Benedict XVI from May 2009

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Papal Message to Seminar on Faith and Sports
"Sport Has a Notable Educational Potential"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 9, 2009 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, on the occasion of the two-day seminar titled "Sports, Education and Faith: For a New Stage in the Catholic Sports Movement," which ended Saturday in Rome.
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To Venerated Brother
Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

With great pleasure I send a cordial greeting to you, to the secretary, to the collaborators of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, to the representatives of Catholic organizations that work in the world of sports, to those in charge of international and national sports associations and to all those taking part in the study seminar on the theme: "Sports, Education and Faith: For a New Stage in the Catholic Sports Movement," organized by the Church and Sport section of this dicastery.

Sport has a notable educational potential above all in the realm of youth and, because of this, it is of great Importance not only in the use of free time, but also in the formation of the person. Vatican Council II named it among the means that belong to the common patrimony of men and that are appropriate for moral perfection and human formation (cf "Gravissimum Educationis," No. 4).

If this is true for sports activity in general, it is all the more so for that which is carried out in oratorios, in schools and in sports associations, for the purpose of ensuring a human and Christian formation to the new generations. As I had the opportunity to remind recently, it must not be forgotten that "sports, practiced with passion and vigilant ethical sense becomes, especially for youth, training in healthy competitiveness and physical improvement, school of formation in human and spiritual values, privileged means of personal growth and of contact with society" (Address to the participants of the Swimming World Cup, Aug. 1, 2009).

Through sports activities, the ecclesial community contributes to the formation of youth, offering an appropriate ambit for its human and spiritual growth. In fact, when they are directed to the integral development of the person and are managed by qualified and competent personnel, sports initiatives reveal themselves as propitious occasions in which priests, religious and laity can become true and proper educators and teachers of life of young people. Hence, it is necessary that, in our time -- in which we see the urgent need to educate the new generations -- the Church continue to support sports for young people, fully appreciating also competitive activity in its positive aspects, as for example, in the capacity to stimulate competitiveness, courage and tenacity in the pursuit of objectives avoiding, however, all tendencies that pervert its very nature with recourse to practices that are also dangerous to the organism, as is the case of doping. In a coordinated formative action, Catholic leaders, technicians and operators must be considered experienced guides for adolescents, helping them to develop their own competitive potentialities without neglecting the human qualities and Christian virtues which make the person completely mature.

In this perspective, I find it very useful that this third Seminar of the "Church and Sport" section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity focus its attention on the specific mission and the Catholic identity of sports associations, of schools and of oratories managed by the Church. It is my heartfelt hope that it will help to take advantage of the many and precious opportunities that sport can offer youth pastoral care and, while hoping for a fruitful meeting, I assure you of my prayer invoking on the participants and on those who are involved in promoting a healthy sports activity, particularly in Catholic institutions, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Mary's maternal protection. With these sentiments, I send to all my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

In the Vatican, Nov. 3, 2009



On Paul VI's Marian Devotion

"He Placed his Priesthood Under the Protection of the Mother of Jesus"

BRESCIA, Italy, NOV. 8, 2009 .- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus after he had celebrated Mass in the birthplace of Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.

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At the end of this solemn celebration, I would like to offer cordial thanks to those who were responsible for the liturgical animation and those who in various ways helped with the preparation and realization of my pastoral visit here in Brescia. Thanks to all! I also greet those who are following us on radio and television, along with those in St. Peter’s Square, and in a special way the numerous volunteers of the L’Unione Nazionale Pro Loco of Italy.

In this Angelus I would like to recall the profound devotion that the Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini had for the Virgin Mary. He celebrated his first Mass in the sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the marian heart of your city, not far from this piazza. In this way he placed his priesthood under the protection of the Mother of Jesus, and this connection accompanied him his whole life.

As his ecclesial responsibilities grew, he developed a broader and more organic vision of the relationship between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the mystery of the Church. In this perspective, his Nov. 21, 1964, address at the closing of the third session of the Second Vatican Council is memorable. During that session of the Council the Constitution on the Church, "Lumen Gentium," was promulgated. The document had, as Paul VI noted, "an entire chapter dedicated to the Madonna as its apex and crown." The Pope noted that it contained the largest synthesis of marian doctrine ever elaborated by an ecumenical council, with the purpose of "manifesting the countenance of the Church to which Mary is intimately joined" ("Enchiridion Vaticanum," Bologna 1979, p. [185], nos. 300-302). In that context he proclaimed Mary Most Holy "Mother of the Church" (cf. ibid., no. 306), underscoring with lively ecumenical sensitivity that "devotion to Mary … is a means essentially ordained to orient souls to Christ and thus join them to the Father, in the love of the Holy Spirit" (ibid., no. 315).

Echoing the words of Paul VI, we too today pray: O Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, to you we commend this Church of Brescia and all the people of this region. Remember all your children; bring their prayers before God; keep their faith firm; strengthen their hope; make their charity grow. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary (cf. ibid., nos. 317, 320, 325).


On Theology of the Heart or the Mind
"To Make Truth Triumph in Charity"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 4, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the last catechesis I presented the main characteristics of 12th century monastic and scholastic theology, which in a certain sense we could call, respectively, "theology of the heart" and "theology of reason." A wide debate, at times fiery, took place between the representatives of each current, represented symbolically by the controversy between St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Abelard.

To understand this confrontation between the two great teachers, it is good to recall that theology is the search for a rational understanding, insofar as possible, of the mystery of Christian revelation, believed by faith: fides quaerens intellectum -- faith seeking understanding -- to use a traditional, concise and effective definition.

Now, whereas St. Bernard, typical representative of monastic theology, places the accent on the first part of the definition, that is, on fides -- faith, Abelard, who is a scholastic, stresses the second part, that is, the intellectus -- on understanding through reason. For Bernard, faith itself is gifted with a profound certainty based on the testimony of Scripture and on the teaching of the Church fathers. Faith, moreover, is reinforced by the testimony of the saints and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the soul of each believer. In cases of doubt or ambiguity, faith must be protected and enlightened by the exercise of the ecclesial magisterium.

So for Bernard it is difficult to agree with Abelard and, more generally, with those who subjected the truths of the faith to the critical examination of reason, an examination that, in his opinion, entailed a grave danger, intellectualism, the relativization of truth, discussion of the very truths of the faith. Bernard saw in this way of proceeding an audacity to the point of lacking scruples, fruit of the pride of human intelligence, which attempts to "grasp" the mystery of God. Pained, he wrote thus in one of his letters: "Human wit grasps everything, leaving nothing to faith. It confronts what is beyond it; scrutinizes what is superior to it; invades the world of God; alters, more than illumines, the mysteries of the faith; it does not open what is closed and sealed, but eradicates it, and what is does not find viable, it considers as nothing, and refuses to believe in it" (Epistola CLXXXVIII,1: PL 182, I, 353).

For Bernard, theology has only one end: that of promoting the intense and profound experience of God. Therefore, theology is an aid to love the Lord ever more and better, as states the title of the treatise on the Duty to Love God (De diligendo Deo). Along this way, there are different degrees, which Bernard describes in detail, up to the highest, when the soul of the believer is inebriated on the summits of love. The human soul can attain already on earth that mystical union with the Divine Word, a union that the doctor mellifluus describes as "spiritual espousals." The Divine Word visits her, eliminates the last resistances, illumines her, inflames her and transforms her. In this mystical union, [the soul] enjoys great peace and sweetness, and sings to her Spouse a hymn of joy. As I reminded in the catechesis dedicated to the life and doctrine of St. Bernard, for him theology cannot but be nourished by contemplative prayer, in other words, by the affective union of the heart and mind with God.

Abelard, on the other hand, who is precisely the one who introduced the term "theology" in the sense in which we understand it today, places himself in a different perspective. Born in Brittany, in France, this famous teacher of the 12th century was gifted with a very acute intelligence and his vocation was study. He concerned himself first with philosophy, and then applied the results obtained in this discipline to theology, which he taught in Paris, the most cultured city of the time, and subsequently, in the monasteries in which he lived. He was a brilliant orator: His lessons were followed by true and proper masses of students.

Of a religious spirit but of a restless personality, his life was full of dramatics: He refuted his teachers, had a child with Eloise, an educated and intelligent woman. He was often in controversy with his theological colleagues. He also suffered ecclesiastical condemnations, though he died in full communion with the Church, to whose authority he submitted with a spirit of faith.

In fact St. Bernard contributed to the condemnation of some of Abelard's doctrines in the provincial synod of Sens of 1140, and he also requested the intervention of Pope Innocent II. The abbot of Clairvaux rejected, as we recalled, Abelard's too-intellectualist method, which in his eyes reduced the faith to a simple opinion detached from revealed truth. Bernard's fears were not unfounded, but were shared, moreover, by other great thinkers of his time. In fact, an excessive use of philosophy made Abelard's Trinitarian doctrine dangerously fragile, and thus his idea of God. In the moral field his teaching was not lacking in ambiguity: He insisted on considering the individual's intention as the only source to describe the goodness or evil of moral acts, thus neglecting the objective meaning and moral values of actions: a dangerous subjectivism. This is -- as we know -- a very pertinent element for our times, in which culture often seems marked by a growing tendency to ethical relativism: only the "I" decides what is good for me, at this moment.

However, we must not forget the great merits of Abelard, who had many disciples and who contributed to the development of scholastic theology, destined to express itself in a more mature and fruitful way in the next century. Some of his intuitions should not be undervalued, as for example when he affirms that in non-Christian religious traditions there is already a preparation for the acceptance of Christ, Divine Word.

What can we learn today from the often heated confrontation between Bernard and Abelard and, in general, between monastic and scholastic theology? Above all I believe it shows the usefulness of and the need for a healthy discussion in the Church, especially when the questions debated have not been defined by the magisterium, which continues to be, however, an essential point of reference. St. Bernard, but also Abelard himself, always recognized, without doubting, its authority. Moreover, the condemnations that the latter suffered remind us that in the theological field there must be a balance between what we might call the architectonic principles that have been given to us by Revelation and that, because of this, always are of prime importance, and the interpretative principles suggested by philosophy, that is, by reason, which has an important function, but only instrumental. When this balance between the architecture and the instruments of interpretation diminishes, theological reflection runs the risk of being contaminated with errors, and then it corresponds to the magisterium to exercise that necessary service to truth that is proper to it.

Moreover, it must be emphasized that, between the motivations that induced Bernard to place himself against Abelard and to request the intervention of the magisterium, was, also, the concern to safeguard simple and humble believers, who must be defended when they run the risk of being confused or led astray by opinions that are too personal and by theological argumentations without scruples, which might endanger their faith.

Finally, I would like to recall that the theological confrontation between Bernard and Abelard ended with full reconciliation between them, thanks to the mediation of a common friend, Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, of whom I spoke in a previous catechesis. Abelard showed humility in acknowledging his errors; Bernard used great benevolence. There prevailed in both what should truly be in the heart when a theological controversy is born, that is, to safeguard the faith of the Church and to make truth triumph in charity. May this also be the attitude with which there are confrontations in the Church, always keeping as the aim the pursuit of truth.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we continue our comparison of the monastic and scholastic approaches to theology which we began last week, by looking again at Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, this time in comparison with Abelard. Both of them considered theology as "faith seeking understanding"; but whereas Bernard placed the accent on "faith," Abelard emphasized "understanding." Bernard, for whom the aim of theology was to have a living experience of God, cautioned against intellectual pride which makes us think we can grasp fully the mysteries of faith. Abelard, who strove to apply the insights of philosophy to theology, saw in other religions the seeds of an openness to Christ. The respective approaches of Bernard and Abelard -- one a "theology of the heart" and the other a "theology of reason" -- were not without tension. They therefore illustrate the importance of healthy theological discussion and humble obedience to ecclesial authority. Theology must respect the principles it receives from revelation as it uses philosophy to interpret them. Whenever a theological dispute arises, everyone, and in a particular way the Magisterium, has a responsibility to safeguard the integrity of the faith. As we strive to deepen our understanding of the Gospel, may God strengthen us to extol its truth in charity.

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience. I particularly greet priests from the dioceses of England and Wales celebrating Jubilees, pilgrims from the Diocese of Wichita, students and teachers from Catholic schools in Denmark, and Catholic nurses from the United States. God's blessings upon you all!

©Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[He added in Italian:]

I greet, finally, young people, the sick and newlyweds. Today is the liturgical memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, famous bishop of the Diocese of Milan, who, animated by ardent love for Christ, was a tireless teacher and guide. May his example help you, dear young people, to let yourselves be led by Christ in your daily choices; may it encourage you, dear sick people, to offer your suffering for the pastors of the Church and for the salvation of souls; may it support you, dear newlyweds, in founding your family on evangelical values.


On the Communion of Saints
"We Are Never Alone! We Form Part of a Spiritual Company"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 2, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This Sunday coincides with the solemnity of All Saints, which invites the pilgrim Church on earth to anticipate the endless celebration of the heavenly community, and to revive the hope in eternal life. It is 14 centuries ago this year since the Pantheon -- one of the most ancient and famous Roman monuments -- was destined to Christian worship and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs: Sancta Maria ad Martyres. The temple of all the pagan divinities thus became a memorial of all those who, as the Book of Revelation states, "are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).

Subsequently, the celebration of all the martyrs was extended to all the saints, "a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues" (Revelation 7:9) -- as is expressed by St. John. In this Year of Priests, I like to remember with special veneration all holy priests, both those whom the Church has canonized, proposing them as examples of spiritual and pastoral virtues, as well as those -- much more numerous -- whom the Lord knows. Each one of us cherishes the memory of some one of them, who has helped us to grow in the faith and has made us feel the goodness and closeness of God.

Tomorrow we will observe the annual commemoration of all the deceased faithful. I would like to invite you to live this annual celebration in keeping with a genuine Christian spirit, that is, in the light that proceeds from the Paschal Mystery. Christ has died and risen and has opened to us the way to the house of the Father, Kingdom of life and peace. He who follows Jesus in this life is received where he has preceded us.

Therefore, while we visit cemeteries, let us remember that there, in the tombs, only the mortal remains of our loved ones rest, while awaiting the final resurrection. Their souls -- as Scripture says -- already "are in the hand of God" (Wisdom 3:1). Hence, the most appropriate and effective way to honor them is to pray for them, offering acts of faith, hope and charity. In union with the Eucharistic sacrifice, we can intercede for their eternal salvation, and experience the most profound communion while awaiting to be reunited again, to enjoy forever the love that created us and redeemed us.

Dear friends, how beautiful and consoling is the communion of saints! It is a reality that infuses a different dimension to our whole life. We are never alone! We form part of a spiritual "company" in which profound solidarity reigns: the good of each one is for the benefit of all and, vice versa, the common happiness is radiated in each one. It is a mystery that, in a certain measure, we can already experience in this world, in the family, in friendship, especially in the spiritual community of the Church. May Mary Most Holy help us to walk swiftly on the way of sanctity and show herself a Mother of mercy for the souls of the deceased.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said:]

Exactly ten years have passed since leading representatives of the World Lutheran Federation and the Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, in Augsburg, on Oct. 31, 1999. Subsequently, in 2006, the World Methodist Council also adhered to it. This document certified a consensus between Lutherans and Catholics on fundamental truths of the doctrine of justification, truths that take us to the very heart of the Gospel and to essential questions of our life.

We are received and redeemed by God; our existence is inscribed on the horizon of grace, it is guided by a merciful God, who forgives our sin and calls us to a new life following his Son; we live from the grace of God and we are called to respond to his gift; all this liberates us from fear and infuses hope and courage in us in a world full of uncertainty, anxiety and suffering.

The Servant of God John Paul II described the day of the signing of the Joint Declaration as "a milestone in the difficult path to reconstitute full unity among Christians" (Angelus, October 31, 1999). This anniversary, therefore, is an occasion to recall the truth about man's justification, testified together, to come together in ecumenical celebrations and to reflect further on this and other topics that are the object of the ecumenical dialogue.

It is my heartfelt hope that this important anniversary will contribute to make us progress on the path toward the full and visible unity of all the disciples of Christ.

[In English, the Pope said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. Today we celebrate the great solemnity of All Saints. In honoring all of the holy men and women gone before us marked with the sign of faith, and who are now united with the Lord in Heaven, we are encouraged to pray and work with pure hearts as we anticipate with joy seeing the Lord as he really is. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God's abundant blessings!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana



Papal Address to Astronomy Congress
"True Knowledge Is Always Directed to Wisdom"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 30, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today when he addressed a group celebrating the International Year of Astronomy with a two-day congress. The International Year of Astronomy was convoked by UNESCO in memory of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of the telescope.

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Your Eminence,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to greet this assembly of distinguished astronomers from throughout the world meeting in the Vatican for the celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, and I thank Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo for his kind words of introduction. This celebration, which marks the four hundredth anniversary of Galileo Galilei’s first observations of the heavens by telescope, invites us to consider the immense progress of scientific knowledge in the modern age and, in a particular way, to turn our gaze anew to the heavens in a spirit of wonder, contemplation and commitment to the pursuit of truth, wherever it is to be found.

Your meeting also coincides with the inauguration of the new facilities of the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo. As you know, the history of the Observatory is in a very real way linked to the figure of Galileo, the controversies which surrounded his research, and the Church’s attempt to attain a correct and fruitful understanding of the relationship between science and religion. I take this occasion to express my gratitude not only for the careful studies which have clarified the precise historical context of Galileo’s condemnation, but also for the efforts of all those committed to ongoing dialogue and reflection on the complementarity of faith and reason in the service of an integral understanding of man and his place in the universe. I am particularly grateful to the staff of the Observatory, and to the friends and benefactors of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, for their efforts to promote research, educational opportunities and dialogue between the Church and the world of science.

The International Year of Astronomy is meant not least to recapture for people throughout our world the extraordinary wonder and amazement which characterized the great age of discovery in the sixteenth century. I think, for example, of the exultation felt by the scientists of the Roman College who just a few steps from here carried out the observations and calculations which led to the worldwide adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Our own age, poised at the edge of perhaps even greater and more far-ranging scientific discoveries, would benefit from that same sense of awe and the desire to attain a truly humanistic synthesis of knowledge which inspired the fathers of modern science. Who can deny that responsibility for the future of humanity, and indeed respect for nature and the world around us, demand -- today as much as ever -- the careful observation, critical judgement, patience and discipline which are essential to the modern scientific method? At the same time, the great scientists of the age of discovery remind us also that true knowledge is always directed to wisdom, and, rather than restricting the eyes of the mind, it invites us to lift our gaze to the higher realm of the spirit.

Knowledge, in a word, must be understood and pursued in all its liberating breadth. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, yet if it aspires to be wisdom, capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be committed to the pursuit of that ultimate truth which, while ever beyond our complete grasp, is nonetheless the key to our authentic happiness and freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), the measure of our true humanity, and the criterion for a just relationship with the physical world and with our brothers and sisters in the great human family.

Dear friends, modern cosmology has shown us that neither we, nor the earth we stand on, is the centre of our universe, composed of billions of galaxies, each of them with myriads of stars and planets. Yet, as we seek to respond to the challenge of this Year -- to lift up our eyes to the heavens in order to rediscover our place in the universe -- how can we not be caught up in the marvel expressed by the Psalmist so long ago? Contemplating the starry sky, he cried out with wonder to the Lord: "When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you set in place, what is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that you should care for him?" (Ps 8:4-5). It is my hope that the wonder and exaltation which are meant to be the fruits of this International Year of Astronomy will lead beyond the contemplation of the marvels of creation to the contemplation of the Creator, and of that Love which is the underlying motive of his creation -- the Love which, in the words of Dante Alighieri, "moves the sun and the other stars" (Paradiso XXXIII, 145). Revelation tells us that, in the fullness of time, the Word through whom all things were made came to dwell among us. In Christ, the new Adam, we acknowledge the true centre of the universe and all history, and in him, the incarnate Logos, we see the fullest measure of our grandeur as human beings, endowed with reason and called to an eternal destiny.

With these reflections, dear friends, I greet all of you with respect and esteem, and I offer prayerful good wishes for your research and teaching. Upon you, your families and dear ones I cordially invoke Almighty God’s blessings of wisdom, joy, and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Iranian Envoy
"Faith in the One God Must Bring All Believers Closer"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address upon recieving in audience today Ali Akbar Naseri, the new ambassador from Iran to the Holy See.

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Mr. Ambassador:

I am pleased to receive you on this day in which you present the Letters that accredit you as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Holy See. I express my gratitude for the affable words you addressed to me, as well as for the good wishes you have transmitted on behalf of His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the republic. In response, I would be grateful if you would thank him and assure him of my cordial wishes for the whole nation.

Your presence here, this morning, manifests your country's interest in the development of good relations with the Holy See. As you know, Mr. Ambassador, by your presence in international entities and bilateral relations with numerous countries, the Holy See wishes to defend and promote human dignity. It also wishes to be at the service of the good of the human family, paying particular attention to the technical, moral and humanitarian aspects of relations between peoples. From this point of view, the Holy See wishes to consolidate relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to foster mutual understanding and collaboration for the common good.

Iran is a great nation that has eminent spiritual traditions and its people have a profound religious sensibility. This can be a reason for hope for a growing openness and confident collaboration with the international community. For its part, the Holy See will always be willing to work in harmony with those who serve the cause of peace and promote the dignity with which the Creator has endowed all human beings. Today we must all expect and support a new phase of international cooperation, more solidly based on humanitarian principles and on effective aid to those who suffer, than on cold calculations of exchanges and technical and economic benefits.

Faith in the one God must bring all believers closer and encourage them to work together for the defense and promotion of fundamental human values. Among the universal rights, religious liberty and freedom of conscience occupy an essential place, because they are the source of the other liberties. The defense of other rights that stem from the dignity of persons and populations, in particular the promotion of the protection of life, justice and solidarity, must also be the object of a true collaboration. Moreover, as I have often had the opportunity to underline, the establishment of cordial relations between believers of the different religions is an urgent need of our time, to build a more human world, more conformed to the plan of God on creation. Hence I celebrate the existence, for several years, of meetings organized regularly, jointly by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Organization for Islamic Culture and Relations, on topics of common interest. Contributing to seeking together what is just and correct, those meetings allow all to progress in reciprocal knowledge and to cooperate in the reflection of great questions that affect the life of humanity.

On the other hand, Catholics have been present in Iran since the first centuries of Christianity and have always been an integral part of the life and culture of the nation. This community is truly Iranian and its age-old experience of coexistence with Muslim believers is of great usefulness to promote greater understanding and cooperation. The Holy See trusts that the Iranian authorities will be able to reinforce and guarantee to Christians the liberty to profess their faith and to ensure for the Catholic community the essential conditions for its existence, especially the possibility of having sufficient religious personnel and the facilities of movement in the country to ensure the religious service of the faithful. From this perspective, I hope that a confident and sincere dialogue will develop with the country's institutions to improve the situation of the Christian communities and their activities in the context of the civil society, so that its sense of belonging to the national life will increase. For its part, the Holy See, whose nature and mission is to be interested directly in the life of the local Churches, wishes to make the necessary efforts to help the Catholic community in Iran to maintain alive the signs of the Christian presence, in a spirit of understanding and of good will with all.

Mr. Ambassador, finally I would like to take advantage of this pleasant occasion to greet affectionately the Catholic communities living in Iran, as well as their pastors. The Pope is close to all the faithful and prays for them so that maintaining with perseverance their own identity and remaining linked to their land, they may collaborate generously with all their compatriots in the development of the nation.

Excellency, at the beginning of your mission to the Holy See, I wish you every success. I can assure you that you will always find understanding and support in my collaborators for its happy fulfillment.

I invoke from my heart on your person, your family, your collaborators and on all Iranians abundant blessings of the Most High.


Papal Address to Media Council
"A Genuine Revolution Is Taking Place"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address on Thursday, during the audience to participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

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Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

With great joy I give you my most cordial welcome on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. First of all, I wish to express my gratitude to Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of your pontifical council, for the courteous words he addressed to me on your behalf. I extend my greeting to his collaborators and those of you here present, thanking you for the contribution you offer to the working sessions of the plenary assembly and the service you offer the Church in the field of social communications.

These days you have paused to reflect on the new technologies of communication. Even a not very attentive observer can easily see that in our time, thanks to the most modern technologies, a genuine revolution is taking place in the realm of social communications, of which the Church is ever more responsibly conscious. These technologies make possible a speedy and penetrating communication, with a capacity to share ideas and opinions; to facilitate acquiring information and news in a personal way accessible to all.

The Pontifical Council for Social Communications has been following for some time this amazing and rapid evolution of the media, in the light of the magisterium of the Church. I would like to recall here, in particular, two pastoral instructions, "Communio et Progressio" of Pope Paul VI and "Aetatis Novae," published at the behest of John Paul II. These are two authoritative documents of my venerated predecessors, which have fostered and promoted in the Church a widespread sensitization on these topics.

Moreover, the great social changes that have occurred in the last 20 years have exacted and continue to exact a careful analysis on the presence and action of the Church in this field. The Servant of God John Paul II, in the encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" (1990) recalled that "the work in these means does not only have the objective of multiplying the proclamation. It is a more profound event, because evangelization itself of the modern culture depends in large part on their influence." And he added: "It is not enough, then, to use them to spread the Christian message and the Magisterium of the Church, but it would be good to integrate the message itself in this 'new culture' created by modern communication" (No. 17 c.). In fact, modern culture arises, even before the contents, from the very fact that new ways of communication exist with new languages, new techniques, new psychological behavior. All this constitutes a challenge for the Church, called to proclaim the Gospel to men of the third millennium, keeping the content unaltered, but making it comprehensible thanks also to the instruments and means harmonious with the mentality and the cultures of today.

The means of social communication, as they are called in the conciliar decree "Inter Mirifica," have assumed today potentialities and functions which at that moment were difficult to imagine. The multimedia character and structural interactivity of each of the new means, has diminished, in a certain sense, the specific character of each one of them, generating little by little a sort of global system of communication, according to which, though each means keeps its own peculiar character, the present evolution of the world of communication obliges increasingly to speak of only one form of communication, which synthesizes different sources or connects them reciprocally.

Among you, dear friends, there are many experts in this matter and you can analyze with more professionalism the different dimensions of this phenomenon, including above all the anthropological. I would like to take advantage of the opportunity to invite those who work in the Church in the realm of communication and have responsibilities of pastoral guidance to take up the challenges that these new technologies pose to evangelization.

In this year's message on the occasion of the World Day of Social Communications, when stressing the importance that the new technologies have, I encouraged those responsible for the communicative processes at all levels, to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the person, a dialogue rooted in the sincere search for truth, friendship that is not an end in itself, but capable of developing the gifts of each one to put them at the service of the human community. In this way, the Church exercises what we could describe as a "diakonia of culture" in the present "digital continent," traversing its paths to proclaim the Gospel, only Word that can save man.

It corresponds to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to reflect further on each element of the new media culture, beginning with its ethical aspects, and to exercise a service of orientation and guidance to help the individual Churches to understand the importance of communication, which represents today a firm point of any pastoral plan which can never be given up. The characteristics of the new means make possible precisely, including on a large scale and in a global dimension, an action of consultation, of exchange, of coordination, which in addition to enhancing an effective diffusion of the evangelical message, avoids on occasions a useless waste of energies and resources. However, in the case of believers, the necessary appreciation of the new media technologies must be supported always by a constant vision of faith, knowing that, beyond the means that are used, the efficacy of the proclamation of the Gospel depends in the first place on the action of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church and the way of humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters: this year the 50th anniversary is celebrated of the foundation of the Vatican Film Archive, instituted by my venerated predecessor, Blessed John XXIII, which has collected and catalogued material recorded from 1896 up to today, capable of illustrating the history of the Church. The Vatican Film Archive has, therefore, a rich cultural patrimony, which belongs to the whole of humanity. While I express my heartfelt gratitude for what has been done, I encourage you to continue in this interesting work of recollection, which documents the stages of the journey of Christianity, through the thought-provoking testimony of the image, so that these goods will be looked after and known.

To those of you who are present here, I again thank you for the contribution you offer the Church in a particularly important realm at this time, as is that of social communications, and I assure you of my closeness so that the action of your Pontifical Council will continue to bear many fruits. On each of you I invoke the intercession of the Virgin and impart to you all the apostolic blessing.


On Theology in the 12th Century
"Knowledge Grows Only if It Loves Truth"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 28, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I pause to reflect on an interesting page of history, regarding the flowering of Latin theology in the 12th century, which came about by a providential series of coincidences. In the countries of Western Europe there reigned then a relative peace, which assured society of economic development and the consolidation of political structures, and fostered a lively cultural activity thanks also to contacts with the East. Perceived within the Church were the benefits of the vast action known as the "Gregorian reform," which, vigorously promoted in the preceding century, brought greater evangelical purity to the life of the ecclesial community, above all of the clergy, and restored to the Church and the papacy genuine liberty of action. Moreover, a vast spiritual renewal was spreading, sustained by the exuberant development of consecrated life: New religious orders were being born and spreading, while those already existing experienced a promising renewal.

Theology was also flourishing, acquiring greater awareness of its own nature: It refined its method, addressed new problems, advanced in the contemplation of the mysteries of God, produced fundamental works, inspired important initiatives of culture -- from art to literature -- and prepared the masterpieces of the next century, the century of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure of Bagnoregio.

There were two realms in which this fervid theological activity developed: the monasteries and the town schools, the scholae, some of which very soon gave life to the universities, which constituted one of the typical "inventions" of the Christian Middle Ages. In fact from these two realms, the monasteries and the scholae, one can speak of two different models of theology: "monastic theology" and "scholastic theology." The representatives of monastic theology were monks, in general, abbots, gifted with wisdom and evangelical fervor, dedicated essentially to arousing and nourishing a loving desire for God. The representatives of scholastic theology were cultured men, passionate about research; magistri wishing to show the reasonableness and soundness of the mysteries of God and of man, believed in with faith, of course, but understood also by reason. The contrasting objectives explain the differences in their method and their way of doing theology.

In the monasteries of the 12th century the theological method was linked primarily to the explanation of sacred Scripture, of the sacra pagina, to express ourselves as the authors of that period did. Biblical theololy was particularly widespread. The monks, in fact, were all devoted listeners and readers of sacred Scripture, and one of their main occupations consisted in lectio divina, namely, prayerful reading of the Bible. For them the simple reading of the sacred text was not enough to perceive the profound meaning, the interior unity and the transcendent message. Therefore, they had to practice a "spiritual reading," leading in docility to the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the school of the Fathers, the Bible was interpreted allegorically, to discover in every page, of the Old as well as the New Testament, what is said about Christ and his work of salvation.

Last year's synod of bishops on the "Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church" recalled the importance of the spiritual approach to sacred Scripture. To this end, it is useful to treasure monastic theology, an uninterrupted biblical exegesis, as also the works composed by its representatives, precious ascetic commentaries on the books of the Bible. Therefore, to literary preparation, monastic theology joined spiritual preparation. It was, in fact, aware that a purely theoretic or profane reading was not enough: To enter the heart of sacred Scripture, it must be read in the spirit in which it was written and created. Literary preparation was necessary to know the exact meaning of the words and to facilitate the understanding of the text, refining the grammatical and philological sensibility. Jean Leclercq, the Benedictine scholar of the last century titled the essay with which he presented the characteristics of monastic theology thus : "L'amour des lettres et le desir de Dieu" (The love of words and the desire for God).

In fact, the desire to know and to love God, which comes to us through his Word received, meditated and practiced, leads to seeking to go deeper into the biblical texts in all their dimensions. There is then another attitude on which those who practice monastic theology insist, that is, a profound attitude of prayer, which must precede, support and complement the study of sacred Scripture. Because, in the last analysis, monastic theology is listening to the Word of God, one cannot but purify the heart to receive it and, above all, one cannot but kindle it with fervor to encounter the Lord. Therefore, theology becomes meditation, prayer, song of praise and drives one to a sincere conversion. Not a few representatives of monastic theology reached, along this way, the highest goal of mystical experience, and they constitute an invitation also for us to nourish our existence with the Word of God, for example, through more attentive listening to the readings and the Gospel, especially in Sunday Mass. Moreover, it is important to reserve a certain time every day for meditation of the Bible, so that the Word of God is the lamp that illumines our daily path on earth.

Scholastic theology, instead, -- as I was saying -- was practiced in the scholae, arising next to the great cathedrals of the age, for the preparation of the clergy, or around a teacher of theology and his disciples, to form professionals of culture, at a time in which learning was increasingly appreciated. Central to the method of the scholastics was the quaestio, namely the problem posed to the reader in addressing the words of Scripture and Tradition. In face of the problem that these authoritative texts pose, questions arose and debate was born between the teacher and the students. In such a debate appeared, on one hand, the arguments of authority, and, on the other, those of reason, and the debate developed in the sense of finding, in the end, a synthesis between authority and reason to attain a more profound understanding of the word of God.

In this regard, St. Bonaventure says that theology is "per additionem" (cf. Commentaria in quatuor libros sententiarum, I, proem., q. 1, concl.), that is, theology adds the dimension of reason to the word of God and thus creates a more profound, more personal faith, and therefore also more concrete in the life of man. In this connection, different solutions were found and conclusions were formed that began to construct a system of theology. The organization of the quaestiones led to the compilation of increasingly extensive syntheses, that is, the different quaestiones were composed with the answers that ensued, thus creating a synthesis, the so-called summae, which were, in reality, ample theological-dogmatic treatises born from the confrontation of human reason with the word of God.

Scholastic theology sought to present the unity and harmony of Christian Revelation with a method, called specifically "Scholastic," of the school, which gives confidence to human reason: grammar and philology are at the service of theological learning, but so increasingly is logic, namely that discipline that studies the "functioning" of human reasoning, so that the truth of a proposition seems evident. Also today, reading the scholastic summae, one is struck by the order, clarity, logical concatenation of the arguments, and of the depth of some of the intuitions. Attributed to every word, with technical language, is a precise meaning and, between believing and understanding, there is established a reciprocal movement of clarification.

Dear brothers and sisters, echoing the invitation of the First Letter of Peter, scholastic theology stimulates us to be always ready to answer anyone asking for the reason for the hope that is in us (cf. 3:15). To take the questions as directed to us and thus be capable also of giving an answer. It reminds us that there is between faith and reason a natural friendship, founded on the order of creation itself.

The Servant of God John Paul II, in the beginning of the encyclical "Fides et Ratio," wrote: "Faith and reason are like the two wings, with which the human spirit soars towards contemplation of the truth." Faith is open to the effort of understanding on the part of reason; reason, in turn, recognizes that faith does not mortify it, rather it drives it toward wider and loftier horizons. Inserted here is the perennial lesson of monastic theology. Faith and reason, in reciprocal dialogue, vibrate with joy when both are animated by the search for profound union with God. When love vivifies the prayerful dimension of theology, knowledge, acquired by reason, is broadened. Truth is sought with humility, received with wonder and gratitude: In a word, knowledge grows only if it loves truth. Love becomes intelligence and theology the authentic wisdom of the heart, which orients and sustains the faith and life of believers. Let us pray, therefore, that the path of knowledge and of deepening in the mysteries of God is always illumined by divine love.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, we now turn to the renewal of theology in the wake of the Gregorian Reform. The twelfth century was a time of a spiritual, cultural and political rebirth in the West. Theology, for its part, became more conscious of its own nature and method, faced new problems and paved the way for the great theological masterpieces of the thirteenth century, the age of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure. Two basic "models" of theology emerged, associated respectively with the monasteries and the schools which were the forerunners of the medieval universities. Monastic theology grew out of the prayerful contemplation of the Scriptures and the texts of the Church Fathers, stressing their interior unity and spiritual meaning, centred on the mystery of Christ. Scholastic theology sought to clarify the understanding of the faith by study of the sources and the use of logic, and led to the great works of synthesis known as the Summae. Even today this confidence in the harmony of faith and reason inspires us to account for the hope within us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) and to show that faith liberates reason, enabling the human spirit to rise to the loving contemplation of that fullness of truth which is God himself.

[Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana]


Papal Address to Pontifical Biblical Institute
"Continue on Your Way With Renewed Determination"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 26, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today on receiving in audience professors, students and staff of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, on the centenary of its foundation.

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Most Reverend Superior-General of the Society of Jesus,
Illustrious Rector,
Illustrious Professors and Beloved Students of the Pontifical Biblical Institute

I am delighted to meet with you on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of your Institute, desired by my holy predecessor Pius X, in order to establish in the city of Rome a center of specialized studies on sacred Scripture and related disciplines.

I greet with deference Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, whom I thank for the courteous words he addressed to me on your behalf. I likewise greet the superior-general, Father Adolfo Nicolás Pachón, and I am happy to take the opportunity given to me to express my sincere gratitude to the Society of Jesus, which, not without notable effort, deploys financial investments and human resources in the management of the faculty of the Ancient East, the Biblical faculty here in Rome, and the headquarters of the Institute in Jerusalem.

I greet the rector and professors, who have consecrated their life to study and inquiry in constant listening to the Word of God. I greet and thank the staff, employees and workers for their appreciated collaboration, as also the benefactors who have made available and continue to make available the necessary resources for maintaining the structures and activities of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. I greet the former students united spiritually to us at this moment, and I greet you especially, beloved students, who come from every part of the world.

One hundred years have gone by since the birth of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. In the course of this century, it has certainly increased interest in the Bible and, thanks to Vatican Council II, especially the dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" -- of whose elaboration I was a direct witness, participating as theologian in the discussions that preceded its approval -- there is much greater awareness of the importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church.

This has fostered in Christian communities a genuine spiritual and pastoral renewal, which above all has affected preaching, catechesis, the study of theology and ecumenical dialogue. Your Pontifical Institute has made its own significant contribution to this renewal with scientific biblical research, the teaching of biblical disciplines and the publication of qualified studies and specialized journals. In the course of the decades several generations of illustrious professors have succeeded one another -- I would like to remember, among others, Cardinal Bea -- who formed more than 7,000 professors of sacred Scripture and promoters of biblical groups, as also many experts now present in an array of ecclesiastical services, in every region of the world.

Let us thank the Lord for this activity of yours that is dedicated to interpreting the biblical texts in the spirit in which they were written (cfr "Dei Verbum," 12), and that opens to dialogue with the other disciplines, and with many cultures and religions. Although it has known moments of difficulty, it has continued in constant fidelity to the magisterium according to the objectives themselves of your institute, which arose in fact "ut in Urbe Roma altiorum studiorum ad Libros sacros pertinentium habeatur centrum, quod efficaciore, quo liceat, modo doctrinam biblicam et studia omnia eidem adiuncta, sensu Ecclesiae catholicae promoveat" (Pius PP. X, Litt. Ap. Vinea electa (May 7, 1909): AAS 1 (1909), 447-448).

Dear friends, the celebration of the centenary is an end, and at the same time a point of reference. Enriched by the experience of the past, continue on your way with renewed determination, aware of the service to the Church required of you, to bring the Bible closer to the life of the People of God, so that it will be able to address in an adequate way the unheard of challenges that modern times pose to the new evangelization. It is the common desire that sacred Scripture become in this secularized world, not only the soul of theology, but also the source of spirituality and vigor of the faith of all believers in Christ.

May the Pontifical Biblical Institute continue, therefore, growing as a high quality ecclesial center of study in the realm of biblical research, making use of modern methodologies and in collaboration with specialists in dogmatic theology and in other theological areas; may it ensure a careful formation in sacred Scripture to future priests so that, making use of the biblical languages and of the various exegetical methodologies, they will be able to have direct access to biblical texts.

In this regard, the already mentioned dogmatic constitution "Dei Verbum" has stressed the legitimacy and necessity of the historical-critical method, reducing it to three essential elements: attention to literary genres; study of the historical context; examination of what is usually called Sitz im Leben. The conciliar document maintains firm at the same time the theological character of exegesis, indicating the strong points of the theological method in the interpretation of the text. This is so because the foundation on which theological understanding of the Bible rests is the unity of Scripture, and this assumption corresponds, as methodological way, to the analogy of the faith, that is, to the understanding of the individual texts from the whole.

The conciliar text adds a further methodological indication. Scripture being only one thing starting from the one People of God, which has been its bearer throughout history, consequently to read Scripture as a unit means to read it from the Church as from its vital place, and to regard the faith of the Church as the real key to interpretation. If exegesis also wishes to be theology, it must acknowledge that the faith of the Church is that form of "sim-patia" without which the Bible remains as a sealed book: Tradition does not close access to Scripture, but rather opens it; on the other hand, the decisive word in the interpretation of Scripture corresponds to the Church, in her institutional organizations. It is the Church, in fact, which has been entrusted with the task of interpreting authentically the Word of God written and transmitted, exercising her authority in the name of Jesus Christ (cfr "Dei Verbum," 10).

Dear brothers and sisters, while thanking you for your pleasant visit, I encourage you to continue your ecclesial service, in constant adherence to the magisterium of the Church and assure each one of you the support of prayer, imparting to you from my heart, as pledge of divine favors, the apostolic blessing.


On the Africa Synod

"Be Salt and Light in the Beloved African Land"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

A little while ago, with the Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops concluded. Three weeks of prayer and reciprocal listening to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying today to the Church that lives on the African continent, but also to the Universal Church.

The synodal fathers, who have come from every country in Africa, have presented the rich reality of the local Churches. We have shared their joys for the dynamism of the Christian communities that continue to grow in quantity and quality. We are grateful to God for the missionary élan that has found fertile ground in numerous dioceses and that is expressed in the sending of missionaries to other African countries and different continents.

Special importance has been given to the family, that in Africa too is the primary cell of society, but which today is threatened by foreign ideological currents. What to say, then, to young people exposed to this type of pressure, influenced by models of thought and conduct that are contrary to the human and Christian values of the peoples of Africa?

Naturally the current problems of Africa emerged in the assembly and its great need of reconciliation, of justice and of peace. Precisely to this the Church responds re-proposing, with renewed impetus, the proclamation of the Gospel and the action of human promotion. Animated by the Word of God and the Eucharist, she strives make it so that no one is deprived of the necessaries for living and that all may lead an existence worthy of the human being.

Remembering the apostolic trip that I took to Cameroon and Angola last March, and which also had the purpose of advancing the immediate preparation of the Second Synod for Africa, today I would like to turn to all the people of Africa, in particular to those who share the Christian faith, to consign to them in spirit the "Final Message" of this synodal Assembly. It is a message that comes from Rome, the see of the Successor of Peter, who presides over the universal communion, but one can say, in a sense that is no less true, that it has its origin in Africa, whose experiences, expectations, plans, it gathers and now returns to Africa, bearing wealth of an event of profound communion in the Holy Spirit.

Dear brothers and sisters who listen to me from Africa! I entrust to your prayers in a special way the fruits of the labors of the Synod fathers, and I encourage you with the words of the Lord Jesus: be salt and light in the beloved African land!

As this Synod concludes, I would like now to recall that next year a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. On the occasion of my visit to Cyprus I will have the pleasure to consign the "Instrumentum laboris" of this meeting. I thank the Lord, who never tires in building up his Church in communion, and I invoke with confidence the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.

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

I offer a special greeting first of all to the thousands of faithful gathered in Milan, in the Piazza del Duomo, where this morning the liturgy of the beatification of the priest Don Carlo Gnocchi was celebrated. He began as a sound educator of boys and young men. In the 2nd World War he became the chaplain of the Alpini (The mountain infantry of the Italian army), with whom he participated in the tragic retreat in Russia. It was then that he dedicated himself completely to a work of charity. Thus, in Milan during reconstruction, Don Gnocchi worked to "restore the human person," gathering orphaned and mutilated boys and offering them help and formation. He gave all of himself to the very end, and dying gave his corneas to two blind boys. His work continued to develop and today the Don Gnocchi Foundation is on the cutting edge in the care of persons of every age who need rehabilitative therapy. As I greet Cardinal Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, and I rejoice with the Ambrosian Church, I make the motto of this beatification my own: "Alongside of life, always."

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present today in Saint Peter’s Square. We have just concluded the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops which has been a period of grace. I invite all of you to pray for our brothers and sisters of Africa. May the Lord, who granted sight to the blind man of the Gospel, renew their faith that they may always see and follow clearly the path of reconciliation, justice and peace which leads to salvation. Upon all of you and upon all the people of Africa I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address at Synod Luncheon

"The Discourse of a Pastor Must Be Realistic"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2009 - Here is a translation of the words spoken by Benedict XVI at the luncheon held Saturday in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall with those who participated in the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

It is now time to say thanks. Thanks above all to the Lord who has convoked us, brought us together, helped us listen to his Word, the voice of his Holy Spirit, and thus also gave us the possibility of finding the road to unity in the multiplicity of experiences, the unity of faith in the communion of the Lord. It is for this reason that the expression "Church-Family of God" is no longer a concept, an idea, but it is a lively experience had during these weeks: We have truly been brought together here as the Family of God. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we have also done good work.

The theme itself was not an easy challenge, with two dangers, I would say. The theme "Reconciliation, Justice and Peace" certainly implies a strong political dimension, even if it is obvious that reconciliation, justice and peace are not possible without a profound purification of the heart, without a renewal of thought, a "metanoia" ("conversion"), without a newness that must come precisely from the encounter with God.

But even if this spiritual dimension is profound and fundamental, the political dimension is also very real, because without political realizations, these new things of the Spirit are not commonly realized. Thus, the temptation could have been to politicize the theme, to speak less of pastoral work and more about politics, with a competence that is not ours.

The other danger was -- precisely to flee from the first temptation -- that of retreating into a purely spiritual world, into an abstract and beautiful but unrealistic world. But the discourse of a pastor must be realistic; it must deal with reality, but from the perspective of God and his Word.

So this mediation involves, on one hand, being truly connected with reality, attentive to speak of what is, and, on the other hand, to not fall into technically political solutions; that means indicating a concrete but spiritual word. This was the great issue of the synod and I think, thanks be to God, we successfully resolved it. I am grateful for this also because it will greatly facilitate the elaboration of the post-synodal document.

I would like to return the thank yous. I would like to thank above all the delegates who presided, who moderated, with great "sovereignty" and with cheerfulness, the synod sessions. I thank the speakers: We say even now and felt, so to speak, in a tangible way, that they bore the heaviest weight of the labor, they worked at night and even on Sunday, they worked during lunch and now truly merit a great round of applause from us.

I can say here that I have decided to name Cardinal Turkson the new president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, successor of Cardinal Martino. Thank you, your eminence, for accepting; we are glad that you will be with us soon. And thank you to all the fathers, to the fraternal delegates, to the auditors, to the experts and thanks above all to the translators because they had a part in the plot of "creating Pentecost." Pentecost means reciprocal understanding; without a translator this bridge of comprehension would be missing. Thank you! And thank you above all to the secretary-general, to his team, that guided us and silently organized everything very well.

The synod ends and does not end, not only because the work goes forward with post-synodal exhortation: "Synodus" means common journey. We continue on the same journey with the Lord, we go forward with the Lord to prepare the way for him, to help him, open the gates of the world so that he might create his kingdom among us. In this spirit I give my blessing to everyone. Let us now recite the prayer of thanksgiving lunch.


Papal Homily at Close of Africa Synod

"Courage! Get on Your Feet, Continent of Africa"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 25, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at the concluding Mass of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The three-week assembly considered the theme "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."

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Venerable brothers!

Dear brothers and sisters!

Here is a message of hope for Africa: We have just heard it from the Word of God. It is the message that the Lord of history does not tire of repeating to the oppressed and overwhelmed humanity of every age and land, from the time that he revealed to Moses his will for the Israelite slaves of Egypt: "I have witnessed the affliction of my people … I have heard their cry … I know their suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them … and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey."

What is this land? Is it not perhaps the kingdom of reconciliation, of justice and peace, to which the whole of mankind is called? God's plan does not change. It is the same one that was prophesied by Jeremiah, in the magnificent oracles called "The Book of Consolation," from which the first reading is taken today. It is an announcement of hope for the people of Israel, laid low by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar's army, by the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple and by the deportation in Babylon. It is a message of joy for the remnant of the sons of Jacob that announces a future for them, because the Lord will bring them back to their land by way of a straight and smooth road. Persons in need of support, like the blind man and the cripple, the pregnant woman and the one giving birth, will experience the power of the Lord's tenderness: He is a father for Israel, ready to take care of Israel as the firstborn (cf. Jeremiah 31:7-9).

God's plan does not change. Through the centuries and the upheavals of history, he always points to the same goal: the Kingdom of freedom and of peace for all. And this implies his predilection for those who are deprived of freedom and peace, for those whose dignity as human persons is violated. We think in particular of the brothers and sisters in African who suffer from poverty, disease, injustice, war and violence, forced migrations.

These favored children of the heavenly Father are like the blind man of the Gospel, Bartimaeus, who "sat begging by the road" (Mark 10:46) at the gates of Jericho. It is just along this road that Jesus the Nazarene passes. It is the road that leads to Jerusalem, where the Passover will be celebrated, his Passover sacrifice, to which the Messiah goes for us. It is the road of his exodus, which is also ours: it is the only road that leads to the land of reconciliation, of justice and of peace.

The Lord meets Bartimaeus, who has lost his sight, on that road. There paths meet and they become the one path. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" the blind man confidently says. Jesus answers: "Call him!" and adds: "What do you want me to do for you?" God is light and the creator of light. Man is son of the light, made to see the light, but he has lost his sight, and he finds himself forced to beg. The Lord, who has made himself a beggar for our sake, passes by him: hungry for our faith and our love. "What do you want me to do for you?" God knows but asks; it wants that it be man who speaks.

He wants man to stand up on his feet, to rediscover the courage to ask for what belongs to his dignity. The Father wants to hear from the living voice of the son the free decision to see the light again, that light for which he created him. "Master, that I can see again!" And Jesus says to him: "'Go your way; your faith has saved you.' And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way" (Mark 10:51-52).

Dear brothers, we give thanks because this "mysterious meeting between our poverty and the grandeur" of God has been realized even in this synodal assembly for Africa that concludes today. God has renewed his call: "Courage! Get on your feet!" (Mark 10:49). And also the Church that is in Africa, through her Pastors, who have come from every country on the continent, from Madagascar and from the other islands, has welcomed the message of hope and the light to walk along the road that leads to the Kingdom of God. "Go, your faith has saved you" (Mark 10:52).

Yes, the faith in Jesus Christ -- when it is well understood and practiced -- guides men and nations to freedom in truth, or, to use the three words of the Synod's theme, to reconciliation, to justice and to peace.

Bartimaeus who, after he is healed, follows Jesus along the road, is the image of humanity that, enlightened by faith, sets out on the journey to the promised land. Bartimaeus, in turn, becomes a witness of the light, recounting and showing in the first person that he has been healed, renewed, reborn. This is the Church in the world: the community of reconciled persons, workers for peace and justice; "salt and light" in the midst of the society of men and the nations.

For this reason the Synod has forcefully reemphasized -- and has manifested -- that the Church is the Family of God, in which there cannot be ethnic, linguistic or cultural divisions. Moving testimonies have shown us that, even in the darkest moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work and transforms hearts of the victims and persecutors so that they recognize each other as brothers. The reconciled Church is a powerful leaven of reconciliation in individual countries and in the whole African continent.

The second reading offers us another perspective: the Church, the community that follows Christ on the way of love, has a sacerdotal form. The category of the priesthood, as interpretive key of the mystery of Christ and, in consequence, the Church, was introduced into the New Testament by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. His intuition has its origin in Psalm 110, cited in today’s passage, where the Lord God, with a solemn pledge, assures the Messiah: "You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek" (110:4). The reference, which recalls another, taken from Psalm 2, in which the Messiah announces the Lord’s decree about him: "You are my son, today I have begotten you" (2:7).

From these texts comes the attribution of a priestly character to Jesus Christ, not in a generic sense, rather "according to the order of Melchizedek." In other words the supreme and eternal priesthood that is not of human but of divine origin. If every high priest "is chosen from among men and is made their representative before God" (Hebrews 5:1), only he, the Christ, the Son of God, possesses a priesthood that is identified with his Person itself, a singular and transcendent priesthood, on which universal salvation depends.

Christ has transmitted this priesthood of his to the Church through the Holy Spirit; thus the Church has in herself, in each of her members, in virtue of Baptism, a sacerdotal character. But -- here is a decisive aspect -- Jesus Christ's priesthood is no longer primarily a ritual one but an existential one. The ritual dimension is not abolished, but, as clearly appears in the institution of the Eucharist, it takes its significance from the paschal mystery, which brings the ancient sacrifices to fulfillment and surpasses them.

Thus, a new sacrifice, a new priesthood and also a new temple are born simultaneously and all three coincide with the mystery of Jesus Christ. United to him through the Sacraments, the Church prolongs his salvific action, permitting men to be restored through faith, like the blind Bartimaeus. In this way the ecclesial community, in the footsteps of her Master and Lord, is called to take the road of service in a decisive manner, to share completely in the situation of the men and women of her time, to witness before all to God's love and thus to sow hope.

Dear friends, the Church transmits this message of salvation always joining together evangelization and human promotion. Let us take, for example, the historic encyclical "Populorum Progressio": that which the Servant of God Paul VI elaborated in terms of reflection, missionaries have realized and continue to realize in the field, promoting a development respectful of local cultures and the environment, according to a logic that now, after 40 years, appears to be the only one able to bring the African people out of the slavery of hunger and disease.

This means transmitting the announcement of hope according to a "priestly form," that is, living the Gospel in the first person, trying to translate it into projects and deeds consistent with the fundamental dynamic principle that is love.

In these three weeks, the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops has confirmed that which my venerable predecessor John Paul II had already brought well into focus, and which I also wanted to delve into in the recent encyclical "Caritas in Veritate": It is necessary to renew the global model of development in such a way that it is capable "of including within its range all peoples and not just the better off" (no. 39).

What the social doctrine of the Church has always upheld on the basis of its vision of man and society, today is also asked of globalization (cf. ibid.). This -- it is necessary to recall -- must not be understood fatalistically as if its dynamics produced by anonymous impersonal forces and independently of human will. Globalization is a human reality and as such it can be changed according to one cultural position or another.

The Church works with her personalistic and communitarian conception to orient the process in terms of relationality, of fraternity and sharing (cf. ibid., no. 42). "Courage! Get on your feet!" In this way the Lord of life and hope speaks to the Church and the African people, at the end of these weeks of synodal reflection.

Get up, Church in Africa, family of God, because you are being called by the heavenly Father, whom your ancestors invoked as Creator, before knowing the merciful nearness, revealed in his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Take the journey of a new evangelization with the courage that comes from the Holy Spirit.

The urgent evangelizing action that has been much discussed in these weeks also carries with it a pressing call to reconciliation, the indispensable condition for creating in Africa relationships of justice between men and for building an equitable and lasting peace in respect to every individual and every people; a peace that needs and opens up to the contribution of all persons of good will beyond the respective religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural and social affiliations. You are not alone in this demanding mission, pilgrim Church in the Africa of the 3rd millennium. The whole Catholic Church is near you with prayer and active solidarity, and you are accompanied from heaven by the men and women saints of Africa, who with their life -- sometimes to the point of martyrdom -- have witnessed to total fidelity to Christ.

Courage! Get on your feet, continent of Africa, land that welcomed the Savior of the world when as a child he had to flee with Joseph and Mary to Egypt for safety during Herod’s persecution. Welcome with renewed enthusiasm the proclamation of the Gospel so that the face of Christ might illuminate with its splendor the multiplicity of the cultures and languages of your populations. As she offers the bread of the Word and the Eucharist, the Church dedicates herself also to work, with every means available, so that no African will be without daily bread. This is why, along with the task of primary urgency of evangelization, Christians are active in the interventions of human promotion.

Dear synodal fathers, at the end of these reflections of mine, I would like to offer you my most cordial greeting, thanking you for your edifying participation. Returning home, Pastors of the Church of Africa, bring my blessing to your communities. Transmit to all the call that so often resounded in this Synod, of reconciliation, justice and peace.

As this synodal assembly closes, I cannot not renew my deep gratitude to the secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops and his aides. I express a grateful thought to the choirs of the Nigerian community of Rome and the Ethiopian College, who contribute to the animation of this liturgy. And finally I would like to thank those who accompanied the synodal work with prayer. May the Virgin Mary recompense each and every one, and obtain that the Church in Africa grow in every part of that great continent, spreading the "salt" and the "light" of the Gospel everywhere.


Papal Letter to Mississippi River Symposium
"The Great Fluvial Systems of Every Continent Are Exposed to Serious Threats"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2009 - Here is the letter, dated Oct. 12, that Benedict XVI sent to Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, on the occasion of the Eighth International Symposium on Religion, Science and the Environment titled "Restoring Balance: The Great Mississippi River."

The symposium, organized under the patronage of Bartholomew I, is under way through Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee.

* * *

To His Holiness Bartholomew I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch

On the occasion of the Eight International Symposium on the theme Religion, Science and the Environment, devoted this year to the Mississippi River, I have asked the Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, to offer Your Holiness my cordial greetings and my prayerful good wishes for the occasion. I likewise renew my appreciation for your continued efforts to promote respect for God’s gift of creation and a sense of global solidarity for its wise and responsible stewardship.

From earliest times, water has always been acknowledged as a primary human good and an indispensable natural resource. Around the great rivers of the world, like the Mississippi, great cultures have developed, while over the course of the centuries the prosperity of countless societies has been linked to these waterways. Today, however, the great fluvial systems of every continent are exposed to serious threats, often as a result of man’s activity and decisions.

Concern for the fate of the great rivers of the earth must lead us to reflect soberly on the model of development which our society is pursuing. A purely economic and technological understanding of progress, to the extent that it fails to acknowledge its intrinsic limitations and to take into consideration the integral good of humanity, will inevitably provoke negative consequences for individuals, peoples and creation itself (cf. Common Declaration, 30 November, 2006). Authentic human development likewise calls for intergenerational justice and practical solidarity with the men and women of the future, who are also entitled to enjoy the goods which creation, as willed by God, is meant to bestow in abundance upon all.

I fully agree with Your Holiness that the urgent issues surrounding the care and protection of the environment, while touching important political, economic, technical and scientific questions, nonetheless are essentially of an ethical nature, and the solution to the ecological crisis of our time necessarily calls for a change of heart on the part of our contemporaries.
Nature, in fact, is prior to us, and, as the setting of our life, it must be used responsibly, with respect for its inbuilt equilibrium. As the expression of the Creator’s plan of love and truth, nature must be acknowledged as containing “a ‘grammar’ which sets forth ends and criteria for its wise use, not its reckless exploitation” (Caritas in Veritate, 48).

Precisely for this reason, by virtue of their faith, Christians are called to join in offering the world a credible witness of responsibility for the safeguarding of creation, and to cooperate in every way possible to ensure that our earth can preserve intact its God-given grandeur, beauty and bounty.

The present Symposium, which calls attention to the majestic Mississippi River, also reminds us of the tragic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding which caused such great devastation to New Orleans and surrounding areas on 29 August 2005. My thoughts and prayers are with all those, especially the poor, who experienced suffering, loss and displacement, and all those engaged in the patient work of rebuilding and renewal.

With these sentiments, Your Holiness, I embrace you with fraternal affection in the Lord. At the same time I ask you kindly to convey my greetings and heartfelt good wishes to all those taking part in the Symposium, together with the assurance of my prayers that this important gathering will lead to the renewed awareness of our responsibility for the gift of creation, which God has entrusted to us “to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15) as common inheritance and home.

From the Vatican, 12 October 2009


On St. Bernard of Clairvaux
"Faith Is Above All a Personal, Intimate Encounter With Jesus"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to speak about St. Bernard of Clairvaux, called "the last father" of the Church, because in the 12th century he renewed once again and rendered present the great theology of the Fathers. We do not know details about the years of his boyhood. We know, nevertheless, that he was born in 1090 in Fontaines, France, in a numerous, moderately comfortable family. As a youth, he spent himself in the study of the so-called liberal arts -- especially grammar, rhetoric and dialectics -- at the school of the canons of the church of St. Vorles, in Chatillon-sur-Seine, and he slowly matured his decision to enter the religious life.

When he was about 20, he entered Citeaux, a new monastic foundation, more flexible than the old and venerable monasteries of the time and, at the same time, more rigorous in the practice of the evangelical counsels. A few years later, in 1115, Bernard was invited by St. Stephen Harding, third abbot of Citeaux, to found the monastery of Clairvaux. Here the young abbot -- who was only 25 years old -- was able to refine his concept of monastic life, and to be determined to put it into practice. Looking at the discipline of other monasteries, Bernard decidedly reclaimed the need for a sober and measured life, at table as well as in dress and in the monastic buildings, recommending the support and care of the poor. In the meantime, the community of Clairvaux became ever more numerous and multiplied its foundations.

In those same years, before 1130, Bernard maintained a vast correspondence with many persons, whether of important or modest social conditions. To the many letters of this period must be added numerous sermons, as well as sentences and treatises. Striking at this time was Bernard's friendship with William, abbot of St. Thierry, and with William of Champeaux, among the most important figures of the 12th century.

From 1130 onward, he began to be concerned with not a few grave questions of the Holy See and of the Church. For this reason, he had to go out of his monastery ever more often, and sometimes outside of France. He also founded some women's convents, and was protagonist of a lively correspondence with Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, about whom I spoke last Wednesday.

He addressed his controversial writings above all against Abelard, a great thinker who began a new way of making theology, introducing above all the dialectic-philosophical method in the construction of theological thought. Another front against which Bernard fought was the heresy of the Cathars, who held matter and the human body in contempt, consequently scorning the Creator. As well, he felt it his duty to take on the defense of the Jews, condemning the ever more diffuse resurgence of anti-Semitism. For this last aspect of his apostolic action, some 10 years later, Ephraim, rabbi of Bonn, addressed a vibrant tribute to Bernard. In that same period the holy abbot wrote his most famous works, such as the well-known Sermons on the Canticle of Canticles.

In the last years of his life -- his death occurred in 1153 -- Bernard had to limit his journeys, without however interrupting them altogether. He took advantage to review definitively the whole of the letters, sermons and treatises.

Worthy of being mentioned is a book that is quite singular, that he finished precisely in this period, in 1145, when one of his pupils, Bernard Pignatelli, was elected Pope, taking the name Eugene III. In this circumstance, Bernard, in the capacity of spiritual father, wrote to this spiritual son of his the text "De Consideratione," which contains teachings on how to be a good pope. In this book, which remains an appropriate book for popes of all times, Bernard does not only indicate what it is to be a good pope, but also expresses a profound vision of the mystery of the Church and of the mystery of Christ, which is resolved, in the end, in the contemplation of the mystery of the Triune and One God: "He must again continue the search of this God, who is not yet sufficiently sought," writes the holy abbot "but perhaps He can be sought better and found more easily with prayer than with discussion. We put an end here to the book, but not to the search" (XIV, 32: PL 182, 808), to being on the way to God.

I would now like to reflect on two key aspects of Bernard's rich doctrine: they regard Jesus Christ and Mary Most Holy, his Mother. His solicitude for the intimate and vital participation of the Christian in the love of God in Jesus Christ does not offer new guidelines in the scientific status of theology. But, in a more than decisive way, the abbot of Clairvaux configures the theologian to the contemplative and the mystic. Only Jesus -- insists Bernard in face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time -- only Jesus is "honey to the mouth, song to the ear, joy to the heart (mel in ore, in aure melos, in corde iubilum)." From here stems, in fact, the title attributed to him by tradition of Doctor Mellifluus: his praise of Jesus Christ, in fact, "runs like honey."

In the extenuating battles between nominalists and realists -- two philosophical currents of the age -- the abbot of Clairvaux does not tire of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus the Nazarene. "Arid is all food of the soul," he confesses, "if it is not sprinkled with this oil; insipid, if it is not seasoned with this salt. What is written has no flavor for me, if I have not read Jesus." And he concludes: "When you discuss or speak, nothing has flavor for me, if I have not heard resound the name of Jesus" (Sermones in Cantica Canticorum XV, 6: PL 183,847).

For Bernard, in fact, true knowledge of God consists in a personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love. And this, dear brothers and sisters, is true for every Christian: Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."

In another famous sermon on the Sunday Between the Octave of the Assumption, the holy abbot describes in impassioned terms the intimate participation of Mary in the redeeming sacrifice of the Son. "O holy Mother," he exclaims, "truly a sword has pierced your soul! ... To such a point the violence of pain has pierced your soul, that with reason we can call you more than martyr, because your participation in the Passion of the Son greatly exceeded in intensity the physical sufferings of martyrdom" (14: PL 183, 437-438).

Bernard has no doubts: "per Mariam ad Iesum," through Mary we are led to Jesus. He attests clearly to Mary's subordination to Jesus, according to the principles of traditional Mariology. But the body of the sermon also documents the privileged place of the Virgin in the economy of salvation, in reference to the very singular participation of the Mother (compassio) in the sacrifice of the Son. It is no accident that, a century and a half after Bernard's death, Dante Alighieri, in the last canto of the Divine Comedy, puts on the lips of the "Mellifluous Doctor" the sublime prayer to Mary: "Virgin Mary, daughter of your Son,/ humble and higher than a creature,/ fixed end of eternal counsel, ..." (Paradiso 33, vv. 1ss.).

These reflections, characteristic of one in love with Jesus and Mary as St. Bernard was, rightly inflame again today not only theologians but all believers. At times an attempt is made to resolve the fundamental questions on God, on man and on the world with the sole force of reason. Instead, St. Bernard, solidly based on the Bible and on the Fathers of the Church, reminds us that without a profound faith in God, nourished by prayer and contemplation, by a profound relationship with the Lord, our reflections on the divine mysteries risk becoming a futile intellectual exercise, and lose their credibility. Theology takes us back to the "science of the saints," to their intuitions of the mysteries of the living God, to their wisdom, gift of the Holy Spirit, which become the point of reference for theological thought.

Together with Bernard of Clairvaux, we too must recognize that man seeks God better and finds him more easily "with prayer than with discussion." In the end, the truest figure of the theologian and of every evangelizer is that of the Apostle John, who leaned his head on the heart of the Master.

I would like to conclude these reflections on St. Bernard with the invocations to Mary that we read in one of his beautiful homilies. "In danger, in anguish, in uncertainty," he says, "think of Mary, call on Mary. May she never be far from your lips, from your heart; and thus you will be able to obtain the help of her prayer, never forget the example of her life. If you follow her, you cannot go astray; if you pray to her, you cannot despair; if you think of her, you cannot be mistaken. If she sustains you, you cannot fall; if she protects you, you have nothing to fear; if she guides you, do not tire; if she is propitious to you, you will reach the goal ..." (Hom. II super "Missus est," 17: PL 183, 70-71).

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on the theologians of the Middle Ages, we now turn to one of the most outstanding, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard combined the austerity of the Cistercian monastic renewal with intense activity in the service of the Church in his time. Because of his great learning and deep spirituality he is venerated as a Doctor of the Church, and is often called "the last of the Fathers." Together with his theological writings and homilies, including the celebrated Sermons on the Song of Songs, Bernard maintained a vast correspondence, developed warm friendships with his contemporaries, defended sound doctrine, and combated heresy and outbreaks of antisemitism. His spirituality was profoundly Christ-centred and contemplative, and his celebration of the sweetness of Christ's name won him the title of Doctor mellifluus. Bernard is also known for his fervent devotion to our Lady and his insight into her intimate sharing in the sacrifice of her Son. May Bernard's example of faith nourished by prayer, study and contemplation, lead us closer "to Jesus through Mary" and grant us that wisdom which finds joyful fulfillment in the knowledge of the saints in heaven.


Papal Address to European Community Envoy
"That Europe Not Allow its Model of Civilization to Be Eroded"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 19, 2009 Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Yves Gazzo, new head of the delegation of the Commission of European Communities to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr. Ambassador,

I am happy to receive you, Excellency, and to accredit you as Representative of the Commission of the European Communities to the Holy See. I would be grateful if you would express to Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso, who has just been re-elected as head of the commission, my cordial wishes for his person and for the mandate entrusted to him, and also for all his collaborators.

This year Europe commemorates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wished to honor this event in a particular way, traveling to the Czech Republic. In that land, tested by the yoke of a painful ideology, I was able to give thanks for the gift of recovered liberty, which has allowed the European Continent to find its integrity and unity again.

You, Mr. Ambassador, have described the European Union as "an area of peace and stability that brings together 27 States with the same fundamental values." It is a happy description. And yet, it is right to observe that the European Union has not gifted itself with these values, but rather it has been these shared values that made it come to birth and be the force of gravity that has attracted to the nucleus of the founding countries the different nations that subsequently have adhered to it, in the course of time.

These values are the fruit of a long and torturous history in which, no one can deny, Christianity has played a major role. The same equality of all human beings, the liberty of the act of faith as root of the other civil liberties, peace as the decisive element of the common good, of human development -- intellectual, social and economic -- in so far as divine vocation (cfr. "Caritas in Veritate," Nos. 16-19), and the meaning of history derived from it, are a few of many other central elements of Christian Revelation that continue to mold European civilization.

When the Church recalls the Christian roots of Europe, she is not seeking a privileged status for herself. She wishes to make a historical memorial reminding in the first place of a truth -- increasingly relegated to silence -- namely, to the decidedly Christian inspiration of the Founding Fathers of the European Union. At a more profound level, she also wishes to show that the basis of the values comes above all from the Christian heritage that continues to nourish it even today.

These common values are not an anarchic or accidental aggregate, but form a coherent whole that is ordered and articulated, historically, from a precise anthropological vision. Can Europe omit the original organic principle of these values that, at the same time, have revealed to man his eminent dignity and the fact that his personal vocation opens him to all other men, with whom he is called to build only one family?

Does allowing oneself to be led by this forgetfulness not mean to expose oneself to the risk of seeing these great and beautiful values enter into competition or conflict with one another? More than that, do these values not run the risk of being instrumentalized by individuals and pressure groups desirous of furthering particular interests in detriment of an ambitious collective project -- which Europeans expect -- which is concerned with the common good of the inhabitants of the Continent and of the whole world? This risk was perceived and criticized by numerous observers that belong to very different horizons. It is important that Europe not allow its model of civilization to be eroded, bit-by-bit. Its original impulse must not be suffocated by individualism and utilitarianism.

The immense intellectual, cultural and economic resources of the Continent will continue to bear fruit if they continue to be fertilized by the transcendent vision of the human person, which is the most precious treasure of European heritage. This humanist tradition, in which so many families of different thoughts recognize themselves, makes Europe capable of addressing the challenges of tomorrow and of responding to the population's expectations.

It is primarily the search for a just and delicate balance between economic efficiency and social exigencies, the safeguarding of the environment and, above all, the indispensable and necessary support to human life from conception to natural death, and to the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman. Europe will be really itself only if it is able to preserve the originality that has constituted its greatness, and this is capable of making of it, in the future, one of the principal actors in the promotion of the integral development of persons, which the Catholic Church regards as the genuine way able to remedy the present imbalances of our world.

For all these reasons, Mr. Ambassador, the Holy See follows with respect and great attention the activity of European institutions, hoping that the latter, with their work and creativity, will honor Europe that, more than a continent, is a "spiritual home" (cfr. Address to the Civil Authorities and to the Diplomatic Corps, Prague, Sept. 26, 2009). The Church wishes to "accompany" the construction of the European Union. For this reason, she allows herself to remind you of the fundamental and constitutive values of European society, so that they can be promoted for the good of all.

As you begin your mission to the Holy See, I wish to reaffirm my satisfaction for the excellent relations maintained by the European Community and the Holy See and I express to you, Mr. Ambassador, my best wishes for the good development of your noble task. Be assured of finding in my collaborators the reception and understanding of which you might be in need.

On you, Excellency, on your family and on your collaborators, I invoke from my heart the abundance of divine blessings.


On World Mission Sunday

"The Church Exists to Proclaim This Message of Hope"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, the third Sunday of October, we celebrate World Mission Day, which is a powerful reminder for every ecclesial community and for each Christian of the duty to proclaim and bear witness before all people to the Gospel, especially to those who do not yet know it. In the message that I wrote for this occasion, I was inspired by an expression in the Book of Revelation, which echoes the words of Isaiah’s prophecy: "The nations will walk in his light" (Revelation 21:24). The light that is spoken about is God’s light, revealed in the Messiah and reflected on the countenance of the Church, represented as the New Jerusalem, wondrous city in which the fullness of the glory of God shines forth. It is the light of the Gospel, which orients the path of the nations and guides them toward the realization of a great family, in justice and peace, under the paternity of the one God, who is good and merciful.

The Church exists to proclaim this message of hope to all of humanity, which in our time has "experienced marvelous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself" (John Paul II, "Redemptoris Missio," 2).

In the month of October, especially this Sunday, the universal Church highlights her missionary vocation. Led by the Holy Spirit, she knows that she is called to continue the work of Jesus himself, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which "is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). This Kingdom is already present in the world as the power of love, of freedom, of solidarity, of respect for the dignity of every man, and the ecclesial community feels the force in its heart of the urgency to work so that Christ’s sovereignty be fully realized. All its members and articulations cooperate in such a project, according to the different states of life and charisms.

On this World Mission Day I would like to recall the missionaries -- priests, men and women religious and lay volunteers -- who consecrate their existence to bringing the Gospel into the world, even facing hardships and difficulties and sometimes real persecutions.

I think, among others, of Father Ruggero Ruvoletto, a priest of the Donum Fidei missionaries, recently killed in Brazil; of Father Michael Sinnot, a religious, taken hostage a few days ago in the Philippines.

And how can I not think of what is emerging from the synod of bishops of Africa in terms of extreme sacrifice and love for Christ and his Church? I thank the Pontifical Missionary Societies for the precious service that they give to missionary animation and formation. Furthermore, I invite all Christians to make a gesture of material and spiritual sharing to help the young Churches of the poorest countries.

Dear friends, today, Oct. 18, is also the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, who, along with the Gospel, wrote the Acts of the Apostle to narrate the expansion of the Christian message to the ends of the then known world. We invoke his intercession together with that of St. Francis Xavier and St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, patrons of the missions, and of the Virgin Mary, that the Church may continue to spread the light of Christ among all the nations. I ask you, moreover, to pray for the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which is taking place this week here in the Vatican.

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

I address a cordial greeting to the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, who have come for the closing of the 4th centenary of the death of their founder, St. Giovanni Leonardi. Dear brothers, together with you are also the students of all the Colleges of the Propaganda Fidei, accompanied by Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as well as representatives of pharmacists, whose patron is St. Giovanni Leonardi.

I exhort all of you to follow him on the path of holiness and to imitate his missionary zeal. I welcome Italian-speaking pilgrims with affection, in particular the members of Comunità Cenacolo, who for many years have helped young people, especially those who have become addicted to drugs, to find the path of life again meeting Jesus Christ. I also greet the participants in the conference on the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," being held in Rome at the moment, the National Association of Small Communities of Italy, the musical band "Valletiberina" and the Pontedera section of the National Association of Carabinieri. I wish everyone a good Sunday.


Pope's Address After Piano Concert

"Music Can Become Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 18, 2009 - Here is a translation of the words Benedict XVI gave Saturday at the end of a concert offered in his honour in Paul VI Hall by the Accademia Pianistica Internazionale di Imola. The Chinese pianist Jin Ju performed music by Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, Czerny, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Liszt on pianos from seven different epochs.

* * *

Lord cardinals, dear brothers in the episcopate and priesthood, distinguished officials, dear friends!

We find ourselves here this evening for another concert. Like the one held last week at the Auditorium on the Via della Conciliazione, this one too is of a high artistic level and of great historical value. I offer my cordial greeting to the lord cardinals, the bishops and prelates, the officials, the welcome guests and to all present. I wish to offer a particular greeting to the synod fathers, who have also wished to share together in this moment of serene rest.

In the name of all I express a cordial thanks to the Accademia Pianistica Internazionale "Incontri con il maestro" di Imola [The "Meetings With the Maestro" International Piano Academy of Imola]. I would like to thank and manifest sentiments of lively appreciation above all to the maestro Franco Scala, who founded such a worthy musical institution 20 years ago and continues to direct it with passion and talent. To him also goes my gratitude for the words with which he desired, at the beginning of the evening, to interpret the common sentiments of those present. I offer a courteous thanks to the pianist Jin Ju, who allowed us to savor the expressive power of the fortepiano and the pianoforte, and the emotional charge of the music he performed. Finally, I would like to greet and thank all those who, in different ways, worked together to bring about this concert.

Dear friends, this evening we have made an enthralling and ideal historical journey that followed the evolution of the fortepiano, then the pianoforte, one of the best known musical instruments, held dear by the most famous composers -- an instrument capable of offering a not so small scale of harmonic nuances. The seven instruments that were used, which come from the important collection of the Academy in Imola -- a collection of more than 100 -- constitute in themselves an aesthetic, artistic and historical patrimony, both because they produce those sounds familiar to the men of the past and because they testify to the progress of the craft of piano making, revealing the intuitions and successive improvements of able and incomparable builders.

This concert has, once again, permitted us to taste the beauty of music, a spiritual and therefore universal language, a vehicle so importantly suited to understanding and union between persons and peoples. Music is a part of all cultures and, we might say, accompanies every human experience, from pain to pleasure, from hatred to love, from sadness to joy, from death to life. We see how, over the course of the centuries and millennia, music has always been used to give a form to that which we are not able to speak in words, because it awakens emotions that are difficult to communicate otherwise. So it is not by chance that every civilization has placed such importance and value on music in its various forms and expressions.

