Benedict XVI from May 2009 to May 2010

Pope Benedict's addresses from November 2006 to April 2007, click here

Pope Benedict's addresses from May 2007 to November 2007, click here

Pope Benedict's Addresses from November 2007 to April 2008

Pope Benedict's Addresses from May 2008 to November 2008

Pope Benedict's Addresses from November 2008 to April 2009

Pope Benedict's Addresses from May 2009 to November 2009


Pope Benedict's third Encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (June 2009)

Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and Norms (Nov. 2009)


Pope's Address to Belgian Bishops
"The Lay Faithful Are Called to Witness Openly to Their Faith"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2010 - Here is the Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered May 8 upon receiving in audience the bishops of Belgium, who were in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit. The Pope delivered the address in French.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I wish you a very cordial welcome on the occasion of your visit "ad limina" Apostolorum which brings you on pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. This visit is a sign of the ecclesial communion that unites the Catholic Community of Belgium to the Holy See. It is also a good opportunity to strengthen this communion through mutual listening, common prayer and the charity of Christ, especially in these times when your own Church is tried by sin.

I warmly greet Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard for his words on your behalf and on behalf of your diocesan communities. It gives me pleasure to address a special thought to Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who governed the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and your Bishops' Conference for more than 30 years.

In reading your reports on the situation of your respective dioceses, I have been able to take stock of the changes taking place in Belgian society. These are trends that many European countries have in common but that in your country have their own specific features. Some of them, already mentioned during your previous ad limina visit, have become more pronounced.

I am referring to the dwindling number of baptized people who witness publicly to their faith and to their membership in the Church, to the gradual increase in the average age of the clergy and of men and women religious, to the insufficient number of ordained or consecrated people involved in active pastoral work and in the fields of education and social assistance and to the limited number of candidates to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.

Christian formation, especially of the young generations, matters related to respect for life and to the institution of marriage and of the family constitute other sensitive issues. Further, one could mention the complex and often worrying situations linked to the financial crisis, unemployment, and the social integration of immigrants and the peaceful coexistence of the nation's different linguistic and cultural communities.

I have been able to note how aware you are of these situations and of the importance of insisting on a sounder and deeper religious formation. I have read your Pastoral Letter, La belle profession de la foi, [The Beautiful Profession of Faith] part of the series Grandir dans la foi [Growing in the Faith].

With this Letter you have wished to encourage the faithful overall to rediscover the beauty of the Christian faith. Thanks to prayers and reflection in common on the revealed truths expressed by the Creed, one rediscovers that faith does not consist solely in accepting a set of truths and values but first in entrusting oneself to Someone, to God, to listening to him, to loving him and to speaking to him, in order to engage in serving him (cf. p. 5).

A significant event, for the present and for the future, was the Canonization of Fr Damien de Veuster. This new Saint speaks to the consciences of Belgians. Has he not been designated the most outstanding son of the nation of all time? His greatness, lived in the total gift of himself to his brother lepers, to the point of catching the contagious disease and dying of it, lies in his inner wealth, his constant prayer and his union with Christ, whom he saw present in his brothers and sisters and to whom, as Christ did, he gave himself without reserve.

In this Year for Priests, it is right to hold up his example as a priest and a missionary. The fall in the number of priests must not be perceived as an inevitable process. The Second Vatican Council said forcefully that the Church cannot do without the ministry of priests.

It is therefore necessary and urgent to give the ministry of priests its right place and to recognize is irreplaceable sacramental character. This results in the need for a broad and serious vocations apostolate that is based on the exemplarity and holiness of priests, on attention to the seeds of a vocation present in many young people and on assiduous and trusting prayer, as Jesus recommended (cf. Mt 9: 37).

I address a cordial and grateful greeting to all priests and consecrated people, often overburdened by work and desirous of the support and friendship of their Bishop and their confreres, without forgetting the older priests who have devoted their whole life to serving God and their brethren.

Nor do I forget the missionaries as a whole. May all priests, men and women religious and lay people of Belgium receive my encouragement and the expression of my gratitude, and may they not forget that Christ alone calms every storm (cf. Mt 8: 25-26) and restores strength and courage (cf. Mt 11: 28-30 and Mt 14: 30-32) in order to lead a holy life in full fidelity to their ministry, to their consecration to God and to Christian witness.

The Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium" stresses that it is in the Liturgy that the mystery of the Church is made manifest in its grandeur and its simplicity (cf. Introduction, No. 2).

Thus it is important that priests take care in liturgical celebrations, particularly the Eucharist, to ensure that they permit a profound communion with the Living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is necessary that celebrations take place with respect for the Church's liturgical tradition, with the active participation of the faithful, according to each one's specific role, uniting personally with Christ's Paschal Mystery.

In your reports you show that you are attending to the formation of lay people with a view to their increasingly effective incorporation in the animation of temporal realities. This is a praiseworthy programme that is born from the vocation of every baptized person, configured to Christ the priest, prophet and king. It is right to discern all the possibilities that stem from the common vocation to holiness and the apostolic commitment of lay people, with respect for the essential distinction between the ministerial priesthood and the common priesthood of the faithful.

All the members of the Catholic community, but in a particular way the lay faithful, are called to witness openly to their faith and to be leaven in society, while respecting both a healthy laicism in the public institutions and the other religious denominations.

This witness cannot be limited to the personal encounter alone but must also acquire the characteristics of a public proposal, respectful but legitimate, of the values inspired by Christ's Gospel message.

The brevity of this meeting does not permit me to treat other subjects dear to me and that you also mentioned in your reports.

I shall thus end by asking you to kindly convey to your communities, priests, men and women religious and all the Catholics of Belgium my affectionate greetings, assuring them of my prayers to the Lord for them.

May the Virgin Mary, venerated in so many shrines in Belgium help you in your ministry and protect you all by her motherly tenderness. To you and to all the Kingdom's Catholics, I wholeheartedly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


The Priest's Mission as Guide
"The Authority of Christ, Not His Own"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 26, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today for the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The Year for Priests is coming to an end; that is why in the last catecheses I began to speak about the essential tasks of the priest, namely: to teach, to sanctify and to govern. I have already given two catecheses, one on the ministry of sanctification, above all the sacraments, and one on teaching. Hence, it remains for me today to speak about the mission of the priest to govern, to guide -- with the authority of Christ, not his own -- the portion of the people that God has entrusted to him.

In contemporary culture, how can such a dimension be understood, involving as it does the concept of authority and with its origin in the Lord's own mandate to feed his flock? What is authority really for us Christians? The cultural, political and historical experiences of the recent past, above all the dictatorships in Eastern and Western Europe in the 20th century, made contemporary man suspicious in addressing this concept. A suspicion that, not rarely, is expressed in upholding as necessary an abandonment of all authority that does not come exclusively from men and is subject to them, controlled by them. But precisely a glance at the regimes that in the past century sowed terror and death, reminds us forcefully that authority, in every realm, if it is exercised without reference to the Transcendent, if it does away with the supreme Authority, which is God, ends inevitably by turning against man.

Hence, it is important to recognize that human authority is never an end, but always and only a means and that, necessarily and in every age, the end is always the person, created by God with his own intangible dignity and called to relationship with the Creator himself, in the earthly journey of existence and in eternal life. It is an authority exercised in responsibility before God, before the Creator. An authority thus understood, which has as its only objective to serve the true good of persons and to lucidity to the only Supreme Good that is God, not only is not foreign to men but, on the contrary, is a precious help in the journey toward full realization in Christ, toward salvation.

The Church is called and is committed to exercise this type of authority that is service, and she exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ, who received from the Father all power in heaven and on earth (cf. Matthew 28:18). In fact, Christ feeds his flock through the pastors of the Church: It is he who guides it, protects it, corrects it, because he loves it profoundly.

But the Lord Jesus, Supreme Shepherd of our souls, willed that the Apostolic College, today the bishops in communion with the Successor of Peter, and priests, their most valuable collaborators, should participate in his mission to take care of the People of God, to be educators in the faith, guiding, animating and sustaining the Christian community or, as the Council says, seeing to it that the "faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free" (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6).

Hence, every pastor is the means through which Christ himself loves men: It is through our ministry -- dear priests -- it is through us that the Lord gathers souls, instructs them, protects them, and guides them. In his commentary to the Gospel of St. John, St. Augustine says: "may it be, therefore, a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord" (123,5); this is the supreme norm of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, such as that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, open to all, attentive to neighbors and solicitous toward those far away (cf. St. Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle with the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. Id. Letter 95, 1).

If such a pastoral task is founded on the sacrament, nevertheless its efficacy is not independent of the personal existence of the presbyter. To be a pastor according to the heart of God (cf. Jeremiah 3:15) there must be a profound rootedness in living friendship with Christ, not only of the intelligence, but also of liberty and of the will, a clear awareness of the identity received in priestly ordination, an unconditional willingness to guide the entrusted flock where the Lord wishes and not in the direction that, apparently, seems more suitable and easy. That requires, first of all, the continuos and progressive willingness to let Christ himself govern the priestly existence of the presbyters. In fact, no one is really capable of feeding Christ's flock if he does not live a profound and real obedience to Christ and to the Church, and the docility itself of the people to their priests depends on the docility of priests to Christ; because of this, at the base of pastoral ministry is always the personal and constant encounter with the Lord, profound knowledge of him, conforming one's will to the will of Christ.

In the last decades, the adjective "pastoral" has often been used almost in opposition to the concept of "hierarchical," exactly as the idea "communion" has also been interpreted in the very same opposition. This is perhaps the point where a brief observation might be useful on the word "hierarchy," which is the traditional designation of the structure of sacramental authority in the Church, ordered according to the three levels of the sacrament of holy orders: episcopate, presbyterate, diaconate. Prevailing in public opinion, for this reality of "hierarchy," is the element of subordination and the juridical element; because of this for many the idea of hierarchy appears in contrast to the flexibility and the vitality of the pastoral sense and even contrary to the humility of the Gospel. But this is a badly understood sense of hierarchy, caused also historically by abuses of authority and careerism, which are in fact abuses and do not stem from the very being of the reality of "hierarchy."

The common opinion is that "hierarchy" is always something linked to domination and thus does not correspond to the true sense of the Church, of unity in the love of Christ. But, as I have said, this is a mistaken interpretation, which has its origin in abuses of history, but does not correspond to the true meaning of what the hierarchy is.

Let us begin with the word. Generally, it is said that the meaning of the world hierarchy is "sacred dominion," but the real meaning is not this, it is "sacra origine," that is: This authority does not come from man himself, but has its origin in the sacred, in the sacrament; hence it subjects the person to the vocation, to the mystery of Christ; it makes of the individual a servant of Christ and only insofar as he is a servant of Christ can he govern, guide for Christ and with Christ. Because of this, whoever enters in the sacred order of the sacrament, the "hierarchy," is not an autocrat, but enters in a new bond of obedience to Christ: he is tied to him in communion with the other members of the sacred order, of the priesthood. And even the Pope -- point of reference for all the other pastors and for the communion of the Church -- cannot do what he wants; on the contrary, the Pope is custodian of the obedience to Christ, to his word taken up again in the "regula fidei," in the Creed of the Church, and must proceed in obedience to Christ and to his Church. Hence, hierarchy implies a triple bond: first of all, the one with Christ and the order given by the Lord to his Church; then the bond with the other pastors in the one communion of the Church; and, finally, the bond with the faithful entrusted to the individual, in the order of the Church.

Hence, it is understood that communion and hierarchy are not contrary to one another, but condition each other. Together they are only one thing (hierarchical communion). Hence, the pastor is pastor precisely when guiding and protecting the flock and at times impeding its dispersal. Outside a clearly and explicitly supernatural vision, the task of governing proper to priests is not comprehensible. But, sustained by true love for the salvation of each member of the faithful, it is particularly precious and necessary also in our time. If the goal is to take the proclamation of Christ and lead men to the salvific encounter with him so that they will have life, the task of guiding is configured as a service lived in total donation for the upbuilding of the flock in truth and in sanctity, often going against the current and remembering that the one who is the greatest must be made the smallest, and one who governs, must be as one who serves (cf. Lumen Gentium, 27).

Where can a priest today get the strength for such exercise of his ministry, in full fidelity to Christ and to the Church, with a total dedication to the flock? There is only one answer: in Christ the Lord. Jesus' way of governing is not that of domination, but it is the humble and loving service of the washing of the feet, and Christ's kingship over the universe is not an earthly triumph, but finds its culmination on the wood of the cross, which becomes judgment for the world and point of reference for the exercise of authority that is the true expression of pastoral charity. The saints, and among them St. John Mary Vianney, exercised with love and dedication the task of caring for the portion of the People of God entrusted to them, showing also that they were strong and determined men, with the sole objective of promoting the true good of souls, able to pay in person, to the point of martyrdom, to remain faithful to the truth and to the justice of the Gospel.

Dear priests, "tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, [...] be examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:2). Hence, do not be afraid to lead to Christ each of the brothers that he has entrusted to you, certain that every word and every attitude, if stemming from obedience to the will of God, will bear fruit; know how to live appreciating the merits and acknowledging the limits of the culture in which we find ourselves, with the firm certainty that the proclamation of the Gospel is the greatest service that can be done to man. In fact, there is no greater good in this earthly life, than to lead men to God, reawaken faith, raise man from inertia and despair, to give the hope that God is near and guides personal history and that of the world.

This, in sum, is the profound and ultimate meaning of the task of governing that the Lord has entrusted to us. It is about forming Christ in believers, through that process of sanctification that is conversion of criteria, of the scale of values, of attitudes, to let Christ live in every faithful. St. Paul thus summarizes his pastoral action: "My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you!" (Galatians 4:19).

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to invite you to pray for me, the Successor of Peter who has a specific task in governing the Church of Christ, as well as for all your bishops and priests. Pray that we will be able to take care of all the sheep of the flock entrusted to us, also those who are lost. To you, dear priests, I address a cordial invitation to the closing celebrations of the Year for Priests, next June 9, 10 and 11, here in Rome: we will meditate on conversion and mission, on the priestly gift, sustained by all the People of God. Thank you!

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these final days of the Year for Priests, I would like to speak of the priest's ministry of governing, in the name of Christ, the flock entrusted to his care. Authority, in the Christian understanding, is a service to the true, ultimate good of the person, which is our salvation in Christ; exercised in the Lord's name, it is an expression of the constant presence and care of the Good Shepherd. The spiritual authority conferred in Holy Orders should be matched by the priest's interior fidelity to his pastoral mission and his personal readiness to follow obediently the lead of Christ. Understood in the light of faith, this authority, while involving the exercise of power, remains a service to the building up of the Church in holiness, unity and truth. Christ's power was expressed in the washing of the feet, and his kingship by the wood of the Cross; so too, the priestly ministry of governance must be expressed in pastoral charity. I ask all of you to support your priests in their ministry of leading men and women to God, bearing witness to the truth of the Gospel and its message of hope. In a special way I also ask you to pray for my own ministry of governance in the Church, and for the spiritual fruitfulness of the celebrations at the conclusion of the Year for Priests.

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, India, Barbados, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke Almighty God's blessings of joy and peace!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

Finally, I address my greeting to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Today the Church remembers St. Philip Neri, who is distinguished for his joy and for his special dedication to youth, whom he educated and evangelized through the inspired pastoral initiative of the Oratory. Dear young people, look at this saint to learn to live with evangelical simplicity. Dear sick, may St. Philip Neri help you to make of your suffering an offering to the heavenly Father, in union with Jesus crucified. And you, dear newlyweds, supported by the intercession of St. Philip, be inspired always in the Gospel to build a truly Christian family.


