him, it wants to reflect his splendour and to say: Yes, he has come, and the trees of the wood acclaim him. The trees in the cities and in our homes should be something more than a festive custom: they point to the One who is the reason for our joy -- the God who for our sake became a child. In the end, this song of praise, at the deepest level, speaks of him who is the very tree of new-found life. Through faith in him we receive life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist he gives himself to us; he gives us a life that reaches into eternity. At this hour we join in creation's song of praise, and our praise is at the same time a prayer: Yes, Lord, help us to see something of the splendour of your glory. And grant peace on earth. Make us men and women of your peace. Amen.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Christmas Message
"I Once More Joyfully Proclaim Christ's Birth"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 25, 2008 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's Christmas message, which he delivered from the main balcony of St. Peter's Basilica today at noon.

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"The grace of God our Saviour has appeared to all" (Tit 2:11, Vulg.)

Dear brothers and sisters, in the words of the Apostle Paul, I once more joyfully proclaim Christ's Birth. Today "the grace of God our Saviour" has truly "appeared to all"!

It appeared! This is what the Church celebrates today. The grace of God, rich in goodness and love, is no longer hidden. It "appeared", it was manifested in the flesh, it showed its face. Where? In Bethlehem. When? Under Caesar Augustus, during the first census, which the Evangelist Luke also mentions. And who is the One who reveals it? A newborn Child, the Son of the Virgin Mary. In him the grace of God our Saviour has appeared. And so that Child is called Jehoshua, Jesus, which means: "God saves".

The grace of God has appeared. That is why Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born. Indeed, he is the light itself, which begins to radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity. He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history. Every Christmas crib is a simple yet eloquent invitation to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of life. It is an encounter with the immortal Life which became mortal in the mystic scene of the Nativity: a scene which we can admire here too, in this Square, as in countless churches and chapels throughout the world, and in every house where the name of Jesus is adored.

The grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus – the face of the "God who saves", did not show himself only for a certain few, but for everyone. Although it is true that in the simple and lowly dwelling of Bethlehem few persons encountered him, still he came for all: Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, those near and those far away, believers and non-believers… for everyone. Supernatural grace, by God's will, is meant for every creature. Yet each human person needs to accept that grace, to utter his or her own "yes", like Mary, so that his or her heart can be illumined by a ray of that divine light. It was Mary and Joseph, who that night welcomed the incarnate Word, awaiting it with love, along with the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks (cf. Lk 2:1-20). A small community, in other words, which made haste to adore the Child Jesus; a tiny community which represents the Church and all people of good will. Today too those who await him, who seek him in their lives, encounter the God who out of love became our brother – all those who turn their hearts to him, who yearn to see his face and to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom. Jesus himself would say this in his preaching: these are the poor in spirit; those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for justice; the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness' sake (cf. Mt 5:3-10). They are the ones who see in Jesus the face of God and then set out again, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, renewed in heart by the joy of his love.

Brothers and sisters, all you who are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope – the heart of the Christmas message – is meant for all men and women. Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God's saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace.

May the many people who continue to dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (cf. Lk 1:79) come to know the power of God's saving grace! May the divine Light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land, where the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians. May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East. May it bring forth rich fruit from the efforts of all those who, rather than resigning themselves to the twisted logic of conflict and violence, prefer instead the path of dialogue and negotiation as the means of resolving tensions within each country and finding just and lasting solutions to the conflicts troubling the region. This light, which brings transformation and renewal, is besought by the people of Zimbabwe, in Africa, trapped for all too long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps worsening, as well as the men and women of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the war-torn region of Kivu, Darfur, in Sudan, and Somalia, whose interminable sufferings are the tragic consequence of the lack of stability and peace. This light is awaited especially by the children living in those countries, and the children of all countries experiencing troubles, so that their future can once more be filled with hope.

Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking; wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity. If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, "the grace of God our Saviour has appeared" (cf. Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes and travails. Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High and the son of the Virgin Mary: "God from God, light from light, true God from true God. For us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven". Let us adore him, this very day, in every corner of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger. Let us adore him in silence, while he, still a mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying: Do not be afraid, "I am God, and there is no other" (Is 45:22). Come to me, men and women, peoples and nations, come to me. Do not be afraid: I have come to bring you the love of the Father, and to show you the way of peace.

Let us go, then, brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us; he has shown us his face, full of grace and mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain! Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart. Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!

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On the Angelus
"Allows Us to Relive the Decisive Moment When God Knocked at Mary's Heart"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday's Gospel presents to us once again the account of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the mystery to which we return every day in reciting the Angelus. This prayer allows us to relive the decisive moment when God knocked at Mary's heart and, having received her "yes," began to take flesh in her and from her. The collect prayer of today's Mass is the same prayer that is recited at the end of the Angelus: "Lord, fill our hearts with your love, and as you revealed to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man, so lead through his suffering and death to the glory of his resurrection." With the feast of Christmas just a few days away, we are invited to fix our gaze upon the ineffable mystery that Mary carried for nine months in her virginal womb: the mystery of God who becomes man. This is the first hinge of Redemption. The second is Jesus' death and resurrection, and these two inseparable hinges manifest a single divine plan: to save humanity and its history, assuming it to the very end by completely taking on all the evil that oppresses it.

Beyond the historical dimension of this mystery of salvation, there is a cosmic dimension: Christ is the sun of grace who, with his light, "transfigures and inflames the universe with expectation" (Liturgy). The time of the Christmas feast is linked with the winter solstice, when the days of the northern hemisphere begin to get longer again. In this connection, perhaps not many people know that St. Peter's Square is a meridian: the great obelisk, in fact, casts its shadow upon a line that runs along the pavement toward the fountain below this window, and in these days the shadow is the longest of the year. This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking the times of prayer. The Angelus, for example, is recited in the morning, at noon and in the evening. The meridian, which in the past served for helping one to know " true noon," was the standard for clocks.