Music, great music, gives the spirit repose, awakens profound sentiments and almost naturally invites us to lift up our mind and heart to God in every situation, whether joyous or sad, of human existence. Music can become prayer. Thanks again to those who organized this beautiful evening. Dear friends, I bless you all from the heart.


Benedict XVI's Message for World Food Day
"Access to Food Is a Fundamental Right of Persons and Nations"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2009 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N.'s Rome-based Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on the occasion of World Food Day.

The day, observed every year on Oct. 16, commemorates the anniversary of the foundation of the FAO in 1945. The theme for this year is: "Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis."

* * *

To Mr. Jacques Diouf
Director General of FAO

If the celebration of World Food Day recalls the foundation of FAO and its action to combat hunger and malnutrition, it underscores above all the urgency and need to intervene in favor of all those who are deprived of daily bread in so many countries, due to the lack of adequate conditions of food security.

The present crisis, which goes across without distinction the whole of the sectors of the economy, affects particularly in a serious way the agricultural world, where the situation is dramatic. This crisis appeals to governments and to the different components of the international community to make determinant and effective choices.

To guarantee persons and nations the possibility of overcoming the plague of hunger means to ensure their concrete access to healthy and adequate nourishment. It is, in fact, a concrete manifestation of the right to life, which, though solemnly proclaimed, often continues to be far from full realization.

The topic chosen by FAO this year for World Food Day is "To Obtain Food Security in Times of Crisis." This invites one to regard agricultural work as an essential element of food security and, therefore, as an integral component of economic activity. For this reason, agriculture must be able to have a sufficient level of investments and resources. This topic reminds one and makes one understand that the goods of the earth are limited by nature, and hence that they require behavior that is responsible and capable of fostering food security, also thinking of future generations. Needed are a profound solidarity and long-term fraternity.

The attainment of these objectives requires a necessary modification of lifestyles and ways of thinking. It obliges the international community and its institutions to intervene in a more adequate and determinant way. I hope that this intervention will foster a cooperation that protects the methods of cultivation proper to each area and avoids an inconsiderate use of natural resources. I also hope that this cooperation will safeguard the values proper to the rural world and the fundamental rights of the laborers of the earth. Leaving privileges, profits and comfort aside, these objectives will be able to be realized for the advantage of men, women, families and communities, which live in the poorest areas of the planet and which are, moreover, more vulnerable. Experience demonstrates that technical solutions, even the advanced, lack efficacy if they do not refer to the person, principal actor who, in his spiritual and material dimension, is the origin and end of all activity.

More than an elemental necessity, access to food is a fundamental right of persons and nations. It could be a reality and hence a security if an adequate development is guaranteed in all the different regions. In particular, the tragedy of hunger will be able to be overcome only by "eliminating the structural causes that cause it and by promoting the agricultural development of the poorest countries through investments in rural infrastructure, irrigation systems, transport, the organization of markets, formation and diffusion of appropriate agricultural techniques, capable of utilizing in the best way possible the human, natural and socio-economic resources accessible in the main at the local level" (Caritas in Veritate, n. 27).

The Catholic Church, faithful to her vocation to be close to the poorest, promotes, supports and participates in the efforts made to allow each nation and community to have the necessary means to guarantee an adequate level of food security.

With these wishes, I renew, Mr. Director General, my expressions of highest consideration, and invoke on FAO, on the member States and all its personnel abundant heavenly blessings.

In the Vatican, October 8, 2009


On Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny
"I Am Not One of Those Who Is Not Happy With His Lot"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

The figure of Peter the Venerable, which I wish to present in today's catechesis, takes us back to the famous abbey of Cluny, to its "decorum" (decor) and its "lucidity" (nitor), to use terms that recur in the Cluniac texts -- decorum and splendor-- which are admired above all in the beauty of the liturgy, the privileged path to reach God.

Even more than these aspects, however, Peter's personality recalls the holiness of the great Cluniac abbots: At Cluny "there was not a single abbot who was not a saint," said Pope Gregory VII in 1080. Among these is Peter the Venerable, who to some degree gathers in himself all the virtues of his predecessors -- although already with him, Cluny, faced with new orders such as that of Citeaux, began to experience symptoms of crisis.

Born around 1094 in the French region of Auvergne, he entered as a child in the monastery of Sauxillanges, where he became a professed monk and then prior. He was elected abbot of Cluny in 1122, and remained in this office until his death, which occurred on Christmas Day, 1156, as he had wished. "Lover of peace," wrote his biographer, Rudolph, "he obtained peace in the glory of God on the day of peace" (Vita, I, 17; PL 189, 28).

All those who knew him praised his elegant meekness, serene balance, self-control, correctness, loyalty, lucidity and special attitude in mediating. "It is in my very nature," he wrote, "to be somewhat led to indulgence; I am incited to this by my habit of forgiving. I am used to enduring and forgiving" (Ep. 192, in: "The Letters of Peter the Venerable," Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 446).

He also said: "With those who hate peace we wish, possibly, to always be peaceful" (Ep. 100, 1.c., p. 261). And of himself, he wrote: "I am not one of those who is not happy with his lot ... whose spirit is always anxious and doubtful, and who laments that all the others are resting and he alone is working" (Ep. 182, p. 425).

Of a sensitive and affectionate nature, he was able to combine love of the Lord with tenderness toward his family, particularly his mother, and his friends. He was a cultivator of friendship, especially in his meetings with his monks, who usually confided in him, certain of being received and understood. According to the testimony of his biographer, "he did not disregard or refuse anyone" (Vita, 1,3: PL 189,19); "he seemed gracious to all; in his innate goodness, he was open to all" (ibid., I,1: PL, 189, 17).

We could say that this holy abbot is an example also for the monks and Christians of our time, marked by a frenetic rhythm of life, where incidents of intolerance and lack of communication, division and conflicts are not rare. His witness invites us to be able to combine love of God with love of neighbor, and never tire of renewing relations of fraternity and reconciliation. In this way, in fact, Peter the Venerable behaved, finding himself guiding the monastery of Cluny in years that were not very tranquil for several external and internal reasons, succeeding in being simultaneously severe and gifted with profound humanity. He used to say: "You will be able to obtain more from a man by tolerating him, than by irritating him with complaints" (Ep. 172, 1.c., 409).

Because of his office, he had to make frequent trips to Italy, England, Germany and Spain. Forced abandonment of contemplative stillness weighed on him. He confessed: "I go from one place to another, I am anxious, disturbed, tormented, dragged here and there; my mind is turned now to my affairs, now to those of others, not without great agitation to my spirit" (Ep. 91, 1.c., p. 233). Although having to maneuver between the powers and lordships that surrounded Cluny, nevertheless, thanks to his sense of measure, his magnanimity and his realism, he succeeded in keeping his habitual tranquility. Among the personalities with whom he interacted was Bernard of Clairvaux, with whom he enjoyed a relationship of growing friendship, despite differences of temperament and perspectives. Bernard described him as an "important man, occupied in important affairs" and he greatly esteemed him (Ep. 147, ed. Scriptorium Claravallense, Milan, 1986, VI/1, pp. 658-660), whereas Peter the Venerable described Bernard as "lamp of the Church" (Ep. 164, p. 396), "strong and splendid column of the monastic order and of the whole Church" (Ep. 175, p. 418).

With a lively ecclesial sense, Peter the Venerable said that the affairs of Christian people should be felt in the "depth of the heart" of those who number themselves "among the members of the Body of Christ" (Ep. 164, 1.c., p. 397). And he added: "He is not nourished by Christ who does not feel the wounds of the Body of Christ," wherever these are produced (ibid.). Moreover, he showed care and solicitude even for those who were outside the Church, in particular for the Jews and Muslims: to foster knowledge of the latter he had the Quran translated. In this regard, a recent historian observed: "Amid the intransigence of the men of Medieval times, also among the greatest of them, we admire here a sublime example of the delicacy to which Christian charity leads" (J. Leclercq, Pietro il Venerabile, Jaca Book, 1991, p. 189).

Other aspects of Christian life dear to him were love of the Eucharist and devotion to the Virgin Mary. On the Most Holy Sacrament he has left us pages that are "one of the masterpieces of Eucharistic literature of all times" (ibid., p. 267), and on the Mother of God he wrote illuminating reflections, always contemplating her in close relationship with Jesus the Redeemer and his work of salvation. Suffice it to report this inspired elevation of his: "Hail, Blessed Virgin, who put malediction to flight. Hail, Mother of the Most High, spouse of the most meek Lamb. You conquered the serpent, you have crushed his head, when the God generated by you annihilated him ... Shining star of the East, who puts to flight the shadows of the West. Dawn that precedes the sun, day that ignores the night ... Pray to God born from you, so that he will absolve us from our sin and, after forgiveness, grant us grace and glory" (Carmina, Pl 189, 1018-1019).

Peter the Venerable also nourished a predilection for literary activity and he had the talent. He wrote down his reflections, persuaded of the importance of using the pen almost like a plough "to scatter on paper the seed of the Word" (Ep. 20, p. 38). Although he was not a systematic theologian, he was a great researcher of the mystery of God. His theology sinks its roots in prayer, especially the liturgy, and among the mysteries of Christ he favored the Transfiguration, in which the Resurrection is already prefigured. It was in fact he who introduced this feast at Cluny, composing a special office for it, in which is reflected the characteristic theological piety of Peter and of the Cluniac Order, wholly set to the contemplation of the glorious face (gloriosa facies) of Christ, finding there the reasons for that ardent joy that marked his spirit and was radiated in the liturgy of the monastery.

Dear brothers and sisters, this holy monk is certainly a great example of monastic sanctity, nourished at the sources of the Benedictine tradition. For him, the ideal of the monk consisted in "adhering tenaciously to Christ" (Ep. 53, 1.c., p. 161), in a cloistered life marked by "monastic humility" (ibid.) and industriousness (Ep. 77, 1.c., p. 211), as well as by a climate of silent contemplation and constant praise of God. According to Peter of Cluny, the first and most important occupation of a monk is the solemn celebration of the Divine Office --"heavenly work and of all the most useful" (Statuta, I, 1026) -- to be supported with reading, meditation, personal prayer and penance observed with discretion (cf. Ep. 20, 1.c., p. 40).

In this way the whole of life is pervaded by profound love of God and love of others, a love that is expressed in sincere openness to one's neighbour, in forgiveness and in the pursuit of peace. By way of conclusion, we could say that if this style of life joined to daily work is, for St. Benedict, the ideal of the monk, it also concerns all of us; it can be, to a great extent, the style of life of the Christian who wants to become a genuine disciple of Christ, characterized in fact by tenacious adherence to him, by humility, by industriousness and the capacity to forgive, and by peace.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today considers an outstanding churchman of the early twelfth century, Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny. Despite his pressing responsibilities and frequent travels in the service of the Church, Peter maintained a contemplative spirit, deep inner tranquility, rigorous asceticism and a capacity for warm friendships. His ability to combine love of God with sincere love of neighbour found expression in a lively sense of the Church. He urged all the members of Christ's Body to be concerned for the trials and difficulties of the universal Church, and he expressed an interest in those outside the Church, specifically Jews and Muslims, in ways which were remarkable for his day. Prayer stood at the heart of Peter's theology and spirituality, which were nourished by the monastic liturgy and meditation on the mysteries of Christ's life. At Cluny he introduced the feast of the Transfiguration and composed its prayers, centered on the contemplation of the glorious face of Christ. By his ability to combine prayer and contemplation with love of neighbour and a commitment to the renewal of society, Peter the Venerable reflected the Benedictine ideal and serves as an example to Christian today in their efforts to live holy and integrated lives in our often stressful society.


On the Canonization of 5 Saints

"The Virgin Mary Is the Star That Guides Every Journey of Sanctity"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after presiding at the canonization of five new saints, and before praying the Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

At the end of this solemn celebration, we are invited to pray the Angelus. Before reciting it, I would like to address a cordial greeting to all of you, who wanted, by your devout participation, to pay homage to the new saints. A special thought goes to the authorities with the official delegations who have come from various countries: I thank you for your presence.

[In French:]

I greet with joy the French-speaking pilgrims who have come for the occasion of the canonizations. Following the example of St. Jeanne Jugan, I invite you to concern yourselves with the poorest and the least, those who have been wounded by life and the marginalized of our society, above all on the occasion of the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty, which will be celebrated in a few days. Remembering the holy Father Damian, I ask you to commit yourselves at the same time to support with your prayer and your works those who generously dedicate themselves to the struggle against leprosy and against other forms of leprosy that are due to lack of love because of ignorance and cowardice. May your prayer accompany the work sessions of the 2nd African Synod. May God bless all of you!

[In English:]

I extend cordial greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims here this Sunday, especially those who have come to Rome in such great numbers for today’s canonization. May these new saints accompany you with their prayers and inspire you by the example of their holy lives. I also greet the group of survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I pray that the world may never again witness such mass destruction of innocent human life. May God bless all of you, as well as your families and loved ones at home.

[In German:]

I cordially greet the German-speaking pilgrims and especially the recently ordained priests of the German College with their guests. May the Lord give you courage and strength in your ministry! Let us take the new saints as models for our life. Among them there is a saint who is dearly loved in Germany, Father Damian, who lived among the lepers of on the Hawaiian island of Molokai and died of having contracted the disease in the end. Let us invoke the intercession of the holy Bishop Zygmunt Szcze;sny Felin'sk, of the holy religious Francisco Coll y Guitart, Rafael Arnáiz Barón and Marie de la Croix Jugan, that God may give us today as well many religious vocations. May the Lord accompany all of you with his grace.

[In Spanish:]

I greet the Spanish-speaking pilgrims with affection, in particular those who participated in this joyous ceremony of canonization, especially the lord cardinals, the archbishops and bishops who have arrived with them from Spain, a land so bountiful with the fruits of sanctity. The Dominican, St. Francisco Coll, with his priestly and missionary dedicaton, and the Trappist, St. Rafael Arnáiz Barón, with his entirely contemplative soul, both fervently devoted to the Virgin Mary, honor to the best religious tradition and the deeply Christian roots of your people. May the example and the intercession of these new saints reinvigorate in everyone, and especially in the Dominican Sisters of the of the Annunciation, in the Order of Preachers and in the Trappist monks, the commitment to follow Christ in a generous and disinterested way, according to their particular vocation, witnessing to his Gospel in modern society. I also greet the groups from Colombia and from the other Latin American countries.

[In Flemish:]

I greet the Flemish-speaking pilgrims, who have come to Rome to join in the thanksgiving of the Church for the canonization of Father Damian. Consecrated to the Heart of Jesus and Mary, this holy priest was led by God to let a total "yes" bloom in his vocation. May the intercession of Our Lady and the Apostle of the Lepers free the world from leprosy, make us open to the love of God and grant us enthusiasm and joy in the service of our brothers and sisters. With my apostolic benediction.

[In Polish:]

I cordially greet the faithful who have come from Poland, with the cardinals, archbishops and bishops. I greet all the Polish who, celebrating the traditional Day of the Pope, can rejoice in the gift of a new saint: Zygmunt Szcze;sny Felin'ski. I entrust the Church in Poland and the whole nation to his protection. May God bless you!

[In Italian:]

Dear brothers and sisters, the Virgin Mary is the star that guides every journey of sanctity. Her "fiat" is the perfect model of adhesion to the divine will and her "magnificat" expresses the Church’s song of exultation. Already on this earth the Church rejoices in God’s mighty deeds and in heaven praises his glory eternally. We turn to the Mother of Christ with filial confidence, asking, through her intercession and that of the newly canonized saints, for peace and salvation.


Papal Homily at Canonization Mass

"Jesus Invites His Disciples to the Total Giving of Their Lives"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the canonization Mass of the following blessed: Bishop Zygmunt Szscze;sny Felin'sk, founder of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary; Dominican Father Francisco Coll y Guitart, founder of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Father Jozef Damiaan de Veuster of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar; Father Rafael Arnáiz Barón of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance; Sister Marie de la Croix (Jeanne) Jugan, founder of the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Before the Blessing, the Holy Father addressed the faithful and led them in praying the Angelus Domini.

* * *

During the Sacred Rite, after the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father gave the homily.

Dear brothers and sisters!

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" This is the question that opens the brief dialogue we heard in the Gospel, between a man, identified elsewhere as the rich young man, and Jesus (cf Mk 10:17-30). We do not have very many details about this nameless character: all the same from the little we do have we are able to perceive his sincere desire to attain eternal life by living an honest and virtuous existence on earth. In fact he knows the commandments and has obeyed them since childhood. And yet all of this, while important, is not sufficient -- says Jesus -- there is one thing missing, but it is an essential thing. Seeing then that he is willing, the Divine Master looks at him with love and proposes the qualitative leap, he calls him to the heroism of sanctity, he asks him to abandon everything and follow him: "Sell what you own and give the money to the poor...then come, follow me!" (V. 21).

"Then come, follow me!" This is the Christian vocation that flows from a proposal of love by the Lord, and that can be realized only thanks to our loving reply. Jesus invites his disciples to the total giving of their lives, without calculation or personal gain, with unfailing trust in God. The saints welcome this demanding invitation and set about following the crucified and risen Christ with humble docility. Their perfection, in the logic of a faith that is humanly incomprehensible at times, consists in no longer placing themselves at the center, but choosing to go against the flow and live according to the Gospel. This is what was done by the five saints who today, with great joy, are being put forward for veneration by the universal Church: Zygmunt Szcze;sny Felin'ski, Francisco Coll y Guitart, Jozef Damiaan de Veuster, Rafael Arnáiz Barón, Marie de la Croix (Jeanne) Jugan. In them we can contemplate the realization of the words of the Apostle Peter: "Look, we have left everything and followed you" (V. 28) and the consoling reassurance of Jesus: "There is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times as much...and persecutions too, now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life" (VV. 29-30)

Zygmunt Szcze;sny Felin'ski, Archbishop of Warsaw, founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary, was a great witness of faith and pastoral charity in very difficult times for the nation and for the Church in Poland. He dealt zealously with the spiritual growth of the faithful, and in helping the poor and orphans. At the Ecclesial Academy of St Petersburg he oversaw the well-founded formation of priests. As the Archbishop of Warsaw, he encouraged everyone towards an interior renewal. Prior to the insurrection of January 1863 against the Russian annexation, he warned the people against the futile shedding of blood. However, when the uprising occurred and was put down, he courageously defended the oppressed. Under the rule of the Russian Czar he spent 20 years in exile in Jaroslavl in Siberia, without being able to ever return to his diocese. In every situation he stuck steadfastly to his trust in Divine Providence and prayed the following: "O, God, protect us not from tribulations and from the worries of this world... only multiply the love in our hearts so that with the deepest humility we may maintain infinite trust in Your help and in Your mercy...". Today may his dedication to God and to men, full of trust and of love, become a shining example for all the Church.

Saint Paul reminds us in the second reading that "the word of God is living and effective" (Hb 4:12). In it, the Father who is in heaven, lovingly speaks to all his children of all eras (cf. Dei Verbum, 21), allowing them to know his infinite love and, in this way, encouraging them, consoling them and offering to them His plan for salvation of humanity and of each person. Conscious of this, Saint Francis Coll eagerly dedicated himself to its proclamation, faithfully accomplishing his vocation in the Order of Preachers, in which he worked. His passion was preaching, for the most part in an itinerant manner and following the form of "popular missions", with the goal of proclaiming and enlivening the Word of God for the peoples and cities of Catalonia, thus leading the people to the profound encounter with Him. An encounter that elevates the heart to conversion, to receive with joy the divine grace and to maintain constant dialogue with Our Lord through prayer. For this, his evangelizing activity included great devotion to the sacrament of Reconciliation, an outstanding emphasis on the Eucharist and a constant insistence on prayer. Francis Coll reached the hearts of others because he transmitted what he himself lived with passion, that which burned in his heart: the love of Christ, his devotion to Him. For the seed of the Word of God to encounter fertile ground, Francis founded the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the goal of providing an integral education to children and youth, so that they could discover the unfathomable wealth that is Christ, this loyal friend who will never abandon us nor tire of being by our side, animating our hope with his Word of life.

Jozef De Veuster, who in the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary received the name of Damiaan, when he was twenty-three years old, in 1863, left his home in Flanders to proclaim the Gospel on the other side of the world, the Hawaiian Islands. His missionary activity, which gave him so much joy, reaches its summit in charity. Not without fear and repugnance, he chose to go to the Island of Molokai to serve the lepers who were there, abandoned by all; thus he exposed himself to the disease they suffered from. He felt at home with them. The Servant of the Word thus became a suffering servant, a leper with lepers, during the last four years of his life.

To follow Christ, Father Damiaan did not only leave his native country, but he also risked his health: therefore he received eternal life, as the Word of Jesus that was proclaimed in the Gospel today says (cfr. Mk 10:30).

On the 20th anniversary of the canonization of another Belgian saint, Brother Mutien-Marie, the Church in Belgium has gathered once again to give thanks to God for one of its sons recognized as an authentic servant of God. We recall, faced with this noble figure, that charity makes unity: it gives birth to it and makes it desirable. In following Saint Paul, Saint Damien leads us to choose the good battle (cf. 1 Tim 1:18), not those that lead to division, but those that gather together. He invites us to open our eyes to the lepers that disfigure the humanity of our brothers and today still calls, more than for our generosity, for the charity of our serving presence.

Turning to today’s Gospel, to the youthful figure who presents his desires to Jesus, wanting to be something more than a reliably obedient to the duties imposed by the law, he is in contrast with Brother Rafael, canonized today, who died at the age of twenty seven as an Oblate of the Trappists of Saint Isidore de Duenas. He too was from a well-to-do family, as he said himself, with a "slightly dreamy spirit", whose dreams however, did not vanish in front of the attachment to material possessions and other goals that worldliness insists on at times. He said yes to the proposal to follow Jesus, in an immediate and decisive way, without limits or conditions. Thus he set out on his path, which from the moment in the monastery when he realized that he "did not know how to pray ", led him in just a few years to the summit of spiritual life, where he describes with great simplicity and naturalness in many writings. Brother Rafael, still close to us, continues to offer, through his example and his works, a fascinating journey, especially for young persons who are not satisfied easily, but who aspire to the full truth, the most inexpressible joy, reached for the love of God. "Life is love... This is the only reason to live," said the new Saint. And he insists: "From the love of God come all things." May the Lord receive one of the last prayers by Saint Rafael Arnáiz, while he gave his entire life up to Him, pleading: "Take me and give Yourself to the world." May he be given to reinvigorate the interior life of Christians today. May he be given so that his Brothers in the Trappists and the monastic centers can continue to be a beacon that reveals the intimate yearning for God which He placed in every human heart.

Through her admirable work in the service of the poorest elderly, Saint Marie de la Croix is also like a beacon to guide our societies which must always rediscover the place and unique contribution of this period of life. Born in 1792 in Cancale, Brittany, Jeanne Jugan was concerned with the dignity of her brothers and sister in humanity whom age had made vulnerable, recognizing in them the person of Christ Himself. "Look at the poor with compassion, she would say, and Jesus will look at you with goodness on your last day". This compassionate gaze on the aged, drawn from a profound communion with God, was carried by Jeanne Jugan throughout her joyous and disinterested service, practiced with gentleness and humility of heart, wishing to be herself a poor person among the poor. Jeanne lived the mystery of love by peacefully accepting darkness and divesting herself of all material possessions until her death. Her charism is always relevant, while so many aged persons suffer different types of poverty and solitude, sometimes even abandoned by their families. The spirit of hospitality and fraternal love, founded on limitless trust in Providence, which Jeanne Jugan drew from the Beatitudes, illuminated her whole existence. The evangelical impulse is followed today throughout the world in the Congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which she founded and which bears witness to her following the mercy of God and the compassionate love of the Heart of Jesus for the littlest ones. May Saint Jeanne Jugan be for the elderly a living source of hope and for the persons so generously placing themselves at their service a powerful stimulus to pursue and develop her work!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to the Lord for the gift of sanctity that today shines in the Church with a singular beauty. While I salute each of you affectionately - Cardinals, Bishops, civil and military authorities, priests, religious, faithful lay people of different nationalities who are taking part in this solemn Eucharistic celebration - I would like to invite all of you to let yourselves be drawn by the shining example of these Saints, to allow yourselves to be guided by their teachings, so that our whole existence can become a hymn of praise to the love of God. May we gain this grace through their heavenly intercession and, above all, the maternal protection of Mary, Queen of the Saints and Mother of humanity. Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address at Rosary Event With African Youth

"You Must Be Sincere and Passionate Seekers of Truth"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 11, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the event "With Africa and for Africa," which was held Saturday in Paul VI Hall with participants from the special assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops and university students from Roman colleges.

During the event the Pope presided at the praying of the rosary. Young people from nine African capitals participated through satellite hookup.

* * *

Venerable Synod Fathers,

Dear brothers and sisters, dear university students!

At the end of this Marian prayer meeting, I send my most cordial greetings to all, with a sentiment of particular recognition for the Synodal Fathers present.

I thank the Italian Authorities, who supported this initiative, and above all the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops and the Office for the University Pastoral of the Vicariate of Rome, who promoted and organized it.

Dear university friends of Rome, to you as well goes a sincere "thanks", for having answered my invitation in so many. As you know, the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops is being held in the Vatican in this period. The fact of meeting together, the Successor of Peter and the many Shepherds of the Church in Africa with other qualified experts, is a reason for joy and hope, it expresses communion and nourishes it. The Fathers of the Church have already compared the Christian community to an orchestra or an orderly and harmonious choir, just like those that animated our prayer, and to whom go our thanks.

As on previous occasions, this evening too, we have used modern technology in telecommunications to "throw a net out" -- a net of prayer! -- connecting Rome to Africa. And thus, thanks to the collaboration of Telespazio, the Centro Televisivo Vaticano and Vatican Radio, many university students from the different African cities, with their Pastors also took part in the Rosary. I would like to send them an affectionate greeting.

Brothers and sisters of the French language, particularly you who have joined us from Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Egypt, I send my most cordial greetings. I invite you to remain united in prayer with the Bishops of all of Africa who are gathered in Rome at the Synod, so that the Church may bring her effective contribution to reconciliation, justice and peace, to this beloved continent, and that she may be an authentic sign of hope for all African peoples, "salt of the earth... and light of the world". May the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, watch over you in peace and guide you to her son Jesus the Savior!

May God bless you!

Dear Friends, I greet with affection the many young students, especially those from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Sudan, who have joined us in our prayer to Mary, the Mother of Jesus. We have entrusted to her maternal protection the success of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. May her intercession sustain Christians everywhere, especially the peoples of Africa, and may her example teach us to turn to the Lord and persevere in prayer in our sorrows and our joys. I extend a special greeting to the young men and women of Africa who are present in my heart and in my prayers. May you always be uncompromising witnesses and active promoters of justice, reconciliation and peace.

I salute the university students gathered in Maputo with the rosary in their hands and the name of Mary on their lips, praying with Africa and for Africa, so that the Christian faithful, filled with the Holy Spirit, may accomplish the mission they received from Jesus: to be the salt of the earth and the light that guides the world to reconciliation and peace. Thank you, my friends, for your prayer and for your Christian testimony!

May the Virgin Mother watch over you, and I entrust all the youth of Mozambique and the other African countries whose official language is Portuguese to her.

In preparation for today’s meeting, a conference was held in Rome, organized by the Office for Cooperation in Development of the Foreign Ministry and the Vicariate of Rome, on the theme "For a new culture of development in Africa: the role of university cooperation". In expressing my appreciation and encouragement to continue with this project, I want to underline the importance of the education of young intellectuals and the scientific and cultural exchange between universities to propose and animate an integral human development in Africa and the other continents. In this context, I entrusted ideally to you, dear young people, the Encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," in which I recall the urgency of elaborating a new humanistic synthesis (cf No. 21) that reestablishes the links between anthropology and theology.

Meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, we have once again seen the true face of God who reveals to us his presence in the life of every people in Jesus Christ. The God of Jesus Christ walks with man: and thanks to Him it is possible to build the civilization of love (cf op.cit. 39). Dear university students of Rome and Africa, I ask you to be operators of intellectual charity, which is necessary to face up to the great challenges of contemporary history, in the Church and in society. At university you must be sincere and passionate seekers of truth, building academic communities of the highest intellectual standard, where it is possible to exercise and enjoy that open and vast rationality that paves the way to the meeting with God. Know how to build bridges of scientific and cultural collaboration between your various universities, especially with the African ones. And to you, dear African students, I invite you in particular to live your period of study as a preparation to carry out a service of cultural animation in your countries. The new evangelization in Africa is also counting on your generous efforts.

Dear brothers and sisters, with this reciting of the Rosary we have entrusted the II Synod for Africa to the maternal intercession of the Holy Virgin. We place in her hands the hopes, expectations and projects of the African peoples, along with their difficulties and sufferings. To all of you who are linked to us from the different parts of Africa, and to all of you present here, I impart with all my heart the Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. John Leonardi
"To Oppose the Weeds He Chose to be Good Wheat"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

The day after tomorrow, Oct. 9, will be the 400th anniversary of the death of St. John Leonardi, founder of the religious order of Clerks Regular of the Mother of God, canonized on April 17, 1938, and chosen patron of pharmacists on Aug. 8, 2006. He is also remembered for his great missionary zeal.

Together with Monsignor Juan Bautista Vives and Jesuit Martin de Funes, he planned and contributed to the establishment of a specific Congregation of the Holy See for the missions, that of Propoganda Fide, and to the future birth of the Pontifical Urbanian Athenaeum "De Propoganda Fide," which in the course of centuries has forged thousands of priests, many of them martyrs, to evangelize peoples. We are speaking, therefore, of a luminous priestly figure, which I am pleased to point out as an example to all presbyters in this Year for Priests. He died in 1609 from influenza contracted while he was giving himself to the care of all those who had been stricken by the epidemic in the Roman quarter of Campitelli.

John Leonardi was born in 1541 in Diecimo, in the province of Lucca. The last of seven siblings, his adolescence was sprinkled with rhythms of faith lived in a healthy and industrious family group, as well as the assiduous frequenting of a shop of herbs and medicines in his native town. At age 17 his father enrolled him in a regular course in pharmacy in Lucca, with the aim of making him a future pharmacist, that is, an apothecary, as they were called then. For close to a decade young John Leonardi was vigilant and diligent in following this, but when, according to the norms established by the former Republic of Lucca, he acquired the official recognition that would have allowed him to open his own shop, he began to think if perhaps the moment had not arrived to fulfill a plan that he had always had in his heart.

After mature reflection he decided to direct himself toward the priesthood. And thus, having left the apothecary's pharmacy, and acquired an appropriate theological formation, he was ordained a priest and celebrated his first Mass on the feast of Epiphany of 1572. However, he did not abandon his passion for pharmaceutics because he felt that professional mediation as a pharmacist would allow him to realize fully his vocation of transmitting to men, through a holy life, "the medicine of God," which is Jesus Christ crucified and risen, "measure of all things."

Animated by the conviction that, more than any other thing, all human beings need such medicine, St. John Leonardi tried to make the personal encounter with Jesus Christ the fundamental reason of his existence. It is necessary to "start anew from Christ," he liked to repeat very often.

The primacy of Christ over everything became for him the concrete criterion of judgment and action and the generating principle of his priestly activity, which he exercised while a vast and widespread movement of spiritual renewal was under way in the Church, thanks to the flowering of new religious institutes and the luminous witness of saints such as Charles Borromeo, Philip Neri, Ignatius of Loyola, Joseph Calasanzius, Camillus of Lellis and Aloysius Gonzaga.

He dedicated himself with enthusiasm to the apostolate among youth through the Company of Christian Doctrine, gathering around himself a group of young men with whom, on Sept. 1, 1574, he founded the Congregation of Reformed Priests of the Blessed Virgin, subsequently called the Order of Clerks Regular of the Mother of God. He recommended to his disciples to have "before the mind's eye only the honor, service and glory of Christ Jesus Crucified," and, like a good pharmacist, accustomed to giving out potions according to careful measurements, he would add: "Raise your hearts to God a bit more and measure things with him."

Moved by apostolic zeal, in May 1605 he sent newly elected Pope Paul V a report in which he suggested the criteria for a genuine renewal of the Church. Observing how it is "necessary that those who aspire to the reform of men's practices must seek especially, and firstly, the glory of God," he added that they should stand out "for their integrity of life and excellence of customs thus, rather than constraining, they gently draw one to reform." Moreover, he observed that "whoever wishes to carry out a serious moral and religious reform must make first of all, like a good doctor, a careful diagnosis of the evils that beset the Church so as to be able to prescribe for each of them the most appropriate remedy." And he noted that "the renewal of the Church must be confirmed as much in leaders as in followers, high and low. It must begin from those who command and be extended to the subjects."

It was because of this that, while soliciting the Pope to promote a "universal reform of the Church," he was concerned with the Christian formation of the people, especially of the young, educating them "from their early years ... in the purity of the Christian faith and in holy practices."

Dear brothers and sisters, the luminous figure of this saint invites priests, in the first place, and all Christians, to tend constantly to the "high measure of the Christian life," which is sanctity -- each, of course, according to his own state. In fact, only from fidelity to Christ can genuine ecclesial renewal spring.

In those years, in the cultural and social passage between the 16th and 17th century, the premises of the future contemporary culture began to be delineated, characterized by an undue separation of faith and reason. This has produced among its negative effects the marginalization of God, with the illusion of a possible and total autonomy of man who chooses to live "as if God did not exist." This is the crisis of modern thought, which many times I have had the opportunity to point out and which often leads to a form of relativism.

John Leonardi intuited what the real medicine was for these spiritual evils and he synthesized it in the expression: "Christ first of all," Christ in the center of the heart, in the center of history and of the cosmos. And humanity -- he affirmed forcefully -- needs Christ intensely, because he is our "measure." There is no realm that cannot be touched by his strength; there is no evil that cannot find remedy in him, there is no problem that cannot be solved in him. "Either Christ or nothing!" Here is his prescription for every type of spiritual and social reform.

There is another aspect of the spirituality of St. John Leonardi that I would like to highlight. In many circumstances he had to confirm that a living encounter with Christ is realized in his Church: holy but fragile, rooted in history and in a sometimes dark future, where wheat and weeds grow together (cf. Matthew 13:30), but, nevertheless, always the sacrament of salvation. Having a clear awareness that the Church is the field of God (cf. Matthew 13:24), he was not scandalized by her human weaknesses. To oppose the weeds he chose to be good wheat: He decided, that is, to love Christ in the Church and to contribute to render her an ever more transparent sign of him.

He saw the Church with great realism, her human frailty, but also her being "God's field," the instrument of God for the salvation of humanity. And not only this. For love of Christ he worked with alacrity to purify the Church, to render her more beautiful and holy. He understood that every reform is made within the Church and never against the Church.

In this, St. John Leonardi was truly extraordinary and his example is always timely. Every reform certainly involves structures, but in the first place it must be engraved in the hearts of believers. Only the saints, men and women who allow themselves to be guided by the divine Spirit, ready to carry out radical and courageous choices in the light of the Gospel, renew the Church and contribute, in a decisive way, to building a better world.

Dear brothers and sisters, St. John Leonardi's existence was always enlightened by the splendor of the "Holy Face" of Jesus, kept and venerated in the Cathedral Church of Lucca, becoming the eloquent symbol and the indisputable synthesis of the faith that animated him. Conquered by Christ like the Apostle Paul, he pointed out to his disciples, and continues to point out to all of us, the Christocentric ideal for which "it is necessary to divest oneself of every self interest and only look to the service of God," having "before the mind's eye only the honor, service and glory of Christ Jesus Crucified."

Along with the face of Christ, he fixed his gaze on the maternal face of Mary. She whom he chose patroness of his order, was for him teacher, sister and mother, and he felt her constant protection. May the example and intercession of this "fascinating man of God" be, particularly in this Year for Priests, a call and encouragement for priests and for all Christians to live their own vocations with passion and enthusiasm.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This week marks the four hundreth anniversary of the death of Saint John Leonardi, the founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God and a priest whose missionary zeal found expression in the establishment of the congregation of Propoganda Fide. Saint John was born near Lucca, and after training as a pharmacist, became a priest committed to offering "the medicine of God" to the men and women of his time. At a period of great reform and renewal in the life of the Church, he made the crucified Christ the centre of his preaching and the criterion of all his activity. John understood that all true reform is born of fidelity to Christ and love for the Church. It was love for Christ which inspired his efforts to catechize the young, to promote missionary activity and to renew Christian life and practice. Saint John was convinced that Christ is the true measure of man, and so he worked with great realism and zeal to promote holiness and the reform of society. During this Year for Priests, may the figure of this great missionary inspire priests and laity alike to "start anew from Christ" and embrace their vocation with passionate enthusiasm.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors at today’s Audience, including the Sisters and friends of the Congregation of Jesus and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of their foundation by Mary Ward. My particular greetings go to the groups of faithful from Iraq, from the Archdiocese of Samoa-Apia, and to the Diaconate ordination candidates from the Pontifical North American College accompanied by their families and friends. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Opening of the Synod of Bishops for Africa
"It Is the Lord, His Holy Spirit, Who Guides the Church"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 4, 2009 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This morning the Eucharistic Celebration for the opening of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops took place in St. Peter's Basilica, during which prayers were also said in different African languages. My venerable predecessor, John Paul II, convoked the first "African Synod" in 1994, in view of the year 2000 and the third Christian millennium. He, who with his missionary zeal was so many times a pilgrim on African soil, gathered together the contents that emerged from that meeting in the apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa," re-launching the evangelization of the continent. 15 years later this new assembly places itself in continuity with the first one, to verify the path taken, to consider certain aspects and to examine the most recent challenges. The theme that was chosen is: "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace," accompanied by the words Christ addressed to his disciples: "You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13, 14).

Synods always constitute an intense ecclesial experience, an experience of pastoral collegial responsibility in regard to a specific aspect of the life of the Church, or rather, as in this case, of a part of the Christian people determined on the basis of a geographic area. The Pope and his closest coworkers join together with the designated members of the assembly, with the experts and auditors, to reflect on the chosen theme. It is important to emphasize that it is not a matter of a study group, nor a programmatic assembly. Communications and speeches are heard in the hall, there is discussion in groups, but we all know that we are not the protagonists: it is the Lord, his Holy Spirit, who guides the Church. The most important thing, for everyone, is listening: listening to each other and, everyone, listening to what the Lord wants to tell us. Thus the Synod takes place in a climate of faith and prayer, in religious obedience to the Word of God. It is the place of the Successor of Peter to convoke and guide the synodal assembly, gather together what emerges from the work and then offer the opportune pastoral instructions.

Dear Friends, Africa is a continent that has an extraordinary human wealth. Currently, its population amounts to nearly 1 billion inhabitants and its total birth rate is the highest in the world. Africa is a land fruitful with human life, but this life is unfortunately marked by such poverty and at times is tormented by terrible injustices. The Church is dedicated to overcome them with the power of the Gospel and the concrete solidarity of many charitable institutions and initiatives. Let us pray to the Virgin Mary that she bless the Second Special Assembly for Africa and obtain peace and development for that great and beloved continent.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father made the following remarks in Italian:]

My thought turns, in this moment, to the populations of the Pacific and southeast Asia, stricken in recent days by violent natural calamities: the tsunami in the islands of Samoa and Tonga; the typhoon in the Philippines, that then hit Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; the devastating earthquake in Indonesia. These catastrophes have caused grave losses of human life, numerous missing and homeless persons and enormous material damage. I think, furthermore, of those who are suffering from the floods in Sicily, especially around Messina. I invite everyone to join me in prayer for the victims and their loved ones. I am spiritually near to those who have been displaced and to all those persons who have been tried, imploring from God the relief of their pain. I ask that these brothers and sisters do not lack our solidarity and the support of the international community.

At the conclusion of the Angelus of this particular Sunday in which I have opened the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, I cannot forget the conflicts that currently threaten the peace and security of the peoples of the African continent. I recent days I have followed with apprehension the grave episodes of violence that have shaken the population of Guinea. I express my condolences to the families of the victims, I invite the parties to dialogue, to reconciliation and I am certain that no efforts will be spared to arrive at an equitable and just solution.

Next Saturday afternoon, October 10, together with the synod fathers, I will lead a special recitation of the Rosary "with Africa and for Africa" in the Hall of Paul VI, with the special participation of young university students of Rome. The students of certain African countries will join in via satellite link. Dear Young University Students, I am expecting many of you, to entrust to Mary, "Sedes Sapientiae" (Seat of Wisdom), the path of the Church and the society of the African continent.

[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. I invite all of you to join me in praying for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa, which opened this morning in Saint Peter's Basilica. May this great ecclesial event strengthen the Church in Africa in her witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in her efforts to promote reconciliation, justice and peace among its peoples. May the Synod also help turn the eyes of the world to that great continent and inspire renewed solidarity with our African brothers and sisters. As we entrust these prayers to the intercession of Our Lady, I invoke upon you and your families God's blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Meditation at Opening of Africa Synod

"We Pray That Pentecost Is Not Only a Past Event"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the meditation Benedict XVI gave Monday at the opening of the First General Congregation on Monday of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops, which is taking place this month at the Vatican.

The synod is considering the theme, "The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace."

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

We have now begun our synodal encounter, calling on the Holy Spirit, knowing full well that at this time we cannot achieve what must be done for the Church and for the world: only with the strength of the Holy Spirit can we find that which is good and accomplish it. And every day we will begin by calling on the Holy Spirit with the Prayer of the Hour of Terce "Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus".

Therefore I would like to meditate briefly now, together with you all, on this hymn, which opens the work each day, now during the Synod, but also in our daily life.

"Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus". We pray that the Pentecost is not only a past event, the beginnings of the Church, but that it is today, rather, now: "Nunc sancte nobis Spiritus". We pray that the Lord accomplish now the effusion of His Spirit and recreate His Church and the world. We recall that the apostles after the Ascension did not begin -- as would have been usual -- to organize, to create the Church of the future. They waited for God’s action, they waited for the Holy Spirit. They understood that the Church cannot be made, that it is not the product of our organization: the Church must be born of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Lord was conceived and born of the Holy Spirit, thus the Church must also be conceived and born of the Holy Spirit. Only through this creative act of God can we enter the activity of God, in divine action and collaborate with Him. In this sense, even all of our work at the Synod is a collaboration with the Holy Spirit, with the force of God that precedes us. And we must always continue to implore the fulfillment of this divine initiative, in which we can become collaborators of God and contribute to the rebirth and growth of His Church.

The second verse of this hymn -- "Os, lingua, mens, sensus, vigor, / Confessionem personent; / Flammescat igne caritas, / accendat ardor proximos" -- is the heart of this prayer. We beg God for three gifts, the gifts essential to Pentecost, to the Holy Spirit: confessio, caritas, proximos. Confessio: there is a tongue of fire that is "reasonable", it gives the correct word and makes one think about overcoming Babylon on the day of Pentecost. The confusion born from egoism and man’s pride, the effect being the inability to understand each other, must be overcome by the force of the Spirit, which unites without leveling, which gives unity in plurality: each can understand the other, even in the different languages. Confessio: the word, the tongue of fire that the Lord gives us, the common word which unites us all, the City of God, the Holy Church, in which all the wealth of our different cultures is present. Flammescat igne caritas. This confession is not a theory but life, love. The heart of the Holy Church is love, God is love and communicates Himself by communicating love to us. And finally the neighbor. The Church is never a closed group, which lives for itself like so many of the groups existing in the world, rather it distinguishes itself for its universality of charity, of responsibility for the neighbor.

We will consider these three gifts one by one. Confessio: in the language of the Bible and the ancient Church this word had two essential meanings, which might seem opposed but in effect constitute one reality. Confessio, first of all, is the confession of sins: recognizing our fault and recognizing that before God we are lacking, we are at fault, we are not in the right relationship with Him. This is the first point: to know ourselves in the light of God. Only in this light can we know ourselves, can we also understand that there is evil in us and thus see how much must be renewed, transformed. Only in the light of God can we know each other and truly see all of reality.

I feel that we must keep in mind all this in our analysis of reconciliation, justice, peace. Empirical analyses are important, it is important to know exactly the reality of this world. However these horizontal analyses, made so exactly and competently, are insufficient. They do not indicate the real problems because they are not placed in the light of God. If we cannot see that at the roots lies the Mystery of God, the worldly things go badly because the relationship with God is not orderly. And if the first relationship, the fundamental one, is not correct, all the other relationships as good as they can be, fundamentally do not work. Therefore all our analyses of the world are insufficient if we do not delve to this point, if we do not consider the world in the light of God, if we do not discover that at the root of injustice, of corruption, there is an unrighteous heart, there is closure towards God and, therefore, a falsification of the essential relationship which is the foundation of all others.

Confessio: to understand the realities of the world in the light of God, the primacy of God and finally the whole human being and the human realities, which tend to our relations with God. And if this is not right, it will not reach the point wanted by God, it does not enter His truth, even all the rest cannot be corrected because all the evils which re-emerge destroy the social network, the peace in the world.

Confessio: to see the reality in the light of God, to understand that ultimately our realities depend on our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer, and thus lead to truth, the truth that saves. Saint Augustine, referring to Chapter 3 of the Gospel according to Saint John, defines the act of Christian confession with "to make truth, to go towards the light". Only in seeing our faults in the light of God, the insufficiencies in our relationship with Him, can we walk in the light of truth. And only truth will save. We finally work in truth: to really confess in this depth of God’s light is to make truth.

This is the first meaning of the word confessio, confession of sins, recognizing the guilt that comes from our missing relationship with God. However a second meaning of confession is that of thanking God, glorifying God, witnessing God. We can recognize the truth of our being because there is a divine answer. God did not leave us alone with our sins; even when our relationship with His Majesty is locked, He does not turn away but comes to us and takes us by the hand. Therefore confessio is the witness of God's goodness, it is evangelization. We could say that the second dimension of the word confessio is identical to evangelization. We can see this on the day of Pentecost, when Saint Peter, in his speech, on one hand accuses persons' fault -- you have killed the saint and the just --, but, at the same time, says: this Saint has risen and loves you, embraces you, calls upon you to be His in contrition and baptism, as well as in communion with His Body. In the light of God, to confess necessarily becomes proclaiming God, to evangelize and thus renew the world.

The word confessio however reminds us of another element. In Chapter 10 of the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul interprets the confession in Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy. In this last text, it would seem that the Jews, entering the definitive form of the covenant, in the Holy Land, are afraid and cannot truly answer God as they should. The Lord tells them: do not be afraid, God is not far.

To reach God it is not necessary to travel through an unknown ocean, there is no need for space travel in the heavens, so complicated and impossible. God is not far, He is not on the other side of the ocean, in these immense spaces of the universe. God is close. He is in your heart and on your lips, with the word of the Torah, which goes into your heart and is proclaimed from your lips.

God is in you and with you, He is close.
Saint Paul substitutes, in his interpretation, the word Torah with the words confession and faith. He says: truly God is close, there is no need for complicated shipments to reach Him, nor for spiritual or material ventures. God is close with faith, He is in your heart, and with confession He is on your lips. He is in you and with you. Truly, Jesus Christ with His presence gives us the word of life. Thus He enters, in faith, into our heart. He lives in our heart and in confession we bring the reality of the Lord to the world, in ourtime. I think this is a very important element: God is close. Things of science, of technology use up great investments: spiritual and material ventures are costly and difficult. But God gives Himself freely.

The greatest things of life -- God, love, truth -- are free. God gives Himself in our hearts. I could say that we should often meditate on the gratuity of God: there is no need for great material or even intellectual gifts to be close to God. God gives Himself freely in His love, He is in me in my heart and on my lips. This is the courage, the joy of our life. It is also the courage present in this Synod, because God is not far: He is with us with the word of faith. I think that even this duality is important: the word in the heart and on the lips. This depth of personal faith, which truly intimately ties me with God, must then be confessed: faith and confession, interiority in communion with God and the witness of faith that is expressed on my lips and thus becomes sensitive and present in the world. These two important things always walk hand in hand.

Then the hymn we are talking about even indicates the places where confession can be found: "oas, lingua, mens, sensus, vigor". All our abilities of thinking, speaking, hearing, acting, must echo -- the Latin uses the word "personare" -- the word of God. Our being, in all its dimensions, should be filled with this word, which becomes thus truly sensitive to the world, which, through our existence, echoes in the world: the word of the Holy Spirit.

Then briefly two other gifts. Charity: it is important that Christianity is not the sum of ideas, a philosophy, a theology, but a way of life, Christianity is charity, it is love. Only thus can we become Christians: if faith turns into charity, if it is charity. We could also say that logos and caritas go together. Our God is, on one hand, logos, eternal reason. But this reason is also love, it is not cold mathematics that creates the universe, it is not a creator; this eternal reason is fire, it is charity. This unity of reason and charity, of faith and charity should be accomplished within us. And thus transformed in charity become, as the Greek Fathers said, divinized. I would say that in the world's development this is an uphill road, from the first realities created to the human being. But this stairway is not yet done. Man should be divinized and thus realized.

The unity of the creature and the Creator: this is true development, to reach this openness with the grace of God. Our essence becomes transformed in charity. If we speak about this development we always think of this as the ultimate goal, where God wishes to arrive with us.

Finally, the neighbor. Charity is not an individual thing, but a universal and concrete thing. Today in the Mass, we proclaimed the page of the Gospel on the Good Samaritan, where we can see the dual reality of Christian charity, which is universal and concrete. This Good Samaritan meets a Jew, who therefore is beyond the boundaries of his tribe and his religion. But charity is universal and therefore this stranger is his neighbor in all senses. Universality opens the limitations that close the world and create differences and conflicts. At the same time, the fact that something must be done for universality is not a philosophy but a concrete act.

We must tend towards this unification between universality and concreteness, we must truly open these boundaries between tribes, ethnic groups, religions to the universality of the love of God. And this is not in theory, but in our places of life, with all the necessary concreteness. We pray the Lord to give us all this, in the force of the Holy Spirit. At the end, the hymn is a glorification of the Trine and One God and a prayer of knowledge and believing. Thus the end returns to the beginning.

We pray that we may learn, that learning become believing and believing become loving, action. We pray the Lord that He may give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, inciting a new Pentecost, help us to be His servants at this time in the world.


© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XIV's Prayer for African Synod
"Our Lady of Africa, Pray for Us"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 4, 2009 - Here is the prayer written by Benedict XVI, which he has asked all the African faithful to pray for the success of the Synod of Bishops that started today in Rome.

* * *

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Protectress of Africa,
You have given to the world the true Light, Jesus Christ.
Through your obedience to the Father and the grace of the Holy Spirit
You have given us the source of our reconciliation and our justice,
Jesus Christ, our peace and our joy.

Mother of Tenderness and Wisdom,
Show us Jesus, your Son and the Son of God
Guide our path of conversion
So that Jesus might shine his glory on us
In every aspect of our personal, familial and social lives.

Mother, full of Mercy and Justice,
Through your docility to the Spirit, the Counselor,
Obtain for us the grace to be witnesses of the Risen Lord,
So that we will increasingly become
The salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Mother of Perpetual Help,
We entrust to your maternal intercession
the preparation and fruits of the Second Special Assembly for Africa.
Queen of Peace, pray for us!
Our Lady of Africa, pray for us!

[Translation by the Secretary General of the Synod]

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Synod of Bishops Inauguration
"Africa Is the Repository of an Inestimable Treasure for the Whole World"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 4, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today in the inauguration Mass of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.

* * *

My Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Illustrious Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear brothers and sisters!

Pax vobis - peace to all of you! With this liturgical greeting I address all of you who are gathered together in the Vatican Basilica, where 15 years ago, on 10 April, 1994, the Servant of God John Paul II opened the first Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops. The fact that today we find ourselves here to inaugurate the second, signifies that the first was indeed a historical event, but not an isolated one. It was the point of arrival on a path, that was pursued later on, and that now reaches a new significant stage of verification and impulse. We praise the Lord for this! I address a most cordial welcome to Members of the Synod Assembly, who concelebrate this Holy Eucharist with me, to the experts and auditors, particularly to those who come from the African land. With special gratitude I greet the Secretary General of the Synod and his collaborators. I am very pleased to have among us His Holiness Abuna Paulos, Patriarch of the Tewahedo Orthodox Church of Ethiopia, whom I cordially thank, and to the fraternal Delegates of the other Churches and other ecclesial Communities. I am also pleased to welcome the Civil Authorities and the Ambassadors who wished to participate in this occasion; with affection I greet the priests, the religious women and men, the representatives of the organisms, movements and associations, and the Congolese choir, who, together with the Sistine Chapel, enliven our Eucharistic Celebration.

Today's Bible readings speak of matrimony. But, more radically, speak of the design of creation, of the source and, therefore, of God. The second reading also converges on this level, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, where it states: "For consecrator - that is Jesus Christ - and consecrated - that is man - are all of the same stock; that is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers" (Heb 2:11). From both readings, the Primacy of God the Creator springs forth in a very evident manner, with the eternal validity of his original imprint and the absolute precedence of his lordship, that lordship which children welcome better than adults, and because of this Jesus points to them as models to enter the kingdom of heaven (Cf. Mk 10:13-15). Now, the acknowledgment of the absolute Lordship of God is one of the salient and unifying features of the African culture. Naturally in Africa there are many different cultures, but they all seem to be in agreement on this point: God is the Creator and the source of life. Now life - as we well know - manifests itself primarily in the union between the man and the woman and in the birth of children; divine law, written in nature, and thereby stronger and prominent with respect to any human law, according to the clear and concise assertion by Jesus: "What God has united, human beings must not divide" (Mk 10:9). First of all the prospect is not a moral one: it, before duty, concerns the being, the order inscribed in Creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this sense today's Liturgy of the Word - beyond the first impression - reveals itself as particularly apt in accompanying the opening of a Synodal Assembly dedicated to Africa. I would like to highlight in particular certain aspects that strongly emerge and call us to the work that awaits us. The first, already mentioned: the primacy of God, Creator and Lord. The second: matrimony. The third: children. As to the first aspect Africa is the repository of an inestimable treasure for the whole world: its deep sense of God, that I had the occasion to observe directly in the meetings with the African Bishops during their ad limina visit, and more so in the recent Apostolic Visit to Cameroon and Angola, still a pleasing and moving memory for me. It is to this pilgrimage in African lands that I would like to mention, because during those days I ideally opened this Synodal Assembly, by handing over the Instrumentum laboris to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and to the Heads of the Synods of Bishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
When we speak of the treasures of Africa, our thoughts immediately turn to the resources its land is rich in and that, unfortunately, have become and often continue to be a reason for exploitation, conflict and corruption. The Word of God, instead, makes us look at another inheritance: the spiritual and cultural one of which humanity has even greater need than it does of raw materials. As Jesus said, "What gain, then, is it for anyone to win the whole world and forfeit his life?" (Mk 8:36). From this point of view, Africa represents an enormous spiritual "lung" for a humanity that appears to be in a crisis of faith and hope. But this "lung" can take ill as well. And, at the moment, at least two dangerous pathologies are attacking it: first of all, an illness that is already widespread in the West, that is, practical materialism, combined with relativist and nihilist thinking. Without entering into the merit of the origins of such sicknesses of the spirit, there is absolutely no doubt that the so-called "First" World has exported up to now and continues to export its spiritual toxic waste that contaminates the peoples of other continents, in particular those of Africa. In this sense, colonialism which is over at a political level, has never really entirely come to an end. But from this same point of view we also have to point out a second "virus" that could hit Africa, that is, religious fundamentalism, mixed together with political and economic interests. Groups who follow various religious creeds are spreading throughout the continent of Africa: they do so in God's name, but following a logic that is opposed to divine logic, that is, teaching and practicing not love and respect for freedom, but intolerance and violence.

As regards matrimony, the text of Chapter 2 of the Book of Genesis reminds us it is the permanent foundation, as Jesus himself confirmed: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2:24). How can we forget the admirable cycle of catechesis that the Servant of God John Paul II dedicated to this topic, starting from an exegesis of unprecedented depth of this very Biblical text? Today, putting this forward for ourselves at the opening of the Synod, the liturgy offers us the abundant light of truth revealed and made incarnate in Christ with which we can consider the complex theme of matrimony in the ecclesial and social context of Africa. Also on this point, though, I would like to briefly take up a suggestion that precedes any moral reflection or instruction, and that is still connected to the primacy of the sense of the sacred and of God. Matrimony, as it is presented to us in the Bible, does not exist outside of the relationship with God. Married life between a man and a woman, and therefore of the family that springs from that, is inscribed into the communion with God and, in the light of the New Testament, becomes the symbol of Trinitarian love and the sacrament of the union of Christ with the Church. To the extent to which it looks after and develops its faith, Africa could discover immense resources to give in favor of the family that is built on matrimony.

If we include in the evangelical pericope the text on Jesus and the children (Mk 10:13-15), the liturgy invites us to bear in mind right from now, in our pastoral concern, the reality of childhood that constitutes a large and, unfortunately, suffering part of the African population. In the scene where Jesus welcomes the children, indignantly opposing his own disciples who wanted to chase them away, we see the image of the Church that, in Africa, and in every other part of the planet, demonstrates her maternal concern especially for the littlest, even before they are born. Like the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church does not view them primarily as the recipients of assistance, nor of pity and exploitation, but as full people in their own right, who by their very way of being show the best road to enter the Kingdom of God, namely that of entrusting themselves unconditionally to His love.
Dear brothers, these indications coming from the Word of God are inserted in the vast horizon of the Synodal Assembly beginning today, and that is tied to the preceding one dedicated to the African continent, whose fruits were presented by Pope John Paul II, of venerated memory, in the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa. Naturally, the primary task of evangelization remains valid and actual, or rather a new evangelization that bears in mind the rapid social changes of our era and the phenomenon of world globalization. The same can be said for the pastoral choice of edifying the Church as the Family of God (Cf. ivi, 63). The second Assembly, which has as its theme: "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'" (Mt 5:13-14), follows in the wake of all this. In recent years the Catholic Church in Africa has known great dynamism, and the Synodal assembly is the occasion to thank the Lord for this. And since the growth of the ecclesial community in all areas also bears ad intra and ad extra challenges, the Synod is the propitious moment to rethink pastoral activity and renew the impulse of evangelization. To become the light of the world and the salt of the earth one must always aim at the "high measure" of Christian life, that is to say holiness. All the Shepherds and all the members of the ecclesial community are called to saintliness, the lay faithful are called to spread the perfume of the holiness in the family, in workplaces, in schools and in every other social and political field. May the Church in Africa always be a family of true disciples of Christ, where the difference between the different ethnic groups becomes a reason and a stimulus for mutual human and spiritual enrichment.

With its work of evangelization and human promotion, the Church can most certainly give Africa a great contribution to all of society, which unfortunately experiences poverty, injustice, violence and wars in many countries. The vocation of the Church, the community of persons reconciled with God and with each other, is that of being the prophesy and leaven of reconciliation among the various ethnic, linguistic and even religious groups, within each individual nation and throughout the continent. Reconciliation, a gift of God that men must implore and embrace, is the stable foundation upon which one builds peace, the necessary condition for the true progress of men and society, according to the project of justice wanted by God. Open to the redeeming grace of the Holy Spirit, thus Africa will be enlightened evermore by his light and, allowing itself to be guided by the Risen Lord, will become a blessing for the universal Church, bringing its own qualified contribution to the edification of an evermore just and fraternal world.

Dear Synodal Fathers, thank you for the contribution that each one of you will bring to the works during the next weeks, which will be for us a renewed experience of abundant fraternal communion benefitting the entire Church, especially in the context of this Year of the Priest. And to you, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for us. I ask this of those present; I ask this of the cloistered monasteries and the religious communities spread throughout Africa and in every part of the world, of the parishes and the movements, of the ailing and the suffering: I ask all to pray that the Lord may make this Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops fruitful. We also call upon the protection of Saint Francis of Assisi, who we remember today, of all the African saints and, in a special way, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Our Lady of Africa. Amen!

[Translation by the Secretary General of the Synod]

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope  Benedict XVI Visit to Czech Republic September 2009

On the Trip to the Czech Republic
"A People and a Church With Profound Historical and Religious Roots"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 30, 2009 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address during today's general audience held in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

As is the custom following international apostolic journeys, I shall take advantage of the general audience to speak about the pilgrimage I made these past days to the Czech Republic.

I do this first of all as an act of thanksgiving to God, who enabled me to make this visit and who blessed it abundantly. It was a real pilgrimage and, at the same time, a mission in the heart of Europe: a pilgrimage, because Bohemia and Moravia have been for more than a millennium lands of faith and holiness; a mission, because Europe needs to find God again and in his love, the firm foundation of hope. It is no accident that the holy evangelizers of those peoples, Cyril and Methodius, are co-patrons of Europe together with St. Benedict.

"The Love of Christ Is Our Strength": This was the theme of the journey, an affirmation that echoes the faith of so many heroic witnesses of the distant and recent past -- I am thinking in particular of the past century. But, [also a theme] which above all wishes to interpret the certainty of today's Christians. Yes, our strength is the love of Christ! A strength that inspires and animates true revolutions, peaceful and liberating, and which sustains us in moments of crisis, allowing us to rise again when liberty, arduously recovered, runs the risk of losing itself, [of losing] its own truth.

The welcome I received was cordial. The president of the republic, to whom I renew my gratitude, wished to be present in several moments and received me together with his collaborators in his residence, the historic Castle of the Capital, with great cordiality. The whole of the episcopal conference, in particular the cardinal archbishop of Prague and the bishop of Brno, made me feel, with great warmth, the profound bond that unites the Czech Catholic community with the Successor of St. Peter. I thank them also for having prepared carefully the liturgical celebrations. I also thank the civil and military authorities and all those who in different ways cooperated in the good success of my visit.

The love of Christ began to reveal itself in the face of a Child. Arriving in Prague, in fact, my first stop was in the church of Our Lady Victorious, where the Child Jesus is venerated, known precisely as the "Infant of Prague." This effigy refers to the mystery of God made Man, to the "close God," base of our hope. Before the "Infant of Prague" I prayed for all children, for their parents, and for the future of the family. The real "victory" for which we pray today to Mary, is the victory of love and of life in the family and in society!

The Castle of Prague, extraordinary both at the historical as well as the architectural level, suggests a further more general reflection: It gathers in its very vast space many monuments, realms and institutions, almost representing a polis, in which the cathedral and the palace, the square and the garden, coexist in harmony. Thus, in the same context, my visit was able to touch the civil and religious realm, not juxtaposed, but in harmonious closeness within distinction. Hence, addressing the political and civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, I referred to the indissoluble bond that must always exist between liberty and truth. It is not necessary to fear the truth, because it is the friend of man and of his liberty; on the contrary, only in the sincere search for what is true, good and beautiful, can a future really be offered to young people of today and to future generations. Moreover, what is it that attracts so many people to Prague if not its beauty, a beauty that is not only esthetic, but historical, religious, human in the widest sense? Those who exercise responsibilities in the political and educational field must be able to distill from the light of that truth what is the reflection of the eternal wisdom of the Creator; and they are called to give witness of it themselves with their lives. Only a serious commitment of intellectual and moral uprightness is worthy of the sacrifice of all those who have paid dearly for liberty!

Symbol of this synthesis between truth and beauty is the splendid Cathedral of Prague, dedicated to Sts. Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, where the celebration of vespers took place with priests, religious, seminarians and a representation of laymen committed to ecclesial associations and movements. This is a difficult moment for the Central Eastern European community: To the consequences of the long winter of atheist totalitarianism, are being added the noxious effects of a certain Western secularism and consumerism. Because of this I have encouraged all to draw new energies from the Risen Lord, to be able to be evangelical leaven in the society and to commit themselves, as is already happening, to charitable activities, and even more so to educational and school activities.

I extended this message of hope, founded on faith in Christ, to all the People of God in the two large Eucharistic celebrations held respectively in Brno, capital of Moravia, and in Stara Boleslav, site of the martyrdom of St. Wenceslaus, the nation's principal patron. Moravia makes us think immediately of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of the Slavic peoples and, hence, of the inexhaustible force of the Gospel that, as a river of healing waters, crosses history and continents, taking life and salvation everywhere. On the portal of the Cathedral of Brno are engraved the words of Christ: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). These same words were echoed last Sunday in the liturgy, resounding the eternal voice of the Savior, hope for people yesterday, today and always. Eloquent sign of the Lordship of Christ, Lordship of grace and mercy, is the existence of the holy patrons of the different Christian nations, such as, precisely, Wenceslaus, young king of Bohemia of the 10th century, who was outstanding for his exemplary Christian witness and who was murdered by his brother. Wenceslaus put the kingdom of heaven before the fascination of earthly power and has remained forever in the heart of the Czech people, as model and protector in the different vicissitudes of history. To the numerous young people present in the Mass of St. Wenceslaus, also from neighboring nations, I addressed the invitation to recognize in Christ their truest friend, who satisfies the most profound aspirations of the human heart.

Finally I must mention, among others, two meetings: the ecumenical and that of the academic community. The first, held in the archbishopric of Prague, brought together representatives of the different Christian communities of the Czech Republic and the head of the Jewish community. Reflecting on the history of this country, which unfortunately has know harsh conflicts between Christians, reason for profound gratitude to God is our having come together as disciples of the one Lord, to share the joy of the faith and historical responsibility given the present challenges. The effort to progress together toward a fuller and more visible unity among ourselves, believers in Christ, makes stronger and more effective the common endeavor for the rediscovery of the Christian roots of Europe.

This last aspect, which my beloved predecessor John Paul II so kept in his heart, also arose in the meeting with rectors of universities, representatives of professors and students and other relevant personalities of the cultural realm. In this context, I stressed the role of the university, one of the basic structures of Europe, which in Prague has an athenaeum that is among the oldest and most prestigious of the Continent, the Charles University, named after emperor Charles IV who founded it, together with Pope Clement VI. The university of studies is a vital environment for society, guarantee of liberty and development, as demonstrated by the fact that precisely in university circles the movement began in Prague of the so-called Velvet Revolution. Twenty years after that historic event, I have again proposed the idea of integral formation, based on the unity of knowledge rooted in truth, to respond to a new dictatorship, that of relativism combined with the dominance of technology. The humanistic and scientific culture cannot be separated; on the contrary, they are the two sides of the same coin: We are reminded of it once again by the Czech land, homeland of great writers such as Kafka, and Abbot Mendel, pioneer of modern genetics.

Dear friends, I thank the Lord because, with this journey, he has allowed me to meet a people and a Church with profound historical and religious roots, which commemorates this year different events of high spiritual and social value. To the brothers and sisters of the Czech Republic I renew a message of hope and an invitation to the value of the good, to build the present and future of Europe. I entrust the fruits of my pastoral visit to the intercession of Mary Most Holy and to that of all the saints of Bohemia and Moravia. Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father addressed the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My Apostolic Journey to the Czech Republic last week-end was both a pilgrimage and a mission. It was a pilgrimage on account of the many saints who bore witness to Christ in the Czech lands through their holy lives, and it was a mission because, at the present time, Europe needs to rediscover the joy and hope that come from following the Lord Jesus. I pray that our liturgical celebrations in Prague’s magnificent Cathedral, in Brno and in Stará Boleslav will have served to deepen the faith and enkindle the Christian commitment of the people of Central Europe, especially the young. I am most grateful to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in the Czech Republic who made me so welcome, especially to President Václav Klaus and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet leaders of other Christian communities and to encourage them in the task of ecumenical dialogue. And it was a pleasure to come together with University Rectors and leading figures from the world of culture. I spoke with them of the need for scholarship to be rooted in truth, an integral truth that shuns the limitations of relativism and determinism. I ask all of you to join me in praying that this visit may bear abundant spiritual fruit for the Czech people and for the unity and peace of the whole continent of Europe.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Indonesia and the United States of America. I greet especially the School Sisters of Saint Francis and the new students from the English and Irish Colleges. May the time you spend in Rome deepen your faith and bring you closer to Christ. God bless all of you, and your loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


VATICAN CITY, 26 SEP 2009 (VIS) - At 9.40 a .m. today Benedict XVI departed by plane from Rome 's Ciampino airport. Following a two-hour flight his plane landed at Stara Ruzyne airport of Prague , thus beginning his first apostolic visit to the Czech Republic , the thirteenth foreign trip of his pontificate. On his arrival the Pope was greeted by Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic ; Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, archbishop of Prague , and Archbishop Jan Graubner of Olomouc , president of the Czech Bishops' Conference.


Papal Address at Arriving to Czech Republic
"The Cost of 40 Years of Political Repression Is Not to Be Underestimated"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 26, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave upon arriving today to the Stara Ruzyne International Airport of Prague.

* * *

Pane presidente,
milí páni kardinálové a bratr(i biskupové,
Vaše Excelence,
dámy a pánové!

Mám velikou radost, e mohu dnes být v C(eské republice, a jsem hluboce vde(c(ný vám všem za srdec(né pr(ivítání.

[Mr President, Dear Cardinals, Brother Bishops, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great joy to be here with you today in the Czech Republic, and I am most grateful to all of you for the warmth of your welcome.]

I thank the President, Mr Václav Klaus, for inviting me to visit the country and for his kind words. I am honoured by the presence of representatives of the civil and political Authorities, and I greet them along with all the people of the Czech Republic. As it is principally the Catholic communities of Bohemia and Moravia that I am here to visit, I extend a warm fraternal greeting to Cardinal Vlk, Archbishop of Prague, to Archbishop Graubner of Olomouc, President of the Czech Bishops' Conference, as well as all the Bishops and faithful here today. I was particularly touched by the gesture of the young couple who brought me gifts typical of this nation's culture, together with an offering of your native soil. I am reminded how deeply Czech culture is permeated by Christianity since, as you know, these items of bread and salt have a particular significance in New Testament imagery.

While the whole of European culture has been profoundly shaped by its Christian heritage, this is especially true in the Czech lands, since it was through the missionary labours of Saints Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century that the old Slavonic language first came to be written down. Apostles of the Slavic peoples and founders of their culture, they are rightly venerated as Patrons of Europe. Yet it is also worth recalling that these two great saints from the Byzantine tradition here encountered missionaries from the Latin West. Throughout its history, this territory at the heart of the continent, at a crossroads between north and south, east and west, has been a meeting-point for different peoples, traditions and cultures. Undeniably this has sometimes led to friction, but in the longer term it has proved to be a fruitful encounter. Hence the significant part played by the Czech lands in Europe's intellectual, cultural and religious history - sometimes as a battleground, more often as a bridge.

The coming months will see the twentieth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which happily brought a peaceful end to a time of particular hardship for this country, a time in which the flow of ideas and cultural influences was rigidly controlled. I join you and your neighbours in giving thanks for your liberation from those oppressive regimes. If the collapse of the Berlin Wall marked a watershed in world history, it did so all the more for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, enabling them to take their rightful place as sovereign actors in the concert of nations.

Nevertheless, the cost of forty years of political repression is not to be underestimated. A particular tragedy for this land was the ruthless attempt by the Government of that time to silence the voice of the Church. Throughout your history, from the time of Saint Wenceslaus, Saint Ludmila and Saint Adalbert to the time of Saint John Nepomuk, there have been courageous martyrs whose fidelity to Christ spoke far louder and more eloquently than the voice of their executioners. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Cardinal Josef Beran, Archbishop of Prague. I wish to pay tribute both to him and to his successor Cardinal František Tomášek, whom I had the privilege of knowing personally, for their indomitable Christian witness in the face of persecution. They, and countless brave priests, religious and lay men and women kept the flame of faith alive in this country. Now that religious freedom has been restored, I call upon all the citizens of this Republic to rediscover the Christian traditions which have shaped their culture, and I invite the Christian community to continue to make its voice heard as the nation addresses the challenges of the new millennium. "Without God, man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is" (Caritas in Veritate, 78). The truth of the Gospel is indispensable for a healthy society, since it opens us to hope and enables us to discover our inalienable dignity as God's children.

Mr President, I know that you wish to see a greater role for religion in this country's affairs. The Presidential flag flying over Prague Castle proclaims the motto "Pravda Víte(zí - the Truth wins": it is my earnest hope that the light of truth will continue to guide this nation, so blessed throughout its history by the witness of great saints and martyrs. In this scientific age, it is instructive to recall the example of Johann Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian Abbot from Moravia whose pioneering research laid the foundations of modern genetics. Not for him the reproach of his patron, Saint Augustine, who regretted that so many were "more concerned with admiring facts than seeking their causes" (Epistula 120:5; cf. John Paul II, Address for the Commemoration of Abbot Gregor Mendel on the First Centenary of his Death, 10 March 1984, 2). The authentic progress of humanity is best served by just such a combination of the wisdom of faith and the insights of reason. May the Czech people always enjoy the benefits of that happy synthesis.

Zbývá mi jen zopakovat: díky vám všem, a r(íci, e jsem se opravdu dlouho te(šil na tyto dny mezi vámi v C(eské republice, kterou hrde( nazýváte „zeme( c(eská, domov mu*j". Srdec(né díky.

[It remains only for me to renew my thanks to all of you, and to say how much I have been looking forward to spending these days among you in the Czech Republic, which you are proud to call "zeme( C(eská, domov mu*j". Thank you very much.]

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


VATICAN CITY, 26 SEP 2009 (VIS) - At 12.30 p.m. today the Pope arrived at the church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague, which was built by German Lutherans between 1611 and 1613 on a site once occupied by a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Trinity. Following the victory of the Counter Reformation in Bohemia , emperor Ferdinand II gave the building to the Order of Discalced Carmelites and it was consecrated to Our Lady Victorious.

The church houses the famous image of the Infant Jesus of Prague. The statuette, made of wax over a wooden frame, comes from a convent in southern Spain and was given to the Carmelites by princess Polyxena von Lobkowitz in 1628. The cult of the Infant Jesus spread during the Baroque period and is associated with the visions of St. Teresa of Avila , the great reformer of the Carmelite Order.

Benedict XVI was greeted by the rector as he arrived at the church, which was crowded with families and children. He adored the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel of the Infant Jesus then placed a golden crown on the statuette before moving on to the main altar to greet those present.


Benedict XVI's Visit to Infant of Prague
"May Children Always Be Accorded the Respect and Attention That Are Due to Them"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 26, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he visited the Infant of Prague at the Church of Our Lady Victorious.

* * *

Dear Cardinals,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Children,

I greet all of you warmly and I want you to know what joy it gives me to visit this Church, dedicated to Our Lady of Victory, where the faithful venerate the statue of the Infant Jesus, known throughout the world as the "Holy Infant of Prague". I thank Archbishop Jan Graubner, President of the Episcopal Conference, for his words of welcome spoken on behalf of all the Bishops. I offer respectful greetings to the Mayor and to the other civil and religious authorities present at this gathering. I greet you, dear families, who have come in such large numbers to be here with me.

The image of the Child Jesus calls to mind the mystery of the Incarnation, of the all-powerful God who became man and who lived for thirty years in the lowly family of Nazareth, entrusted by Providence to the watchful care of Mary and Joseph. My thoughts turn to your own families and to all the families in the world, in their joys and difficulties. Our reflections should lead us to prayer, as we call upon the Child Jesus for the gift of unity and harmony for all families. We think especially of young families who have to work so hard to offer their children security and a decent future. We pray for families in difficulty, struggling with illness and suffering, for those in crisis, divided or torn apart by strife or infidelity. We entrust them all to the Holy Infant of Prague, knowing how important their stability and harmony is for the true progress of society and for the future of humanity.

The figure of the Child Jesus, the tender infant, brings home to us God's closeness and his love. We come to understand how precious we are in his eyes, because it is through him that we in our turn have become children of God. Every human being is a child of God and therefore our brother or sister, to be welcomed and respected. May our society grasp this truth! Every human person would then be appreciated not for what he has, but for who he is, since in the face of every human being, without distinction of race or culture, God's image shines forth.

This is especially true of children. In the Holy Infant of Prague we contemplate the beauty of childhood and the fondness that Jesus Christ has always shown for little ones, as we read in the Gospel (cf.Mk 10:13-16). Yet how many children are neither loved, nor welcomed nor respected! How many of them suffer violence and every kind of exploitation by the unscrupulous! May children always be accorded the respect and attention that are due to them: they are the future and the hope of humanity!

Dear children, I now want to say a special word to you and to your families. You have come here in large numbers to meet me, and for this I thank you most warmly. You are greatly loved by the Child Jesus, and you should return his love by following his example: be obedient, good and kind. Learn to be, like him, a source of joy to your parents. Be true friends of Jesus, and always turn to him in trust. Pray to him for yourselves, for your parents, relations, teachers and friends, and pray also for me. Thank you once again for your welcome. I bless you from my heart and I invoke upon all of you the protection of the Holy Infant Jesus, his Immaculate Mother and Saint Joseph.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

The Holy Father concluded by thanking all the children who had come to greet him and he asked them to pray for their parents, teachers, friends, and for him.

Having concluded his visit to the church of Our Lady Victorious , the Pope went to the apostolic nunciature where he had lunch.