Papal Addresses on Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius
"Celestial Patrons of ... the Whole of Europe"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2010 ( Here are the addresses Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving in separate audiences delegations from Bulgaria and Macedonia, present in Rome for the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

The Bulgarian delegation was led by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, and the Macedonian delegation by the president of the Parliament, Trjako Veljanoski.

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[To the delegation from Bulgaria]

Mr. Prime Minister,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerated Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,

I am happy to be able to give each one of you a cordial welcome, honorable members of the official delegation, who have come to Rome in happy celebration of the liturgical memorial of Sts. Cyril and Methodius. Your presence, which attests to the Christian roots of the Bulgarian people, offers the propitious occasion to confirm my esteem for this dear nation and enables us to reinforce our friendship, enhanced by the devotion to the two brother saints of Thessalonica.

Through an untiring endeavor of evangelization, carried out with true apostolic ardor, Sts. Cyril and Methodius providentially rooted Christianity in the spirit of the Bulgarian people, so that it is anchored in those evangelical values that always reinforce the identity and enrich the culture of a nation. The Gospel, in fact, does not weaken what is authentic in the various cultural traditions; on the contrary, precisely because faith in Jesus shows us the splendor of truth, the latter gives man the ability to recognize the true good and helps him to realize it in his own life and in the social context. Because of this, with reason one can hold that Sts. Cyril and Methodius contributed significantly in molding the humanity and spiritual physiognomy of the Bulgarian people, inserting it in the common Christian cultural tradition.

In the path of full integration with the other European nations, Bulgaria is called, therefore, to promote and give witness to these Christian roots that derive from the teachings of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, today more timely and necessary than ever; she is called, therefore, to remain faithful and to protect the precious patrimony that unites between them, both Orthodox as well as Catholics, all those who profess the same faith of the Apostles and are united by the common baptism. As Christians, we have the duty to preserve and reinforce the intrinsic bond that exists between the Gospel and our respective cultural identities; as disciples of the Lord, in mutual respect of the different ecclesial traditions, we are called to give common testimony of our faith in Jesus, in whose name we obtain salvation.

It is my heartfelt hope that this meeting might be for all of you here present and for the ecclesial and civil realities that you represent, motive of ever more intense fraternal and solidaristic relations. With these sentiments, I encourage the Bulgarian people to persevere in the objective to build a society founded on justice and peace; to this end I assure you of my prayer and spiritual closeness. I renew to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and to each one of you, my blessed greeting, with which I wish to reach all the citizens of your beloved country.

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[To the delegation from Macedonia]

Mr. President of the Parliament,

Honorable Members of the Government and Distinguished Authorities,

Venerated Brothers of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholic Church,

I am happy to welcome you and to express to the Lord, giver of all graces, the joy and gratitude for this moment that sees you united on invoking him through the intercession of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, celestial patrons of your people and of the whole of Europe, in the annual pilgrimage you make to Rome to venerate the relics of Saint Cyril.

My beloved predecessor, the Venerable John Paul II, in the encyclical "Slavorum Apostoli," wished to remind everyone that, thanks to the teaching and the fruits of Vatican Council II, we can look today in a new way at the work of the two holy Brothers of Thessalonica, "now separated from us by eleven centuries. And we can read in their lives and apostolic activity the elements that the wisdom of divine Providence placed in them, so that they might be revealed with fresh fullness in our own age and might bear new fruits" (No. 3).

Truly abundant were, in their time, the fruits of the evangelization of Cyril and Methodius. They knew sufferings, privations and hostilities, but endured everything with unbreakable faith and invincible hope in God. With this strength they consumed themselves for the peoples entrusted to them, protecting the texts of Scripture, indispensable in the celebration of the sacred liturgy, translated by them into the paleo-Slavic language, written in a new alphabet and successively approved by the authority of the Church. In trials and in joys, they always felt accompanied by God and daily experienced his love and that of the brothers. We also understand increasingly that when we feel loved by the Lord and are able to correspond to this love, we are enveloped and guided by his grace in every activity and action of ours. According to the effusion of the many gifts of the Holy Spirit, the more we are able to love and give ourselves to others, the more the Spirit can come to the aid of our weakness, pointing out to us new ways for our action.

According to tradition, Methodius remained faithful to the end to the words that his brother Cyril said to him before dying: "Behold, my brother, we have shared the same destiny, ploughing the same furrow; I now fall in the field at the end of my day. [...] Do not [...] give up your work of teaching" (Iibid., No. 6). Dear brothers and sisters, let us put our hand to the plough and continue to work on the same furrow that God in his providence indicated to Sts. Cyril and Methodius. May the Lord bless your work at the service of the common good and of your whole nation, and infuse abundantly in her the gifts of the Spirit of unity and peace.


Pope's Words to Centesimus Annus Foundation
"The Common Good Is the End That Gives Meaning to Progress"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2010 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Saturday upon receiving in audience the participants in the 2010 International Conference of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation titled "Development, Progress and Common Good."

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Esteemed Cardinal,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Illustrious and Dear Friends,

I am happy to greet you on the occasion of the congress promoted by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation. I greet Cardinal Attilio Nicora, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli and the other prelates and priests present. A special thought goes to the president, Doctor Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, whom I thank for his courteous words, and to you, dear advisers and members of the foundation, who wished to visit me with your relatives.

I appreciate that your meeting is focused on the relationship between "Development, Progress, Common Good." In fact, today more than ever, the human family can grow as a free society of free peoples only when globalization is guided by solidarity and the common good, as well as by social justice, all of which finds in the message of Christ and of the Church a precious source. The crisis and difficulties that international relations, nations, society and the economy suffer at present are, in fact, due to a great extent to the lack of trust and of an appropriate solidaristic, creative and dynamic inspiration oriented to the common good, which leads to authentically human relations of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity also "within" economic activity.

The common good is the end that gives meaning to progress and to development, which otherwise would be limited to the sole production of material goods. Progress and development are necessary, but if they are not oriented to the common good, they lead to the negative consequences of the prevalence of consumerism, waste, poverty and excess.

As I highlighted in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," one of the greatest risks in the present-day world is that "the ethical interaction of consciences and intelligences does not correspond to the de facto interdependence between men and peoples, from which might emerge as a result a truly human development" (No. 9). Such interaction, for example, seems to be too weak for those governing that, in face of renewed episodes of irresponsible speculation in confrontations with weaker countries, do not react with appropriate decisions for governing finances. Politics should have primacy over finance and ethics should guide every activity.

Without the point of reference represented by the universal common good it cannot be said that there is a true worldwide ethos and the corresponding will to live it, with appropriate institutions. It is now decisive that those goods be identified to which all peoples should have access in view of their human fulfillment. And this should be carried out not in any manner whatsoever, but in an ordered and harmonious manner. In fact, the common good is made up of many goods: of material, cognitive and institutional goods, as well of moral and spiritual goods, the latter [two] being superior over the former.

The commitment to the common good of the family of peoples, as for every society, entails, therefore, taking care of and of making use of a complex of institutions that structure juridically, civilly, politically, culturally global social living, in such a way that it takes the form of polis, of the city of man (cf. Ibid., 7). Therefore, one must ensure that the economic-productive order is socially responsible and to the measure of man, with a joint and unitary action on more planes, including the international (cf. Ibid., 57.67). Likewise, the consolidation must be sustained of constitutional, juridical and administrative systems in countries that still do not enjoy them fully. Together with economic aid must be exercised, therefore, aid geared to reinforcing the guarantees proper to the state of law, a just and efficient system of public order, in full respect of human rights, as well as truly democratic and participatory institutions (cf. Ibid., 41).

However, what is fundamental and a priority, in view of the development of the entire family of peoples, is to do one's utmost to recognize the true scale of goods-values. Only thanks to a correct hierarchy of human goods is it possible to understand what type of development must be promoted. The integral development of peoples, central objective of the universal common good, is not happen only with the diffusion of entrepreneurship (cf. ibidem), of the material and cognitive goods such as the house and the instruction, of the available choices. That happens in particular with the increase of those good choices that are possible when the notion exists of an integral human good, when there is a telos, an end, in whose light development is planned and desired.

The notion of integral human development presupposes precise principles, such as subsidiarity and solidarity, as well as the interdependence between state, society and market. In a global society, made up of many peoples and various religions, the common good and integral development are obtained with the contribution of all. Religion is decisive in this, especially when it teaches fraternity and peace, and when, in a society marked by secularization, it instructs the faithful to give space to God and to be open to the transcendent. With the exclusion of religion from the public realm, as well as religious fundamentalism, the encounter and collaboration for the progress of humanity between peoples is impeded, the life of a society is void of motivation, and politics assumes an oppressive and aggressive face (cf. Ibid., 56).

Dear friends, the Christian vision of development, of progress and of the common good, as it emerges in the Social Doctrine of the Church, responds to the most profound expectations of man, and your commitment to further it and spread it is a valid contribution to build the "civilization of love." For this I express my gratitude and best wishes, and bless you all from my heart.


On Many Pentecosts
The Church "Lives Constantly From the Effusion of the Holy Spirit"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Fifty days after Easter we celebrate the solemnity of Pentecost, in which we recall the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit, who – as wind and as fire – descended upon the Apostles gathered together in the Cenacle, and made them able to preach the Gospel to all nations with courage (cf. Acts 2:1-13).

The mystery of Pentecost, which we rightly identify with the event of the Church’s true “baptism,” is not, however, exhausted by this. The Church in fact lives constantly from the effusion of the Holy Spirit, without which she would exhaust her own powers, like a ship with sails and no wind. Pentecost is renewed in a special way in certain powerful moments, whether this be at the local or the universal level, whether it be in small assemblies or in great convocations.

The councils, for example, had sessions gratified by special outpourings of the Holy Spirit, and among these is certainly the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. We might also recall that celebrated meeting of the ecclesial movements with Venerable John Paul II, here in St. Peter’s Square, precisely on Pentecost in 1998. But the Church knows countless “pentecosts” that vivify the local communities: We think of the liturgies, particularly those experienced in special moments of the community’s life, in which the power of God is perceived in an evident way, infusing joy and enthusiasm in souls. We think of many other gatherings of prayer in which young people clearly feel the call of God to root their lives in his love, even consecrating themselves entirely to him.

Thus, there is no Church without Pentecost. And I would like to add: There is no Pentecost without the Virgin Mary. This is how it was at the beginning, in the Cenacle, where the disciples “were perseverant and united in prayer, together with certain women and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” -- as the Acts of the Apostles says (1:14). And this is how it always is, in every place and in every time. I witnessed it a short time ago at Fatima. What did that great multitude on the green of the shrine experience, where we were all one heart and one soul, if not a renewed Pentecost? In our midst was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This is the typical experience at the great Marian sanctuaries -- Lourdes, Guadalupe, Pompeii, Loreto -- or even in the smaller ones: Wherever Christians gather in prayer with Mary, the Lord grants his Spirit.

Dear friends, on this feast of Pentecost, we too would like to be spiritually united with the Mother of Christ and of the Church, invoking a renewed effusion of the Paraclete with faith. We invoke this for the whole Church, in particular, in this Year for Priests, for all the ministers of the Gospel, that the message of salvation be announced to all the nations.

[The Holy Father then greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Yesterday, in Benevento, Teresa Manganiello was proclaimed “blessed.” She was a faithful laywoman who was a Third Order Franciscan. Born at Montefusco, the 11th child of a peasant family, she lived a simple and humble life between house work and spiritual work in the church of the Capuchins. Like St. Francis of Assisi, she tried to imitate Jesus Christ, offering up sufferings and penances in reparation for sins, and she was filled with love for her neighbor: She spent herself for all, especially for the poor and the sick. Always smiling and sweet, she departed for heaven, where her heart was already living, when she was only 27. Let us thank God for this luminous witness to the Gospel!

Tomorrow, May 24, the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, offers us the possibility of celebrating the Day of Prayer for the Church in China. While the faithful in China pray that the unity between them and with the universal Church continues to deepen, Catholics throughout the world -- particularly those of Chinese origin -- unite with them in prayer and in charity, that the Holy Spirit may fill our hearts especially on today’s solemnity.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered here today. On this Pentecost Sunday let us pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. May the Spirit’s gifts of life and holiness confirm our witness to the Risen Lord and fill our hearts with fervent hope in his promises! Upon all of you I cordially invoke Spirit’s abundant gifts of wisdom, joy and peace.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Pentecost Homily
"A Flame ... That, in Burning, Brings Forth the Better and Truer Part of Man"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at a Mass he celebrated in St. Peter's Basilica for the feast of Pentecost.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the solemn celebration of Pentecost we are invited to profess our faith in the presence and in the action of the Holy Spirit and to invoke his outpouring upon us, upon the Church and upon the whole world. Let us make our own, and with special intensity, the Church’s invocation: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus!”

It is such a simple and immediate invocation, but also extraordinarily profound, which came first of all from the heart of Christ. The Spirit, in fact, is the gift that Jesus asked and continually asks of his Father for his friends; the first and principal gift that he obtained for us through his Resurrection and Ascension in to heaven.

Today’s Gospel passage, which has the Last Supper as its context, speaks to us of this prayer of Christ. The Lord Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, follow my commandments; and I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Paraclete who will remain with you forever” (John 14:15-16).

Here the praying heart of Jesus is revealed to us, his filial and fraternal heart. This prayer reaches its apex and its fulfillment on the cross, where Christ’s invocation is one with the total gift that he makes of himself, and thus his prayer becomes, so to speak, the very seal of his self-giving for love of the Father and humanity: Invocation and donation of the Spirit meet, they interpenetrate, they become one reality. “And I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Paraclete who will remain with you forever.” In reality, Jesus’ prayer -- that of the Last Supper and the prayer on the cross -- is a single prayer that continues even in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus, in fact, always lives his priesthood of intercession on behalf of the people of God and humanity and so prays for all of us, asking the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles -- we listened to it in the first reading (Acts 2:1-11) -- presents the “new course” of the work that God began with Christ’s resurrection, a work that involves man, history and the cosmos. The Son of God, dead and risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit. And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce? Where there are divisions and estrangement he creates unity and understanding. The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with states not with federations of states, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.

From this, dear brothers, there derives a practical criterion of discernment for Christian life: When a person or a community, limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always confront itself with the path of the one and catholic Church, and harmonize with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of homogenization. On the contrary, that is rather the model of Babel, that is, the imposition of a culture of unity that we could call “technological.” The Bible, in fact, tells us (cf. Genesis 11:1-9) that in Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifested in the plurality of understanding. The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (cf. “Lumen Gentium,” 1) only if she remains free from every state and every particular culture. Always and in every place the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the house of all in which each one can find a place.