The fact that the winter solstice occurs precisely today, Dec. 21, at this exact hour, gives me the opportunity to greet all those who are participating in various ways in the events of the International Year of Astronomy, 2009, marking the 4th centenary of Galileo Galilee's first observations with his telescope. There have been practitioners of this science among my predecessors of venerable memory, such as Sylvester II, who taught it, Gregory XIII, to whom we owe our calendar, and St. Pius X, who knew how to build solar clocks. If the heavens, according to the beautiful words of the psalmist, " narrate the glory of God" (Psalm 19 [18], 2), even the laws of nature, which in the course of centuries many men and women of science have helped us to understand better, are a great stimulus to contemplating the works of the Lord with gratitude.

Let us return now to contemplating of Mary and Jesus, who await the birth of Jesus, and learn from them the secret of recollection for tasting the joy of Christmas. Let us prepare to welcome with faith the Redeemer who comes to be with us, the Word of God's love for humanity of every age.

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

I am happy to greet the [49] new priests of the Legionaries of Christ, who received ordination at the hands of Cardinal Angelo Sodano yesterday at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Dear friends, may the love of Christ that moved St. Paul in his mission always animate your ministry. I bless you and your loved ones from my heart!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In Italian, he said:]

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus. In today's liturgy, we recall how the Virgin Mary was invited by the Angel to conceive the one in whom the fullness of divinity would dwell: Jesus, the " Son of the Most High". As we prepare to celebrate his birth, let us not be afraid to say " Yes" to the Lord, so that we may join Our Lady in singing his goodness forever. May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's Message to Fiji's Ambassador
"Work Together to Achieve the Common Good of All"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday upon receiving in audience Pio Bosco Tikoisuva, the new ambassador of Fiji to the Holy See.

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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 the Fiji Islands to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from President Ratu Josefa Iloilo and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Please convey my greetings to each of them and assure them of my continued prayers for all the people of the Fiji Islands.

The Holy See is always encouraged to see signs of progress towards greater peace and stability, and hopes very much that the steps being taken towards re-establishing a democratically elected form of government in Fiji, drawing on the talents and energies of all the inhabitants, will bear fruit. Indeed, one of the key principles of the Christian view of social and political organization is the virtue of solidarity, through which the different elements of society work together to achieve the common good of all, thereby producing what my predecessor Pope Paul VI so beautifully described as a "civilization of love" (Homily for the close of the Holy Year 1975). For this reason the Church values the democratic system, as one which gives a voice to all the different sectors of society and encourages shared responsibility. It remains the case, however, that "the moral well-being of the world can never be guaranteed simply through structures alone, however good they are" (Spe Salvi, 24): democracy on its own is not enough, unless it is guided and enlightened by values rooted in the truth about the human person (cf. Centesimus Annus, 46).

It is here that the Holy See’s diplomatic relations with States can make an important contribution to the common good. While governments take responsibility for the political ordering of the State, the Church unceasingly proclaims her vision of the God-given dignity and rights of the human person. It is on this basis that she urges political leaders to ensure that all their people can live in peace and freedom, without fear of discrimination or injustice of any kind. She urges civil authorities to guarantee the most fundamental of all rights, namely the right to life from the moment of conception until natural death. Following on from this is the right to live in a united family and a moral environment conducive to personal growth, the right to seek and know the truth through education, the right to work and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour, the right to establish a family and rear children responsibly. The synthesis of all these rights is found in religious freedom, understood as "the right to live in the truth of one’s faith and in conformity with one’s transcendent dignity as a person" (Centesimus Annus, 47).

The Catholic community in Fiji is eager to play its part in promoting the respect due to the human person, especially through commitment to education and charitable activity. Indeed, the proper formation of the young and the service of the needy is integral to the Church’s mission in the world, and both are key elements in her contribution to the common good of society. Owing to the presence of Christians from different traditions, as well as members of other religions, Fiji provides fertile ground for the development of ecumenical initiatives and inter-religious dialogue. The Catholic Church is pleased to contribute her expertise in these areas, and to cooperate with all men and women of good will so as to offer a common witness to the values that must underpin a "civilization of love". In particular, it behoves those who worship God to champion the cause of the poor, the lowly and the defenceless, those who have always been recognized as especially close to him.

Mr Ambassador, as you know, the Pacific region faces many challenges at this time, not least the effects of climate change, especially on island populations, and the need to preserve natural resources. The beauty of God’s creation is especially evident to those who live in the South Pacific. It is my earnest hope that through regional and global cooperation, agreement can be reached on "a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances" (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7). In this way, future generations of Pacific islanders will still be able to enjoy the wonders of God’s creative genius and to live in true peace and harmony with nature.

Your Excellency, 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 the Republic of the Fiji Islands, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

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Papal Address to Envoy of Belize
"Young People Everywhere Are Entitled to a Sound Education"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2008 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday upon receiving in audience Oscar Ayuso, the new ambassador of Belize to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary of Belize. I am grateful for the greetings which you have brought from the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, and I ask you to convey to them my own cordial greetings and good wishes, together with the assurance of my prayers for you and your fellow-citizens.

I very much appreciate your kind reference to the contribution made by the Church to the development of your nation, especially through her well-established educational and social apostolates. A history of fruitful cooperation with the civil authorities and respectful relations with other religious groups has, in fact, enabled the Church freely to carry out her proper religious and cultural mission in Belize. The support traditionally given by the state to Catholic schools, and to the religious education of the young, has not only benefited the Church, but has also helped to strengthen the fabric of society as a whole.

Young people everywhere are entitled to a sound