Pope's Discourse to Czech Authorities
"Truth Does Conquer, Not by Force, But by Persuasion"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 26, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he met with civil and political authorities and the diplomatic corps of the Czech Republic in the Presidential Palace of Prague.

* * *

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful for the opportunity to meet, in such a remarkable setting, the political and civil authorities of the Czech Republic and the members of the diplomatic community. I warmly thank President Klaus for his kind words of greeting in your name. I also express my appreciation to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra for the musical performance which opened our gathering, and which eloquently expressed both the roots of Czech culture and the outstanding contribution which this nation has made to European culture.

My pastoral visit to the Czech Republic coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the totalitarian regimes in Central and Eastern Europe, and the "Velvet Revolution" which restored democracy to this nation. The euphoria that ensued was expressed in terms of freedom. Two decades after the profound political changes which swept this continent, the process of healing and rebuilding continues, now within the wider context of European unification and an increasingly globalized world. The aspirations of citizens and the expectations placed on governments called for new models of civic life and solidarity between nations and peoples without which the long desired future of justice, peace and prosperity would remain elusive. Such desires continue to evolve. Today, especially among the young, the question again emerges as to the nature of the freedom gained. To what end is freedom exercised? What are its true hallmarks?

Every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs, seeking to understand the proper use of human freedom (cf.Spe Salvi, 25). And while the duty to strengthen "structures of freedom" is vital, it is never enough: human aspirations soar beyond the self, beyond what any political or economic authority can provide, towards a radiant hope (cf. ibid., 35) that has its origin beyond ourselves yet is encountered within, as truth and beauty and goodness. Freedom seeks purpose: it requires conviction. True freedom presupposes the search for truth - for the true good - and hence finds its fulfilment precisely in knowing and doing what is right and just. Truth, in other words, is the guiding norm for freedom, and goodness is freedom's perfection. Aristotle defined the good as "that at which all things aim", and went on to suggest that "though it is worthwhile to attain the end merely for one man, it is finer and more godlike to attain it for a nation or for city-states" (Nicomachean Ethics, 1; cf. Caritas in Veritate, 2). Indeed, the lofty responsibility to awaken receptivity to truth and goodness falls to all leaders - religious, political and cultural, each in his or her own way. Jointly we must engage in the struggle for freedom and the search for truth, which either go together hand in hand or together they perish in misery (cf. Fides et Ratio, 90).

For Christians, truth has a name: God. And goodness has a face: Jesus Christ. The faith of Christians, from the time of Saints Cyril and Methodius and the early missionaries, has in fact played a decisive role in shaping the spiritual and cultural heritage of this country. It must do likewise in the present and into the future. The rich patrimony of spiritual and cultural values, each finding expression in the other, has not only given shape to the nation's identity but has also furnished it with the vision necessary to exercise a role of cohesion at the heart of Europe. For centuries this territory has been a meeting point between various peoples, traditions, and cultures. As we are all aware, it has known painful chapters and carries the scars of tragic events born of misunderstanding, war and persecution. Yet it is also true, that its Christian roots have nourished a remarkable spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation and cooperation which has enabled the people of these lands to find freedom and to usher in a new beginning, a new synthesis, a renewal of hope. Is it not precisely this spirit that contemporary Europe requires?

Europe is more than a continent. It is a home! And freedom finds its deepest meaning in a spiritual homeland. With full respect for the distinction between the political realm and that of religion - which indeed preserves the freedom of citizens to express religious belief and live accordingly - I wish to underline the irreplaceable role of Christianity for the formation of the conscience of each generation and the promotion of a basic ethical consensus that serves every person who calls this continent, "home"! In this spirit, I acknowledge the voice of those who today, across this country and continent, seek to apply their faith respectfully yet decisively in the public arena, in the expectation that social norms and policies be informed by the desire to live by the truth that sets every man and woman free (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 9).

Fidelity to the peoples whom you serve and represent requires fidelity to the truth which alone is the guarantee of freedom and integral human development (cf.ibid., 9). Courage to articulate the truth in fact serves all members of society by shedding light on the path of human progress, indicating its ethical and moral foundations, and ensuring that public policy draws upon the treasury of human wisdom. Sensibility to universal truth should never be eclipsed by particular interests, important though they may be, for such would lead only to new examples of the social fragmentation or discrimination which those very interest or lobby groups purport to overcome. Indeed, far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, the pursuit of truth makes consensus possible, keeps public debate logical, honest and accountable, and ensures the unity which vague notions of integration simply cannot achieve. In the light of the Church's tradition of temporal, intellectual, and spiritual charity, I am confident that members of the Catholic community - together with members of other Churches, ecclesial communities, and religions - will continue to pursue development goals that possess a more humane and humanizing value both in this nation and beyond (cf. ibid., 9).

Dear friends, our presence in this magnificent capital, which is often spoken of as the heart of Europe, prompts us to ask in what that "heart" consists. While there is no simple answer to that question, surely a clue is found in the architectural jewels that adorn this city. The arresting beauty of its churches, castle, squares and bridges cannot but draw our minds to God. Their beauty expresses faith; they are epiphanies of God that rightly leave us pondering the glorious marvels to which we creatures can aspire when we give expression to the aesthetic and the noetic aspects of our innermost being. How tragic it would be if someone were to behold such examples of beauty, yet ignore the transcendent mystery to which they point. The creative encounter of the classical tradition and the Gospel gave birth to a vision of man and society attentive to God's presence among us. In shaping the cultural patrimony of this continent it insisted that reason does not end with what the eye sees but rather is drawn to what lies beyond, that for which we deeply yearn: the Spirit, we might say, of Creation.

At the present crossroads of civilization, so often marked by a disturbing sundering of the unity of goodness, truth and beauty and the consequent difficulty in finding an acceptance of common values, every effort for human progress must draw inspiration from that living heritage. Europe, in fidelity to her Christian roots, has a particular vocation to uphold this transcendent vision in her initiatives to serve the common good of individuals, communities, and nations. Of particular importance is the urgent task to encourage young Europeans with a formation that respects and nurtures their God-given capacity to transcend the very limits which are sometimes presumed to entrap them. In sports, the creative arts and academic pursuit, young people welcome the opportunity to excel. Is it not equally true that when presented with high ideals they will also aspire to moral virtue and a life of compassion and goodness? I warmly encourage parents and community leaders who expect authorities to promote the values which integrate the intellectual, human and spiritual dimensions of a sound education worthy of the aspirations of our young.

"Veritas vincit". This is the motto that the flag of the President of the Czech Republic bears: In the end, truth does conquer, not by force, but by persuasion, by the heroic witness of men and women of firm principle, by sincere dialogue which looks beyond self-interest to the demands of the common good. The thirst for truth, beauty and goodness, implanted in all men and women by the Creator, is meant to draw people together in the quest for justice, freedom and peace. History has amply shown that truth can be betrayed and manipulated in the service of false ideologies, oppression and injustice. But do not the challenges facing the human family call us to look beyond those dangers? For in the end, what is more inhuman, and destructive, than the cynicism which would deny the grandeur of our quest for truth, and the relativism that corrodes the very values which inspire the building of a united and fraternal world? Instead, we must reappropriate a confidence in the nobility and breadth of the human spirit in its capacity to grasp the truth, and let that confidence guide us in the patient work of politics and diplomacy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, with these sentiments I offer prayerful good wishes that your service be inspired and sustained by the light of that truth which is a reflection of the eternal Wisdom of God the Creator. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.


Pope's Address at Vespers
"Christ Is for Everyone!"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 26, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated vespers with priests, religious, seminarians and lay movements gathered in the Cathedral of Sts. Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet all of you in the words of Saint Paul that we have just heard in our Scripture reading: Grace and peace to you from God our Father! First of all I address these words to the Cardinal Archbishop, whom I thank for his gracious words. I extend my greeting to the other Cardinals and Bishops present, to the priests and deacons, the seminarians, men and women religious, to the catechists and pastoral workers, to the young people, the families, and to the representatives of ecclesial associations and movements.

We are gathered this evening in a place that is dear to you, a place that is a visible sign of the power of divine grace acting in the hearts of believers. The beauty of this thousand-year-old church is indeed a living testimony to your people's rich history of faith and Christian tradition: a history that is illuminated in particular by the faithfulness of those who sealed their adherence to Christ and to the Church by martyrdom. I am thinking of Saint Wenceslaus, Saint Adalbert and Saint John Nepomuk, milestones in your Church's history, to whom we may add the example of the young Saint Vitus, who preferred to die a martyr's death rather than betray Christ, and the examples of the monk Saint Procopius and Saint Ludmila. From the twentieth century, I recall the experiences of two Archbishops of this local Church, Cardinals Josef Beran and František Tomášek, and of many Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and lay faithful, who resisted Communist persecution with heroic fortitude, even to the sacrifice of their lives. Where did these courageous friends of Christ find their strength if not from the Gospel? Indeed, they were captivated by Jesus who said: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mt16:24). In the hour of trial they heard another saying of Jesus resounding deep within them: "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you" (Jn 15:20).

The heroism of these witnesses to the faith reminds us that only through personal intimacy and a profound bond with Christ is it possible to draw the spiritual vitality needed to live the Christian vocation to the full. Only the love of Christ can make the apostolate effective, especially in moments of difficulty and trial. Love for Christ and for one's fellow men and women must be the hallmark of every Christian and every community. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that "the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul" (4:32). Tertullian, an early Church writer, noted that pagans were impressed by the love that bound Christians together (cf. Apologeticum XXXIX). Dear brothers and sisters, imitate the divine Master who "came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). Let love shine forth in each of your parishes and communities, and in your various associations and movements. According to the image used by Saint Paul, let your Church be a well-structured body with Christ as Head, in which every member acts in harmony with the whole. Nourish your love for Christ by prayer and listening to his word; feed on him in the Eucharist, and by his grace, be builders of unity and peace wherever you go.

Twenty years ago, after the long winter of Communist dictatorship, your Christian communities began once more to express themselves freely, when, through the events triggered by the student demonstration of 17 November 1989, your people regained their freedom. Yet you are well aware that even today it is not easy to live and bear witness to the Gospel. Society continues to suffer from the wounds caused by atheist ideology, and it is often seduced by the modern mentality of hedonistic consumerism amid a dangerous crisis of human and religious values and a growing drift towards ethical and cultural relativism. In this context there is an urgent need for renewed effort throughout the Church so as to strengthen spiritual and moral values in present-day society. I know that your communities are already actively engaged on several fronts, especially in charitable work, carried out under the auspices ofCaritas. Your pastoral activity in the field of educating new generations should be undertaken with particular zeal. Catholic schools should foster respect for the human person; attention should also be given to the pastoral care of young people outside the school environment, without neglecting other groups of the faithful. Christ is for everyone! I sincerely hope that there will be a growing accord with other institutions, both public and private. It is always worth repeating that the Church does not seek privileges, but only to be able to work freely in the service of all, in the spirit of the Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord in his goodness make you like the salt spoken of in the Gospel, salt that gives savour to life, so that you may be faithful labourers in the Lord's vineyard. Dear Bishops and priests, it is your task to work tirelessly for the good of those entrusted to your care. Always draw inspiration from the Gospel image of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep, calls them by name, leads them to safe pastures, and is prepared to give his life for them (cf.Jn 10:1-19). Dear consecrated persons, by professing the evangelical counsels you recall the primacy that each of us must give to God in our lives. By living in community, you bear witness to the enrichment that comes from practising the commandment of love (cf. Jn 13:34). By your fidelity to this vocation, you will help the men and women of today to let themselves be captivated by God and by the Gospel of his Son (cf. Vita Consecrata, 104). And you, dear young people in seminaries or houses of formation, be sure to acquire a solid cultural, spiritual and pastoral preparation. In this Year of Priests, with which I chose to mark the 150thanniversary of the death of the Curé d'Ars, may you learn from the example of this pastor who was completely dedicated to God and to the care of souls; he was well aware that it was his ministry, nourished by prayer, that constituted his path to sanctification.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with gratitude to the Lord, we shall be marking a number of anniversaries this year: the 280th anniversary of the canonization of Saint John Nepomuk, the 80th anniversary of the dedication of Saint Vitus' Cathedral, and the 20th anniversary of the canonization of Saint Agnes of Bohemia, the event which heralded your country's deliverance from atheist oppression. All these are good reasons for persevering in the journey of faith with joy and enthusiasm, counting on the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of God, and all your Patron Saints. Amen!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Church in the Czech Republic
"May Mary Keep the Flame of Faith Alive in All of You"

BRNO, Czech Republic, SEPT. 27, 2009 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with pilgrims in the Czech Republic. He had just finished celebrating Mass at the Turany Airport in Brno.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have come to the end of this solemn celebration, and the midday hour invites us to pray the Angelus. I am pleased to do so here, in the heart of Moravia, Bohemia's sister territory, a land marked for many centuries by the Christian faith, a land that reminds us of the courageous mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Twenty years ago, when Pope John Paul II decided to visit Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of Communist totalitarianism, he chose to being his pastoral journey in Velehrad, the place where the famous Unionist Congresses were held, those precursors of ecumenism among the Slav peoples, a place known throughout the Christian world. I am sure you also remember another of his visits, in 1995, when he went to Svatý Kopec(ek near Olomouc for an unforgettable meeting with young people. I should like to make my own the ideas put forward by my venerable predecessor, as I invite you to remain faithful to your Christian vocation and to the Gospel, so as to build together a future of solidarity and peace.

Moravia is blessed with a number of Marian shrines that are visited by crowds of pilgrims throughout the year. At this moment I should like to make a pilgrimage in spirit to the mountainous forest shrine of Hostýn, where you venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary as your protectress. May Mary keep the flame of faith alive in all of you, a faith that is nourished by traditions of popular piety with deep roots in the past, which you rightly take care to maintain, so that the warmth of family conviviality in villages and towns may not be lost. At times one cannot help noticing, with a certain nostalgia, that the pace of modern life tends to diminish some elements of a rich heritage of faith. Yet it is important not to lose sight of the ideal expressed by traditional customs, and above all to maintain the spiritual patrimony inherited from your forebears, to guard it and to make it answer to the needs of the present day. May the Virgin Mary assist you in this, as we renew the entrustment to her of your Church and of the entire Czech nation.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims from Slovakia, Poland, Germany and Austria. Here is a Vatican translation of his words:]

[I warmly welcome the pilgrims who have come from neighbouring Slovakia. Dear brothers and sisters, today's Liturgy of the Word challenges us to recognize Jesus Christ as our one hope. I invite you to bear faithful witness to this message before the world. From my heart I bless you and your families at home. May Jesus Christ be praised!]

[I extend cordial greetings to the Poles taking part in this Mass. I thank you for coming, and for the support of your prayers. May the Pope's pastoral visit to the Church in the Czech Republic bear abundant fruits of faith and love in your hearts. May God bless you!]

[I extend heartfelt greetings to the pilgrims from Germany and Austria. I am glad that you have come here to pray and to celebrate alongside your brothers and sisters in the Czech Republic. Even more than the bonds of neighbourliness, it is faith in Jesus Christ that brings us together and unites us. And today our common witness is more necessary than ever, if we are to proclaim in new and powerful ways the message of salvation: the crucified and risen Lord - Jesus Christ, the hope of humanity! The experience that Christ does not abandon his friends, but helps them to live lives of happiness, must not leave us cold and indifferent towards our fellow men and women who are seeking truth and love and longing for true life. Let us show them the way to Jesus Christ, who gives us life in its fullness. With joy we seek to live day by day from our faith and our hope and we work together in building up a society on the foundations of goodness, justice and fraternity, on love of God and neighbour. May God bless our endeavours.]

[Dear friends, it is a great joy for me to be here with you in Brno, in the heart of Moravia. I also greet those who are following our celebration through the media. In a particular way, I think with affection of the elderly, the suffering and the sick. I ask you to remember me in your prayers, just as I assure you of my own spiritual closeness. May Almighty God grant you abundant heavenly graces and blessings.]

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Press Conference en Route to Czech Republic
"Freedom and Truth Go Together"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 27, 2009 - Here is a translation of the press conference that Benedict XVI gave Saturday on his flight to the Czech Republic.

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Father Federico Lombardi [director of the Vatican press office]: Your Holiness, we are very grateful that once again you would like to give us a few minutes and some replies to the questions that have been gathered in preparation for this voyage, and in this way you also give us the occasion to wish you a good trip.

First Question: As you said after the Angelus last Sunday, the Czech Republic finds itself at the heart of Europe not only geographically but also historically. Could you better explain to us this “historically” and tell us how and why this visit could be significant for the whole continent, in its cultural, spiritual and possibly political path toward the construction of the European Union?

Benedict XVI: In every century the Czech Republic, the territory of the Czech Republic, has been a place for the meeting of cultures. Let us start with the 9th century: On one hand, in Moravia we have the mission of Cyril and Methodius, who bring the Byzantine culture from Byzantium, but create a Slavic culture, with the Cyrillic characters and with a liturgy in the Slavic tongue; on the other hand, in Bohemia, there are the dioceses that border Regensburg and Passau that bring the Gospel in the Latin tongue, and, with the connection with the Roman-Latin culture, the two cultures meet. Each encounter is difficult, but also fruitful. It could easily be demonstrated with this example.

Taking a big leap: In the 12th century Charles IV creates here, in Prague, the first university in central Europe. The university is in itself a place of the meeting of cultures; in this case it becomes, furthermore, a place of meeting between the Slavic and German-speaking cultures. As in the century and the times of the Reformation, precisely in this territory, the meetings and the conflicts become decisive and great, we all know this.

I will now leap ahead to our time: In the last century the Czech Republic suffered under a particularly harsh communist dictatorship but there was also strong Catholic and secular resistance. I think of the texts of Vaclav Havel, of Cardinal Vlk, a figure like Cardinal Tomasek, who truly gave Europe a message about what freedom is and how we should live and work in freedom. And I think that from this meeting of cultures over centuries, and precisely from this last phase of reflection -- but not only this period -- of suffering for a new concept of freedom and free society, many important messages emerge for us that can and must be fruitful for the building of Europe. We must be very attentive indeed to the message of this country.

Question: Here we are 20 years after the fall of the communist regimes of eastern Europe; John Paul II, visiting different countries that had survived communism, encouraged them to the freedom that they had regained responsibly. What is your message for the peoples of Eastern Europe today in this new historical phase?

Benedict XVI: As I said, these countries really suffered under dictatorships, but in the suffering, concepts of freedom developed that are current and that must now be further elaborated and realized. I have in mind, for example, a text of Vaclav Havel that says: “Dictatorships are based on lies and if the lie is overcome, if no one lies any more and if the truth comes to light, there will also be freedom.” And this was how he explained the connection between truth and freedom, where freedom is not libertinism, arbitrariness, but is connected to and conditioned by the great values of truth and love and solidarity and the good in general. Thus, I think that these concepts, these ideas that matured under the dictatorship, must not be lost: Now we must return to them!

And, in the freedom that is often a little empty and without values, again recognize that freedom and values, freedom and good, freedom and truth go together: Otherwise freedom too is destroyed. This seems to me to be the message that comes from these countries and that must be realized in this moment.

Question: Your Holiness, the Czech Republic is a very secularized country in which the Catholic Church is a minority. In such a situation, how can the Church contribute effectively to the common good of the country?

Benedict XVI: I would say that normally the creative minorities determine the future, and in this sense the Catholic Church must understand itself as a creative minority that has a legacy of values that are not things of the past but a reality that is very alive and current. The Church must act, be present in the public debate, in our struggle for a true concept of freedom and peace.

In this way it can contribute in different sectors. I would say that the first is precisely the dialogue between agnostics and believers. Each has need of the other: the agnostic cannot be content not to know if God exists or not, but must seek and sense the great legacy of the faith; the Catholic cannot be content to have faith, but must seek out God further, and in dialogue with others re-learn God in a deeper way. This is the first level: the great intellectual, ethical and human dialogue.

Then, in the sector of education, the Church has much to do in regard to formation. In Italy we speak of the educational emergency. It is a problem common to the whole West: here again the Church must actualize, concretize, open up its great legacy for the future.

“Caritas” is a third sector. The Church’s help of the poor, her being an instrument of charity has always been a sign of her identity. In the Czech Republic, Caritas has done a great deal in the different communities, giving an example of responsibility for others, of international solidarity, which is still a condition of peace.

Question: Your Holiness, your last encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate,” caused a significant stir throughout the world. What is your evaluation of this? Are you happy with it? Do you think that in fact the recent global crisis is an occasion in which humanity has become more disposed to reflect on the importance of moral and spiritual values, to face the great problems of its future? And the Church will continue to offer orientation in this direction?

Benedict XVI: I am very happy with this great discussion. This was indeed the purpose: to incite and motivate a discussion of these problems, not to let things continue as they are, but to find new models for a responsible economy, whether in individual countries or in the totality of unified humanity.

It seems that today it is truly evident that ethics is not something extrinsic to economics, which could [supposedly] function on its own like a type of technology, but is rather a principle intrinsic to economics, which does not function unless it takes account of the human values of solidarity, of reciprocal responsibilities and if it does not integrate ethics in the building of the economy itself: It is the great challenge of this moment. I hope, with the encyclical, to have contributed to this challenge.

The debate that is taking place seems encouraging to me. Certainly we want to continue to respond to the challenges of the moment and to help so that the sense of responsibility is stronger than the will-to-profit, that responsibility in regard to others is stronger than egoism; in this sense, we want to contribute to a human economy in the future too.

Question: And to conclude, a more personal question: Over the summer there was a little accident with your wrist. Do you think it is completely better now? Have you been able to take up your activities fully again and have you been able to work on the second part of your book about Jesus, as you wished?

Benedict XVI: It is not completely healed, but you can see that my right hand works and essentially I can carry on: I can manage and, above all, I can write. My thought develops above all as I write; so, for me it has really been an inconvenience, a school of patience, I have not been able to write for six weeks. Nevertheless, I was able to work, read, do other things and I have also made a little progress with the book. But I still have a lot to do. I think that, with the bibliography and what is still left to do, “Deo adiuvante,” [with God’s help] I could be done by next spring. But this is a hope!

Father Lombardi: Thanks so much, Your Holiness, and once again best wishes for this trip that is short, but very intense and, as you explained to us, it is also very significant.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]


Pontiff's Homily at Mass in Brno
"The Human Being Is Free and His Freedom Remains Fragile"

BRNO, Czech Republic, SEPT. 27, 2009 - Here is the homily Benedict XVI gave today during a Mass he celebrated at the Turany Airport in Brno. The Pope arrived in the Czech Republic on Saturday and returns to Rome on Monday evening.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt11:28). Jesus invites each of his disciples to spend time with him, to find comfort, sustenance and renewal in him. This invitation is addressed in a special way to our liturgical assembly which, in accordance with the ecclesial ideal, brings the whole of your local Church together with the Successor of Peter. I greet each and every one of you: firstly the Bishop of Brno, to whom I am grateful for the kind words he addressed to me at the start of the Mass, and also the Cardinals and the other Bishops present. I greet the priests, deacons, seminarians, men and women religious, the catechists and pastoral workers, the young people and the many families here. I pay my respects to the civil and military authorities, particularly to the President of the Republic and the First Lady, to the Mayor of the City of Brno and the President of the Region of Southern Moravia, a land rich in history and in cultural, industrial and commercial activity. I should also like to extend warm greetings to the pilgrims from the entire region of Moravia and the nearby dioceses of Slovakia, Poland, Austria and Germany.

Dear friends, regarding the character of today's liturgical assembly, I gladly supported the decision, mentioned by your Bishop, to base the Scripture readings for Mass on the theme of hope: I supported it in consideration of the people of this beloved land as well as Europe and the whole of humanity, thirsting as it does for something on which to base a firm future. In my second Encyclical,Spe Salvi, I emphasized that the only "certain" and "reliable" hope (cf. no. 1) is founded on God. History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions, and how hard it is to build a society inspired by the values of goodness, justice and fraternity, because the human being is free and his freedom remains fragile. Freedom has constantly to be won over for the cause of good, and the arduous search for the "right way to order human affairs" is a task that belongs to all generations (cf.ibid., 24-25). That, dear friends, is why our first reason for being here is to listen, to listen to a word that will show us the way that leads to hope; indeed, we are listening to the only word that can give us firm hope, because it is God's word.

In the first reading (Is 61:1-3a), the Prophet speaks as one invested with the mission of proclaiming liberation, consolation and joy to all the afflicted and the poor. Jesus took up this text and re-applied it to himself in his preaching. Indeed, he stated explicitly that the prophet's promise was fulfilled in him (cf. Lk 4:16-21). It was completely fulfilled when by dying on the cross and rising from the dead he freed us from our slavery to selfishness and evil, to sin and death. And this is the message of salvation, ancient and ever new, that the Church proclaims from generation to generation: Christ crucified and risen, the Hope of humanity!

This word of salvation still resounds with power today, in our liturgical assembly. Jesus addresses himself lovingly to you, sons and daughters of this blessed land, in which the seed of the Gospel has been sown for over a thousand years. Your country, like other nations, is experiencing cultural conditions that often present a radical challenge to faith and therefore also to hope. In fact, in the modern age both faith and hope have undergone a "shift", because they have been relegated to the private and other-worldly sphere, while in day-to-day public life confidence in scientific and economic progress has been affirmed (cf. Spe Salvi, 17). We all know that this progress is ambiguous: it opens up possibilities for good as well as evil. Technical developments and the improvement of social structures are important and certainly necessary, but they are not enough to guarantee the moral welfare of society (cf. ibid., 24). Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit. And who can save him if not God, who is Love and has revealed his face as almighty and merciful Father in Jesus Christ? Our firm hope is therefore Christ: in him, God has loved us to the utmost and has given us life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10), the life that every person, even if unknowingly, longs to possess.

"Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." These words of Jesus, written in large letters above the entrance to your Cathedral in Brno, he now addresses to each of us, and he adds: "Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 11:29-30). Can we remain indifferent in the face of his love? Here, as elsewhere, many people suffered in past centuries for remaining faithful to the Gospel, and they did not lose hope; many people sacrificed themselves in order to restore dignity to man and freedom to peoples, finding in their generous adherence to Christ the strength to build a new humanity. In present-day society, many forms of poverty are born from isolation, from being unloved, from the rejection of God and from a deep-seated tragic closure in man who believes himself to be self-sufficient, or else merely an insignificant and transient datum; in this world of ours which is alienated "when too much trust is placed in merely human projects" (Caritas in Veritate, 53), only Christ can be our certain hope. This is the message that we Christians are called to spread every day, through our witness.

Proclaim it yourselves, dear priests, as you remain intimately united to Jesus, as you exercise your ministry enthusiastically, certain that nothing can be lacking in those who put their trust in him. Bear witness to Christ, dear religious, through the joyful and consistent practice of the evangelical counsels, indicating where our true homeland lies: in Heaven. And you, dear young people, dear lay faithful, dear families, base on the firm foundation of faith in Christ whatever plans you have for your family, for work, for school, for activities in every sphere of society. Jesus never abandons his friends. He assures us of his help, because nothing can be done without him, but at the same time, he asks everyone to make a personal commitment to spread his universal message of love and peace. May you draw encouragement from the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the principal patrons of Moravia, who evangelized the Slavic peoples, and of Saints Peter and Paul, to whom your Cathedral is dedicated. Look to the shining testimony of Saint Zdislava, mother of a family, rich in works of religion and works of mercy; of Saint John Sarkander, priest and martyr; of Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, priest and religious, born in this diocese and canonized one hundred years ago, and of Blessed Restituta Kafkova, a religious sister born in Brno and killed by the Nazis in Vienna. May you always be accompanied and protected by Our Lady, Mother of Christ our Hope. Amen!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Spokesman: Pope Bringing Hope to Czech Republic
Observes Lively Christian Community in Secularized Nation

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 27, 2009- The first objective of Benedict XVI’s trip to the Czech Republic is to bring hope to one of the most secularized countries in Europe, says a Vatican spokesman.

After today's papal Mass celebrated at the Brno airport, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, made an assessment of the apostolic visit under way through Monday.

In his remarks, broadcast by Vatican Radio, the Jesuit priest said: “It seems clear to me that hope is the central theme of this trip.

“The Pope realizes that in our time there is a great need; there is a great thirst and this can be one of the great contributions that the faith can make, because it is capable of nourishing a great hope that goes beyond the small hopes that are very short-lived and that sustain our day-to-day lives but with a limited horizon.”

“Instead, the great hope, that which never dies, that which truly looks far into the distance and nourishes and sustains others, must be reawakened and no one, perhaps, can nourish this as do Christians who believe in the risen Jesus Christ."

A large anchor, symbol of hope, was placed on the esplanade where the Mass was celebrated this morning in Brno.

“The anchor, in the Letter to the Hebrews, is precisely the description of hope,” Father Lombardi observed. “We have hope like an anchor that is in heaven, where Jesus Christ is together with God the Father, and we place our hope there with great force and certainty, that which sustains us and animates our whole life.”

The spokesman said that this papal visit, especially with Saturday’s speech to the diplomatic corps, continues the work begun by Pope John Paul II after the fall of communism, 20 years ago, promoting “freedom and truth.”

Benedict XVI performs this service, Father Lombardi suggested, showing that reason and faith can work together.

The Czech Republic is one of the most secularized countries in the world, but seeing an estimated 150,000 people present at the Mass, the Vatican spokesman observed: “We are certainly in a secularized land but it is a land in which there is also a very lively Christian community, full of faith and hope, [a community] that can make a cordial contribution to the society in which it lives.”


Papal Address at Ecumenical Meeting
"As Europe Listens to the Story of Christianity, She Hears Her Own"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 27, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at an ecumenical meeting in Prague.

* * *

Dear Cardinals,
Your Excellencies,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am grateful to Almighty God for the opportunity to meet with you who are here representing the various Christian communities of this land. I thank Doctor C(erný, President of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic, for the kind words of welcome which he has addressed to me on your behalf.

My dear friends, Europe continues to undergo many changes. It is hard to believe that only two decades have passed since the collapse of former regimes gave way to a difficult but productive transition towards more participatory political structures. During this period, Christians joined together with others of good will in helping to rebuild a just political order, and they continue to engage in dialogue today in order to pave new ways towards mutual understanding, cooperation for peace and the advancement of the common good.

Nevertheless, attempts to marginalize the influence of Christianity upon public life - sometimes under the pretext that its teachings are detrimental to the well-being of society - are emerging in new forms. This phenomenon gives us pause to reflect. As I suggested in my Encyclical on Christian hope, the artificial separation of the Gospel from intellectual and public life should prompt us to engage in a mutual "self-critique of modernity" and "self-critique of modern Christianity," specifically with regard to the hope each of them can offer mankind (cf. Spe Salvi, 22). We may ask ourselves, what does the Gospel have to say to the Czech Republic and indeed all of Europe today in a period marked by proliferating world views?

Christianity has much to offer on the practical and ethical level, for the Gospel never ceases to inspire men and women to place themselves at the service of their brothers and sisters. Few would dispute this. Yet those who fix their gaze upon Jesus of Nazareth with eyes of faith know that God offers a deeper reality which is nonetheless inseparable from the "economy" of charity at work in this world (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 2): He offers salvation.

The term is replete with connotations, yet it expresses something fundamental and universal about the human yearning for well-being and wholeness. It alludes to the ardent desire for reconciliation and communion that wells up spontaneously in the depths of the human spirit. It is the central truth of the Gospel and the goal to which every effort of evangelization and pastoral care is directed. And it is the criterion to which Christians constantly redirect their focus as they endeavour to heal the wounds of past divisions. To this end - as Doctor C(erný has noted - the Holy See was pleased to host an International Symposium in 1999 on Jan Hus to facilitate a discussion of the complex and turbulent religious history in this country and in Europe more generally (cf. Pope John Paul II, Address to the International Symposium on John Hus, 1999). I pray that such ecumenical initiatives will yield fruit not only in the pursuit of Christian unity, but for the good of all European society.

We take confidence in knowing that the Church's proclamation of salvation in Christ Jesus is ever ancient and ever new, steeped in the wisdom of the past and brimming with hope for the future. As Europe listens to the story of Christianity, she hears her own. Her notions of justice, freedom and social responsibility, together with the cultural and legal institutions established to preserve these ideas and hand them on to future generations, are shaped by her Christian inheritance. Indeed, her memory of the past animates her aspirations for the future.

This is why, in fact, Christians draw upon the example of figures such as Saint Adalbert and Saint Agnes of Bohemia. Their commitment to spreading the Gospel was motivated by the conviction that Christians should not cower in fear of the world but rather confidently share the treasury of truths entrusted to them. Likewise Christians today, opening themselves to present realities and affirming all that is good in society, must have the courage to invite men and women to the radical conversion that ensues upon an encounter with Christ and ushers in a new life of grace.

From this perspective, we understand more clearly why Christians are obliged to join others in reminding Europe of her roots. It is not because these roots have long since withered. On the contrary! It is because they continue - in subtle but nonetheless fruitful ways - to supply the continent with the spiritual and moral sustenance that allows her to enter into meaningful dialogue with people from other cultures and religions. Precisely because the Gospel is not an ideology, it does not presume to lock evolving socio-political realities into rigid schemas. Rather, it transcends the vicissitudes of this world and casts new light on the dignity of the human person in every age. Dear friends, let us ask the Lord to implant within us a spirit of courage to share the timeless saving truths which have shaped, and will continue to shape, the social and cultural progress of this continent.

The salvation wrought by Jesus's suffering, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven not only transforms us who believe in him, but urges us to share this Good News with others. Enlightened by the Spirit's gifts of knowledge, wisdom and understanding (cf. Is 11:1-2; Ex 35:31), may our capacity to grasp the truth taught by Jesus Christ impel us to work tirelessly for the unity he desires for all his children reborn through Baptism, and indeed for the whole human race.

With these sentiments, and with fraternal affection for you and the members of your respective communities, I express my deep thanks to you and commend you to Almighty God, who is our fortress, our stronghold and our deliverer (cf. Ps144:2). Amen.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Discourse to Academic World
"The Idea of an Integrated Education ... Must Be Regained"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 27, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today at a meeting in Prague with representatives of the world of academia and culture.

* * *

Mr President,
Distinguished Rectors and Professors,
Dear Students and Friends,

Our meeting this evening gives me a welcome opportunity to express my esteem for the indispensable role in society of universities and institutions of higher learning. I thank the student who has kindly greeted me in your name, the members of the university choir for their fine performance, and the distinguished Rector of Charles University, Professor Václav Hampl, for his thoughtful presentation. The service of academia, upholding and contributing to the cultural and spiritual values of society, enriches the nation's intellectual patrimony and strengthens the foundations of its future development. The great changes which swept Czech society twenty years ago were precipitated not least by movements of reform which originated in university and student circles. That quest for freedom has continued to guide the work of scholars whose diakonia of truth is indispensable to any nation's well-being.

I address you as one who has been a professor, solicitous of the right to academic freedom and the responsibility for the authentic use of reason, and is now the Pope who, in his role as Shepherd, is recognized as a voice for the ethical reasoning of humanity. While some argue that the questions raised by religion, faith and ethics have no place within the purview of collective reason, that view is by no means axiomatic. The freedom that underlies the exercise of reason - be it in a university or in the Church - has a purpose: it is directed to the pursuit of truth, and as such gives expression to a tenet of Christianity which in fact gave rise to the university. Indeed, man's thirst for knowledge prompts every generation to broaden the concept of reason and to drink at the wellsprings of faith. It was precisely the rich heritage of classical wisdom, assimilated and placed at the service of the Gospel, which the first Christian missionaries brought to these lands and established as the basis of a spiritual and cultural unity which endures to this day. The same spirit led my predecessor Pope Clement VI to establish the famed Charles University in 1347, which continues to make an important contribution to wider European academic, religious and cultural circles.

The proper autonomy of a university, or indeed any educational institution, finds meaning in its accountability to the authority of truth. Nevertheless, that autonomy can be thwarted in a variety of ways. The great formative tradition, open to the transcendent, which stands at the base of universities across Europe, was in this land, and others, systematically subverted by the reductive ideology of materialism, the repression of religion and the suppression of the human spirit. In 1989, however, the world witnessed in dramatic ways the overthrow of a failed totalitarian ideology and the triumph of the human spirit. The yearning for freedom and truth is inalienably part of our common humanity. It can never be eliminated; and, as history has shown, it is denied at humanity's own peril. It is to this yearning that religious faith, the various arts, philosophy, theology and other scientific disciplines, each with its own method, seek to respond, both on the level of disciplined reflection and on the level of a sound praxis.

Distinguished Rectors and Professors, together with your research there is a further essential aspect of the mission of the university in which you are engaged, namely the responsibility for enlightening the minds and hearts of the young men and women of today. This grave duty is of course not new. From the time of Plato, education has been not merely the accumulation of knowledge or skills, butpaideia, human formation in the treasures of an intellectual tradition directed to a virtuous life. While the great universities springing up throughout Europe during the middle ages aimed with confidence at the ideal of a synthesis of all knowledge, it was always in the service of an authentic humanitas, the perfection of the individual within the unity of a well-ordered society. And likewise today: once young people's understanding of the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, they relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of how they ought to be and what they ought to do.

The idea of an integrated education, based on the unity of knowledge grounded in truth, must be regained. It serves to counteract the tendency, so evident in contemporary society, towards a fragmentation of knowledge. With the massive growth in information and technology there comes the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth. Sundered from the fundamental human orientation towards truth, however, reason begins to lose direction: it withers, either under the guise of modesty, resting content with the merely partial or provisional, or under the guise of certainty, insisting on capitulation to the demands of those who indiscriminately give equal value to practically everything. The relativism that ensues provides a dense camouflage behind which new threats to the autonomy of academic institutions can lurk. While the period of interference from political totalitarianism has passed, is it not the case that frequently, across the globe, the exercise of reason and academic research are - subtly and not so subtly - constrained to bow to the pressures of ideological interest groups and the lure of short-term utilitarian or pragmatic goals? What will happen if our culture builds itself only on fashionable arguments, with little reference to a genuine historical intellectual tradition, or on the viewpoints that are most vociferously promoted and most heavily funded? What will happen if in its anxiety to preserve a radical secularism, it detaches itself from its life-giving roots? Our societies will not become more reasonable or tolerant or adaptable but rather more brittle and less inclusive, and they will increasingly struggle to recognize what is true, noble and good.

Dear friends, I wish to encourage you in all that you do to meet the idealism and generosity of young people today not only with programmes of study which assist them to excel, but also by an experience of shared ideals and mutual support in the great enterprise of learning. The skills of analysis and those required to generate a hypothesis, combined with the prudent art of discernment, offer an effective antidote to the attitudes of self-absorption, disengagement and even alienation which are sometimes found in our prosperous societies, and which can particularly affect the young. In this context of an eminently humanistic vision of the mission of the university, I would like briefly to mention the mending of the breach between science and religion which was a central concern of my predecessor, Pope John Paul II. He, as you know, promoted a fuller understanding of the relationship between faith and reason as the two wings by which the human spirit is lifted to the contemplation of truth (cf. Fides et Ratio, Proemium). Each supports the other and each has its own scope of action (cf.ibid., 17), yet still there are those who would detach one from the other. Not only do the proponents of this positivistic exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason negate what is one of the most profound convictions of religious believers, they also thwart the very dialogue of cultures which they themselves propose. An understanding of reason that is deaf to the divine and which relegates religions into the realm of subcultures, is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures that our world so urgently needs. In the end, "fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom" (Caritas in Veritate, 9). This confidence in the human ability to seek truth, to find truth and to live by the truth led to the foundation of the great European universities. Surely we must reaffirm this today in order to bring courage to the intellectual forces necessary for the development of a future of authentic human flourishing, a future truly worthy of man.

With these reflections, dear friends, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for your demanding work. I pray that it will always be inspired and directed by a human wisdom which genuinely seeks the truth which sets us free (cf. Jn 8:28). Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Farewell to Czech Republic
"The Church in This Country Has Been Truly Blessed With a Remarkable Array of Missionaries and Martyrs"

PRAGUE, Czech Republic, SEPT. 28, 2009 ( Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today as he ended his three-day visit to the Czech Republic.

* * *

Pane prezidente,
páni kardinálové,
bratr(i v biskupské slu be(,
Vaše Excelence,
dámy a pánové!

Ve chvíli slavnostního rozlouc(ení vám chci vyjádr(it své pode(kování za šte(drou pohostinnost, které se mi dostalo be(hem krátkého pobytu v této nádherné zemi.

[Mr President, Dear Cardinals, Brother Bishops, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I come to bid farewell, I wish to thank you for your generous hospitality during my short stay in this beautiful country.]

I am especially grateful to you, Mr President, for your words and for the time spent at your residence. On this feast of Saint Wenceslaus, your country's guardian and patron, allow me once again to offer you my sincere good wishes for your name-day. As today is also the name-day of Bishop Václav Malý, I offer my greetings to him too, and I wish to thank him for all his hard work in coordinating the arrangements for my pastoral visit to the Czech Republic. To Cardinal Vlk, Archbishop Graubner, and all who did so much to ensure the smooth unfolding of the series of meetings and celebrations, I am deeply grateful. Naturally I include in my thanks the public authorities, the media, the many volunteers who helped to direct the crowds, and all the faithful who have been praying that this visit might bear fruit for the good of the Czech nation and for the Church in the region.

I shall treasure the memory of the moments of prayer that I was able to spend together with the Bishops, priests and faithful of this country. It was particularly moving this morning to celebrate Mass at Stará Boleslav, site of the martyrdom of the young duke Wenceslaus, and to venerate him at his tomb on Saturday evening in the majestic Cathedral that dominates Prague's skyline. Yesterday in Moravia, where Saints Cyril and Methodius launched their apostolic mission, I was able to reflect in prayerful thanksgiving on the origins of Christianity in this region, and indeed throughout the Slavic territories. The Church in this country has been truly blessed with a remarkable array of missionaries and martyrs, as well as contemplative saints, among whom I would single out Saint Agnes of Bohemia, whose canonization just twenty years ago providentially heralded the liberation of this country from atheist oppression.

My meeting yesterday with representatives of other Christian communities brought home to me the importance of ecumenical dialogue in this land which suffered so much from the consequences of religious division at the time of the Thirty Years' War. Much has already been achieved in healing the wounds of the past, and decisive steps have been taken along the path towards reconciliation and true unity in Christ. In building further on these solid foundations, there is an important role for the academic community to play, through its uncompromising search for truth. I was glad to have the opportunity to spend time yesterday with representatives of the nation's universities, and to express my esteem for the noble vocation to which they have dedicated their lives.

I was especially delighted to meet the young people, and to encourage them to build on the best traditions of this nation's past, particularly its Christian heritage. According to a saying attributed to Franz Kafka, "Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old" (Gustav Janouch, Conversations with Kafka). If our eyes remain open to the beauty of God's creation and our minds to the beauty of his truth, then we may indeed hope to remain young and to build a world that reflects something of that divine beauty, so as to inspire future generations to do likewise.

Mr President, dear friends: I thank you once again and I promise to remember you in my prayers and to carry you in my heart. May God bless the Czech Republic!

At( Pra ské Jezulátko je i nadále vaší inspirací a vede všechny rodiny vašeho národa. Ké vám všem Bu*h ehná!

[May the Holy Infant of Prague continue to inspire and guide you and all the families of this nation! May God bless all of you!]


Pope's Address to Youth
"Consider Seriously the Divine Call to Raise a Christian Family"

STARA BOLESLAV, Czech Republic, SEPT. 28, 2009 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he met with youth on the final day of his visit to the Czech Republic.

* * *

Dear Young Friends,

At the conclusion of this celebration I turn to you directly and I greet you warmly. You have come here in great numbers from all over the country and from neighbouring countries; you camped here yesterday evening and you spent the night in tents, sharing an experience of faith and companionship. Thank you for your presence here, which gives me a sense of the enthusiasm and generosity so characteristic of youth. Being with you makes the Pope feel young! I extend a particular word of thanks to your representative for his words and for the wonderful gift.

Dear friends, it is not hard to see that in every young person there is an aspiration towards happiness, sometimes tinged with anxiety: an aspiration that is often exploited, however, by present-day consumerist society in false and alienating ways. Instead, that longing for happiness must be taken seriously, it demands a true and comprehensive response. At your age, the first major choices are made, choices that can set your lives on a particular course, for better or worse. Unfortunately, many of your contemporaries allow themselves to be led astray by illusory visions of spurious happiness, and then they find themselves sad and alone. Yet there are also many young men and women who seek to transform doctrine into action, as your representative said, so as to give the fullness of meaning to their lives. I invite you all to consider the experience of Saint Augustine, who said that the heart of every person is restless until it finds what it truly seeks. And he discovered that Jesus Christ alone is the answer that can satisfy his and every person's desire for a life of happiness, filled with meaning and value (cf. Confessions, I.1.1).

As he did with Augustine, so the Lord comes to meet each one of you. He knocks at the door of your freedom and asks to be welcomed as a friend. He wants to make you happy, to fill you with humanity and dignity. The Christian faith is this: encounter with Christ, the living Person who gives life a new horizon and thereby a definitive direction. And when the heart of a young person opens up to his divine plans, it is not difficult to recognize and follow his voice. The Lord calls each of us by name, and entrusts to us a specific mission in the Church and in society. Dear young people, be aware that by Baptism you have become children of God and members of his Body, the Church. Jesus constantly renews his invitation to you to be his disciples and his witnesses. Many of you he calls to marriage, and the preparation for this Sacrament constitutes a real vocational journey. Consider seriously the divine call to raise a Christian family, and let your youth be the time in which to build your future with a sense of responsibility. Society needs Christian families, saintly families!

And if the Lord is calling you to follow him in the ministerial priesthood or in the consecrated life, do not hesitate to respond to his invitation. In particular, in this Year of Priests, I appeal to you, young men: be attentive and open to Jesus's call to offer your lives in the service of God and his people. The Church in every country, including this one, needs many holy priests and also persons fully consecrated to the service of Christ, Hope of the world.

Hope! This word, to which I often return, sits particularly well with youth. You, my dear young people, are the hope of the Church! She expects you to become messengers of hope, as happened last year in Australia, during World Youth Day, that great manifestation of youthful faith that I was able to experience personally, and in which some of you took part. Many more of you will be able to come to Madrid in August 2011. I invite you here and now to participate in this great gathering of young people with Christ in the Church.

Dear friends, thank you again for being here and thank you for your gift: the book of photographs recounting the lives of young people in your dioceses. Thank you also for the sign of your solidarity towards the young people of Africa, which you have presented to me. The Pope asks you to live your faith with joy and enthusiasm; to grow in unity among yourselves and with Christ; to pray and to be diligent in frequenting the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession; to take seriously your Christian formation, remaining ever obedient to the teachings of your Pastors. May Saint Wenceslaus guide you along this path through his example and his intercession, and may you always enjoy the protection of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother. I bless all of you with affection!

* * *

[The Holy Father then greeted the youth in various languages. Here is a Vatican translation of his words:]

[I extend a warm welcome to the pilgrims who have come from Slovakia, especially the young people. Dear young people, dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for your presence at today's celebration. Do not forget: let the love of God be your strength! I gladly bless you and your loved ones. May Jesus Christ be praised!]

[I address a word of greeting to the Poles here present, and especially to the young who have come to join their Czech brothers and sisters in a spirit of warm friendship. Support one another by a joyful testimony of faith, growing in Christ's love and in the power of the Holy Spirit, so as to reach the fullness of humanity and holiness. May God bless you!]

[I offer warm greetings to the young people and to all the pilgrims who have come from neighbouring German-speaking countries. Thank you for your presence! Your participation in this feast of faith and hope is a sign that you are seeking answers to your questions and inner desires in Jesus Christ and in the community of the Church. Christ himself is the way, the truth and the life (cf. Jn 14:6). He is the foundation that truly supports our life. On this firm basis, Christian families can be raised and young people can respond to their vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Personal friendship with Christ fills us with genuine, lasting joy and makes us ready to put into effect God's plan for our life. To this end, I invoke upon all of you the assistance of the Holy Spirit.]

[Dear young friends, your enthusiasm for the Christian faith is a sign of hope for the Church that is present and active in these lands. In order to give a fuller meaning to your youth, follow the Lord Jesus with courage and generosity as he knocks on the door of your hearts. Christ asks you to welcome him as a friend. May the Lord bless you and bring to fulfilment every good plan that you make for your lives!]

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Homily on Feast of St. Wenceslaus
"In Our Day, Is Holiness Still Relevant?"

STARA BOLESLAV, Czech Republic, SEPT. 28, 2009 - Here is the text of the homily Benedict XVI gave today, memorial of St. Wenceslaus, on the final day of his visit to the Czech Republic.

* * *

Dear Cardinals,
My Brother Bishops and Priests,
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Dear Young People,

It gives me great joy to be with you this morning, as my apostolic visit to the beloved Czech Republic draws to a close, and I offer all of you my heartfelt greeting, especially the Cardinal Archbishop, to whom I am grateful for the words that he addressed to me in your name at the start of Mass. My greeting goes also to the other Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests and consecrated persons, the representatives of lay movements and associations, and especially the young people. I respectfully greet the President of the Republic, to whom I offer cordial good wishes on the occasion of his name-day; and I gladly extend these wishes to all who bear the name of Wenceslaus and to the entire Czech people on the day of this national feast.

This morning, we are gathered around the altar for the glorious commemoration of the martyr Saint Wenceslaus, whose relics I was able to venerate before Mass in the Basilica dedicated to him. He shed his blood in your land, and his eagle, which - as the Cardinal Archbishop has just mentioned - you chose as a symbol for this visit, constitutes the historical emblem of the noble Czech nation. This great saint, whom you are pleased to call the "eternal" Prince of the Czechs, invites us always to follow Christ faithfully, he invites us to be holy. He himself is a model of holiness for all people, especially the leaders of communities and peoples. Yet we ask ourselves: in our day, is holiness still relevant? Or is it now considered unattractive and unimportant? Do we not place more value today on worldly success and glory? Yet how long does earthly success last, and what value does it have?

The last century - as this land of yours can bear witness - saw the fall of a number of powerful figures who had apparently risen to almost unattainable heights. Suddenly they found themselves stripped of their power. Those who denied and continue to deny God, and in consequence have no respect for man, appear to have a comfortable life and to be materially successful. Yet one need only scratch the surface to realize how sad and unfulfilled these people are. Only those who maintain in their hearts a holy "fear of God" can also put their trust in man and spend their lives building a more just and fraternal world. Today there is a need for believers with credibility, who are ready to spread in every area of society the Christian principles and ideals by which their action is inspired. This is holiness, the universal vocation of all the baptized, which motivates people to carry out their duty with fidelity and courage, looking not to their own selfish interests but to the common good, seeking God's will at every moment.

In the Gospel we heard Jesus speaking clearly on this subject: "What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?" (Mt 16:26). In this way we are led to consider that the true value of human life is measured not merely in terms of material goods and transient interests, because it is not material goods that quench the profound thirst for meaning and happiness in the heart of every person. This is why Jesus does not hesitate to propose to his disciples the "narrow" path of holiness: "whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (16:25). And he resolutely repeats to us this morning: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (16:24). Without doubt, this is hard language, difficult to accept and put into practice, but the testimony of the saints assures us that it is possible for all who trust and entrust themselves to Christ. Their example encourages those who call themselves Christian to be credible, that is, consistent with the principles and the faith that they profess. It is not enough to appear good and honest: one must truly be so. And the good and honest person is one who does not obscure God's light with his own ego, does not put himself forward, but allows God to shine through.

This is the lesson we can learn from Saint Wenceslaus, who had the courage to prefer the kingdom of heaven to the enticement of worldly power. His gaze never moved away from Jesus Christ, who suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps, as Saint Peter writes in the second reading that we just heard. As an obedient disciple of the Lord, the young prince Wenceslaus remained faithful to the Gospel teachings he had learned from his saintly grandmother, the martyr Ludmila. In observing these, even before committing himself to build peaceful relations within his lands and with neighbouring countries, he took steps to spread the Christian faith, summoning priests and building churches. In the first Old Slavonic "narration", we read that "he assisted God's ministers and he also adorned many churches" and that "he was benevolent to the poor, clothed the naked, gave food to the hungry, welcomed pilgrims, just as the Gospel enjoins. He did not allow injustice to be done to widows, he loved all people, whether poor or rich". He learned from the Lord to be "merciful and gracious" (Responsorial Psalm), and animated by the Gospel spirit he was even able to pardon his brother who tried to kill him. Rightly, then, you invoke him as the "heir" of your nation, and in a well-known song, you ask him not to let it perish.

Wenceslaus died as a martyr for Christ. It is interesting to note that, by killing him, his brother Boleslaus succeeded in taking possession of the throne of Prague, but the crown placed on the heads of his successors did not bear his name. Rather, it bears the name of Wenceslaus, as a testimony that "the throne of the king who judges the poor in truth will remain firm for ever" (cf. today's Office of Readings). This fact is judged as a miraculous intervention by God, who does not abandon his faithful: "the conquered innocent defeated the cruel conqueror just as Christ did on the cross" (cf. The Legend of Saint Wenceslaus), and the blood of the martyr did not cry out for hatred or revenge, but rather for pardon and peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, together let us give thanks to the Lord in this Eucharist for giving this saintly ruler to your country and to the Church. Let us also pray that, like him, we too may walk along the path of holiness. It is certainly difficult, since faith is always exposed to multiple challenges, but when we allow ourselves to be drawn towards God who is Truth, the path becomes decisive, because we experience the power of his love. May the intercession of Saint Wenceslaus and of the other patron saints of the Czech Lands obtain this grace for us. May we always be protected and assisted by Mary, Queen of Peace and Mother of Love. Amen!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Netherlands Envoy
"Globalization Needs to Be Steered Towards the Goal of Integral Human Development"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to Baroness Henriette Johanna Cornelia Maria van Lynden-Leijten, the new ambassador from the Netherlands to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from Queen Beatrix. For my part, please convey to Her Majesty my cordial greetings and assure her of my continuing prayers for all the people of your nation.

In a world that is ever more closely interconnected, the Holy See's diplomatic relations with individual states afford many opportunities for cooperation on important global issues. In this light, the Holy See values its links with the Netherlands and looks forward to strengthening them further in years to come. Your country, as a founder member of the European Economic Community and home to several international juridical institutions, has long been at the forefront of moves to strengthen international cooperation for the greater good of the human family. Hence the mission on which you are about to embark is rich in opportunities for joint action to promote peace and prosperity in the light of the desire that both the Holy See and the Netherlands have, to help the human person.

The defence and promotion of freedom is a key element in humanitarian engagement of this kind, and it is one to which both the Holy See and the Kingdom of the Netherlands frequently draw attention. It must be understood, though, that freedom needs to be anchored in truth -- the truth of the nature of the human person -- and it needs to be directed towards the good of individuals and of society. In the financial crisis of the past twelve months, the whole world has been able to observe the consequences of exaggerated individualism that tends to favour single-minded pursuit of perceived personal advantage to the exclusion of other goods. There has been much reflection on the need for a sound ethical approach to the processes of economic and political integration, and more people are coming to recognize that globalization needs to be steered towards the goal of integral human development of individuals, communities and peoples -- shaped not by mechanical or deterministic forces but by humanitarian values that are open to transcendence (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 42). Our world needs to "reappropriate the true meaning of freedom, which is not an intoxication with total autonomy, but a response to the call of being" (ibid., 70). Hence the Holy See's conviction regarding the irreplaceable role of faith communities in public life and in public debate.

While some of the Dutch population would declare itself agnostic or even atheist, more than half of it professes Christianity, and the growing numbers of immigrants who follow other religious traditions make it more necessary than ever for civil authorities to acknowledge the place of religion in Dutch society. An indication that your Government does so is the fact that faith schools receive state support in your country, and rightly so, since such institutions are called to make a significant contribution to mutual understanding and social cohesion by transmitting the values that are rooted in a transcendent vision of human dignity.

Even more basic than schools in this regard are families built on the foundation of a stable and fruitful marriage between a man and a woman. Nothing can equal or replace the formative value of growing up in a secure family environment, learning to respect and foster the personal dignity of others, acquiring the capacity for "acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity" (Familiaris Consortio, 43; cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 221) -- in short, learning to love. A society, on the other hand, which encourages alternative models of domestic life for the sake of a supposed diversity, is likely to store up social consequences that are not conducive to integral human development (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 44, 51). The Catholic Church in your country is eager to play its part in supporting and promoting stable family life, as the Dutch Bishops' Conference stated in its recent document on the pastoral care of young people and the family. It is my earnest hope that the Catholic contribution to ethical debate will be heard and heeded by all sectors of Dutch society, so that the noble culture that has distinguished your country for centuries may continue to be known for its solidarity with the poor and the vulnerable, its promotion of authentic freedom and its respect for the dignity and inestimable value of every human life.

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 Kingdom of the Netherlands, I cordially invoke God's abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to US Ambassador
"What Is Needed Is a Model of Globalization Inspired by an Authentic Humanism"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to Miguel Humberto Díaz, the new ambassador from the United States to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

I am pleased to accept the Letters by which you are accredited Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America. I recall with pleasure my meeting with President Barack Obama and his family last July, and willingly reciprocate the kind greetings which you bring from him. I also take this occasion to express my confidence that diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See, formally initiated twenty-five years ago, will continue to be marked by fruitful dialogue and cooperation in the promotion of human dignity, respect for fundamental human rights, and the service of justice, solidarity and peace within the whole human family.

In the course of my Pastoral Visit to your country last year I was pleased to encounter a vibrant democracy, committed to the service of the common good and shaped by a vision of equality and equal opportunity based on the God-given dignity and freedom of each human being. That vision, enshrined in the nation's founding documents, continues to inspire the growth of the United States as a cohesive yet pluralistic society constantly enriched by the gifts brought by new generations, including the many immigrants who continue to enhance and rejuvenate American society. In recent months, the reaffirmation of this dialectic of tradition and originality, unity and diversity has recaptured the imagination of the world, many of whose peoples look to the American experience and its founding vision in their own search for viable models of accountable democracy and sound development in an increasingly interdependent and global society.

For this reason, I appreciate your acknowledgement of the need for a greater spirit of solidarity and multilateral engagement in approaching the urgent problems facing our planet. The cultivation of the values of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" can no longer be seen in predominantly individualistic or even national terms, but must rather be viewed from the higher perspective of the common good of the whole human family. The continuing international economic crisis clearly calls for a revision of present political, economic and financial structures in the light of the ethical imperative of ensuring the integral development of all people. What is needed, in effect, is a model of globalization inspired by an authentic humanism, in which the world's peoples are seen not merely as neighbors but as brothers and sisters.

Multilateralism, for its part, should not be restricted to purely economic and political questions; rather, it should find expression in a resolve to address the whole spectrum of issues linked to the future of humanity and the promotion of human dignity, including secure access to food and water, basic health care, just policies governing commerce and immigration, particularly where families are concerned, climate control and care for the environment, and the elimination of the scourge of nuclear weapons. With regard to the latter issue, I wish to express my satisfaction for the recent Meeting of the United Nations Security Council chaired by President Obama, which unanimously approved the resolution on atomic disarmament and set before the international community the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a promising sign on the eve of the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Genuine progress, as the Church's social teaching insists, must be integral and humane; it cannot prescind from the truth about human beings and must always be directed to their authentic good. In a word, fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom and real development. For her part the Church in the United States wishes to contribute to the discussion of the weighty ethical and social questions shaping America's future by proposing respectful and reasonable arguments grounded in the natural law and confirmed by the perspective of faith. Religious vision and religious imagination do not straiten but enrich political and ethical discourse, and the religions, precisely because they deal with the ultimate destiny of every man and woman, are called to be a prophetic force for human liberation and development throughout the world, particularly in areas torn by hostility and conflict. In my recent visit to the Holy Land I stressed the value of understanding and cooperation among the followers of the various religions in the service of peace, and so I note with appreciation your government's desire to promote such cooperation as part of a broader dialogue between cultures and peoples.

Allow me, Mr. Ambassador, to reaffirm a conviction which I expressed at the outset of my Apostolic Journey to the United States. Freedom - the freedom which Americans rightly hold dear - "is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility;" it is "a challenge held out to each generation, and it must constantly be won over to the cause of good" (Address at the White House, 16 April 2008). The preservation of freedom is inseparably linked to respect for truth and the pursuit of authentic human flourishing. The crisis of our modern democracies calls for a renewed commitment to reasoned dialogue in the discernment of wise and just policies respectful of human nature and human dignity. The Church in the United States contributes to this discernment particularly through the formation of consciences and her educational apostolate, by which she makes a significant and positive contribution to American civic life and public discourse. Here I think particularly of the need for a clear discernment with regard to issues touching the protection of human dignity and respect for the inalienable right to life from the moment of conception to natural death, as well as the protection of the right to conscientious objection on the part of health care workers, and indeed all citizens. The Church insists on the unbreakable link between an ethics of life and every other aspect of social ethics, for she is convinced that, in the prophetic words of the late Pope John Paul II, "a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized" (Evangelium Vitae, 93; cf. Caritas in Veritate, 15).

Mr. Ambassador, as you undertake your new mission in the service of your country I offer you my good wishes and the promise of my prayers. Be assured that you may always count on the offices of the Holy See to assist and support you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your family, and upon all the beloved American people, I cordially invoke God's blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Filipino Ambassador
"The Work of Charity Is Particularly Urgent"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to Mercedes Arrastia-Tuason, the new ambassador from the Philippines to the Holy See.

* * *

Madam Ambassador,

Grateful for the kind words which you have addressed to me, I gladly accept the Letters of Credence accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Holy See. I would like to reciprocate the warm greetings which you have extended to me on behalf of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and I would ask you to convey to her and to all the beloved Filipino people the assurance of my spiritual closeness and prayers, especially for the victims of Typhoon Ketsana.

For over half a century, the Holy See and the Philippines have maintained excellent diplomatic relations, strengthening their long-standing cooperation for the promotion of peace, human dignity and freedom. The spirit of good will which has brought us to this day will surely enkindle a fresh desire to work together so that justice and freedom go hand-in-hand, and that democratic principles be grounded in truth. For her part, in the midst of the many changing social, economic and political conditions around the globe, the Church continues to hold out the Gospel as the path to authentic human progress (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). I am confident that the faith of the Filipino people - a faith, as Your Excellency has indicated, which gives them the "resilience" to face any hardship or difficulty - will arouse in them a desire to participate ever more fervently in the worldwide task of building up a civilization of love, the seed of which God has implanted in every people and every culture.

Your Excellency, I am pleased to note the various development initiatives under way in your country, including the modernization of irrigation systems, the improvement of public transportation and the reform of social assistance programs. As the Philippines continues to implement these and other plans for a just and sustainable development, I am confident that she will draw upon all her resources - spiritual as well as material - so that her citizens may flourish in body and soul, knowing the goodness of God and living in solidarity with their neighbors. Such programs, of course, are primarily aimed at improving the actual living conditions of the poorest, thus enabling them to fulfill their responsibilities towards their families and to carry out the duties which fall to them as members of the wider community. Above all, the struggle against poverty calls for honesty, integrity and an unwavering fidelity to the principles of justice, especially on the part of those directly entrusted with the offices of governance and public administration.

In an age when the name of God is abused by certain groups, the "work of charity" (Caritas in Veritate, 57) is particularly urgent. This is especially true in regions that have been sadly scarred by conflicts. I encourage all to persevere so that peace may prevail. As you have mentioned, Madam Ambassador, initiatives that aim at facilitating dialogue and cultural exchange are particularly effective, for peace can never come about merely as the product of a technical process engineered through legislative, judicial or economic means. In the conviction that evil is only conquered with good (cf. Rom 12:21), many in your country are taking courageous steps to bring people together in order to foster reconciliation and mutual understanding. I am thinking in particular of the commendable work of the Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC), the Mindanao People's Conference, as well as that of many grassroots organizations. The Special Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development, which your country will host in December, also holds out the promise of advancing peace in Mindanao and throughout the world.

In closing, Madam Ambassador, I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the Filipino people of my affection and continued prayers for them. I encourage them to allow their deep faith, their cultural heritage and the democratic values that have been a part of their patrimony from the time of their independence to shine as an example to all.

Extending a cordial welcome to you and to your distinguished family, I offer you my best wishes that your stay in Rome may be pleasant, and that the important mission entrusted to you may consolidate relations between the Holy See and the Republic of the Philippines, to the benefit of all. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Truth, Justice and Holiness, may God bless the efforts of the authorities and citizens, so that your nation may walk the way of authentic human progress in an atmosphere of harmony and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Farewell to Castel Gandolfo
"Follow ... the Way of Total Confidence in God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, OCT. 1, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's farewell address to religious and civil staff of Castel Gandolfo, whom he received today in the Swiss Hall of the Apostolic Palace, before returning to Vatican City.
* * *
Dear brothers and sisters,

About to end also this year is the summer period that I usually spend in the residence of Castel Gandolfo. These months have given me the opportunity to see up close the generous dedication and competent work carried out by so many persons to ensure every assistance to me and my collaborators, to guests and to pilgrims who come to visit me, especially on Sunday for the traditional appointment of the Angelus. For all this I renew my sincere gratitude to each one of you, as I bid farewell to this beautiful and enchanting town, which I love.

I greet and thank first of all the bishop of Albano Laziale, Marcello Semeraro, the parish priest and the parish community of Castel Gandolfo, along with the different religious communities that live and work here. Through the different meetings, I have been able to see the spiritual fervor that animates the whole local Church of Albano, which I encourage to progress with renewed enthusiasm in proclaiming and witnessing the Gospel.

I also address a deferential greeting to the Lord Mayor and to all the members of the municipality's administration, who always work to facilitate my stay here in the Castel. On thanking you for the fruitful collaboration you have during the whole year with the administration of the papal villas, I am happy to take this occasion to extend my sentiments of affection and gratitude to the whole population of Castel Gandolfo.

I now address the directors and workers of the different services of the Governorate, beginning with the Corps of Gendarmes, the "Floreria" and the technical services. Dear friends, also here in Castel Gandolfo I can appreciate the abnegation that distinguishes you in your work at the service of the Successor of Peter. I assure you and your families of my constant remembrance in prayer. I also address with lively cordiality my greeting and gratitude to the Papal Swiss Guard, whose presence here in the Apostolic Palace and in the meetings of the Pope with pilgrims contributes visibly to offer visitors an even more efficient reception.

A thought of sincere gratitude goes also to officials and agents of the different Italian Forces of Order, for their constant collaboration, as also to the officers and pilots of the 31st squadron of the Military Aeronautics. I thank everyone for the qualified service, which contributes to make my stay and that of my collaborators a serene one, and which is so useful to me on my helicopter trips.

Dear brothers and sisters, to you all I repeat once again my heartfelt gratitude. Today the Church remembers St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Carmelite of the Lisieux convent. Her testimony shows that only the word of God, received and understood in its concrete demands, becomes a source of renewed life. To our society, often permeated by a rationalist culture and widespread practical materialism, little Thérèse of Lisieux points out, as the answer to the great questions of life, the "little way," which looks instead to the essential of things. It is the humble way of love, capable of enveloping and of giving meaning and value to every human circumstance. Dear friends, follow the example of this saint; the way followed by her is within everyone's reach, because it is the way of total confidence in God, who is Love and who never abandons us.

Thank you once again for your presence in this meeting; thank you in a special way to those who have made themselves interpreters of your sentiments. I entrust you all to the maternal intercession of the Holy Virgin, and impart my heartfelt apostolic blessing, which I extend to your families and loved ones.


On the Trip to the Czech Republic
"A People and a Church With Profound Historical and Religious Roots"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 30, 2009 ( Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address during today's general audience held in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

As is the custom following international apostolic journeys, I shall take advantage of the general audience to speak about the pilgrimage I made these past days to the Czech Republic.

I do this first of all as an act of thanksgiving to God, who enabled me to make this visit and who blessed it abundantly. It was a real pilgrimage and, at the same time, a mission in the heart of Europe: a pilgrimage, because Bohemia and Moravia have been for more than a millennium lands of faith and holiness; a mission, because Europe needs to find God again and in his love, the firm foundation of hope. It is no accident that the holy evangelizers of those peoples, Cyril and Methodius, are co-patrons of Europe together with St. Benedict.

"The Love of Christ Is Our Strength": This was the theme of the journey, an affirmation that echoes the faith of so many heroic witnesses of the distant and recent past -- I am thinking in particular of the past century. But, [also a theme] which above all wishes to interpret the certainty of today's Christians. Yes, our strength is the love of Christ! A strength that inspires and animates true revolutions, peaceful and liberating, and which sustains us in moments of crisis, allowing us to rise again when liberty, arduously recovered, runs the risk of losing itself, [of losing] its own truth.

The welcome I received was cordial. The president of the republic, to whom I renew my gratitude, wished to be present in several moments and received me together with his collaborators in his residence, the historic Castle of the Capital, with great cordiality. The whole of the episcopal conference, in particular the cardinal archbishop of Prague and the bishop of Brno, made me feel, with great warmth, the profound bond that unites the Czech Catholic community with the Successor of St. Peter. I thank them also for having prepared carefully the liturgical celebrations. I also thank the civil and military authorities and all those who in different ways cooperated in the good success of my visit.

The love of Christ began to reveal itself in the face of a Child. Arriving in Prague, in fact, my first stop was in the church of Our Lady Victorious, where the Child Jesus is venerated, known precisely as the "Infant of Prague." This effigy refers to the mystery of God made Man, to the "close God," base of our hope. Before the "Infant of Prague" I prayed for all children, for their parents, and for the future of the family. The real "victory" for which we pray today to Mary, is the victory of love and of life in the family and in society!

The Castle of Prague, extraordinary both at the historical as well as the architectural level, suggests a further more general reflection: It gathers in its very vast space many monuments, realms and institutions, almost representing a polis, in which the cathedral and the palace, the square and the garden, coexist in harmony. Thus, in the same context, my visit was able to touch the civil and religious realm, not juxtaposed, but in harmonious closeness within distinction. Hence, addressing the political and civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, I referred to the indissoluble bond that must always exist between liberty and truth. It is not necessary to fear the truth, because it is the friend of man and of his liberty; on the contrary, only in the sincere search for what is true, good and beautiful, can a future really be offered to young people of today and to future generations. Moreover, what is it that attracts so many people to Prague if not its beauty, a beauty that is not only esthetic, but historical, religious, human in the widest sense? Those who exercise responsibilities in the political and educational field must be able to distill from the light of that truth what is the reflection of the eternal wisdom of the Creator; and they are called to give witness of it themselves with their lives. Only a serious commitment of intellectual and moral uprightness is worthy of the sacrifice of all those who have paid dearly for liberty!

Symbol of this synthesis between truth and beauty is the splendid Cathedral of Prague, dedicated to Sts. Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert, where the celebration of vespers took place with priests, religious, seminarians and a representation of laymen committed to ecclesial associations and movements. This is a difficult moment for the Central Eastern European community: To the consequences of the long winter of atheist totalitarianism, are being added the noxious effects of a certain Western secularism and consumerism. Because of this I have encouraged all to draw new energies from the Risen Lord, to be able to be evangelical leaven in the society and to commit themselves, as is already happening, to charitable activities, and even more so to educational and school activities.

I extended this message of hope, founded on faith in Christ, to all the People of God in the two large Eucharistic celebrations held respectively in Brno, capital of Moravia, and in Stara Boleslav, site of the martyrdom of St. Wenceslaus, the nation's principal patron. Moravia makes us think immediately of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, evangelizers of the Slavic peoples and, hence, of the inexhaustible force of the Gospel that, as a river of healing waters, crosses history and continents, taking life and salvation everywhere. On the portal of the Cathedral of Brno are engraved the words of Christ: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). These same words were echoed last Sunday in the liturgy, resounding the eternal voice of the Savior, hope for people yesterday, today and always. Eloquent sign of the Lordship of Christ, Lordship of grace and mercy, is the existence of the holy patrons of the different Christian nations, such as, precisely, Wenceslaus, young king of Bohemia of the 10th century, who was outstanding for his exemplary Christian witness and who was murdered by his brother. Wenceslaus put the kingdom of heaven before the fascination of earthly power and has remained forever in the heart of the Czech people, as model and protector in the different vicissitudes of history. To the numerous young people present in the Mass of St. Wenceslaus, also from neighboring nations, I addressed the invitation to recognize in Christ their truest friend, who satisfies the most profound aspirations of the human heart.

Finally I must mention, among others, two meetings: the ecumenical and that of the academic community. The first, held in the archbishopric of Prague, brought together representatives of the different Christian communities of the Czech Republic and the head of the Jewish community. Reflecting on the history of this country, which unfortunately has know harsh conflicts between Christians, reason for profound gratitude to God is our having come together as disciples of the one Lord, to share the joy of the faith and historical responsibility given the present challenges. The effort to progress together toward a fuller and more visible unity among ourselves, believers in Christ, makes stronger and more effective the common endeavor for the rediscovery of the Christian roots of Europe.

This last aspect, which my beloved predecessor John Paul II so kept in his heart, also arose in the meeting with rectors of universities, representatives of professors and students and other relevant personalities of the cultural realm. In this context, I stressed the role of the university, one of the basic structures of Europe, which in Prague has an athenaeum that is among the oldest and most prestigious of the Continent, the Charles University, named after emperor Charles IV who founded it, together with Pope Clement VI. The university of studies is a vital environment for society, guarantee of liberty and development, as demonstrated by the fact that precisely in university circles the movement began in Prague of the so-called Velvet Revolution. Twenty years after that historic event, I have again proposed the idea of integral formation, based on the unity of knowledge rooted in truth, to respond to a new dictatorship, that of relativism combined with the dominance of technology. The humanistic and scientific culture cannot be separated; on the contrary, they are the two sides of the same coin: We are reminded of it once again by the Czech land, homeland of great writers such as Kafka, and Abbot Mendel, pioneer of modern genetics.

Dear friends, I thank the Lord because, with this journey, he has allowed me to meet a people and a Church with profound historical and religious roots, which commemorates this year different events of high spiritual and social value. To the brothers and sisters of the Czech Republic I renew a message of hope and an invitation to the value of the good, to build the present and future of Europe. I entrust the fruits of my pastoral visit to the intercession of Mary Most Holy and to that of all the saints of Bohemia and Moravia. Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father addressed the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My Apostolic Journey to the Czech Republic last week-end was both a pilgrimage and a mission. It was a pilgrimage on account of the many saints who bore witness to Christ in the Czech lands through their holy lives, and it was a mission because, at the present time, Europe needs to rediscover the joy and hope that come from following the Lord Jesus. I pray that our liturgical celebrations in Prague’s magnificent Cathedral, in Brno and in Stará Boleslav will have served to deepen the faith and enkindle the Christian commitment of the people of Central Europe, especially the young. I am most grateful to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in the Czech Republic who made me so welcome, especially to President Václav Klaus and Cardinal Miloslav Vlk. I was glad to have the opportunity to meet leaders of other Christian communities and to encourage them in the task of ecumenical dialogue. And it was a pleasure to come together with University Rectors and leading figures from the world of culture. I spoke with them of the need for scholarship to be rooted in truth, an integral truth that shuns the limitations of relativism and determinism. I ask all of you to join me in praying that this visit may bear abundant spiritual fruit for the Czech people and for the unity and peace of the whole continent of Europe.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Indonesia and the United States of America. I greet especially the School Sisters of Saint Francis and the new students from the English and Irish Colleges. May the time you spend in Rome deepen your faith and bring you closer to Christ. God bless all of you, and your loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Priests on Retreat in Ars
"Your Hands, Your Lips, Become ... the Hands and Lips of God"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 29, 2009 - Here is a translation of the text of a videomessage sent by Benedict XVI and transmitted Monday to a group of priests on an international retreat in Ars, France.

The retreat is being preached by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, Austria. The retreat, held in the context of the Year for Priests, began Monday and concludes Oct. 4.

* * *

Dear brothers in the priesthood,

As you can imagine, I would have been enormously happy to be able to be with you on this international priestly retreat on the theme: "The Joy of Being a Priest: Consecrated for the Salvation of the World." You are many who participate and are benefited by the teachings of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. I cordially greet the other preachers and the bishop of Belley-Ars, Guy Marie Bagnard. I have had to be content with addressing this taped message to you, but I want to believe that with these words, I speak to each one of you in the most personal way possible, so that, as St. Paul said, "I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace" (Philippians 1:7).

St. John Mary Vianney emphasized the indispensable role of the priest when he said: "A good pastor, a pastor according to the heart of God, this is the greatest treasure that the good God can give a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy" (The Cure of Ars, Thoughts, Bernard Nodet, Desclee de Brouwer, Foi Vivante, 2000, p. 101). In this Year of the Priest, we are all called to explore and rediscover the grandeur of the sacrament that has configured us forever to Christ the High Priest and has "consecrated" all of us "in truth" (John 17:19).

Chosen among men, the priest continues to be one of them and is called to serve them giving them the life of God. He it is who "continues the work of redemption on earth" (Nodet, p. 98). Our priestly vocation is a treasure that we bear in earthen vessels (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7). St. Paul expressed happily the infinite distance that exists between our vocation and the poverty of the answer we can give to God. Let us keep present in our ears and in the depth of our heart the Apostle's exclamation full of confidence, who said: "for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). Awareness of this weakness opens us to intimacy with God, who gives us strength and joy. The more the priest perseveres in friendship with God, the more he will continue the work of the Redeemer on earth (cf. Nodet, p. 98). The priest is no longer for himself, but for all (cf. Nodet, p. 100).