The account of the Acts of the Apostles offers us another very concrete indication. The universality of the Church is expressed by the list of peoples according to the ancient tradition: “We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites …,” etc. One may note that St. Luke goes beyond the number 12, which always expresses a universality. He looks beyond the horizons of Asia and northwest Africa, and adds three other elements: the “Romans,” that is, the western world; the “Jews and proselytes,” encompass in a new way the unity between Israel and the world; and finally “Cretans and Arabs,” who represent the West and the East, islands and land. This opening of horizons subsequently confirms the newness of Christ in the human space, in the history of the nations: The Holy Spirit involves men and peoples and, through them, it overcomes walls and barriers.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit manifests himself as fire. His flame descended upon the assembled disciples, it was enkindled in them and gave them the new ardor of God. In this way what Jesus had previously said was realized: “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I long that it already be burning!” (Luke 12:49). The Apostles, together with the faithful of different communities, carried this divine flame to the far corners of the earth; in this way they opened a path for humanity, a luminous path, and they worked with God, who wants to renew the face of the earth with his fire. How different this fire is from that of wars and bombs! How different is the fire of Christ, spread by the Church, compared with those lit by the dictators of every epoch, of last century too, who leave a scorched earth behind them. The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is that of the bush that burned without being consumed (cf. Exodus 3:2). It is a flame that burns but does not destroy, that, in burning, brings forth the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it makes his interior form emerge, his vocation to truth and to love.

A Father of the Church, Origen, in one of his homilies on Jeremiah, reports a saying attributed to Jesus, not contained in the sacred Scriptures but perhaps authentic, which he puts thus: “Whoever is near me, is near the fire” (“Homilies on Jeremiah,” L. I [III]). In Christ, in fact, there is the fullness of God, who in the Bible is compared to fire. We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit burns but does not destroy. And nevertheless it causes a transformation, and it must for this reason consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbor.

This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us, we are afraid of being “burned,” we prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often formed according to the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-giving. Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat, they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something nice to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves. On one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other hand, we are afraid of the consequences that this brings with it.

Dear brothers and sisters, we always need to hear the Lord Jesus tell us what he often repeated to his friends: “Be not afraid.” Like Simon Peter and the others we must allow his presence and his grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness. We must know how to recognize that losing something, indeed, losing ourselves for the true God, the God of love and of life, is in reality gaining ourselves, finding ourselves more fully. Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus already experiences in this life peace and joy of heart, which the world cannot give, and it cannot even take it away once God has given it to us.

So it is worthwhile to let ourselves be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit! The suffering that it causes us is necessary for our transformation. It is the reality of the cross: It is not for nothing that in the language of Jesus “fire” is above all a representation of the cross, without which Christianity does not exist.

Thus enlightened and comforted by these words of life, let us lift up our invocation: Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of your love! We know that this is a bold prayer, with which we ask to be touched by the flame of God; but we know above all that this flame -- and only it -- has the power to save us. We do not want, in defending our life, to lose the eternal life that God wants to give us. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit, because only Love redeems. Amen.


Benedict XVI's Message to Missionary Societies
"Evangelization Needs Christians With Arms Raised to God in a Gesture of Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he received participants in the ordinary assembly of the Supreme Committee of the Pontifical Missionary Societies. The five-day assembly concluded today.

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Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome! I address my cordial greeting to Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, whom I thank for his cordial words, to the secretary, Archbishop Robert Sarah, to the assistant secretary, Archbishop Piergiuseppe Vacchelli, president of the Pontifical Missionary Societies, to all the collaborators of the Dicastery, and in a particular way to the national directors of the Pontifical Missionary Societies, who have arrived in Rome from all the Churches for the annual Ordinary Assembly of the Higher Council.

I am especially grateful to this congregation, to which, in line with the constitutive act with which it was founded in 1622, Vatican Council II confirmed in its task to "regulate and coordinate, worldwide, both the missionary endeavor as well as missionary cooperation" (decree "Ad Gentes," 29). Evangelization is an immense mission, especially in this our time, in which humanity suffers from a certain lack of reflective and sapiential thought (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," 19.31) and in which a humanism is spreading that excludes God (cf. Ibid., 78).

Because of this, it is still more urgent and necessary to illuminate the new problems that arise with the light of the Gospel, which does not change. We are convinced, in fact, that the Lord Jesus Christ, faithful witness of the love of the Father, "with his Death and Resurrection, is the main propelling force for the true development of every human person and of the whole of humanity" (Ibid. 1). At the beginning of my ministry as Successor of the Apostle Peter, I affirmed forcefully: "We exist to show God to men. And only there where God is seen, does life really begin. Only when we find in Christ the living God, do we know what life is. ... There is nothing more beautiful than being overtaken, surprised by the Gospel, by Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than knowing him and communicating to others friendship with him (Homily at the beginning of the Petrine ministry, April 24, 2005).

The preaching of the Gospel is an inestimable service that the Church can offer to the whole of humanity that travels through history. Coming from the dioceses of the whole world, you are an eloquent and living sign of the catholicity of the Church, which is concretized in the universal breath of the apostolic mission, "to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8), "to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:20), so that no people or environment is deprived of the light and the grace of Christ. This is the meaning, the historic trajectory, the mission and the hope of the Church.

The mission to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples is critical judgment on the planetary transformations that are substantially changing the culture of humanity. The Church, present and operating in the geographical and anthropological frontiers, is the bearer of a message that penetrates in history, where she proclaims the inalienable values of the person, with the proclamation and testimony of the salvific plan of God, made visible and operative in Christ. The preaching of the Gospel is the call to the freedom of the children of God, also for the building of a more just and solidaristic society to prepare us for eternal life. Whoever participates in Christ's mission must inevitably face tribulations, rejection and sufferings, because he is confronted with the resistance and powers of this world. And we, like the Apostle Paul, have no other arms than the word of Christ and of his Cross (cf. 1 Corinthians 1, 22:25). The mission ad gentes calls the Church and missionaries to accept the consequences of their ministry: evangelical poverty, which confers on them the liberty to preach the Gospel with courage and frankness; non-violence, by which they respond to evil with good (cf. Matthew 5:38-42; Romans 12: 17-21); the willingness to give their own life for the name of Christ and for love of men.

As the Apostle Paul demonstrated the authenticity of his apostolate with the persecutions, the wounds and the torments suffered (cf. 2 Corinthians 6-7), so persecution is also proof of the authenticity of our apostolic mission. But it is important to recall that the Gospel "takes shape in human consciences and hearts and expands in history only in the power of the Holy Spirit" (John Paul II, encyclical "Dominum et Vivificantem," 64) and the Church and missionaries have been made ideal by him to fulfill the mission entrusted to them (cf. Ibid., 25). It is the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 14) who unites and preserves the Church, giving her the strength to expand, filling Christ's disciples with an overflowing wealth of charisms. It is from the Holy Spirit that the Church receives the authority for the proclamation and the apostolic ministry.

Because of this, I wish to reaffirm forcefully what I already said in regard to development (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," 79), that is, that evangelization needs Christians with arms raised to God in a gesture of prayer, Christians moved by the awareness that the conversion of the world to Christ is not done by us, but is given. The celebration of the Year for Priests, in fact, has helped us to become more aware that the missionary endeavor requires an ever more profound union with him who is the One Sent by God the Father for the salvation of all; it requires sharing that "new lifestyle" that was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and that the Apostles made their own (cf. Address to the Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Clergy, March 16, 2009).

Dear friends, again my gratitude to all of you of the Pontifical Missionary Societies, who in different ways are committed to keeping high the missionary awareness of the local Churches, driving them to more active participation in the "missio ad gentes," with the formation and sending of men and women missionaries and solidaristic help to the young Churches. My heartfelt gratitude also for the reception and formation of presbyters, of women Religious, of seminarians and laymen in the Congregation's Pontifical Colleges. While I entrust your ecclesial service to the protection of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of the Apostles, I bless you all from my heart.


Pontiff's Address to Laity Council Meeting
"Politics Is a Very Important Realm for the Exercise of Charity"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, which met this week in Rome for its 24th plenary assembly. The theme of the meeting was "Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community."

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Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome all of you with joy, Members and Consultors, participants in the 24th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. I address a cordial greeting to the president, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, thanking him for the courteous words he addressed to me, to the secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens, and to all those present.

The composition itself of your dicastery, where, together with the pastors, a majority of lay faithful work from the whole world and from the most different situations and experiences, offers a significant image of the organic community that is the Church, whose common priesthood, proper of the baptized faithful, and the ordained priesthood, sink their roots in the one priesthood of Christ, according to essentially different modalities, but ordered one to the other.

Having arrived almost at the conclusion of the Year for Priests, we feel ourselves even more grateful witnesses of the amazing and generous donation and dedication of so many men "conquered" by Christ and configured to him in the ordained priesthood. Day after day, they accompany the path of the "Christifideles Laici," proclaiming the Word of God, communicating his forgiveness and reconciliation with Him, calling to prayer and offering as nourishment the Lord's Body and Blood. It is from this mystery of communion that the faithful draw the profound energy to be witnesses of Christ in all the concretion and density of their lives, in all their activities and environments.

The theme of your Assembly: "Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community," is of particular importance. The technical formation of politicians certainly does not enter the mission of the Church. In fact, there are several institutions with this objective. However, her mission is "to give moral judgment also on things that pertain to the political order, when this is required by the fundamental rights of the person and the salvation of souls ... using only all those means that conform to the Gospel and the good of all, according to the diversity of the times and situations" ("Gaudium et Spes," 76).

The Church concentrates particularly on educating the disciples of Christ, so that, increasingly, they will be witnesses of his presence, everywhere. It is up to the laity to show concretely in personal and family life, in social, cultural and political life, that the faith enables one to read reality in a new and profound way and to transform it; that Christian hope extends the limited horizon of man and points him to the true loftiness of his being, to God; that charity in truth is the most effective force to change the world; that the Gospel is guarantee of liberty and message of liberation; that the fundamental principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity, are very timely and of value for the promotion of new ways of development at the service of every man and of all men.

It is of the competence of the faithful also to participate actively in political life, in a way that is always consistent with the teachings of the Church, sharing well-founded reasons and great ideals in the democratic dialectic and in the search for ample consensus with all those concerned with the defense of life and liberty, the protection of truth and of the good of the family, solidarity with the needy and the necessary search for the common good. Christians do not seek political or cultural hegemony, but, wherever they are committed, they are moved by the certainty that Christ is the corner stone of every human construction (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Related to the Involvement and Behavior of Catholics in Political Life, Nov. 24, 2002).

Taking up again the expression of my predecessors, I can also affirm that politics is a very important realm for the exercise of charity. The latter asks Christians for a strong commitment to the citizenry, for the construction of a good life in nations, as also for an effective presence in the headquarters and programs of the international community. Genuinely Christian politicians are necessary, but even more so lay faithful that are witnesses of Christ and of the Gospel in the civil and political community. This exigency should be very present in the educational itineraries of ecclesial communities and it requires new ways of accompaniment and support on the part of pastors. The membership of Christians in associations of the faithful, in ecclesial movements and new communities can be a good school for these disciples and witnesses, supported by the charismatic, community, educational and missionary richness proper to these realities.

It is an exacting challenge. The times we are living in place us before great and complex problems, and the social question has become, at the same time, an anthropological question. The ideological paradigms have collapsed that pretended, in the recent past, to be the "scientific" answer to this question. The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of utilitarian and hedonist individualism weakens democracy and fosters the dominance of the strong powers. A genuine political wisdom must be recovered and reinvigorated; to be exacting in what refers to one's own competence; to make critical use of the research of human sciences; to address reality in all its aspects, going beyond all ideological reductionism or utopian pretension; to show oneself open to all true dialogue and collaboration, keeping in mind that politics is also a complex art of balance between ideals and interests, but without ever forgetting that the contribution of Christians is decisive only if the intelligence of the faith becomes intelligence of the reality, key of judgment and of transformation. A real "revolution of love" is necessary. \

The new generations have before them great demands and challenges in their personal and social life. Your dicastery follows them with particular attention, above all through the World Youth Days, which for 25 years have produced rich apostolic fruits among young people. Among these also is the social and political commitment, a commitment based not on ideologies or selfish interests, but on the choice to serve man and the common good, in the light of the Gospel.

Dear friends, while I invoke from the Lord abundant fruits for the works of this assembly and for your daily activity, I entrust each one of you, your families and communities to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, and I impart to you my heartfelt apostolic blessing.


Papal Words at Concert of Moscow Patriarchate
"Let Us Make Europe Breathe With Its Two Lungs Again"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Thursday on the occasion of the concert sponsored by the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow in the Holy Father's honor. The event marked the Pontiff's recent birthday and fifth anniversary of his pontificate, and closed the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican."

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"Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord. Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for he is great. Thy name, O Lord, endures forever, thy renown, O Lord, throughout the ages. Alleluia."

Venerable Brothers, Illustrious Gentlemen and Ladies, Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We have just heard in a sublime melody the words of Psalm 135, which interpret our sentiments of praise and gratitude to the Lord, as well as our intense interior joy for this moment of meeting and friendship with our beloved brothers of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

On the occasion of my birthday and of the fifth anniversary of my election as Successor of Peter, His Holiness Kirill I, patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, wished to offer me, along with the most appreciated words of his message, this extraordinary musical moment, presented by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, and author of the symphony that has just been performed.

Hence, my profound gratitude goes first of all to His Holiness patriarch Kirill. I address to him my fraternal and cordial greeting, hoping profoundly that praise to the Lord and commitment to the progress of peace and harmony between peoples will increasingly unite us and make us grow in harmony of intentions and actions. Hence, my heartfelt thanks to Metropolitan Hilarion, for the greeting he addressed to me, congratulating him for his artistic creativity, which we have been able to appreciate. With him I greet with profound affection the delegation of the Patriarchate of Moscow and the illustrious representatives of the government of the Russian Federation. I address my cordial greeting to the cardinals and bishops here present, in particular Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and to Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who, with their dicasteries and in close collaboration with the representatives of the patriarchate, organized the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican." Moreover, I greet the illustrious ambassadors, the distinguished authorities and all of you, dear friends, brothers and sisters, particularly the Russian communities present in Rome and in Italy, who are participating in this moment of joy and celebration.

Sealed on this occasion in a truly exceptional and thought-provoking way is the music, the music of Russia yesterday and today, which was proposed to us with great mastery by the National Orchestra of Russia, directed by maestro Carlo Ponti, by the Synodal Choir of Moscow, and by the Horn Capella of St. Petersburg. I am profoundly grateful to all the artists for the talent, commitment and passion with which they present to the whole world the masterpieces of the Russian musical tradition.

Present in a profound way in these works, of which today we have heard significant passages, is the soul of the Russian people, and with it the Christian faith, which find an extraordinary expression precisely in the Divine Liturgy and the liturgical singing that always accompanies it. There is, in fact, a profound original bond, between Russian music and liturgical singing: In the liturgy and from the liturgy is unleashed and begins to a great extent the artistic creativity of Russian musicians to create masterpieces that merit being better known in the Western world. Today we have had the joy of hearing passages of great Russian artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. These composers, in particular the latter, have been able to take recourse to the musical-liturgical patrimony of the Russian tradition, elaborating it again and harmonizing it with musical motifs and experiences of the West and closer to modernity. In this line, I believe, should also be situated the work of Metropolitan Hilarion.

In music, therefore, already anticipated and in a certain sense realized is the encounter, the dialogue, the synergy between East and West, as well as between tradition and modernity. The Venerable John Paul II thought in fact of a similar unitarian and harmonious vision of Europe when, in presenting again the image suggested by Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov of the "two lungs" with which Europe must breathe again, he hoped that there would be renewed awareness of the profound and common cultural and religious roots of the European Continent, without which today's Europe would be deprived of a soul and marked by a reductive and partial vision. In fact to reflect these problems better a Symposium was held yesterday, organized by the Patriarchate of Moscow, by the dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity and by that of Culture, on the subject "Orthodox and Catholics in Today's Europe. The Christian Roots and Common Cultural Patrimony of East and West."

As I have stated on several occasions, contemporary culture, particularly European culture, runs the risk of amnesia, of forgetfulness and, therefore, of abandonment of the extraordinary patrimony fostered and inspired by the Christian faith, which constitutes the essential vertebral column of European culture, and not only of European culture. The Christian roots of Europe, in fact, are constituted not only by religious life and the testimony of so many generations of believers, but also by the inestimable cultural and artistic patrimony, pride and precious resource of the peoples and countries in which the Christian faith, in its different manifestations, has dialogued with cultures and art, has animated and inspired them, fostering and promoting as never before the creativity of the human genius.

Today, also, these roots are alive and fecund, in the East and West, and they can, more than that, must inspire a new humanism, a new season of authentic human progress, to respond effectively to the numerous and at times crucial challenges that our Christian communities and our societies must face, beginning with secularization, which not only leads to doing without God and his plan, but which ends by denying human dignity itself, in a society regulated solely by egotistical interests.

Let us make Europe breathe with its two lungs again, let us again give a soul not only to believers but to all peoples of the Continent, let us promote confidence and hope again, rooting them in the age-old experience of the Christian faith! At this moment, the consistent, generous and courageous witness of believers cannot be lacking so that together we can look at our common future, a future in which liberty and the dignity of every man and woman are recognized as a fundamental value and that openness to the Transcendent is valued, the experience of faith as constitutive dimension of the person.

In the passage by Mussorgsky, entitled "The Angel Declared," we have heard the words addressed by the Angel to Mary and, hence, addressed also to us: "Rejoice!" The reason for joy is clear: Christ has resurrected from the sepulcher "and has risen from the dead." Dear brothers and sisters, the joy of the risen Christ animates and encourages us and supports us in our journey of faith and Christian witness to offer authentic joy and solid hope to the world, to offer valid reasons for confidence to humanity, to the peoples of Europe, whom I entrust to the maternal and powerful intercession of the Virgin Mary.

[Speaking in Russian, he said:]

I renew my gratitude to patriarch Kirill, to Metropolitan Hilarion, to the Russian representatives, to the orchestra, to the choirs, to the organizers and to all those present.

[In Italian, he concluded:]

May the Lord's abundant blessings descend on all of you and on your loved ones.


Moscow Patriarch's Message to Benedict XVI
"To Understand a People, It Is Necessary to Listen to Its Music"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 21, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the message sent Thursday by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia, to Benedict XVI on the occasion of the concert sponsored by the patriarchate in the Holy Father's honor. The event marked the Pontiff's recent birthday and fifth anniversary of his pontificate, and closed the "Days of Russian Culture and Spirituality in the Vatican."

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Holiness, Beloved Brother in Christ,
Eminences, Excellencies, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

My heartfelt greetings to Your Holiness, as well as to all the participants in the concert of Russian sacred music, organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, by the Pontifical Council for Culture, and by the Department of External Relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

For the first time in history, three exceptional music groups -- the Russian National Orchestra, the Synodal Choir of Moscow and the Horns Chapel of Saint Petersburg -- meet today in Paul VI Hall, in the Vatican, to perform works of great Russian composers. Present in the Hall are the head of the Catholic Church, representatives of the episcopate and clergy, monks and nuns, laymen. All this makes the moment you are living an event of great importance in the history of cultural exchanges between our Churches.

Music is a particular language that gives us the possibility to communicate with our hearts. Music is able to transmit sentiments of the human spirit and spiritual states that words cannot describe.

To understand a people, it is necessary to listen to its music. And this applies not only to Orthodox liturgical music, of which today some of the best realizations will be performed, but also to the work of the Russian composers written for concert halls. In the years of persecutions against the Church and of the dominance of State atheism, when the majority of the population did not have access to sacred music, these works, together with the master works of Russian literature and figurative art, contributed to take the evangelical proclamation, proposing to the secular world ideals of great moral and spiritual depth. "Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!" (Psalm 150: 3-4). These words of the Psalm, which will also resonate today in your Hall, enable us to see that music can be permeated with the spirit of prayer and contemplation of God. Even secular music can transmit a spiritual content.

I pray for God's support to Your Holiness and to all the guests and participants in the concert.


Pope's Words to Mongolia's Envoy
"Religion and Culture ... Naturally Serve as Incentives for Dialogue and Cooperation"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2010 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Mongolia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Luvsantseren Orgil.

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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 Mongolia to the Holy See. I am most grateful for the greetings which you have brought from President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, and I ask you to convey to him my own prayerful good wishes for him and for all your fellow-citizens. As your nation celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its passage to democracy, I express my confidence that the great progress made in these years will continue to bear fruit in the consolidation of a social order which promotes the common good of your citizens, while furthering their legitimate aspirations for the future.

I also take this occasion, Mr Ambassador, to express my solidarity and concern for the many individuals and families who suffered as a result of the harsh winter and the effects of last year’s torrential rains and flooding. As you have rightly observed, environmental issues, particularly those related to climate change, are global issues and need to be addressed on a global level.

As Your Excellency has noted, the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and the Holy See, which took place after the great social and political changes of two decades ago, are a sign of your nation’s commitment to an enriching interchange within the wider international community. Religion and culture, as interrelated expressions of the deepest spiritual aspirations of our common humanity, naturally serve as incentives for dialogue and cooperation between peoples in the service of peace and genuine development. Authentic human development, in effect, needs to take into consideration every dimension of the person, and thus aspire to those higher goods which respect man’s spiritual nature and ultimate destiny (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 11). For this reason, I wish to express my appreciation for the constant support of the Government in ensuring religious liberty. The establishment of a commission, charged with the fair application of law and with protecting the rights of conscience and free exercise of religion, stands as a recognition of the importance of religious groups within the social fabric and their potential for promoting a future of harmony and prosperity.

Mr Ambassador, I take this occasion to assure you of the desire of Mongolia’s Catholic citizens to contribute to the common good by sharing fully in the life of the nation. The Church’s primary mission is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fidelity to the liberating message of the Gospel, she seeks also to contribute to the advancement of the entire community. It is this that inspires the efforts of the Catholic community to cooperate with the Government and with people of good will by working to overcome all kinds of social problems. The Church is also concerned to play her proper part in the work of intellectual and human formation, above all by educating the young in the values of respect, solidarity and concern for the less fortunate. In this way, she strives to serve her Lord by showing charitable concern for the needy and for the good of the whole human family.

Mr Ambassador, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for your mission, and I assure you of the readiness of the offices of the Holy See to assist you in the fulfillment of your high responsibilities. I am confident that your representation will help to strengthen the good relations existing between the Holy See and Mongolia. Upon you and your family, and upon all the people of your nation, I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to UAE Ambassador
"Faith in the Almighty Cannot But Lead to Love for One’s Neighbor"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 20, 2010 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience Hissa Abdulla Ahmed Al-Otaiba, the first ambassador from the United Arab Emirates 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 United Arab Emirates. On this notable occasion, I would ask you to convey my greetings to His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan. Kindly assure him of my gratitude for the good wishes which you have just expressed on his behalf, and of my prayers for his well-being and that of all the people of the Emirates.

As diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the United Arab Emirates have only recently been established, your presence here today as your country’s first Ambassador to the Holy See is a particularly auspicious event. During a joint ceremony with other Ambassadors on 15 April 2008, the President of the United Arab Emirates noted that the Papal Representative "exercises a particular mission, which is above all for the preservation of faith in God and the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue." Faith in the Almighty cannot but lead to love for one’s neighbor for, as I wrote recently, "love – caritas – is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace" (Caritas in Veritate, 1).

Love of God and respect for the dignity of one’s neighbour motivates the Holy See’s diplomacy and shapes the Catholic Church’s mission of service to the international community. The Church’s action in the field of diplomatic relations promotes peace, human rights and integral development, and thus strives for the authentic progress of all, without regard for race, colour or creed. Indeed, it is towards men and women, understood as unique in their God-given nature, that all politics, culture, technology and development are directed. To reduce the aims of these human endeavours merely to profit or expediency would be to risk missing the centrality of the human person in his or her integrity as the primary good to be safeguarded and valued, for man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 25). Thus, the Holy See and the Catholic Church take care to highlight the dignity of man in order to maintain a clear and authentic vision of humanity on the international stage and in order to muster new energy in the service of what is best for the development of peoples and nations.

Your Excellency, the United Arab Emirates, notwithstanding difficulties, have experienced notable economic growth in recent years. In this context, your country has welcomed many hundreds of thousands of foreigners coming to seek work and a more secure financial future for themselves and for their families. They enrich the State not only by their labour but by their very presence, which is an opportunity for a fruitful and positive encounter between the world’s great religions, cultures and peoples. The openness of the United Arab Emirates towards those foreign workers requires constant efforts to strengthen the conditions necessary for peaceful coexistence and social progress, and is to be commended. I would like to note here with satisfaction that there are several Catholic churches built on lands donated by the public authorities. It is the Holy See’s earnest wish that this cooperation may continue and indeed flourish, according to the growing pastoral necessities of the Catholic population living there. Freedom of worship contributes significantly to the common good and brings social harmony to all those societies where it is practised. I assure you of the desire of the Catholic Christians present in your country to contribute to the well-being of your society, to live God-fearing lives and to respect the dignity of all peoples and religions.

Madam Ambassador, in offering you my best wishes for the success of your mission, I assure you that the various departments of the Roman Curia are ready to provide help and support to you in the fulfilment of your duties. It is the sincere desire of the Holy See to strengthen the relations now happily established between it and the United Arab Emirates. Upon Your Excellency, your family and all the people of the Emirates, I cordially invoke abundant divine blessings.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Papal Trip to Portugal
"A Touching and Rich Experience of So Many Spiritual Gifts"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I wish to go over with you the various stages of the apostolic journey I undertook in recent days to Portugal, moved especially by a sentiment of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who in Fatima transmitted to her visionaries and to pilgrims an intense love for the Successor of Peter. I thank God who gave me the possibility to pay homage to that people, to its long and glorious history of faith and Christian witness. Hence, as I requested you to accompany me on this pastoral visit with prayer, I now ask you to join me in thanking the Lord for its happy development and conclusion. I entrust to him the fruits that it has brought and will bring to the Portuguese ecclesial community and to the whole population.

I renew the expression of my gratitude to the president of the republic, Mr. Aníbal Cavaco Silva, and to the other authorities of the state, who received me with so much courtesy and planned everything so that all would unfold in the best way. With intense affection, I think of my brother bishops of the Portuguese dioceses, whom I had the joy to embrace in their land and I thank them fraternally for all that they did for the spiritual and organizational preparation of my visit, and for a notable profuse diligence in its fulfillment. I direct a particular thought to the patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo, to the bishops of Leiria-Fatima, António Augusto dos Santos Marto, and of Porto, Manuel Macário do Nascimento Clemente, and to their respective collaborators, as well as to the various organizations of the episcopal conference led by Archbishop Jorge Ortiga.

Throughout the whole trip, which occurred on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the beatification of the little shepherds Jacinta and Francisco, I felt sustained spiritually by my beloved predecessor, the Venerable John Paul II, who went three times to Fatima, thanking that "invisible hand" that delivered him from death in the attack of the 13th of May, here in St. Peter's Square.

On the evening of my arrival I celebrated Holy Mass in Lisbon in the enchanting scene of the Terreiro do Paco, which looks out on the Tago River. It was a liturgical assembly of celebration and hope, animated by the joyful participation of very numerous faithful. In the capital, from where so many missionaries left over the course of the centuries to take the Gospel to many continents, I encouraged the various components of the local Church to a vigorous evangelizing action in the various realms of society, to be sowers of hope in a world often marked by mistrust. In particular, I exhorted believers to be heralds of the death and resurrection of Christ, heart of Christianity, fulcrum and support of our faith and reason of our joy.

I was able to manifest these sentiments also in the course of the meeting with representatives of the world of culture, held in the Cultural Center of Belem. In this circumstance I made evident the patrimony of values with which Christianity has enriched the culture, art and tradition of the Portuguese people. In this noble land, as in every other country marked profoundly by Christianity, it is possible to build a future of fraternal understanding and of collaboration with other cultural entities, opening mutually to a sincere and respectful dialogue.

I then went to Fatima, a town characterized by an atmosphere of real mysticism, in which one perceives in an almost palpable way the presence of Our Lady. I made myself a pilgrim with the pilgrims in that wonderful shrine, spiritual heart of Portugal and destination of a multitude of persons from the most diverse places of the world. After having paused in prayer and overwhelming recollection in the Chapel of the Apparitions in Cova da Iria, presenting to the heart of the Holy Virgin the joys and expectations as well as the problems and sufferings of the whole world, I had the joy of presiding over the celebration of vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Inside this great and modern church, I manifested my heartfelt appreciation to priests, to men and women religious, to deacons and to seminarians who came from every part of Portugal, thanking them for their witness -- often silent and not always easy -- and for their fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. In this Year for Priests, which is coming to an end, I encouraged the priests to give priority to a religious listening of the Word of God, to profound knowledge of Christ, to the intense celebration of the Eucharist, looking at the luminous example of the Holy Curé d'Ars. I did not fail to entrust and consecrate to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the true model of a disciple of the Lord, the priests of the whole world.

In the evening, with thousands of persons who met in the great esplanade in front of the shrine, I took part in a thought-provoking torchlight procession. It was a stupendous manifestation of faith in God and of devotion to his and our Mother, expressed with the recitation of the holy rosary. This prayer, so dear to the Christian people, has found in Fatima a propelling center for the whole Church and the world. The "White Lady," in the apparition of June 13, said to the three little shepherds: "I want you to recite the rosary every day." We can say that Fatima and the rosary are almost a synonym.

My visit to that very special place had its culmination in the Eucharistic celebration of May 13, the anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition to Francisco, Jacinta and Lucía. Re-echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, I invited that immense assembly, gathered with great love and devotion at the feet of the Virgin, to rejoice fully in the Lord (cf. Isaiah 61:10), because his merciful love, which accompanies our pilgrimage on this earth, is the source of our great hope. Precisely charged with hope is the exacting and at the same time consoling message that Our Lady left in Fatima. It is a message centered on prayer, on penance and on conversion, which is projected beyond the threats, the dangers and the horrors of history, to invite man to have confidence in God's action, to cultivate great hope, and to experience the Lord's grace to be enamored of him, source of love and peace.

Significant in this perspective was the overwhelming meeting with the organizations of social ministry, to which I indicated the style of the Good Samaritan in going to meet the needs of our neediest brothers and to serve Christ, promoting the common good. Many young people learn the importance of gratuitousness precisely in Fatima, which is a school of faith and prayer, because it is also a school of charity and of service to brothers.

Held in such a context of faith and prayer was the important and fraternal meeting with the Portuguese episcopate, at the end of my visit to Fatima: It was a moment of intense spiritual communion, in which together we thanked the Lord for the fidelity of the Church that is in Portugal and entrusted to the Virgin our common pastoral expectations and concerns. To such pastoral hopes and prospects I also made reference in the course of the Holy Mass celebrated in the historic and symbolic city of Porto, the "City of the Virgin," the last stage of my pilgrimage on Lusitanian soil. I reminded the great crowd of faithful gathered in the Avenue dos Aliados of the commitment to witness the Gospel in every environment, offering the world the Risen Christ, so that every situation of difficulty, of suffering, of fear is transformed, through the Holy Spirit, into an occasion of growth and life.