Precisely therein lies one of the greatest challenges of our time. The priest, man of the divine Word and of sacred things, must be today, more than ever, a man of joy and hope. To men who can no longer conceive that God is pure Love, he will always affirm that life is worth living, and that Christ gives it all its meaning because he loves men, all men. The religion of the Cure d'Ars is a religion of joy, not a morbid seeking of mortification, as sometimes has been believed: "Our happiness is too great, no, no, we will never be able to understand it" (Nodet, p. 110), he said, and also "when we are along the way and we catch sight of a bell tower, this should make our heart beat as the sight of the roof of the dwelling of the beloved makes the bride's heart beat."

Thus, I would like to greet with particular affection those of you who have the pastoral charge of several churches and who spend yourselves without counting the cost to maintain a sacramental life in your different communities. The recognition of the Church is immense for you all! Do not lose courage, but continue praying so that numerous young men will agree to respond to Christ's call. Christ does not fail to want to increase the number of his apostles to carry out the mission in his fields.

Dear priests, I am also thinking of the enormous diversity of the ministries you exercise at the service of the Church. Think of the great number of Masses you have celebrated or will celebrate, each time making Christ present on the altar. Think of the innumerable absolutions you have given and will give, allowing a sinner to be forgiven. You perceive in this moment the infinite fecundity of the sacrament of [holy] orders. Your hands, your lips, become, in the space of an instant, the hands and lips of God. You bear Christ in yourselves; you have, by grace, entered in the Holy Trinity. As the saintly Cure said: "If one had faith, he would see God hidden in the priest as a light behind a glass, as wine mixed with water" (Nodet, p. 97). This consideration should help to harmonize relations between priests in order to bring about that priestly community to which St. Peter exhorts (cf. 1 Peter 2:9) to form the body of Christ, upbuilt in love (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16).

The priest is the man of the future: he who has taken seriously Paul's words: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above" (Colossians 3:1). What is done on earth is in the order of the means ordered to the last End. The Mass is the only point of union between the means and the End, because it allows us already to contemplate, under the humble appearance of bread and wine, the Body and Blood of him whom we will adore in eternity. The simple but profound phrases of the saintly Cure on the Eucharist help us to perceive better the richness of that unique moment of the day in which we live a vivifying face to face [encounter] for ourselves and for each one of the faithful. "The happiness there is in saying the Mass will be understood only in heaven," he wrote (Nodet, p. 104). Therefore, I encourage you to reinforce your faith and that of the faithful in the sacrament you celebrate which is the source of true joy. The Saint of Ars wrote: "The priest should feel the same joy (of the Apostles) on seeing Our Lord, whom he has between his hands" (Ibid.).

Thanking you for what you are and for what you do, I repeat: "Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests in the life of the Church" (Homily during the Mass of Sept. 13, 2008, on the Esplanade des Invalides, Paris). Living witnesses of the power of God who works in the weakness of men, consecrated for the salvation of the world, you are, my dear brothers, chosen by Christ himself to be, thanks to him, salt of the earth and light of the world. May you be able to experience in a profound way, during this spiritual retreat, the Inexpressible Closeness (St. Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, va 13, p. 383) to be perfectly united to Christ in order to proclaim his love around you and to commit yourselves totally to the service of the sanctification of all the members of the people of God! Entrusting you to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and of priests, I impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.


Papal Statement to Climate Change Meeting
"The Earth Is Indeed a Precious Gift of the Creator"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 24, 2009 - Here is the text of a videostatement from Benedict XVI that was sent to the Sept. 22 U.N. summit on climate change. It contained the words he said on this issue Aug. 26, 2009, during the Wednesday general audience.

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I wish to reflect today upon the relationship between the Creator and ourselves as guardians of his creation. In so doing I also wish to offer my support to leaders of governments and international agencies who soon will meet at the United Nations to discuss the urgent issue of climate change.

The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us guidelines that assist us as stewards of his creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers that matters concerning the environment and its protection are intimately linked with integral human development. In my recent encyclical,Caritas in Veritate, I referred to such questions recalling the "pressing moral need for renewed solidarity" (no. 49) not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and so our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations (cf. no. 48).

How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful ways of treating the environment! The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations. The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world (cf. no. 50). Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery.

With these sentiments I wish to encourage all the participants in the United Nations summit to enter into their discussions constructively and with generous courage. Indeed, we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop "that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God" (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7)!

Thank you.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. Anselm: Theologian, Teacher, Pastor
A Life Marked By "Love of Truth and the Constant Thirst for God"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 23, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
In Rome, on the Aventine Hill, is found the Benedictine abbey of St. Anselm. As the seat of an Institute of Higher Studies and of the abbot primate of the Confederated Benedictines, it is a place that unites prayer, study and government, precisely the three activities that characterized the life of the saint to which it is dedicated: Anselm of Aosta, the 900th anniversary of whose death we celebrate this year.
The many initiatives, promoted especially by the Diocese of Aosta for this happy anniversary, have reflected the interest that this Medieval thinker continues to awaken. He is also known as Anselm of Bec and Anselm of Canterbury because of the cities with which he was connected. Who is this personage to which three localities, distant from one another and situated in three different nations -- Italy, France and England -- feel particularly bound? Monk of intense spiritual life, excellent educator of youth, theologian with an extraordinary speculative capacity, wise man of government and intransigent defender of the "libertas Ecclesiae," of the liberty of the Church, Anselm is one of the eminent personalities of the Medieval Age, who was able to harmonize all these qualities thanks to a profound mystical experience that always guided his thought and action.

St. Anselm was born in 1033 (or the beginning of 1034) in Aosta, the firstborn of a noble family. His father was a crude man, dedicated to the pleasures of life and a spendthrift of his goods; his mother, on the other hand, was a woman of superior customs and profound religiosity (cf. Eadmero, Vita s. Anselmi, PL 159, col 49). It was his mother who took care of the first human and religious formation of her son, whom she later entrusted to the Benedictines of a priory of Aosta. Anselm, who from his childhood -- as his biographer recounts -- imagined the dwelling of the good God to be among the high and snow clad summits of the Alps, dreamed one night that he was invited to this splendid palace by God himself, who entertained him affably for a good while and at the end offered him to eat "a very white bread" (ibid., col 51).

This dream left him the conviction of being called to fulfill a high mission. At the age of 15, he asked to be admitted to the Benedictine Order, but his father opposed him with all his authority and did not even give in when his son, gravely ill, and sensing he was close to death, implored the religious habit as his last consolation. After his cure and the premature passing of his mother, Anselm went through a period of moral dissipation: He neglected his studies, overwhelmed by earthly passions; he was deaf to God's call. He returned home and began to travel in France, seeking new experiences.

After three years, arriving in Normandy, he went to the Benedictine abbey of Bec, attracted by the fame of Lanfranc of Pavia, prior of the monastery. It was, for him, a providential and decisive encounter for the rest of his life. Under the guidance of Lanfranc, Anselm took up his studies vigorously and in a short time became not only the favorite student, but also his teacher's confidant. His monastic vocation rekindled and, after careful evaluation, he entered the monastic order at the age of 27 and was ordained a priest. Ascesis and study opened new horizons for him, making him find again, at a higher level, that familiarity with God that he had had as a child.

When Lanfranc became abbot of Caen in 1063, Anselm, with just three years of monastic life, was appointed prior of the monastery of Bec and master of the cloister school, revealing gifts of a refine educator. He did not like authoritarian methods; he compared young men to small plants that develop better if they are enclosed in a greenhouse, and he gave them a "healthy" freedom. He was very exacting with himself and with others in the monastic observance, but instead of imposing discipline he was determined to have it followed with persuasion. On the death of Abbot Erluino, founder of the abbey of Bec, Anselm was unanimously elected to succeed him; it was February of 1079. Meanwhile, many monks had been called to Canterbury to take to their brothers on the other side of the English Channel the renewal that was underway on the continent. His work was well received, to the point that Lanfranc of Pavia, abbot of Caen, became the new archbishop of Canterbury and asked Anselm to spend some time with him to instruct the monks and help him in the difficult situation in which his ecclesial community found itself after the Norman invasion. Anselm's stay was very fruitful. He won sympathy and esteem to such a point that at Lanfranc's death he was elected to replace him in the archbishopric of Canterbury. He received his solemn episcopal consecration in December of 1093.

Anselm got involved immediately in an energetic struggle for the liberty of the Church, upholding with courage the independence of the spiritual power in respect of the temporal. He defended the Church from undue interference by political authorities, especially Kings William the Red and Henry I, finding courage and support in the Roman Pontiff, to whom Anselm always demonstrated a courageous and cordial adherence. In 1103 this fidelity cost him the bitterness of exile from his Canterbury see. And only in 1106, when King Henry I gave up the pretension of conferring ecclesiastical investitures, as well as the accumulation of taxes and the confiscation of the Church's properties, was Anselm able to return to England, where he was festively welcomed by the clergy and the people. Thus ended happily the long struggle that he had conducted with the weapons of perseverance, pride and goodness.

This holy archbishop who inspired so much admiration from those around him, wherever he went, dedicated the last years of his life above all to the moral formation of the clergy and the spiritual pursuit of theological arguments. He died on April 21, 1109, supported by the words of the Gospel proclaimed in the Holy Mass that day: "You are those who have continued with me in my trials; as my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom ..." (Luke 22:28-30). The dream of that mysterious banquet, which he had as a child, precisely at the beginning of his spiritual journey, thus found its realization. Jesus, who had invited him to sit at his table, received St. Anselm, at his death, in the eternal kingdom of the Father.

"God, I implore you, I want to know you, to love you and to be able to enjoy you. And if in this life I am not capable of it fully, that at least I might progress each day until I attain its fullness" (Proslogion, chapter 14). This prayer enables us to understand the mystical soul of this great saint of the Medieval Age, founder of Scholastic Theology, to whom Christian tradition has given the title of "magnificent doctor," because he cultivated an intense desire to deepen his understanding of divine mysteries, fully aware, however, that the journey in search of God is never ended, at least on this earth. The clarity and logical rigor of his thought always had as their objective "to raise the mind to the contemplation of God" (Ivi, Proemium). He states clearly that whoever attempts to theologize cannot just count on his intelligence, but must cultivate at the same time a profound experience of faith. According to St. Anselm, the activity of a theologian, therefore, develops in three stages: faith, free gift of God that must be received with humility; experience, which consists in the incarnation of the word of God in one's daily life; and lastly true knowledge, which is never the fruit of aseptic thoughts, but of a contemplative intuition. Hence, his famous words continue to be very useful also today for a healthy theological research and for anyone who wishes to go deeper in the truths of the faith: "I do not presume, Lord, to penetrate in your profundity, because I cannot even from afar confront my intellect with it; but I wish to understand, at least to a certain point, your truth, which my heart believes and loves. I do not seek to understand to believe, but I believe in order to understand" (Ivi, 1).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the love of truth and the constant thirst for God, which marked the whole life of St. Anselm, be a stimulus for every Christian to seek without ever tiring an ever more profound union with Christ, Way, Truth and Life. In addition, may the courageous zeal that distinguished his pastoral action, and procured for him misunderstandings, bitterness and finally exile, be an encouragement for pastors, for consecrated persons and for all the faithful to love the Church of Christ, to pray, work and suffer for her, without every abandoning or betraying her. May the Virgin Mother of God, for whom Anselm nourished a tender filial devotion, obtain this grace for us. "Mary, my heart wants to love you," wrote St. Anselm, "my tongue wants to praise you ardently."

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today turns to an outstanding churchman of the eleventh century, Saint Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm received a monastic education in his native town of Aosta, in the north of Italy, and entered the Benedictine monastery of Bec in Normandy. Under the guidance of his prior, Lanfranc of Pavia, he devoted himself to study and prayer, and eventually was elected abbot of Bec. Some time later he succeeded Lanfranc as Archbishop of Canterbury. Anselm's years in England were marked by the reorganization of ecclesial life in the wake of the Norman invasion and the struggle for the Church's legitimate freedom from political inroads, which resulted in his being exiled for three years. This great spiritual leader was also a brilliant teacher, writer and speculative theologian. In the prayer which opens his most celebrated work, the Proslogion, he expresses his desire to understand the faith, the divine truth which his heart already believes and loves. May Saint Anselm's life and teaching inspire us to a more fruitful contemplation of the mysteries of the Christian faith, and a deeper love of the Lord and his Church.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including the members of the Australian Girls Choir and the school groups from Norway and Scotland. I ask you to join me in praying that my imminent visit to the Czech Republic will bear many spiritual fruits, and upon all of you and your families, I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

©© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to New Bishops
"Prayer Is the Soul of Pastoral Activity"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 22, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday upon receiving in audience bishops who were ordained in the last year.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the episcopate!

My heartfelt thanks for your visit, on the occasion of the congress promoted for the bishops who have recently taken up their pastoral ministry. These days of reflection, prayer and updating are really propitious to help you, dear brothers, to familiarize yourselves better with the tasks that you are called to assume as pastors of diocesan communities; they are also days of friendly coexistence that constitute a singular experience of that "collegialitas affective" that unites all bishops in one apostolic body, together with the Successor of Peter, "perpetual and visible foundation of unity" (Lumen Gentium, 23).

I thank Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, for the courteous words he addressed to me in your name; I greet Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, and express my acknowledgment to all those who in different ways collaborate in the organization of this annual meeting.

This year, your congress is inserted in the context of the Year for Priests, proclaimed on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney. As I wrote in the letter sent for the occasion to all priests, this special year is "meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world."

The imitation of Jesus the Good Shepherd is, for every priest, the obligatory path for their own sanctification and the essential condition for exercising the pastoral ministry responsibly. If this is true for priests, it is even more so for us, dear brother bishops. What is more, it is important not to forget that one of the essential tasks of the bishop is precisely to help priests, by example and with fraternal support, to follow their vocation faithfully, and to work with enthusiasm and love in the Lord's vineyard.

In this connection, in the post-synodal exhortation "Pastores Gregis," my venerated predecessor John Paul II observed that the priest's gesture, when he puts his own hands in the hands of the bishop on the day of his priestly ordination, commits both of them: the priest and the bishop. The new priest chooses to entrust himself to the bishop and, for his part, the bishop commits himself to guard these hands (No. 47). Well seen, this is a solemn task that is configured for the bishop as paternal responsibility in the custody and promotion of the priestly identity of the presbyters entrusted to his pastoral care, an identity that unfortunately we see today subjected to a harsh test by growing secularization. Therefore the bishop -- continues "Pastores Gregis" -- "will always strive to relate to his priests as a father and brother who loves them, listens to them, welcomes them, corrects them, supports them, seeks their cooperation and, as much as possible, is concerned for their human, spiritual, ministerial and financial well-being" (ibid., No. 47).

In a special way, the bishop is called to nourish the spiritual life in priests, to foster in them harmony between prayer and the apostolate, looking at the example of Jesus and of the Apostles, whom he called first of all "to be with him" (Mark 3:14). An indispensable condition to produce good fruits is, in fact, that the priest remain united to the Lord; herein lies the secret of the fecundity of his ministry: Only if he is incorporated with Christ, true Vine, will he bear fruit.

A presbyter's mission and, with greater reason, that of a bishop, entails today a lot of work that tends to absorb him continually and totally. The difficulties increase and the incumbencies multiply, also because we are faced with new realities and growing pastoral demands. Nevertheless, attention to the problems of every day and the initiatives directed to leading men on the way of God, must never distract us from our profound and personal union with Christ. To be available to people should not diminish or obfuscate our availability to the Lord. The time that the priest and bishop dedicate to God in prayer is always the best employed, because prayer is the soul of pastoral activity, the "lymph" that gives it strength, it is a support in moments of uncertainty and the inexhaustible source of missionary fervor and fraternal love toward all.

The Eucharist is at the center of priestly life. In the apostolic exhortation "Sacramentum Caritatis" I stressed how "Mass is formative in the deepest sense of the word, since it fosters the priest's configuration to Christ and strengthens him in his vocation" (No. 80). Therefore, may the Eucharistic celebration illumine your day and that of your priests, imprinting its grace and spiritual influence in sad and joyful, agitated and peaceful moments of action and contemplation. A privileged way of prolonging in the day the mysterious sanctifying action of the Eucharist is to recite devoutly the Liturgy of the Hours, and also Eucharistic adoration, lectio divina and the contemplative prayer of the rosary. The holy Cure d'Ars teaches us how precious are the priest's empathy with the Eucharistic sacrifice and the education of the faithful in the Eucharistic presence and in communion. With the Word and the Sacraments -- I recalled in the Letter to Priests -- St. John Mary Vianney edified his people. At the time of appointing him parish priest of Ars, the vicar-general of the Diocese of Belley said: "There is not much love of God in that parish, but you will put it there!" And that parish was transformed.

Dear new bishops, thank you for the service you render the Church with dedication and love. I greet you with affection and assure you of my constant support joined to prayer so that "you will go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide" (John 15:16). For this I invoke the intercession of Mary Regina Apostolorum, and I impart from my heart to you, your priests and your diocesan communities a special apostolic blessing.


On True Wisdom
"To 'Do' Works of Peace We Need to 'Be' Men of Peace"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 20, 2009 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, for the customary Sunday reflection, I will take as my point of departure the passage from the Letter of James that is proposed to us by today’s liturgy (3:16-4:3), and I will pause, in particular, on an expression that is striking for its beauty and contemporary relevance. It has to do with the description of true wisdom that the Apostle contrasts with false wisdom. While the latter is "worldly, material and diabolical, and is recognized by the fact that it provokes jealousies, arguments, disorder and every kind of evil deed" (cf. 3:16), on the contrary "[true] wisdom, which comes from above is first of all pure, then peaceful, meek, docile, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere" (3:17). A list of seven qualities, according to the biblical custom, from which perfection of authentic wisdom comes along with the positive effects that it produces. As first and principal quality, almost the premise for the others, St. James sets down "purity," that is, sanctity, the transparent reflection -- so to say -- of God in the human soul. And, like God, from whom it comes, wisdom does not need to impose itself by force, because it has the invincible vigor of truth and love, that affirms itself. That is why it is peaceful, meek and docile; it does not need to be partial, nor does it need to lie; it is indulgent and generous, it is recognized by the good fruits that it bears in abundance.

Why not stop every once in a while to contemplate the beauty of this wisdom? Why not draw from this unpolluted source of God’s love the wisdom of the heart, which cleanses us from the filth of lies and egoism? This holds true for everyone, but, in the first place, for those who are called to be promoters and "weavers" of peace in religious and civil communities, in social and political relations and in international relations. In our day -- perhaps also because of certain dynamics proper to mass society -- one often sees a lack of respect for truth and the word together with a widespread tendency to aggressiveness, hatred and vendettas. "The fruit of justice is sown in peace by those who make peace," St. James writes (3:18). But to "do" works of peace we need to "be" men of peace, entering the school of "the wisdom that comes from above," to assimilate its qualities and produce its effects. If everyone, in his own circle, succeeds in rejecting the lie and violence in intentions, in words and in actions, carefully cultivating sentiments of respect, understanding and esteem for others, perhaps it would not resolve every daily problem, but we could face them more serenely and effectively.

Dear friends, once more Sacred Scripture leads us to reflect on moral aspects of human existence, but starting from a reality that precedes the same morality, that is, from true wisdom. Let us ask God with confidence for wisdom of heart, through the intercession of her who welcomed Wisdom Incarnate, Jesus Christ, into her womb and gave him birth. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said in Italian:]

From the numerous conflicts going on in the world, almost daily tragic news reaches us of both military and civilian victims. These facts that we must never get used to and that arouse a profound outcry and perplex societies that have the good of peace and civil coexistence at heart.

In these days, news of the deadly attack in Afghanistan on Italian soldiers gave me great sorrow. In prayer I share in the sufferings of relatives and the civil and military communities and, at the same time, with the same sentiments of participation, I think about the other international contingents, which have also recently had victims and that work to promote peace and the development of the institutions so necessary for human coexistence; I assure all of a remembrance before the Lord, with a special thought for the dear civilian populations, and I invite all to lift up our prayer to God. I would also like here to renew my encouragement for the promotion of solidarity among the nations to fight the logic of violence and death, favor justice, reconciliation, peace and sustain the development of peoples beginning with love and mutual understanding, as I recently wrote in my encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" (np. 72).

From next Saturday, September 26, to Monday, September 28, if it pleases God, I will undertake an apostolic visit to the Czech Republic. I will stay in Prague, the capital, but I will also travel to Brno, in Moravia, and to Stará Boleslav, the place where the nation’s principal patron, of St. Wenceslas’, was martyred. The Czech Republic is geographically and historically located in the heart of Europe, and after having passed through the dramas of the last century, she needs, like the rest of the European continent, the reasons for faith and hope. Following in the footsteps of my beloved predecessor John Paul II, who visited that country 3 times, I too will pay homage to the ancient and recent heroic witnesses to the Gospel, and I will encourage everyone to move forward in charity and in truth. I thank all those who will accompany me with prayer on this trip. May the Lord bless it and make it fruitful.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims here at Castel Gandolfo and in Rome! Dear friends, this Saturday I begin my Apostolic Visit to the Czech Republic. I ask all of you to join me in praying for the spiritual success of this journey. Today’s Gospel reminds us that the one who wishes to be greatest must become a servant of all. May God grant us to be humble servants of others and witnesses to his goodness. Upon all of you and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Eastern Patriarchs and Major Archbishops
"The Whole Church Is in Need of the Experience of Coexistence"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 20, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address that Benedict XVI gave Saturday upon receiving in audience the Eastern Patriarchs and Major Archbishops.

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Venerable Patriarchs and Major Archbishops!

I cordially greet you and thank you for having accepted the invitation to participate in this meeting: to each I give my fraternal embrace of peace. I greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my secretary of state, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Churches, together with the secretary and other officials of the dicastery.

We thank God for this informal gathering that will allow us to listen to the voices of the Churches that you serve with admirable self-sacrifice, and to reinforce the bonds of communion that link them with the Apostolic See.

Today's meeting brings to my mind the one on April 24, 2005 at the tomb of St. Peter. Then, at the beginning of my pontificate I wanted to undertake an ideal pilgrimage in the heart of the Christian East: a pilgrimage that today knows another significant stage and which it is my intention to pursue. In different circumstances you solicited a more frequent contact with the Bishop of Rome to make the communion of your Churches with the Successor of Peter more and more firm and to examine together, on occasion, possible issues of special importance. This proposal was again renewed during the last plenary session of the dicastery for Oriental Churches and the general assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

For my part, I feel that I have an important duty in promoting that synodality so dear to Eastern ecclesiology and noted with appreciation by the Second Vatican Council. I fully share the esteem that the conciliar assembly reserved for your Churches in the decree "Orientalium Ecclesiarum," and that my venerable predecessor John Paul II reemphasized above all in this apostolic exhortation "Orientale Lumen" and wish to see the Eastern Catholic Churches "flourish" to accomplish "with new apostolic vigor … the task entrusted to them … of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians, in accordance with the principles of the decree, on ecumenism" ("Orientalium Ecclesiarum," Nos. 1, 24). The ecumenical horizon is often connected with the interreligious one. In these two spheres the whole Church is in need of the experience of coexistence that has ripened in your Churches from the first Christian millennium.

Venerable brothers, in this fraternal meeting, those issues that trouble you that could receive adequate orientations from those with the proper competence are certainly brought to light in your interventions. I would like to assure you that you are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. In particular I do not forget the call for peace that you placed in my hands at the end of the assembly of the Synod of Bishops last October. And, in speaking of peace, our thought turns, in the first place, to the regions of the Middle East. For this reason I will take this occasion to announce the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East convoked by me and which will be held October 10-24, 2010, on the theme "The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion and Witness: ‘The Multitude of Those Who Became Believers Were of One Heart and One Soul’ (Acts 4:32)."

While I wish that today’s gathering will bear the hoped for fruits, invoking the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, from my heart I bless you and all the Eastern Catholic Churches.


On Symeon the New Theologian
"The Source of Love in Him Was the Presence of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 16, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.
* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we pause to reflect on the figure of the Eastern monk Symeon the New Theologian, whose writings exercised a noteworthy influence on the theology and spirituality of the East, in particular, regarding the experience of mystical union with God.

Symeon the New Theologian was born in 949 in Galatia, in Paphlagonia (Asia Minor), of a noble provincial family. While still young, he went to Constantinople to undertake studies and enter the emperor's service. However, he felt little attracted to the civil career before him and, under the influence of the interior illuminations he was experiencing, he looked for a person who would direct him through his moment of doubts and perplexities, and who would help him progress on the way to union with God.

He found this spiritual guide in Symeon the Pious (Eulabes), a simple monk of the Studion monastery in Constantinople, who gave him to read the treatise "The Spiritual Law of Mark the Monk." In this text, Symeon the New Theologian found a teaching that impressed him very much: "If you seek spiritual healing," he read there, "be attentive to your conscience. Do all that it tells you and you will find what is useful to you." From that moment -- he himself says -- he never again lay down without asking if his conscience had something for which to reproach him.

Symeon entered the Studion monastery, where, however, his mystical experiences and his extraordinary devotion toward the spiritual father caused him difficulty. He transferred to the small convent of St. Mammas, also in Constantinople, where, after three years, he became director -- the higumeno. There he pursued an intense search of spiritual union with Christ, which conferred on him great authority.

It is interesting to note that he was given there the name of "New Theologian," notwithstanding the fact that tradition reserved the title of "Theologian" to two personalities: John the Evangelist and Gregory of Nazianzen. He suffered misunderstandings and exile, but was restored by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Sergius II.

Symeon the New Theologian spent the last phase of his life in the monastery of St. Macrina, where he wrote the greater part of his works, becoming ever more famous for his teachings and miracles. He died on March 12, 1022.

His best known disciple, Nicetas Stathos, who compiled and re-copied Symeon's writings, prepared a posthumous edition, followed by a biography. Symeon's work includes nine volumes, which are divided in theological, gnostic and practical chapters, three volumes of catechesis addressed to monks, two volumes of theological and ethical treatises, and a volume of hymns. Nor should we forget his numerous letters. All these works have found an important place in the Eastern monastic tradition down to our day.

Symeon focuses his reflection on the presence of the Holy Spirit in those who are baptized and on the awareness they must have of this spiritual reality. Christian life -- he stresses -- is intimate and personal communion with God; divine grace illumines the believer's heart and leads him to the mystical vision of the Lord. In this line, Symeon the New Theologian insists on the fact that true knowledge of God stems from a journey of interior purification, which begins with conversion of heart, thanks to the strength of faith and love; passes through profound repentance and sincere sorrow for one's sins; and arrives at union with Christ, source of joy and peace, invaded by the light of his presence in us. For Symeon, such an experience of divine grace is not an exceptional gift for some mystics, but the fruit of baptism in the life of every seriously committed faithful -- a point on which to reflect, dear brothers and sisters!

This holy Eastern monk calls us all to attention to the spiritual life, to the hidden presence of God in us, to honesty of conscience and purification, to conversion of heart, so that the Holy Spirit will be present in us and guide us. If in fact we are justly preoccupied about taking care of our physical growth, it is even more important not to neglect our interior growth, which consists in knowledge of God, in true knowledge, not only taken from books, but interior, and in communion with God, to experience his help at all times and in every circumstance.

Basically, this is what Symeon describes when he recounts his own mystical experience. Already as a youth, before entering the monastery, while prolonging his prayer at home one night, invoking God's help to struggle against temptations, he saw the room filled with light. When he later entered the monastery, he was given spiritual books to instruct himself, but the readings did not give him the peace he was looking for. He felt -- he recounts -- like a poor little bird without wings. He accepted this situation with humility, did not rebel, and then the visions of light began to multiply again. Wishing to be certain of their authenticity, Symeon asked Christ directly: "Lord, are you yourself really here?" He felt resonate in his heart an affirmative answer and was greatly consoled. "That was, Lord," he wrote later, "the first time you judged me, prodigal son, worthy to hear your voice." However, this revelation did not leave him totally at peace either. He even wondered if that experience should not be considered an illusion.

Finally, one day an essential event occurred for his mystical experience. He began to feel like "a poor man who loves his brothers" (ptochos philadelphos). He saw around him many enemies that wanted to set snares for him and harm him but despite this he felt in himself an intense movement of love for them. How to explain this? Obviously, such love could not come from himself, but must spring from another source. Symeon understood that it came from Christ present in him and all was clarified for him: He had the sure proof that the source of love in him was the presence of Christ and that to have in oneself a love that goes beyond one's personal intentions indicates that the source of love is within. Thus, on one hand, we can say that, without a certain openness to love, Christ does not enter in us, but, on the other, Christ becomes the source of love and transforms us.

Dear friends, this experience is very important for us, today, to find the criteria that will indicate to us if we are really close to God, if God exists and lives in us. God's love grows in us if we are really united to him in prayer and in listening to his word, with openness of heart. Only divine love makes us open our hearts to others and makes us sensitive to their needs, making us regard everyone as brothers and sisters and inviting us to respond with love to hatred, and with forgiveness to offense.

Reflecting on the figure of Symeon the New Theologian, we can still find a further element of his spirituality. In the path of ascetic life proposed and followed by him, the intense attention and concentration of the monk on the interior experience confers on the spiritual father of the monastery an essential importance. The young Symeon himself, as has been said, had found a spiritual director who greatly helped him and for whom he had very great esteem, so much so that, after his death, he also accorded him public veneration.

And I would like to say that this invitation continues to be valid for all -- priests, consecrated persons and laypeople -- and especially for young people -- to take recourse to the counsels of a good spiritual father, capable of accompanying each one in profound knowledge of oneself, and leading one to union with the Lord, so that one's life is increasingly conformed to the Gospel. We always need a guide, dialogue, to go to the Lord. We cannot do it with our reflections alone. And this is also the meaning of the ecclesiality of our faith, of finding this guide.

Thus, to conclude, we can summarize the teaching and mystical experience of Symeon the New Theologian: In his incessant search for God, even in the difficulties he met and the criticism made of him, he, in a word, allowed himself to be guided by love. He was able to live personally and to teach his monks that what is essential for every disciple of Jesus is to grow in love and so we grow in knowledge of Christ himself, to be able to say with St. Paul: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).

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

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today’s catechesis focuses on the life of Symeon, an Eastern monk known as the "New Theologian". He was born in nine hundred and forty nine in Asia Minor. As a young man, he moved to Constantinople to embark on a career in the civil service but, during his studies, he was shown a work called The Spiritual Law by Mark the Monk which completely changed his life. It contained the phrase: "If you seek spiritual healing, be aware of your conscience. Do everything it tells you and you will find what is useful to you". From that day on, he made it his way of life always to listen to his conscience. He became a monk and his life and writings, collected afterwards by a disciple, reflect Symeon’s deep understanding of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the life of all the baptized. Symeon teaches us that Christian life is an intimate and personal communion with God. True knowledge of God comes, not from books, but from an interior purification through conversion of the heart. For Symeon, union with Christ is not something extraordinary, but the fruit of the baptism common to all Christians. Inspired by Symeon’’s life, let us pay greater attention to our spiritual life, seeking the guidance we need to grow in the love of God.

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims here this morning, including the priests and brothers of the Society of Mary gathered in Rome for their chapter, and the various schools and university groups present. Upon you all, I willingly invoke God’s abundant graces.

©© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Benedict XVI to Former Students
"The Law, as Word of Love, Is Not a Contradiction to Freedom"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 14, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily during the Mass he celebrated Aug. 30 for a group of his former students. The text was published today by the Vatican press office.
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Dear brothers and sisters:

In the Gospel, we come across one of the essential topics of humanity's religious history: the issue of man's purity before God. Turning his gaze to God, man realizes he is "contaminated" and in a condition that impedes his access to the Holy One. The question thus arises as to how man can be pure, and free himself from the "filth" that separates him from God. Therefore, in various religions, purifying rites have arisen -- interior and exterior ways of purification. We find in today's Gospel rites of purification that are rooted in the tradition of the Old Testament, but which are administered in a very unilateral way. Consequently, they no longer serve as an opening of man to God, they are no longer ways of purification and salvation, but have become elements of an autonomous system of performances that, to be truly fulfilled in plenitude, also calls for specialists. Man's heart is no longer reached. Man, who moves within this system, either feels enslaved or falls into the arrogance of being able to justify himself.

Liberal exegesis states that in this Gospel is revealed the fact that Jesus substituted worship with morality -- that he put worship aside with all its useless practices. The relationship between man and God would now be based solely on morality. If that were true, it would mean that Christianity, in its essence, is morality, that is, that we ourselves make ourselves pure and good through our moral actions. If we reflect deeply on this opinion, it is obvious that this cannot be Jesus' complete answer to the question of purity. If we wish to hear and understand fully the Lord's message, then we must also listen fully, we cannot be content with a detail, but must pay attention to his whole message. In other words, we must read the Gospel entirely, all the New Testament and the Old together with it.

Today's first reading, taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, gives us an important aspect of an answer and makes us take a step forward. Here we hear something that is perhaps surprising to us, that is, that Israel itself is invited by God to be grateful to him and to feel a humble pride in the fact of knowing the will of God and of thus being wise. In fact, in that period of humanity, both the Greek as well as the Semitic world sought wisdom: They sought to understand what matters. Science tells us many things and is useful to us in many aspects, but wisdom is knowledge of the essential -- knowledge of the reason of our existence and of how we must live so that life is lived in the right way. The reading taken from Deuteronomy points out the fact that wisdom, in the end, is identical to the Torah -- to the Word of God that reveals to us what is essential, for whose end and in whose way we must live. Hence the Law does not appear as slavery, but is -- similar to what Psalm 119 says -- cause of great joy: We do not grope in darkness, we do not wander in vain in search of what might be right, we are not like sheep without a shepherd that do not know the right way. God has manifested himself. He, himself, shows us the way. We know his will and with it the truth that matters in our life. God says two things to us: On one hand, that he has manifested himself and shows us the right way; on the other, that God is a God who listens, who is close to us, who answers us and guides us. With this we also touch the subject of purity: His will purifies us, his closeness guides us.

I think it is worthwhile to reflect a moment on Israel's joy over the fact of knowing the will of God and of having thus received the gift of wisdom that heals us and that we cannot find on our own. Is there among us, in the Church today, a similar feeling of joy over God's closeness and the gift of his Word? Anyone who might wish to show such a feeling would be immediately accused of triumphalism. However, it is not, in fact, our ability which indicates to us the real will of God. It is an unmerited gift that makes us at the same time humble and happy. If we reflect on the perplexity of the world in face of the great issues of the present and future, then there should also arise in us again the joy over the fact that God has freely shown us his face, his will, himself. If this joy arises in us, it will also touch the heart of non-believers. Without this joy, we are not convincing. However, where this joy is present it has, though not wishing it, a missionary force. In fact, it arouses in men this question: Is the way not, in fact, here -- does this joy not in fact lead effectively to the traces of God himself?

All this is treated further in the passage taken from the Letter of James, which the Church proposes to us today. I love the Letter of James above all because, thanks to it, we can have an idea of the devotion of Jesus' family. It was a religious family. Religious in the sense that it lived the Deuteronomical joy because of God's closeness, which is given to us in his Word and his commandment. It is a kind of observance that is completely different from the one we find in the Pharisees of the Gospel, who had made of it an exteriorized and enslaving system. It is also a kind of observance different from that of Paul, as rabbi, who had learned: That was -- as we see in his letters -- the observance by a specialist who knew everything; who was proud of his knowledge and justice and who, however, suffered under the weight of the prescriptions, so that the Law no longer seemed to be the joyful guide to God, but rather an exigency that, in the last analysis, could not be fulfilled.

In the Letter of James we find this observance that does not look at itself, but that turns joyfully to the close God, who gives us his closeness and shows us the right way. Hence the Letter of James speaks of the perfect Law of freedom and means by that a new and deeper understanding of the Law that the Lord has given us. For James the Law is not an exigency that asks too much of us, that is before us from outside and that can never be satisfied. He refers to the point of view we find in a phrase in Jesus' farewell addresses: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

He to whom everything has been revealed belongs to the family; he is no longer a servant, but free because, in fact, he himself forms part of the house. A similar initial introduction in the thought of God himself happened to Israel on Mount Sinai. It happened in a great and definitive way in the Cenacle and, in general, through the work, life, passion and resurrection of Jesus; in him, God has given us everything, he has manifested himself completely. We are no longer servants, but friends. The Law is no longer a prescription for persons who are not free, but is contact with the love of God -- being introduced to form part of the family, act that makes us free and "perfect." It is in this sense that James tells us, in today's reading, that the Lord has engendered us through his Word, that he has planted his Word in our interior as force of life. Here there is also talk of "pure religion" which consists in love of neighbor -- particularly of orphans and widows, of those who are in greatest need of us -- and in freedom from the fashions of this world, which contaminate us.
The Law, as word of love, is not a contradiction to freedom, but a renewal from within through friendship with God. Something similar is manifested when Jesus, in his address about the vine, says to his disciples: "You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you" (John 15:3). And the same appears again later in the priestly prayer: You are sanctified in the truth (cf. John 17:17-19). Thus we now find the right structure of the process of purification and of purity: We are not the ones who create what is good -- this would be a simple moralism -- instead, it is Truth that comes to meet us. He himself is the Truth, the Truth in person. Purity is a dialogic event. It begins with the fact that he comes to meet us -- he, who is Truth and Love -- takes us by the hand, and is fused with our being. In the measure in which we allow ourselves to be touched by him, in which the encounter becomes friendship and love, we are, stemming from his purity, pure persons and then persons who love with his love, persons who introduce others in his purity and his love.
Augustine summarized all this process in this beautiful expression: "Da quod iubes et iube quod vis" -- grant what you command and then command what you will.

We now wish to take this petition to the Lord and to pray: Yes, purify us in the truth. You be the Truth that purifies us. Through our friendship with you, may we come to be free and thus truly children of God, make us capable of sitting at your table and of spreading in this world the light of your purity and goodness. Amen.


On the Expression of Faith Through Works
"The Word of God Puts Two Crucial Questions to Us"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 13, 2009 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Sunday, the 24th in Ordinary Time, the Word of God puts two crucial questions to us that I would summarize as: "Who is Jesus of Nazareth for you?" and "Does your faith translate into works or not?" The first question we find in today's Gospel, there where Jesus asks his disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:29). Peter's answer is clear and immediate: "You are the Christ," that is, the Messiah, the consecrated one of God, sent to save his people.

Peter and the other disciples, then, unlike the majority of the people, believe that Jesus is not only a great teacher, or a prophet, but much more. They have faith: they believe that God is present in him and works in him. Immediately after this profession of faith, however, when Jesus for the first time openly announces that he must suffer and be killed, the same Peter opposes himself to the perspective of suffering and death. So Jesus must strongly reproach him, to make him understand that it is not enough to believe that he is God, but that, moved by charity, he must follow him along the same road, that of the cross (cf. Mark 8:31-33). Jesus did not come to teach us a philosophy, but to show us a way, indeed, "the" way that leads to life.

This way is love, which is the expression of true faith. If a person loves his neighbor with a pure and generous heart, it means that he truly knows God. If instead a person says that he has faith, but does not love his brothers, he is not a true believer. God does not live in him. St. James clearly affirms this in the second reading of this Sunday's Mass: "If [faith] is not followed by works, it is dead" (James 2:17). In this regard I would like to quote from the writings of St. John Chrysostom, one of the great Fathers of the Church, which the liturgical calendar invites us to remember today. Commenting on the exact passage from St. James' Letter, he writes: "One may have a right faith in the Father and the Son, and in the Holy Spirit as well, but if he does not live in the right way, his faith will be useless for salvation. So, when you read in the Gospel: 'This is eternal life: that they know you, the one true God' (John 17:3), do not think that this verse is enough to save us: a most pure life and a most pure conduct" (Cited in J.A. Cramer, "Catenae graecorum Patrum in N.T., vol. VIII: In Epist. Cath. et Apoc.," Oxford 1844).

Dear Friends, tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and the following day Our Lady of Sorrows. The Virgin Mary, who believed in the Lord's Word, did not lose her faith in God when she saw her Son rejected, offended and put on a cross. Rather she stayed with Jesus, suffering and praying, to the end. And she saw the radiant sunrise of his resurrection. Let us learn from her to bear witness to our faith with a life of humble service, ready to suffer personally to remain faithful to the Gospel of charity and truth, certain that nothing of what we do will be lost.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I extend heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking visitors here today. In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus puts a question to his disciples: Who do you say I am? On behalf of the others, it is Peter who answers: You are the Christ. Throughout history, it has been the task of Peter's successors to continue to make that proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ. And all of us are called to join Peter as we resolve to place the Lord at the centre of our lives. I pray that all of you may grow in your faith and love for the Lord and I invoke his blessings upon you and upon your loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Episcopal Ordination
"The Church Is Not Our Church, but God's Church."

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 13, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Saturday at an episcopal ordination celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We affectionately greet and cordially join in the joy of these five brother presbyters of ours that the Lord has called to be successors of the Apostles: Monsignor Giordano Caccia, Monsignor Franco Coppola, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, Monsignor Raffaello Martinelli and Monsignor Giorgio Corbellini. I am grateful to each of them for the faithful service that they have rendered the Church, working in the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Governorate of Vatican City State, and I am certain that, with the same love for Christ and the same zeal for souls, they will carry out the ministry that is being entrusted to them today with episcopal ordination in new fields of pastoral action. According to the Apostolic Tradition, this sacrament is conferred through the imposition of hands and prayer. The imposition of hands happens in silence. The human word is inarticulate. The soul opens in silence to God, whose hand stretches out to man, who takes man for himself and, at the same time, covers him with his hand to protect him, so that consequently man becomes God's total property, belonging entirely to God and bringing others into God's hand. But, as the second fundamental element of the act of consecration, the prayer follows. Episcopal ordination is an event of prayer. No man can make another man a priest or bishop. It is the Lord himself who, through the word of prayer and the gesture of the imposition of hands, brings that man totally into his service, draws him into his own priesthood. He himself consecrates the elect. He himself, the only High Priest, who offered the one sacrifice for all of us, grants him participation in his priesthood, so that his word and his work are simultaneously present at all times.

The Church has developed an eloquent sign of this connection between Christ's prayer and action on man in its liturgy. During the prayer of ordination, the opened Book of the Gospels, the Book of God's Word, is placed upon the candidate. The Gospel must penetrate him, the living Word of God must, so to speak, pervade him. The Gospel, after all, is not just words -- Christ himself is the Gospel. Along with the Word, Christ's life itself must pervade that man, in such a way that he becomes wholly one with him, that Christ lives in him and gives his life form and content.

That which in today's readings appeared as the essence of Christ's sacerdotal ministry must be realized in him. The one who is consecrated must be filled with the Spirit of God and live from him. He must bring the glad tidings to the poor, the true freedom and hope that makes man alive and heals him. He must establish Christ's priesthood among men, the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, that is, the kingdom of justice and peace. Like the 72 disciples sent out by the Lord, he must be one who brings healing, who helps to bind up man's interior wounds, his distance from God. God's kingdom, about which today's Gospel passage speaks, is not something "next" to God, some condition of the world: It is simply the presence of God himself, who is in truth the healing power.

Jesus summed up all of these multiple aspects of his priesthood in the one phrase: "The Son of man has not come to be served but to serve and to his life for the ransom of many" (Mark 10:45). Serving, and in doing so, give yourselves; not being for yourselves, but for others, on God's behalf and in view of God: This is the most profound nucleus of Jesus Christ's mission and, together, the true essence of his priesthood. Thus, he has made the term "servant" his highest title of honor. With that he achieved a reversal of values, he has given us a new image of God and of man. Jesus does not come as one of the masters of this world, but he, who is the true Master, comes to serve. His priesthood is not domination, but service: this is the new priesthood of Jesus Christ according to the order of Melchizedek.

St. Paul formulated the essence of this apostolic and sacerdotal ministry in a very clear way. Faced with disputes in the Church at Corinth which invoked different Apostles, he asks: But what is an Apostle? What is Apollo? What is Paul? They are servants; each in the way that the Lord has given him to be (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:5). "Let a man so account us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now, that which is required of stewards is that each be faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). In Jerusalem during the last week of his life, Jesus himself spoke in two parables about those servants to whom the master has entrusted his temporal goods, and revealed three characteristics of serving in the right way, in which the image of the priestly ministry is also concretized. Finally, let us take a brief look at these characteristics, to contemplate, with the eyes of Jesus himself, the task that you, dear friends, are now being called to take on.

The first characteristic that the Lord requires of the servant is fidelity. He is entrusted with a great good that does not belong to him. The Church is not "our" Church, but his Church, God's Church. The servant must give an account of the way that he has taken care of the goods that have been entrusted to him. We do not bind men to us; we do not seek power, prestige, esteem for ourselves.

We lead men to Jesus Christ and so to the living God. In doing this we introduce them to truth, and freedom, which comes from truth. Fidelity is altruism, and precisely in this way it is liberating for the ministry itself and for those to whom it is given. We know that things in civil society, and often in the Church too, go badly because those upon whom responsibility has been conferred work for themselves and not the community, for the common good. With a few lines the Lord traces an image of the wicked servant, who begins to stuff himself and get drunk and beat his fellow servants, betraying the essence of his duty in this way. In Greek the word that indicates "fidelity" coincides with that which indicates "faith." The fidelity of the servant of Jesus Christ also consists precisely in the fact that he does not seek to adjust the faith to the fashions of the time. Christ alone has words of eternal life, and we must bring these words to people. They are the precious good that we have been given. Such a fidelity has nothing sterile and static about it; it is creative. The master reproaches the servant, who hid the good given to him in the earth to avoid taking any risk. In this apparent fidelity he has put the master's good aside to dedicate himself exclusively to his own affairs. Fidelity is not fear, but it is inspired by love and its dynamism. The master praises the servant who made his goods fruitful. Faith must be shared: it has not been given to us for ourselves alone, for the personal salvation of our soul, but for others, for this world and for our time. We must bring it to this world so that it becomes a living force, to make the presence of God in the world grow.

The second characteristic that Jesus requires of the servant is prudence. Here we must immediately eliminate a misunderstanding. Prudence is something different from cleverness. Prudence, according to the Greek philosophical tradition, it is the first of the cardinal virtues; it indicates the primacy of truth, that becomes the criterion of our conduct through "prudence." Prudence demands humble, disciplined and vigilant reason, [which can be] blinded by prejudices; it does not judge according to desires and passions, but it seeks the truth -- even uncomfortable truth. Prudence means engaging in the pursuit of truth and acting in a way that conforms to it. The prudent servant is above all a man of truth and of sincere reason.

God, through Jesus Christ, has thrown open the window to truth for us that, had it been left to our own powers, would have remained shut tightly and only partly transparent. He shows us in Sacred Scripture and in the faith of the Church the essential truth about man, which gives our action the right direction. Thus, the first cardinal virtue of the priest who is the minister of Jesus Christ consists in letting himself be formed by the truth that Christ shows us. In this way we become truly reasonable men, who judge on the basis of the whole and not according to accidental details. We do not let ourselves be guided by the little window of our personal cleverness, but by the big window, that Christ has opened up to the whole truth for us, we look upon the world and men and [from this truth] see what truly counts in life.

The third characteristic that Jesus speaks about in the parable of the servant is goodness: "Good and faithful servant ...enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21, 23). What is meant by the characteristic of "goodness" can be made clear to us, if we think about Jesus' encounter with the rich young man. This man turned to Jesus, calling him "Good Master," and received the surprising response: "Why call me good? No one is good but God" (Mark 10:17-18). Only God is good in the full sense. He is the Good, the Good par excellence, Goodness in person. In a creature -- in man -- being good is therefore necessarily based on a deep interior orientation to God. Goodness grows with interior unification with the living God. Goodness presupposes above all a living communion with God, the Good, a growing interior union with him. And in fact: from who else can one learn about true goodness if not from him who loved us to the end, to the extreme (cf. 13:1)? We become good servants through our living relationship with Jesus Christ. Only if our life unfolds in dialogue with him, only if his being, his characteristics penetrate us and form us, can we become truly good.

In the Church's calendar today we remember the Name of Mary. In her who was and is totally united to the Son, to Christ, men in the darkness and sufferings of this world found the faith of the Mother who gives us courage to go forward. In the western tradition the name "Mary" has been translated as "Star of the Sea." In this title is expressed this experience: how many times has the history in which we live appeared like a dark sea whose waves threateningly buffet the little ship of our life? Sometimes the night seems impenetrable. Often one can have the impression that only evil has power and God is infinitely far away. Often we can only glimpse from a great distance the great Light, Jesus Christ, who conquered death and evil. But now we see the light shining nearer to us when Mary says: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord." We see the light of goodness that emanates from her. In the goodness with which she welcomed and ever again comes to meet the great and small aspirations of many men, we recognize the goodness of God himself in a very human way. He gave us his Mother as our Mother, so that we learn from her to say the "yes" that makes us good.

Dear friends, in this hour we pray to the Mother of the Lord for you, so that she will always guide you toward her Son, source of goodness. And we pray that you become faithful, prudent and good servants and so you can one day hear from the Lord of history: Good and faithful servant, share in the joy of your master. Amen.


On St. Peter Damian
"Jesus Must Truly Be at the Center of Our Life"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 9, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

During these Wednesday catecheses, I have been discussing some of the great figures of the life of the Church since its origin. Today I would like to reflect on one of the most significant personalities of the 11th century, St. Peter Damian, monk, lover of solitude and, at the same time, intrepid man of the Church, personally involved in the work of reform undertaken by the popes of the time.

He was born in Ravenna in 1007 of a noble but poor family. He was orphaned, and lived a childhood of hardships and sufferings. Even though his sister Roselinda was determined to be a mother to him and his older brother, he was adopted as a son by Damian. In fact, because of this, he would later be called Peter of Damiano, Peter Damian. His formation was imparted to him first at Faenza and then at Parma, where, already at the age of 25, we find him dedicated to teaching. In addition to keen competence in the field of law, he acquired a refined expertise in the art of writing -- "ars scribendi" -- and, thanks to his knowledge of the great Latin classics, became "one of the best Latinists of his time, one of the greatest writers of the Latin Medieval Age" (J. Leclercq, Pierre Damien, Ermite et Homme d'Eglise, Rome, 1960, p. 172).

He distinguished himself in the most diverse literary genres: from letters to sermons, from hagiographies to prayers, from poems to epigrams. His sensitivity to beauty led him to a poetic contemplation of the world. Peter Damian conceived the universe as an inexhaustible "parable" and an extension of symbols, from which it is possible to interpret the interior life and the divine and supernatural reality. From this perspective, around the year 1034, the contemplation of God's absoluteness compelled him to distance himself progressively from the world and its ephemeral realities, to withdraw to the monastery of Fonte Avellana, founded a few decades earlier, but already famous for its austerity. He wrote the life of the founder, St. Romuald of Ravenna, for the edification of the monks and, at the same time, dedicated himself to furthering his spirituality, expressing his ideal of eremitical monasticism.

A particularity must now be stressed: the hermitage of Fonte Avellana was dedicated to the Holy Cross, and the cross would be the Christian mystery that most fascinated Peter Damian. "He does not love Christ who does not love the cross of Christ," he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117) and he calls himself: "Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus" -- Peter servant of the servants of the cross of Christ (Ep, 9, 1). Peter Damian addressed most beautiful prayers to the cross, in which he reveals a vision of this mystery that has cosmic dimensions, because it embraces the whole history of salvation: "O blessed cross," he exclaimed, "you are venerated in the faith of patriarchs, the predictions of prophets, the assembly of the apostles, the victorious army of the martyrs and the multitudes of all the saints" (Sermo XLVIII, 14, p. 304).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the example of Peter Damian lead us also to always look at the cross as the supreme act of love of God for man, which has given us salvation.

For the development of the eremitical life, this great monk wrote a Rule which strongly stresses the "rigor of the hermitage": In the silence of the cloister, the monk is called to live a life of daily and nocturnal prayer, with prolonged and austere fasts; he must exercise himself in generous fraternal charity and in an obedience to the prior that is always willing and available. In the study and daily meditation of sacred Scripture, Peter Damian discovered the mystical meaning of the Word of God, finding in it food for his spiritual life. In this connection, he called the cell of the hermitage the "salon where God converses with men." For him, the eremitical life was the summit of Christian life; it was "at the summit of the states of life," because the monk, free from the attachments of the world and from his own self, receives "the pledge of the Holy Spirit and his soul is happily united to the heavenly Spouse" (Ep 18, 17; cf. Ep 28, 43 ff.). This is also important for us today, even though we are not monks: To be able to be silent in ourselves to hear the voice of God, to seek, so to speak, a "salon" where God speaks to us: To learn the Word of God in prayer and meditation is the path for life.

St. Peter Damian, who basically was a man of prayer, meditation and contemplation, was also a fine theologian: His reflection on several doctrinal subjects led him to important conclusions for life. Thus, for example, he expresses with clarity and vivacity the Trinitarian doctrine. He already used, in keeping with biblical and patristic texts, the three fundamental terms that later became determinant also for the West's philosophy: processio, relatio e persona (cf. Opusc. XXXVIII: PL CXLV, 633-642; and Opusc. II and III: ibid., 41 ff. and 58 ff.). However, as theological analysis led him to contemplate the intimate life of God and the dialogue of ineffable love between the three divine Persons, he draws from it ascetic conclusions for life in community and for the proper relations between Latin and Greek Christians, divided on this topic. Also meditation on the figure of Christ has significant practical reflections, as the whole of Scripture is centered on him. The "Jewish people themselves," notes St. Peter Damian, "through the pages of sacred Scripture, have, one could say, carried Christ on their shoulders" (Sermo XL VI, 15). Therefore Christ, he adds, must be at the center of the monk's life: "Christ must be heard in our language, Christ must be seen in our life, he must be perceived in our heart" (Sermo VIII, 5). Profound union with Christ should involve not only monks but all the baptized. It also implies for us an intense call not to allow ourselves to be totally absorbed by the activities, problems and preoccupations of every day, forgetting that Jesus must truly be at the center of our life.

Communion with Christ creates unity among Christians. In Letter 28, which is a brilliant treatise of ecclesiology, Peter Damian develops a theology of the Church as communion. "The Church of Christ," he wrote, "is united by the bond of charity to the point that, as she is one in many members, she is also totally gathered mystically in just one of her members; so that the whole universal Church is rightly called the only Bride of Christ in singular, and every chosen soul, because of the sacramental mystery, is fully considered Church." This is important: not only that the whole universal Church is united, but that in each one of us the Church in her totality should be present. Thus the service of the individual becomes "expression of universality" (Ep 28, 9-23). Yet the ideal image of the "holy Church" illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond -- he knew it well -- to the reality of his time. That is why he was not afraid to denounce the corruption existing in monasteries and among the clergy, above all due to the practice of secular authorities conferring the investiture of ecclesiastical offices: Several bishops and abbots behaved as governors of their own subjects more than as pastors of souls. It is no accident that their moral life left much to be desired. Because of this, with great sorrow and sadness, in 1057 Peter Damian left the monastery and accepted, though with difficulty, the appointment of cardinal bishop of Ostia, thus entering fully in collaboration with the popes in the difficult undertaking of the reform of the Church. He saw that it was not enough to contemplate, and had to give up the beauty of contemplation to assist in the work of renewal of the Church. Thus he renounced the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Because of his love of monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he was given permission to return to Fonte Avellana, resigning from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the desired tranquility did not last long: Two years later he was sent to Frankfurt in an attempt to prevent Henry IV's divorce from his wife, Bertha; and again two years later, in 1071, he went to Montecassino for the consecration of the abbey's church, and, at the beginning of 1072 he went to Ravenna to establish peace with the local archbishop, who had supported the anti-pope, causing the interdict on the city. During his return journey to the hermitage, a sudden illness obliged him to stay in Faenza in the Benedictine monastery of "Santa Maria Vecchia fuori porta," where he died on the night of Feb. 22-23, 1072.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great grace that in the life of the Church the Lord raised such an exuberant, rich and complex personality as that of St. Peter Damian and it is not common to find such acute and lively works of theology as those of the hermit of Fonte Avellana. He was a monk to the end, with forms of austerity that today might seem to us almost excessive. In this way, however, he made of monastic life an eloquent testimony of the primacy of God and a call to all to walk toward holiness, free from any compromise with evil. He consumed himself, with lucid consistency and great severity, for the reform of the Church of his time. He gave all his spiritual and physical energies to Christ and the Church, always remaining, as he liked to call himself, "Petrus ultimus monachorum servus," Peter, last servant of the monks.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the Christian writers of East and West, we turn to Saint Peter Damian, who was born in Ravenna at the beginning of the eleventh century and became an accomplished writer and Latinist. His fine sensitivity made him excel in poetry and enabled him to see the world as a parable, full of symbolic references to the supernatural, leading him to embrace as a mature man a monastic vocation at Fonte Avellana, founded not long before. He was fascinated by the salvific mystery of the cross of Christ and promoted as the fullness of Christian living a form of monasticism noted for its austerity. Nourished by a mystical understanding of Scripture, Saint Peter Damian enjoyed precise theological insights especially into the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, our union with Christ, and the Church as a communion, from which he derived practical advice for living in charity with others. In 1057 he accepted the office of Cardinal Bishop of Ostia and assisted the Pope with courage and dedication in the reform of the Church of his time. After ten years he was granted his wish to return to his monastery and continued to serve the Church with prayer and action until his holy death in 1072. May the example and intercession of Saint Peter Damian, my dear Brothers and Sisters, inspire and renew us in our love of Christ and his Church.

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

©Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Brazilian Bishops

"God Does Not See as Man Does"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 8, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's Monday address to bishops of Western Brazil, in Italy for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear brothers in the episcopate:

I welcome and greet each and every one of you with sentiments of profound joy and friendship, beloved pastors of western Regions 1 and 2 of the national bishops' conference of Brazil.

Your group initiates a long pilgrimage of the members of this episcopal conference on their "ad limina apostolorum" visit, which will give me the occasion to know better the reality of the respective diocesan communities. These will be days of fraternal sharing to reflect together on the issues that concern you -- a moment I have profoundly awaited since those unforgettable days of May 2007, in which during my visit to your country I was able to experience all the affection of the Brazilian people for the Successor of Peter and, in a special way, when I had the possibility to embrace with a glance the whole episcopate of this great nation during the meeting in the Catedral da Se in São Paulo.

In fact, only God's great heart can know, keep and govern the multitude of sons and daughters that he himself engendered in Brazil's immense vastness. In the course of our conversations these days, some of the challenges and problems you are facing have come to light, as the archbishop of Campo Grande mentioned at the beginning of our meeting. We are impressed by the distances that you yourselves, as well as your priests and other missionary agents, have to cover to serve and pastorally encourage your faithful, many of them affected by the problems proper to a relatively recent urbanization, in which the state does not always succeed in being an instrument for the promotion of justice and the common good. Do not be discouraged! Remember that the proclamation of the Gospel and adherence to Christian values, as I stated recently in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" "is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development."

I thank you, Archbishop Vitório Pavanello, for the kind words and delicate sentiments you addressed to me on behalf of all, to which I wish to respond with good wishes of peace and prosperity for the Brazilian people in this significant day of their national celebration.

As Successor of Peter and universal Pastor, I can assure you that my heart feels day by day your apostolic concerns and efforts, not ceasing to recall before God the challenges you face in the growth of your diocesan communities. In our days, and concretely in Brazil, the laborers in the Lord's field continue to be few for a harvest that is large (cf. Matthew 9:36-37). Despite the shortage we perceive, the adequate formation of those who are called to serve the people of God is truly essential. For this reason, in the context of the current Year for Priests, allow me to pause today to reflect with you, beloved bishops of Western Brazil, on the most important task of your episcopal ministry, which is fostering [the vocation] of new pastors.

Although God is the only one able to awaken in the human heart a call to the pastoral service of his people, all members of the Church should question if they see and feel the profound urgency of this mission and have a real commitment to it.

One day, when some of the disciples were hesitating, noting that there were "still four months to go" before the harvest, Jesus replied: "I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for the harvest" (John 4:35).

God does not see as man does! The haste of the good God is dictated by his desire that "all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). There are many who seem to want to live the whole of life in a minute, others who wander in tedium and inertia, or abandon themselves to violence of all sorts. Deep down, these are no more than desperate lives that look for hope, as demonstrated by an extended, though at times confused, need of spirituality, a renewed search for points of reference to take up again the journey of life.

Esteemed brothers, in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, some interpreted the openness not as a demand flowing from the missionary ardor of the Heart of Christ, but as a step toward secularization, perceiving there certain strong Christian values, such as equality, liberty, solidarity. They showed themselves ready to make concessions and discover areas of cooperation. We witnessed the interventions of some ecclesiastical officials in ethical debates, which responded to the expectations of public opinion, but which failed to speak of certain essential truths of the faith, such as sin, grace, theological life and the last things. Without realizing it, many ecclesial communities fell into self-secularization. Hoping to charm those who were not joining, they saw many of their members leave, cheated and disillusioned. When our contemporaries come to us, they want to see something that they do not see elsewhere, namely, joy and the hope that springs from the fact that we are with the Risen Lord.

At present there is a new generation born in this secularized ecclesial environment who, instead of looking for openness and consensus, see how the gap between society and the positions of the magisterium of the Church, especially in the ethical field, is ever greater. In this desert lacking God, the new generation feels a great thirst for transcendence.

It is the young men of this new generation who knock on the door of seminaries, and who need to find formators who are true men of God, priests totally dedicated to formation, who give witness of the gift of themselves to the Church, through celibacy and an austere life, according to the model of Christ the Good Shepherd. Thus, these young men will learn to be sensitive to the encounter with the Lord, in daily participation in the Eucharist, loving silence and prayer, working first of all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Beloved brothers, as you know, it is the bishop's task to establish the essential criteria for the formation of seminarians and priests in fidelity to the universal norms of the Church: It is in this spirit that reflections on this topic should be developed, [which was] the objective of the plenary assembly of your episcopal conference last April.

Certain of being able to count on your zeal in regard to priestly formation, I invite all bishops, their priests and seminarians, to imitate in their lives the charity of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, as the holy Cure d'Ars did. And, with him, may they take as model and protection of their own vocation the Virgin Mother, who responded in a unique way to God's call, conceiving in her heart and flesh the Word made man to give him to humanity. To your dioceses, including the Diocese of Rondonopolis, whose pastor has been unable to make this visit, I send a cordial greeting in solidarity, and the certainty of my prayers, along with my paternal apostolic blessing.


Pope's Message for Mission Day

"We Should Have a Longing and a Passion to Illumine All Peoples With the Light of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 7, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's address for the 83rd World Mission Day, which will be celebrated this year on Sunday, Oct. 18.

The message, dated June 29, feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, was published Saturday in six languages.

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"The nations will walk in its light" (Rev 21:24)

On this Sunday, dedicated to the missions, I turn first of all to you, my brothers in the episcopal and the priestly ministry, and then to you, my brothers and sisters, the whole People of God, to encourage in each one of you a deeper awareness of Christ's missionary mandate to "make disciples of all peoples" (Mt 28:19), in the footsteps of Saint Paul, the Apostle of the nations.

"The nations will walk in its light" (Rev 21:24). The goal of the Church's mission is to illumine all peoples with the light of the Gospel as they journey through history towards God, so that in Him they may reach their full potential and fulfilment. We should have a longing and a passion to illumine all peoples with the light of Christ that shines on the face of the Church, so that all may be gathered into the one human family, under God's loving fatherhood.

It is in this perspective that the disciples of Christ spread throughout the world work, struggle and groan under the burden of suffering, offering their very lives. I strongly reiterate what was so frequently affirmed by my venerable Predecessors: the Church works not to extend her power or assert her dominion, but to lead all people to Christ, the salvation of the world. We seek only to place ourselves at the service of all humanity, especially the suffering and the excluded, because we believe that "the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today... is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 1), which "has experienced marvellous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself" (Redemptoris Missio, 2).

All Peoples are called to salvation

In truth, the whole of humanity has the radical vocation to return to its source, to return to God, since in Him alone can it find fulfilment through the restoration of all things in Christ. Dispersion, multiplicity, conflict and enmity will be healed and reconciled through the blood of the Cross and led back to unity.

This new beginning can already be seen in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, who draws all things to himself, renewing them and enabling them to share in the eternal joy of God. The future of the new creation is already shining in our world and, despite contradictions and suffering, it enkindles hope for new life. The Church's mission is to spread hope "contagiously" among all peoples. This is why Christ calls, justifies, sanctifies and sends his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God, so that all nations may become the People of God. It is only in this mission that the true journey of humanity is understood and attested. The universal mission should become a fundamental constant in the life of the Church. Proclamation of the Gospel must be for us, as it was for the Apostle Paul, a primary and unavoidable duty.

The Pilgrim Church

The universal Church, which knows neither borders nor frontiers, is aware of her responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to entire peoples (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 53). It is the duty of the Church, called to be a seed of hope, to continue Christ's service in the world. The measure of her mission and service is not material or even spiritual needs limited to the sphere of temporal existence, but instead, it is transcendent salvation, fulfilled in the Kingdom of God (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 27). This Kingdom, although ultimately eschatological and not of this world (cfr Jn 18:36), is also in this world and within its history a force for justice and peace, for true freedom and respect for the dignity of every human person. The Church wishes to transform the world through the proclamation of the Gospel of love, "that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working … and in this way … cause the light of God to enter into the world" (Deus Caritas Est, 39). With this message I renew my invitation to all the members and institutions of the Church to participate in this mission and this service.

Missio ad gentes

The mission of the Church, therefore, is to call all peoples to the salvation accomplished by God through his incarnate Son. It is therefore necessary to renew our commitment to proclaiming the Gospel which is a leaven of freedom and progress, brotherhood, unity and peace (cf. Ad Gentes, 8). I would "confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14), a duty and a mission which the widespread and profound changes in present-day society render ever more urgent. At stake is the eternal salvation of persons, the goal and the fulfilment of human history and the universe. Animated and inspired by the Apostle of the nations, we must realize that God has many people in all the cities visited by the apostles of today (cfr Acts 18:10). In fact "the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him" (Acts 2:39).

The whole Church must be committed to the missio ad gentes, until the salvific sovereignty of Christ is fully accomplished: "At present, it is true, we are not able to see that all things are in subjection to him" (Heb 2:8).

Called to evangelize even through martyrdom

On this day dedicated to the missions, I recall in prayer those who have consecrated their lives exclusively to the work of evangelization. I mention especially the local Churches and the men and women missionaries who bear witness to and spread the Kingdom of God in situations of persecution, subjected to forms of oppression ranging from social discrimination to prison, torture and death. Even today, not a few are put to death for the sake of his "Name". The words of my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, continue to speak powerfully to us: "The Jubilee remembrance has presented us with a surprising vista, showing us that our own time is particularly prolific in witnesses, who in different ways were able to live the Gospel in the midst of hostility and persecution, often to the point of the supreme test of shedding their blood" (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 41).

Participation in the mission of Christ is also granted to those who preach the Gospel, for whom is reserved the same destiny as their Master. "Remember the words I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you too" (Jn 15:20). The Church walks the same path and suffers the same destiny as Christ, since she acts not on the basis of any human logic or relying on her own strength, but instead she follows the way of the Cross, becoming, in filial obedience to the Father, a witness and a travelling companion for all humanity.

I remind Churches of ancient foundation and those that are more recent that the Lord has sent them to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and he has called them to spread Christ, the Light of the nations, to the far corners of the earth. They must make the Missio ad gentes a pastoral priority.

I am grateful to the Pontifical Mission Societies and I encourage them in their indispensable service of promoting missionary animation and formation, as well as channelling material help to young Churches. Through these Pontifical Institutions, communion among the Churches is admirably achieved via the exchange of gifts, reciprocal concern and shared missionary endeavours.


Missionary zeal has always been a sign of the vitality of our Churches (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 2). Nevertheless it must be reaffirmed that evangelization is primarily the work of the Spirit; before being action, it is witness and irradiation of the light of Christ (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 26) on the part of the local Church, which sends men and women beyond her frontiers as missionaries. I therefore ask all Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for an increase in the Church's passion for her mission to spread the Kingdom of God and to support missionaries and Christian communities involved in mission, in the front line, often in situations of hostility and persecution.

At the same time I ask everyone, as a credible sign of communion among the Churches, to offer financial assistance, especially in these times of crisis affecting all humanity, to enable the young local Churches to illuminate the nations with the Gospel of charity.

May we be guided in our missionary activity by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of New Evangelization, who brought Christ into the world to be the light of the nations and to carry salvation "to the ends of the earth" (Acts 13:47).

To all I impart my Blessing.

From the Vatican, 29 June 2009


© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address at Bonaventure's Birthplace

"The Universe Itself Can Again Be the Voice That Speaks of God"

BAGNOREGGIO, Italy, SEPT. 7, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address Sunday at Bagnoreggio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

This morning's solemn Eucharistic celebration in Viterbo opened my pastoral visit to your diocesan community, and this meeting here in Bagnoreggio practically closes it. I greet you all with affection: religious, civil and military authorities, priests, men and women religious, pastoral agents, young people and families, and I thank you for your cordial welcome. I renew my gratitude first of all to your bishop for his affectionate words, which referred to my link with St. Bonaventure. And I respectfully greet the mayor of Bagnoreggio, grateful for the courteous welcome he gave me in the name of the whole city.

Giovanni Fidanza, who later became Friar Bonaventure, joins his name to that of Bagnoreggio in the well-known presentation that he makes of himself in the Divine Comedy. On saying: "I am the soul of Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio, who in exalted tasks put to one side erroneous endeavors" (Dante, Paradise XII, 127-129), which underscores how, in the important tasks that he had to undertake in the Church, he always postponed attention to temporal realities -- "erroneous endeavors" -- in favor of the spiritual good of souls. Here, in Bagnoreggio, he spent his childhood and adolescence; then he followed St. Francis, for whom he manifested special gratitude because, as he wrote, when he was a child he "snatched him from the jaws of death" (Legenda Maior, Prologus, 3,3) and predicted "bona venture," as your mayor recalled recently. He was able to establish a profound and lasting bond with the poor man of Assisi, drawing from him ascetic inspiration and ecclesial genius. You jealously guard the famous relic of the "holy arm" of this illustrious fellow-citizen, keep alive his memory and reflect deeply on his doctrine, especially through the Center of Bonaventure Studies, founded by Bonaventure Tecchi, which every year promotes special study conferences dedicated to him.

It is not easy to summarize the extensive philosophical, theological and mystical doctrine that St. Bonaventure left us. In this Year for Priests, I would like to invite priests especially to listen to this great doctor of the Church and to reflect more profoundly on his teaching of wisdom rooted in Christ. He directs every step of his speculation and mystical tension to wisdom that flowers in holiness, passing through the degrees that range from what he calls "uniform wisdom," which concerns the essential principles of knowledge, to "multiform wisdom," which consists of the mysterious language of the Bible, and then to "omni-form wisdom," which recognizes in the whole of created reality the reflection of the Creator, to "informed wisdom," that is, the experience of profound mystical contact with God, wherewith man's intellect knows the infinite Mystery in silence (cf. J. Ratzinger, St. Bonaventure and the Theology of History, Porziuncola publishers, 2006, pp. 92ff). On remembering this profound researcher and lover of wisdom, I would also like to express my encouragement and appreciation for the service that theologians are called to give, in the ecclesial community, of that faith that seeks understanding, that faith which is a "friend of intelligence" and which becomes a new life according to God's plan.

From St. Bonaventure's rich cultural and mystical patrimony I limit myself, this afternoon, to consider a "path" of reflection that might be useful for your diocesan community's pastoral journey. He was, in the first place, a tireless seeker of God, from the time of his studies in Paris until his death. He indicates in his writings the path to be followed. "Given that God is on High," he wrote, "the mind must ascend to him with all its strength" (De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam, No. 25).

In this way, he traces a committed path of faith, in which it is not enough "to read without unction, to speculate without devotion, to do research without admiration, to be circumspect without joy, to be expert without piety, to know without charity, to be intelligent without humility, to study without divine grace, to speak without wisdom inspired by God" (Itinerarium Mentis in Deum, Prologue 4). This journey of purification involves the whole person striving, through Christ, to the transforming love of the Trinity. And, given that Christ, forever God and man forever, effects in the faithful a new creation with his grace, the exploration of the divine presence becomes contemplation of him in the soul "where he dwells with the gifts of his uncontainable love" (ibid. IV, 4), to be finally transported in him. Hence, faith is the perfection of our cognitive capacities and participation in the knowledge that God has of himself and of the world; we experience hope as preparation for our encounter with the Lord, who will constitute the fulfillment of that friendship that already unites us to him. And charity introduces us to divine life, making us see all people as brothers, according to the will of our common heavenly Father.

In addition to being a seeker of God, St. Bonaventure was a seraphic singer of creation who, following St. Francis, learned to "praise God in all and through all creatures," in which "shines the omnipotence, wisdom and goodness of the Creator" (ibid. I, 10). St. Bonaventure presents a positive vision of the world, gift of God's love to men: He recognizes in it the reflection of the highest Goodness and Beauty that, following St. Augustine and St. Francis, assures us that it is God himself. God has given it all to us. From him, as original source, flow truth, goodness and beauty. To God, as on the steps of a stairway, one ascends until arriving and almost attaining the highest Good and in him we find our joy and peace. How useful it would be if also today we rediscovered the beauty and value of creation in the light of divine goodness and beauty! In Christ, observed St. Bonaventure, the universe itself can again be the voice that speaks of God and leads us to explore his presence; exhorts us to honor and glorify him in everything (Cf. Ibid. I, 15). Herein we perceive the spirit of St. Francis, with whom our saint shared love for all creatures.

St. Bonaventure was a messenger of hope. We find a beautiful image of hope in one of his Advent homilies, where he compares the movement of hope to the flight of a bird, which spreads its wings as far as possible, and employs all its energies to move them. In a certain sense, it make its whole being a movement to rise and fly. To hope is to fly, says St. Bonaventure. But hope exacts movement from all our members and our projection to the authentic stature of our being, to God's promises. He who hopes, he affirms, "must lift his head, directing his thoughts on high, to the height of our existence, that is, to God" (Sermo XVI, Dominica I Adv., Opera Omnia, IX, 40a).

In his address, the Lord Mayor posed a question: "What will Bagnoreggio be tomorrow?" In truth, we all wonder about our future and that of the world, and this question has much to do with hope, for which every human heart is thirsty. In the encyclical "Spe Salvi," I wrote that not just any hope is sufficient to address and overcome the difficulties of the present: a "certain hope" is indispensable which, giving us the certainty of attaining a "great" goal," justifies the effort of the journey" (cf. No. 1). Only this "great hope-certainty" assures us that, despite the failures of our personal life and the contradictions of history as a whole, we are always protected by the "indestructible power of Love."

When we are sustained by such hope we never run the risk of losing the courage to contribute, as the saints did, to the salvation of humanity, and "we can open ourselves and open the world so that God will enter, God, who is truth, love and goodness" (cf. No. 35). May St. Bonaventure help us to "spread the wings" of hope, which drives us to be, as he was, incessant seekers of God, singers of the beauties of creation and witnesses of that Love and Beauty that "moves everything."

Thank you, dear friends, once again, for your hospitality. While I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, I impart to you, through the intercession of St. Bonaventure and especially of Mary, faithful Virgin and Star of Hope, a special apostolic blessing, which I extend with pleasure to all the inhabitants of this beautiful land, rich in saints.


On Viterbo, the "City of Popes"

"Confirm Your Brothers"

VITERBO, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus in Viterbo, where he spent the day in a pastoral visit.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the end of this solemn Eucharistic Celebration, I once again thank the Lord for having giving me the joy to pay this pastoral visit to your diocesan community. I have come among you to encourage you and confirm you in fidelity to Christ, as the theme that you have chosen indicates: "Confirm your brothers" (Luke 22:31). These words of Jesus were directed to the Apostle Peter during the Last Supper, entrusting to him the task of being the pastor of his entire Church here on earth.

For many centuries your diocese has distinguished itself by a singular bond of affection and communion with the Successor of Peter. I was able to experience this visiting the Palazzo dei Papi (Palace of Popes) and, in particular, the hall of the "Conclave." St. Leo the Great, who performed a great service to truth in charity through an assiduous exercise of the word, as his sermons and letters bear witness, was born in the vast territory of ancient Tuscia. Pope Sabinian, successor of Gregory the Great, was born in Blera; Paul III was born in Canino. Viterbo was chosen for the whole second half of the 12th century as the residence of the Roman Pontiffs: Five of my predecessors were elected here, and four of them are interred here; more than 50 have visited -- the last was the Servant of God John Paul II, 25 years ago. These figures have a historical significance, but I would like to stress their spiritual value above all at this moment. Viterbo has been justly named "City of Popes," and for you this constitutes a further stimulus to live and witness to the Christian faith, the same faith that the holy martyrs Valentino and Ilario -- who rest in the cathedral -- gave their lives for. They are the first of a long line of saints, martyrs and blesseds from your land.

"Confirm your brothers:" Today I felt this invitation of the Lord addressed to me with a singular intensity. Pray, dear Brothers and Sisters, that I might be able to carry out the mission of the pastors of the entire flock of Christ with ever greater fidelity and love (cf. John 21:15 ff.). For my part I assure you of a constant remembrance in the Lord for your diocesan community, so that its different articulations -- whose symbolic representation I was able to admire in the cathedral's new bronze doors -- will tend more and more to a complete unity and fraternal communion, indispensable conditions for offering the world an efficacious evangelical testimony. I will entrust these intentions this afternoon to the Virgin Mary in my visit to the shrine of the Madonna della Quercia (the Madonna of the Oak). Now, with the prayer that recalls her "yes" to the angel's announcement, let us ask her always to keep our faith strong and joyful.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father said in Italian:]

I would now like to address a cordial greeting to the participants in the International Congress "Men and Religions," which is convening in Krakow on the theme: "Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue." Numerous figures and representatives of the various religions -- invited by the Archdiocese of Krakow and the Community of Sant'Egidio -- are gathered to reflect and pray for peace, 70 years after the outbreak of World War II. We cannot fail to recall the dramatic events that brought on one of the most terrible conflicts in history, that caused tens of millions of deaths and provoked so much suffering among the beloved Polish people; a conflict that saw the tragedy of the Holocaust and the extermination of many other innocent people. May the memory of these events move us to pray for the victims and for those who still carry wounds in their bodies and hearts; may it also be an admonishment to all not to repeat such barbarities and to intensify the efforts to create in our time, marked by conflicts and oppositions, an enduring peace, transmitting above all to the new generations, a culture and a lifestyle shaped by love, solidarity and esteem for the other. In this perspective, what is especially important is the contributions that religions can and must make in promoting forgiveness and reconciliation against violence, racism, totalitarianism and the extremism that disfigure the image of the Creator in man, erase God from the horizon and, consequently, lead to the scorn of man himself. May the Lord help you to build peace beginning from love and from mutual understanding (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," no. 72).


Pontiff's Prayer at Madonna della Quercia Shrine

"Keep Firm the Unity of Our Families"

VITERBO, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of the greeting Benedict XVI gave today to the cloistered nuns who gathered at the shrine of the Madonna della Quercia (the Madonna of the Oak) in Viterbo, and the text of a prayer he offered during his pastoral visit to that city.

* * *

Dear Sisters!

It is truly a joy for me to meet you in this dear place of popular devotion. You, as contemplative nuns, have a mission to be torches in the Church who, in the silence of your monasteries, burn in prayer and love for God. I entrust my intentions to you, the intentions of the pastor of this diocese and the needs of those who live in this land. In this Year for Priests, I entrust to you above all priests, seminarians and vocations. With your prayerful silence be their support "at a distance" and exercise your spiritual maternity toward them, offering to the Lord the sacrifice of your life for their sanctification and for the good of souls. I thank you for your presence and bless you from my heart; carry also to your sisters, who were not able to come, the greeting and the benediction of the Pope. I ask you now to join with me in invoking the maternal protection of Mary for this diocesan community and the inhabitants of this land rich with religious and cultural traditions.

Holy Virgin, Madonna della Quercia

Patroness of the Diocese of Viterbo,

gathered in this sanctuary consecrated to you,

we address a suppliant and confident prayer to you:

watch over the successor of Peter and the Church entrusted to his care;

watch over this diocesan community and her pastors,

over Italy, over Europe and the other continents.

Queen of peace, obtain the gift of concord and peace

for the nations and for the whole of humanity.

Obedient Virgin, Mother of Christ,

Who, with your docile "yes" to the Angel's announcement,

became the Mother of the Almighty,

help everyone of your children to ratify

the designs that the Heavenly Father has for everyone,

to cooperate in the universal plan of redemption,

that Christ accomplished dying on the cross.

Virgin of Nazareth, Queen of the Family,

Make our Christian families forges of evangelical life,

enriched by the gift of many vocations

to the priesthood and the consecrated life.

Keep firm the unity of our families,

which are today threatened from every side,

and make them hearths of serenity and concord,

where patient dialogue dissipates the difficulties and oppositions.

above all watch over those who are divided and in crisis,

Mother of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Immaculate Virgin, Mother of the Church,

Nourish the enthusiasm of the all the members

of our diocese: of the parishes and ecclesial groups,

of the associations and of the new forms of apostolic commitment

that the Lord awakens with his Holy Spirit;

make firm and decided the will of those

the Lord of the harvest continues to call

as workers in his vineyard, so that,

resisting every worldly enticement and snare,

they generously persevere in following the path that they have set out upon,

and, with your maternal succor, become the witnesses of Christ

drawn by the splendor of his Love, source of joy.

Clement Virgin, Mother of Humanity,

Turn your gaze upon the men and women of our time,

upon peoples and those who govern them, upon nations and continents;

console those who weep, who suffer, who struggle because of human injustice,

sustain those who waver under the weight of toil

and look to the future without hope;

encourage those who labor to build a better world

where justice triumphs and brotherhood reigns,

where egoism, hatred and violence cease.

May every form and manifestation of violence

Be defeated by the peaceful power of Christ!

Virgin of Listening, Star of Hope,

Mother of Mercy,

source through whom Jesus came into the world,

our life and our joy,

we thank you and we renew to you the offer of our life,

certain that you will never abandon us,

especially in the dark and difficult moments of existence.

Be with us always: now and at the hour of our death.



Benedict XVI's Homily in Viterbo

"Prayer Is the First Form of Charity"

VITERBO, Italy, SEPT. 6, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily at a Mass he celebrated while on a pastoral visit to Viterbo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The setting in which we celebrate the Holy Mass today is truly unusual and suggestive: we find ourselves in the valley in view of the ancient city gate of Viterbo called "FAUL;" the letters stand for Fanum, Arbanum, Vetulonia and Longula. On the one side there stands the imposing palace, at one time a residence of the Popes, which in the 13th century -- as your bishop observed -- saw five conclaves; we are surrounded by buildings and spaces, witnesses of many events of the past, and today the fabric of the life of your city and province. In this context, which recalls centuries of civil and religious history, your whole diocesan community is gathered, at least in spirit, with the Successor of Peter to be confirmed by him in fidelity to Christ and his Gospel.

To all of you, dear Brothers and Sisters, I offer my grateful thoughts with affection for the warm welcome you reserved for me. First, I greet your pastor, Bishop Lorenzo Chiarinelli, whom I thank for the words of welcome. I greet the other bishops, especially those from Lazio with the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, the dear diocesan priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, the young people and children, and I extend my remembrance to all the members of the diocese, whom, in the recent past, I saw gathered in Viterbo together with the Abbey of San Martino al Monte Cimino, and the dioceses of Acquapendente, Bagnoregio, Montefiascone and Tuscania. This new configuration is now artistically sculpted in the bronze doors of the cathedral that, as I began my visit in Piazza San Lorenzo, I was able to bless and admire.

With deference I turn to the civil and military authorities, to the representatives of parliament, the government, the region and province, and in a special way to the mayor, who acted as the bearer of the cordial sentiments of people of Viterbo. I thank the security forces and greet the numerous members of the military who are present in this city, along with those who are engaged in missions of peace in the world. I greet and thank the volunteers and those who helped to make my visit possible. I reserve a very special greeting for the older people and those who live by themselves, the sick, those in prison and those who were not able to take part in this meeting of ours of prayer and friendship.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, every liturgical assembly is the space of the presence of God. Gathered together for the Holy Eucharist, the disciples of the Lord proclaim that he is risen, that he is alive and the giver of life, and they bear witness that his presence is grace, is a task, is joy.

Let us open our hearts to his word and welcome the gift of his presence! In the first reading the prophet Isaiah (35:4-7) encourages "those whose hearts are frightened" and announces this stupendous novelty, that experience confirms: when the Lord is present, the eyes of the blind are reopened, ears of the deaf hear, the lame "leap" like a stag. Everything is reborn and everything revives because wholesome waters spring up in the desert. The "desert," in its symbolic language, can evoke the dramatic events, difficult situations and solitude that often mark life; the most profound desert is the human heart, when it loses the ability to hear, to speak, to communicate with God and with others. One then becomes blind because he is incapable of seeing reality; he closes his ears to not hear the cry of those who implore his help; his heart is hardened in indifference and egotism. But now -- the prophet announces -- all is destined to change; into the "arid land" of this closed heart a new divine blood will flow. And when the Lord comes, he will say to "the frightened of heart" of every age, "Courage, fear not!" (35:4).

The Gospel episode narrated by Mark in which Jesus heals a deaf mute in pagan territory (7:31-37) connects well here. First he encounters and cares for him with the language of deeds, more immediate than that of words; and then with an expression in Aramaic he says to him: "Ephphatha," that is, "Be open," giving that man hearing and speech. Full of wonder, the crowd exclaims: "He has done all things well!" (7:37).

We can see in this "sign" Jesus' ardent desire to conquer in man the solitude and incommunicability created by egotism, to give a face to a "new humanity," a humanity that listens and a humanity of the word, of dialogue, of communication, of communion with God. A "good" humanity, as all of God's creation is good; a humanity without discrimination, without exclusions -- as the Apostle James admonishes in his Letter (2:1-5) -- so that the world truly be a "place of genuine brotherhood" ("Gaudium et Spes," 37) for all, in the opening of the common Father who created us and made us his sons and daughters.

Dear Church of Viterbo, may the Christ whom we see in the Gospel open the ears and loosen the tongue of a deaf mute person, reveal your heart and always give you the joy to listen to his Word, the courage to announce his Gospel, the ability to speak with God and thus to speak with your brothers and sisters, and finally, may he give you the courage of the discovery of his face and his beauty! But, so that this might happen -- St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio recalls (I will be traveling to Bagnoregio this afternoon) -- the mind must "go beyond everything through contemplation and go beyond not only the world of the senses, but also beyond itself" ("Itinerarium mentis in Deum" VII,1). This is the itinerary of salvation, illumined by the light of the Word of God and nourished by the sacraments that are common to all Christians.

I would like to take up some spiritual and pastoral points about this road that you too, beloved Church of this land, are called to travel. Education in the faith -- as search, as Christian initiation, as life in Christ -- is a priority that is very close to the heart of your bishop. It is the "becoming Christian" that consists in that "learning Christ" that St. Paul expresses with the formula: "It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). The parishes, families and various groups are involved in this experience. Catechists and all educators are called to commit themselves; the schools are also called to make their contribution, from the primary schools to the University of Tuscia, which is growing in importance and prestige, and, in particular, the Catholic school, with the Istituto Filosofico-Teologico "San Pietro." There are models that are always relevant, authentic pioneers in education in the faith from which to draw inspiration. I gladly mention, among others, St. Rosa Venerini (1656-1728) -- who I had the joy to canonize three years ago -- a true forerunner of girls' schools in Italy, during the Enlightenment; St. Lucia Filippini (1672-1732) who, with the help of Venerable Cardinal Marco Antonio Barbarigo (1640-1706), founded the worthy "Maestre Pie." One could still happily draw from these spiritual sources to confront, with lucidity and coherence, the current inescapable and pressing "educational emergency," a great challenge for every Christian community and for society as a whole, which is precisely a process of "Ephphatha," of opening the ears, loosening the tongue and opening the eyes.

Along with education, the testimony of the faith. "Faith," St. Paul writes, "works through charity" (Galatians 5:6). The charitable work of the Church takes on a face in this perspective: her initiatives, her works are signs of faith in and love of God, who is Love -- as I amply noted in the encyclicals "Deus Caritas Est" and "Caritas in Veritate." This is where voluntary service flourishes and must always increase, whether at the personal level or the organized level. In charity this voluntary service has its propulsive and educative organism. The young St. Rose (1233-1251), co-patroness of the diocese, whose feast is celebrated during this time, is a radiant example of faith and generosity toward the poor. How can one not also recall that from her monastery St. Giacinta Marescotti (1585-1640) promoted Eucharistic adoration in the city and gave life to institutions and initiatives to benefit prisoners and the marginalized? Nor can we forget the Franciscan witness of the Capuchin St. Crispino (1668-1759), who continues to inspire worthy aid groups. It is significant that in this climate of evangelical fervor many houses of consecrated life were born, for both men and women, and in particular cloistered monasteries, which constitute a visible reminder of the primacy of God in our existence and show us that prayer is the first form of charity.

Emblematic in this regard is the example of the Trappist nun Blessed Gabriella Sagheddu (1914-1939): in the monastery of Vitorchiano, where she is entombed, spiritual ecumenism continues to be proposed, nourished by the incessant prayer, strongly solicited by the Second Vatican Council (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," no. 8). I would also like to mention another citizen of Viterbo, Blessed Domenico Bàrberi (1792-1849), the Passionist priest who, in 1845, welcomed John Henry Newman -- who later became a cardinal -- into the Catholic Church. Newman was a high profile intellectual and a man of luminous spirituality.

Finally I would like to touch on a third point, a pastoral one: attention to the signs of God. As Jesus did with the deaf mute person, God continues to reveal his plan to us through "events and words." Listening to his word and discerning his signs must be the work of every Christian community. The most immediate of God's signs is certainly care for one's neighbor, according to what Jesus said: "Everything that you did for these least of my brothers you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). Furthermore, as the Second Vatican Council affirms: the Christian is called to "stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a sign of the living God" ("Lumen Gentium," no. 38). The priest, whom Christ has chosen entirely for himself, must first of all be this. During this Year for Priests, pray with greater intensity for priests, for seminarians and for vocations, that they be faithful to this vocation of theirs! He must be the sign of the living God, as every consecrated person and all the baptized must likewise be.

Faithful laypeople, young people, families, do not be afraid to live and bear witness to the faith in the various spheres of society, in the multiple situations of human existence! Viterbo also has a prestigious figures in this respect. On this occasion it is a duty and a joy to remember the young Mario Fani of Viterbo, founder of the "Circolo Santa Rosa" ("Circle of St. Rose"), who then, along with Giovanni Acquaderni, of Bologna, started the Catholic Action movement in Italy. The seasons succeed each other, social contexts change, but the vocation of Christians to live the Gospel in solidarity with the human family does not change or go out of fashion with the passing of time. This is social commitment, this is the service proper to political action, this is integral human development.

Dear brothers and sisters! When the heart is frightened in the desert of life, do not be afraid, give yourselves to Christ, the firstborn of the new humanity: a family of brothers built up in freedom and justice, in the truth and charity of the sons of God. Saints who are dear to you are part of this family: Lorenzo, Valentino, Ilario, Rosa, Lucia, Bonaventure and many others. Our common Mother is Mary, whom you venerate with the title of Madonna della Quercia (Madonna of the Oak) as patroness of the whole diocese in its new configuration. May they guard you always in unity and nourish in each of you the desire to proclaim, with words and deeds, the presence and love of Christ!



Pope's Message to Inter-Christian Symposium
"Build Together the City of God"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 3, 2009 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, on the occasion of the 11th Inter-Christian Symposium, which began today in Rome.

* * *

Through you, venerable brother, in your capacity as president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, I have the pleasure and joy of sending a warm and auspicious greeting to the organizers and participants of the 11th Inter-Christian Symposium, promoted by the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical University Antonianum and by the Aristotle Orthodox Theological Faculty of Thessalonica, planned in Rome from Sept. 3-5.

I am happy first of all for this initiative of fraternal encounter and exchange on the common aspects of spirituality, which is beneficial for a closer relationship between Catholics and Orthodox. In fact, these Symposiums, which began in 1992, address important and constructive topics for reciprocal understanding and unity of intention. The fact that it takes place alternatively in a territory of Catholic or Orthodox majority also allows for real contact with the concrete, historical, cultural and religious life of our Churches.

In particular, this year you wished to organize the Symposium in Rome, city that offers all Christians indelible testimonies of history, archaeology, iconography, hagiography and spirituality, strong stimulus to advance toward full communion and above all, the memory of the Apostles Peter and Paul, Protothroni, and of so many martyrs, ancient witnesses of the faith. Of them, St. Clement of Rome wrote that "suffering ... many insults and torments, they became a most beautiful example for us" (Cf. Letter to the Corinthians, VI,1).

The topic chosen for the next meeting: "St. Augustine in the Western and Eastern Tradition" -- argument intended to be developed in collaboration with the Patristic Institute Augustinanum -- is most interesting to reflect further on Christian theology and spirituality in the West and in the East, and its development. The Saint of Hippo, a great Father of the Latin Church, is, in fact, of fundamental importance for theology and for the West's very culture, whereas the reception of his thought in Orthodox theology has revealed itself to be rather problematic.

Hence, to know with historical objectivity and fraternal cordiality the doctrinal and spiritual riches that make up the patrimony of the Christian East and West, is indispensable not only to appreciate them, but also to promote better reciprocal appreciation among all Christians.

Therefore, I express cordial wishes that your Symposium is fruitful in that it discovers doctrinal and spiritual convergences that are useful to build together the City of God, where his children can live in peace and in fraternal charity, based on the truth of the common faith. I assure you of my prayer for this end, asking the Lord to bless the organizers and the institutions they represent, the Catholic and Orthodox speakers and all the participants.

May the Grace and peace of the Lord be in your collaborators and in your minds!

In Castel Gandolfo, August 28, 2009



On St. Odo

"He Was Austere, But Above All He Was Good"

VATICAN CITY, Italy, SEPT. 2, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at this Wednesday's general audience, which gathered pilgrims in Paul VI Hall.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

After a long pause, I would like to take up again the presentation of the great writers of the Eastern and Western Church of the Medieval era because, as though in a mirror, in their lives and writings we see what it means to be Christians.

Today I propose to you the luminous figure of St. Odo, abbot of Cluny. He is situated in the monastic Middle Ages that saw in Europe the amazing spread of life and spirituality inspired in St. Benedict's Rule. During those centuries there was a prodigious rise and multiplication of cloisters that, branching out over the continent, spread through it the Christian spirit and sensibility. St. Odo takes us, in particular, to a monastery, Cluny, which during the Middle Ages was one of the most illustrious and celebrated. Even today it reveals with its majestic ruins the footprint of a glorious past because of its intense dedication to ascesis, study, and, in a special way, divine worship, enveloped in decorum and beauty.

Odo was the second abbot of Cluny. He was born around 880, on the border between Maine and Touraine, in France. He was consecrated by his [spiritual] father, the holy Bishop Martin of Tours, in whose beneficent shadow and memory Odo passed all his life, ending it at last near his tomb. His choice to consecrate himself in the religious life was preceded by an experience of a special moment of joy, which he mentioned to another monk, John the Italian, later his biographer. Odo was still an adolescent, around 16 years old, when one Christmas Eve he sensed how a prayer to the Virgin came spontaneously to his lips: "My Lady, Mother of Mercy, who on this night gave birth to the Savior, pray for me. May your glorious and singular birth be, Oh most merciful, my refuge" (Vita Sancti Odonis, I,9: PL 133, 747).

The name "Mother of Mercy," with which the young Odo then invoked the Virgin, was the one he always wished to use when addressing Mary, also calling her "only hope of the world ... thanks to whom the doors of paradise have been opened to us" (In Veneratione S. Mariae Magdalenae: PL 133, 721).

Around that time he began to reflect more profoundly on the Rule of St. Benedict and to observe some of its mandates, "bearing, though not being a monk, the light yoke of the monks" (ibid., I,14: PL 133, 50). In one of his sermons, Odo referred to Benedict as "light that shines on the dark stage of this life" (De Sancto Benedicto Abbate: PL 133, 725), and described him as "teacher of spiritual discipline" (ibid.: PL 133, 727). He revealed with affection that Christian piety "with most lively gentleness remembers" him, aware that God has raised him "among the highest and chosen Fathers of the Holy Church" (ibid.: PL 133, 722).

Fascinated by the Benedictine ideal, Odo left Tours and entered as a monk in the Benedictine abbey of Baume, to move later to that of Cluny, where he became abbot in the year 927. From that center of spiritual life, he was able to exert great influence on other monasteries of the continent. Benefiting from his guidance and reform were also several monasteries in Italy, among them that of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Odo visited Rome more than once, also going to Subiaco, Montecassino and Salerno. It was in fact in Rome where, in the summer of the year 942, he fell ill. Sensing he was close to death, he made every effort to return to his St. Martin, in Tours, where he died during the saint's octave, on Nov. 18, 942.

Underlining Odo's "virtue of patience," his biographer gives a long list of his other virtues, such as contempt for the world, zeal for souls, commitment to peace for the Churches. Abbot Odo greatly aspired to concord between the king and princes, the observance of the Commandments, care of the poor, correction of youth, and respect for the elderly (cf. Vita Sancti Odonis, I,17: PL 133, 49). He loved the cell where he resided, "far from the eyes of everyone, concerned with pleasing God alone" (ibid., I,14: PL 133, 49).

However, he did not fail to exercise as "superabundant source" the ministry of the word and of example, "weeping over this world as immensely wretched" (ibid., I,17: PL 133, 51). United in only one monk, comments his biographer, were the different virtues existing in a scattered way in other monasteries: "Jesus, in his goodness, basing himself in the monks' different gardens, was forming in a small place a paradise, to water from his source the hearts of the faithful" (ibid., I,14: PL 133, 49).

In a passage of a sermon in honor of Mary Magdalene, the abbot of Cluny reveals how he conceived monastic life: "Mary who, seated at the Lord's feet, with an attentive spirit listened to his word, is the symbol of the sweetness of contemplative life, whose taste, the more it is savored, so much more induces the soul to be detached from visible things and from the tumult of preoccupations of the world" (In ven. S. Mariae Magd., PL 133, 717). This is a concept that Odo confirms in other writings, which reflect his love for the interior life, his idea that the world is a fragile and precarious reality from which one must be uprooted, a constant inclination to detachment from things regarded as sources of unrest, an acute sensitivity to the presence of evil in the different classes of people, a profound eschatological aspiration. This vision of the world might seem quite far from ours and yet, Odo's is a conception that, seeing the fragility of the world, values interior life open to the other, the love of neighbor, and precisely thus he transforms life and opens the world to the light of God.

Meriting particular attention is the "devotion" to the Body and Blood of Christ that Odo always cultivated with conviction, in face of widespread neglect which he sharply deplored. He was firmly convinced of the real presence, under the Eucharistic species, of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in virtue of the "substantial" conversion of the bread and wine.

He wrote: "God, the Creator of everything, took bread, saying that it was his Body, and that he would offer it for the world, and distributed the wine, calling it his Blood; therefore, it is the law of nature that the mutation take place according to the Creator's mandate, consequently, nature immediately changes its usual condition: Without a doubt, the bread becomes flesh, and the wine becomes blood"; at the Lord's command "the substance changes" (Odonis Abb. Cluniac. occupatio, ed. A. Swoboda, Lipsia, 1900, p. 121).

Unfortunately, notes our abbot, this "sacrosanct mystery of the Body of the Lord, in which consists the whole salvation of the world" (Collationes, XXVIII: PL 133, 572), is celebrated with negligence. "Priests," he warns, "who approach the altar unworthily stain the bread, that is, the Body of Christ" (ibid., PL 133, 572-573). Only one who is spiritually united to Christ can participate worthily in his Eucharistic Body: In the opposite case, to eat his flesh and drink his blood would not be to his benefit, but to his condemnation (cf. ibid., XXX, PL 133, 575).

All this invites us to believe with renewed force and depth in the real presence of the Lord. The presence of the Creator among us, who gives himself in our hands and transforms us as he transforms the bread and wine, thus transforms the world.

St. Odo was a real spiritual guide both for monks and for the faithful of his time. In face of the "vastness of vices" in society, the remedy he proposed with determination was a radical change of life, based on humility, austerity, detachment from ephemeral things and adherence to the eternal (cf. Collationes, XXX, PL 133, 613). Despite the realism of his time, Odo did not yield to pessimism: "We do not say this," he specifies, "to precipitate those who wish to convert into despair. Divine mercy is always available; it awaits the hour of our conversion" (ibid.: PL 133, 563). And he exclaims: "Oh ineffable core of divine mercy! God persecutes faults but protects sinners" (ibid.: PL 133, 592).

Supported by this conviction, the abbot of Cluny loved to reflect on the contemplation of the mercy of Christ, the Savior whom he evocatively described as "lover of man": "amator hominum Christus" (ibid., LIII: PL 133, 637). Jesus has taken upon himself the scourges that correspond to us -- he observes -- thus to save the creature who is his work and who he loves (cf. ibid.: PL 133, 638).

A characteristic of the holy abbot appears here that at first glance is almost hidden under the rigor of his austerity as reformer: the profound goodness of his soul. He was austere, but above all he was good, a man of great goodness, a goodness that comes from contact with divine goodness. Odo, his contemporaries say, spread all around the joy with which he was filled. His biographer attests to never having heard from the mouth of man "such sweetness of word" (ibid., I,17: PL 133, 31). His biographer recalls that he used to invite children whom he met on the road to sing and then give them a small gift, and he adds: "His words were full of exultation ... his mirth infused in our heart a profound joy" (ibidem, II, 5: PL 133, 63).

In this way the vigorous and, at the same time, amiable Medieval abbot, passionate about reform, nourished with incisive action in the monks, as well as in the faithful of his time, the intention to advance with diligent step on the way of Christian perfection.

May his goodness, the joy that comes from faith, united to austerity and opposition to the vices of the world, also touch our heart, so that we too will be able to find the source of joy that springs from the goodness of God.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with another great monastic figure of the Middle Ages, Saint Odo of Cluny. Attracted by the Benedictine ideal, Odo became a monk, and later the second abbot, of Cluny. At the beginning of the ninth century, Cluny was the center of an influential movement of Church reform, and Odo, by his example and teaching did much to further this spiritual renewal throughout Europe. His writings reveal how deeply he was influenced by the monastic virtues of contemplation, detachment from this world and longing for the world to come. Odo was particularly devoted to the Eucharist, emphasizing the real and substantial presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine. This conviction of faith led him to work for the reform of the clergy and to stress the need for a worthy reception of the Sacrament. An authentic spiritual guide for his troubled times, Odo blended the personal austerity of a great reformer with a constant and joyful contemplation of Christ’s infinite mercy.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Marriage and Virginity

"Intimately Connected and Mutually Illuminate Each Other"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 30, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to crowds gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo for the praying of the midday Angelus.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

3 days ago, Aug. 27, we celebrated the liturgical memorial of St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. She is considered the model and patroness of Christian mothers. Her son furnishes us with information about her in his autobiographical book, "The Confessions," a masterpiece and among the most read books of all time. Here we see that Augustine drinks in the name of Jesus with his mother's milk, and was educated by her in the Christian religion, whose principles would remain with him even in the years when he had hit bottom spiritually and morally.

Monica never ceases to pray for him and for his conversion, and had the consolation of seeing him return to the faith and receive baptism. God heard the prayers of this saintly mother, to whom the Bishop of Tagaste had said: "It is impossible that the son of so many tears will be lost." In fact, Augustine not only converted, but decided to embrace the monastic life and, returning to Africa, found a community of monks. The last conversations between him and his mother at a house in Ostia, while he was waiting to embark for Africa, are moving and edifying.

By this time St. Monica had become for this son of hers "more than a mother, the source of his Christianity." For years her only desire had been Augustine's conversion, whom she now indeed saw oriented toward a life of consecration to the service of God. She could thus die content, and in fact she passed away on Aug. 27, 387, at 56, after having asked her children not to be too concerned about where to bury her, but to remember her at the altar of the Lord wherever they found themselves. St. Augustine repeated that his mother "gave birth to him twice."

The history of Christianity is spangled with the countless examples of saints and authentic Christian families, who accompanied the life of generous priests and pastors of the Church. One thinks of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, both from families of saints. We think -- much closer to us -- of Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi and Maria Corsini, a married couple, who lived between the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th, and who were beatified by my venerable predecessor John Paul II in October of 2001, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the apostolic exhortation "Familiaris Consortio." This document, besides illustrating the value of matrimony and the tasks of the family, calls the spouses to a special commitment on the path to sanctity that, drawing grace and strength from the sacrament of marriage, accompanies them their whole life (cf. No. 56).

When the husband and wife generously dedicate themselves to the education of their children, guiding and orienting them in the discovery of God's design of life, they are preparing that fertile spiritual soil from which vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life grow and mature. In this way one sees how matrimony and virginity are intimately connected and mutually illuminate each other, beginning with their common rootedness in Christ's spousal love.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this Year for Priests, we pray that, "through the intercession of the holy Curé d'Ars, Christian families become little churches, in which all the Christian vocations and all charisms, given by the Holy Spirit, can be welcomed and valued" (from the Prayer for the Year for Priests). May the Holy Virgin, whom we now invoke together, obtain this grace for us.

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

On Tuesday, September 1, the Day for the Protection of Creation will be celebrated in Italy. It is a significant event, even of ecumenical importance, that has as its theme this year "air," an indispensable element for life. As I did in last Wednesday’s general audience, I call everyone to a greater commitment to the safeguarding of creation, gift of God. In particular, I encourage the industrialized countries to cooperate responsibly for the future of the planet, and that the poorest populations not pay the greatest price for climactic changes.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, the Holy Father said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors at this Angelus including the first year seminarians from the Pontifical North American College. May your time here at Castel Gandolfo and in Rome deepen your integral understanding of our faith and strengthen in you the desire to be consistent in word and deed, following the heart and mind of our Lord. Upon each of you present and your families, I invoke God’s blessing of peace and joy!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily for the Assumption

"Mary Lives Her Constant Ascent to God in the Spirit of the Magnificat"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 30, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption. The Pope celebrated Holy Mass at the Parish Church of San Tommaso da Villanova in Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's Solemnity crowns the series of important liturgical celebrations in which we are called to contemplate the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of salvation. Indeed, the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the Divine Motherhood and the Assumption are the fundamental, interconnected milestones with which the Church exalts and praises the glorious destiny of the Mother of God, but in which we can also read our history.

The mystery of Mary's conception recalls the first page of the human event, pointing out to us that in the divine plan of creation man was to have had the purity and beauty of the Virgin Immaculate.

This plan, jeopardized but not destroyed by sin, through the Incarnation of the Son of God, proclaimed and brought into being in Mary, was recomposed and restored to the free acceptance of the human being in faith.

Lastly, in Mary's Assumption, we contemplate what we ourselves are called to attain in the following of Christ the Lord and in obedience to his word, at the end of our earthly journey.

The last stage of the Mother of God's earthly pilgrimage invites us to look at the manner in which she journeyed on toward the goal of glorious eternity.

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke tells that, after the Angel's announcement, Mary "arose and went with haste into the hill country", to visit Elizabeth (Lk 1: 39).

With these words the Evangelist wishes to emphasize that for Mary to follow her own vocation in docility to God's Spirit, who has brought about within her the Incarnation of the Word, means taking a new road and immediately setting out from home, allowing herself to be led on a journey by God alone.

St Ambrose, commenting on Mary's "haste", says: "the grace of the Holy Spirit admits of no delay" (Expos. Evang. sec. Lucam, ii, 19: PL 15, 1560).

Our Lady's life is guided by Another: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Lk 1: 38); it is modelled by the Holy Spirit, it is marked by events and encounters, such as that with Elizabeth, but above all by her very special relationship with her Son Jesus.

It is a journey on which Mary, cherishing and pondering in her heart the events of her own life, perceives in them ever more profoundly the mysterious design of God the Father for the salvation of the world.

Then, by following Jesus from Bethlehem to exile in Egypt, in both his hidden and his public life and even to the foot of the Cross, Mary lives her constant ascent to God in the spirit of the Magnificat, fully adhering to God's plan of love, even in moments of darkness and suffering, and nourishing in her heart total abandonment in the Lord's hands in order to be a paradigm for the faithful of the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn. 64-65).

The whole of life is an ascent, the whole of life is meditation, obedience, trust and hope, even in darkness; and the whole of life is marked by this "holy haste" which knows that God always has priority and nothing else must create haste in our existence.

And, lastly, the Assumption reminds us that Mary's life, like that of every Christian, is a journey of following, following Jesus, a journey that has a very precise destination, a future already marked out: the definitive victory over sin and death and full communion with God, because as Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians the Father "raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2: 6).

This means that with Baptism we have already fundamentally been raised and are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, but we must physically attain what was previously begun and brought about in Baptism.

In us, union with Christ resurrection is incomplete, but for the Virgin Mary it is complete, despite the journey that Our Lady also had to make. She has entered into the fullness of union with God, with her Son, she draws us onwards and accompanies us on our journey.

In Mary taken up into Heaven we therefore contemplate the One who, through a unique privilege, was granted to share with her soul and her body in Christ's definitive victory over death. "When her earthly life was over", the Second Vatican Council says, the Immaculate Virgin "was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory... and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf. Rv 19: 16) and conqueror of sin and death" (Lumen Gentium, n. 59).

In the Virgin taken up into Heaven we contemplate the crowning of her faith, of that journey of faith which she points out to the Church and to each one of us: the One who, at every moment, welcomed the Word of God, is taken up into Heaven, in other words she herself is received by the Son in the "dwelling place" which he prepared for us with his death and Resurrection (cf. Jn 14: 2-3).

Human life on earth as the First Reading has reminded us is a journey that takes place, constantly, in the intense struggle between the dragon and the woman, between good and evil. This is the plight of human history: It is like a voyage on a sea, often dark and stormy. Mary is the Star that guides us towards her Son Jesus, "the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history" (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 49) and gives us the hope we need: the hope that we can win, that God has won and that, with Baptism we entered into this victory. We do not succumb definitively: God helps us, he guides us.

This is our hope: This presence of the Lord within us that becomes visible in Mary taken up into Heaven. "The Virgin" in a little while we shall read in the Preface for this Solemnity "that you made to shine out as "a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way'".

With St Bernard, a mystic who sang the Blessed Virgin's praises, let us thus invoke her: "We pray you, O Blessed One, for the grace that you found, for those prerogatives that you deserved, for the Mercy you bore, obtain that the One who for your sake deigned to share in our wretchedness and infirmity, through your prayers may make us share in his graces, in his bliss and in his eternal glory, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who is above all things, Blessed God for ever and ever. Amen" (Sermo 2 "de Adventu", 5: PL 183, 43).

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Marian Devotion of St. John Vianney
"The Holy Curé d'Ars Was Attracted Above all by Mary's Beauty"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 28, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in the courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, on Aug. 15, the solemnity of the Assumption.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the heart of the month of August, a holiday period for many families and also for me, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. This is a privileged opportunity to meditate on the ultimate meaning of our existence, helped by today's Liturgy which invites us to live in this world oriented to eternal happiness in order to share in the same glory as Mary, the same joy as our Mother (cf. Opening Prayer).

Let us, therefore, turn our gaze to Our Lady, Star of Hope, who illumines us on our earthly journey, and follow the example of the Saints who turned to her in every circumstance.

You know that we are celebrating the Year for Priests in remembrance of the Holy Curé d'Ars, and I would like to draw from the thoughts and testimonies of this holy country parish priest some ideas for reflection that will be able to help all of us especially us priests to strengthen our love and veneration for the Most Holy Virgin.

His biographers claim that St John Mary Vianney spoke to Our Lady with devotion and, at the same time, with trust and spontaneity. "The Blessed Virgin", he used to say, "is immaculate and adorned with all the virtues that make her so beautiful and pleasing to the Blessed Trinity" (B. Nodet, Il pensiero e l'anima del Curato d'Ars, Turin 1967, p. 303).

And further: "The heart of this good Mother is nothing but love and mercy, all she wants is to see us happy. To be heard, it suffices to address oneself to her" (ibid., p. 307). The priest's zeal shines through these words. Motivated by apostolic longing, he rejoiced in speaking to his faithful of Mary and never tired of doing so. He could even present a difficult mystery like today's, that of the Assumption, with effective images, such as, for example: "Man was created for Heaven. The devil broke the ladder that led to it. Our Lord, with his Passion, made another.... The Virgin Most Holy stands at the top of the ladder and holds it steady with both hands" (ibid.).

The Holy Curé d'Ars was attracted above all by Mary's beauty, a beauty that coincides with her being Immaculate, the only creature to have been conceived without a shadow of sin.

"The Blessed Virgin", he said, "is that beautiful Creature who never displeased the good Lord" (ibid. p. 306). As a good and faithful pastor, he first of all set an example also in this filial love for the Mother of Jesus by whom he felt drawn toward Heaven. "Were I not to go to Heaven", he exclaimed, "how sorry I should be! I should never see the Blessed Virgin, this most beautiful creature!" (ibid., p. 309).

Moreover, on several occasions he consecrated his parish to Our Lady, recommending that mothers in particular do the same, every morning, with their children.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us make our own the sentiments of the Holy Curé d'Ars. And with his same faith let us turn to Mary, taken up into Heaven, in a special way entrusting to her the priests of the whole world.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the crowd in various languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors gathered here at Castel Gandolfo and also in St Peter's Square. As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, we are invited to raise our eyes to Heaven and contemplate Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother. She who on earth believed in God's word is now glorified in body and soul. May Mary's intercession and example guide you always and renew your hearts in faith and hope. May God grant you and your families abundant blessings of peace and joy!

I wish you all a good Feast of the Assumption!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Mary, Mother of Priests
"The Perfect Model for Their Existence"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 27, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Aug. 12 during the general audience given at his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, next Saturday, is at hand and we are in the context of the Year for Priests. I therefore wish to speak of the link between Our Lady and the priesthood. This connection is deeply rooted in the Mystery of the Incarnation.

When God decided to become man in his Son, he needed the freely-spoken "yes" of one of his creatures. God does not act against our freedom. And something truly extraordinary happens: God makes himself dependent on the free decision, the "yes" of one of his creatures; he waits for this "yes".

St Bernard of Clairvaux explained dramatically in one of his homilies this crucial moment in universal history when Heaven, earth and God himself wait for what this creature will say.

Mary's "yes" is therefore the door through which God was able to enter the world, to become man. So it is that Mary is truly and profoundly involved in the Mystery of the Incarnation, of our salvation. And the Incarnation, the Son's becoming man, was the beginning that prepared the ground for the gift of himself; for giving himself with great love on the Cross to become Bread for the life of the world. Hence sacrifice, priesthood and Incarnation go together and Mary is at the heart of this mystery.

Let us now go to the Cross. Before dying, Jesus sees his Mother beneath the Cross and he sees the beloved son. This beloved son is certainly a person, a very important individual, but he is more; he is an example, a prefiguration of all beloved disciples, of all the people called by the Lord to be the "beloved disciple" and thus also particularly of priests.

Jesus says to Mary: "Woman, behold, your son!" (Jn 19: 26). It is a sort of testament: he entrusts his Mother to the care of the son, of the disciple. But he also says to the disciple: "Behold, your mother!" (Jn 19: 27).

The Gospel tells us that from that hour St John, the beloved son, took his mother Mary "to his own home".

This is what it says in the [English] translation; but the Greek text is far deeper, far richer. We could translate it: he took Mary into his inner life, his inner being, "eis tà ìdia", into the depths of his being.

To take Mary with one means to introduce her into the dynamism of one's own entire existence it is not something external and into all that constitutes the horizon of one's own apostolate.

It seems to me that one can, therefore, understand how the special relationship of motherhood that exists between Mary and priests may constitute the primary source, the fundamental reason for her special love for each one of them.

In fact, Mary loves them with predilection for two reasons: because they are more like Jesus, the supreme love of her heart, and because, like her, they are committed to the mission of proclaiming, bearing witness to and giving Christ to the world.

Because of his identification with and sacramental conformation to Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, every priest can and must feel that he really is a specially beloved son of this loftiest and humblest of Mothers.

The Second Vatican Council invites priests to look to Mary as to the perfect model for their existence, invoking her as "Mother of the supreme and eternal Priest, as Queen of Apostles, and as Protectress of their ministry". The Council continues, "priests should always venerate and love her, with a filial devotion and worship" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 18).

The Holy Curé d'Ars, whom we are remembering in particular in this Year, used to like to say: "Jesus Christ, after giving us all that he could give us, wanted further to make us heirs to his most precious possession, that is, his Holy Mother (B. Nodet, Il pensiero e l'anima del Curato d'Ars, Turin 1967, p. 305).

This applies for every Christian, for all of us, but in a special way for priests. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray that Mary will make all priests, in all the problems of today's world, conform with the image of her Son Jesus, as stewards of the precious treasure of his love as the Good Shepherd. Mary, Mother of priests, pray for us!

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including the Sisters of St Anne, the altar servers from Malta, and the pilgrims from Australia and the United States of America. As the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin draws near in this Year of the Priest, my Catechesis today is centred on Mary the Mother of priests. She looks upon them with special affection as her sons. Indeed, their mission is similar to hers; priests are called to bring forth Christ's saving love into the world. On the Cross, Jesus invites all believers, especially his closest disciples, to love and venerate Mary as their Mother. Let us pray that all priests will make a special place for the Blessed Virgin in their lives, and seek her assistance daily as they bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus. Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

I now address the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Yesterday we celebrated the Memorial of St Clare of Assisi, who was able to live her adherence to Christ with courage and generosity. Imitate her example, particularly you, dear young people, so that like her you may respond faithfully to the Lord's call. I encourage you, dear sick people, to be united with the suffering Jesus as you carry your cross with faith. And may you, dear newlyweds, be apostles of the Gospel of love in your family.

After his Catechesis, the Pope appealed for solidarity and prayer for the peoples of Eastern Asia hit by the typhoon "Morakot" and, in Japan, also by an earthquake. In order to recall the earthquake last April in Italy, in Abruzzo, the Pope lit "the torch of hope" which will be carried in procession for the 29th "Tendopoli San Gabriele", from L'Aquila to the Passionist Shrine at Isola Gran Sasso.

Lastly, my thoughts turn to the numerous peoples who have been hit by a violent typhoon in the past few days in the Philippines, in Taiwan, in certain south-Eastern Provinces of the People's Republic of China and in Japan, which latter country has also been sorely tried by a strong earthquake.

I wish to express my spiritual closeness to all who are in conditions of serious hardship, and I ask everyone to pray for them and for all those who have lost their life. I hope they will not be left without the comfort of solidarity and material assistance.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Development That Respects the Environment
"We Come From God and We Are All Going Back to Him"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 26, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at this Wednesday's general audience, which gathered pilgrims in the courtyard of the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We are coming to the end of the month of August, which for many means the end of the summer holidays. As we return to our daily activities, how can we not thank God for the precious gift of creation, which we can enjoy not only during the period of vacations! The different phenomena of environmental degradation and natural calamities, which unfortunately are often reported in the news, remind us of the urgency of the respect owed to nature, recovering and appreciating, in every day life, a correct relation with the environment. A new sensitivity to these topics is being developed, which arouses the correct concern of the authorities and of public opinion, which is also expressed in the multiplication of meetings at the international level.

The earth is a precious gift of the Creator, who has designed its intrinsic order, thus giving us guidelines to which we must hold ourselves as stewards of his creation. From this awareness, the Church considers questions linked to the environment and its safeguarding as profoundly linked with the topic of integral human development. I referred to these questions several times in my last encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," reminding of the pressing moral need for renewed solidarity" (49) not only in relations between countries, but also between individuals, as the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and its use entails a personal responsibility towards the whole of humanity, in particular, towards the poor and future generations (Cf. 48).

Experiencing the shared responsibility for creation (Cf. 51), the Church is not only committed to the promotion of the defense of the earth, of water and of air, given by the Creator to everyone, but above all is committed to protect man from the destruction of himself. In fact, "when 'human ecology' is respected in society, environmental ecology also benefits" (ibid). Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where is existence is denied? If the human creature's relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the "final authority," and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible.

Creation, matter structured in an intelligent manner by God, is entrusted to man's responsibility, who is able to interpret and refashion it actively, without regarding himself as the absolute owner. Man is called to exercise responsible government to protect it, to obtain benefits and cultivate it, finding the necessary resources for a dignified existence for all.

With the help of nature itself and with the commitment of its own work and creativity, humanity is able to assume the grave duty to hand over to the new generations an earth which, in turn, the latter will be able to inhabit worthily and cultivate further (Cf. "Caritas in Veritate," 50). In order for this to happen, the development is indispensable of "that covenant between the human being and the environment that must be a reflection of the creative love of God" (Message on the occasion of the World Day of Peace 2008, 7), recognizing that we come from God and we are all going back to him.

How important it is, therefore, that the international community and the different governments be able to give the appropriate indications to their own citizens to address in an effective manner the ways of utilizing the environment that turn out to be harmful. The economic and social costs stemming from the use of shared environmental resources, recognized in a transparent way, must be assumed by those who use them, and not by other populations or by future generations. Protection of the environment and the safeguarding of the resources and climate call for all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity, above all in the weaker regions of the earth (Cf. "Caritas in Veritate," 50).

Together we can build an integral human development beneficial to present and future peoples, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is indispensable that the present model of global development be transformed through a greater and shared responsibility for creation: This is demanded not only by environmental emergencies, but also by the scandal of hunger and poverty.

Dear brothers and sisters: let us thank the Lord and make our own the words of St. Francis in the Canticle of Creatures: "Most High, Omnipotent, good Lord, yours are the praises, the glory and the honor and every blessing ... Be praised, my Lord, with all your creatures."

We, too, want to pray and live with the spirit of these words.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, including the many altar servers, school pupils and choristers.

The summer holidays have given us all the opportunity to thank God for the precious gift of creation. Taking up this theme, I wish to reflect today upon the relationship between the Creator and ourselves as guardians of his creation. In so doing I also wish to offer my support to leaders of governments and international agencies who soon will meet at the United Nations to discuss the urgent issue of climate change.

The Earth is indeed a precious gift of the Creator who, in designing its intrinsic order, has given us guidelines that assist us as stewards of his creation. Precisely from within this framework, the Church considers that matters concerning the environment and its protection are intimately linked with integral human development. In my recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, I referred to such questions recalling the "pressing moral need for renewed solidarity" (no. 49) not only between countries but also between individuals, since the natural environment is given by God to everyone, and so our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations (cf. no. 48).

How important it is then, that the international community and individual governments send the right signals to their citizens and succeed in countering harmful laws of treating the environment! The economic and social costs of using up shared resources must be recognized with transparency and borne by those who incur them, and not by other peoples or future generations. The protection of the environment, and the safeguarding of resources and of the climate, oblige all leaders to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world (cf. no. 50). Together we can build an integral human development beneficial for all peoples, present and future, a development inspired by the values of charity in truth. For this to happen it is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery.

With these sentiments I wish to encourage all the participants in the United Nations summit to enter into their discussions constructively and with generous courage. Indeed, we are all called to exercise responsible stewardship of creation, to use resources in such a way that every individual and community can live with dignity, and to develop "that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God" (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace, 7)! Thank you.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message on the Sacrament of Penance
"To the Extent That the Sense of Sin Is Lost, Feelings of Guilt Increase"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 25, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's letter sent by his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, on the occasion of Italy's 60th National Liturgical Week, being held in Barletta with the theme: "Celebrate Mercy: 'Let Yourselves Be Reconciled With God.'"

The letter is addressed to Bishop Felice de Molfetta of Cerignola-Ascoli Satriano, president of Italy's Center of Liturgical Action.

* * *

Most Revered Excellency:

On the occasion of the 60th National Liturgical Week, which will be held in Barletta this Aug. 24-28, I am happy to give you, the collaborators of the Center of Liturgical Activity (CLA), the relators and all the participants, the cordial greeting of the Supreme Pontiff, who desires the serene and fruitful development of the meeting and assures all of a special remembrance in prayer.

He expresses appreciation for the commitment over these decades, in constant adherence to the doctrine and indications of the conciliar constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium" (SC), and in wise obedience to the episcopate and the Holy See in proposing the mystery of the faith, which is given to man in the Church when celebrated (cf. SC, 6-7). At the same time, he invites CLA to continue on this path with the same fidelity and spirit, helping to spread -- among laborers of the Lord's vineyard -- new courage and new perseverance.

Over these 60 years, the liturgical weeks have given bishops, priests, consecrated persons, experts, diocesan directors, and faithful who love the liturgy, precious opportunities to reflect more profoundly, always from the perspective of ecclesial service, that is, that of making the community grow in the spirit and life of the liturgy. It has been possible to grow closer to its center (Easter, the Eucharist), and its articulation (the sacraments, Word of God, Liturgy of the Hours, Liturgical Year), and its relation to life, culture, art and music. Thanks to the uninterrupted succession of the weeks and the work of those who programmed them and implemented them, the Church in Italy, especially in those dioceses in which they have been held, has reaped great benefit, growing in zeal for the "full and active participation by all the people […] for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit" (SC, 14).

The theme of the 60th Week, "Celebrate Mercy: 'Let Yourselves Be Reconciled With God'" (2 Corinthians 5:20), is rooted in this line, calling attention to the sacrament of penance or reconciliation -- a particularly opportune choice given both its importance and pertinence -- 35 years after the new Rite of Penance came into force for the Church in Italy, and in happy coincidence with the Year for Priests. The objective of your meeting consists in understanding the whole penitential process of Christian life, in which the sacrament is integrated as an intense moment, always in an ecclesial context. It will be interesting to verify if, beyond the change in the rite, an adequate theological, spiritual and pastoral mentality has been formed.

In this connection, in a message sent to the participants in the recent 20th course on the Internal Forum, promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Supreme Pontiff stated: "These days, the correct formation of believers' consciences is without a doubt one of the pastoral priorities because, unfortunately, as I have reaffirmed on other occasions, to the extent that the sense of sin is lost, feelings of guilt increase which people seek to eliminate by recourse to inadequate palliative remedies. The many invaluable spiritual and pastoral tools that contribute to the formation of consciences should be increasingly developed" (Benedict XVI, March 12, 2009).

And he adds: "Like all the sacraments, the sacrament of Penance too requires catechesis beforehand and a mystagogical catechesis for a deeper knowledge of the sacrament: 'per ritus et preces.' … Catechesis should be combined with a wise use of preaching, which has had different forms in the Church's history according to the mentality and pastoral needs of the faithful" (ibid.).

Along with an adequate formation of the moral conscience, maturity of life and celebration of the sacrament, it is necessary to foster in the faithful the experience of spiritual support. Precisely for this reason, the Pope continued to note, today "wise and holy 'spiritual teachers'" are needed, exhorting priests to keep "ever alive within them the knowledge that they must be worthy 'ministers' of divine mercy and responsible educators of consciences," inspired in the example of the Cure d'Ars, St. John Vianney, of whom precisely this year we observe the 150th anniversary of his death (cf. ibid.).

His Holiness invokes the heavenly intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, so that the 60th liturgy week may contribute to foster a new start and renewal in the celebration of mercy and in the meaningful experience of divine pardon and, being grateful for the service given to the Church by the Center of Liturgical Activity, imparts to Your Excellency, to the archbishop of Trani-Barletta-Bisceglie and Nazareth, and to the rest of the bishops and priests present, to the relators and to all the participants a heartfelt special apostolic blessing.

For my part, I assure you of remembrance in prayer and take advantage of the opportunity to confirm my affection in the Lord.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone,
Secretary of State


On the Scandal of the Christian Faith

"Jesus’ Teaching Seems Hard"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 23, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to crowds gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo for the praying of the midday Angelus.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

These past few Sundays, the liturgy has proposed for our reflection Chapter 6 of John's Gospel in which Jesus presents himself as the "bread of life come down from heaven," adding: "If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever and the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world" (John 6:51).

To the Jews who heatedly dispute among themselves, asking: "How can he give us his flesh to eat?" (6:52), Jesus stresses: "If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of man or drink of his blood, you shall not have life within you" (6:53). Today, the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, we meditate on the concluding part of this chapter, in which the Fourth Evangelist relates the reaction of the people and of the disciples themselves, scandalized by the words of the Lord, to the point that many, after having followed him up till that time, exclaim: "This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?" (6:60). And from that moment "many of his disciples left and no longer traveled with him" (6:66). Jesus, however, does not soften his statements, indeed, he turns to the Twelve directly and asks: "Do you also wish to leave?" (6:67).

This provocative question is not addressed only to the people of that time, but to the believers and men of every age. Today too, not a few are scandalized by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus' teaching seems "hard," too difficult to put into practice. There are thus those who reject it and abandon Christ; there are those who try to "adapt" the word to the fashions of the times, distorting its meaning and value.

"Do you also wish to leave?" This disturbing provocation resounds in our hearts and awaits a personal response from each person. Jesus in fact is not satisfied with a superficial and formal following, a first and enthusiastic adhesion is not sufficient for him; on the contrary, we must take part "in his thinking and in his willing" all of our lives. Following him fills the heart with joy and gives complete meaning to our existence, but it brings difficulties and renunciations because very often we must go against the current.

"Do you also wish to leave?" To Jesus' question Peter responds in the name of the Apostles: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God" (6:68-69).

Dear brothers and sisters, we too can repeat Peter's answer, aware of course of our human fragility, but confident in the power of the Holy Spirit, who expresses himself and manifests himself in communion with Jesus. Faith is a gift of God to man and it is, at the same time, man's free and total entrusting of himself to God; faith is the docile listening to the word of the Lord, that is the "lamp" for our steps and the "light" on our way (cf. Psalm 119:105).

If we open our hearts to Christ with confidence, if we let ourselves be conquered by him, we too can experience, together with the Curé d'Ars, "that our only happiness on this earth is to love God and to know that he loves us." Let us ask the Virgin Mary always to keep alive in us this faith impregnated by love, which made her, the humble girl of Nazareth, Mother of God and model for all believers.

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

Today the 30th edition of the "Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples" has opened in Rimini, [Italy], taking as its title "Knowledge Is Always an Event." In addressing a cordial greeting to those who are taking part in this significant gathering, I hope that it will be a propitious occasion for understanding that "[k]nowing is not simply a material act, since ... [i]n all knowledge and in every act of love the human soul experiences something ‘over and above,' which seems very much like a gift that we receive, or a height to which we are raised" ("Caritas in Veritate," No. 77).

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, the Holy Father said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Angelus. May your visit to Castel Gandolfo and Rome strengthen your faith in our Lord, the Holy One of God, and renew your desire to share the peace of his kingdom with others. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke God's blessings of true happiness and joy!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. John Eudes
"He Wanted to Remind People … of the Heart"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 19, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today during the general audience held at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. He reflected on St. John Eudes and the formation of the clergy.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

Celebrated today is the liturgical memorial of St. John Eudes, tireless apostle of devotion to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who lived in France in the 17th century, a century marked by opposing religious phenomena and also by great political problems. It was the time of the Thirty Years War, which devastated not only a great part of Central Europe, but also devastated souls.

While contempt was being spread for the Christian faith by some currents of thought that were prevalent then, the Holy Spirit inspired a fervent spiritual renewal, with prominent personalities such as that of Berulle, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort and St. John Eudes. This great "French school" of holiness also had St. John Mary Vianney among its fruits. By a mysterious design of Providence, my venerated predecessor, Pius XI, proclaimed John Eudes and the Curé d'Ars saints at the same time, on May 31, 1925, offering the Church and the whole world two extraordinary examples of priestly holiness.

In the context of the Year for Priests, I wish to pause to underline the apostolic zeal of St. John Eudes, directed in particular to the formation of the diocesan clergy.

The saints have verified, in the experience of life, the truth of the Gospel; in this way, they introduce us into the knowledge and understanding of the Gospel. In 1563, the Council of Trent issued norms for the establishment of diocesan seminaries and for the formation of priests, as the council was aware that the whole crisis of the Reformation was also conditioned by the insufficient formation of priests, who were not adequately prepared intellectually and spiritually, in their heart and soul, for the priesthood.

This occurred in 1563 but, given that the application and implementation of the norms took time, both in Germany as well as in France, St. John Eudes saw the consequences of this problem. Moved by the lucid awareness of the great need of spiritual help that souls were feeling precisely because of the incapacity of a great part of the clergy, the saint, who was a parish priest, instituted a congregation dedicated specifically to the formation of priests. He founded the first seminary in the university city of Caen, a highly appreciated endeavor, which was soon extended to other dioceses.

The path of holiness he followed and proposed to his disciples had as its foundation a solid confidence in the love that God revealed to humanity in the priestly Heart of Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary. In that time of cruelty and loss of interior silence, he addressed himself to the heart so as to leave in the heart a word from the Psalms very well interpreted by St. Augustine. He wanted to remind people, men and above all future priests of the heart, showing the priestly Heart of Christ and the maternal Heart of Mary. A priest must be a witness and apostle of this love of the Heart of Christ and of Mary.

Today we also feel the need for priests to witness the infinite mercy of God with a life totally "conquered" by Christ, and for them to learn this in the years of their formation in the seminaries. After the synod of 1990, Pope John Paul II issued the apostolic exhortation "Pastores Dabo Vobis," in which he took up and actualized the norms of the Council of Trent and above all underlined the need for continuity between the initial and permanent moments of formation. For him, for us, this is a real point of departure for a genuine reform of priestly life and apostolate, and it is also the central point so that the "new evangelization" is not simply an attractive slogan, but rather is translated into reality.

The foundations of formation in the seminary constitute that irreplaceable "humus spirituale" in which it is possible to "learn Christ," allowing oneself to be progressively configured to him, sole High Priest and Good Shepherd. The time in the seminary should be seen, therefore, as the actualization of the moment in which the Lord Jesus, after having called the Apostles and before sending them out to preach, asks that they stay with him (cf. Mark 3:14).

When St. Mark narrates the vocation of the Twelve Apostles, he tells us that Jesus had a double objective: The first was that they be with him, the second that they be sent to preach. But in going always with him, they truly proclaim Christ and take the reality of the Gospel to the world.

In this Year for Priests, I invite you to pray, dear brothers and sisters, for priests and for those preparing to receive the extraordinary gift of the priestly ministry. I conclude by addressing to all the exhortation of St. John Eudes, who said thus to priests: "Give yourselves to Jesus to enter into the immensity of his great Heart, which contains the Heart of his Holy Mother and of all the saints, and to lose yourselves in this abyss of love, of charity, of mercy, of humility, of purity, of patience, of submission and of holiness" (Coeur admirable, III, 2).

With this spirit, we will now sing together the Our Father in Latin.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the pilgrims from India and Nigeria. Our catechesis considers Saint John Eudes whose feast we celebrate today. He lived in seventeenth-century France which, notwithstanding considerable trials for the faith, produced many outstanding examples of spiritual courage and insight. Saint John Eudes’ particular contribution was the foundation of a religious congregation dedicated to the task of giving solid formation to the diocesan priesthood. He encouraged seminarians to grow in holiness and to trust in God’s love revealed to humanity in the priestly heart of Jesus and in the maternal heart of Mary. During this year let us pray in a special way for priests and seminarians that, inspired by today’s saint, they may spiritually "enter into the heart of Jesus", becoming men of true love, mercy, humility and patience, renewed in holiness and pastoral zeal. My dear Brothers and Sisters, upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

©Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Letter to Kennedy-Shriver Family
"Comfort One Another With the Assurance of Your Faith"

WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 19, 2009 - Here is the letter Benedict XVI sent Aug. 10 to the family of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. The letter was sent through Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Shriver, 88, died Aug. 11.

* * *

To the Family of Eunice Kennedy Shriver,

As the official and personal representative of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in the United States of America, I wish to convey to all of you, especially to Sargent and to Bobby, Maria, Timothy, Mark and Anthony, the warm greetings and paternal affection of the Holy Father.

His Holiness unites himself spiritually with each of you at this difficult time, holding close to his heart Eunice as she is called home to eternal life and trusting in the words of Sacred Scripture: "What will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35)

It is the Holy Father's fervent prayer that the good Lord, Who is never outdone in generosity, will grant this woman of ardent faith and generous public service the reward of her many labors, particularly on behalf of those who are physically and mentally challenged, and that, as a Family, you will help comfort one another with the assurance of your faith in Christ Jesus, our Hope.

Making my own the sentiments of His Holiness, I remain, with cordial and respectful regards,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop Pietro Sambi
Apostolic Nuncio


More Saints of August
"Love Triumphs Over Death"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 9 before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Like last Sunday, today too in the context of the Year for Priests that we are celebrating, we shall pause to meditate on some of the men and women Saints that the liturgy commemorates in these days.

Except for the Virgin Clare of Assisi, who was consumed with divine love in her daily sacrifice of prayer and community life, the others are martyrs, two of whom were killed in the concentration camp at Auschwitz: St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, who, born into the Jewish faith and won over by Christ as an adult, became a Carmelite nun and sealed her existence with martyrdom; and St Maximilian Kolbe, a son of Poland and of St Francis of Assisi, a great apostle of Mary Immaculate.

We shall then encounter other splendid figures, martyrs of the Church of Rome, such as Pope St. Pontianus, St. Hippolytus, a priest, and St. Lawrence the Deacon. What marvellous models of holiness the Church presents to us! These saints are witnesses of that charity which loves "to the end", which does not take into account a wrong suffered but instead combats it with good (cf. 1 Cor 13: 4-8).

From them we can learn especially we priests the evangelical heroism that impels us to give our life fearlessly for the salvation of souls. Love triumphs over death!

All the saints, but especially martyrs, are witnesses of God, who is Love: Deus Caritas est. The Nazi concentration camps, like all extermination camps, can be considered extreme symbols of evil, of hell that opens on earth when man forgets God and supplants him, usurping his right to decide what is good and what is evil, to give life and death.

However, this sad phenomenon is unfortunately not limited to concentration camps. Rather, they are the culmination of an extensive and widespread reality, often with shifting boundaries.

The Saints whom I have briefly recalled lead us to reflect on the profound divergences that exist between atheistic humanism and Christian humanism. This antithesis permeates the whole of history but with the contemporary nihilism, at the end of the second millennium, it has reached a crucial point, as great literary figures and thinkers have perceived and as events have amply demonstrated.

On the one hand, there are philosophies and ideologies, but there are also always more ways of thinking and acting that exalt freedom as the unique principle of the human being, as an alternative to God, and which in this way transform the human being into a god, but an erroneous god who makes arbitrariness his own system of behaviour.

On the other hand, we have the Saints who, in practising the Gospel of charity, account for their hope. They show the true Face of God who is Love and, at the same time, the authentic face of man, created in the divine image and likeness.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray the Virgin Mary to help all of us and in the first place priests to be holy like these heroic witnesses of faith and of self-dedication to the point of martyrdom. And charity in truth is the only credible and exhaustive response one can offer to the profound human and spiritual crisis of the contemporary world.

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

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. The readings from today's Mass invite us to put our faith in Jesus, the "bread of life" who offers himself to us in the Eucharist and promises us eternal joy in the house of the Father. During these summer holidays, may you and your families respond to the Lord's invitation by actively participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice and through generous acts of charity. Upon all of you I invoke his blessings of joy and peace!

A good Sunday to you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Curé d'Ars
"Since His Earthly Youth He Sought to Conform Himself to God

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Aug. 5 at his Summer Residence in Castel Gandolfo, during which commented on the Holy Curé d'Ars.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today's Catechesis I would like briefly to review the life of the Holy Curé of Ars. I shall stress several features that can also serve as an example for priests in our day, different of course from the time in which he lived, yet marked in many ways by the same fundamental human and spiritual challenges.

Precisely yesterday was the 150th anniversary of his birth in Heaven. Indeed it was at two o'clock in the morning on 4 August 1859 that St John Baptist Mary Vianney, having come to the end of his earthly life, went to meet the heavenly Father to inherit the Kingdom, prepared since the world's creation for those who faithfully follow his teachings (cf. Mt 25: 34).

What great festivities there must have been in Heaven at the entry of such a zealous pastor! What a welcome he must have been given by the multitude of sons and daughters reconciled with the Father through his work as parish priest and confessor!

I wanted to use this anniversary as an inspiration to inaugurate the Year for Priests, whose theme, as is well known, is "Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests". The credibility of witness depends on holiness and, once and for all, on the actual effectiveness of the mission of every priest.

John Mary Vianney was born into a peasant family in the small town of Dardilly on 8 May 1786. His family was poor in material possessions but rich in humanity and in faith. Baptized on the day of his birth, as was the good custom in those days, he spent so many years of his childhood and adolescence working in the fields and tending the flocks that at the age of 17 he was still illiterate.

Nonetheless he knew by heart the prayers his devout mother had taught him and was nourished by the sense of religion in the atmosphere he breathed at home. His biographers say that since his earthly youth he sought to conform himself to God's will, even in the humblest offices.

He pondered on his desire to become a priest but it was far from easy for him to achieve it.

Indeed, he arrived at priestly ordination only after many ordeals and misunderstandings, with the help of far-sighted priests who did not stop at considering his human limitations but looked beyond them and glimpsed the horizon of holiness that shone out in that truly unusual young man.

So it was that on 23 June 1815 he was ordained a deacon and on the following 13 August, he was ordained a priest. At last, at the age of 29, after numerous uncertainties, quite a few failures and many tears, he was able to walk up to the Lord's altar and make the dream of his life come true.

The Holy Curé of Ars always expressed the highest esteem for the gift he had received. He would say: "Oh! How great is the Priesthood! It can be properly understood only in Heaven... if one were to understand it on this earth one would die, not of fright but of love!" (Abbé Monnin, Esprit du Curé d'Ars, p. 113).

Moreover, as a little boy he had confided to his mother: "If I were to become a priest, I would like to win many souls" (Abbé Monnin, Procès de l'ordinaire, p. 1064). And so he did. Indeed, in his pastoral service, as simple as it was extraordinarily fertile, this unknown parish priest of a forgotten village in the south of France was so successful in identifying with his ministry that he became, even in a visibly and universally recognizable manner, an alter Christus, an image of the Good Shepherd who, unlike the hired hand, lays down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10: 11).

After the example of the Good Shepherd, he gave his life in the decades of his priestly service. His existence was a living catechesis that acquired a very special effectiveness when people saw him celebrating Mass, pausing before the tabernacle in adoration or spending hour after hour in the confessional.

Therefore the centre of his entire life was the Eucharist, which he celebrated and adored with devotion and respect. Another fundamental characteristic of this extraordinary priestly figure was his diligent ministry of confession.

He recognized in the practice of the sacrament of penance the logical and natural fulfillment of the priestly apostolate, in obedience to Christ's mandate: "if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (cf. Jn 20: 23).

St John Mary Vianney thus distinguished himself as an excellent, tireless confessor and spiritual director. Passing "with a single inner impulse from the altar to the confessional", where he spent a large part of the day, he did his utmost with preaching and persuasive advice to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Penance, presenting it as an inherent demand of the Eucharistic presence (cf. Letter to Priests for the inauguration of the Year for Priests).

The pastoral methods of St John Mary Vianney might hardly appear suited to the social and cultural conditions of the present day. Indeed, how could a priest today imitate him in a world so radically changed? Although it is true that times change and many charisms are characteristic of the person, hence unrepeatable, there is nevertheless a lifestyle and a basic desire that we are all called to cultivate.

At a close look, what made the Curé of Ars holy was his humble faithfulness to the mission to which God had called him; it was his constant abandonment, full of trust, to the hands of divine Providence.
It was not by virtue of his own human gifts that he succeeded in moving peoples' hearts nor even by relying on a praiseworthy commitment of his will; he won over even the most refractory souls by communicating to them what he himself lived deeply, namely, his friendship with Christ.

He was "in love" with Christ and the true secret of his pastoral success was the fervor of his love for the Eucharistic Mystery, celebrated and lived, which became love for Christ's flock, for Christians and for all who were seeking God. His testimony reminds us, dear brothers and sisters, that for every baptized person and especially for every priest the Eucharist is not merely an event with two protagonists, a dialogue between God and me. Eucharistic Communion aspires to a total transformation of one's life and forcefully flings open the whole human "I" of man and creates a new "we" (cf. Joseph Ratzinger, La Comunione nella Chiesa, p. 80).

Thus, far from reducing the figure of St John Mary Vianney to an example albeit an admirable one of 18-century devotional spirituality, on the contrary one should understand the prophetic power that marked his human and priestly personality that is extremely timely.

In post-revolutionary France which was experiencing a sort of "dictatorship of rationalism" that aimed at obliterating from society the very existence of priests and of the Church, he lived first in the years of his youth a heroic secrecy, walking kilometers at night to attend Holy Mass. Then later as a priest Vianney distinguished himself by an unusual and fruitful pastoral creativity, geared to showing that the then prevalent rationalism was in fact far from satisfying authentic human needs, hence definitively unlivable.

Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, contemporary society is facing challenges that are just as demanding and may have become even more complex.

If in his time the "dictatorship of rationalism" existed, in the current epoch a sort of "dictatorship of relativism" is evident in many contexts. Both seem inadequate responses to the human being's justifiable request to use his reason as a distinctive and constitutive element of his own identity.

Rationalism was inadequate because it failed to take into account human limitations and claims to make reason alone the criterion of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism humiliates reason because it arrives de facto at affirming that the human being can know nothing with certainty outside the positive scientific field.

Today however, as in that time, man, "a beggar for meaning and fulfillment", is constantly in quest of exhaustive answers to the basic questions that he never ceases to ask himself.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had very clearly in mind this "thirst for the truth" that burns in every human heart when they said that it is the task of priests "as instructors of the people in the faith" to see to the "formation of a genuine Christian community", that can "smooth the path to Christ for all men" and exercise "a truly motherly function" for them, "showing or smoothing the path towards Christ and his Church" for non-believers and for believers, while also "encouraging, supporting and strengthening believers for their spiritual struggles" (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, n. 6).

The teaching which in this regard the Holy Curé of Ars continues to pass on to us is that the priest must create an intimate personal union with Christ that he must cultivate and increase, day after day.

Only if he is in love with Christ will the priest be able to teach his union, this intimate friendship with the divine Teacher to all, and be able to move people's hearts and open them to the Lord's merciful love. Only in this way, consequently, will he be able to instil enthusiasm and spiritual vitality in the communities the Lord entrusts to him.

Let us pray that through the intercession of St John Mary Vianney, God will give holy priests to his Church and will increase in the faithful the desire to sustain and help them in their ministry. Let us entrust this intention to Mary, whom on this very day we invoke as Our Lady of the Snow.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially the pilgrimage groups from England, China, Korea and the United States of America. Yesterday the Church celebrated the 150th anniversary of the death of St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who is the patron saint of parish priests. In this Year for Priests, let us pray that through his intercession all priests will be renewed in love of the Lord, in the joyful pursuit of holiness and in generous commitment to the spread of the Gospel. Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

My thoughts turn lastly to the sick, the newlyweds and the young people, especially to those participating in The Fifth International Encounter "Youth Towards Assisi". Today, the liturgical Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major, the liturgy invites us to turn our gaze to Mary, Mother of Christ. Always look to her, dear young people, imitating her in doing God's will faithfully; turn to her with trust, dear sick people, to experience the effectiveness of her protection in moments of trial; entrust your family to her, dear newlyweds, so that it may always be supported by her maternal intercession.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana



Mary's "Yes" and Our "Yes"
She "Has Been 'Elevated' to the Place From Which the Son Had 'Come Down'"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 17, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

Yesterday we celebrated the great feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven and today we read in the Gospel these words from Jesus: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven" (John 6:51). We cannot remain indifferent to this parallel, which revolves around the symbol of "heaven." Mary has been "elevated" to the place from which the Son had "come down."

Naturally this biblical language expresses with figurative terminology something that does not entirely enter into the world of our concepts and images. But, let us pause for a moment to reflect. Jesus presents himself as the "living bread," that is, the nourishment that contains the very life of God and is capable of giving [this life] to one who eats of him, the true nourishment that gives life, that deeply nourishes. Jesus says: "Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (John 6:51).

But then, from whom has the Son of God taken his "flesh," his concrete and earthly humanity? He took it from the Virgin Mary. God took from her a human body to enter into our mortal human condition. In turn, at the end of an earthly existence, the body of the Virgin was taken to heaven by God and brought to enter into the celestial condition. This is an interchange in which God always takes the initiative, but in which in a certain sense, as we have seen on other occasions, he also has need of Mary, of the "yes" of a creature, of her flesh, of her concrete existence, to prepare the matter of his sacrifice: the body and blood to be offered on the cross as an instrument of eternal life, and, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, as spiritual food and drink.

Dear brothers and sisters: What happened to Mary is also valid, though in a different but real way, for every man and woman, because God asks each of us to welcome him, to place at his disposal our hearts and our bodies, the whole of our existence, our flesh -- as the Bible says -- so that he can dwell in the world.

He calls us to unite ourselves with him in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Bread broken for the life of the world, to together form the Church, his Body in history. And if we say "yes," like Mary, in the same measure of this our "yes," this mysterious interchange will also happen for us and in us: We will be assumed into the dignity of the One who has assumed our humanity.

The Eucharist is the means, the instrument of this reciprocal transformation, which always has God as the goal and the principal protagonist: He is the Head and we are the members. He is the Vine and we the branches. Whoever eats of this Bread and lives in communion with Jesus, allowing himself to be transformed by him and in him, is saved from eternal death: Certainly this person will die as everyone does, participating as well in the mystery of the passion and the cross of Christ, but he is no longer a slave of death and he will be raised up on the last day to enjoy the eternal feast with Mary and all the saints.

This mystery, this feast of God begins here below: It is a mystery of faith, hope and love, which is celebrated in the liturgy, especially the Eucharistic [liturgy], and is expressed in fraternal communion and service to our neighbor. Let us ask the holy Virgin to help us to always with faith nourish ourselves on the Bread of eternal life to experience already on earth the joy of heaven.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father addressed the crowd in various languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. May your time here at Castel Gandolfo and in Rome deepen your faith in our Lord, the living bread, who brings us the gift of eternal life. Upon you and your families I invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Saints of August
"Real Models of Spirituality and Priestly Devotion"

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 17, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in the courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, on Aug. 2.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I returned a few days ago from the Val d'Aosta and it is with great pleasure that I am with you once again, dear friends of Castel Gandolfo. To the Bishop, the parish priest and the parish community, to the civil Authorities and the entire population of Castel Gandolfo, along with the pilgrims as well as the holiday-makers, I renew my affectionate greeting together with a heartfelt "thank you" for your ever cordial welcome. I also thank you for the spiritual closeness that many people expressed to me in Les Combes at the time of the small accident to my right wrist.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Year for Priests that we are celebrating is a precious opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the value of the mission of priests in the Church and in the world. In this regard, useful ideas for reflection can be found in remembering the saints whom the Church holds up to us daily.

In these first days of the month of August, for example, we commemorate some who are real models of spirituality and priestly devotion. Yesterday was the liturgical Memorial of St Alphonsus Mary de' Liguori, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, a great teacher of moral theology and a model of Christian and pastoral virtues who was ever attentive to the religious needs of the people. Today we are contemplating St Francis of Assisi's ardent love for the salvation of souls which every priest must always foster. In fact today is the feast of the "Pardon of Assisi", which St Francis obtained from Pope Honorious III in the year 1216, after having a vision while he was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula.

Jesus appeared to him in his glory, with the Virgin Mary on his right and surrounded by many Angels. They asked him to express a wish and Francis implored a "full and generous pardon" for all those who would visit that church who "repented and confessed their sins". Having received papal approval, the Saint did not wait for any written document but hastened to Assisi and when he reached the Portiuncula announced the good news: "Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven!". Since then, from noon on 1 August to midnight on the second, it has been possible to obtain, on the usual conditions, a Plenary Indulgence, also for the dead, on visiting a parish church or a Franciscan one.

What can be said of St John Mary Vianney whom we shall commemorate on 4 August? It was precisely to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his death that I announced the Year for Priests. I promise to speak again of this humble parish priest who constitutes a model of priestly life not only for parish priests but for all priests at the Catechesis of the General Audience next Wednesday. Then on 7 August it will be the Memorial of St Cajetan da Thiene, who used to like to say: "it is not with sentimental love but rather with loving actions that souls are purified".

And the following day, 8 August, the Church will point out as a model St Dominic, of whom it has been written that he only "opened his mouth either to speak to God in prayer or to speak of God". Lastly, I cannot forget to mention the great figure of Pope Montini, Paul VI, the 31st anniversary of whose death, here in Castel Gandolfo, occurs on 6 August. His life, so profoundly priestly and so rich in humanity, continues to be a gift to the Church for which we thank God. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, help priests to be totally in love with Christ, after the example of these models of priestly holiness.

[After the Angelus 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, including the international pilgrimage group of Sisters of St Felix of Cantalice. In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us to work for the food that remains unto life eternal. During these quiet days of summer, may all of us find spiritual nourishment in "the bread come down from heaven", offered to us daily in God's holy word and in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Upon you and your families I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord!

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, I address my cordial greetings to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, and first of all to the citizens of Castel Gandolfo to which I always return joyfully and where today the traditional Peach Festival is being held. I greet in particular the young people from the parishes of San Giovanni Battista and Santa Maria Assunta in Monterosso Almo and all the parish groups and families, including those who are watching us at this moment on the screens set up in St Peter's Square, Rome. I wish you all a good Sunday and a peaceful month of August.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Vespers in Aosta
"We Must Bring the Reality of God Back Into Our World"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 31, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave July 24 during vespers, which he celebrated with the faithful of Aosta, Italy, in the city's Cathedral.

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Your Excellency,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all, I should like to say "Thank you" to you, Your Excellency, for your kind words of introduction to the great history of this Cathedral Church, thus making me feel that not only do we pray here, at this moment, but that we can pray through the centuries in this beautiful church.