Dear brothers and sisters, the pilgrimage in Portugal was for me a touching and rich experience of so many spiritual gifts. While I have fixed in my mind and heart the images of this unforgettable trip, the warm and spontaneous reception, the enthusiasm of the people, I give praise to the Lord because Mary, appearing to the three little shepherds, opened to the world a privileged space to find divine mercy that heals and saves.

In Fatima, the Holy Virgin invites all to consider the earth as the place of our pilgrimage to our definitive homeland, which is heaven. In fact, we are all pilgrims, we are in need of the Mother who guides us. "With you we walk in hope. Wisdom and Mission" was the motto of my apostolic journey to Portugal, and in Fatima the Blessed Virgin Mary invites us to walk with great hope, allowing ourselves to be guided by the "wisdom of on high," which was manifested in Jesus, the wisdom of love, to take to the world the light and joy of Christ.

Hence, I invite you to unite yourselves to my prayer, asking the Lord to bless the efforts of all those, in that beloved nation, who are dedicated to the service of the Gospel and to the search for the true good of man, of every man. Let us pray, moreover, so that through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the Holy Spirit will make this apostolic journey fruitful, and animate in the whole world the mission of the Church, instituted by Christ to proclaim to all peoples the Gospel of truth, of peace and of love.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My Pastoral Visit to Portugal this past week enabled me to honor Our Lady of Fatima and to pay homage to the distinguished history of Christian faith and evangelizing zeal of the Portuguese people. The visit began with a Mass celebrated in the Terreiro do Paco in Lisbon, where I urged Portugal's Christians to carry on this great work of evangelization in our own day. The heart of my journey was my pilgrimage to Fatima for the tenth anniversary of the Beatification of the shepherd children Francisco and Jacinta. The evening recitation of the Rosary and the solemn Mass on the anniversary of the first apparition were centered on the message of Fatima. Our Lady's exhortation to prayer, penance and conversion is essentially a summons to hope in God's merciful love and trust in his saving plan, which triumphs over the threats and calamities of history. As I give thanks for the blessings of my pilgrimage, I ask you to join me in asking Our Lady of Fatima to continue, by her prayers, to guide us on our journey to heaven, to open the hearts of all to God's infinite mercy, and to confirm the Church in her perennial mission of proclaiming before the world the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, including the groups from England, Malaysia and the United States of America. I extend a special greeting to the students who are here and to the American Patrons of the Vatican Museums. Commending all of you to the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, I ask Almighty God to pour out his blessings upon you.

Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Feast of the Ascension
"The Lord, Taking the Road to Heaven, Gives Us a Foretaste of Divine Life"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2010 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today in Italy and other countries, the Ascension of Jesus into heaven is celebrated, which occurred 40 days after Easter. This Sunday is also the World Day for Social Communications, which has as its theme: "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word." In the liturgy Jesus' final departure from his disciples is narrated (cf. Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:2, 9); but this is not an abandonment because he remains with them, with us, forever, in a new form. St. Bernard of Clairvaux explains that Jesus' ascension into heaven is accomplished in three stages: "The first is the glory of the Resurrection; the second is the power to judge; and the third is sitting at the Father's right hand" ("Sermo de Ascensione Domini," 60, 2: Sancti Bernardi Opera, t. VI, 1, 291, 20-21). This event is preceded by the blessing of the disciples, whom he prepares to receive the Holy Spirit, so that salvation be preached everywhere. Jesus himself says to them: "You are witnesses to this. And behold, I send upon you him whom my Father has promised" (cf. Luke 24:47-49).

The Lord draws the gaze of the Apostles, our gaze, to show how we should travel the good road during life on earth. Nevertheless, he remains in the plot of human history, he is near to each of us and guides our Christian path: He is the companion of those who are persecuted because of their faith, he is in the heart of those who are marginalized, he is present in those to whom the right to life is denied. We can hear, see and touch the Lord Jesus in the Church, especially through the Word and the sacraments. In this regard I exhort children and young people, who are receiving the sacrament of Confirmation in this Easter season, to remain faithful to the Word of God and the teaching that comes from it, and to assiduously approach Confession and the Eucharist as well, conscious of being chosen and constituted to witness the Truth. I renew my special invitation to my brothers in the priesthood, that "in their life and actions they distinguish themselves by a powerful evangelical witness" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests") and know also how to use the means of communication wisely, to make the life of the Church known and help the men of today to find the face of Christ (cf. "Message for the 46th World Day of Social Communications," January 24, 2010).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Lord, taking the road to heaven, gives us a foretaste of divine life already on earth. A 19th century Russian author wrote in his spiritual testament: "Observe the stars more. When you have a burden in your soul, look at the stars or the azure of heaven. When you feel sad, when they offend you, ... think about ... heaven. Then your soul will find rest" (N. Valentini - L. ák [a cura], Pavel A. Florenskij. "Non dimenticatemi. Le lettere dal gulag del grande matematico, filosofo e sacerdote russo," Milano 2000, p. 418).

I thank the Virgin Mary, whom I was able to venerate at the shrine in Fatima a short time ago, for her maternal protection during the intense pilgrimage in Portugal. With confidence we address our prayer to her who watches over the witnesses of her beloved Son.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[After the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I greet with joy the English-speaking visitors who have come here today, and I pray that your pilgrimage to Rome will strengthen your faith and your love for the Risen Lord. In the course of this week we will pray with the whole Church for the coming of the Holy Spirit, asking him to pour out his gifts upon our families, our parishes, and all whom we love. May God bless all of you!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to Ecumenical Congress in Germany
"We Cannot Ourselves Achieve the Great Things in Life"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 16, 2010 - Here is a translation of the German-language message sent by Benedict XVI to participants in an ecumenical congress that ended today in Munich, Germany.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

From Rome I greet all those who are gathered at the "Theresienwiese" in Munich for the liturgical celebration to open the second ecumenical "Kirchehntag." I remember with joy the days when I lived in the beautiful capital of Bavaria as the archbishop of Munich and Freising. I thus address a special greeting to the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, Reinhard Marx, and to the Lutheran regional bishop, Johannes Friedrich. I greet all the German bishops and of many countries of the world, and in a special way, also the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities and all the Christians who are participating in this ecumenical event. I greet the representatives of public life too and all those who are present through radio and television. May the peace of the risen Lord be with all of you!

"So That You Might have Hope:" with this motto you are gathered in Munich. You want to send a signal of hope to the Church and to society at a difficult time. I thank you very much for this. In fact, our world has need of hope, our time has need of hope. But is the Church a place of hope? In recent months we have had to be repeatedly confronted with news that could take away the Church's joy, that darkened it as a place of hope. Like the servants of the householder in the Gospel parable about the kingdom of God, we too want to ask the Lord: "Lord, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?" (Matthew 13:27). Yes, with his Word and with the sacrifice of his life the Lord has truly sown good seed in the field of this earth. It has grown and is growing. We need not think only of the great luminous figures of history, whom the Church has recognized with the title "saints," who have been completely permeated by God, who gave them their splendor. Each of us also knows ordinary persons, not mentioned in any newspaper or told of in any history book, who grew through the faith achieving great humanity and goodness.

In his impassioned dispute with God over sparing the city of Sodom, Abraham obtained assurance from the Lord of the Universe that if there were ten just people there he would not destroy the city (cf. Genesis 18: 22-33). Thanks be to God, in our cities there are many more than ten just people! If we are more attentive today, if we do not see only darkness, but also the light and good in our time, we see how faith has made men pure and generous and educates them in love. Again, the weeds are also present within in the Church and among those whom the Lord has welcomed into his service in a special way. But God's light has not been extinguished, the good seed has not been destroyed by the bad seed.

"So that You Might have Hope:" This phrase intends first of all to invite us not to lose sight of the good and good people. It intends to invite us to be good ourselves and to become good always, it intends to invite us to dispute with God for the good of the world, like Abraham, trying to live from God's justice ourselves.

Is the Church a place of hope? Yes, since from it the Word of God comes to us again and again and always, the Word that purifies us and shows us the path of faith. It is because in it the Lord continues to give us himself, in the grace of the sacraments, in the word of reconciliation, in the many gifts of his contemplation. Nothing can obscure or destroy all of that. We must be joyful for this in the midst of all tribulations. If we speak of the Church as the place of the hope that comes from God, then that also entails an examination of conscience: What do I do with the hope that the Lord has granted us? Do I really let myself be formed by his Word? Do I let myself be changed and healed by him? How many weeds are in fact growing in me? Am I disposed to pull them up? Am I grateful for the gift of forgiveness and ready to forgive and heal in turn instead of condemning?

Let us ask once more: What is "hope," truly? The things that we can do by ourselves are not the object of hope but rather a task that we must do with the power of our reason, our will and our heart. But if we reflect on all that we can and must do, then we see that we cannot do the greater things that come to us only as a gift: friendship, love, joy, happiness. I would like to note one more thing: We all want to live, and life too we alone cannot give to ourselves. Almost no one today, however, still speaks of eternal life, which in the past was the true object of hope. Because one does not dare to hope in it, one must hope to obtain everything from the present life. Setting aside hope in eternal life leads to a greediness for life here and now, which almost inevitably becomes egoistic and, in the end, remains unrealizable. Precisely when we want to take control of life as a kind of good, it slips away.

But let us return. We cannot ourselves achieve the great things in life, we can only hope for them. The glad tidings of the faith consist precisely in this: The One who can give them to us exists. We will not be left alone. God lives. God loves us. In Jesus Christ he has become one of us. I can speak to him and he listens to me. Because of this, like Peter, in the confusion of our times, that try to persuade us to believe in many other ways, we say: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).

Dear Friends, I wish for all of you who are gathered at the "Theresienwiese" in Munich to be again overcome by the joy of being able to know God, to know Christ and to know that he knows us. This is our hope and our joy in the midst of the confusions of the present time.

From the Vatican, May 10, 2010

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Words of Farewell to Portugal
"May This Glorious Nation Continue to Manifest Greatness of Spirit"

PORTO, Portugal, MAY 14, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the farewell ceremony held at the International Airport of Porto, marking the end of his four-day trip to the country.

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Mr President,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Friends,

At the conclusion of my visit, my heart is filled with vivid memories of a great many moments from my pilgrimage to Portugal. I shall long remember the heartfelt and affectionate welcome that you accorded me, the warmth and spontaneity with which bonds of communion were established with the groups that I was able to encounter, the hard work that went into the preparation and realization of the pastoral programme.

As I take my leave, I express sincere gratitude to all of you: to the President of the Republic, who has honoured me with his presence since my arrival here, to my brother bishops with whom I have renewed our profound union in the service of Christ’s Kingdom, to the Government and to all the civil and military authorities who have done their utmost with visible dedication throughout the entire journey. I offer you every good wish! The communications media have enabled me to reach out to many people who were unable to see me in person. To them too I am most grateful.

To all the Portuguese, whether Catholic or not, to the men and women who live here, whether they were born here or elsewhere, I extend my greetings at this moment of leave-taking. May you live in increasing harmony with one another, a pre-requisite for genuine cohesion and the only way to address the challenges before you with shared responsibility. May this glorious nation continue to manifest greatness of spirit, a profound sense of God and an openness to solidarity, governed by principles and values imbued with Christian humanism. In Fatima I prayed for the whole world, asking that the future may see an increase in fraternity and solidarity, greater mutual respect and renewed trust and confidence in God, our heavenly Father.

It has been a joy for me to witness the faith and devotion of the Portuguese ecclesial community. I was able to see the enthusiasm of the children and young people, the faithfulness of the priests, deacons and religious, the pastoral dedication of the bishops, the desire to search for truth and evident beauty in the world of culture, the resourcefulness of the social pastoral workers, the vibrancy of faith among the lay faithful in the dioceses that I visited. I hope that my visit may become an incentive for renewed spiritual and apostolic ardour. May the Gospel be accepted in its entirety and witnessed with passion by every disciple of Christ, so that it may show itself to be a leaven of authentic renewal for the whole of society!

I impart my Apostolic Blessing to Portugal and to all its sons and daughters, bringing hope, peace and courage, which I implore from God through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, to whom you pray with such trust and firm love. Let us continue to walk in hope! Good-bye!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Mass in Porto
"It Is Jesus Whom Everyone Awaits"

PORTO, Portugal, MAY 14, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during a public Mass in Porto's Gran Plaza de la Avenida dos Aliados, which is in front of the municipal palace, with the participation of 120,000 faithful.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"It is written in the book of Psalms, … ‘His office let another take’. One of these men, then […] must become a witness with us to his resurrection" (Acts 1:20-22). These were the words of Peter, as he read and interpreted the word of God in the midst of his brethren gathered in the Upper Room following Jesus’ ascension to heaven. The one who was chosen was Matthias, who had been a witness to the public life of Jesus and his victory over death, and had remained faithful to him to the end, despite the fact that many abandoned him. The "disproportion" between the forces on the field, which we find so alarming today, astounded those who saw and heard Christ two thousand years ago. It was only he, from the shore of the Lake of Galilee right up to the squares of Jerusalem, alone or almost alone at the decisive moments: he, in union with the Father; he, in the power of the Spirit. Yet it came about, in the end, that from the same love that created the world, the newness of the Kingdom sprang up like a small seed which rises from the ground, like a ray of light which breaks into the darkness, like the dawn of a unending day: it is Christ Risen. And he appeared to his friends, showing them the need for the Cross in order to attain the resurrection.

On that day Peter was looking for a witness to all this. Two were presented, and heaven chose "Matthias, and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:26). Today we celebrate his glorious memory in this "undefeated city", which festively welcomes the Successor of Peter. I give thanks to God that I have been able come here and meet you around the altar. I offer a cordial greeting to you, my brethren and friends of the city and the Diocese of Oporto, to those who have come from the ecclesiastical province of Northern Portugal and from nearby Spain, and to all those physically or spiritually present at this liturgical assembly. I greet the Bishop of Oporto, Dom Manuel Clemente, who greatly desired this visit of mine, welcomed me with great affection, and voiced your sentiments at the beginning of this Eucharist. I greet his predecessors, his brother Bishops, all the priests, women and men religious, and the lay faithful, and in particular those actively involved in the Diocesan Mission, and, more concretely, in the preparations for my visit. I know that you have been able to count on the practical cooperation of the Mayor of Oporto and the public authorities, many of whom honour me by their presence; I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to greet them and to express to them, and to all whom they represent and serve, my best wishes for the good of all.

"One of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection," said Peter. His Successor now repeats to each of you: My brothers and sisters, you need to become witnesses with me to the resurrection of Jesus. In effect, if you do not become his witnesses in your daily lives, who will do so in your place? Christians are, in the Church and with the Church, missionaries of Christ sent into the world. This is the indispensable mission of every ecclesial community: to receive from God and to offer to the world the Risen Christ, so that every situation of weakness and of death may be transformed, through the Holy Spirit, into an opportunity for growth and life. To this end, in every Eucharistic celebration, we will listen more attentively to the word of Christ and devoutly taste the bread of his presence. This will make us witnesses, and, even more, bearers of the Risen Jesus in the world, bringing him to the various sectors of society and to all those who live and work there, spreading that "life in abundance" (cf. Jn 10:10) which he has won for us by his cross and resurrection, and which satisfies the most authentic yearnings of the human heart.