And my thanks to all of you, who have come to pray with me, and in this way to manifest this network of prayer which binds us all at all times.

In this brief Homily I should like to say a few words about the prayer which concludes these Vespers as it seems to me that the excerpt from the Letter to the Romans which has just been read is interpreted and transformed here into prayer. The prayer is composed of two parts: an address a heading, so to speak and then the prayer, which consists of two requests.

Let us begin with the address, which is also, in its turn, composed of two parts: here the "you" to whom we speak is made more specific, so that we can knock with greater force on the heart of God.

In the Italian text, we read simply: "Merciful Father". The original Latin is a little fuller; it says, "Almighty and Merciful God". In my recent Encyclical, I have tried to show the prime importance of God both in one's private life and in the life of society, of the world, of history.

Certainly the relationship with God is a profoundly personal matter, and the individual is a being in relationship with others. If the fundamental relationship that with God is not living, is not lived, then no other relationship can find its right form. But this is also true for society, for humanity as such. Here, too, if God is missing, if God is discounted, if he is absent, then the compass is lacking which would show the way forward, the direction to follow in relationships as a whole.

God! We must bring the reality of God back into our world, make him known and present. But how can we know God? During the "ad limina" visits I always speak with the Bishops, in particular African Bishops, but also those from Asia and Latin America where traditional religions still exist, about these religions. They differ greatly from one another in many details, but they also share common elements. They all know that God exists, one God, that "god" is a singular noun, that the gods are not God, that God exists, God. But at the same time this God seems absent, far away, he does not seem to come into our daily lives, he hides, we do not know his Face. Therefore the religions deal for the most part with objects, with powers nearer to us, with spirits, ancestors and so on, since God himself is too far away, and so we have to make do with these closer powers. And the act of evangelization consists precisely in the fact that the distant God draws near, that he is no longer far away, but is close to us, that this "known and unknown" figure now makes himself truly known, shows his Face, reveals himself: the veil covering his Face disappears and he shows his true Face.

And so, since God himself is now near us, we can know him, he shows us his Face and enters our world. There is no longer any need to make do with those other powers, because he is the true power, the Omnipotent.

I do not know why the word "omnipotent" has been omitted from the Italian text, but it is true that we feel a little threatened by the word "omnipotence": it seems to limit our freedom, it seems to be too strong. But we must learn that the omnipotence of God is not an arbitrary power, because God is Good, he is Truth, and therefore he can do anything, but he cannot act against good, he cannot act against truth, love or freedom, because he himself is good, love, and true freedom. And therefore nothing he does can ever be in contrast with truth, love and freedom. The contrary is true. He, God, is the guardian of our freedom, of love and of truth. This eye which looks upon us is not an evil eye watching us; it is the presence of love which will never abandon us but rather gives us the certainty that Good is being, Good is living: it is the eye of love that gives us the air to live.

Almighty and Merciful God. A Roman prayer, connected with the text of the Book of Wisdom, says: "O God, show your omnipotence through pardon and mercy". The summit of God's power is mercy, pardon. In our modern-day worldly concept of power, we think of someone who owns large estates, who has some say in the world of economics, who has capital and can influence the world of the market. We think of someone who has military power, who can threaten. Stalin's question, "How many armed divisions does the Pope have?" still characterizes the common idea of power. Whoever has power and many worldly effects may be dangerous, as he could threaten and destroy. But Revelations tells us. "It is not so"; true power is the power of grace and of mercy. In his mercy, God demonstrates true power.

And so the second part of this address says: "You have redeemed the world with the Passion, with the suffering of Your Son". God has suffered, and through his Son he suffers with us. This is the summit of his power, that he can suffer with us. In this way he demonstrates the true divine power: he desired to suffer with us and for us. In our suffering we are never left alone. God, through his Son, suffered first, and he is close to us in our suffering.

However a difficult question remains, one I cannot answer at length at this moment: why was it necessary to suffer to save the world? It was necessary because there exists in the world an ocean of evil, of injustice, hatred, and violence, and the many victims of hatred and injustice have the right to see justice done. God cannot ignore the cries of the suffering who are oppressed by injustice. To forgive is not to ignore, but to transform. God must enter into this world in order to set against the ocean of injustice a larger ocean of goodness and of love. And this is the event of the Cross: from that moment, against the ocean of evil, there exists a river that is boundless, and so ever mightier than all the injustices of the world, a river of goodness, truth, and love. Thus God forgives, coming into the world and transforming it so that there may be a real strength, a river of goodness wider than all the evil that could ever exist.

So our address to God becomes an address to ourselves: God invites us to join with him, to leave behind the ocean of evil, of hatred, violence, and selfishness and to make ourselves known, to enter into the river of his love.

This is precisely the content of the first part of the prayer that follows: "Let Your Church offer herself to You as a living and holy sacrifice". This request, addressed to God, is made also to ourselves. It is a reference to two passages from the Letter to the Romans. We ourselves, with our whole being, must be adoration and sacrifice, and by transforming our world, give it back to God. The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host. And let us pray the Lord to help us become priests in this sense, to aid in the transformation of the world, in adoration of God, beginning with ourselves. That our lives may speak of God, that our lives may be a true liturgy, an announcement of God, a door through which the distant God may become the present God, and a true giving of ourselves to God.

Then the second request. We pray: "Let Your people know always the fullness of Your love". The Latin text reads: "Satisfy us with Your love". The text refers to the Psalm we have sung, which says: "Open your hand and satisfy the hunger of every living creature". How much hunger there is on Earth, hunger for bread in many parts of the world: Your Excellency has also spoken of the suffering of the families here: hunger for justice, hunger for love. And with this prayer, we pray to God: "Open Your hand and satisfy fully the hunger of every living creature. Satisfy our hunger for the truth and for Your love".

So be it. Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Helping Jesus in His Mission

"Priests Become Instruments of Salvation"

INTROD, Italy, JULY 26, 2009 - Here is a translation of the text of the address Benedict XVI gave before reciting the Angelus at midday today with the faithful gathered at Les Combes in northern Italy's Aosta Valley where the Pope is vacationing.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

A good Sunday to you! We meet here in Les Combes, near the welcoming house that the Salesians have placed at the Pope's disposition, where I am ending the period of rest among the beautiful mountains of the Aosta Valley. I am grateful to God that he has conceded me the joy of these days marked by true relaxation -- despite the little accident about which you know well. I would like to take this occasion to affectionately thank those who eagerly accompanied me with discretion and with great dedication. I greet Cardinal Poletto and the bishops present here, especially the Bishop of Aosta, Monsignor Giuseppe Anfossi, whom I thank for the words that he spoke to me. I cordially greet the curate of Les Combes, the civil and military authorities, the police, and all of you, dear friends, as also those who are joined to us by radio and television.

Today, on this splendid Sunday on which the Lord shows us all the beauty of his creation, the liturgy provides the beginning of Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John as the Gospel passage. Here we have the miracle of the loaves -- when Jesus feeds thousands of persons with only five loaves and two fish; then the other prodigy of the Lord walking on the waters of the stormy lake; and finally the sermon in which he reveals himself as "the bread of life."

Narrating the "sign" of the loaves, the evangelist emphasizes that Christ, before distributing them, blessed them with a prayer of thanksgiving (cf. 6:11). The [Greek] verb is "eucharistein" and points directly to the account of the Last Supper, in which, in effect, John does not treat the institution of the Eucharist but rather the washing of the feet. Here the Eucharist is anticipated as the great sign of the bread of life.

In this Year for Priests, how can we not recall that we priests can be especially reflected in this Johannine text, identifying ourselves with the Apostles, where it says: Where can we find bread for all these people? And reading about that anonymous boy who has five loaves and two fish, we too spontaneously say: But what is this for such a multitude? In other words: What am I? How can I, with my limitations, help Jesus in his mission? And the Lord gives the answer: Precisely by putting into his "holy and venerable" hands the little that they are, priests become instruments of salvation for many, for all!

Another point for reflection comes to us from today's Feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, parents of Mary and, therefore, grandparents of Jesus. This feast makes us think about the topic of education, which has such an important place in the pastoral work of the Church. In particular, it invites us to pray for grandparents, who, in the family, are the depositaries and the witnesses of the fundamental values of life. The educational task of grandparents is always very important, and it becomes even more so when, for different reasons, the parents are not able to ensure an adequate presence to their children, while they are growing up.

I entrust to the protection of Anne and Joachim all the grandparents of the world, giving them a special blessing. May the Virgin Mary, who, according to certain beautiful artistic renderings, learned to read sacred Scriptures at the knee of her mother, Anne, help grandparents to always nourish their faith and hope at the font of the Word of God.

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

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present today. Thank you for joining me here in Les Combes to pray the Angelus. I hope that your holidays may be a time of great joy, spent together as families, and of deep spiritual renewal, as you rest in the marvel of God's gift of creation. May the Almighty abundantly bless each of you and your loved ones.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Economic Crisis and Cultural Values

"Providence Always Helps Those Who Do Good"

ROMANO CANAVESE, Italy, JULY 19, 2009 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus in Romano Canavese, close to Les Combes in the Aosta Valley of northern Italy where he is spending some vacation days.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I have come with great joy to your beautiful city, to your beautiful church, the native city of my chief colleague, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, with whom I had already worked for many years in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

As you see, because of my accident, I am a bit limited in my movements, but my heart is fully present, and I am here with you with great joy!

At this moment I would like to say thank you with my whole heart to everyone: many have shown me, at this time, their closeness, their warmth, their affection and have prayed for me, and in this way they have reinforced the network of prayer that unites us in every part of the world.

First of all, I would like to say thank you to the doctors and the medical personnel of Aosta who have treated me with such diligence, with such competence and friendship and -- as you see -- with success -- we hope!

I would also like to say thank you to all the government and Church officials and to all the simple people who wrote me or showed me their affection and their closeness.

I would then like above all to greet your bishop, Bishop Arrigo Miglio, and thank him for the kind words, full of friendship, that also taught me a little about the historical and present situation of this city of yours. And I would also like to thank his Excellency Luigi Betazzi for his presence. I greet the mayor, who gave me a beautiful gift, [and] the civil and military authorities; I greet the pastor and the other priests, the men and women religious, the heads of the ecclesiastical associations and movements and all of the citizenry, with a special thought for the children, the young people, the families, the sick, the persons in need. To all and to each my most lively gratitude goes out for the welcome that you have reserved for me in this brief sojourn with you.

This morning you celebrated the Eucharist and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has certainly already explained the Word of God to you, which the liturgy offers for our meditation on this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time. As the Lord invites the disciples to come away to listen to him in a more intimate setting, I also would like to be engaged with you, recalling that precisely listening to and welcoming the Gospel is what brought your local community about, whose name recalls the relationship of two millennia that the Canavese have with Rome. As his Excellency said, your land was bathed in the blood of martyrs at an early date. Among them was St. Solutore -- I must confess that until now I did not know his name but I am always grateful to discover new saint intercessors! -- and together with St. Peter the Apostle, he is the patron of your church.

Your imposing parish church is an eloquent witness to a long history of faith. This church dominates a large part of the Canavese landscape, whose inhabitants are known for their love and attachment to work. Presently, however, I know that here too, in Ivrea, many families are experiencing a difficult economic situation because of the scarcity of jobs. In regard to this problem -- as his Excellency also recalled -- I have spoken many times and I wanted to treat it more deeply in my recent encyclical "Caritas in Veritate." I hope that it will be able to mobilize forces to renew the world!

Dear friends, do not be discouraged! Providence always helps those who do good and dedicate themselves to justice; it helps those who do not think only of themselves but of those who are worse off. And you know this well, because your grandparents had to emigrate because there was a lack of work, but then economic development brought well-being and others immigrated here from [other parts of] Italy and from foreign countries. The fundamental values of the family and respect for human life, sensibility for social justice, the capacity to endure toil and sacrifice, the strong link to Christian faith through parish life and especially through participation at Holy Mass, have been your strength over the centuries. These same values will permit today's generations to build their future with hope, giving life to a true solidarity and a fraternal society, in which all the various spheres, institutions and economy are permeated by an evangelical spirit.

I address the young people in a special way, who must think about education. Here, as everywhere, you must ask what sort of culture is emerging around you; what examples and models are proposed to you, and you must determine whether they are such as to encourage you to follow the ways of the Gospel and authentic freedom. Youth is full of resources, but it must be helped to overcome the temptation of easy and illusory ways, to find the road of true and abundant life.

Dear brothers and sisters! In this land of yours, rich in Christian traditions and human values, numerous vocations have flourished among men and women, especially for the Salesian family, like that of Cardinal Bertone, who was born in this very parish of yours, was baptized in this church, and grew up in a family where he assimilated a genuine faith. Your diocese owes much to the sons and daughters of Don Bosco, to their widespread and fruitful presence in this whole area from the time when the holy founder was still alive. May this be a further encouragement to your diocesan community to commit itself more and more to the field of education and vocational accompaniment. For this let us invoke the protection of Mary, the Virgin Assumed, Patroness of the Diocese, Help of Christians, a mother loved and venerated in a special way in numerous shrines dedicated to her among the mountains of the Gran Paradiso and on the plain of the Po. May her maternal presence show the way of hope to all and lead them along it as the star led the Magi. May the Madonna of the Star watch over all you from the hill that dominates Ivrea, Monte Stella, which is dedicated to her and to the Magi Kings. Let us now entrust ourselves to the Madonna with filial confidence, invoking her with the prayer of the Angelus.


Pope's Address at Audience With New Archbishops
"Carry Deeply in Your Hearts Your Priests"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 13, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered June 30 upon receiving the 34 archbishops on whom he had conferred the pallium the previous day.

The prelates were accompanied by their relatives, friends and diocesan faithful.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the celebrations for the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, it is a real pleasure for me to meet all of you, Metropolitan Archbishops who received the pallium yesterday in the Vatican Basilica, and your relatives and friends who have accompanied you to this special audience. Thus the joy of communion experienced on the feast of the two great Apostles on which I was able to confer upon you the pallium, a symbol of the unity that binds the Pastors of the particular Churches to the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome. I address my cordial welcome to each one of you, who come from every continent, significantly revealing the face of the Catholic Church, spread over all the earth.

I first address you, beloved Pastors of the Church in Italy. I greet Archbishop Giuseppe Betori of Florence, Archbishop Salvatore Pappalardo of Siracusa and Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio of Lecce.

We are at the beginning of the Year for Priests: may you therefore take pains to be exemplary Pastors, zealous and full of love for the Lord and for your communities. You will thus be able to guide and firmly support in their pastoral ministry the priests, your first collaborators, and cooperate effectively in spreading the Kingdom of God in the beloved land of Italy.

I am pleased to meet the French-speaking pilgrims who are accompanying the new Metropolitan Archbishops upon whom I have had the joy of conferring the pallium. I would like first of all to greet Archbishop Ghaleb Moussa Abdalla Bader of Algiers, Algeria, Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of Rimouski, Canada, Archbishop Joseph Aké Yapo of Gagnoa, Côte d'Ivoire, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Archbishop Philippe Ouédraogo of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I also extend my warm greetings to the Bishops, priests and faithful of our countries, assuring them of my fervent prayers. The pallium is a sign of special communion with the Successor of Peter. May this sign also be for the priests and faithful of your dioceses an appeal to consolidate increasingly authentic communion with their Pastors and among all the members of the Church.

I extend warm greetings to the English-speaking Metropolitan Archbishops upon whom I conferred the pallium yesterday: Archbishop Paul Mandla Khumalo of Pretoria, South Africa; Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver, Canada; Archbishop Allen Henry Vigneron of Detroit, U.S.A.; Archbishop Anicetus Bongsu Antonius Sinaga of Medan, Indonesia; Archbishop Philip Naameh of Tamale, Ghana; Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan of New York, U.S.A.; Archbishop Vincent Gerard Nichols of Westminster, U.K.; Archbishop Robert James Carlson of Saint Louis, U.S.A.; Archbishop Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij of Bangkok, Thailand; Archbishop George Joseph Lucas of Omaha, U.S.A.; Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond of New Orleans, U.S.A. and Archbishop Patebendige Don Albert Malcom Ranjith of Colombo, Sri Lanka. I also welcome their family members, their relatives, friends and the faithful of their respective Archdioceses who have come to Rome to pray with them and to share their joy on this happy occasion. The pallium is received from the hands of the Successor of Peter and worn by the Archbishops as a sign of communion in faith and love and in the governance of God's People. It also recalls to Pastors their responsibilities as shepherds after the Heart of Jesus. To all of you I affectionately impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord.

I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking Metropolitan Archbishops who have come to Rome for the solemn ceremony of the conferral of the pallium: Archbishop Domingo Díaz Martínez of Tulancingo; Manuel Felipe Díaz Sánchez of Calabozo; José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador; Carlos Osoro Sierra of Valencia; Víctor Sánchez Espinosa of Puebla de los Ángeles; Archbishop Carlos Aguiar Retes of Tlalnepantla; Archbishop Ismael Rueda Sierra of Bucaramanga, and Archbishop Braulio Rodríguez Plaza of Toledo, as well as the relatives, friends, priests and faithful of their respective particular Churches who have accompanied them. Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, may the black silk cross embroidered on the pallium remind you that you must be every day more closely configured to Jesus Christ. Following in his footsteps as the Good Shepherd, always be signs of unity among your faithful, strengthening your bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter, with your suffragan Bishops and with all those who collaborate in your evangelizing mission. In this Year for Priests which has just began, carry deeply in your hearts your priests who expect of you kindly treatment as fathers and brothers who welcome them, listen to them and are concerned about them. I place you and your diocesan communities under the protection of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Apostles, who is so widely venerated in the countries that you come from: Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Colombia and Spain.

I welcome with joy the relatives and friends of the new Metropolitan Archbishops of Brazil who have accompanied them for the conferral of the pallium, a sign of profound communion with the Successor of Peter. In this communion I address a special greeting to Archbishop Sérgio da Rocha of Teresina; Archbishop Maurício Grotto de Camargo of Botucatu; Archbishop Gil António Moreira of Juiz de Fora; and Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. Please convey my greetings to the priests and to all the faithful of your Archdioceses, so that united in the same faith of Peter you may contribute to the evangelization of society. As a pledge of joy and peace in the Lord, I impart my Blessing to you all.

I greet you, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv for Latins, and all those who surround you at this moment of lively ecclesial communion. Once again, I am grateful for your service to the Church as my collaborator, and earlier, as that of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II. May the Spirit of the Lord accompany you in your pastoral ministry for the faithful entrusted to your care, to whom I send a cordial greeting.

I cordially greet the Poles present here. In particular, I greet Archbishop Andrzej Dziega, the new Metropolitan of Szczecin-Kamien who received the pallium yesterday, and the faithful who come from this Metropolis. In the Year for Priests may the pallium also be for priests a symbol and a challenge to build communion with their own Bishops, among themselves and also with the faithful. As I implore for all of you the gifts of God's charity, I cordially bless you. Praised be Jesus Christ!

Dear brothers and sisters, may today's memorial of the Protomartyrs of Rome be a stimulus for each one of us to love Jesus Christ and the Church ever more intensely. May you be accompanied by the maternal assistance of Mary, Mother of the Church, by the Apostles Peter and Paul and by St John Mary Vianney. To each and every one of you I impart my Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the G-8 Summit
"The Proclamation of Christ Is the First and Principal Factor of Development"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 12, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In recent days everyone's attention has been on the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, a city that has suffered so much from the earthquake. Some of the topics on the agenda were dramatically urgent. In the world there are social inequalities and structural injustices that are no longer tolerable, that demand, besides the right and proper immediate interventions, a coordinated strategy to find long lasting general solutions. During the summit the heads of state and of governments of the G-8 again stressed the necessity of arriving at common accords with the purpose of assuring humanity a better future.

The Church does not have technical solutions to present, but, as an expert in humanity, she offers to everyone the teaching of the sacred Scripture on the truth about man and proclaims the Gospel of Love and justice. Last Wednesday, commenting on the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" during the general audience -- the encyclical was published on the eve of the G-8 summit -- I said that "[a] new economic plan is needed that will reshape development in a global way, basing itself on the fundamental ethics of responsibility before God and before man as a creature of God." This is because -- as I wrote in the encyclical -- "[i]n an increasingly globalized society, the common good and the effort to obtain it cannot fail to assume the dimensions of the whole human family" (No. 7).

Already the great Pontiff, Paul VI, in the encyclical "Populorum Progressio," recognized and pointed to the global horizon of the social question. Following the same route, I too indicated the need to dedicate "Caritas in Veritate" to such a question, that, in our time, has become a "radically anthropological question," in the sense, that is, that the way itself of conceiving man is more and more placed in the hands of man himself by modern biotechnology (cf. ibid. No. 75). The solutions to the current problems of humanity cannot be merely technical, but must take account of all the needs of the person, who is endowed with soul and body, and must thus take the Creator, God, into consideration. The "absolutism of technology," which finds its highest expression in certain practices that are contrary to life, could design gloomy scenarios for the future of humanity. The deeds that do not respect the true dignity of the person, even when they seem to be based on a "loving decision," are in reality the fruit of a "materialistic and mechanistic understanding of human life" that reduces love without truth to "an empty shell, filled in an arbitrary way" (cf. No. 6) and could in this way lead to negative effects for integral human development.

Despite the complexity of the current situation of the world, the Church looks to the future with hope and reminds Christians that "the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal factor of development." Precisely today in the collect of the Mass, the Church invites us to pray: "Grant us, Father, not to hold anything more dear than your Son, who reveals to the world the mystery of your love and the true dignity of man." May the Virgin Mary obtain for us [the grace] to walk the path of development with our whole heart and intelligence, "that is to say, with the ardor of charity and the wisdom of truth" (cf. No. 8).

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. Here is a translation of the some of the remarks he made in Italian:]

In these days I am following the events in Honduras with lively concern. Today I would like to invite you to pray for that dear country so that, through the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Suyapa, the authorities of the nation and all its inhabitants can patiently follow the way of dialogue, of reciprocal understanding, and reconciliation. That is possible if, overcoming particularist tendencies, everyone makes an effort to seek the truth and pursue the common good with tenacity: This is the condition for assuring peaceful coexistence and authentic democratic life! I assure the beloved Honduran people of my prayer and impart a special apostolic benediction.

Tomorrow, if it pleases God, I will depart for a brief period of rest in the mountains. I will travel to Valle d'Aosta, to Les Combes, an area that is celebrated for the sojourns of my beloved predecessor John Paul II and also much loved by me. In saying "goodbye" to St. Peter's Square and to the city of Rome, I invite all to accompany me with prayer. Prayer does not know distances and separations: wherever we are, it makes us one heart and one soul.

In regard to departures, I will take this occasion once again to stress the duty of all to be prudent in driving and to respect highway laws. A good vacation truly begins with this!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said]

I am pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors here today. I know that some of you have come from as far away as Sydney, Australia, and I extend a particular welcome to you, remembering the joyful celebration of World Youth Day in your city almost exactly a year ago. To all who are on pilgrimage or on holiday at this time, I offer the assurance of my prayers that you will find refreshment in body and spirit and an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving. May God bestow his blessings of joy and peace upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily at Mass to Bestow Palliums to Archbishops
"In Seeing From God's Viewpoint, One Has an Overall Vision"

VATICAN CITY, JULY12, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered June 29, the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, at the Mass during which he celebrated the 58th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood and conferred the pallium on 34 Metropolitan Archbishops.

* * *

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address my cordial greeting to you all with the words of the Apostle by whose tomb we stand: "May grace and peace be multiplied to you" (1 Pt 1: 2). I greet in particular the Members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the numerous Metropolitans who will receive the pallium today. In the opening prayer of this solemn day we ask the Lord that the Church may always follow the teaching of the Apostles from whom she first received the announcement of the faith.

The request we address to God at the same time calls us into question: are we following the teaching of the great founder Apostles? Do we really know them? In the Pauline Year that ended yesterday, we endeavoured to listen anew to him, the "teacher of the Gentiles", hence to learn anew the alphabet of faith. We endeavoured to recognize Christ with Paul and through Paul, and thus to find the way to an upright Christian life. In the Canon of the New Testament, in addition to the Letters of St Paul, there are also two other Letters under the name of St Peter. The first ends with an explicit greeting from Rome, which, however, appears under the apocalyptic pseudonym of Babylon: "She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings" (1 Pt 5: 13).

By calling the Church of Rome "likewise chosen", he sets her within the great community of all the local Churches in the community of all those whom God has gathered, so that in the "Babylon" of this world's time they might build up his People and introduce God into history.

St Peter's First Letter is a greeting addressed from Rome to the Christendom of all epochs. It invites us to listen to "the teaching of the Apostles", which shows us the way to life.

This Letter is a very rich text that wells up from the heart and touches the heart. Its centre is and how could it be otherwise? the figure of Christ who is illustrated as the One who suffers and loves, as Crucified and Risen: "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten.... By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pt 2: 23f.).

Then starting from the centre that is Christ, the Letter is also an introduction to the fundamental Christian Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist and a discourse addressed to priests in which Peter describes himself as a fellow priest with them. He speaks to Pastors of all generations as one who was personally made responsible by the Lord for tending his sheep and has thus received a specific priestly mandate.

So what does St Peter tell us precisely in the Year for Priests about the priest's task? First of all he understands the priestly ministry as being based totally on Christ. He calls Christ the "Shepherd and Guardian of... souls" (2: 25). Where the Italian [and the English] translation speak of "Guardian", the Greek text uses the word episcopos (bishop). A little further on, Christ is described as the chief Shepherd: archipoimen (5: 4). It is surprising that Peter should call Christ himself a Bishop, Bishop of souls. What did he mean by this? The Greek term "episcopos" contains the verb "to see"; for this reason it is translated as "guardian", in other words "supervisor". Yet external supervision, as might befit a prison guard, is certainly not what is meant here. Rather it means watching over, from above seeing from the lofty position of God.

Seeing from God's perspective is seeing with love that wants to serve the other, wants to help him to become truly himself. Christ is the "Bishop of souls", Peter tells us. This means: he sees us from the perspective of God. In seeing from God's viewpoint, one has an overall vision, one sees the dangers as well as the hopes and possibilities. From God's perspective one sees the essential, one sees the inner man. If Christ is the Bishop of souls, the objective is to prevent the human soul from becoming impoverished and to ensure that the human being does not lose his essence, the capacity for truth and love; to ensure that he becomes acquainted with God; that he does not get lost in blind alleys; that he does not end in loneliness but remains altogether open.

Jesus, the "Bishop of souls", is the prototype of every episcopal and presbyteral ministry. To be a Bishop, to be a priest, means in this perspective to assume the position of Christ. It means thinking, seeing and acting from his exalted vantage point. It means starting from Christ in order to be available to human beings so that they find life.

Thus the word "Bishop", is very close to the term "Shepherd"; indeed the two concepts become interchangeable. It is the shepherd's task to feed and tend his flock and take it to the right pastures. Grazing the flock means taking care that the sheep find the right nourishment, that their hunger is satisfied and their thirst quenched. The metaphor apart, this means: the word of God is the nourishment that the human being needs.

Making God's word ever present and new and thereby giving nourishment to people is the task of the righteous Pastor. And he must also know how to resist the enemies, the wolves. He must go first, point out the way, preserve the unity of the flock. Peter, in his discourse to priests, highlights another very important thing. It is not enough to speak. Pastors must make themselves "examples to the flock". (5: 3). When it is lived, the word of God is brought from the past into the present. It is marvellous to see how in saints the word of God becomes a word addressed to our time.

In such figures as Francis and then again, as Padre Pio and many others, Christ truly became a contemporary of their generation, he emerged from the past to enter the present. This is what being a Pastor means a model for the flock: living the word now, in the great community of holy Church.

Very briefly, I would like to call your attention further to two other affirmations in the First Letter of St Peter which concern us in a special way in our time.

There is first of all the sentence, today discovered anew, on the basis of which medieval theologians understood their task, the task of the theologian: "in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you". (3: 15). Christian faith is hope. It paves the way to the future. And it is a hope that possesses reasonableness, a hope whose reason we can and must explain. Faith comes from the eternal Reason that entered our world and showed us the true God.

Faith surpasses the capacity of our reason, just as love sees more than mere intelligence. But faith speaks to reason and in the dialectic confrontation can be a match for reason. It does not contradict it but keeps up with it and goes beyond it to introduce us into the greater Reason of God.

As Pastors of our time it is our task to be the first to understand the reason of faith. It is our task not to let it remain merely a tradition but to recognize it as a response to our questions.

Faith demands our rational participation, which is deepened and purified in a sharing of love. It is one of our duties as Pastors to penetrate faith with thought, to be able to show the reason for our hope within the debates of our time. Yet although it is so necessary thought alone does not suffice. Just as speaking alone does not suffice. In his baptismal and Eucharistic catechesis in chapter 2 of his Letter, Peter alludes to the Psalm used by the ancient Church in the context of communion, that is, to the verse which says: "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Ps 34[33]: 8; 1 Pt 2: 3). Tasting alone leads to seeing.

Let us think of the disciples of Emmaus: it was only in convivial communion with Jesus, only in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened. Only in truly experienced communion with the Lord were they able to see. This applies to us all; over and above thinking and speaking, we need the experience of faith, the vital relationship with Jesus Christ.

Faith must not remain theory: it must be life. If we encounter the Lord in the Sacrament, if we speak to him in prayer, if in the decisions of daily life we adhere to Christ then "we see" more and more how good he is; then we experience how good it is to be with him. Moreover the capacity to communicate faith to others in a credible way stems from this certainty lived. The Curé d'Ars was not a great thinker; but he "tasted" the Lord. He lived with him even in the details of daily life, as well as in the great demands of his pastoral ministry. In this way he became "one who sees". He had tasted so he knew that the Lord is good. Let us pray the Lord that he may grant us this ability to taste, and that we may thus become credible witnesses of the hope that is in us.

Lastly, I would like to point out another small but important statement of St Peter. Right at the beginning of his Letter he tells us that the goal of our faith is the salvation of souls (cf. 1: 9). In the world of language and thought of the Christianity of today this is a strange, and for some, perhaps even shocking assertion.

The word "soul" had fallen into discredit. It is said that this could lead to a division of man into spiritual and physical, body and soul, whereas in reality he would be an indivisible unit. In addition, "the salvation of souls" as a goal of faith seems to indicate an individualistic Christianity, a loss of responsibility for the world overall, in its corporeity and in its materiality. Yet none of this is found in St Peter's Letter. Zeal for the witness in favour of hope and responsibility for others characterizes the entire text. To understand what he says on the salvation of souls as a destination of faith, we must start from another angle. It remains true that the lack of care for souls, the impoverishment of the inner man, not only destroys the individual but threatens the destiny of humanity overall.

Without the healing of souls, without the healing of man from within there can be no salvation for humanity. To our surprise, St Peter describes the true ailment of souls as ignorance, that is, not knowing God. Those who are not acquainted with God, or at least do not seek him sincerely, are left outside true life (cf. 1 Pt 1: 14).

Yet another word from the Letter could be useful to understand better the formula "salvation of souls". "Purify your souls by obedience to the truth" (cf. 1: 22). It is obedience to the truth that purifies the soul and it is coexistence with falsehood that pollutes it. Obedience to the truth begins with the small truths of daily life that can often be demanding and painful. This obedience then extends to obedience without reservations before the Truth itself that is Christ. This obedience not only purifies us but above all also frees us for service to Christ and thus for the salvation of the world, which nevertheless always begins with the obedient purification of one's own soul through the truth.

We may point out the way towards the truth only if by obedience and patience we let ourselves be purified by the truth.

And now I address you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, who will shortly receive the pallium from my hands. It was woven from the wool of lambs which the Pope blesses on the Feast of St Agnes. In this way it also recalls the lambs and sheep of Christ, which the Risen Lord entrusted to Peter with the task of tending them (cf. Jn 21: 15-18). The pallium recalls the flock of Jesus Christ which you, dear Brothers, must tend in communion with Peter. It reminds us of Christ himself, who, as the Good Shepherd, took the lost sheep, humanity, on his shoulders to bring it home. It reminds us that he, the supreme Pastor, wanted to make himself the Lamb, to take upon himself from within the destiny of us all; to carry us and to heal us from within. Let us pray the Lord that he will grant us to be just Pastors following in his footsteps, "not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it... eagerly... examples to the flock" (1 Pt 5: 2f). Amen.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Letter to Italian Leader Ahead of G-8
"Maintain and Reinforce Aid for Development"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 9, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the letter Benedict XVI sent July 1 to Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ahead of the Group of Eight summit L'Aquila, which is under way through Friday.

* * *

Hon. Mr Prime Minister,

With a view to the upcoming G8, the Group of the Heads of State and Government of the most industrialized countries, that will be taking place in L'Aquila from 8 to 10 July under the Italian Presidency, I am pleased to send a cordial greeting to you and to all the participants. I therefore willingly take the opportunity to make a contribution to the reflection on the meeting's themes, as I have done in the past.

I was informe d by my collaborators of the commitment with which the Government, over which you have the honour to preside, is preparing for this important meeting. I am also aware of the attention you have given to the reflections which, based on the themes of the upcoming Summit, have been formulated by the Holy See, the Catholic Church in Italy and the Catholic world in general, as well as the Representatives of other religions. The participation of Heads of State or Government not only of the G8 but also of many other nations will ensure that in order to find ways to a shared solution to the principal problems that are affecting the economy, peace and international security, the decisions to be adopted can more faithfully mirror the viewpoints and expectations of the peoples of all the continents.

Broadened to encompass the discussions of the forthcoming Summit, this participation therefore seems particularly timely, given the many problems in the world today that are highly interco nnected and interdependent. I refer in particular to the challenges of the current economic and financial crisis, as well as to the disturbing data of the phenomenon of climate change. These cannot but impel us to wise discernment and new projects to ""convert' the model of global development" (Benedict XVI, Angelus Reflection, 12 November 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 15 November 2006, p. 1), rendering it capable of effectively promoting integral human development, inspired by the values of human solidarity and of charity in truth. Several of these themes are also treated in my third Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, which in the next few days will be released to the press.

In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, on the initiative of John Paul II, the Holy See paid great attention to the work of the G8. My venerable Predecessor was in fact convinced that the liberation of the poorest countries from the burden of debt and, more generally, the uprooting of the causes of extreme poverty in the world depended on the full assumption of shared responsibility towards all humanity, which is incumbent on the most financially developed Governments and States.

These responsibilities have not diminished; on the contrary, they are even more urgent today. In the recent past, partly thanks to the impetus that the Great Jubilee of 2000 gave to the search for adequate solutions to problems related to the debt and to the economic vulnerability of Africa and other poor countries, and partly thanks to the notable economic and political changes in the global scene the majority of less developed countries has been able to enjoy a period of extraordinary growth. This has permitted many of them to hope in the achievement of the goal fixed by the international community on the threshold of the third millennium: to defeat extreme poverty by 2015.

Unfortunately, the financial and economic crisis that ha s been besieging the entire planet since the beginning of 2008 has transformed the circumstances. Now, there is a real risk not only that hopes of emerging from extreme poverty will be extinguished but on the contrary that even populations which have until now benefited from a minimum of material well-being will sink into poverty.

Furthermore, the current global economic crisis carries the threat of the cancellation or drastic reduction of programmes for international aid, especially for Africa and for the other economically less developed countries. Therefore with the same force as that with which John Paul II asked for the cancellation of the foreign debt I too would like to appeal to the member countries of the G8, to the other States represented and to the Governments of the whole world to maintain and reinforce aid for development, especially aid destined to "make the most" of "human resources", not only in spite of the crisis, but precisely becau se it is one of the principal paths to its solution.

Is it not in fact through investment in the human being in all the men and women of the earth that it will be possible to succeed in effectively dispelling the disturbing prospectives of global recession? Is not this truly the way to obtain, to the extent possible, a trend in the world economy that benefits the inhabitants of every country, rich and poor, large and small?

The issue of access to education is intimately connected to the efficacy of international cooperation. Thus if it is true that "investing" in men and women is necessary, then the goal of basic education for all, without exception, by 2015 must not only be met but must also be generously reinforced. Education is an indispensable condition for democracy to function, for fighting corruption, for exercising political, economic and social rights and for the effective recovery of all States, poor and rich alike. And, by correctly applyi ng the principle of subsidiarity, the support of development cannot but take into account the far-reaching educational action that the Catholic Church and other religious Denominations carry out in the world's poorest and most neglected regions.

I am therefore keen to remind the distinguished participants of the G8 that the measure of technical efficacy of the provisions to adopt in order to emerge from the crisis coincides with the measure of its ethical value. In other words, it is necessary to bear in mind practical human and family needs. I refer, for example, to the effective creation of positions for all, that enable workers to provide fittingly for their family's needs and to fulfil their primary responsibility as educators of their children and protagonists in the community to which they belong.

"A society in which this right is systematically denied", John Paul ii wrote, "in which economic policies do not allow workers to reach satisfact ory levels of employment, cannot be justified from an ethical point of view, nor can that society attain social peace" (Centesimus Annus, n. 43; cf., Laborem Excercens, n. 18).

And for this very purpose the urgent need for a fair system of international trade is essential, putting into practice and if necessary even going beyond the decisions made in Doha in 2001 to promote development.

I hope that all creative energy will be devoted to achieving the UN Millennium Goals concerning the elimination of extreme poverty by 2015. It is only right to reform the international financial structure to ensure effective coordination of national policies, to prevent credit speculation and to guarantee a broad international availability of public and private credit at the service of production and work, especially in the neediest countries and regions.

The ethical legitimization of the political commitments of the G8 will naturally demand that they be confr onted with the thought and needs of the entire International Community. To this end, it seems important to reinforce multi-lateralism, not only for economic matters but also for the entire spectrum of the issues concerning peace, global security, disarmament, health and protection of the environment and of natural resources for the present and future generations. The extension of the G8 to other regions certainly constitutes important and significant progress; yet at the time of the negotiations and concrete and operational decisions, it is necessary to take into careful consideration all needs, not only those of the countries that are most important or that have a more marked financial success. In fact, only this can make these decisions actually applicable and sustainable over time.

Let the voices of Africa and of the less economically developed countries be heard! Let effective models be sought in order to link the decisions of the various groups of countries, includi ng the G8, with the Assembly of the United Nations. In this way each nation, whatever its political and financial importance, may legitimately express itself in a position of equality with the others.

Lastly, I would like to add that the decision of the Italian Government to host the G8 in the city of L'Aquila a decision approved and shared by the other member States and guests is particularly significant. We have all witnessed the generous solidarity of the Italian people and of other nations, of national and international organizations towards the populations of the Abruzzo region hit by the earthquake.

This mobilization of solidarity could constitute an invitation to the members of the G8 and to the Governments and Peoples of the world to face united the current challenges that place humanity with no possibility of postponement before crucial decisions for the destiny of mankind itself, which is closely connected with the destiny of creation.

Hon. Mr Prime Minister, as I implore God's assistance for all those present at the upcoming G8 in L'Aquila and for the multilateral initiatives intended to resolve the economic and financial crisis and to guarantee a future of peace and prosperity to all men and women without exception, I gladly take this opportunity to express, once again, my esteem for you and, as I assure you of my prayers, I extend to you a respectful and cordial greeting.

From the Vatican, 1 July 2009


On the 3rd Encyclical
"A Better Future for Everyone Is Possible"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 8, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall. He reflected on his third encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," which was released Tuesday.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

My new encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," which was officially presented yesterday, was fundamentally inspired in a passage from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians, in which the apostle speaks of acting according to truth in charity: "Rather," we have just heard, "living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ" (4:15).

Charity in truth is, therefore, the principal propelling force for the true development of each person and all of humanity. Because of this, the whole of the Church's social doctrine revolves around the principle "caritas in veritate." Only with charity, enlightened by reason and faith, is it possible to achieve objectives of development with a human and humanizing value. Charity in the truth "is the principle around which the Church's social doctrine turns, a principle that takes on practical form in the criteria that govern moral action" (No. 6).

In the introduction, the encyclical immediately refers to two fundamental criteria: justice and the common good. Justice is an integral part of this love "in deed and truth" (1 John 3:18), to which the Apostle John exhorts us (cf. No. 6). And "to love someone is to desire that person's good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society. &h ellip; The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbors, the more effectively we love them." Therefore, there are two operative criteria: justice and the common good. In this second element, charity acquires a social dimension. Every Christian, the encyclical says, is called to this charity and, it adds, "This is the institutional path … of charity" (cf. No. 7).

Like other documents of the magisterium, this encyclical also takes up again and goes deeper into the analysis and reflection of the Church on social issues of vital interest to humanity in our times. In a special way, it is linked to what Paul VI wrote now more than 40 years ago in "Populorum Progressio," the cornerstone of the Church's social teaching, in which the great Pontiff outlined certain decisive and ever relevant ideas for the integral development of man and of the modern world. The world situation, as the chronicle of recent mon ths amply demonstrates, continues presenting not a few problems and the "scandal" of outrageous inequalities, which remain despite commitments made in the past. On one hand, signs of grave social and economic inequalities are evident; on the other hand, peoples from all over are calling for reform that will overcome the discrepancy of development among peoples, and this cannot wait.

The phenomenon of globalization can, in this sense, be a real opportunity, but for this, it is important to undertake a profound moral and cultural renewal and responsible discernment of the decisions that must be made for the common good. A better future for everyone is possible, if it is founded on the discovery of fundamental ethical values. A new economic plan is needed that will reshape development in a global way, basing itself on the fundamental ethics of responsibility before God and before man as a creature of God.

The encyclical certainly doesn't look to give technical solutions to the great social problems of the world today -- this is not the role of the Church's magisterium (cf. No. 9). It recalls, however, the great principles that show themselves to be indispensable for building human development in the coming years. Among these: In the first place, attention to the life of the person, considered as the center of all true progress; respect for the right to religious liberty, always closely linked to the development of the person; rejection of a Promethean vision of the human being, which considers him the absolute author of his own destiny. An unlimited trust in the power of technology in the end shows itself to be illusory.

Upright people are needed as much in politics as in the economy, people who are sincerely attentive to the common good. In particular, looking at world emergencies, it is urgent to call the attention of public opinion to the drama of hunger and food security, which affects a considerable porti on of humanity. A drama of such proportions piques our consciences: It must be decisively confronted, eliminating the structural causes that bring it about and promoting agricultural development in the poorest countries.

I am sure that this path of solidarity toward the development of the poorest countries will certainly help to elaborate a solution to the current global crisis. Undoubtedly, the role and political power of the state should be attentively re-evaluated, in an age in which limitations to its sovereignty exist as a result of the new economic-commercial and international financial situation.

And on the other hand, the participation of citizens in national and international politics should not be lacking, thanks as well to a renewed commitment from the associations of workers called to establish new synergies at the local and international level. The means of social communication also have a primary role in this field, to advance dialogue among cult ures and distinct traditions.

In wanting to make a plan for development that is not tainted by the malfunctions and distortions amply present today, serious reflection on the very meaning of the economy and its goals is required from everyone. The ecological state of the planet demands it; the cultural and moral crisis of man that is apparent in every corner of the globe requires it. The economy needs ethics for its correct functioning; it needs to recover the important contribution of the principle of gratuitousness and the "logic of gift" in the economy of the market, in which the norm cannot be personal gain.

But this is only possible thanks to a commitment from everyone, economists and politicians, producers and consumers, and presupposes formation of the conscience that gives strength to moral criteria in the elaboration of political and economic projects. Rightly so, many places pay recourse to the fact that rights presuppose corresponding dut ies, without which rights run the risk of becoming arbitrary.

It is said more and more that it is necessary for all of humanity to have a different style of life, in which the duties of everyone toward the environment are united with those of the person considered in himself and in relation with others. Humanity is one family and fruitful dialogue between faith and reason cannot but enrich it, making the work of charity more effective in society, moreover establishing the appropriate framework to stimulate collaboration between believers and non-believers, in the shared perspective of working for justice and peace in the world.

As guidelines for this fraternal interaction, in the encyclical I indicate the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, which are interconnected. I have indicated, finally, faced with such vast and deep problems in the world of today, the need for a world political Authority regulated by law, which abides by the principles of subsid iarity and solidarity already mentioned and which is firmly oriented toward the fulfillment of the common good, in respect of the great moral and religious traditions of humanity.

The Gospel reminds us that man does not live on bread alone: not just with material goods can he satisfy the deep thirst of his heart. The horizons of man are undoubtedly higher and broader. Because of this, every development program should have present, together with the material, the spiritual growth of the human person, who is gifted with soul and body.

This is integral development, to which the Church's social doctrine constantly refers -- development that has its guiding criteria in the propelling strength of "charity in truth." Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray so that this encyclical too can help humanity to feel that it is one family committed in bringing about a world of justice and peace. Let us pray that believers who work in economics and politics realize h ow important is the coherence of their Gospel testimony in the service they offer society.

In particular, I invite you to pray for the leaders of states and governments of the G-8 who are meeting during these days in L'Aquila. That from this important world summit might come decisions and useful guidelines for the true progress of all peoples, especially of the poorest. Let us entrust these intentions to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church and of humanity.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I wish to reflect on my Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate. Some forty years after Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Populorum Progressio, it too addresses social themes vital to the well-being of humanity and reminds us that authentic renewal of both individuals and society requires living by Christ’s truth in love (cf . Eph 4:15) which stands at the heart of the Church’s social teaching. The Encyclical does not aim to provide technical solutions to today’s social problems but instead focuses on the principles indispensable for human development. Most important among these is human life itself, the centre of all true progress. Additionally, it speaks of the right to religious freedom as a part of human development, it warns against unbounded hope in technology alone, and it underlines the need for upright men and women -- attentive to the common good -- in both politics and the business world. In regard to matters of particular urgency affecting the word today, the Encyclical addresses a wide range of issues and calls for decisive action to promote food security and agricultural development, as well as respect for the environment and for the rule of law. Stressed is the need for politicians, economists, producers and consumers alike ensure that ethics shape economics so that profit al one does not regulate the world of business. Dear friends: humanity is a single family where every development programme -- if it is to be integral -- must consider the spiritual growth of human persons and the driving force of charity in truth. Let us pray for all those who serve in politics and the management of economies, and in particular let us pray for the Heads of State gathering in Italy for the G8 summit. May their decisions promote true development especially for the world’s poor. Thank you.

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the university and school groups from America, Canada, and England. May your visit to Rome be a time of deep spiritual renewal. Upon you all I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



VATICAN CITY, 8 JUL 2009 ( VIS ) - Given below is an English-language translation from the Italian of the Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio data" of Pope Benedict XVI, "Ecclesiae unitatem". The document concerns the structure of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" which deals with questions involving the Society of Saint Pius X and which as of now becomes dependent upon the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The original text of the Motu Proprio is written in Latin:

1. The duty to safeguard the unity of the Church, with the solicitude to offer everyone help in responding appropriately to this vocation and divine grace, is the particular responsibility of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, who is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of the unity of both bishops and faithful. The supreme and fundamental priority of the Church in all times - to lead mankind to the meeting with God - must be supported by the commitment to achieve a shared witness of faith among all Christians.

2. Faithful to this mandate, following the act of 30 June 1988 by which Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre illicitly conferred episcopal ordination upon four priests, on 2 July 1988 Pope John Paul II of venerable memory established the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" whose task it is "to collaborate with the bishops, with the departments of the Roman Curia and with the circles concerned, for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked in various ways to the Society founded by Msgr. Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor Peter in the Catholic Church, while preserving their spiritual and liturgical traditions, in the light of the Protocol signed on 5 May last by Cardinal Ratzinger and Msgr. Lefebvre".

3. In keeping with this, faithfully adhering to that duty to serve the universal communion of the Church, also in her visible manifestation, and making every effort to ensure that those who truly desire unity have the possibility to remain in it or to rediscover it, I decided, with the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum", to expand and update through more precise and detailed norms the general indications already contained in the Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei" concerning the possibility of using the 1962"Missale Romanum".

4. In the same spirit, and with the same commitment to favouring the repair of all fractures and divisions within the Church, and to healing a wound that is ever more painfully felt within the ecclesiastical structure, I decided to remit the excommunication of the four bishops illicitly ordained by Msgr. Lefebvre. In making that decision my intention was to remove an impediment that could hinder the opening of a door to dialogue and thus invite the four bishops and the Society of Saint Pius X to rediscover the path to full communion with the Church. As I explained in my Letter to Catholic bishops of 10 March this year, the remission of the excommunication was a measure taken in the field of ecclesiastical discipline, to free individuals from the burden of conscience constituted by the most serious of ecclesiastical penalties. However it is clear that the doctrinal questions remain, and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church.

5. Precisely because the problems that now have to be examined with the Society are essentially doctrinal in nature, I have decided - twenty-one years after the Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei" and in keeping with what I had intended to do - to reconsider the structure of the Commission "Ecclesia Dei", joining it closely to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

6. The Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" will, then, have the following configuration:

(a) The president of the Commission is the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

(b) The Commission has its own staff, composed of the secretary and officials.

(c) It will be the task of the president, with the assistance of the secretary, to submit the principal cases and questions of a doctrinal nature for study and discernment according to the ordinary requirements of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and to submit the results thereof to the superior dispositions of the Supreme Pontiff.

7. With this decision I wish in particular to show paternal solicitude towards the Society of Saint Pius X, with the aim of rediscovering the full communion of the Church.

To everyone I address a pressing invitation to pray ceaselessly to the Lord, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, "ut unum sint".

From Rome , at St. Peter's, 2 July 2009, fifth year of Our Pontificate.


Benedict XVI's third Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (June 29, 2009)


On the Shedding of Blood

"When Will Men Learn That Life Is Sacred?"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In the past, the first Sunday of July was characterized by devotion to the most precious Blood of Christ. In the last century some of my venerable predecessors confirmed this [tradition] and Blessed John XXIII, with his apostolic letter "Inde a Primis" (June 30, 1960), explained its meaning and approved its litanies.

The theme of blood linked to that of the Paschal Lamb is of primary importance in sacred Scripture. In the Old Testament the sprinkling of the blood of sacrificed animals represented and established the covenant between God and the people, as one reads in the Book of Exodus: "Then Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying: ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you on the basis of all these words of his'" (Exodus 24:8).

Jesus explicitly repeats this formula at the Last Supper, when, offering the chalice to his disciples, he says: "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). And, from the scourging, to the piercing of his side after his death on the cross, Christ has really shed all of his blood as the true Lamb immolated for universal redemption. The salvific value of his blood is expressively affirmed in many passages of the New Testament.

In this Year for Priests, one need only cite the beautiful lines of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Christ ... entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God?" (9:11-14).

Dear brothers, it is written in Genesis that the blood of Abel, killed by his brother Cain, cried out to God from the earth (cf. 4:10). And, unfortunately, today as yesterday, this cry does not cease, since human blood continues to run because of violence, injustice and hatred. When will men learn that life is sacred and belongs to God alone? When will men understand that we are all brothers? To the cry of the blood that goes up from many parts of the earth, God answers with the blood of his Son, who gave his life for us. Christ did not answer evil with evil, but with good, with his infinite love. The blood of Christ is the pledge of the faithful love of God for humanity. Looking upon the wounds of the Crucified, every man, even in conditions of extreme moral misery, can say: God has not abandoned me, he loves me, he gave his life for me -- and in this way rediscover hope. May the Virgin Mary, who beneath the cross, together with the apostle John, witnessed the testament of Jesus' blood, help us to rediscover the inestimable riches of this grace, and to feel profound and perennial gratitude for it.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. Here is a translation of the some of the remarks he made in Italian:]

In recent days we have been touched by the tragedy in Viareggio. I join in the sorrow of all those who lost persons dear to them, those who were injured, and those whose property was damaged, even severely. As I lift up my sorrowful prayer to God for all the persons involved in the tragedy, I hope tha t similar accidents no more occur and that everyone be guaranteed security in work and in the living of daily life. May God receive the dead into his peace, bring quick healing to the injured and instill comfort in the hearts of those whose loved ones have been affected.

I express, further, my profound deploration of the attack in Cotabato in the Philippines, where the explosion of a bomb in front of the cathedral during the celebration of Sunday Mass killed and injured many people, including women and children. As I pray to God for the victims of this ignoble act, I raise up my voice to condemn once again recourse to violence, which never constitutes a worthy way to solve problems.

The bishop of Bolzano-Bressanone has informed me that July 8-12 the IAAF [International Association of Athletics Federations] World Youth Championships will take place in Bressanone. I am glad to address my greetings to the organizers and to all the young athletes and to wish for serene and healthy competition, in a genuine sportive spirit.


On Priestly Identity
"One Who Prays Is Not Afraid; One Who Prays Is Never Alone"

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square. He continued with the theme he took up last week: the Year for Priests.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

As you know, with the celebration of First Vespers for the solemnity of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Pauline Year has come to a close -- the year that marked the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Let us give thanks to the Lord for the spiritual fruits that this important initiative has brought to so many Christian communities.

As a precious her itage of the Pauline Year, we can reap the Apostle's invitation to go deeper into the knowledge of the mystery of Christ, so that he becomes the heart and center of our personal and social realities.

This is, in fact, the indispensable condition for a true spiritual and ecclesial renewal. As I already emphasized during the first Eucharistic celebration in the Sistine Chapel after my election as the Successor of the Apostle St. Peter, it is precisely from that full communion with Christ that "flows every other element of the Church's life: first of all, communion among all the faithful, the commitment to proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, the ardor of love for all, especially the poorest and lowliest" (1st Message at the End of the Eucharistic Concelebration With the Members of the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel, April 20, 2005).

This is true in the first place for priests. Because of this, I thank Divine Providence, which now offer s us the possibility of celebrating the Year for Priests. It is my heartfelt wish that this will be an opportunity for interior renewal for every priest, and consequently, [a year of] firm reinvigoration in the commitment to his own mission.

Just as during the Pauline Year, our constant reference point was St. Paul, so in the coming months we will look to St. John Vianney, the holy Curé d'Ars, recalling the 150th anniversary of his death. In the letter I wrote to priests for this occasion, I wanted to emphasize what shines forth in the existence of this humble minister of the altar: "the complete identification of the man with his ministry."

He often said that "a good pastor, a pastor after the heart of God, is the greatest treasure that the good God can give to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy." And almost unable to conceive the greatness of the gift and the task entrusted to a poor human creature, he si ghed, "Oh how great is the priesthood! … If he could understand himself, he would die. … God obeys him: He pronounces two words and Our Lord descends from heaven at his beckoning and enters into a tiny Host."

In truth, precisely considering the binomial "identity-mission," every priest can better see the need for this progressive identification with Christ that will guarantee him fidelity and fruitfulness in the evangelical testimony.

The very theme of the Year for Priests -- Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests -- shows that the gift of divine grace precedes every possible human response and pastoral accomplishment, and thus, in the life of the priest, missionary proclamation and worship are never separable, just as the ontological-sacramental identity and the evangelizing mission are not separable.

Apart from that we could say the objective of every priest's mission is "cultic": so that all pe ople can offer themselves to God as a living host, holy and pleasing to Him (cf. Romans 12:1), that in creation itself, in people, it becomes worship and praise of the Creator, receiving from it that charity that they are called to abundantly dispense among each other.

We clearly see this in the beginnings of Christianity. St. John Chrysostom said, for example, that the sacrament of the altar and the "sacrament of one's brother" or, as they say, the "sacrament of the poor," are two aspects of the same mystery. Love for neighbor, attention to justice and to the poor, are not just themes of social morality, but rather the expression of a sacramental conception of Christian morality, because through the ministry of the priest, the spiritual sacrifice of all the faithful is carried out, in union with that of Christ, the one Mediator: the sacrifice that priests offer in an unbloody and sacramental manner awaiting the new coming of the Lord.

Th is is the principal dimension, essentially missionary and dynamic, of priestly identity and ministry: by way of the proclamation of the Gospel, those who still do not believe are begotten in the faith, so that they can unite their sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ, that translates in love for God and neighbor.

Dear brothers and sisters, faced with so many uncertainties and struggles, it is urgent to recover -- also in the exercise of priestly ministry -- a clear and unmistaken judgment about the absolute primacy of divine grace, recalling what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "The smallest gift of grace surpasses the natural good of the whole universe" (Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 113, a. 9, ad 2).

The mission of every priest depends, therefore, also and above all on the awareness of the sacramental reality of his "new being." The priest's renewed enthusiasm for his mission will always depend on the certainty of his personal identity, which is n ot artificially constructed, but rather given and received freely and divinely. What I have written in the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" is also true for priests: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" (No. 1).

Having received such an extraordinary gift of grace with their "consecration," priests become permanent witnesses of their encounter with Christ. Beginning precisely from this interior awareness, they can plentifully fulfill their "mission," by means of the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression has come about that in our times, there is something more urgent in priests' missions; some believed that they should in the first place build up a distinct society. On the other hand, the verses from the Gospel that we hea rd at the beginning call our attention to the two essential elements of priestly ministry. Jesus sends the apostles, at that time and now, to proclaim the Gospel and he gives them the power to cast out evil spirits. "Proclamation" and "power," that is to say "word" and "sacrament," are therefore the two foundational pillars of priestly service, beyond its many possible configurations.

When the "diptych" consecration-mission is not taken into account, it becomes truly difficult to understand the identity of the priest and his ministry in the Church. Who in fact is the priest, if not a man converted and renewed by the Spirit, who lives from a personal relationship with Christ, constantly making the Gospel criteria his own? Who is the priest, if not a man of unity and truth, aware of his own limits and at the same time, of the extraordinary greatness of the vocation he has received, that of helping to extend the Kingdom of G od to the ends of the earth?

Yes! The priest is a man totally belonging to the Lord, because it is God himself who calls him and who establishes him in his apostolic service. And precisely being totally of God, he is totally of mankind, for all people. During this Year for the Priest, which will continue until the next solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us pray for all priests. May there be an abundance of prayer initiatives and, in particular, Eucharistic adoration, for the sanctification of the clergy and for priestly vocations -- in dioceses, in parishes, in religious communities (especially monasteries), in associations and movements and in the various pastoral groups present in the whole world -- responding to Jesus' invitation to pray "to the lord of the harvest that he may send workers to his harvest" (Matthew 9:38).

Prayer is the first task, the true path of sanctification for priests, and the soul of an authentic "vocational ministry." The numerical scarcity of priestly ordinations in some countries should not discourage, but instead should motivate a multiplication of opportunities for silence and listening to the Word, and better attention to spiritual direction and the sacrament of confession, so that the voice of God, who always continues calling and confirming, can be heard and promptly followed by many youth.

One who prays is not afraid; one who prays is never alone; one who prays is saved! St. John Vianney is undoubtedly a model of an existence made prayer. Mary, Mother of the Church, help all priests to follow his example so as to be, like him, witnesses of Christ and apostles of the Gospel.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

There is a close link between the Pauline Year, which concluded last Sunday, and the Church’s curren t celebration of the Year for Priests. As we have seen, Saint Paul, in his life and his writings, teaches us that the mystery of Christ must stand at the very heart of our lives as individuals and as a community. This is true in a very special way of priests. In Saint John Mary Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests, we see a wonderful example of a priest whose person was completely identified with his ministry. The priest’s personal identity, grounded in his calling and his sacramental configuration to Christ, may not be separated from his pastoral activity. Indeed, the ministry of every priest is essentially "cultic", in the fullest sense of the word: it is meant to enable the faithful to offer their lives to God as a pleasing sacrifice (cf. Rom 12:1). It is my hope that this Year for Priests will help all priests to appreciate the immense grace of their vocation, consecration and mission. During this Year may the whole Church pray and work more fervently for the sanctification of priests, an increase of priestly vocations, and a greater appreciation of the role of the priest in the life of the ecclesial community.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the pilgrimage groups from England, Scotland, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul
"Resist Being Conformed to the Mentality of This World"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Monday before praying the midday Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters:

Today we solemnly celebrate the holy apostles, Peter and Paul, special patrons of the Church of Rome: Peter, the fisherman from Galilee, "the first to confess the faith … [who] gathered the earliest Church from among the flock of Israel"; Paul, the former persecutor of Christians who "proclaimed [the faith's] deepest mysteries […] the teacher and doctor who announced salvation to all people" (cf. Preface of the Mass for today).

In one of his homilies to the community of Rome, Pope St. Leo the Great affirmed, "These are your fathers and true pastors, who have established you so that you would thus be inserted into the heavenly kingdom" (Sermo I in Nat. App Petri et Pauli, c I, PL 54,422). On the occasion of this feast, I would like to direct a particularly warm greeting, joined to my fervent wishes of congratulations, to the diocesan community of Rome, which Divine Providence has entrusted to my care as the Successor of the Apostle Peter. It is a greeting that I happily extend to all the inhabitants of our city and the pilgrims and tourists who are visiting us during this time, which also coincides with the closing of the Pauline year.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord bless you and protect you through the intercession of Sts. Peter and Paul! As your pastor, I exhort you to remain faithful to your Christian vocation, to resist being conformed to the mentality of this world -- as the Apos tle to the Gentiles wrote precisely to the Christians of Rome -- and always to allow yourselves to be transformed and renewed by the Gospel, to follow what is truly good and pleasing to God (cf. Romans 12:2).

I pray constantly for this, so that Rome will keep alive its Christian vocation, not only conserving unaltered its immense spiritual and cultural patrimony, but also so that its residents can turn the beauty of the faith they have received into concrete ways of thinking and acting, and thereby offer to those who arrive to this city for various reasons, an atmosphere full of humanity and Gospel values. Therefore -- in the words of St. Peter -- I invite you, dear brothers and sisters, disciples of Christ, to be "living stones," packed together around him who is the "living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and precious in the sight of God" (cf. 1 Peter 2:4).

Today's solemnity also has a universal character: It expresses the unity and catholicity of the Church. That's why every year on this date, the new metropolitan archbishops come to Rome to receive the pallium, the symbol of communion with the Successor of Peter. I renew my greeting to these brothers in the episcopate for whom this morning in the basilica I have performed this gesture, and the faithful who accompany them.

I also warmly greet the delegation from the Patriarchate of Constantinople, which has come to Rome, like every year, for the celebration of Sts. Peter and Paul. May the common veneration of these martyrs be a pledge for a communion among Christians from every part of the world that is ever more complete and heartfelt. For this, let us invoke the maternal intercession of Mary, the Mother of the one Church of Christ, with the customary recitation of the Angelus.

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

The publication of my third encyclical is near. [It] is called "Caritas in Veritate." Taking up again the social themes in "Populorum Progressio," written by the Servant of God Paul VI in 1967, this document -- dated in fact today, June 29, feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul -- aims to go deeper in certain aspects of the integral development of our age, in the light of charity in truth. I entrust to your prayer this new contribution that the Church offers to humanity in its commitment to sustainable progress, in full respect of human dignity and the real needs everyone has.

[Then the Pope greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus, including the new Metropolitan Archbishops who have received the pallium, accompanied by their relatives and friends. I also extend a warm welcome to the Delegation of the Patriarch of Constantinople, present for this joyous celebration. Ma y the Apostles Peter and Paul inspire all Christians, and especially our new Archbishops, to continue to bear clear and generous witnesses to the Gospel. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Venezuelan Bishops
"Encourage a Profound Life of Faith and Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 30, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered June 8 upon receiving the bishops of Venezuela, who were in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I warmly welcome you Pastors of the Church of Venezuela to this meeting during your ad limina visit. As Successor of Peter, I thank the Lord for this opportunity to strengthen my brothers in the faith (cf. Lk 22: 32) and to share in their joys and worries, in their projects and their difficulties.

First of all I thank Archbishop Ubaldo Ramón Santana Sequera of Maracaibo, President of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference, for h is words expressing your communion with the Bishop of Rome and the Head of the Episcopal College, as well as the challenges and hopes of your pastoral ministry.

In fact the challenges you must face in your pastoral work are ever more numerous and difficult, aggravated moreover as they have been recently by the serious global economic crisis. Yet, the present time also offers many true reasons to hope, that hope which can fill the hearts of all human beings "can only be God God who has loved us and who continues to love us "to the end'" (Spe Salvi, n. 27).

As he did with the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24: 13-35), the Risen Lord also walks beside us, imbuing us with his spirit of love and fortitude so that we may open our hearts to a future of hope and of eternal life.

You have before you, dear Brothers, an exciting task of evangelization and you have begun the "Mission for Venezuela" in line with the Continental Mission p romoted by the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences at Aparecida. These are also times of grace for those who are dedicated to the Gospel cause without reserve. Trust in the Lord. He will make your self-giving and sacrifices fruitful.

I encourage you, therefore, to increase your initiatives to make Jesus Christ and his message known in their fullness and beauty. For this, in addition to the sound doctrinal formation of the entire People of God, it is important to encourage a profound life of faith and prayer. In the liturgy, in the intimate dialogue of personal or community prayer, the Risen Christ comes to meet us, transforming our hearts with his loving presence.

I would also like to remind you of the need of a spiritual life for Bishops. Configured fully to Christ the Head by the sacrament of Orders they are in a certain way a visible sign of the Lord Jesus (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 21). For this reason the pastoral m inistry must be a consistent reflection of Jesus, Servant of God, showing to everyone the capital importance of faith and likewise the need to give priority to the vocation to holiness (cf. John Paul ii, Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, n. 12).

Fruitful pastoral action requires close affective and effective communion among the Pastors of the People of God who "should appreciate that they are closely united to each other and should be solicitous for all the Churches" (Christus Dominus, n. 6). This unity, which today and always must be promoted and expressed in a visible manner, will be a source of comfort and apostolic effectiveness in the ministry entrusted to you.

The spirit of communion involves paying special attention to your priests. As the closest collaborators of the episcopal ministry, they must be the first recipients of your pastoral care and should be treated with closeness and brotherly friendship. This will help them to carry out wit h self-denial the ministry they have received and, when necessary, to accept advice in a filial spirit on some aspects they may need to improve or correct.

I therefore encourage you to redouble your efforts to give an impetus to the pastoral zeal of your priests, especially during this coming Year for Priests which I have chosen to declare.

In addition to this is the interest that must be shown to the Diocesan Seminary, in order to encourage a thorough and competent selection of those called to be pastors of the People of God, without economizing on the human or material means this may require.

The lay faithful, for their part, participate in their own specific way in the Church's saving mission (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 33). As disciples and missionaries of Christ they are called to illumine and to order temporal realities in such a way that they respond to God's loving plan (ibid., n. 31).

This requires a mature laity that bear a faith ful witness to their faith and feel the joy of belonging to the Body of Christ. Among other things lay people must be offered an adequate knowledge of the Church's social doctrine. In this regard I appreciate your work to make the light of the Gospel shine on the most important events that affect your country, with no other interest than to disseminate the most genuine Christian values, with a view to encouraging the search for the common good, harmonious coexistence and social stability.

I entrust the needy to you in particular. Continue to encourage the many charitable projects of the Church in Venezuela so that your neediest brothers and sisters may feel the presence among them of the One who on the Cross gave his life for every human being.

I end with a word of hope and encouragement to you in your task; you may always count on my support, concern and spiritual closeness. Please convey my affectionate greeting to all the members of your particular Church es; to the Bishops emeritus, the priests, the religious and the lay faithful, especially married couples, young people, the elderly and those who are suffering. With these sentiments and as I invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Coromoto, so deeply loved throughout Venezuela, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. Paul, Model of Love for Christ

"A Priest Who Was Completely Identified With His Ministry"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2009 Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Angelus together with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

With the celebration of First Vespers for the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, over which I will preside this evening at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Pauline Year -- proclaimed for the bimillennium of the Apostle of the Gentiles' birth -- comes to a close. It has truly been a time of grace in which, through many pilgrimages, catecheses, numerous publications and other initiatives, the figure of St. Paul was put forward again in the whole Church, and his vibrant message has revived everywhere, in Christian communities, a passion for Christ and the Gospel. For this we give thanks to God for the Pauline Year and for all the spiritual gifts that it has brought to us.

Divine Providence has arranged that a few days ago another special year -- the Year for Priests -- was inaugurated on June 19, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, marking the 150th anniversary of the death -- "dies natalis" [heavenly day of birth] -- of John Mary Vianney, the holy Curé d'Ars. It is a further spiritual and pastoral impulse that -- I am certain -- will not fail to bring many benefits to the Christian people, and especially to the clergy.

What is the purpose of The Year of Priests? As I wrote in the related letter that I sent to priests, it is meant to contribute to the promotion of an interior commitment on the part of all priests to a more powerful and incisive evangelical witness in the world today. In this regard, the Apostle Paul constitutes a splendid model to imitate, not so much in the specifics of his life -- his life was, in fact, truly unique -- but in his love of Christ, in his zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel, in his dedication to the communities, in his elaboration of an effective synthesis of pastoral theology.

St. Paul is an example of a priest who was completely identified with his ministry -- just as the holy Curé d'Ars would also be -- conscious of possessing a priceless treasure, that is, the message of salvation, but in an "earthen vessel" (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7); thus he is at the same time strong and humble, intimately persuaded that everything is God’s doing, everything is grace.

"The love of Christ possesses us," the Apostle writes. This could well be the motto of every priest -- that the Spirit compels (cf. Acts 20:22) him to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 ). The priest must belong totally to Christ and totally to the Church; to the latter he is called to dedicate himself with an undivided love, like a faithful husband to his bride.

Dear friends, together with that of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, we call upon the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that she obtain from the Lord abundant blessings for priests during this Year for Priests, which has just begun.

May the Madonna, whom St. John Mary Vianney loved and made his parishioners love, help every priest to revive the gift of God that is in him by virtue of his holy Ordination, so that he grow in sanctity and be ready to bear witness, even to the point of martyrdom, to the beauty of his total and definitive consecration to Christ and the Church.


Papal Words to Orthodox Delegation

"We Have Been Called to One Hope"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 28, 2009 Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address upon receiving in audience Saturday a delegation sent by the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, to celebrate with the Pope the solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul and the conclusion of the Pauline Year.

The patriarch's delegation is led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, director of the Office of the Orthodox Church Before the European Union. The other members include Bishop Anthenagoras of Sinope, auxiliary bishop of the Patriarchate of Belgium, and Deacon Ioakim Billis of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

* * *

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Epehesian s 1:2).

Venerable Brothers,

It is with these words that St. Paul, "apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God," addresses "the saints" who live in Ephesus, "believers in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:1). Today, with this proclamation of peace and salvation, I bid you welcome for the patronal feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, with which we conclude the Pauline Year.

Last year, the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, wanted to honor us with his presence, to celebrate together this year of prayer, of reflection and the exchange of gestures of communion between Rome and Constantinople. On our part, we have had the joy of sending a delegation to similar celebrations organized by the Ecumenical Patriarch. On the other hand, it could not be otherwise in this year dedicated to St. Paul, who vigorously recommended the "conservation of unity of spirit through the bond of peace," teaching us that we are " one body and one spirit" (Ephesians 4:3-4).

You are welcome guests, dear brothers, who have been sent by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch, to whom I likewise send my warm and fraternal greeting in the Lord. Let us give thanks together to the Lord for all the fruits and benefits that the bimillennial celebration of the birth of St. Paul has brought us. We celebrate together the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the "protôthroni" of the Apostles, as they are invoked in the Orthodox liturgical tradition, that is, those who occupy first place among the apostles and are called "the teachers of the ecumene."

With your presence, which is a sign of ecclesial fraternity, you remind us of our common commitment to the pursuit of full communion. You already know, but again today I have the pleasure of confirming, that the Catholic Church intends to contribute in every possible way to the reestablishment of full communion. This is in respo nse to Christ's will for his disciples, and recalling Paul's teaching in which he reminds us that we have been called to "one hope."

In this respect, we can confidently look forward to a good continuation of the work of the Mixed International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. This commission will meet in October to address a crucial theme for relations between East and West, namely, "the role of the Bishop of Rome in the communion of the Church during the first millennium."

In effect, the study of this aspect is clearly indispensable for generally getting to the heart of the question in the current context of the pursuit of full communion. This commission, which has already accomplished important work, will be generously received by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, to whom we express our gratitude in advance, because fraternal hospitality and the climate of prayer that will surround our discussions cannot but facilitate our common work and reciprocal understanding.

I desire that the participants in the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue know that my prayers will accompany them and that this dialogue has the complete support of the Catholic Church. With my whole heart I hope that the misunderstandings and the tensions between the Orthodox delegates during the last plenary sessions of this commission be overcome in fraternal love, in such a way that this dialogue be amply representative of the Orthodox.

Dear brothers, I thank you again for being with us on this day and I pray you to convey my fraternal greeting to the ecumenical patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Holy Synod, all the clergy and to the Orthodox faithful. May the joy of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, that we traditionally celebrate on the same day, fill your hearts with confidence and hope!


Holy Father's Address to French Seminary
"The Task of Forming Priests Is a Delicate Mission"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered June 6 upon receiving in audience the community of the French Seminary in Rome.

The audience coincided with the change of hands of the administration of the seminary from the Congregation of the Holy Spirit to the French episcopal conference.

* * *

Your Eminences,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,
Monsignor Rector,
Dear Priests and Seminarians,

I welcome you with joy on the occasion of the celebrations of these days that mark an important moment in the history of the Pontifical French Seminary in Rome. After a century and a half of faithful service, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, which had been in charge of conducting the Seminary since its foundation, has now handed it over to the Bishops' Conference of France.
We must thank the Lord for the work carried out in this institution where, since it opened, almost 5,000 seminarians or young priests have been trained for their future vocation.

In acknowledging the work of the members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, Fathers and Brothers, I would like to entrust to the Lord in particular the apostolates which the Congregation founded by Venerable Fr Libermann preserves and develops across the world and most especially in Africa based on his charism which has lost none of its power and justice. May the Lord bless the Congregation and its missions.

The task of forming priests is a delicate mission. The formation offered by the Seminary is demanding, because a portion of the People of God will be entrusted to the pastoral solicitude of the future priests, the People that Christ saved and for whom he gave his life.
It is right for seminarians to remember that if the Church demands much of them it is because they are to care for those whom Christ ransomed at such a high price.

Many qualities are required of future priests: human maturity, spiritual qualities, apostolic zeal, intellectual rigour.... To achieve these virtues, candidates to the priesthood must not only be able to witness to them to their formation teachers but even more, they must be the first to benefit from these same qualities lived and shared by those who are in charge of helping them to attain maturity.

It is a law of our humanity and our faith that we are all too often capable of giving only what we ourselves have previously received from God through the ecclesial and human mediation that he has established. Those who are placed in charge of discernment and formation must remember that the hope they have for others is in the first place a duty for themselves.

This passing on of witnessing coincides with the beginning of the Year for Priests. This coincidence is a grace for the new team of priest-formation teachers gathered by the Bishops' Conference of France. While the team receives its mission, like the whole Church, it is given the possibility to examine more deeply the identity of the priest, a mystery of grace and mercy.

I would like to mention here the eminent figure of Cardinal Suhard, who said of Christ's ministers: "Eternal paradox of the priest. He bears within him those who are contrary. He reconciles, at the price of his life, fidelity to God with fidelity to man. He seems poor and feeble.... He has neither political power nor financial means, nor the force of arms that others use to conquer the earth. His strength lies in being unarmed and being "able to do all things in the One who gives him strength'" (Fulget Ecclesia, n. 141, p. 21, 14 December 1960).

May these words that so vividly evoke the figure of the Holy Curé d'Ars ring out as a vocational appeal to numerous young Christians in France who desire a useful and fruitful life in order to serve God's love.
The particular characteristic of the French Seminary is its location in the city of Peter; echoing the desire of Paul vi (cf. Address to the Alumni of the French Pontifical Seminary, 12 September 1968; ORE, 26 September 1968), I hope that during their stay in Rome the seminarians will give priority to becoming acquainted with the Church's history in order to discover the breadth of her catholicity and her living unity around the Successor of Peter, and that love of the Church will thus be rooted in their hearts for ever.

As I invoke upon you all the Lord's abundant graces through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Clare and Blessed Pius ix, I very warmly impart the Apostolic Blessing to all of you and to your families, to the former seminarians who have been unable to come here and to all the Seminary's lay personnel.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily at Launch of Year for Priests
"The Heart of God Throbs With Compassion"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 25, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered last Friday at vespers inaugurating the Year for Priests. The year began June 19, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, known as the Curé d'Ars.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In a little while, we shall be singing in the Antiphon to the Magnificat: "The Lord has welcomed us in his Heart Suscepit nos Dominus in sinum et cor suum". God's heart, considered to be the organ of his will, is mentioned 26 times in the Old Testament.

Man is judged according to God's Heart. Because of the pain his heart feels at the sins of man, God decides on the flood, but is subsequently moved by human weakness and forgives.

Then there is an Old Testament passage in which the subject of God's Heart is expressed with absolute clarity: it is in chapter 11 of the Book of the Prophet Hosea in which the first verses describe the dimension of the love with which the Lord turned to Israel at the dawn of its history: "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son" (Hos 11: 1). Israel, in fact, responds to God's tireless favour with indifference and even outright ingratitude.

"The more I called them", the Lord is forced to admit, "the more they went from me" (v. 2). Nonetheless he never abandons Israel to the hands of the enemy because "my heart", the Creator of the universe observes, "recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender" (v. 8).

The Heart of God throbs with compassion! On today's Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Church offers us this mystery for contemplation, the mystery of the Heart of a God who feels compassion and pours forth all his love upon humanity. It is a mysterious love, which in the texts of the New Testament is revealed to us as God's immeasurable love for the human being. He does not give in to ingratitude or to rejection by the People he has chosen; on the contrary, with infinite mercy he sends his Only-Begotten Son into the world to take upon himself the burden of love immolated so that by defeating the powers of evil and death he could restore the dignity of being God's children to human beings, enslaved by sin.

All this comes about at a high price: the Only-Begotten Son of the Father is sacrificed on the Cross, "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (cf. Jn 13: 1).

A symbol of this love which goes beyond death is his side, pierced by a spear. In this regard, the Apostle John, an eye-witness, says: "one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (cf. Jn 19: 34).

Dear brothers and sisters, thank you because, in response to my invitation, you have come in large numbers to this celebration with which we begin the Year for Priests. I greet the Cardinals and Bishops, in particular the Cardinal Prefect and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy with their collaborators, and the Bishop of Ars. I greet the priests and seminarians of the various seminaries and colleges of Rome; the men and women religious and all the faithful.

I address a special greeting to H.B. Ignace Youssef Younan, Patriarch of Antioch for Syrians, who has come to Rome to meet me and to acknowledge publicly the "ecclesiastica communio" which I have granted him.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pause together to contemplate the pierced Heart of the Crucified One. We have heard again, just now, in the brief Reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians, that "God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ... and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2: 4-6). To be in Jesus Christ, is to be already seated in heaven.

The essential nucleus of Christianity is expressed in the Heart of Jesus; in Christ the whole of the revolutionary newness of the Gospel was revealed and given to us: the Love that saves us and already makes us live in God's eternity.

The Evangelist John writes: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (3: 16). His divine Heart therefore calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to abandon our human certainties to trust in him and, following his example, to make of ourselves a gift of love without reserve.

If it is true that Jesus' invitation to "abide in my love" (cf. Jn 15: 9) is addressed to every baptized person, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Day for priestly sanctification, this invitation resounds more powerfully for we priests, particularly this evening at the solemn inauguration of the Year for Priests, which I wanted to be celebrated on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of the Holy Curé d'Ars.

One of his beautiful and moving sayings, cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, immediately springs to my mind: "The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus" (n. 1589).

How is it possible not to remember with emotion that the gift of our priestly ministry flowed directly from this Heart? How can we forget that we priests were consecrated to serve humbly and authoritatively the common priesthood of the faithful?

Ours is an indispensable mission, for the Church and for the world, which demands full fidelity to Christ and in unceasing union with him this to remain in his love means that we must constantly strive for holiness, this union, as did St John Mary Vianney.

In the Letter I addressed to you for this special Jubilee Year, dear brother priests, I wanted to highlight certain qualifying aspects of our ministry, with references to the example and teaching of the Holy Curé d'Ars, model and protector of all of us, priests, and especially parish priests.

May my Letter be a help and encouragement to you in making this Year a favourable opportunity to grow in intimacy with Jesus, who counts on us, his ministers, to spread and to consolidate his Kingdom, to radiate his love, his truth.

Therefore, "in the footsteps of the Curé of Ars", my Letter concluded, "let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!" (L'Osservatore Romano, English edition, see p. 5).

To let oneself be totally won over by Christ! This was the purpose of the whole life of St Paul to whom we have devoted our attention during the Pauline Year which is now drawing to a close; this was the goal of the entire ministry of the Holy Curé d'Ars, whom we shall invoke in particular during the Year for Priests; may it also be the principal objective for each one of us.

In order to be ministers at the service of the Gospel, study and a careful and continuing pastoral and theological formation is of course useful and necessary, but that "knowledge of love" which can only be learned in a "heart to heart" with Christ is even more necessary. Indeed, it is he who calls us to break the Bread of his love, to forgive sins and to guide the flock in his name. For this very reason we must never distance ourselves from the source of Love which is his Heart that was pierced on the Cross.

Only in this way will we be able to cooperate effectively in the mysterious "plan of the Father" that consists in "making Christ the Heart of the world"! This plan is brought about in history, as Jesus gradually becomes the Heart of human hearts, starting with those who are called to be closest to him: priests, precisely.

We are reminded of this ongoing commitment by the "priestly promises" that we made on the day of our Ordination and which we renew every year, on Holy Thursday, during the Chrism Mass. Even our shortcomings, our limitations and our weaknesses must lead us back to the Heart of Jesus.

Indeed, if it is true that sinners, in contemplating him, must learn from him the necessary "sorrow for sins" that leads them back to the Father, it is even more so for holy ministers. How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing makes the Church, the Body of Christ, suffer more than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who are transformed into "a thief and a robber" of the sheep (Jn 10: 1 ff.), or who deviates from the Church through their own private doctrines, or who ensnare the Church in sin and death?

Dear priests, the call to conversion and recourse to Divine Mercy also applies to us, and we must likewise humbly address a heartfelt and ceaseless invocation to the Heart of Jesus to keep us from the terrible risk of harming those whom we are bound to save.

I have just had the opportunity to venerate in the Choir Chapel the relic of the Holy Curé D'Ars: his heart. It was a heart that blazed with divine love, that was moved at the thought of the priest's dignity and spoke to the faithful in touching and sublime tones, affirming that "After God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is" (cf. Letter, Year for Priests, p. 3).

Dear Brothers, let us cultivate this same emotion in order to carry out our ministry with generosity and dedication, or to preserve in our souls a true "fear of God": the fear of being able to deprive of so much good, through our negligence or fault, those souls entrusted to us, or God forbid of harming them.

The Church needs holy priests; ministers who can help the faithful to experience the merciful love of the Lord and who are his convinced witnesses.

In the Eucharistic Adoration that will follow the celebration of Vespers, let us ask the Lord to set the heart of every priest on fire with that "pastoral charity" which can enable him to assimilate his personal "I" into that Jesus the High Priest, so that he may be able to imitate Jesus in the most complete self-giving.

May the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Heart we shall contemplate with living faith tomorrow, obtain this grace for us. The Holy Curé d'Ars had a filial devotion to her, so profound that in 1836, in anticipation of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he consecrated his parish to Mary, "conceived without sin".

He kept up the practice of frequently renewing this offering of his parish to the Blessed Virgin, teaching the faithful that "to be heard it was enough to address her", for the simple reason that she "desires above all else to see us happy".

May the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, accompany us during the Year for Priests which we are beginning to day, so that we are able to be sound and enlightened guides for the faithful whom the Lord entrusts to our pastoral care. Amen!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Year for Priests
"The Priest Is a Slave of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Friday, June 19, the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day traditionally dedicated to pray for the sanctification of priests, I had the joy of inaugurating the Year for Priests. The year was proclaimed on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the "birth into eternal life" of the Curé d'Ars, St. Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney. Entering into the Vatican basilica for the celebration of vespers, almost as a first symbolic gesture, I paused in the Choir Chapel to venerate the relic of this saintly pastor of souls: his heart. Why a Year for Priests? Why particularly in memory of the holy Curé d'Ars, who apparently did nothing extraordinary?

Divine Providence has ordained that this personage would be placed beside that of St. Paul. As the Pauline Year is concluding, a year which was dedicated to the Apostle of the Gentiles, the epitome of an extraordinary evangelizer who made various mission trips to spread the Gospel, this new jubilee year invites us to gaze upon a poor farmer turned humble pastor, who carried out his pastoral service in a small town.

If the two saints are quite different insofar as the life experiences that marked them -- one traveled from region to region to announce the Gospel; the other remained in his little parish, welcoming thousands and thousands of faithful -- there is nevertheless something fundamental that unites them: It is their total identification with their ministry, their communion with Christ. This brought St. Paul to say: "Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). St. John Vianney liked to repeat: "If we had faith, we would see God hidden in the priest like a light behind glass, like wine mixed with water."

The objective of this Year for Priests, as I wrote in the letter sent to priests for this occasion, is to support that struggle of every priest "toward spiritual perfection, on which the effectiveness of his ministry primarily depends." It is to help priests first of all -- and with them all of God's people -- to rediscover and reinvigorate their awareness of the extraordinary and indispensable gift of grace that the ordained ministry is for he who receives it, for the whole Church, and for the world, which would be lost without the real presence of Christ.

Undoubtedly, the historical and social conditions in which the Curé d'Ars lived have changed, and it is justifiable to ask oneself how it's possible for priests living in a globalized society to imitate him in the way he identified himself with his ministry. In a world in which the customary outlook on life comprehends less and less the sacred, and in its place "useful" becomes the only important category, the catholic -- and even ecclesial -- idea of the priesthood can run the risk of being emptied of the esteem that is natural to it.

It is not by chance that as much in theological environments as in concrete pastoral practice and the formation of the clergy, a contrast -- even an opposition -- is made between two distinct concepts of the priesthood. Some years ago, I noted in this regard that there is "on the one hand a social-functional understanding that defines the essence of the priesthood with the concept of 'service': service to the community in the fulfillment of a function. … On the other hand, there is the sacramental-ontological understanding, which naturally does not deny the servicial character of the priesthood, but sees it anchored in the being of the minister and considers that this being is determined by a gift called sacrament, given by the Lord through the mediation of the Church" (Joseph Ratzinger, Ministry and Life of the Priest, in Principles of Catholic Theology).

The terminological mutation of the word "priesthood" toward a meaning of "service, ministry, assignment" is as well a sign of this distinct understanding. The primacy of the Eucharist is linked to the sacramental-ontological conception, in the binomial "priest-sacrifice," while to the other [conception] would correspond the primacy of the word and service to the proclamation.

Considered carefully, these are not two opposing understandings, and the tension that nevertheless exists between them should be resolved from within. Thus the decree "Presbyterorum Ordinis" from the Second Vatican Council affirms: "Through the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel, the People of God are called together and assembled. All belonging to this people … can offer themselves as 'a sacrifice, living, holy, pleasing to God' (Rom 12:1). Through the ministry of the priests, the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is made perfect in union with the sacrifice of Christ. He is the only mediator who in the name of the whole Church is offered sacramentally in the Eucharist and in an unbloody manner until the Lord himself comes" (No. 2).

We then ask ourselves, "What exactly does it mean, for priests, to evangelize? What is the so-called primacy of proclamation?" Jesus speaks of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as the true objective for his coming to the world, and his proclamation is not just a "discourse." It includes, at the same time, his actions: His signs and miracles indicate that the Kingdom is now present in the world, which in the end coincides with himself. In this sense, one must recall that even in this idea of the "primacy" of proclamation, word and sign are inseparable.

Christian proclamation does not proclaim "words," but the Word, and the proclamation coincides with the very person of Christ, ontologically open to the relationship with the Father and obedient to his will. Therefore, authentic service to the Word requires from the priest that he strains toward a deep abnegation of himself, until being able to say with the Apostle, "It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me."

The priest cannot consider himself "lord" of the word, but rather its servant. He is not the word, but rather, as John the Baptist proclaimed, (precisely today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist), he is the "voice" of the Word: "A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'" (Mark 1:3).

Now then, to be the "voice" of the Word doesn't constitute for the priest a merely functional element. On the contrary, it presupposes a substantial "losing oneself" in Christ, participating in his mystery of death and resurrection with all of oneself: intelligence, liberty, will, and the offering of one's own body as a living sacrifice (cf. Romans 12:1-2). Only participation in the sacrifice of Christ, in his kenosis, makes the proclamation authentic! And this is the path that should be walked with Christ to the point of saying with him to the Father: Let it be done, "not what I will but what you will" (Mark 14:36). The proclamation, therefore, always implies as well the sacrifice of oneself, the condition so that the proclamation can be authentic and effective.

Alter Christus, the priest is profoundly united to the Word of the Father, who in incarnating himself, has taken the form of a slave, has made himself a slave (cf. Philippians 2:5-11). The priest is a slave of Christ in the sense that his existence, ontologically configured to Christ, takes on an essentially relational character: He is in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ at the service of man. Precisely because he belongs to Christ, the priest is radically at the service of all people: He is the minister of their salvation, of their happiness, of their authentic liberation -- maturing, in this progressive taking up of the will of Christ, in prayer, in this "remaining heart to heart" with him. This is therefore the essential condition of all proclamation, which implies participation in the sacramental offering of the Eucharist and docile obedience to the Church.

The holy Curé d'Ars often repeated with tears in his eyes: "What a frightening thing to be a priest!" And he added: "How we ought to pity a priest who celebrates Mass as if he were engaged in something routine. How wretched is a priest without interior life!"

May this Year of the Priest bring all priests to identify themselves totally with Jesus, crucified and risen, so that in imitation of St. John the Baptist, we are willing to "decrease" so that he increases; so that, following the example of the Curé d'Ars, they constantly and deeply understand the responsibility of their mission, which is sign and presence of the infinite mercy of God. Let us entrust to the Virgin, Mother of the Church, this Year for Priests just begun and all the priests of the world.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – a day traditionally devoted to prayer for the sanctification of priests – marked the beginning of the Year for Priests commemorating the sesquicentennial of the death of the Curé of Ars, Saint John Mary Vianney, patron of parish priests. The Pauline Year now ending and the current Year for Priests invite us to consider how the Apostle Paul and the humble Curé of Ars both identified themselves completely with their ministry, striving to live in constant communion with Christ. May this Year for Priests help all priests to grow towards the spiritual perfection essential to the effectiveness of their ministry, and enable the faithful to appreciate more fully the great gift of grace which the priesthood is: for priests themselves, for the Church and for our world. Configured to Christ in the sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest is called to become an alter Christus, "another Christ". His personal union with the Lord must thus unify every aspect of his life and activity. During this Year for Priests, let us entrust all priests to Mary, Mother of the Church, and pray that they will grow in fidelity to their mission to be living signs of Christ’s presence and infinite mercy.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from Norway, Sweden, Malawi, South Africa, Indonesia and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the Catholic educators participating in the annual Rome Seminar sponsored by the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas. I also greet the many student groups present. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Homily for Corpus Christi
"With the Eucharist ... Heaven Comes Down to Earth"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 23, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the June 11 homily Benedict XVI gave on the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, during Mass held in the square outside St. John Lateran.

* * *

"This is my Body.... This is my Blood".

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

These words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper are repeated every time that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is renewed. We have just heard them in Mark's Gospel and they resonate with special power today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

They lead us in spirit to the Upper Room, they make us relive the spiritual atmosphere of that night when, celebrating Easter with his followers, the Lord mystically anticipated the sacrifice that was to be consummated the following day on the Cross. The Institution of the Eucharist thus appears to us as an anticipation and acceptance, on Jesus' part, of his death.

St Ephrem the Syrian writes on this topic: during the Supper Jesus sacrificed himself; on the Cross he was sacrificed by others (cf. Hymn on the Crucifixion, 3, 1).

"This is my Blood". Here the reference to the sacrificial language of Israel is clear. Jesus presents himself as the true and definitive sacrifice, in which was fulfilled the expiation of sins which, in the Old Testament rites, was never fully completed.

This is followed by two other very important remarks. First of all, Jesus Christ says that his Blood "is poured out for many" with a comprehensible reference to the songs of the Servant of God that are found in the Book of Isaiah (cf. ch. 53).

With the addition "blood of the Covenant" Jesus also makes clear that through his death the prophesy of the new Covenant is fulfilled, based on the fidelity and infinite love of the Son made man. An alliance that, therefore, is stronger than all humanity's sins. The old Covenant had been sealed on Sinai with a sacrificial rite of animals, as we heard in the First Reading, and the Chosen People, set free from slavery in Egypt, had promised to obey all the commandments given to them by the Lord (cf. Ex 24: 3).

In truth, Israel showed immediately by making the golden calf that it was incapable of staying faithful to this promise and thus to the divine Covenant, which indeed it subsequently violated all too often, adapting to its heart of stone the Law that should have taught it the way of life.

However, the Lord did not fail to keep his promise and, through the prophets, sought to recall the inner dimension of the Covenant and announced that he would write a new law upon the hearts of his faithful (cf. Jer 31: 33), transforming them with the gift of the Spirit (cf. Ez 36: 25-27).

And it was during the Last Supper that he made this new Covenant with his disciples and humanity, confirming it not with animal sacrifices as had happened in the past, but indeed with his own Blood, which became the "Blood of the New Covenant". Thus he based it on his own obedience, stronger, as I said, than all our sins.

This is clearly highlighted in the Second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, in which the sacred author declares that Jesus is the "mediator of a new covenant" (9: 15). He became so through his blood, or, more exactly, through the gift of himself, which gives full value to the outpouring of his blood.

On the Cross, Jesus is at the same time victim and priest: a victim worthy of God because he was unblemished, and a High Priest who offers himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and intercedes for the whole of humanity.

The Cross is therefore a mystery of love and of salvation which cleanses us as the Letter to the Hebrews states from "dead works", that is, from sins, and sanctifies us by engraving the New Covenant upon our hearts. The Eucharist, making present the sacrifice of the Cross, renders us capable of living communion with God faithfully.

Dear brothers and sisters whom I greet with affection, starting with the Cardinal Vicar and the other Cardinals and Bishops present like the Chosen People gathered on Sinai, this evening let us too reaffirm our fidelity to the Lord.

A few days ago, in opening the annual Diocesan Convention [of Rome] I recalled the importance of remaining, as Church, attentive to the word of God in prayer and in exploring the Scriptures, especially through the practice of lectio divina, that is, through reading the Bible in meditation and veneration.

I know that in this respect many initiatives which enrich our diocesan community have been promoted in parishes, seminaries and religious communities, in confraternities and in apostolic associations and movements.

I address my fraternal greeting to the members of this multiplicity of Church bodies. Your numerous presence at this celebration, dear friends, highlights the fact that God moulds our community, characterized by a plurality of cultures and by different experiences. God moulds it as "his" People, as the one Body of Christ, thanks to our heartfelt participation in the twofold banquet of the Word and of the Eucharist.

Nourished by Christ, we, his disciples, receive the mission to be "the soul" of this City of ours (cf. Letter to Diognetus, 6: ed. Funk, i, p. 400; see also Lumen Gentium n. 38), a leaven of renewal, bread "broken" for all, especially for those in situations of hardship, poverty or physical and spiritual suffering. Let us become witnesses of his love.

I address you in particular, dear priests, whom Christ has chosen so that with him you may be able to live your life as a sacrifice of praise for the salvation of the world. Only from union with Jesus can you draw that spiritual fruitfulness which generates hope in your pastoral ministry.

St Leo the Great recalls that "our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ aspires to nothing other than to become what we receive" (Sermo 12, De Passione 3, 7, PL 54).

If this is true for every Christian it is especially true for us priests. To become the Eucharist! May precisely this be our constant desire and commitment, so that the offering of the Body and Blood of the Lord which we make on the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our existence.

Every day, we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord that free, pure love which makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to his joy. This is what the faithful expect of the priest: that is, the example of an authentic devotion to the Eucharist; they like to see him spend long periods of silence and adoration before Jesus as was the practice of the Holy Curé d'Ars, whom we shall remember in a special way during the upcoming Year for Priests.

St John Mary Vianney liked to tell his parishioners: "Come to communion.... It is true that you are not worthy of it, but you need it" (Bernard Nodet, Le curé d'Ars. Sa pensée - Son coeur, éd. Xavier Mappus, Paris 1995, p. 119).

With the knowledge of being inadequate because of sin, but needful of nourishing ourselves with the love that the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic sacrament, let us renew this evening our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

We must not take this faith for granted! Today we run the risk of secularization creeping into the Church too. It can be translated into formal and empty Eucharistic worship, into celebrations lacking that heartfelt participation that is expressed in veneration and in respect for the liturgy.

The temptation to reduce prayer to superficial, hasty moments, letting ourselves be overpowered by earthly activities and concerns, is always strong.

When, in a little while, we recite the Our Father, the prayer par excellence, we will say: "Give us this day our daily bread", thinking of course of the bread of each day for us and for all peoples. But this request contains something deeper. The Greek word epioúsios, that we translate as "daily", could also allude to the "super-stantial" bread, the bread "of the world to come".

Some Fathers of the Church saw this as a reference to the Eucharist, the bread of eternal life, the new world, that is already given to us in Holy Mass, so that from this moment the future world may begin within us. With the Eucharist, therefore, Heaven comes down to earth, the future of God enters the present and it is as though time were embraced by divine eternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, as happens every year, at the end of Holy Mass the traditional Eucharistic procession will set out and with prayer and hymns we shall raise a unanimous entreaty to the Lord present in the consecrated host. We shall say, on behalf of the entire City: "Stay with us Jesus, make a gift of yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life! Free this world from the poison of evil, violence and hatred that pollute consciences, purify it with the power of your merciful love".

"And you, Mary, who were the woman "of the Eucharist' throughout your life, help us to walk united towards the heavenly goal, nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, the eternal Bread of life and medicine of divine immortality". Amen!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Padre Pio's Devotion to Mary

"With a Mother's Hand She Will Guide You to the Heavenly Homeland"

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, JUNE 21, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today after Mass, before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the Church of San Pio de Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he is visiting.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

At the end of this solemn celebration, I invite you to pray with me -- like every Sunday -- the Marian prayer of the Angelus. But here in the sanctuary of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, we seem to hear his own voice, which urges us to address ourselves with childlike hearts to the Blessed Virgin: "Love the Blessed Virgin and help others love her." So he kept saying to everyone, and more than his words was the testimony of his deep devotion to the Heavenly Mother. Baptized in the church of St. Mary of the Angels of Pietrelcina with the name of Francis, like the Poverello of Assisi, he always cultivated a most tender love for the Blessed Virgin. Providence later led him here, to San Giovanni Rotondo, near Our Lady of Grace Sanctuary, where he remained until his death and where his mortal remains rest. All his life and his apostolate took place, therefore, under the maternal gaze of the Madonna and the power of her intercession. He even considered the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza the work of Mary, "Health of the Sick." Therefore, dear friends, in the example of Padre Pio, today I also want to entrust you all to the maternal protection of the Mother of God. In a special way I invoke her for the community of the Capuchin Friars, for the sick of the hospital, and for those who with love care for them, as well as for the prayer groups that carry out the continuing spiritual work of your holy founder in Italy and worldwide.

To the intercession of Our Lady and of St. Pio of Pietrelcina I would like to entrust especially this Priestly Year, which I inaugurated last Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May it be a privileged opportunity to highlight the value of the mission and of the holiness of priests at the service of the Church and of all humanity of the third millennium!

We pray today for the difficult and sometimes dramatic situation of refugees. It was just yesterday that we celebrated World Refugee Day, sponsored by the United Nations. There are many people who seek refuge in other countries fleeing from situations of war, persecution and disasters, and their acceptance poses many difficulties, but it is nevertheless a duty. God grant that, with the commitment of all, we will do as much as possible to remove the causes of so sad a phenomenon.

With great affection I greet all the pilgrims present here. I express my gratitude to the civil authorities and to all those who collaborated in the preparation of my visit. Thank you very much! To all I repeat: walk on the path that Padre Pio has laid out for you, the path of holiness according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. On this path Virgin Mary will always precede you, and with a mother's hand she will guide you to the heavenly homeland.


Papal Words to Priests, Youth at Padre Pio Church

"Love for Christ Is Inevitably Linked to Love for His Church"

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, JUNE 21, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to priests, religious and youth at the Church of San Pio de Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he is visiting today.

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Dear priests,

Dear men and women religious,

Dear young people,

With this our encounter my pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo comes to a close. I am grateful to the Archbishop of Lecce, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio, and to Father Mauro Jöhri, secretary general of the Capuchin Friars Minor, for the words of cordial welcome that they have given me on your behalf. My greeting is now turned to you, dear priests, who are daily engaged in the service of God's people as wise guides and diligent workers in the vineyard of the Lord. I greet with affection the dear consecrated persons, called to offer the testimony of a total dedication to Christ through the faithful practice of the evangelical counsels. A special thought for you, dear Capuchin Friars, who lovingly care for this oasis of spirituality and evangelical solidarity, welcoming pilgrims and devotees gathered by the living memory of your holy confrere, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Thank you very much for this valuable service you render to the Church and to souls who here rediscover the beauty of faith and the warmth of divine tenderness. I greet you, dear young people, to whom the Pope looks with confidence as to the future of the Church and society. Here in San Giovanni Rotondo, everything speaks of the sanctity of a humble friar and a zealous priest, who this evening, also invites us to open our hearts to the mercy of God; he exhorts us to be holy, that is, sincere and true friends of Jesus.

Dear priests, just the other day, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the day of priestly holiness, we began the Priestly Year, during which we will recall with reverence and affection the 150th anniversary of the death of St. John Mary Vianney, the holy Curé d'Ars. In the letter I wrote for the occasion, I wanted to stress the importance of the sanctity of priests for the life and mission of the Church. Like the Curé d'Ars, Padre Pio also reminds us of the dignity and responsibility of the priestly ministry. Who was not impressed by the fervor with which he re-lived the Passion of Christ in every celebration of the Eucharist? From his love for the Eucharist there arose in him as the Curé d'Ars a total willingness to welcome the faithful, especially sinners. Also, if St. John Mary Vianney, in a troubled and difficult time, tried in every way, to help his parishioners rediscover the meaning and the beauty of sacramental penance, for the holy friar of the Gargano, the care of souls and the conversion of sinners were a desire that consumed him until death. How many people have changed their lives thanks to his patient priestly ministry, so many long hours in the confessional! Like the Curé d'Ars, it is his ministry as a confessor that constitutes the greatest title of glory and the distinctive feature of this holy Capuchin. How could we not realize then the importance of participating in the celebration of the Eucharist devoutly and frequently receiving the sacrament of confession? In particular, the sacrament of penance must be even more valued, and priests should never resign themselves to seeing their confessional deserted or to merely recognizing the diffidence of the faithful for this extraordinary source of serenity and peace.

There is another great lesson that we can learn from the life of Padre Pio: the value and necessity of prayer. To whomever that would ask him about himself, he used to reply: "I am nothing but a poor friar who prays." And he really did pray always and everywhere with humility, confidence and perseverance. Here is a key point not only for the spirituality of the priest, but also that of every Christian, and even more for you, dear men and women religious, chosen to follow Christ more closely through the practice of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Sometimes one can become taken by a certain discouragement before the weakening and even the abandonment of faith that exists in our societies. Surely we must find new channels to communicate the message of the Gospel to the men and women of our time, but since the essence of the Christian message is always the same, it is necessary to return to its original source, to Jesus Christ who is "the same yesterday and today and forever "(Hebrews 13:8). The human and spiritual life of Padre Pio teaches that only a soul intimately united to the Crucified will be able to transmit even to those who are far away the joy and richness of the Gospel.

Love for Christ is inevitably linked to love for his Church, guided and animated by the power of the Holy Spirit, in which each of us has a role and a mission to accomplish. Dear priests, dear men and women religious, different are the tasks which are entrusted to you and the charisms of which are you are interpreters, but may the spirit with which implement them be always one, so that your presence and your work within the Christian people, become an eloquent witness to the primacy of God in your life. Was not this what everyone perceived in St. Pio of Pietrelcina?

Permit me to speak a special word to the young people, which I see are so many and so enthusiastic. Dear friends, thank you for your warm welcome and for the heartfelt sentiments your representative has expressed. I noticed that the pastoral plan of your diocese, for the years 2007-2010, devotes much attention to the mission regarding youth and family and I am sure that from this attitude of listening, encounter, dialogue and verification in which you are committed, there will result an ever better care of families and a timely hearing of the actual expectations of the younger generation. I have present in mind the problems facing you, dear young men and women, and which threaten to stifle the enthusiasms typical of your youth. Among these, in particular, I mention the phenomenon of unemployment, which affects so many tragic young men and women from Southern Italy. Do not lose heart! Be "young people of great heart," as it has been repeated often this year since the Diocesan Youth Mission, animated and guided by the Regional Seminary of Molfetta last September. The Church does not abandon you. Do not abandon the Church!

Your input is necessary in order to build living Christian communities, and societies that are more just and open to hope. And if you want to have "great hearts," seek the school of Jesus. Just the other day we contemplated his heart, great and full of love for humanity. He will never abandon or betray your trust, he will never lead down mistaken paths. Just like Padre Pio, be faithful friends of the Lord Jesus, cultivating a daily relationship through prayer and through listening to his word, the diligent practice of the sacraments and the cordial membership in his family, which is the Church. This must be the basis of the program of life of each of you, dear young people, as well as you, dear priests and of you, dear men and women religious. To each and every one of you I assure my prayers and implore the maternal protection of Holy Mary of Grace, who watches over you from her shrine in which crypt lie the remains of Padre Pio. I thank you very much, yet again, for your welcome and I bless you all, together with your families, communities, parishes and your entire diocese.


Benedict XVI's Words at the Padre Pio Hospital

"In Hospitals One Touches the Preciousness of Our Existence"

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, JUNE 21, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the hospital established by Padre Pio, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, the "Home to Relieve Suffering," in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he is visiting.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Beloved sick people,

In this my visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, I could not miss a stop at the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, designed and built by St. Pio of Pietrelcina as a "place of prayer and science where the human race finds itself again in Christ Crucified as a single flock with one shepherd." Precisely for this reason he wanted to entrust it to the material and spiritual support of the prayer groups, who here have the center of their mission to serve the Church. Padre Pio had the desire that in this well equipped hospital the commitment of science in treating the patient never be separated from a filial trust in God, infinitely tender and merciful. Inaugurating it on May 5, 1956, he called it "a creature of Providence" and spoke of this institution as "a seed planted by God on earth, which he will warm with the rays of his love."

Here I am among you, therefore, to thank God for the good that, faithful to the directives of a humble Capuchin Friar for over fifty years, you do in this "Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza," with recognized scientific and a medical results. It is not possible for me unfortunately, as I would like, to visit each hall and greet each patient one by one along with those who care for them. But I want to convey to everyone -- patients, doctors, family members, health and pastoral workers -- a word of paternal comfort and encouragement to continue together this evangelical work to relieve suffering, making the most of every resource for the human and spiritual good of the sick and their families.

With these sentiments, I cordially greet all of you, starting with you, brothers and sisters who are being tried by illness. I greet the doctors, nurses and medical staff and administration. I greet you, revered Capuchin Fathers, who, as chaplains, continue the apostolate of your holy confrere. I greet the prelates and, first of all, the Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio, former pastor of this diocese, and now called upon to lead the archdiocesan community of Lecce. I am grateful for the words that he addressed to me on your behalf. I next greet the director general of the hospital, Doctor Dominic Crupi, and the representative of the sick, and I am grateful for the kind and cordial words that they have just addressed to me, allowing me to better know what is being done here and the spirit with which you carry it out.

Each time one enters a place of care, one's thoughts turn naturally to the mystery of disease and pain, to the hope of healing and to the inestimable value of health, which is often only recognized when it is lost. In hospitals one touches with one's hands the preciousness of our existence, but also its fragility. Following the example of Jesus, who traveled throughout Galilee, "healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Mt 4:23), the Church, from its very beginnings, moved by the Holy Spirit, has considered it her duty and privilege to stand beside those who suffer, cultivating a preferential attention for the sick.

Sickness, which manifests itself in many forms and strikes in different ways, raises disturbing questions: Why do we suffer? Can the experience of pain be considered positive? Who can liberate us from suffering and death? Existential questions, which remain often unanswered humanly, since suffering is an unfathomable mystery for our reason. Suffering is part of the very mystery of the human person. And that which I emphasized in the encyclical letter "Spe Salvi," noting that "it follows, on the one hand, from our finitude, and on the other hand, from the mass of guilt that has accumulated throughout history and even at present continues its unstoppable growth." And I added that "certainly we must do everything we can to reduce suffering ... but to eliminate it completely from the world is not in our possibilities simply because ... none of us is able to eliminate the power of evil ... continually the source of suffering" (see n.36).

Only God can remove the power of evil. Precisely due to the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal the divine plan of our salvation, faith helps us to penetrate the meaning of all things human and therefore also of suffering. There is, therefore, an intimate relationship between the Cross of Jesus -- the supreme symbol of the pain and the price of our freedom -- and our pain, which is transformed and transcended when it is lived in the awareness of the closeness and solidarity of God. Padre Pio had understood this profound truth and, on the first anniversary of this work, said that in it "those who suffer must live the love of God through the wise acceptance of their pain, through serene meditation on their destiny to him" (Meeting of May 5, 1957). He noted further that in the Casa Sollievo "the recovering, doctors, priests will be reserves of love, which in as much as it abounds in one, the more it will be communicated to others" (ibid.).

Be "reserves of love": This, dear brothers and sisters, is the mission that this evening our saint refers you to, who each in his own way form the great family of this Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza. May the Lord help you bring to fruition the project initiated by Padre Pio with the support of all: doctors and scientific researchers, health care professionals and the employees of various departments, volunteers and benefactors, the Capuchin friars and other priests. Without forgetting the prayer groups that "attached to the house of relief, are the advanced positions of this citadel of charity, nurseries of faith, outbursts of love" (Padre Pio, Speech, May 5, 1966). On each and every one I invoke the intercession of Padre Pio and the maternal protection of Mary, Health of the Sick. Thank you again for your welcome and, while I assure you of my prayers for each of you, I cordially bless you all.


Pontiff's Homily at St. Pio of Pietrelcina Church

"God Never Annuls That Which Is Human, but He Transforms It"

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, JUNE 21, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today in a Mass at the Church of San Pio de Pietrelcina in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he is visiting.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

In the heart of my pilgrimage to this place, where everything speaks of the life and the holiness of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, I have the joy of celebrating for you and with you the Eucharist, the mystery that was the center of his whole existence: the origin of his vocation, the strength of his testimony, the consecration of his sacrifice. With great affection I greet all of you, those who have gathered here in such numbers, and those connected with us through radio and television. I greet, first of all, Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio, who, after years of faithful service to the diocesan community, is preparing to take on the care of the Archdiocese of Lecce. I thank him warmly also because he has made himself the spokesman of your affections. I greet the other bishop concelebrants. A special greeting goes to the Capuchin friars with the minister general, Fra Mauro Jöhri, the definitor general, the provincial minister, the father guardian of the convent, the rector of the shrine and the Capuchin fraternity of San Giovanni Rotondo. I also greet with great gratitude those who give their contribution in the service of the sanctuary and adjoining works; I greet the civil and military authorities; I greet the priests, deacons, male and female religious and all the faithful. I dedicate an affectionate thought to those in the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, to the lonely and to all the inhabitants of your city.

We have just heard the Gospel of the calmed storm, which was preceded by a short but incisive text of the Book of Job, where God reveals himself as the Lord of the sea. Jesus threatened the wind and ordered the sea to calm itself; he addresses it as if it was identified with the diabolical power. Indeed, according to what we hear from the first reading and Psalm 106/107, the sea in the Bible is regarded as a threatening, chaotic, and potentially destructive element, that only God, the Creator, can dominate, govern and silence.

But there is another force -- a positive force -- that moves the world, able to transform and renew creation: the strength of the "love of Christ," (2 Cor 5:14 ) -- as St. Paul calls it in the Second Letter to the Corinthians -- not essentially a cosmic force, but divine, transcendent. It acts on the universe but also, in itself, the love of Christ is a power that is "other," and this, his transcendent otherness, the Lord has manifested in his Passover, the "sanctity" of the "way" chosen by him to liberate us from the domination of evil, as was done by the exodus from Egypt, when he brought the Jews out through the waters of the Red Sea. "O God -- says the Psalmist -- holy is your way ... On the sea your way, / your paths over the great waters" (Psalms 77/76, 14:20). In the paschal mystery, Jesus has passed through the abyss of death, since God so willed to renew the world: through the death and resurrection of his Son "slain for all," so that all may live for him who has died and risen for them" (2 Cor 5, 16).

The solemn gesture of calming the stormy sea is clearly a sign of the lordship of Christ over the negative powers and leads us to think of his divinity: "Who is this -- the disciples ask stupefied and terrified -- that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mk 4:41). Theirs is not yet a strong faith; it is taking shape; it is a mixture of fear and trust; Jesus' trusting abandonment to the Father is, on the contrary, total and pure. Because of this he sleeps during the storm, completely safe in the arms of God. But a time will come when even Jesus will taste anxiety and fear: When his hour comes, he will feel upon himself the entire burden of the sins of humanity, like a gigantic wave that is about to crash down upon him. That will truly be a terrible storm, not cosmic, but spiritual. It will be the last, extreme assault of evil against the Son of God.

But in that hour Jesus did not doubt the power and presence of God the Father, even if he had to experience the full distance of hatred from love, of lies from truth, of sin from grace. He experienced this tragedy in himself in a lacerating way, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane, before the arrest, and then during the entire Passion, until his death on the cross. In that hour, Jesus was, on the one hand, one with the Father, fully abandoned to him, and on the other, in as much as he was in solidarity with sinners, he was as one separated from him and felt abandoned by him.

Some saints have lived intensely and personally this experience of Jesus. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is one of them. A simple man of humble origins, "seized by Christ" (Phil. 3:12) -- as the Apostle Paul writes of himself -- to make of him an instrument chosen by the perennial power of his cross: power of love for souls, of forgiveness and of reconciliation, of spiritual paternity, of effective solidarity with those who suffer. The stigmata, which marked his body, united him closely to the Crucified and Risen One. A true follower of St. Francis of Assisi, he made his own, like the Poverello, the experience of the Apostle Paul which he describes in his letters: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20), or: "in us death is at work, but in you life" (2 Cor 5, 12). This does not mean alienation, loss of personality: God never annuls that which is human, but he transforms it with his Spirit and he ordains it to the service of his plan of salvation. Padre Pio kept his natural gifts, and even his own temperament, but he offered everything to God, who has been able to freely use them to extend the work of Christ: to proclaim the Gospel, forgive sins and heal the sick in body and spirit.

As it was for Jesus, the real struggle, the radical combat Padre Pio had to sustain, was not against earthly enemies, but against the spirit of evil (cf. Ephesians 6, 12). The biggest "storms" that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, against which he defended himself with "the armor of God" with "the shield of faith" and "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:11,16,17). Remaining united to Jesus, he always kept in mind the depths of the human drama, and because of this he offered himself and offered his many sufferings, and he knew how to spend himself in the care and relief of the sick, a privileged sign of God's mercy, of his kingdom which is coming, indeed, which is already in the world, of the victory of love and life over sin and death. Guide souls and relieve suffering: thus we can sum up the mission of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, as the servant of God, Pope Paul VI said about him: "He was a man of prayer and suffering" (To the Capuchin Chapter Fathers, 20 February 1971).

Dear friends, Capuchin Friars Minor, members of prayer groups and all the faithful of San Giovanni Rotondo, you are the heirs of Padre Pio, and the inheritance that he left for you is holiness. In one of his letters he writes: "It seems that Jesus has no need for your hands other than to sanctify your soul" (Epist. II, p. 155). That was always his first concern, his priestly and fatherly concern: that people return to God, that they would experience his mercy, and, inwardly renewed, that they would rediscover the beauty and joy of being a Christian, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his Church and of practicing the Gospel. Padre Pio attracted others to the path of holiness by his own testimony, showing by example the "track" that leads to it: prayer and charity.

First of all prayer. Like all great men of God, Padre Pio had himself become prayer, soul and body. His days were a living rosary, that is, a continuous meditation and assimilation of the mysteries of Christ in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary. This explains the unusual presence within him of supernatural gifts and of human existence. And everything had its climax in the celebration of Holy Mass: there he joined himself fully to the crucified and risen Lord. From prayer, as from an ever-living source, love flowed. The love that he bore in his heart and transmitted to others was full of tenderness, always attentive to the real situations of individuals and families. Especially towards the sick and suffering, he cultivated the predilection of the Heart of Christ, and precisely from this origin the form of a great work dedicated to the "relief of suffering" took shape. One cannot understand or properly interpret this institution divorced from its inspirational source, which is evangelical charity, which in turn, is inspired by prayer.

All this, my beloved brothers and sisters, Padre Pio today puts before our eyes. The risks of activism and secularization are always present; because of this my visit has also the purpose of confirming you in your fidelity to the mission you inherited from your beloved father. Many of you, men and women religious and laity, are so taken by the complex duties required by the service to pilgrims, or to the sick in the hospital, that you run the risk of neglecting that which is truly needed: to listen to Christ to do the will of God. When you see that you are close to running this risk, look to Padre Pio: to his example, to his sufferings; and invoke his intercession, so that he obtain from the Lord the light and strength that you need to continue his mission permeated with love for God and fraternal love. And from heaven may he continue to pursue the exquisite spiritual fatherhood that has distinguished his earthly existence; may he continue to accompany his confreres, his spiritual children and the entire work that he has begun. Along with St. Francis, and the Blessed Virgin, who he loved so much and made others love in this world, may he watch over you all and protect you always. And then, even in the storms that can suddenly rise up, you can experience the breath of the Holy Spirit that is stronger than any contrary wind and which pushes the boat of the Church and each of us. That is why we must always live in serenity and cultivate joy in our hearts, giving thanks to the Lord. "His love is forever" (Psalm resp.). Amen!


On Cyril and Methodius

"Each People Should … Express the Salvific Truth With Their Own Language"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 17, 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:

Today, I would like to speak about Sts. Cyril and Methodius, brothers of the same parents and in the faith, known as the apostles to the Slavic people. Cyril was born in Thessalonica, son of the imperial magistrate Leon, in 826-827. He was the youngest of seven children. As a child, he learned the Slavic language. At age 14, he was sent to Constantinople to be educated and was accompanied by the young emperor, Michael III. During those years, he was introduced into the various university disciplines, among others, dialectics, and had Photius as his teacher. After having rejected a brilliant matrimony, he decided to receive holy orders and became the librarian in the patriarchate. Shortly afterward, wanting to retreat from society, he hid himself in a monastery, but soon was discovered and entrusted with teaching sacred and profane sciences, a task that he fulfilled so well that he won the title of "philosopher."

Meanwhile, the brother Michael (born around the year 815), after a career in public administration in Macedonia, abandoned the world around the year 850 to retreat to monastic life on Mount Olympus, in Bithynia, where he received the name Methodius (the monastic name had to begin with the same letter as the baptismal name) and became the hegumen of the monastery of Polychron.

Attracted by the example of his brother, Cyril also decided to leave teaching to dedicate himself to meditation and prayer on Mount Olympus. However, years later (around 861), the imperial government entrusted him with a mission among the Khazars of the Azov Sea, who had asked to have sent to them a scholar who would know how to debate with the Jews and the Saracens. Cyril, accompanied by his brother Methodius, lived for a long time in Crimea, where he learned Hebrew.

There, he also looked for the body of Pope Clement I, which had been buried in that location. He found his tomb and when he returned with his brother, he brought the precious relics. Upon arriving in Constantinople, the two brothers were sent by Emperor Michael III to Moravia; the prince of Moravia, Ratislav, had made a precise petition [to the emperor]: "Our nation," he said, "since it has rejected paganism, observes Christian law. But we do not have a teacher that is capable of explaining to us the true faith in our language." The mission very promptly had uncommon success. In translating the liturgy to the Slavic language, the two brothers won great affection among the people.

This, however, stirred up hostility against them among the Frankish clergy, who had previously arrived to Moravia and considered the territory as belonging to their ecclesial jurisdiction. To justify themselves, in the year 867, the two brothers traveled to Rome. During the trip, they stopped in Venice, where there was a heated discussion with those who defended the so-called trilingual heresy: These considered that there were only three languages in which God could be licitly praised -- Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Obviously, the two brothers opposed this with determination.

In Rome, Cyril and Methodius were received by Pope Adrian II, who went out to meet them in procession to worthily receive the relics of St. Clement. The Pope had also understood the great importance of their exceptional mission. From the middle of the first millennium, in fact, the Slavic people had established themselves in great numbers in those territories situated between the two parts of the Roman Empire -- the East, and the West, which experienced tension between themselves. The Pope intuited that the Slavic peoples could carry out the role of bridge, contributing in this way to conserve unity between the Christians of both parts of the Empire. Therefore, he did not hesitate in approving the mission of the two brothers in the Great Moravia, welcoming and approving the use of Slavic in the liturgy. The Slavic books were placed on the altar of Santa Maria di Phatmé (St. Mary Major) and the Slavic liturgy was celebrated in the basilicas of St. Peter, St. Andrew and St. Paul.

Unfortunately, in Rome, Cyril became gravely ill. Sensing that death was approaching, he wanted to consecrate himself totally to God as a monk in one of the Greek monasteries of the city (probably in St. Praxedes) and he took the monastic name Cyril (his baptismal name was Constantine). Later, he insistently beseeched his brother Methodius, who had meanwhile been consecrated a bishop, that he would not abandon the mission in Moravia and that he would return to those peoples. He directed this invocation to God: "Lord, my God … hear my prayer and maintain faithful to you the flock that you have placed before me. Free them from the heresy of the three languages, gather all of them in unity, and make this people that you have chosen live in harmony in the true faith and upright confession." He died Feb. 14, 869.

Faithful to the commitment taken on with his brother, the next year, 870, Methodius returned to Moravia and Pannonia (today, Hungary), where he again faced the violent ill-will of the Frankish missionaries who imprisoned him. He did not get discouraged and when, in the year 873, he was liberated, he actively dedicated himself to the organization of the Church, attending to the formation of a group of disciples. The merit of these disciples was in overcoming the crisis that broke out after the death of Methodius, which occurred April 6, 885. Persecuted and imprisoned, some of these disciples were sold as slaves and taken to Venice, where they were rescued by a functionary from Constantinople, who permitted them to return to the Balkan Slavic countries.

Welcomed in Bulgaria, they were able to continue the mission began by Methodius, spreading the Gospel in the "land of the Rus." God, in his mysterious providence, in this way availed of the persecution to save the work of the holy brothers. From [this work], literary documentation also remains. It is enough to think of works such as the "Evangeliario," (liturgical pericopes of the New Testament) [and] the "Salterio," various liturgical texts in Slavic, on which the two brothers worked. After the death of Cyril, it is owed to Methodius and to his disciples, among other things, the translation of all of sacred Scripture, the "Nomocanon" and the "Book of the Fathers."

Briefly summarizing the spiritual profile of the two brothers, above all it must be noted the passion with which Cyril approached the writings of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, learning from him the value of language in the transmission of Revelation. St. Gregory had expressed the desire that Christ would speak through him: "I am a servant of the Word, for this I place myself at the service of the Word." Wanting to imitate Gregory in this service, Cyril asked Christ to speak in Slavic through him. He introduces his work of translation with the solemn invocation: "Hear, Slavic peoples, hear the Word that proceeds from God, the Word that encourages souls, the Word that leads to the knowledge of God."

Actually, already years before the prince of Moravia asked Emperor Michael III to send missionaries to his land, it seems that Cyril and his brother Methodius, surrounded by a group of disciples, were working on a project of collecting the Christian dogmas in books written in Slavic. Then it was clearly seen that there was a need to have new graphic signs that were more adequate for the spoken language: Thus was born the Glagolitic alphabet, which modified later, was designated with the name "Cyrillic," in honor of its inspirer.

This was a decisive factor for the development of the Slavic civilization in general. Cyril and Methodius were convinced that the various peoples could not consider that they had fully received Revelation until they had heard it in their own language and read it with the characters proper to their own alphabet.

To Methodius falls the merit of ensuring that the work began by his brother would not remain sharply interrupted. While Cyril, the "philosopher," tended toward contemplation, he [Methodius] was directed more toward the active life. In this way, he was able to establish the foundations of the successive affirmation of what we could call the "Cyril-Methodian idea," which accompanied the Slavic peoples in the various historical periods, favoring cultural, national and religious development. Pope Pius XI already recognized this with the apostolic letter "Quod Sanctum Cyrillum," in which he classified the two brothers as "sons of the East, Byzantines by their homeland, Greeks by origin, Romans by their mission, Slavs by their apostolic fruits" (AAS 19 [1927] 93-96). The historic role that they fulfilled was afterward officially proclaimed by Pope John Paul II who, with the apostolic letter "Egregiae Virtutis Viri," declared them co-patrons of Europe, together with St. Benedict (AAS 73 [1981] 258-262).

Indeed, Cyril and Methodius are a classic example of what is today referred to with the term "inculturation": Each people should make the revealed message penetrate into their own culture, and express the salvific truth with their own language. This implies a very exacting work of "translation," as it requires finding adequate terms to propose anew the richness of the revealed Word, without betraying it. The two brother saints have left in this sense a particularly significant testimony that the Church continues looking at today to be inspired and guided.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we continue our catechesis on the early Christian writers of the East and the West, we now turn to the brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius. They were born in Thessalonica in the early ninth century. Cyril, whose baptismal name was Constantine, was educated at the Byzantine Court, ordained a priest, and became an acclaimed teacher of sacred and profane sciences. When his brother Michael became a monk, taking the name of Methodius, Cyril also decided to embrace the monastic life. Having retrieved the relics of Pope Clement I during a mission in Crimea, the brothers successfully preached Christianity to the people of Moravia. Inventing an alphabet for the Slavonic language, they together with their disciples translated the Liturgy, the Bible and texts of the Fathers, shaping the culture of the Slav peoples and leaving an outstanding example of inculturation. Pope Adrian II received them in Rome and encouraged their missionary work. When Cyril died in Rome in 869, Methodius continued the mission in spite of persecution. After his death in 885, some of his disciples, providentially released from slavery, spread the Gospel in Bulgaria and in "the Land of the Rus". In recognition of the brothers’ vast influence, they were named Co-Patrons of Europe by Pope John Paul II. May we imitate their strong faith and their Christian wisdom as we bear witness to the Gospel in our daily lives!

I offer a warm welcome to the participants in the 2009 Church Music Festival. I greet the pilgrims from the parishes of Sacred Heart, Dontozidon, Ilapayan and Tuaran from the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, accompanied by Archbishop John Lee, and also the pilgrims from Saint Francis Parish, Singapore. I am also pleased to greet the many student groups, and all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors.

I extend my greetings to the various religious leaders present today who have gathered in Rome for an International Conference of interreligious dialogue. I commend this initiative organized by the Italian Bishops’ Conference in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am confident that it will do much to draw the attention of world political leaders to the importance of religions within the social fabric of every society and to the grave duty to ensure that their deliberations and policies support and uphold the common good. Upon all those taking part I invoke an abundance of the Almighty’s blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Corpus Christi

"Yes, Love Exists, and Since It Exists, Things Can Change"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Today, in different countries, Italy among them, we celebrate "Corpus Domini," the feast of the Eucharist, in which the sacrament of the Lord's Body is carried solemnly in procession.

What does this feast mean for us? It does not make us think only of the liturgical aspect; in reality, "Corpus Domini" is a day that involves the cosmic dimension, heaven and earth. It evokes, first of all -- at least in our hemisphere -- this beautiful and fragrant season in which spring finally begins the turn toward summer, the sun shines brilliantly in the heavens and the wheat matures in the fields. The seasons of the Church -- like the Jewish ones -- have to do with the rhythm of the solar year, of planting and harvesting. This dimension comes to the foreground especially in today's solemnity, in which the sign of bread, fruit of earth and of heaven, is at the center. This is why the Eucharistic bread is the sign of him in whom heaven and earth, God and man, become one. And this shows that the relationship with the seasons is not something that is merely external to the liturgical year.

The solemnity of "Corpus Domini" is intimately linked to Easter and Pentecost: The death and resurrection of Jesus and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit are its presuppositions. It is, furthermore, linked to the feast of the Trinity, which we celebrated last Sunday. Only because God himself is relation can there be relation with him; and only because he is love can he love and be loved. In this way "Corpus Domini" is a manifestation of God, an attestation that God is love. In a unique and peculiar way, this feast speaks to us of divine love, of what it is and what it does. It tells us, for example, that it regenerates itself in giving itself, it receives itself in giving itself, it does not run out and is not used up; thus we hear in a hymn of St. Thomas Aquinas: "nec sumptus consumitur" (it is not used up in being consumed).

Love transforms every thing, and so we understand that the mystery of transubstantiation, the sign of Jesus-Charity, which transforms the world, is at the center of today's feast of "Corpus Domini." Looking upon him and worshiping him, we say: Yes, love exists, and since it exists, things can change for the better and we can hope. It is the hope that comes from Christ's love that gives us the strength to live and to face every difficulty. This is why we sing while we carry the most Blessed Sacrament in procession; we sing and praise God, who reveals himself hidden in the sign of broken bread. We all have need of this bread, because the road to freedom, justice and peace is long and wearisome.

We can imagine with what faith and love the Madonna would have received and worshiped the Holy Eucharist in her heart! Each time it was for her like receiving the whole mystery of her Son Jesus: from the conception to the resurrection. My venerable and beloved predecessor, John Paul II, called her the "Eucharistic Woman." Let us learn from her to continually renew our communion with the Body of Christ, to love each other as he loved us.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. Here is a translation of the some of the remarks he made in Italian:]

At the United Nations in New York June 24-26 there will be a conference on the economic and financial crisis and its impact on development. I pray for the spirit of wisdom and human solidarity for the participants in this conference and for those who are responsible for the "res publica" and the fate of the planet so that the current crisis is transformed into an opportunity to focus greater attention on the dignity of every human person and to promote an equal distribution of decisional power and resources, with particular attention to the number of those living in poverty, which, unfortunately, is always growing.

On this day in which we celebrate, in Italy and many other nations, the feast of "Corpus Domini," the bread of life, as I just mentioned, I would like to especially remember the hundreds of millions of persons who suffer from hunger. It is an absolutely unacceptable reality that is hard to control despite the efforts of recent decades. I hope, therefore, that at the upcoming U.N. conference and in the headquarters of international institutions the joint measures are taken by the entire international community and the strategic decisions are made -- which are sometimes difficult to accept -- that are necessary to ensure that everyone, in the present and the future, will have basic nourishment and a dignified life.

Next Friday, the solemnity of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Day of Priestly Sanctification, will begin the Year for Priests, which I wanted to have observed together with the 150th anniversary of the death of the holy Curé of Ars. I entrust to your prayers this new spiritual initiative that follows the Pauline Year, which is now concluding. May this new jubilee year be a propitious occasion to reflect on the value and importance of the priestly mission and to ask the Lord to make a gift of many priests to his Church.

I wish everyone a good Sunday.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, the Holy Father said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. Today's Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ invites us to acknowledge the Lord's saving presence in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. At the Last Supper, on the night before his death on the Cross, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the new and eternal covenant between God and man. May this sacrifice of reconciliation, in which the Risen Lord is truly and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, confirm the Church in faith, unity and holiness as she awaits his future coming in glory. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God's blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Social Doctrine Group

"Economic and Financial Paradigms … Must Be Rethought"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2009.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday upon receiving in audience members of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, which promotes the social doctrine of the Church.

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Venerable brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,

Illustrious and dear friends!

Thank you for your visit that you are making on the occasion of your annual meeting. I greet all of you with affection and am grateful to you for what you do, with proven generosity, at the service of the Church. I greet and thank Count Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, your president, who interpreted your sentiments with refined sensibility, expounding the foundation's activities with broad brush strokes. I also thank those who, in different languages, wanted to present me with an attestation of their common devotion. Your gathering today assumes a significance and particular value in light of the situation that all of humanity is experiencing in this moment.

In effect, the financial crisis that has struck the industrialized nations, the emergent nations and those that are developing, shows in a clear way how the economic and financial paradigms that have been dominant in recent years must be rethought. Your foundation has done well, then, to confront, in the international conference that took place yesterday, the theme of the pursuit and identification of the values and guidelines that the economic world must stick to in order to bring into being a new model of development that is more attentive to the demands of solidarity and more respectful of human dignity.

I am happy to see that you have especially examined the interdependency between institutions, society and the market, beginning -- in accord with the encyclical "Centesimus Annus" of my venerable predecessor John Paul II -- from the reflection according to which the market economy, understood as "an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector" (No. 42), can only be recognized as a way of economic and civil progress if it is oriented to the common good (cf. No. 43). Such a vision, however, must also be accompanied by another reflection according to which freedom in the economic sector must situate itself "within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality," a responsible freedom "the core of which is ethical and religious" (No. 42). This encyclical opportunely affirms that: "The person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all" (No. 43).

I hope the research developed by your work, inspired by the eternal principles of the Gospel, will elaborate a vision of the modern economy that is respectful of the needy and of the rights of the weak. As you know, my encyclical on the vast theme of economics and labor will soon be published: It will highlight what, for us Christians, are the objectives to be pursued and the values to be promoted and tirelessly defended, with the purpose of realizing a truly free and solidary human coexistence.

I also note with pleasure what you are doing on behalf of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, to whose aim, an aim which you share, I attribute great value for an increasingly fruitful interreligious dialogue.

Dear friends, thank you once again for your visit; I assure each of you a remembrance in prayer as I bless you all from my heart.


Papal Address to Italian Episcopal Conference
"Rediscover Both the Grace and the Duty of the Priestly Ministry"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 11, 2009 Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave May 28 to the members of the Italian episcopal conference on the occasion of their annual general assembly.

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Dear Italian Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to meet you once again all together on the occasion of this important annual event for which you gather at your Assembly to share the anxieties and joys of your ministry in the dioceses of the beloved Italian nation.

Your Assembly, in fact, visibly expresses and promotes that communion by which the Church lives and which is also put into practice in the harmony of your pastoral initiatives and action.

I come in person to uphold with my presence that ecclesial communion which I have seen constantly growing and being reinforced. I thank in particular the Cardinal President who, on behalf of you all, has confirmed the fraternal adherence and cordial communion with the Magisterium and pastoral service of the Successor of Peter, thereby reaffirming the special unity that binds the Church in Italy to the Apostolic See.

In recent months I have truly received a great many moving testimonies of this adherence. I cannot but offer you my heartfelt thanks! In this atmosphere of communion it is possible to nourish profitably with the word of God and the grace of the sacraments the Christian people, deeply rooted in the land, who feel a keen sense of faith and a true sense of belonging to the ecclesial community.

This is all thanks to your pastoral guidance, your generous service to so many priests and deacons, religious and lay faithful who with assiduous dedication support the ecclesiastical fabric and the daily life of the numerous parishes scattered in every corner of the country.

Let us not conceal from ourselves the difficulties they encounter in our time in leading their members to adhere fully to the Christian faith. Indeed, in this perspective various sources are calling for the renewal of their lay members through increased cooperation and missionary co-responsibility.

For these reasons, in your pastoral action you have appropriately desired to implement the missionary commitment that has marked the Church's progress in Italy since the Council. You have done so by making the fundamental task of education the focus of your Assembly's reflection.

As I have had the opportunity to say on several occasions, this is a constitutive and ongoing requirement in the Church's life, which today is tending to acquire a character of urgency and even emergency.

In these days you have been able to listen, reflect and discuss the need to start an educational type of project that springs from a consistent and complete vision of man, which can only derive from the perfect image and fulfilment that we have in Jesus Christ.

He is the Teacher at whose school we must rediscover the educational task as a most lofty vocation to which every member of the faithful is called in different ways. At a time when relativist and nihilistic concepts of life exert a strong attraction and the very legitimacy of education is called into question, the first contribution we can offer is that of witnessing to our faith in life and in the human being, in human reason and in the human capacity to love.

This is not the fruit of an ingenuous optimism but comes to us from that "trustworthy hope" (Spe Salvi, n. 1) that is given to us in faith in the redemption brought by Jesus Christ. With reference to this well-founded act of love for man, an educational alliance can arise between all who have responsibility in this delicate context of social and ecclesial life.

Next Sunday, the conclusion of the three-year Agora of Italian Youth that has involved your Conference in a structured process for the animation of your youth ministry is an invitation to check the educational process under way. It also asks you to embark on new projects for a specific group, that of the new generations, extremely broad and significant for the educational responsibilities of our ecclesial communities and of society as a whole.

Furthermore, the task of formation, extends to adults who are not excluded from a real responsibility for continuing education. No one is excluded from the duty of taking care of his or her own growth and that of others until we all attain to "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4: 13).

The difficulty of forming authentic Christians is intricate and merges with the complex task of helping men and women to grow more responsible and mature. Knowledge of truth and goodness and free adherence to them form the core of the educational project, which can give shape to a global growth process, duly prepared and accompanied.

For this, in addition to an adequate project that points to the goal of education in the light of the approved model to be followed, authoritative educators to whom the new generations can look with trust are essential.

In this Pauline Year, which we have lived by deepening our knowledge of the words and example of the great Apostle to the Gentiles, and which you have celebrated in various ways in your dioceses and, precisely yesterday, all together in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, his invitation rings out, especially effectively: "Be imitators of me" (1 Cor 11: 1).

These are courageous words. A true educator stakes himself first and is able to combine authority and exemplarity in the task of educating those entrusted to his care. We ourselves are aware of this, placed as we are as guides among the People of God, we to whom in turn the Apostle Peter addressed the invitation to tend God's flock by being "examples to the flock" (1 Pt 5: 3). These too are words on which to meditate.

The circumstance which, after the Year dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles, sees us prepared to celebrate a Year for Priests is therefore particularly fortunate.

We are called, together with our priests, to rediscover both the grace and the duty of the priestly ministry. This ministry is a service to the Church and to the Christian People that demands a profound spirituality. In response to the divine vocation, this spirituality must be nourished by prayer and by an intense personal union with the Lord in order to serve him among the brethren through preaching, the sacraments, an orderly community life and assistance to the poor.

Thus, throughout the priestly ministry the importance of the commitment to education stands out, in order to develop people who are free, truly free, and hence responsible, mature and aware Christians.

There is no doubt that the sense of solidarity profoundly rooted in Italian hearts draws vitality from the Christian spirit. Furthermore, it finds a way of expressing itself with particular intensity in certain dramatic circumstances in the country's life, the most recent of which was the devastating earthquake that hit some parts of the Abruzzo region.

As your President mentioned earlier, during my Visit to that tragically damaged region I was not only able to take stock personally of the bereavement, suffering and disastrous effects of that terrible quake but also and I found this most striking besides the strength of mind of those people, the prompt wave of solidarity that was organized from every single part of Italy.

Our communities responded with great generosity to the requests for aid from that region by supporting the initiatives promoted by the Bishops' Conference through Caritas. I would like to renew to the Bishops of Abruzzo and, through them, to the local communities, the assurance of my constant prayers and of my permanent affectionate closeness.

For months we have observed the effects of the heavy blow the financial and economic crisis has dealt, on a global scale and, if in varying degrees, to all countries.

Despite the measures implemented at various levels, the effects of the crisis on society are not failing to make themselves felt even acutely, especially by the more fragile social sectors of society and families.

Thus I would like to express my appreciation and encouragement of the initiative of the solidarity fund called "Prestito della speranza" [loan of hope] which next Sunday will be an opportunity to participate unanimously in the national collection which constitutes the basis of the fund. This renewed request for generosity, which comes in addition to the many projects implemented by numerous dioceses, in recalling the gesture of the collection organized by the Apostle Paul for the Church in Jerusalem, is an eloquent testimony of the mutual sharing of burdens.

In a difficult period, which is affecting above all those who have lost their jobs, sharing becomes a true act of worship that is born from the charity inspired by the Spirit of the Risen One in believers' hearts. It is an eloquent sign of the inner conversion generated by the Gospel and a touching manifestation of ecclesial communion.

An essential form of charity to which the Churches in Italy are deeply committed is also intellectual. A significant example of this is the endeavour to spread a mindset in favour of life in all its aspects and phases, with special attention to life scarred by conditions of great frailty and precariousness. This commitment is clearly witnessed by the manifesto: "Free to live. Loving life to the end", which sees the Italian Catholic laity working together to ensure that knowledge of the full truth about man and the promotion of the authentic good of people and of society is not lacking in Italy.

The "yeses" and "nos" that are expressed in the manifesto outline a true educational action and are an expression of strong, practical love for every person. My thoughts, therefore, return to the central theme of your Assembly the urgent duty of education which requires that the faithful be rooted in the word of God and spiritual discernment, cultural and social planning, and the witness of unity and of free giving.

Dear Brothers, there are only a few days to go before the Solemnity of Pentecost in which we shall be celebrating the gift of the Spirit who breaks down barriers and opens people to an understanding of the whole truth. Let us invoke the Consoler who does not abandon those who turn to him and entrust to him the journey of the Church in Italy and of every person who lives in this most beloved country. May the Spirit of Life come down upon all of us and kindle in our hearts the flame of his infinite love.

I warmly bless you and your communities!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On John Scotus Erigena
"His Theology Proceeds … by Asserting Primarily What God Is Not"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 10, 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:

Today I would like to speak of a notable thinker of the Christian West: John Scotus Erigena, whose origins are obscure. He certainly came from Ireland, where he was born at the beginning of the 9th century, but we don't know when he left his island to cross the English Channel and thus fully become a part of that cultural world that was being reborn around the Carolingians, and in particular, around Charles the Bald, in France of the 9th century. Just as we don't know the exact date of his birth, we also do not know that of his death, which according to the experts, must have been around the year 870.

John Scotus Erigena had a firsthand patristic culture, as much Greek as Latin: He directly knew the writings of the Latin and Greek fathers. He knew well, among others, the works of Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory the Great, great fathers of the Christian West; but he also knew the thought of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, and other fathers, no less important, of the East. It was an exceptional man who in that epoch also dominated Greek. He showed particular attention to St. Maximus the Confessor, and above all, to Dionysius the Areopagite. Under this pseudonym is hidden an ecclesiastical writer of the 5th century from Syria, but like everyone in the Middle Ages, John Scotus Erigena was convinced that this author was a direct disciple of St. Paul, spoken of in the Acts of the Apostles (17:34).

Scotus Erigena, convinced of the apostolicity of the writings of Dionysius, classified him as "divine author" par excellence; his writings were, therefore, an eminent source for his thought. John Scotus translated his works to Latin. The great medieval theologians, such as St. Bonaventure, got to know the works of Dionysius by way of this translation. He was dedicated during his whole life to going deeper into and developing his thought, paying recourse to these writings, to the point that still today, sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish when we find the thought of Scotus Erigena and when he is doing nothing more than presenting the thought of Pseudo Dionysius.

In truth, the theological work of John Scotus did not have much success. The end of the Carolingian era brought about the forgetting of his works, and a censure on the part of the ecclesiastical authority cast a shadow over his person. In truth, John Scotus represents a radical Platonism, which on occasions seems to approach a pantheistic vision, even if his personal subjective intentions were always orthodox. Some of the works of John Scotus Erigena are still in existence today, among which the treatises "On the Division of Nature" and "Expositions on the Celestial Hierarchy of St. Dionysius" deserve to be particularly mentioned.

In them, he develops stimulating theological and spiritual reflections, which could bring about interesting developments, even for contemporary theologians. I refer, for example, to what he writes on the duty to exercise an appropriate discernment about that which is presented as "auctoritas vera," or on the commitment to continue seeking the truth as long as an experience of the silent adoration of God is not attained.

Our author says: "Salus nostra ex fide inchoat: Our salvation begins with faith." That is, we cannot speak of God starting from our inventions, but rather from what God himself says about himself in sacred Scripture. Given that God only speaks the truth, Scotus Erigena is convinced that authority and reason should never be in contraposition one against the other. He is convinced that true religion and true philosophy coincide.

From this perspective, he writes: "Any type of authority that is not confirmed by true reason should be considered weak. … Only that authority is true that coincides with the truth discovered in virtue of reason, even if it is an authority recommended and transmitted for the usefulness of coming generations by the holy fathers" (I, PL 122, col 513BC). Thus he cautions, "May no authority frighten you or distract you from what you understand from the persuasion obtained thanks to an upright rational contemplation. In fact, authentic authority does not contradict right reason, and the latter never contradicts true authority. Both one and the other proceed without a doubt from the same source, which is divine wisdom" (I, PL 122, col 511B). We see here a courageous affirmation of the value of reason, founded on the certainty that true authority is reasonable, given that God is creative reason.

Even Scripture is not exempt, according to Erigena, from the need to apply the same criteria of discernment. In fact Scripture, affirms the Irish theologian, taking up again a reflection already presented by John Chrysostom, would not have been necessary if man had not sinned. Therefore, it must be deduced that Scripture was given by God with a pedagogical intention and lowering himself so that man could recall all that had been stamped on his heart from the moment of his creation "in the image and likeness of God" (cf. Genesis 1:26) and that the original fall had made him forget.

Erigena writes in the "Expositions": "Man was not created for Scripture, of which he would not have had necessity if he wouldn't have sinned, but rather Scripture -- interwoven with doctrine and symbols -- has been given to man. Thanks to it, in fact, our rational nature can introduce itself into the secrets of the authentic pure contemplation of God (II, PL 122, col 146C). The word of sacred Scripture purifies our rather blind reason and helps us to return to the memory of what we, as image of God, carry in our hearts, unfortunately violated by sin.

From here, some hermeneutical consequences are derived regarding the way to interpret Scripture, which can indicate still today the just path for a correct reading of sacred Scripture. It is a matter, in fact, of discovering the meaning hidden in the sacred text and this supposes a particular interior exercise thanks to which reason opens itself to the sure path leading to truth. This exercise consists in cultivating a constant readiness for conversion. To arrive deeply to the vision of the text, it is necessary to advance simultaneously in the conversion of the heart and in the conceptual analysis of the biblical page, whether it be of cosmic, historical or doctrinal character. Only thanks to the constant purification, as much of the eyes of the heart as of the eyes of the mind, can the exact understanding be achieved.

This arduous path, demanding and exciting, made up of continuous conquests and relativations of human knowledge, brings the intelligent creature toward the threshold of the divine Mystery, where all notions verify their own weakness and incapableness and lead, therefore, to going beyond -- with the simple, free and sweet force of the truth -- all that is continuously reached. The adoring and silent recognition of the Mystery, which flows into unifying communion, is revealed therefore as the only path for a relationship with the truth that is at the same time the most intimate possible and the most scrupulously respectful of the otherness. John Scotus, also utilizing in this a term appreciated by Christian tradition in the Greek language, called this experience to which we tend "theosis" or divinization, with daring affirmation to the point that he was suspected of falling into heterodox pantheism.

In any case, texts like the following cause intense emotion, texts in which, paying recourse to the ancient metaphor of the melting of iron, he writes: "Therefore, as all incandescent iron becomes liquid to the point that it appears only as fire, and nevertheless the substances of the one and the other remain distinct, in the same way it must be accepted that, after the end of this world, all nature, both corporal and incorporeal, will manifest only God, and nevertheless will remain integral, in such a way that God could be in a certain sense understood despite remaining incomprehensible, and the creature itself would be transformed, with ineffable marvel, into God" (V, PL 122, col 451B).

In reality, all of the theological thought of John Scotus turns into the clearest demonstration of the attempt to express the explainable of the inexplicableness of God, basing itself solely on the mystery of the World made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. The numerous metaphors used by him to indicate this ineffable reality show up to what point he is aware of the absolute incapacity of the terms with which we speak of these things. And, nevertheless, there remains this enchantment and this atmosphere of authentic mystical experience in his texts that sometimes can almost be tangibly felt.

It is enough to cite, as proof, a page of the book "On the Division of Nature," which deeply touches our spirit as believers in the 21st century: "The only thing that must be desired," he writes, "is the joy of the truth, which is Christ, and the only thing that must be avoided is the absence of him. It should be considered that this [absence] is the only cause of total and eternal sadness. Take Christ from me and no good whatsoever remains for me; there is nothing that terrifies me as much as his absence. The worst torment of a rational creature is the privation and the absence of him (V, PL 122, col 989a).

These are words that we can make our own, converting them into a prayer to him who also is the longing of our hearts.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we consider the figure of John Scotus Erigena, an influential Christian thinker of the Carolingian period. Erigena’s interest in Eastern patristic theology, especially that of Dionysius, led him to study the latter’s works thoroughly and to translate them into Latin. According to Erigena, a believer is to seek the truth until he or she reaches a silent adoration of God in whose nature we participate by theosis, or "divinization". Since this experience can never be expressed fully in words, his theology proceeds by apophasis – that is, by asserting primarily what God is not. Yet he also holds that reason is indispensable in the human quest for God. Sacred Scripture, in fact, allows man to recall the truth which was impressed upon his soul at the beginning of time, but which had been forgotten through original sin. By reading the Bible, we can uncover the secrets of a pure, authentic contemplation of God. Let us therefore pursue the path of continual conversion in order to mine the riches of God’s word in our daily prayer and meditation.

I warmly greet all the English-speaking visitors present today. In a special way, I welcome seminarians from the United States participating in The Rome Experience Program, as well as pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Karachi in Pakistan. God bless you all!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Holy Trinity

"Inexhaustible Font of Life That Unceasingly Gives Itself"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 7, 2009 Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Following Eastertide, which culminates with the feast of Pentecost, the liturgy foresees these three solemnities of the Lord: today, the Most Holy Trinity; on Thursday, that of Corpus Domini, which, in many countries, Italy among them, is celebrated next Sunday; finally, on Friday in two weeks, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each one of these liturgical observances manifests a perspective from which the whole mystery of the Christian faith is embraced: respectively, the reality of God one and three, the sacrament of the Eucharist and the divine-human center of the Person of Christ. They are in truth aspects of the one mystery of salvation, which, in a certain sense, summarize the whole path of the revelation of Jesus, from the incarnation to the death and resurrection to the ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as it was made know to us by Jesus. He revealed to us that God is love "not in the unity of a single person, but in the Trinity of a single substance" (Preface): the Trinity is Creator and merciful Father; Only Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, dead and risen for us; it is finally the Holy Spirit, who moves everything, cosmos and history, toward the final recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is love and only love, most pure, infinite and eternal love. The Trinity does not live in a splendid solitude, but is rather inexhaustible font of life that unceasingly gives itself and communicates itself.

We can in some way intuit this, whether we observe the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; or the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The "name" of the Most Holy Trinity is in a certain way impressed upon everything that exists, because everything that exists, down to the least particle, is a being in relation, and thus God-relation shines forth, ultimately creative Love shines forth. All comes from love, tends toward love, and is moved by love, naturally, according to different grades of consciousness and freedom. "O Lord, our Lord, / how wondrous is your name over all the earth!" (Psalm 8:2) -- the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the "name" the Bible indicates God himself, his truest identity; an identity that shines forth in the whole of creation, where every being, by the very fact of existing and by the "fabric" of which it is made, refers to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life that gives itself, in a word: to Love. "In him," St. Paul says, on the Areopagus in Athens, "we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: only love makes us happy, because we live in relation, and we live to love and be loved. Using an analogy suggested by biology, we could say the human "genome" is profoundly imprinted with the Trinity, of God-Love.

The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility, made herself the handmaid of divine Love: she accepted the will of the Father and conceived the Son by the work of the Holy Spirit. In her omnipotence made a temple worthy of himself, and made her the model and image of the Church, mystery and house of communion for all men. May Mary, mirror of the Most Holy Trinity, help us to grow in the faith of the Trinitarian mystery.

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

I extend cordial greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims here today on this feast of the Most Holy Trinity, especially the members of the Holy Trinity Prayer Group from Texas. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, and with your families and loved ones at home. And may your stay in Rome strengthen your faith, fill you with hope in God’s promises and inflame your hearts with his love. God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Q-and-A With Children Missionaries
"Praying Is a Very Important Thing That Can Change the World"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 5, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the question-and-answer session Benedict XVI gave during an audience May 30 with children of the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood.

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Q: My name is Anna Filippone, I am 12 years old, I am an altar girl and come from Calabria, Diocese of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi. Pope Benedict, my friend Giovanni has an Italian father and an Ecuadorian mother and is very happy. Do you think that one day the different cultures will be able to live together without quarrelling in Jesus' name?

Benedict XVI: I have gathered that you all would like to know how we, from the time we were children, have managed to help one another. I must say that I spent my elementary school years in a small town of 400 inhabitants, very far from the big city centres.

Therefore we were a bit ingenuous, and in this small town there were, on the one hand, very rich farmers and also others who were less rich but still well-off, and on the other, poor workers, artisans. Our family had moved from another town to this one just a little before I began going to elementary school, thus we were in a way foreigners to them, as even our dialect was different. So, there was a wide range of social situations present in this school, but a beautiful communion prevailed among us. They taught me their dialect, which was new to me. We worked well together. Although, naturally enough, we would argue sometimes, but afterwards we would make up and forget what had happened.

I think this is significant. Sometimes in life it seems inevitable to argue; but the art of reconciling with each other remains important forgiving, beginning anew and not letting bitterness linger in the soul. With gratitude I remember how everyone co-operated: each one helped the other and we moved ahead together on our path. We were all Catholic, and this was naturally a great help. In this way we learned together to understand the Bible, beginning with the Creation and continuing to the sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross, and then also of the beginnings of the Church. We learned the Catechism together, we learned how to pray together, we prepared together for our First Reconciliation, for First Communion: that was a splendid day. We understood that Jesus himself came among us and that he is not a distant God: he enters into my own life, my own soul. And if the same Jesus enters into each one of us, then we are brothers, sisters and friends and therefore we must behave as such.