We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly, as Peter recommends in one of his Letters: "In your hearts, reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet 3:15). And everyone, in the end, asks this of us, even those who seem not to. From personal and communal experience, we know well that it is Jesus whom everyone awaits. In fact, the most profound expectations of the world and the great certainties of the Gospel meet in the ineluctable mission which is ours, for "without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5) and who encourages us: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20)" (Caritas in Veritate, 78).

Yet even though this certainty consoles and calms us, it does not exempt us from going forth to others. We must overcome the temptation to restrict ourselves to what we already have, or think we have, safely in our possession: it would be sure death in terms of the Church’s presence in the world; the Church, for that matter, can only be missionary, in the outward movement of the Spirit. From its origins, the Christian people has clearly recognized the importance of communicating the Good News of Jesus to those who did not yet know him. In recent years the anthropological, cultural, social and religious framework of humanity has changed; today the Church is called to face new challenges and is ready to dialogue with different cultures and religions, in the search for ways of building, along with all people of good will, the peaceful coexistence of peoples. The field of the mission ad gentes appears much broader today, and no longer to be defined on the basis of geographic considerations alone; in effect, not only non-Christian peoples and those who are far distant await us, but so do social and cultural milieux, and above all human hearts, which are the real goal of the missionary activity of the People of God.

This is the mandate whose faithful fulfilment "must follow the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience, of service and of self-sacrifice even unto death, a death from which he emerged victorious by his resurrection" (Ad Gentes, 5). Yes! We are called to serve the humanity of our own time, trusting in Jesus alone, letting ourselves be enlightened by his word: "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide" (Jn 15:16). How much time we have lost, how must work has been set back, on account of our lack of attention to this point! Everything is to be defined starting with Christ, as far as the origins and effectiveness of mission is concerned: we receive mission always from Christ, who has made known to us what he has heard from his Father, and we are appointed to mission through the Spirit, in the Church. Like the Church herself, which is the work of Christ and his Spirit, it is a question of renewing the face of the earth starting from God, God always and alone.

Dear brothers and sisters of Oporto, lift up your eyes to the One whom you have chosen as the patroness of your city, the Immaculate Conception. The angel of the Annunciation greeted Mary as "full of grace", signifying with this expression that her heart and her life were totally open to God and, as such, completely permeated by his grace. May Our Lady help you to make yourselves a free and total "Yes" to the grace of God, so that you can be renewed and thus renew humanity by the light and the joy of the Holy Spirit.

[After the Mass ended, the Pope directed this greeting from the balcony of the Municipal Palace]

Brothers and sisters, my dear friends,

I am happy to be among you and I thank you for the festive and cordial welcome which I have received here in Oporto, the "City of the Virgin." To her motherly protection I entrust you and your families, your communities and institutions serving the common good, including the universities of the city whose students have gathered to show me their gratitude and their attachment to the teaching of the Successor of Peter. Thank you for your presence and for the witness of your faith. I also thank again those who worked in various ways preparing and realizing my visit, especially the preparations made in prayer. I would have happily prolonged my stay in your city, but it is not possible. So let me take my leave of you, embracing each one of you affectionately in Christ our Hope, as I give you my blessing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily at Fatima Mass
"Yes! God Can Come to Us, and Show Himself to the Eyes of our Heart"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 13, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at a Mass in Fatima.

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Dear Pilgrims,

"Their descendants shall be renowned among the nations [...], they are a people whom the Lord has blessed" (Is 61:9). So the first reading of this Eucharist began, and its words are wonderfully fulfilled in this assembly devoutly gathered at the feet of Our Lady of Fatima. Dearly beloved brothers and sisters, I too have come as a pilgrim to Fatima, to this "home" from which Mary chose to speak to us in modern times. I have come to Fatima to rejoice in Mary's presence and maternal protection. I have come to Fatima, because today the pilgrim Church, willed by her Son as the instrument of evangelization and the sacrament of salvation, converges upon this place. I have come to Fatima to pray, in union with Mary and so many pilgrims, for our human family, afflicted as it is by various ills and sufferings. Finally, I have come to Fatima with the same sentiments as those of Blessed Francisco and Jacinta, and the Servant of God Lúcia, in order to entrust to Our Lady the intimate confession that "I love" Jesus, that the Church and priests "love" him and desire to keep their gaze fixed upon him as this Year for Priests comes to its end, and in order to entrust to Mary's maternal protection priests, consecrated men and women, missionaries and all those who by their good works make the House of God a place of welcome and charitable outreach.

These are the "people whom the Lord has blessed". The people whom the Lord has blessed are you, the beloved Diocese of Leiria-Fatima, with your pastor, Bishop Antonio Marto. I thank him for his words of greeting at the beginning of Mass, and for the gracious hospitality shown particularly by his collaborators at this Shrine. I greet the President of the Republic and the other authorities who serve this glorious Nation. I spiritually embrace all the Dioceses of Portugal, represented here by their Bishops, and I entrust to Heaven all the nations and peoples of the earth. In God I embrace all their sons and daughters, particularly the afflicted or outcast, with the desire of bringing them that great hope which burns in my own heart, and which here, in Fatima, can be palpably felt. May our great hope sink roots in the lives of each of you, dear pilgrims, and of all those who join us through the communications media.

Yes! The Lord, our great hope, is with us. In his merciful love, he offers a future to his people: a future of communion with himself. After experiencing the mercy and consolation of God who did not forsake them along their wearisome return from the Babylonian Exile, the people of God cried out: "I greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being exults in my God" (Is 61:10). The resplendent daughter of this people is the Virgin Mary of Nazareth who, clothed with grace and sweetly marvelling at God's presence in her womb, made this joy and hope her own in the canticle of the Magnificat: "My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour". She did not view herself as a fortunate individual in the midst of a barren people, but prophecied for them the sweet joys of a wondrous maternity of God, for "his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation" (Lk 1:47, 50).

This holy place is the proof of it. In seven years you will return here to celebrate the centenary of the first visit made by the Lady "come from heaven", the Teacher who introduced the little seers to a deep knowledge of the Love of the Blessed Trinity and led them to savour God himself as the most beautiful reality of human existence. This experience of grace made them fall in love with God in Jesus, so much so that Jacinta could cry out: "How much I delight in telling Jesus that I love him! When I tell him this often, I feel as if I have a fire in my breast, yet it does not burn me". And Francisco could say: "What I liked most of all was seeing Our Lord in that light which Our Mother put into our hearts. I love God so much!" (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 42 and 126).

Brothers and sisters, in listening to these innocent and profound mystical confidences of the shepherd children, one might look at them with a touch of envy for what they were able to see, or with the disappointed resignation of someone who was not so fortunate, yet still demands to see. To such persons, the Pope says, as does Jesus: "Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?" (Mk 12:24). The Scriptures invite us to believe: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe" (Jn 20:29), but God, who is more deeply present to me than I am to myself (cf. Saint Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, 11) - has the power to come to us, particularly through our inner senses, so that the soul can receive the gentle touch of a reality which is beyond the senses and which enables us to reach what is not accessible or visible to the senses. For this to happen, we must cultivate an interior watchfulness of the heart which, for most of the time, we do not possess on account of the powerful pressure exerted by outside realities and the images and concerns which fill our soul (cf. Theological Commentary on The Message of Fatima, 2000). Yes! God can come to us, and show himself to the eyes of our heart.

Moreover, that Light deep within the shepherd children, which comes from the future of God, is the same Light which was manifested in the fullness of time and came for us all: the Son of God made man. He has the power to inflame the coldest and saddest of hearts, as we see in the case of the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:32). Henceforth our hope has a real foundation, it is based on an event which belongs to history and at the same time transcends history: Jesus of Nazareth. The enthusiasm roused by his wisdom and his saving power among the people of that time was such that a woman in the midst of the crowd - as we heard in the Gospel - cried out: "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you!". And Jesus said: "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!" (Lk 11:27-28). But who finds time to hear God's word and to let themselves be attracted by his love? Who keeps watch, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a heart vigilant in prayer? Who awaits the dawn of the new day, fanning the flame of faith? Faith in God opens before us the horizon of a sure hope, one which does not disappoint; it indicates a solid foundation on which to base one's life without fear; it demands a faith-filled surrender into the hands of the Love which sustains the world.

"Their descendants shall be known among the nations, [...] they are a people whom the Lord has blessed" (Is 61:9) with an unshakable hope which bears fruit in a love which sacrifices for others, yet does not sacrifice others. Rather, as we heard in the second reading, this love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor 13:7). An example and encouragement is to be found in the shepherd children, who offered their whole lives to God and shared them fully with others for love of God. Our Lady helped them to open their hearts to universal love. Blessed Jacinta, in particular, proved tireless in sharing with the needy and in making sacrifices for the conversion of sinners. Only with this fraternal and generous love will we succeed in building the civilization of love and peace.

We would be mistaken to think that Fatima's prophetic mission is complete. Here there takes on new life the plan of God which asks humanity from the beginning: "Where is your brother Abel [...] Your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground!" (Gen 4:9). Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end... In sacred Scripture we often find that God seeks righteous men and women in order to save the city of man and he does the same here, in Fatima, when Our Lady asks: "Do you want to offer yourselves to God, to endure all the sufferings which he will send you, in an act of reparation for the sins by which he is offended and of supplication for the conversion of sinners?" (Memoirs of Sister Lúcia, I, 162).

At a time when the human family was ready to sacrifice all that was most sacred on the altar of the petty and selfish interests of nations, races, ideologies, groups and individuals, our Blessed Mother came from heaven, offering to implant in the hearts of all those who trust in her the Love of God burning in her own heart. At that time it was only to three children, yet the example of their lives spread and multiplied, especially as a result of the travels of the Pilgrim Virgin, in countless groups throughout the world dedicated to the cause of fraternal solidarity. May the seven years which separate us from the centenary of the apparitions hasten the fulfilment of the prophecy of the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.
©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Greeting to the Sick
"You Can Overcome the Feeling of the Uselessness of Suffering"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 13, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the words Benedict XVI addressed today to the sick gathered at the Fatima shrine. He had finished celebrating Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

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Dear brothers and sisters who are sick,

Before I walk among you carrying the monstrance containing Jesus present in the Eucharist, I would like to offer you a word of encouragement and hope, a word which I extend to all those following us on television and radio, and to those without even such means, but who are united to us by the deeper bonds of the Spirit, that is, in faith and prayer.

My dear brother and sister, in the eyes of God you are “worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way -- in flesh and blood -- as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus's Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God's compassionate love -- and so the star of hope rises” (Spe Salvi, 39). With such hope in your heart, you can leave behind the quicksand of illness and death and stand on the firm rock of divine love. In other words, you can overcome the feeling of the uselessness of suffering which consumes a person from within and makes him feel a burden to those around him when, in reality, suffering which is lived with Jesus assists in the salvation of your brethren.

How is this possible? Because the spring of divine power rises in the midst of human weakness. This is the paradox of the Gospel. Therefore, the divine Master, instead of explaining the reasons for suffering, preferred to call everyone to follow him, saying: Take up your cross and follow me (cf. Mk 8:34). Come with me. With your suffering, take part in the work of salvation which is realized through my suffering, by means of my cross. As you gradually embrace your own cross, uniting yourself spiritually to my cross, the salvific meaning of suffering will be revealed to you. And in suffering, you will discover an interior peace and even spiritual joy.

Dear friends who are sick, welcome the call of Jesus who will shortly pass among you in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and entrust to him every setback and pain that you face, so that they become -- according to his design -- a means of redemption for the whole world. You will be redeemers with the Redeemer, just as you are sons in the Son. At the cross … stands the mother of Jesus, our mother.

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

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present today who have come from near and far. As we offer our fervent prayers to our Lady of Fátima, I encourage you to ask her to intercede for the needs of the Church throughout the world. I cordially invoke God’s blessing upon all of you, and in a particular way upon the young and those who are sick.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Charity Organizations
"Anyone Who Learns From the God Who Is Love Will Inevitably Be a Person for Others"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 13, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Fatima at a meeting with those who work in charities.

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Dear brothers and sisters,
Dear Friends,

You have heard Jesus say: "Go and do likewise" (Lk 10:37). He exhorts us to imitate the example of the Good Samaritan, which was just now proclaimed, when approaching situations which call for fraternal assistance. And what is this example? It is that of "a heart which sees". "This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly" (Deus Caritas Est, 31). This is how the Good Samaritan acted. Jesus does not only exhort us; as the Fathers of the Church taught, he is himself the Good Shepherd who draws near to each man and "pours upon his wounds the oil of consolation and the wine of hope" (Portuguese Common Preface VIII). Christ then leads him to the inn, which is the Church, entrusts him to the care of his ministers and pays in person, beforehand, for his healing. "Go and do likewise". The unconditional love of Jesus which has healed us must now become a love bestowed freely and generously, through justice and charity, if we want to live with a good Samaritan's heart.

I am very happy to meet you in this holy place where God chose to remind mankind, through Mary, of his plan of merciful love. I offer a friendly greeting to all of you, and to the institutions which you represent. Yours is a variety of faces, all one in concern for social issues and, above all, in showing compassion to the poor, the infirm, prisoners, the lonely and abandoned, the disabled, children and the elderly, migrants, the unemployed and all those who experience needs which compromise personal dignity and freedom. I thank Bishop Carlos Azevedo, for the pledge of communion and fidelity to the Church and to the Pope which he has expressed both on the part of this assembly of charity and of the Episcopal Commission for Pastoral Social Work of which he is President, which constantly encourages this great sowing of charitable works throughout Portugal. Conscious, as the Church, of not being able to provide practical solutions to each concrete problem, and lacking any kind of power, yet determined to serve the common good, you are ready to assist and to offer the means of salvation to all.

Dear brothers and sisters working in the vast world of charity, "Christ reveals to us that ‘God is love' (1 Jn 4:8) and at the same time teaches that the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love. He assures those who trust in the charity of God that the way of love is open to all" (Gaudium et Spes, 38). History presently offers us a scenario of socio-economic, cultural and spiritual crisis, which highlights the need for a discernment guided by a creative proposal of the Church's social message. The study of her social doctrine, which takes charity as its principal strength and guide, will make possible a process of integral human development capable of engaging the depths of the human heart and achieving a greater humanization of society (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 20). This is not simply a matter of intellectual knowledge, but of a wisdom which can provide creativity, a sort of flavour and seasoning, to the intellectual and practical approaches aimed at meeting this broad and complex crisis. May the Church's institutions, together with all non-ecclesial organizations, perfect their theoretical analyses and their concrete directives in view of a new and grandiose process capable of leading to "that civilization of love, whose seed God has planted in every people, in every culture" (ibid., 33).

In its social and political dimension, this service of charity is the proper realm of the lay faithful, who are called to promote organically justice and the common good, and to configure social life correctly (cf.Deus Caritas Est, 29). One pastoral conclusion which emerged in your recent reflections is that a new generation of servant leaders needs to be trained. Attracting new lay workers for this pastoral field surely calls for particular concern on the part of the Church's pastors as they look to the future. Anyone who learns from the God who is Love will inevitably be a person for others. In effect, "the love of God is revealed in responsibility for others" (Spe Salvi, 28). United to Christ in his consecration to the Father, we are seized by his compassion for the multitudes who cry out for justice and solidarity, and like the Good Samaritan in the parable, committed to providing concrete and generous responses.