For us, both this preparation for First Reconciliation as the purification of our consciences, of our lives, as well as that for First Communion as a real meeting with Jesus who comes to me, who comes to each one of us, were factors that contributed to the formation of our community. They helped us to move ahead together, to learn together to forgive each other when necessary. We also put on little plays: it is important to collaborate, to pay attention to each other. Then when I was about eight or nine years old I became an altar boy. At that time there were not yet altar girls, but the girls read much better than we did. Therefore they read the readings during the liturgy while we filled the role of altar servers. During that period there were still many Latin texts to learn, and so each one had to make a special effort. As I said, we were not saints. We had our arguments, but there was still a beautiful communion, in which the distinctions between rich and poor, between the more and the less intelligent did not matter. It was communion with Jesus in the journey of common faith and common responsibility, in our games, in our shared work. We found the way to live together, to be friends, although I have not been in that town since 1937, that is, more than 70 years ago, we have remained friends. Thus we have learned to accept one another, to carry one another's burdens.

I find this significant: despite our weaknesses we accept each other and with Jesus Christ, with the Church, we find a path of peace together and learn to live in the best way.

Q: My name is Letizia and I wanted to ask you a question. Dear Pope Benedict XVI, what did the motto: "Children help children" mean for you when you were a boy? Did you ever imagine you would become Pope?

Benedict XVI: To tell the truth, I would never have thought of becoming Pope, because, as I have already said, I was a fairly ingenuous boy in a small town far from the city centres, in a forgotten province. We were glad to be in this area and we did not think of other things. Naturally we came to know, venerate and love the Pope -- Pius XI at the time -- but for us he was a very august figure, almost in another world: our spiritual Father, but nevertheless a reality much superior to all of us. And I must say that still today I have difficulty understanding how the Lord could have thought of me, destined me for this ministry. But I accept it from his hands, even if it is something surprising and that seems to me to be far beyond my strength. But the Lord helps me.

Q: Dear Pope Benedict, my name is Alessandro. I wanted to ask you: you are the principal missionary; how can we children help you to proclaim the Gospel?

Benedict XVI: I would say that the first way is this: to collaborate with the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood. That way you are part of a large family, which takes the Gospel to the world. That way you belong to a large network. In it we see how the family of diverse peoples is represented. You are all in this big family: each one has his part and together you are missionaries, bearers of the missionary work of the Church. You have a beautiful plan, laid out by your spokesperson: to listen, pray, understand, share, sympathize. These are the essential elements that combined are truly a way to be missionaries, to encourage the growth of the Church into the future and the presence of the Gospel in the world. I would like to emphasize some of these points.

First of all, pray. Prayer is a reality: God listens to us and, when we pray, God enters into our lives, he becomes present among us, works among us. Praying is a very important thing that can change the world, because it makes the power of God present. And it is important to help each other by praying: to pray together in the liturgy, to pray together in the family. And here I would say that it is important to begin the day with a small prayer and also to end the day with a small prayer: to remember our parents in prayer. Pray before lunch, before dinner and during Sunday's shared Celebration. A Sunday without Mass, the great communal prayer of the Church, is not truly a Sunday: it lacks the very heart of Sunday and so also the light for the week. And you can also help others especially those who do not pray at home or do not know about prayer by teaching others to pray: praying with them and in this way introducing others to communion with God.

Next, listen that is, learn what Jesus really says. In addition, get to know the Sacred Scriptures, the Bible. In the story of Jesus we learn as the Cardinal said the Face of God, we learn what God is like. It is important to know Jesus deeply, personally. That way he enters into our life and, through our life, enters into the world.

Also, share, do not want things only for yourselves, but rather for everyone; divide things with others. And if we see that another is perhaps in need, that he or she is less gifted, we must help that person and so make God's love present without too many words, in our own personal world, which is part of the bigger world. And in this way we become a family together, in which each one has respect for the other: tolerating the other's differences, accepting also those who are disagreeable, not allowing anyone to be marginalized, but instead helping others to integrate into the community. All of this simply means living in this big family of the Church, in this big missionary family. To live out essential points such as sharing, knowledge of Jesus, prayer, reciprocal listening and solidarity is missionary work, because it helps to make the Gospel a reality in our world.

[Translation by the Vatican]

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Message to Rome Conference on Laity
"Co-responsible for the Church's Being and Action"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 26 at St. John Lateran to open the pastoral convention of the Diocese of Rome. The conference had as its theme "Church Membership and Pastoral Co-responsibility."

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Your Eminence,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
and in the Priesthood,
Dear Men and Women Religious,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing what is by now a happy tradition, this year too I am glad to open the Diocesan Pastoral Convention. To each one of you who represent here the entire diocesan community, I address with affection my greeting and heartfelt thanks for the pastoral work you carry out. Through you, I extend to all the parishes my cordial greeting in the words of the Apostle Paul: "To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rm 1: 7).

I cordially thank the Cardinal Vicar for the encouraging words interpreting your sentiments that he has addressed to me and for the help that he offers me, together with the Auxiliary Bishops, in the daily apostolic service to which the Lord has called me as Bishop of Rome.

It has just been recalled that in the past decade the Diocese initially focused its attention on the family; then for another three years, on teaching the faith to the new generations, seeking to respond to the "educational emergency", a challenge to all that is far from easy; and lastly, again with a reference to education, prompted by the Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, you gave attention to the theme of teaching hope.

As I thank the Lord with you for all the good he has granted us to do I am thinking in particular of the parish priests and priests who spare no effort in guiding the communities entrusted to them I wish to express my appreciation of the pastoral decision to give time to reviewing the ground covered, with a view to focusing on certain fundamental contexts of ordinary pastoral work, in the light of past experience, to explain them better and to make them more broadly shared.

This commitment, which you have already been monitoring for several months in all the parishes and in the other ecclesial contexts, must be based on a renewed awareness of our being Church and of the pastoral co-responsibility which, in Christ's name, we are all called to exercise. And it is precisely on this aspect that I would like to reflect now.

The Second Vatican Council, desiring to pass on, pure and integral, the doctrine on the Church that had developed in the course of 2,000 years, gave the Church a "more deeply considered definition", illustrating first of all the enigmatic nature, that is, as a "reality imbued with the divine presence, hence always capable of new and deeper exploration" (Paul vi, Inaugural Address at the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council, 29 September 1963).

Well, the Church, which originates in the Trinitarian God, is a mystery of communion. As communion, the Church is not merely a spiritual reality but lives in history, so to speak, in flesh and blood. The Second Vatican Council describes her "in the nature of sacrament a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen Gentium, n. 1).

And the very essence of sacrament is that the invisible is tangible in the visible and that the tangibly visible opens the door to God himself. The Church, we said, is a communion, a communion of people who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, form the People of God which is at the same time the Body of Christ.

Let us reflect a little on these two key words. The concept of "People of God" came into being and was developed in the Old Testament: to enter into the reality of human history, God chose a specific people, the People of Israel, to be his People. The intention of this particular choice is to reach, through a few, many people and through them to reach all. In other words the intention of God's specific choice is universality. Through this People, God enters into the reality of history.

And this openness to universality is achieved in the Cross and in Christ's Resurrection. In the Cross, St Paul says, Christ broke down the wall of separation. In giving us his Body, he reunites us in this Body of his to make us one. In the communion of the "Body of Christ" we all become one people, the People of God, in which to cite St Paul again all are one and there are no longer distinctions or differences between Greek and Jew, the circumcized and the uncircumcized, the barbarian, the Scythian, the slave, the Jew, but Christ is all in all. He has broken down the wall of distinction between peoples, races and cultures: we are all united in Christ.

Thus we see that the two concepts "People of God" and "Body of Christ" complete each other and together form the New Testament concept of Church.

And whereas "People of God" expresses the continuity of the Church's history, "Body of Christ" expresses the universality inaugurated in the Cross and in the Lord's Resurrection. For us Christians, therefore, "Body of Christ" is not only an image, but a true concept, because Christ makes us the gift of his real Body, not only an image of it.

Risen, Christ unites us all in the Sacrament to make us one Body. Thus the concept "People of God" and "Body of Christ complete one another: in Christ we really become the People of God. "People of God" therefore means "all", from the Pope to the most recently baptized child. The First Eucharistic Prayer, the so-called "Roman Canon" written in the fourth century, distinguishes between servants "we, your servants" and "plebs tua sancta"; therefore should one wish to make a distinction, one should speak of servants and plebs sancta, while the term "People of God" expresses the Church all together in their common being.

Subsequent to the Council this ecclesiological doctrine met with acceptance on a vast scale and thanks be to God an abundance of good fruit developed in the Christian community. However we must also remember that the integration of this doctrine in procedures and its consequent assimilation in the fabric of ecclesial awareness did not happen always and everywhere without difficulty and in accordance with a correct interpretation.

As I was able to explain in my Discourse to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2005, an interpretative current, claiming to refer to a presumed "spirit of the Council", sought to establish a discontinuity and even to distinguish between the Church before and the Church after the Council, at times even crossing the very boundaries that exist objectively between the hierarchical ministry and the responsibilities of the lay faithful in the Church.

The notion of "People of God", in particular was interpreted by some, in accordance with a purely sociological vision, with an almost exclusively horizontal bias that excluded the vertical reference to God. This position was in direct contrast with the word and spirit of the Council which did not desire a rupture, another Church, but rather a true and deep renewal in the continuity of the one subject Church which grows in time and develops but always remains identical, the one subject of the People of God on pilgrimage.

Secondly, it should be recognized that the reawakening of spiritual and pastoral energies that has been happening in recent years has not always produced the desired growth and development. In fact it must be noted that in certain ecclesial communities, the period of fervour and initiative has given way to a time of weakening commitment, a situation of weariness, at times almost a stalemate, and even resistence and contradiction between the conciliar doctrine and various concepts formulated in the name of the Council, but in fact opposed to its spirit and guidelines.

For this reason too, the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 1987 was dedicated to the theme of the vocation and mission of lay people in the Church and in the world. This fact tells us that the luminous pages which the Council dedicated to the laity were not yet sufficiently adapted to or impressed on the minds of Catholics or in pastoral procedures. On the one hand there is still a tendency to identify the Church unilaterally with the hierarchy, forgetting the common responsibility, the common mission of the People of God, which, in Christ we all share. On the other, the tendency still persists to identify the People of God unilaterally, as I have already said, in accordance with a merely sociological or political concept, forgetting the newness and specificity of that people, which becomes a people solely through communion with Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is now time to ask ourselves what point our Diocese of Rome has reached. To what extent is the pastoral co-responsibility of all, and particularly of the laity, recognized and encouraged? In past centuries, thanks to the generous witness of all the baptized who spent their life educating the new generations in the faith, healing the sick and going to the aid of the poor, the Christian community proclaimed the Gospel to the inhabitants of Rome.

The self-same mission is entrusted to us today, in different situations, in a city in which many of the baptized have strayed from the path of the Church and those who are Christian are unacquainted with beauty of our faith.

The Diocesan Synod, convoked by my beloved Predecessor John Paul ii, was an effective receptio of the conciliar doctrine and the Book of the Synod involved the Diocese in becoming more and more a living and active Church in the heart of the City, through the coordinated and responsible action of all its inhabitants.

The City Mission that followed in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 enabled our ecclesial community to become aware that the mandate to evangelize does not only concern a few but rather all of the baptized.

It was a salutary experience that helped to develop in the parishes, religious communities, associations and movements a consciousness of belonging to the one People of God which, as the Apostle Peter said, God made his own: "that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him" (1 Pt 2: 9). And let us give thanks for that this evening.

There is still a long way to go. Too many of the baptized do not feel part of the ecclesial community and live on its margins, only coming to parishes in certain circumstances to receive religious services. Compared to the number of inhabitants in each parish, the lay people who are ready to work in the various apostolic fields, although they profess to be Catholic, are still few and far between.

Of course, social and cultural difficulties abound but faithful to the Lord's mandate, we cannot resign ourselves to preserving what exists. Trusting in the grace of the Spirit which the Risen Christ guaranteed to us, we must continue on our way with renewed energy. What paths can we take?

In the first place we must renew our efforts for a formation which is more attentive and focused on the vision of the Church, of which I spoke and this should be both on the part of priests as well as of religious and lay people to understand ever better what this Church is, this People of God in the Body of Christ.

At the same time, it is necessary to improve pastoral structures in such a way that the co-responsibility of all the members of the People of God in their entirety is gradually promoted, with respect for vocations and for the respective roles of the consecrated and of lay people.

This demands a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people. They must no longer be viewed as "collaborators" of the clergy but truly recognized as "co-responsible", for the Church's being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity.

This common awareness of being Church of all the baptized in no way diminishes the responsibility of parish priests. It is precisely your task, dear parish priests, to nurture the spiritual and apostolic growth of those who are already committed to working hard in the parishes. They form the core of the community that will act as a leaven for the others.

Although these communities are sometimes small, to prevent them from losing their identity and vigour they must be taught to listen prayerfully to the word of God through the practice of lectio divina, as the recent Synod of Bishops ardently hoped. Let us truly draw nourishment from listening, from meditating on the word of God. Our communities must not lack the knowledge that they are "Church", because Christ, the eternal Word of the Father, convokes them and makes them his People. Indeed, on the one hand faith is a profoundly personal relationship with God but on the other it possesses an essential community component and the two dimensions are inseparable.

Thus young people, who are more exposed to the growing individualism of contemporary culture, the consequences of which inevitably involves the weakening of interpersonal bonds and the enfeeblement of the sense of belonging, will also taste the beauty and joy of being and feeling Church.

Through faith in God we are united in the Body of Christ and all become united in the same Body. Thus, precisely by profoundly believing we may achieve communion among ourselves and emerge from the loneliness of individualism.

If it is the Word that gathers the community, it is the Eucharist that makes it one body: "because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor 10: 17). The Church, therefore, is not the result of an aggregation of individuals but of unity among those who are nourished by the one Word of God and the one Bread of Life.

Communion and the unity of the Church that are born of the Eucharist, are a reality of which we must be ever more aware, also in receiving Holy Communion, ever more aware that we are entering into unity with Christ and thus become one among ourselves.

We must learn ever anew to preserve and defend this unity from the rivalry, disputes, and jealousies that can be kindled in and among ecclesial communities. In particular, I would like to ask the movements and communities that came into being after the Second Vatican Council and that in our Diocese too are a precious gift for which we must always thank the Lord, I would like to ask these movements, which I repeat are a gift, always to ensure that their formation processes lead their members to develop a true sense of belonging to the parish community.

The Eucharist, as I have said, is the centre of parish life, and particularly of the Sunday celebration. Since the unity of the Church is born from the encounter with the Lord, the great care given to adoration and celebration of the Eucharist, enabling those who participate in it to experience the beauty of Christ's mystery is no secondary matter.

Given that the beauty of the liturgy "is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us" (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 35), it is important that the Eucharistic celebration manifest and communicate, through the sacramental signs, the divine life and reveal the true face of the Church to the men and women of this City.

The spiritual and apostolic growth of the community then leads to its extension through a convinced missionary action. Strive, therefore, in every parish as at the time of the City Mission, to restore life to the small groups or counselling centres for the faithful who proclaim Christ and his word, places where it is possible to experience faith, to put charity into practice and to organize hope.

This structuring of the large urban parishes by the multiplication of small communities allows the mission a larger breathing space, which takes into account the density of the population and its social and cultural features which are often very different.

If this pastoral method is also to be applied effectively in workplaces, it would be important to evangelize them with a well thought-out and adapted pastoral ministry since, because of the high social mobility, it is here that people spend a large part of their day.

Lastly, the witness of charity that unites hearts and opens them to ecclesial belonging should not be forgotten. Historians answer the question as to how the success of Christianity in the first centuries can be explained, the ascent of a presumed Jewish sect to the religion of the Empire, by saying that it was the experience of Christian charity in particular that convinced the world. Living charity is the primary form of missionary outreach. The word proclaimed and lived becomes credible if it is incarnate in behaviour that demonstrates solidarity and sharing, in deeds that show the Face of Christ as man's true Friend.

May the silent, daily witness of charity, promoted by parishes thanks to the commitment of numerous lay faithful continue to spread increasingly, so that those who live in suffering feel the Church's closeness and experience the love of the Father rich in mercy. Therefore be "Good Samaritans", ready to treat the material and spiritual wounds of your brethren. Deacons, conformed by ordination to Christ the Servant, will be able to carry out a useful service in promoting fresh attention to the old and new forms of poverty.

I am also thinking of the young people: dear friends, I invite you to put your enthusiasm and creativity at the service of Christ and the Gospel, making yourselves apostles of your peers, ready to respond generously to the Lord if he calls you to follow him more closely, in the priesthood or in consecrated life.

Dear brothers and sisters, the future of Christianity and of the Church in Rome also depends on the commitment and witness of each one of us. I invoke for this the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, venerated for centuries in the Basilica of St Mary Major as Salus populi romani. As she did with the Apostles in the Upper Room while awaiting Pentecost, may she also accompany us and encourage us to look with trust to the future.

With these sentiments, while I thank you for your daily work, I warmly impart to you all a special Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Rabanus Maurus
"A Truly Extraordinary Personality of the Latin West"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 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:

Today I would like to speak about a truly extraordinary personality of the Latin West: the monk Rabanus Maurus. Together with men such as Isidore of Seville, the Venerable Bede and Ambrose Auperto, of whom I have already spoken in previous catechesis, [Rabanus Maurus] knew how to stay in contact with the great culture of the ancient scholars and the Christian fathers during the centuries of the High Middle Ages. Often remembered as "praeceptor Germaniae," Rabanus Maurus was extraordinarily productive. With his entirely exceptional capacity for work, he was perhaps the person who most contributed to maintaining alive the theological, exegetical and spiritual culture to which successive centuries would pay recourse. Great personalities from the world of the monks, such as Peter Damian, Peter the Venerable and Bernard Clairvaux, make reference to him, as do an ever more consistent number of "clerics" of the secular clergy, who in the 12th and 13th centuries gave life to one of the most beautiful and fruitful flourishing of human thought.

Born in Mainz around the year 780, Rabanus entered the monastery when he was still very young: the name Maurus was given him precisely in reference to the young Maurus who, according to the second book of St. Gregory the Great's "Dialogues," had been given at a very young age to the abbot Benedict of Nursia by his own parents, who were Roman nobles. This precocious introduction of Rabanus as "puer oblatus" in the Benedictine monastic world, and the fruits that it gave for his human, cultural and spiritual growth, opened up very interesting possibilities not only for the life of the monks, but also for the whole of society of his time, normally referred to as "Carolingian." Speaking of them, or perhaps of himself, Rabanus Maurus writes: "There are some who have had the fortune of having been introduced in the knowledge of Scripture from a very young age ('a cunabulis suis') and have been nourished so well by the food that the holy Church has offered them that they can be promoted, with an adequate education, to the most elevated sacred orders" (PL 107, col 419BC).

The extraordinary culture that distinguished Rabanus Maurus very quickly brought the attention of the greats of his time. He became a counselor of princes. He committed himself to guaranteeing the unity of the empire, and on a wider cultural level, he never denied one who asked for a well-thought-out answer, preferentially inspired in the Bible and in the texts of the holy fathers. Despite the fact that he was first elected abbot of the famous monastery of Fulda, and afterward archbishop of his native city of Mainz, he did not leave aside his studies, demonstrating with the example of his life that one can be at the same time available for others without neglecting because of this an adequate time of reflection, study and meditation.

In this way, Rabanus Maurus became an exegete, philosopher, poet, pastor and man of God. The dioceses of Fulda, Mainz, Limburgo and Breslau venerate him as a saint or blessed. His works fill six volumes of the "Patrologia Latina" of Migne. He probably composed one of the most beautiful and well-known hymns of the Latin Church, the "Veni Creator Spiritus," an extraordinary synthesis of Christian pneumatology. The first theological commitment of Rabanus is expressed, in fact, in the form of poetry and had as a theme the mystery of the holy cross in a work titled, "De Laudibus Sanctae Crucis," conceived to propose not only conceptual content, but also exquisitely artistic motivations using both the poetic form and the pictorial form within the same manuscript codex. Iconographically proposing between the lines of his writing the image of the crucified Christ, he writes: "This is the image of the Savior who, with the position of his members, makes sacred for us the most sweet and dear form of the cross so that, believing in his name and obeying his commandments, we might obtain eternal life thanks to his passion. Because of this, each time that we raise our eyes to the cross, we remember him who suffered for us to sever us from the power of darkness, accepting death to make us heirs of eternal life (Lib. 1, Fig. 1, PL 107 col 151 C).

This method of harmonizing all the arts, the intelligence, the heart and the sentiment, which came from the East, would be highly developed in the West, reaching unreachable heights in the miniate codices of the Bible and in other works of faith and of art, which flourished in Europe until the invention of the press and even afterward. In any case, it shows that Rabanus Maurus had an extraordinary awareness of the need to involve in the experience of faith, not only the mind and the heart, but also the sentiments through these other elements of aesthetic taste and the human sensitivity that brings man to enjoy truth with all of his being, "spirit, soul and body." This is important: The faith is not only thought; it touches the whole being. Given that God made man with flesh and blood and entered into the tangible world, we have to try to encounter God with all the dimensions of our being. In this way, the reality of God, through faith, penetrates in our being and transforms it.

For this reason, Rabanus Maurus concentrated his attention above all on the liturgy, as the synthesis of all the dimension of our perception of reality. This intuition of Rabanus Maurus makes him extraordinarily relevant to our times. He also left the famous "Carmina" proposals to be used above all in liturgical celebrations. In fact, Rabanus' interest for the liturgy can be entirely taken for granted given that before all, he was a monk. Nevertheless, he did not dedicate himself to the art of poetry as an end in itself, but rather he used art and whatever other type of knowledge to go deeper in the Word of God. Because of this, he tried with all his might and rigor to introduce to his contemporaries, but above all to the ministers (bishops, priests and deacons), to the understanding of the profound theological and spiritual significance of all the elements of the liturgical celebration.

In this way, he tried to understand and present to the others the theological meanings hidden in the rites, paying recourse to the Bible and the tradition of the fathers. He did not hesitate to cite, out of honesty and also to give greater weight to his explanations, the patristic sources to which he owed his knowledge. He made use of them freely and with attentive discernment, continuing the development of the patristic thought. At the end of the "First Letter," addressed to a chorbishop of the Diocese of Mainz, for example, after having responded to requests to clarify the behavior that should be had in the carrying out of pastoral responsibility, he writes: "We have written you all of this just as we have deduced it from the sacred Scriptures and from the canons of the fathers. Now then, you, most holy man, make your decisions as seems best to you, case by case, trying to moderate your evaluation in such a way that discretion is guaranteed in everything, since she is the mother of all virtues" ("Epistulae", I, PL 112, col 1510 C). In this way is seen the continuity of the Christian faith, which has its beginnings in the Word of God: It is, nevertheless, always alive, it develops and is expressed in new ways, always in harmony with the entire construction, the whole edifice of the faith.

Given that the word of God is an integral part of the liturgical celebration, Rabanus Maurus dedicated himself to the latter with the greatest effort during his entire existence. He wrote exegetical explanations for almost all of the biblical books of the Old and New Testaments with a clearly pastoral objective, which he justified with words such as this: "I have written this, ... synthesizing explanations and proposals of many others, to offer a service to the poor reader who doesn't have many books at his disposal, but also to help those who haven't yet completely understood the meanings discovered by the fathers" ("Commentariorum in Matthaeum praefatio," PL 107, col. 727D). In fact, in commenting on the biblical texts he resorts quite often to the ancient fathers, with a special predilection for Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great.

His sharp pastoral sensibility carried him afterward to confront one of the problems that most interested the faithful and sacred ministers of his time: that of penance. He compiled "Penitentials" -- that's what he called them -- in which, according to the sensibilities of the age, he enumerated the sins and their corresponding penance, using, in the measure possible, motivations taken from the Bible, of the decisions of the councils, and of the decrees of the popes. Of these texts the "Carolingians" are also useful in his intention to reform the Church and society. Works such as "De disciplina ecclesiastica" and "De institutione clericorum" respond to this pastoral objective. In these, citing above all Augustine, Rabanus explained to simple people and to the clergy of his own diocese the fundamental elements of Christian faith: They were a type of small catechisms.

I would like to conclude the presentation of this great "man of the Church" citing some of his words that reflect his deep conviction: "He who neglects contemplation is deprived of the vision of the light of God; he who is carried away with worry and allows his thoughts to be crushed by the tumult of the things of the world is condemned to the absolute impossibility of penetrating the secrets of the invisible God" (Lib. I, PL 112, col. 1263A). I believe that Rabanus Maurus addressed these words to us today: while at work, with its frenetic rhythms, and during vacation, we have to reserve moments for God. [We have to] open our lives up to him, directing a thought to him, a reflection, a brief prayer. And above all, we mustn't forget that Sunday is the day of Our Lord, the day of the liturgy, [the day] to perceive in the beauty of our churches, in the sacred music and in the Word of God, the same beauty of our God, allowing him to enter into our being. Only in this way is our life made great; it is truly made a life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our catechesis today deals with another great monastic figure of the High Middle Ages, Rabanus Maurus. Rabanus entered monastic life at a young age as an oblate, was trained in the liberal arts and received a broad formation in the Christian tradition.

As the Abbot of Fulda and then as Archbishop of Mainz, he contributed through his vast learning and pastoral zeal to the unity of the Empire and the transmission of a Christian culture deeply nourished by the Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church. From his youth he wrote poetry, and he is probably the author of the famous hymn Veni Creator Spiritus.

Indeed, his first theological work was a poem on the Holy Cross, in which the poetry was accompanied by an illuminated representation of the Crucified Christ. This medieval method of joining poetry to pictorial art sought to lift the whole person -- mind, heart and senses -- to the contemplation of the truth contained in God’s word. In the same spirit Rabanus sought to transmit the richness of the Christian cultural tradition through his prolific commentaries on the Scriptures, his explanations of the liturgy and his pastoral writings. This great man of the Church continues to inspire us by his example of an active ministry nourished by study, profound contemplation and constant prayer.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, the Philippines and the United States. My particular greeting goes to the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart. I also greet the many student groups present. Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Envoy From Norway
"A Generous and Welcoming Nation"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to Rolf Trolle Andersen, the new ambassador from Norway 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 Kingdom of Norway to the Holy See. I would like to express my gratitude for the good wishes that you bring from King Harald V. Please convey to His Majesty my cordial greetings and assure him of my continued prayers for all the people of your nation. It seems particularly fitting that today’s ceremony, an important landmark in our diplomatic relations, should occur at a time when the twentieth anniversary of the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to the Scandinavian countries is almost upon us.

Not only is your country blessed with a notable degree of prosperity, but it has a most distinguished record in coming to the aid of others less fortunate than itself. In the wake of the financial turmoil of recent months, Norway was swift in offering expert assistance to other countries to help them weather the storm, despite suffering its own share of economic difficulties in consequence of the crisis. In opening its doors to significant numbers of refugees and immigrants, Norway has for many years shown itself to be a generous and welcoming nation. As Your Excellency has observed, the effect of this influx on Norwegian society, and especially on the small Catholic community, has been to introduce far greater cultural and ethnic variety. This in turn has stimulated deeper reflection on the presuppositions and values that govern life in Norway today and its place in the modern world.

"Blessed are the peacemakers." These words of Jesus (Mt 5:9) have been taken very much to heart by Norwegians, whose culture has been strongly shaped by its thousand-year Christian history. Norway’s commitment to peace-keeping is clearly illustrated by its high-level involvement in the United Nations Organization, whose first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, came from Norway, as do a number of current senior office-holders. The Holy See very much appreciates your country’s contribution to conflict resolution in some of the world’s most troubled areas. From Sri Lanka to Afghanistan, from Sudan to Somalia, from Chad to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Norway has played its part, whether it be in peace negotiations, in calling upon the parties to observe international law, in humanitarian assistance, in helping with reconstruction and peace-keeping, or in promoting democracy and providing expert advice on building up the social infrastructure. Having just returned from my Apostolic Visit to the Holy Land, I am particularly conscious of the crucial work that your country has done in brokering peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I hope and pray that the spirit of reconciliation and the search for justice which gave rise to the Oslo Accords will eventually prevail and bring lasting peace to the peoples of that tormented region.

In addition to such humanitarian concerns, Norwegians have taken very much to heart the needs of the natural environment, placing particular emphasis on developing renewable sources of energy and attending to the causes and the consequences of climate change. Characteristic of your country’s long-term vision for the good of the planet and the welfare of its inhabitants is the initiative of the Global Seed Vault, designed to guarantee the survival of countless varieties of plant life, so that vital food sources in particular can be insured against the possibility of extinction.

In all these activities, your country is motivated by the fundamental ethical values of which Your Excellency has spoken, values that are rooted in Norway’s Christian culture, and which, therefore, are central to the perspectives and the goals which it shares with the Holy See. In less than thirty years of diplomatic relations between us, much has been achieved. The close cooperation between the Holy See and the Kingdom of Norway -- alongside other nations -- in drawing up and ratifying the recent convention banning cluster munitions is a good example. I too look forward to further developing and strengthening our excellent relations in many different fields, with a view to promoting the ethical vision that we share for the sake of building a more humane and just world.

On a domestic level, the Catholic community in Norway, small though it is, is eager to play its part in national life and to make its voice heard in public debate. I mentioned earlier the deeper reflection that is currently taking place on the presuppositions and values governing Norwegian society, and here the Catholic community, with its substantial patrimony of social teaching, has a valuable contribution to offer. Like many European countries today, Norway is increasingly called upon to examine the implications of the right to religious freedom in the context of a liberal and pluralist society. I am confident that the high ethical principles and the generosity so characteristic of Norway’s activity on the international scene will also prevail at home, so that all the citizens of your country will be free to practise their religion, and all the different religious communities will be free to order their affairs in accordance with their beliefs and juridical systems, in this way making their particular contribution to the common good

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 Kingdom of Norway, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Envoy From Namibia
"Continue Along the Path of Strengthening the Common Good"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to Neville Melvin Gertze, the new ambassador from Namibia to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence by which you are accredited as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Namibia to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings which you have expressed on behalf of the President of the Republic, Mr Hifikepunye Pohamba. Please convey to him my gratitude and my good wishes. I would also ask you kindly to transmit my greetings to the members of the Government, to the civil authorities and to all your fellow citizens.

Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and individual countries serve to create a framework in which mutual interests are provided for and safeguarded, while at the same time giving opportunities to both parties to promote common values at the national and international levels. I am satisfied with the cooperation that in such a short time has produced many positive results for the Holy See and Namibia.

Mr Ambassador, as you are well aware, Africa presents a varied panorama of political, social and economic realities. Some of these are success stories, other have not met the expectations of the peoples that such initiatives were meant to serve. Namibia has a relatively short history as a member of the family of independent nations. Your citizens and their elected officials have benefited from observing examples of other countries. This in time has led to recognize the need to protect the nation’s resources, mineral and agricultural, and to oversee their rational exploitation and use for the common good. Efforts to bring the uranium extraction and diamond industry processes under responsible vigilance are positive initiatives. Indeed transparency, honest business practices and good governance are essential to sustainable economic development. I am pleased to see that the Constitution of your country incorporates a clear awareness of the State’s ecological responsibilities. As you continue to strive towards a balanced distribution of wealth that will offer greater possibilities of improvement for those who are less fortunate, I encourage the nation to continue along the path of strengthening the common good by consolidating democratic institutions and practices and seeking justice for all.

The Holy See is confident, Mr Ambassador, that your country can contribute to positive developments in Africa and in the international community. Because of its history of peaceful independence and integration, its unity in diversity, and its responsible management of natural resources, Namibia can offer an example for the development of other countries. It is important furthermore that the voice of Namibia be expressed in international meetings since the present needs and aspirations of the people of your continent must be presented objectively and from an African perspective, and not solely in accordance with the interests of others.

The Catholic Church is pleased to exercise her mission in a climate of religious freedom. The Church’s contribution to civic life can be seen not only in the achievements of individual Christians or institutions but also in the impact of its message. By preaching the Gospel and encouraging attitudes of faith, hope and love, the Church invites people to a life of virtue supported by that spiritual and moral strength which comes with faith and is expressed in integrity and the responsible use of freedom, respect and tolerance of others. People, especially political, economic and cultural leaders, who are inspired in one way or another by these or similar moral and spiritual perspectives, contribute positively to the good of society in its social, economic and political dimensions.

The Church’s mission of evangelization includes a strong witness to generous initiatives in favour of those in need. As you mentioned in your address Mr Ambassador, the Church in your homeland has developed over the years an extensive presence of communities and institutions of good will, dedicated to pastoral attention, education, professional instruction and concern for those in difficult situations. Through schools and centres of specialized formation, through hospitals and charitable institutions, the Church exercises that love of neighbour expressed clearly in the supreme commandment. I pray that the Catholic institutions of the country will continue to offer their expertise for the promotion and development of the people of Namibia in accordance with present and future needs.

I am aware that one of the priorities on the Government’s agenda is to provide for greater attention to the health of the population and especially the need to care for the number of people afflicted with HIV/Aids. In this area the Church will continue to offer its assistance willingly. She is convinced that only a strategy based on education to individual responsibility in the framework of a moral view of human sexuality, especially through conjugal fidelity, can have a real impact on the prevention of this disease. The Church is pleased to cooperate in this task especially in the field of education where new generations of young people are formed as active and responsible members of society.

Mr Ambassador, I have expressed freely some thoughts inspired by the present situation of your nation, seen with love of your people and confidence in the future of Namibia. I wish you every success in your mission and I invite you to avail yourself of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant and lasting blessings of well-being and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Message to South African Ambassador
"One of the Most Influential Nations on the Continent"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to George Johannes, the new ambassador from South Africa to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Vatican and to receive the Letters of Credence that accredit you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of South Africa to the Holy See. I thank you for the courteous greetings and sentiments of good will which you have expressed on behalf of President Jacob Zuma. I gladly reciprocate, and I ask you kindly to convey my congratulations and good wishes to His Excellency, as he assumes the office of President, and to the civil authorities and people of your country.

South Africa’s rapid and peaceful transition to democratic rule has been widely acclaimed and the Holy See has followed with interest and encouragement this historic period of change. None can doubt that much credit for the progress achieved is due to the outstanding political maturity and human qualities of former President Nelson Mandela. He has been a promoter of forgiveness and reconciliation, and enjoys great respect in your country and in the international community. I would ask you kindly to convey to him my personal good wishes for his health and well-being. I also wish to recognize the contribution of all those many ordinary men and women whose integrity, reflected in their honest approach to work, has also helped to lay the foundations for a future of peace and prosperity for all.

The size of your country, its population and economic resources and the generosity of your people make South Africa one of the most influential nations on the continent. This gives her a unique opportunity to support other African countries in their efforts to achieve stability and economic progress. Having overcome the isolation associated with the Apartheid era, yet drawing on its own painful experience, your country has made commendable efforts to bring about reconciliation in other lands through its peacekeeping forces and diplomatic initiatives. Countries such as Ruanda, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe have benefited from this assistance. I encourage South Africa to strengthen her commitment to the noble task of assisting other nations along the road of peace and reconciliation and, especially in these difficult economic times, to continue to use her considerable human and material resources in ways conducive to the good governance and prosperity of neighbouring countries. Undoubtedly there are many challenges encountered along this path, not least of which is the large number of refugees in the region. I am confident, however, that these difficulties can continue to be addressed in the same spirit of solidarity and generosity already demonstrated by South Africans.

Mr Ambassador, you have spoken of some of the social challenges facing your country and of the development plans drawn up to meet them. Continuing poverty, and lack of basic services and employment opportunities, are present in some areas and have given rise to many other problems including violence and insecurity, substance abuse, ethnic tensions, and corruption. The distress and aggressiveness caused by poverty, unemployment and family breakdown make the efforts of the Government to address these difficulties all the more urgent. In this regard, I am encouraged to note the efforts being made to ensure the conditions necessary to attract international investment and to create greater opportunities for education and employment especially of your young people.

Your Excellency, in your address you speak of the great achievement of universal democratic rule as the basis for a better life for all. The people of South Africa have shown great moral courage and wisdom in facing past injustices. I am confident that in the current struggle against poverty and corruption, such courage and wisdom will again prevail. Your Government is rightly promoting the development of health and education services together with sustainable economic development, seeking to eradicate poverty and consolidate a climate of security. Families should be assisted in their needs and recognized as the indispensable agents in the building of a healthy society, while children and young people have the right to be granted their desire for quality schooling, extracurricular activities, and the chance to take their place in the workforce. Corruption has the effect of discouraging business initiative and investment, as well as leaving individuals disillusioned. The dynamism South Africa has introduced into the struggle against it, is therefore extremely important and must be recognized and embraced by every citizen. It falls to civic leaders in particular to ensure that the fight to eradicate corruption is sustained with impartiality, and accompanied by the respect for an independent judiciary and the ongoing development of a highly professional police force. I offer my encouragement for these challenging tasks, and trust that obstacles will continue to be overcome.

The Catholic Church is confident that the services she provides in the sectors of education, social programmes and health care have a positive impact on the life of the country. She contributes to the moral fibre of society by advocating integrity, justice and peace, and by teaching respect for life from conception until natural death. In particular, the Church takes seriously her part in the campaign against the spread of HIV/Aids by emphasizing fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of it. At the same time she already offers much assistance on a practical level to people suffering from this affliction on your continent and throughout the world. I encourage individuals and institutions of your country to continue to give support both at home and in the region to all who seek to alleviate human suffering through research, practical assistance and spiritual support.

Mr Ambassador, I wish you every success in your mission and assure you of the willing cooperation of the Departments of the Roman Curia. May Almighty God bestow upon Your Excellency, your family and the nation you represent, abundant blessings of well-being and peace!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Envoy From New Zealand
"It Is From God That Men and Women Receive Their Essential Dignity"

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 1, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing Friday to Robert Carey Moore-Jones, the new ambassador from New Zealand to the Holy See.

* * *

Mr Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the Letters of Credence by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of New Zealand to the Holy See. I would ask you kindly to convey to the Governor General, and to Prime Minister John Key and his Government, together with all the people of New Zealand, my sincere best wishes and the assurance of my prayers for the well-being of the country.

The Church’s engagement with civil society is anchored in her conviction that authentic human progress -- whether as individuals or communities -- is dependent upon the recognition of the spiritual dimension proper to every person. It is from God that men and women receive their essential dignity (cf. Gen 1:27) and the capacity to transcend particular interests in order to seek truth and goodness and so find purpose and meaning in their lives. This broad perspective provides a framework within which it is possible to counter any tendency to adopt superficial approaches to social policy which address only the symptoms of negative trends in family life and communities, rather than their roots. Indeed, when humanity’s spiritual heart is brought to light, individuals are drawn beyond themselves to ponder God and the marvels of human life: being, truth, beauty, moral values, and relationships that respect the dignity of others. In this way a sure foundation to unite society and sustain a common vision of hope can be found.

The young people of Aotearoa rightly enjoy a reputation for generosity and a keen sense of what is fair. Appreciating the many privileges they are offered, they readily engage in voluntary work and service to others while assuming the ample opportunities they are afforded for personal achievement, and cultural and academic development. World Youth Day, held for the first time in Oceania last year, gave me an opportunity to experience something of the spirit of the thousands of young New Zealanders who took part. I pray that this new generation of Christians in New Zealand will channel their enthusiasm into forging friendships across divides and creating places of living faith in and for our world, settings of hope and practical charity. In this way they can assist other young people who might be misled by the lure of false promises of happiness and fulfillment, or find themselves struggling on the margins of society.

Your Excellency, cultural diversity brings much richness to the social fabric of New Zealand today. The growing presence within your shores of migrant communities from various religious traditions together with the Government’s increasing participation in Pacific and Asian affairs has raised the awareness of the fruits that can be obtained through inter-religious dialogue. Indeed, not so long ago, your nation hosted the Third Asian-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue in the historic setting of Waitangi. Yet some continue to question the place of religion in the public sphere and struggle to imagine how it might serve society, particularly in a highly secular culture. This of course heightens the responsibility of believers to bear witness to the significance of the essential relationship of every man and woman to God, in whose image they are made. When God’s gift of human reason is exercised in reference to the truth he reveals to us, our powers of reflection are adorned with wisdom, and thus reach beyond the empirical and the piecemeal, and instead give expression to our deepest common human aspirations. In this way public debate, rather than being entrapped by the narrow horizon of particular interest groups, is broadened and held accountable to the true source of the common good and dignity of every member of society. Far from threatening the tolerance of differences or cultural plurality, truth makes consensus possible, ensures that political choices are determined by principles and values, and enriches culture with all that is good, uplifting and just.

New Zealand’s diplomatic activity predominant in the Pacific and considerable in Asia and beyond is marked by a strong commitment to justice and peace, good governance, sustainable economic development and the promotion of human rights. Your generous commitment of personnel to peace-keeping initiatives can be found from Solomon Islands to Sudan, and New Zealand’s innovative approaches to foreign aid include an outstanding recent example of the development of eco-tourism in Afghanistan. As Your Excellency has indicated, the Holy See has worked closely with New Zealand in developing the Convention on the Prohibition of Cluster Munitions; an achievement which illustrates well the need for ethics, which stem from the truth of the human person, to stand at the heart of all international relationships including those of defence.

Mr Ambassador, the Catholic Church in New Zealand continues to do all she can to uphold the Christian foundations of civic life. She is much involved in the spiritual and intellectual formation of the young, especially through her schools. Additionally her charitable work extends to those living on the margins of society and I am confident that, through her mission of service, she will respond generously to new social challenges as they arise. In this regard, I wish to take this opportunity to express my spiritual closeness to those families in New Zealand who, like many across the globe, are suffering from the effects of the current economic uncertainty. I think especially of those who have lost their jobs and those young people finding it difficult to obtain employment.

Your Excellency, I trust that your appointment will serve to strengthen further the bonds of friendship which already exist between New Zealand and the Holy See. As you take up your new responsibilities you will find that the broad range of offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties. Upon you and your fellow citizens, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.


On the Holy Spirit and the Church

"The Church Is Unceasingly Formed and Guided by the Spirit of the Lord"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Church throughout the world relives to today the Solemnity of Pentecost, the mystery of her own birth, of her own "baptism" in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:5), which took place in Jerusalem, 50 days after Easter, precisely on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. The risen Jesus told his disciples: "Remain in the city until you are given power from on high" (Luke 24:49). This happened in a perceptible way in the Cenacle, while they were gathered together with Mary, the Virgin Mother, in prayer. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, suddenly that place was invaded by a strong driving wind, and tongues like fire came to rest on the heads of all those present. The Apostles went out then and began to proclaim in different languages that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, dead and risen (cf. Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son created the universe, guided the history of the people of Israel and spoke through the prophets, who in the fullness of time cooperated in our redemption, who at Pentecost descended upon the nascent Church and made it missionary, sending it to proclaim to all peoples the victory of divine love over sin and death.

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Without him to what would it be reduced? It would certainly be a great historical movement, a complex and solid social institution, perhaps a kind of humanitarian agency. And in truth this is how it is considered by those who look upon it from outside the perspective of faith. In reality, however, in its true nature and also in its most authentic historical presence, the Church is unceasingly formed and guided by the Spirit of the Lord. It is a living body, whose vitality is precisely the invisible divine Spirit.

Dear friends, this year Pentecost falls on the last day of the month of May on which the beautiful Marian Feast of the Visitation is usually celebrated. This fact invites us to let ourselves be inspired and taught by the Virgin Mary, who was a protagonist in both events. In Nazareth she received the annunciation of her singular maternity and, immediately after she conceived Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit, was moved by the same Spirit of love to go to help her elderly relative Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of a similarly miraculous pregnancy. The young Mary, who carried Jesus in her womb and, forgetting herself, goes to help her neighbor, is a stupendous icon of the Church in the perennial youth of the Spirit, of the missionary Church of the Incarnate Word, called to bring [this Word] to the world and to testify to him especially in the service of charity. We invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that the Church in our time may be powerfully strengthened by the Holy Spirit. The comforting presence of the Holy Spirit is felt in a special way by the ecclesial communities that suffer persecution for Christ's name, because, participating in his sufferings, they receive the Holy Spirit in the abundance of glory (cf. 1 Peter 4:13-14).

[After praying the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father said:]

In these days the youth of Abruzzo are gathering many people around the World Youth Day Cross. It was carried to their region by a group of volunteers sent by the San Lorenzo International Youth Center in Rome. In communion with that region, hard hit by the earthquake, we ask Christ dead and risen to pour put his Spirit of consolation and hope upon them. I extend my greeting to the young Italians who today, in the various dioceses, have come together to conclude, with their bishops, the third and final year of the "Agora dei Giovani." I recall with joy the unforgettable events that marked this three year project: the meeting at Loreto, in September 2007 and the World Youth Day in Sydney last July. Dear young people of Italy, with the power of the Holy Spirit, be witnesses of the risen Lord!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims to today's Regina Caeli. On this Pentecost Sunday, we rejoice in the Lord's gift of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul reminds us that if we live in the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit by putting aside all conceit, anger, envy and everything that divides us (cfr Gal5,26). My dear friends, having received God's precious gift, may you abound in his fruits of love, peace, patience, kindness and all that bears witness to the Kingdom of God in our midst! Praised be Jesus Christ!

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Homily for Solemnity of Pentecost

"The Holy Spirit Overcomes Fear"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's homily that he gave today in St. Peter's Basilica during Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Every time that we celebrate the Eucharist we experience in faith the mystery that is accomplished on the altar, that is, we participate in the supreme act of love that Christ realized with his death and resurrection. The one center of the liturgy and of Christian life -- the paschal mystery -- then assumes specific "forms," with different meanings and particular gifts of grace, in the different solemnities and feasts. Among all the solemnities, Pentecost is distinguished by its importance, because in it that which Jesus himself proclaimed as being the purpose of his whole earthly mission is accomplished. In fact, while he was going up to Jerusalem, he declared to his disciples: "I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish for it to be kindled!" (Luke 12:49). These words find their most obvious realization 50 days after the resurrection, in Pentecost, the ancient Jewish feast that, in the Church, has become the feast of the Holy Spirit par excellence: "There appeared to them parted tongues as of fire ... and all were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:3-4). The Holy Spirit, the true fire, was brought to earth by Christ. He did not steal it from the gods -- as Prometheus did according to the Greek myth -- but he became the mediator of the "gift of God," obtaining it for us with the greatest act of love in history: his death on the cross.

God wants to continue to give this "fire" to every human generation, and naturally he is free to do this how and when he wants. He is spirit, and the spirit "blows where he wills" (cf. John 3:8). However, there is an "ordinary way" that God himself has chosen for "casting fire upon the earth": Jesus is this way, the incarnate only begotten Son of God, dead and risen. For his part, Jesus constituted the Church as his mystical body, so that it prolongs his mission in history. "Receive the Holy Spirit" -- the Lord says to the Apostles on the evening of his resurrection, accompanying those words with an expressive gesture: he "breathed" upon them (cf. John 20:22). In this way he showed them that he was transmitting his Spirit to them, the Spirit of the Father and the Son.

Now, dear brothers and sisters, in today's solemnity Scripture tells us how the community must be, how we must be to receive the Holy Spirit. In his account of Pentecost the sacred author says that the disciples "were together in the same place." This "place" is the Cenacle, the "upper room," where Jesus held the Last Supper with his disciples, where he appeared to them after his resurrection; that room that had become the "seat," so to speak, of the nascent Church (cf. Acts 1:13). Nevertheless, the intention in the Acts of the Apostles is more to indicate the interior attitude of the disciples than to insist on a physical place: "They all persevered in concord and prayer" (Acts 1:14). So, the concord of the disciples is the condition for the coming of the Holy Spirit; and prayer is the presupposition of concord.

This is also true for the Church today, dear brothers and sisters. It is true for us who are gathered together here. If we do not want Pentecost to be reduced to a mere ritual or to a suggestive commemoration, but that it be a real event of salvation, through a humble and silent listening to God's Word we must predispose ourselves to God's gift in religious openness. So that Pentecost renew itself in our time, perhaps there is need -- without taking anything away from God's freedom [to do as he pleases] -- for the Church to be less "preoccupied" with activities and more dedicated to prayer. Mary Most Holy, the Mother of the Church and Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost occurs on the last day of May, when the Feast of the Visitation is customarily celebrated. This event was also a little "Pentecost," bringing forth joy and praise from the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary -- the one barren and the other a virgin -- who both became mothers by an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Luke 1:41-45).

The music and singing that is accompanying our liturgy, also help us to united in prayer, and in this regard I express a lively recognition of the choir of the Cologne cathedral and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra. Joseph Haydn's "Harmoniemesse," the last of the Masses composed by this great musician, and a sublime symphony for the glory of God, was chosen for today's Mass. The Haydn Mass was a fitting choice given that it is the bicentennial of the composer's death. I address a cordial greeting to all those who have come for this.

To indicate the Holy Spirit, the account in the Acts of the Apostles uses two great images, the image of the tempest and the image of fire. Clearly, St. Luke had in mind the theophany of Sinai, recounted in Exodus (19:16-19) and Deuteronomy (4:10-12:36). In the ancient world the tempest was seen as a sign of divine power, in whose presence man felt subjugated and terrified. But I would like to highlight another aspect: the tempest is described as a "strong driving wind," and this brings to mind the air that distinguishes our planet from others and permits us to live on it. What air is for biological life, the Holy Spirit is for the spiritual life; and as there is air pollution, that poisons the environment and living things, there is also pollution of the heart and the spirit, that mortifies and poisons spiritual existence. In the same way that we should not be complacent about the poisons in the air -- and for this reason ecological efforts are a priority today -- we should also not be complacent about that which corrupts the spirit. But instead it seems that our minds and hearts are menaced by many pollutants that circulate in society today -- the images, for example, that make pleasure a spectacle, violence that degrades men and women -- and people seem to habituate themselves to this without any problem. It is said that this is freedom but it is just a failure to recognize all that which pollutes, poisons the soul, above all of the new generations, and ends up limiting freedom itself. The metaphor of the strong driving wind of Pentecost makes one think of how precious it is to breathe clean air, be it physical air without lungs, or spiritual air -- the healthy air of the spirit that is love -- with our heart.

Fire is the other image of the Holy Spirit that we find in the Acts of the Apostles. I compared Jesus with the mythological figure of Prometheus at the beginning of the homily. The figure of Prometheus suggests a characteristic aspect of modern man. Taking control of the energies of the cosmos -- "fire" -- today human beings seem to claim themselves as gods and want to transform the world excluding, putting aside or simply rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be the image of God but the image of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free, adult. Obviously that reveals an inauthentic relationship with God, the consequence of a false image that has been constructed of him, like the prodigal son in the Gospel parable who thought that he could find himself by distancing himself from the house of his father. In the hands of man in this condition, "fire" and its enormous possibilities become dangerous: they can destroy life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which atomic energy, used as a weapon, ended up bringing death in unheard of proportions, remain a perennial warning.

We could of course find many examples, less grave and yet just as symptomatic, in the reality of everyday life. Sacred Scripture reveals that the energy that has the ability to move the world is not an anonymous and blind power, but the action of the "spirit of God that broods over the waters" (Genesis 1:2) at the beginning of creation. And Jesus Christ "cast upon the earth" not a native power that was already present but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God, who "renews the face of the earth," purifying it of evil and liberating it from the dominion of death (cf. Psalm 103 [104]: 29-30). This pure "fire," essential and personal, the fire of love, descended upon the Apostles, gathered together with Mary in prayer in the cenacle, to make the Church the extension of Christ's work of renewal.

Finally, a last thought also taken from the Acts of the Apostles: the Holy Spirit overcomes fear. We know that the disciples fled to the cenacle after the Master's arrest and remained there out of fear of suffering the same fate. After Jesus' resurrection this fear did not suddenly disappear. But when the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost, those men went out without fear and began to proclaim the good news of Christ crucified and risen. They had no fear, because they felt that they were in stronger hands. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, where the Spirit of God enters, he chases out fear; he makes us know and feel that we are in the hands of an Omnipotence of love: whatever happens, his infinite love will not abandon us. The witness of the martyrs, the courage of the confessors, the intrepid élan of missionaries, the frankness of preachers, the example of all the saints -- some who were even adolescents and children -- demonstrate this. It is also demonstrated by the very existence of the Church, which, despite the limits and faults of men, continues to sail across the ocean of history, driven by the breath of God and animated by his purifying fire. With this faith and this joyous hope we repeat today, through Mary's intercession: "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth!"


Papal Address at Conclusion of Marian Month of May

"In Her Humility, She Found Grace in God's Eyes"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday evening in the Vatican Gardens at a traditional Marian celebration to conclude the month of May.

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Venerable Brothers,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet all of you with affection at the end of the traditional Marian vigil that concludes the month of May in the Vatican. This year it has acquired a very special value since it falls on the eve of Pentecost. Gathering together, spiritually recollected before the Virgin Mary, contemplating the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, you have relived the experience of the first disciples, gathered together in the room of the Last Supper with "the Mother of Jesus," "persevering and united in prayer" awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14). We too, in this penultimate evening of May, from the Vatican hill, ask for the pouring out of the Spirit Paraclete upon us, upon the Church that is in Rome and upon the whole Christian people.

The great Feast of Pentecost invites us to meditate upon the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Mary, a very close, privileged, indissoluble relationship. The Virgin of Nazareth was chosen beforehand to become the Mother of the Redeemer by the working of the Holy Spirit: in her humility, she found grace in God's eyes (cf. Luke 1:30). In effect, in the New Testament we see that Mary's faith "draws," so to speak, the Holy Spirit. First of all in the conception of the Son of God, which the archangel Gabriel explains in this way: "The Holy Spirit will descend upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35). Immediately afterward Mary went to help Elizabeth, and when her greeting reached Elizabeth's ears, the Holy Spirit made the child jump in the womb of her elderly cousin (cf. Luke 1:44); and the whole dialogue between the two mothers is inspired by the Spirit of God, above all the "Magnificat," the canticle of praise with which Mary expresses her sentiments. The whole event of Jesus' birth and his early childhood is guided in an almost palpable manner by the Holy Spirit, even if he is not always mentioned. Mary's heart, in perfect consonance with the divine Son, is the temple of the Spirit of truth, where every word and every event are kept in faith, hope and charity (cf. Luke 2:19, 51).

We can thus be certain that the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, in his whole hidden life in Nazareth, always found a "hearth" that was always burning with prayer and constant attention to the Holy Spirit in Mary's Immaculate Heart. The wedding feast at Cana is a witness to this singular harmony between Mother and Son in seeking God's will. In a situation like the wedding feast, charged with symbols of the covenant, the Virgin Mary intercedes and, in a certain sense, provokes, a sign of superabundant divine grace: the "good wine" that points to mystery of the Blood of Christ. This leads us directly to Calvary, where Mary stands under the cross with the other women and the Apostle John. Together the Mother and the disciple spiritually taken in Jesus' testament: his last words and his last breath, in which he begins to send out the Spirit; and they take in the silent crying out of his Blood, poured out completely for us (cf. John 19:25-34). Mary knew where the blood came from: it was formed in her by the work of the Holy Spirit, and she knew that this same creative "power" would raise Jesus up, as he promised.

In this way Mary's faith sustains the faith of the disciples until the meeting with the risen Lord, and will continue to accompany them even after his ascension into heaven, as they await the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" (cf. Acts 1:5). At Pentecost, the Virgin Mary appears again as Bride of the Spirit, having a universal maternity with respect to those who are born from God through faith in Christ. This is why Mary is for all generations the image and model of the Church, who together with the Holy Spirit journeys through time invoking Christ's glorious return: "Come, Lord Jesus" (cf. Revelation 22:17, 20).

Dear friends, in Mary's school we too learn to recognize the Holy Spirit's presence in our life, to listen to his inspirations and to follow them with docility. He makes us grow in the fullness of Christ, in those good fruits that the apostle Paul lists in the Letter to the Galatians: "Love, joy, peace, magnanimity, benevolence, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22). I hope that you will be filled with these gifts and will always walk with Mary according to the Spirit and, as I express my praise for your participation in this evening celebration, I impart my Apostolic Benediction to all of you from my heart.


Papal Address to Envoy From India
"Subsidiarity Both Presupposes and Fosters Individual Responsibility"

ROME, MAY 29, 2009 .- Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing today to Chitra Narayanan, the new ambassador from India to the Holy See.

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Madam Ambassador,

I am pleased to welcome you today and to accept the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Holy See. Thanking you for the kind words which you have addressed to me in your own name and on behalf of the Government, I would ask to reciprocate my own respectful greetings to Her Excellency, Mrs Pratibha Patil, President of the Republic, and to the re-elected Prime Minister, His Excellency Mr Manmohan Singh, assuring them of my prayers for their well-being and for that of all the people of India.

India is a land fertile with ancient wisdom. Her people, representing many different religions and cultures, are sensitive to the need for self-awareness, integrity and harmonious coexistence with one's neighbor for overall personal and social well-being. The immense variety within your borders opens a range of possibilities for dialogue between philosophies and religious traditions intent upon probing life's deepest questions. Cultivating this dialogue not only enriches your own Nation but serves as an example to others throughout Asia and indeed throughout the world.

Notwithstanding the financial hardships currently facing the entire global community, India has made remarkable economic strides in recent years. Other nations have drawn inspiration from the diligence, human ingenuity and foresight which have contributed to your country's growth. Increased prosperity calls for heightened vigilance to ensure that the poor are protected from being exploited by the unbridled mechanisms of the economy which often tend to profit only an elite few. Hence the motive for your Country's ambitious rural jobs program which was designed to help the disadvantaged -- especially the rural poor -- to earn a subsistent wage by participating in building projects and other cooperative initiatives. Programs such as this show that labor is never a mere commodity but a specifically human activity. They must therefore be implemented in a way that upholds human dignity and repudiates any temptation to favoritism, corruption or fraud.

The principle of subsidiarity is of particular value in this regard. A society that allows subordinate organizations to perform their proper activities encourages citizens to take an active part in building up the common good, placing themselves at the service of others and committing themselves to resolving differences justly and peacefully. Subsidiarity both presupposes and fosters individual responsibility, enjoining all members of society to seek the good of others as their own. While bureaucratic structures are necessary, it must always be kept in mind that the various levels of governance -- national, regional, and local -- are oriented towards the service of citizens, as they themselves are administered by citizens.

Democratic systems of governance must be kept in check by broad social participation. Having recently completed an important round of national elections, India has shown the world that this key democratic process is not only possible, but can be conducted in an atmosphere of civility and peace. As the newly elected face the challenges ahead of them, I am confident that the same spirit of patient cooperation will prevail, sustaining them in their weighty responsibility of drafting laws and deliberating social policy. May they be ready to subordinate special interests, placing them within the wider context of the common good which is an essential and indispensable goal of political authority (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 409).

Madam Ambassador, as Chief Shepherd of the Catholic Church, I join religious and governmental leaders throughout the world who share a common desire that all members of the human family enjoy the freedom to practice religion and engage in civil life without fear of adverse repercussions on account of their beliefs. I therefore cannot help but express my deep concern for Christians who have suffered from outbreaks of violence in some areas within your borders. Today I have the opportunity to express my appreciation for your Country's efforts to provide the afflicted with shelter and assistance, relief and rehabilitation, as well as for the measures taken to implement criminal investigations and fair judicial processes to resolve these issues. I appeal to all to show respect for human dignity by rejecting hatred and renouncing violence in all its forms.

For her part, the Catholic Church in your Country will continue to play a role promoting peace, harmony and reconciliation between followers of all religions, especially through education and formation in the virtues of justice, forbearance and charity. Indeed, this is the inherent goal of all genuine forms of education since -- in conformity with the dignity of the human person and the call of all men and women to live in community -- they aim at cultivating moral virtues and preparing young people to embrace their social responsibilities with a refined sensibility for what is good, just and noble.

Madam Ambassador, as you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my good wishes for the successful fulfillment of your high mission. I assure you that the various offices and departments of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you. Upon yourself and upon the beloved people of India I invoke abundant divine blessings.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Mongolian Envoy
"Human Well-being Cannot Be Measured Solely in Terms of Wealth"

ROME, MAY 29, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave in writing today to Danzannorov Boldbaatar, the new ambassador of Mongolia to the Holy See.

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Your Excellency,

I am pleased to extend a cordial welcome to you as you present the Credential Letters appointing you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Holy See. Grateful for the warm greeting which you have conveyed to me on behalf of your President, Mr. Nambaryn Enkhbayar, I reciprocate with my own best wishes for his health and well-being. I assure him and all the citizens of Mongolia of my prayers as they continue to promote peace and social harmony at home and abroad.

I am grateful, Mr. Ambassador, that the cooperative spirit which has marked the diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the Holy See has yielded much fruit. An explicit and mutual recognition of the benefits to be gained through diplomatic relations paved the way for the establishment of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, thus making it possible to coordinate more effectively the pastoral care of Catholics in Mongolia and to give a new impetus to their charitable activities for the good of all your fellow citizens. A particular sign of this fruitful collaboration was the dedication of Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in July of 2002, which took place on the auspicious occasion of the 10th Anniversary of diplomatic ties between Mongolia and the Holy See. I wish to voice personally my deep gratitude for all that your Government and the local civil authorities did to make this historic event possible. Not only did it help to build a sense of unity between the Catholic faithful in your land and their fellow believers throughout the world, it also bore clear witness to Mongolia's long-standing respect for religious freedom. This fundamental human right, enshrined in Mongolia's Constitution and upheld by its citizens as conducive to the full development of the human person, allows them to search for the truth, engage in dialogue and fulfill their duty to worship God immune from any undue coercion.

The opportunity for adherents of different religions to speak and listen to one another has a vital role in strengthening the human family. You have referred to the bold initiative of Chinggis Khan in the 13th century to invite Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Daoists to live together on the steppes of Mongolia: a gesture that continues to find expression in the openness of the Mongolian people, who treasure the religious customs passed down from generation to generation, and who show a profound respect for traditions other than their own. This religious earnestness was especially evident as Mongolia emerged from years of oppression under a totalitarian regime. In this time of greater peace and stability, I heartily encourage forums that facilitate the amicable exchange of ideas about religion and how it contributes to the good of civil society. Peoples who practice religious tolerance have an obligation to share the wisdom of this tenet with the entire human family, so that all men and women might perceive the beauty of tranquil co-existence and have the courage to build a society that respects human dignity and acts upon the divine injunction to love one's neighbor (cf. Mk 12:32).

Your Excellency, this spirit of fraternal cooperation will serve Mongolia well as she strives to achieve goals for development in the years ahead. As you have noted, foremost among these is the reduction of poverty and unemployment. These objectives are placed within the framework of the overall economic growth and equitable distribution of goods your country wishes to sustain in the long-term future. The values of fairness and trust in the marketplace upheld by the Mongolian people provide a sure foundation to meet these goals. Criteria for designing programmes to this end must reflect social as well as commutative justice (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 303); they must take into account the objective value of work rendered, the dignity of the subjects who perform it, the varying needs of citizens, and the merit that justly corresponds to the quality of work done (cf. Centesimus Annus, 35).

Mongolia is a country which acknowledges that human well-being cannot be measured solely in terms of wealth. Educational achievement -- of which literary and artistic accomplishments are reliable indicators -- is also an essential feature of a flourishing society. I am appreciative that your country has singled out the need to expand educational opportunities for the betterment of all its people. Systems of instruction must not, of course, neglect the technological formation that enables students to acquire and maintain gainful employment in this age of rapid globalization and technological progress. At the same time, an integral education attends to man as a whole rather than simply his ability to produce. In particular, the young deserve a comprehensive intellectual and spiritual formation that opens their eyes to the dignity of every human person and inspires them to hone the virtues necessary to place themselves at the service of all mankind. I therefore encourage the initiatives undertaken by your Government to increase access to education and to buttress it with a clear view of what is genuinely good for human beings.

For its part, the Catholic community, though still small in Mongolia, is eager to offer its assistance in fostering interreligious dialogue, promoting development, expanding educational opportunities, and furthering the noble goals that strengthen the solidarity of the human family and turn its gaze to the action of the divine in the world. While recognizing the due autonomy of the political community, the Catholic Church is compelled to cooperate with civil society in ways suitable to the circumstances of the time and place in which the two find themselves living together.

I therefore thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for the kind assurance of Mongolia's desire to build upon the accomplishments that have sprung from the diplomatic relations forged between your nation and the Holy See. As you begin your mission, I assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia are ready to assist you in the fulfillment of your duties, and I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God upon you, the members of your family and all the citizens of Mongolia.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Theodore the Studite
"An Important Virtue … Is Love for Work"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 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 saint that we find today, St. Theodore the Studite, brings us to a period that from the religious and political point of view was rather turbulent. St. Theodore was born in the year 759 to a noble and pious family. His mother, Teoctista, and an uncle, Plato, abbot of the monastery of Sakkudion in Bithynia, are venerated as saints. It was precisely his uncle who guided him toward the monastic life, which he embraced at the age of 22. He was ordained a priest by the patriarch Tarasios, but afterward he broke communion with him because of the weakness he showed in the case of the adulterous marriage of Emperor Constantine VI. The consequence was Theodore's exile to Thessalonica in the year 796. Reconciliation with the imperial authority came about the next year under Empress Irene, whose benevolence brought Theodore and Plato to be transferred to the urban monastery of Studios, together with the majority of the community of the monks of Sakkudion, to avoid the invasions of the Saracens. In this way began the important "studite reform."

The personal life of Theodore, nevertheless, continued to be very hectic. With his characteristic energy, he became the leader of the resistance to the iconoclasm of Leo V the Armenian, who opposed once again the existence of images and icons in the Church. The procession of icons, organized by the monks of Studios, brought about the reaction of the police. Between 815 and 821, Theodore was flogged, jailed and exiled in various parts of Asia Minor. In the end, he was able to return to Constantinople, but not to his monastery. Thus he established himself with his monks on the other side of the Bosphorus.

He died, it seems, on Pringipos on Nov. 11, 826, the day on which he is remembered in the Byzantine calendar. Theodore is distinguished in Church history for being one of the great reformers of monastic life and also as a defender of sacred images during the second iconoclast phase, together with the patriarch of Constantinople, St. Nicephorus.

Theodore had understood that the issue of the veneration of icons implicated the very truth of the Incarnation. In his three books, Antirretikoi (Refutations), Theodore compares the eternal internal relations of the Trinity, in which the existence of each divine Person does not destroy unity, with the relation between the two natures of Christ, which do not compromise in him the unique Person of the Logos. And he argues: To abolish the veneration of the icons of Christ would mean cancelling his very redemptive work, since in assuming human nature, the invisible Word has appeared in visible human flesh, and in this way has sanctified the entire visible cosmos. Icons, sanctified by liturgical blessing and the prayer of the faithful, unite us with the Person of Christ, with his saints, and through them, with the heavenly Father, and they give witness to an entrance into the divine reality of our visible and material cosmos.

Theodore and his monks, witnesses of courage in the times of the iconoclast persecutions, are inseparably united to the reform of the cenobitic life in the Byzantine world. Their importance asserts itself even because of an exterior circumstance: their number. While the monasteries of the epoch did not exceed 30 or 40 monks, through the "Life of Theodore," we know that there were more than 1,000 Studite monks. Theodore himself informs us that in his monastery there were some 300 monks; we see, therefore, the enthusiasm for the faith that sprung up in the context of this man truly informed and formed by the same faith. However, more than the number, the new spirit that the founder imprinted on the cenobitic life showed itself to be influential. In his writing, he insists on the urgency of a conscious return to the teaching of the fathers, above all to St. Basil, first legislator of the monastic life, and to St. Dorotheos of Gaza, a famous spiritual father of the Palestinian desert. The characteristic contribution of Theodore consists in his insistence on the necessity of order and submission on the part of the monks. During the persecutions, the monks had dispersed, accustoming themselves to living according to each one's personal judgment. When it was possible to reconstruct common life, it was necessary to deeply commit himself to again make of the monastery an authentic living community, an authentic family, or as he said, an authentic "Body of Christ." In a community like this, the reality of the Church as a whole is concretely fulfilled.

Another of Theodore's deep conviction is this: With respect to laypeople, monks take on the commitment of observing Christian duties with greater rigor and intensity. That's why they make a special profession, which belongs to the hagiasmata (consecrations), and which is almost a "new baptism," and is symbolized by the taking of the habit. With respect to laypeople, the commitment of poverty, chastity and obedience is characteristic of monks. Addressing the monks, Theodore speaks in a concrete way, occasionally almost picturesque, of poverty, but in the following of Christ this is from the beginning an essential element of monasticism and indicates as well a path for us. Renunciation of private poverty, freedom from material things, as well as sobriety and simplicity, are only valid in their radical form for monks, but the spirit of this renunciation is the same for everyone. In fact, we should not depend on material property; we should learn detachment, simplicity, austerity and sobriety. In this way, a solidary society can grow and the great problem of poverty in this world can be overcome. Therefore, in this sense, the radical sign of the poor monks indicates essentially a path also for us.

When he illustrates the temptations against chastity, Theodore does not hide his personal experiences and shows the path of interior fight to find self-control and in this way, respect for one's own body and the body of others as a temple of God.

But the principal renunciations are for him those demanded by obedience, since each one of the monks has his way of living, and integration in the great community of 300 monks truly implies a new form of life, which he classifies as the "martyrdom of submission." Also in this, the monks give an example, since after original sin, the tendency for man is to do one's own will, the first principle is the life of the world, and everything else remains submitted to the personal will. But in this way, if each one only follows himself, the social fabric cannot work. Only in learning to integrate oneself in common freedom, sharing and submitting to it, learning legality, that is, submission and obedience to the rules of the common good and the common life, can a society be healed, as well as the "I" of the pride of putting oneself in the center of the world. In this way, St. Theodore helps his monks with keen introspection, and certainly us as well, to understand the true life, to resist the temptation of putting one's own will as the supreme rule of life and to conserve a true personal identity, which is always an identity together with others, as well as peace of heart.

For Theodore the Studite, an important virtue, together with obedience and humility, is philergia, that is, love for work, which he sees as a criterion to prove the quality of personal devotion. One who is fervent in material commitments, who works assiduously, he maintains, is the same in the spiritual realm. In this regard, he does not allow that with the pretext of prayer and contemplation, the monk dispenses with work, including manual work, which in reality is, according to him and to the monastic tradition, the means to encounter God.

Theodore is not afraid to speak of work as the "sacrifice of the monk," of his "liturgy," even of a type of Mass through which the monastic life converts into angelical life. And precisely in this way the world of work is humanized and man, through work, becomes more himself, closer to God. A consequence of this singular vision deserves to be considered: Precisely because it is the fruit of a form of "liturgy," the riches that come from common work should not serve the comfort of the monks, but should be destined for the help of the poor. In this, all of us can see the need for the fruit of work to be a good for everyone. Obviously the work of the "studites" was not only manual: They had great importance in the religious-cultural development of the Byzantine culture as calligraphers, painters, poets, educators of youth, teachers in schools, librarians.

If indeed he carried out an enormous exterior activity, Theodore did not allow himself to be distracted from what he considered intimately linked to his function as superior: to be the spiritual father of his monks. He knew the decisive influence had in his life by both his good mother and his holy uncle, Plato, whom he classified with the significant title of "father." Because of this, he gave spiritual direction to the monks. Each day, his biographer says, after night prayers, he placed himself before the iconostasis to listen to the confidences of everyone. He gave spiritual advice as well to many people who were not from the monastery. The "Spiritual Testament" and the "Letters" highlight his open and affectionate manner, and show how from his paternity arose true spiritual friendships within the monastery and outside of it.

The Rule, known with the name of Hypotyposis, codified after Theodore's death, was adopted with some modification in Mount Athos, when in the year 962, St. Athanasius the Athonite founded there the Great Lavra, and in the Rus of Kiev, when at the beginning of the second millennium, St. Theodosius introduced it in the Lavra of the Caves. Understood in its genuine significance, the Rule becomes something exceedingly relevant. Today numerous currents arise that threaten the unity of the common faith and lead toward a type of dangerous spiritual individualism and spiritual pride. It is necessary to commit oneself in its defense and to make grow the perfect unity of the Body of Christ, in which can be integrated in harmony the peace of order and sincere personal relationships in the Spirit.

Perhaps it is useful to take up at the end some of the principal elements of the spiritual doctrine of Theodore. Love for the incarnated Lord and for his visibility in the liturgy and in icons. Fidelity to baptism and commitment to live in the communion of the Body of Christ, understood also as communion of Christians among themselves. Spirit of poverty, of sobriety, of renunciation; chastity, self-control, humility and obedience against the primacy of one's own will, which destroys the social fabric and the peace of souls. Love for material and spiritual work. Spiritual friendship born in the purification of one's conscience, of one's soul, of one's life. Let us try to follow these teachings that truly show us the path of the true life.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[At the end of the audience, the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's catechesis on the life and teaching of Saint Theodore the Studite places us at the heart of the medieval Byzantine period. Born in 759 to a noble and pious family, Theodore entered the monastery at the age of twenty-two. He vigorously opposed the iconoclastic movement since, he argued, abolishing images of Christ entails a rejection of his work of redemption. Theodore also initiated a thorough reform of the disciplinary, administrative and spiritual aspects of monastic life. A particularly important virtue according to Theodore is philergia - the love of work - since diligence in material tasks indicates fervour in one's spiritual duties. He even described work as a type of "liturgy", asserting that the riches mined from it must be used to help the poor. The Studite's Rule holds particular relevance for us today because it highlights the unity of faith and the need to resist the danger of spiritual individualism. May we heed Theodore's summons to nurture the unity of the Body of Christ through well-ordered lives and by cultivating harmonious relationships with one another in the Holy Spirit.

I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims. In a special way, I welcome members of the Schola Cantorum of Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, Texas; seminarians and priests from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan; and members of the Order of Knights of Saint John from Nigeria. God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2009 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Letter for Year for Priests
"A Year of Prayer by Priests, With Priests and for Priests"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2009 - Here is the text of the letter Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, wrote ahead of the Year for Priests, which will begin June 19.

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Dear Priests,

The Year for Priests, announced by our beloved Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney, is drawing near. It will be inaugurated by the Holy Father on the 19th June, the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests. The announcement of the Year for Priests has been very warmly received, especially amongst priests themselves. Everyone wants to commit themselves with determination, sincerity and fervor so that it may be a year amply celebrated in the whole world -- in the Dioceses, parishes and in every local community -- with the warm participation of our Catholic people who undoubtedly love their priests and want to see them happy, holy and joyous in their daily apostolic labors.

It must be a year that is both positive and forward looking in which the Church says to her priests above all, but also to all the Faithful and to wider society by means of the mass media, that she is proud of her priests, loves them, honors them, admires them and that she recognizes with gratitude their pastoral work and the witness of the their life. Truthfully priests are important not only for what they do but also for who they are. Sadly, it is true that at the present time some priest have been shown to have been involved in gravely problematic and unfortunate situations. It is necessary to investigate these matters, pursue judicial processes and impose penalties accordingly. However, it is also important to keep in mind that these pertain to a very small portion of the clergy. The overwhelming majority of priests are people of great personal integrity, dedicated to the sacred ministry; men of prayer and of pastoral charity, who invest their entire existence in the fulfillment of their vocation and mission, often through great personal sacrifice, but always with an authentic love towards Jesus Christ, the Church and the people, in solidarity with the poor and the suffering. It is for this reason that the Church is proud of her priests wherever they may be found.

May this year be an occasion for a period of intense appreciation of the priestly identity, of the theology of the Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and in society. This will require opportunities for study, days of recollection, spiritual exercises reflecting on the Priesthood, conferences and theological seminars in our ecclesiastical faculties, scientific research and respective publications.

The Holy Father, in announcing the Year in his allocution on the 16th March last to the Congregation for the Clergy during its Plenary Assembly, said that with this special year it is intended “to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends”. For this reason it must be, in a very special way, a year of prayer by priests, with priests and for priests, a year for the renewal of the spirituality of the presbyterate and of each priest. The Eucharist is, in this perspective, at the heart of priestly spirituality. Thus Eucharistic adoration for the sanctification of priests and the spiritual motherhood of religious women, consecrated and lay women towards priests, as previously proposed some time ago by the Congregation for the Clergy, could be further developed and would certainly bear the fruit of sanctification.

May it also be a year in which the concrete circumstances and the material sustenance of the clergy will be considered, since they live, at times, in situations of great poverty and hardship in many parts of the world.

May it be a year as well of religious and of public celebration which will bring the people -- the local Catholic community -- to pray, to reflect, to celebrate, and justly to give honor to their priests. In the ecclesial community a celebration is a very cordial event which expresses and nourishes Christian joy, a joy which springs from the certainty that God loves us and celebrates with us. May it therefore be an opportunity to develop the communion and friendship between priests and the communities entrusted to their care.

Many other aspects and initiatives could be mentioned that could enrich the Year for Priests, but here the faithful ingenuity of the local churches is called for. Thus, it would be good for every Dioceses and each parish and local community to establish, at the earliest opportunity, an effective program for this special year. Clearly it would be important to begin the Year with some notable event. The local Churches are invited on the 19th June next, the same day on which the Holy Father will inaugurate the Year for Priests in Rome, to participate in the opening of the Year, ideally by some particular liturgical act and festivity. Let those who are able most surely come to Rome for the inauguration, to manifest their own participation in this happy initiative of the Pope.

God will undoubtedly bless with great love this undertaking; and the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Clergy, will pray for each of you, dear priests.

Cardinal Cláudio Hummes
Archbishop Emeritus of São Paulo
Prefect, Congregation for the Clergy