Often, however, it is not easy to arrive at a satisfactory synthesis between spiritual life and apostolic activity. The pressure exerted by the prevailing culture, which constantly holds up a lifestyle based on the law of the stronger, on easy and attractive gain, ends up influencing our ways of thinking, our projects and the goals of our service, and risks emptying them of the motivation of faith and Christian hope which had originally inspired them. The many pressing requests which we receive for support and assistance from the poor and marginalized of society impel us to look for solutions which correspond to the logic of efficiency, quantifiable effects and publicity. Nonetheless, the synthesis which I mentioned above is absolutely necessary, dear brothers and sisters, if you are to serve Christ in the men and women who look to you. In this world of division, all of us are called to have a profound and authentic unity of heart, spirit and action.

The many social institutions which serve the common good, and are close to those in need, include those of the Catholic Church. The guiding principles of the latter need to be clear, so that they can be clearly indentifiable by the inspiration of their aims, in the choice of their human resources, in their methods of operation, in the quality of their services, and in the serious and effective management of their means. The solid identity of these institutions provides a real service, and is of great help to those who benefit from them. Beyond this issue of identity, and connected with it, it is a fundamental step to ensure that Christian charitable activity is granted autonomy and independence from politics and ideologies (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 31b), even while cooperating with state agencies in the pursuit of common goals.

The services you provide, and your educational and charitable activities, must all be crowned by projects of freedom whose goal is human promotion and universal fraternity. Here we can locate the urgent commitment of Christians in defence of human rights, with concern for the totality of the human person in its various dimensions. I express my deep appreciation for all those social and pastoral initiatives aimed at combating the socio-economic and cultural mechanisms which lead to abortion, and are openly concerned to defend life and to promote the reconciliation and healing of those harmed by the tragedy of abortion. Initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, help to respond to some of today's most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good. Such initiatives represent, alongside numerous other forms of commitment, essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.

All this fits very closely with the message of Our Lady which resounds in this place: penance, prayer and forgiveness aimed at the conversion of hearts. In this way you are building the civilization of love, whose seeds God has sown in the heart of every man and woman, to which faith in Christ the Saviour gives abundant growth.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Bishops
"Join Your Voice to the Voices of the Least Powerful"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 13, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today in Fatima when he met with Portuguese bishops.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I thank God for giving me this occasion to meet all of you here at the Shrine of Fatima, the spiritual heart of Portugal, where multitudes of pilgrims from all over the world come looking to discover or to reinforce their certainty in the truths of Heaven. Among them has come from Rome the Successor of Peter, accepting the oft-repeated invitations and moved by a debt of gratitude to the Virgin Mary, who herself transmitted to her seers and pilgrims an intense love for the Holy Father which has borne fruit in a great multitude which prays, with Jesus as its guide: Peter, "I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren" (Lk 22:32).

As you see, the Pope needs to open himself ever more fully to the mystery of the Cross, embracing it as the one hope and the supreme way to gain and to gather in the Crucified One all his brothers and sisters in humanity. Obeying the word of God, he is called to live not for himself but for the presence of God in the world. I am comforted by the determination with which you too follow me closely, fearing nothing except the loss of eternal salvation for your people, as was clearly expressed in the words of greeting spoken by Archbishop Jorge Ortiga upon my arrival in your midst, and which testify to the unconditional fidelity of the Bishops of Portugal to the Successor of Peter. From my heart I thank you. I thank you as well for all the attention that you have given to organizing my Visit. May God reward you, and pour out the Holy Spirit in abundance upon you and your Dioceses so that, with one heart and with one soul, you may bring to completion the pastoral work which you have begun, that is, offering each member of the faithful an exacting and attractive Christian initiation, one which communicates the integrity of the faith and genuine spirituality, rooted in the Gospel, and capable of forming free and generous labourers in the midst of public life.

In truth, the times in which we live demand a new missionary vigour on the part of Christians, who are called to form a mature laity, identified with the Church and sensitive to the complex transformations taking place in our world. Authentic witnesses to Jesus Christ are needed, above all in those human situations where the silence of the faith is most widely and deeply felt: among politicians, intellectuals, communications professionals who profess and who promote a monocultural ideal, with disdain for the religious and contemplative dimension of life. In such circles are found some believers who are ashamed of their beliefs and who even give a helping hand to this type of secularism, which builds barriers before Christian inspiration. And yet, dear brothers, may all those who defend the faith in these situations, with courage, with a vigorous Catholic outlook and in fidelity to the magisterium, continue to receive your help and your insightful encouragement in order to live out, as faithful lay men and women, their Christian freedom.

You maintain a strong prophetic dimension, without allowing yourselves to be silenced, in the present social context, for "the word of God is not fettered" (2 Tim 2:9). People cry out for the Good News of Jesus Christ, which gives meaning to their lives and protects their dignity. In your role as first evangelizers, it will be useful for you to know and to understand the diverse social and cultural factors, to evaluate their spiritual deficiencies and to utilize effectively your pastoral resources; what is decisive, however, is the ability to inculcate in all those engaged in the work of evangelization a true desire for holiness, in the awareness that the results derive above all from our union with Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, when, in the view of many people, the Catholic faith is no longer the common patrimony of society and, often, seen as seed threatened and obscured by the "gods" and masters of this world, only with great difficulty can the faith touch the hearts of people by means of simple speeches or moral appeals, and even less by a general appeal to Christian values. The courageous and integral appeal to principles is essential and indispensable; yet simply proclaiming the message does not penetrate to the depths of people's hearts, it does not touch their freedom, it does not change their lives. What attracts is, above all, the encounter with believing persons who, through their faith, draw others to the grace of Christ by bearing witness to him. The words of Pope John Paul II come to mind: "The Church needs above all great currents, movements and witnesses of holiness among the ‘Christifideles' because it is from holiness that is born every authentic renewal of the Church, all intelligent enrichment of the faith and of the Christian life, the vital and fecund reactualization of Christianity with the needs of man, a renewed form of presence in the heart of human existence and of the culture of nations (Address for the XX Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Conciliar Decree "Apostolicam Actuositatem", 18 November 1985). One could say, "the Church has need of these great currents, movements and witnesses of holiness..., but there are none!"

In this regard, I confess to you the pleasant surprise that I had in making contact with the movements and the new ecclesial communities. Watching them, I had the joy and the grace to see how, at a moment of weariness in the Church, at a time when we were hearing about "the winter of the Church", the Holy Spirit was creating a new springtime, awakening in young people and adults alike the joy of being Christian, of living in the Church, which is the living Body of Christ. Thanks to their charisms, the radicality of the Gospel, the objective contents of the faith, the living flow of her tradition, are all being communicated in a persuasive way and welcomed as a personal experience, as adherence in freedom to the present event of Christ.

The necessary condition, naturally, is that these new realities desire to live in the one Church, albeit with spaces in some way set aside for their own life, in such a way that this life becomes fruitful for all the others. The bearers of a particular charism must feel themselves fundamentally responsible for communion, for the common faith of the Church, and submit themselves to the leadership of their Bishops. It is they who must ensure the ecclesial nature of the movements. Bishops are not only those who hold an office, but those who themselves are bearers of charisms, and responsible for the openness of the Church to the working of the Holy Spirit. We, Bishops, in the sacrament of Holy Orders, are anointed by the Holy Spirit and thus the sacrament ensures that we too are open to his gifts. Thus, on the one hand, we must feel responsibility for welcoming these impulses which are gifts for the Church and which give her new vitality, but, on the other hand, we must also help the movements to find the right way, making some corrections with understanding - with the spiritual and human understanding that is able to combine guidance, gratitude and a certain openness and a willingness to learn.

This is precisely what you must foster or confirm in your priests. In this Year for Priests now drawing to a close, rediscover, dear brothers, the role of the Bishop as father, especially with regard to your priests. For all too long the responsibility of authority as a service aimed at the growth of others and in the first place of priests, has been given second place. Priests are called to serve, in their pastoral ministry, and to be part of a pastoral activity of communion or oneness, as the Conciliar Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis reminds us, "No priest is sufficiently equipped to carry out his mission alone and as it were single-handed. He can only do so by joining forces with other priests, under the leadership of those who govern the Church" (No. 7). This is not a matter of turning back to the past, nor of a simple return to our origins, but rather of a recovery of the fervour of the origins, of the joy of the initial Christian experience, and of walking beside Christ like the disciples of Emmaus on the day of Easter, allowing his word to warm our hearts and his "broken bread" to open our eyes to the contemplation of his face. Only in this way will the fire of charity blaze strongly enough to impel every Christian to become a source of light and life in the Church and among all men and women.

Before concluding, I would like to ask you, in your role as leaders and ministers of charity in the Church, to rekindle, in yourselves as individuals and as a group, a sense of mercy and of compassion, in order to respond to grave social needs. New organizations must be established, and those already existing perfected, so that they can be capable of responding creatively to every form of poverty, including those experienced as a lack of the meaningfulness in life and the absence of hope. The efforts you are making to assist the Dioceses most in need, especially in Portuguese-speaking countries, is praiseworthy. May difficulties, which today are more deeply felt, not make you shrink from the logic of self-giving. Let there continue and flourish in this country, your witness as prophets of justice and peace, and defenders of the inalienable rights of the person. Join your voice to the voices of the least powerful, whom you have wisely helped to gain a voice of their own, without ever being afraid of raising your voice on behalf of the oppressed, the downtrodden and those who have been mistreated.

I entrust all of you to Our Lady of Fatima, and I ask her to sustain you with her maternal care amid the challenges which you face, so that you will be promoters of a culture and a spirituality of charity, peace, hope and justice, faith and service. To you, to the members of your families and to your diocesan communities I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.
©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Press Conference En Route to Portugal
"Forgiveness Does Not Replace Justice"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, MAY 12, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the press conference Benedict XVI gave Tuesday en route to his four-day apostolic trip to Portugal.

* * *

Father Lombardi: Your Holiness, what concerns and feelings do you have about the situation of the Church in Portugal? What can be said to Portugal, which was once very Catholic and brought the faith to the world, but which today is undergoing a profound secularization, both in daily life as well as legally and culturally? How is the faith to be proclaimed in a context which is indifferent and even hostile to the Church?

Holy Father: Before all else, I wish you all a good morning, and may we have a good journey, despite the famous cloud beneath us. With regard to Portugal, I feel happy and grateful for everything that this country has done and is doing in the world and in history, and for the deep humanity of this people which I came to know from an earlier visit and from many Portuguese friends. I would say that it is true, very true, that Portugal has been a great force for the Catholic faith, it carried that faith throughout the world; a courageous, intelligent and creative faith; it was able to create a great culture which we see in Brazil and in Portugal itself, but also in the presence of the Portuguese spirit in Africa and Asia. On the other hand, the spirit of secularism is nothing new. The dialectic between secularism and faith in Portugal has a long history. Already in the eighteenth century the presence of the Enlightenment was strongly felt: we need only think of the name Pombal. So we can see that in these last centuries Portugal has always been living in a dialectic, which nowadays has naturally become more radical and appears with all the marks of the contemporary European spirit. This strikes me both as a challenge and a great opportunity. In these centuries of a dialectic between enlightenment, secularism and faith, there were always individuals who sought to build bridges and create a dialogue, but unfortunately the prevailing tendency was one of opposition and mutual exclusion. Today we see that this very dialectic represents an opportunity and that we need to develop a synthesis and a forward-looking and profound dialogue. In the multicultural situation in which we all find ourselves, we see that if European culture were merely rationalist, it would lack a transcendent religious dimension, and not be able to enter into dialogue with the great cultures of humanity all of which have this transcendent religious dimension – which is a dimension of man himself. So to think that there exists a pure, anti-historical reason, solely self-existent, which is “reason” itself, is a mistake; we are finding more and more that it affects only part of man, it expresses a certain historical situation but it is not reason as such. Reason as such is open to transcendence and only in the encounter between transcendent reality and faith and reason does man find himself. So I think that the precise task and mission of Europe in this situation is to create this dialogue, to integrate faith and modern rationality in a single anthropological vision which approaches the human being as a whole and thus also makes human cultures communicable. So I would say that the presence of secularism is something normal, but the separation and the opposition between secularism and a culture of faith is something anomalous and must be transcended. The great challenge of the present moment is for the two to come together, and in this way to discover their true identity. This, as I have said, is Europe’s mission and mankind’s need in our history.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness. Let us continue with the subject of Europe. The economic crisis has recently worsened in Europe and involves Portugal in particular. Some European leaders think that the future of the European Union is at risk. What lessons can be learned from this crisis, also from the ethical and moral standpoint? What are the keys for consolidating unity and cooperation among Europe’s countries in the future?

Holy Father: I would say that this very economic crisis, with its moral component, that no one can ignore, is a practical, concrete case of what I said earlier, that is, that two separate cultural currents have to meet each other, or else we will not find the way to the future. Here too we find a false dualism, that is, an economic positivism that thinks it can work without an ethical component, a market regulated purely by itself, by economic forces alone, by the positivist and pragmatic reasoning of economics – while ethics would be something else, completely separate from it. The fact is, we are now seeing that a pure economic pragmatism which prescinds from the reality of man – who is an ethical being – does not end happily, but creates insoluble problems. So now is the time to see that ethics is not something extraneous, but intrinsic to economic reasoning and pragmatism. On the other hand, we must also confess that the Catholic, Christian faith, was often excessively individualistic; it left practical, economic matters to the world and thought only of individual salvation, religious acts, without seeing that these imply global responsibility, responsibility for the world. Hence, here too we need to enter into a concrete dialogue. I set out in my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate – and the whole tradition of the Church’s social teaching goes in this direction – to broaden the ethical aspect of the faith above and beyond the individual towards responsibility for the world, towards a “performative” reasoning inspired by ethics. On the other hand, the most recent events in the market, over the past two or three years, have shown that the ethical dimension is internal and needs to enter deeply into economic activity, since man is a unified being, and it is man that we are speaking of, as well as a sound anthropology which embraces the whole, and only thus can the problem be solved, and only thus can Europe carry out and achieve its mission.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, and now come to Fatima, in some way the culmination, even spiritually, of this visit. Your Holiness, what meaning do the Fatima apparitions have for us today? In June 2000, when you presented the text of the third secret in the Vatican Press Office, a number of us and our former colleagues were present. You were asked if the message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II, to other sufferings on the part of the Popes. Is it possible, to your mind, to include in that vision the sufferings of the Church today for the sins involving the sexual abuse of minors?

Holy Father: Before all else, I want to say how happy I am to be going to Fatima, to pray before Our Lady of Fatima. For us, Fatima is a sign of the presence of faith, of the fact that it is precisely from the little ones that faith gains new strength, one which is not limited to the little ones but has a message for the entire world and touches history here and now, and sheds light on this history. In 2000, in my presentation, I said that an apparition – a supernatural impulse which does not come purely from a person’s imagination but really from the Virgin Mary, from the supernatural – that such an impulse enters into a subject and is expressed according to the capacities of that subject. The subject is determined by his or her historical, personal, temperamental conditions, and so translates the great supernatural impulse into his or her own capabilities for seeing, imagining, expressing; yet these expressions, shaped by the subject, conceal a content which is greater, which goes deeper, and only in the course of history can we see the full depth, which was – let us say - “clothed” in this vision that was accessible to specific individuals. Consequently, I would say that, here too, beyond this great vision of the suffering of the Pope, which we can in the first place refer to Pope John Paul II, an indication is given of realities involving the future of the Church, which are gradually taking shape and becoming evident. So it is true that, in addition to moment indicated in the vision, there is mention of, there is seen, the need for a passion of the Church, which naturally is reflected in the person of the Pope, yet the Pope stands for the Church and thus it is sufferings of the Church that are announced. The Lord told us that the Church would constantly be suffering, in different ways, until the end of the world. The important thing is that the message, the response of Fatima, in substance is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is, to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. Thus we see here the true, fundamental response which the Church must give – which we, every one of us, must give in this situation. As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice. In a word, we need to relearn precisely this essential: conversion, prayer, penance and the theological virtues. This is our response, we are realists in expecting that evil always attacks, attacks from within and without, yet that the forces of good are also ever present and that, in the end, the Lord is more powerful than evil and Our Lady is for us the visible, motherly guarantee of God’s goodness, which is always the last word in history.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness, for the clarity and the depth of your answers and for this concluding word of hope which you have given us. We offer you our very best wishes that this very demanding journey will be a pleasant one for you and that during it you will experience all the joy and spiritual depth that an encounter with the mystery of Fatima inspires in us. We wish you a happy visit and we will strive to do a good job in our service, and to report objectively what you will do.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address at Belem Cultural Center
"Keep Alive the Search for Truth, and Consequently for God"

LISBON, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the Belem Cultural Center in Lisbon at a meeting with representatives of the world of culture.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops, Distinguished Authorities, Eminent representatives of the arts and sciences, Dear friends,
I am very pleased to meet you, men and women devoted to research and expansion in the various fields of knowledge, and worthy representatives of the rich world of culture in Portugal. I take this occasion to express my deep esteem and appreciation of you and your work. The Government, represented here by the Minister for Culture, to whom I extend my respectful and warm greetings, gives praiseworthy support to the national priorities of the world of culture. I am grateful to all those who have made this meeting possible, particularly the Cultural Commission of the Bishops’ Conference and its President, Bishop Manuel Clemente, whom I thank for his kind words of welcome and his presentation of the multifaceted reality of Portuguese culture, represented here by some of its most distinguished leaders. Their sentiments and expectations have been expressed by film director Manoel de Oliveira, a man venerable in years and in professional activity, to whom I extend my affectionate greetings and esteem. I also thank him for his kind words, which have given a glimpse of the concerns and the mood of the soul of Portugal in this turbulent period of the life of society.

Today’s culture is in fact permeated by a "tension" which at times takes the form of a "conflict" between the present and tradition. The dynamic movement of society gives absolute value to the present, isolating it from the cultural legacy of the past, without attempting to trace a path for the future. This emphasis on the "present" as a source of inspiration for the meaning of life, both individual and social, nonetheless clashes with the powerful cultural tradition of the Portuguese people, deeply marked by the millenary influence of Christianity and by a sense of global responsibility. This came to the fore in the adventure of the Discoveries and in the missionary zeal which shared the gift of faith with other peoples. The Christian ideal of universality and fraternity inspired this common adventure, even though influences from the Enlightenment and laicism also made themselves felt. This tradition gave rise to what could be called a "wisdom", that is to say, an understanding of life and history which included a corpus of ethical values and an "ideal" to be realized by Portugal, which has always sought to establish relations with the rest of the world.

The Church appears as the champion of a healthy and lofty tradition, whose rich contribution she sets at the service of society. Society continues to respect and appreciate her service to the common good but distances itself from that "wisdom" which is part of her legacy. This "conflict" between tradition and the present finds expression in the crisis of truth, yet only truth can provide direction and trace the path of a fulfilled existence both for individuals and for a people. Indeed, a people no longer conscious of its own truth ends up by being lost in the maze of time and history, deprived of clearly defined values and lacking great and clearly formulated goals. Dear friends, much still needs to be learned about the form in which the Church takes her place in the world, helping society to understand that the proclamation of truth is a service which she offers to society, and opening new horizons for the future, horizons of grandeur and dignity.

The Church, in effect, has "a mission of truth to accomplish, in every time and circumstance, for a society that is attuned to man, to his dignity, to his vocation. […] Fidelity to man requires fidelity to the truth, which alone is the guarantee of freedom (cf. Jn 8:32) and of the possibility of integral human development. For this reason the Church searches for truth, proclaims it tirelessly and recognizes it wherever it is manifested. This mission of truth is something that the Church can never renounce" (Caritas in Veritate, 9). For a society made up mainly of Catholics, and whose culture has been profoundly marked by Christianity, the search for truth apart from Christ proves dramatic. For Christians, Truth is divine; it is the eternal "Logos" which found human expression in Jesus Christ, who could objectively state: "I am the truth" (Jn 14:6). The Church, in her adherence to the eternal character of truth, is in the process of learning how to live with respect for other "truths" and for the truth of others. Through this respect, open to dialogue, new doors can be opened to the transmission of truth.

"The Church," wrote Pope Paul VI, "must enter into dialogue with the world in which she lives. The Church becomes word, she becomes message, she becomes dialogue" (Ecclesiam Suam, 67). Dialogue, without ambiguity and marked by respect for those taking part, is a priority in today’s world, and the Church does not intend to withdraw from it. A testimony to this is the Holy See’s presence in several international organizations, as for example her presence at the Council of Europe’s North-South Centre, established 20 years ago here in Lisbon, which is focused on intercultural dialogue with a view to promoting cooperation between Europe, the southern Mediterranean and Africa, and building a global citizenship based on human rights and civic responsibility, independent of ethnic origin or political allegiance, and respectful of religious beliefs. Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful.

Ours is a time which calls for the best of our efforts, prophetic courage and a renewed capacity to "point out new worlds to the world", to use the words of your national poet (Luís de Camões, Os Lusíades, II, 45). You who are representatives of culture in all its forms, forgers of thought and opinion, "thanks to your talent, have the opportunity to speak to the heart of humanity, to touch individual and collective sensibilities, to call forth dreams and hopes, to broaden the horizons of knowledge and of human engagement. […] Do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty!" (Address to Artists, 21 November 2009).

Precisely so as "to place the modern world in contact with the life-giving and perennial energies of the Gospel" (John XXIII, Apostolic Constitution Humanae Salutis, 3), the Second Vatican Council was convened. There the Church, on the basis of a renewed awareness of the Catholic tradition, took seriously and discerned, transformed and overcame the fundamental critiques that gave rise to the modern world, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. In this way the Church herself accepted and refashioned the best of the requirements of modernity by transcending them on the one hand, and on the other by avoiding their errors and dead ends. The Council laid the foundation for an authentic Catholic renewal and for a new civilization -- "the civilization of love" -- as an evangelical service to man and society.

Dear friends, the Church considers that her most important mission in today’s culture is to keep alive the search for truth, and consequently for God; to bring people to look beyond penultimate realities and to seek those that are ultimate. I invite you to deepen your knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ for our complete fulfilment. Produce beautiful things, but above all make your lives places of beauty.

May Our Lady of Belém intercede for you, she who has been venerated down through the centuries by navigators, and is venerated today by the navigators of Goodness, Truth and Beauty.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Prayer at Apparition Chapel
"I Consign the Golden Rose That I Have Brought From Rome"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010 ( Here is the prayer Benedict XVI pronounced today at the Chapel of Apparitions upon arriving to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

* * *

Our Lady,
Mother of all men and women,
I come before you as a son
visiting his Mother,
and I do so in company
with a multitude of brothers and sisters.
As the Successor of Peter,
to whom was entrusted the mission
of presiding in the service
of charity in the Church of Christ
and of confirming all in faith and in hope,
I wish to present to your
Immaculate Heart
the joys and hopes
as well as the problems and sufferings
of each one of these sons and daughters of yours
who are gathered in the Cova di Iria
or who are praying with us from afar.

Mother most gentle,
you know each one by name,
you know each one’s face and personal history,
and you love them all
with maternal benevolence
that wells up from the very heart of Divine Love.
I entrust and consecrate them all to you,
Mary Most Holy,
Mother of God and our Mother.

Cantors and Assembly: We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 1)

Holy Father:

The Venerable Pope John Paul II,
who visited you three times here in Fatima
and thanked the "unseen hand"
that rescued him from death
in the assassination attempt on 13 May
in Saint Peter’s Square almost thirty years ago,
wanted to offer to the Shrine of Fatima
a bullet which gravely wounded him
and was placed in the crown of the Queen of Peace.
It is a profound consolation
to know that you are crowned
not only with the silver
and gold of our joys and hopes,
but also with the "bullet"
of our anxieties and sufferings.

I thank you, beloved Mother,
for the prayers and sacrifices
that the shepherd-children
of Fatima offered for the Pope,
led by the sentiments
that you inspired in them in the apparitions.
I also thank all those who,
every day,
pray for the Successor of Peter
and for his intentions,
that the Pope may be strong in faith,
bold in hope and zealous in love.

Cantors and Assembly: We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 2)

Holy Father:

Beloved Mother of us all,
here in your Shrine at Fatima I consign
the Golden Rose
that I have brought from Rome
as a homage of gratitude from the Pope
for the marvels that the Almighty
has worked through you
in the hearts of so many who come as pilgrims
to this your maternal home.

I am sure that the shepherd-children of Fatima,
Blessed Francisco and Jacinta
and the Servant of God Lucia of Jesus,
are united with us at this hour of prayer and jubilation.

Cantors and Assembly: We sing to you and we praise you, O Mary (v. 5).


Pontiff's Homily at Vespers With Priests
"Thank You for Your Witness, Often Silent and Certainly Not Easy"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at the celebration of vespers with the religious, seminarians and diocesan priests at the Church of the Blessed Trinity in Fatima. The encounter was dedicated to the priesthood in this Year for Priests.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son born of woman, […] so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4,5). The fullness of time came when the Eternal broke into time; by the grace of the Holy Spirit the Son of the Most High was conceived and became man in the womb of a woman, the Virgin Mary, type and lofty model of the believing Church. The Church does not cease to beget new sons in the Son, whom the Father willed to be the first-born of many brothers. Each one of us is called to be with Mary and like Mary, a humble and simple sign of the Church who offers herself constantly as a spouse into the hands of her Lord.

To all of you who have given your life to Christ I wish to express this evening the Church’s appreciation and recognition. Thank you for your witness, often silent and certainly not easy; thank you for your fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church. In Jesus, present in the Eucharist, I embrace my brothers in the priesthood and the deacons, the consecrated women and men, the seminarians and the members of the movements and new ecclesial communities present. May the Lord reward, as he alone can and does, all those who have made it possible for us to gather together before the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. I mention especially the Episcopal Commission for Vocations and Ministries, with its President, Bishop António Santos, whom I thank for his greeting, full of collegial and fraternal affection, at the beginning of Vespers. In this "upper room" of faith which is Fatima, the Virgin Mother shows us the way to place our pure and holy offering into the hands of the Father.

Let me open my heart and tell you that the greatest concern of every Christian, especially of every consecrated person or minister of the altar, must be fidelity, loyalty to one’s own vocation, as a disciple who wishes to follow the Lord. Faithfulness over time is the name of love, of a consistent, true and profound love for Christ the Priest. "Since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalistic ethic and a shallow religiosity" (John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31). In this Year for Priests which is drawing to its close, may grace in abundance come down upon you that you may live joyfully your consecration and bear witness to your priestly fidelity grounded in the fidelity of Christ. This evidently supposes true intimacy with Christ in prayer, since it is the powerful and intense experience of the Lord’s love that brings priests and consecrated persons to respond to his love in way that is exclusive and spousal.

This life of special consecration was born to keep the Gospel always before the People of God, as a reminder which manifests, certifies and proclaims to the whole Church the radical nature of the Gospel and the coming of the Kingdom. Dear consecrated men and women, by your dedication to prayer, asceticism and growth in the spiritual life, to apostolic action and mission, you are progressing towards the heavenly Jerusalem, you are a foretaste of the eschatological Church, solid in her possession and loving contemplation of God who is love. How much we need this witness today! Many of our brothers and sisters live as if there were nothing beyond this life, and without concern for their eternal salvation. Men and women are called to know and love God, and the Church has the mission to assist them in this calling. We know well that God is the master of his gifts and that conversion is a grace. But we are responsible for proclaiming the faith, the whole faith, with all its demands. Dear friends, let us imitate the Curé of Ars who prayed to the Lord in the following words: "Grant me the conversion of my parish, and I accept to suffer all that you wish for the rest of my life". And he did everything to pull people away from their own lukewarm attitude in order to lead them back to love.

There exists a deep solidarity among all the members of the Body of Christ. It is not possible to love Christ without loving his brothers and sisters. For their salvation John Mary Vianney decided to become a priest: "to win souls for the good God", as he said when, at eighteen years of age, he announced his vocation, just as Paul had said: "to win as many as I could" (1 Cor 9:19). The Vicar General had told him: "there is not much love of God in the parish; you will bring it there". In his priestly passion, this holy parish priest was merciful like Jesus in meeting each sinner. He preferred to insist on the attractive aspect of virtue, on God’s mercy, in comparison to which our sins are like "grains of sand". He pointed to the merciful love of God which had been offended. He feared that priests would become "insensitive" and accustomed to the indifference of their faithful: "Woe to the Pastor – he would warn – who remains silent while God is offended and souls are lost".

Dear brother priests, in this place, which Mary has made special, keep before your eyes her vocation as a faithful disciple of her Son Jesus from the moment of his conception to the Cross, and then beyond, along the path of the nascent Church, and consider the unheard-of grace of your priesthood. Fidelity to one’s vocation requires courage and trust, but the Lord also wishes that you join forces: that you be concerned for one another and support one another fraternally. Moments of common prayer and study, and sharing in the demands of the priestly life and work, are a necessary part of your life. It is a fine thing when you welcome one another into your homes with the peace of Christ in your hearts! It is important to assist one another with prayer, helpful advice and discernment! Be especially attentive to those situations where there is a certain weakening of priestly ideals or dedication to activities not fully consonant with what is proper for a minister of Jesus Christ. Then is the time to take a firm stand, with an attitude of warm fraternal love, as brother assisting his brother to "remain on his feet".

The priesthood of Christ is eternal (cf. Heb 5:6), but the life of priests is limited. Christ has willed that others continue in time the priestly ministry that he instituted. Keep alive in your hearts, and in others around you, the desire to raise up – in cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit – new priestly vocations among the faithful. Trustful and persevering prayer, joyful love of one’s own vocation and commitment to the work of spiritual direction will allow you to discern the charism of vocation in those whom God calls.

Dear seminarians, who have taken the first step towards the priesthood and are preparing in the major seminary or in houses of formation, the Pope encourages you to be conscious of the great responsibility which you will have to assume. Carefully examine your intentions and your motivations. Devote yourselves with a steadfast heart and a generous spirit to your training. The Eucharist, which is the centre of Christian life and the school of humility and service, should be your first love. Adoration, piety and care for the Most Holy Sacrament during these years of preparation will lead you one day to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Altar in an edifying and devout manner.

Along this path of fidelity, beloved priests and deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians and committed lay persons, may the Blessed Virgin Mary guide us. With her and like her, we are free so as to be saints; free so as to be poor, chaste and obedient; free for all because detached from all, free from self so that others may grow in Christ, the true Holy One of the Father and the Shepherd to whom priests, as his presence, lend their voice and their gestures; free to bring to today’s world Jesus who died and rose again, Jesus who remains with us until the end of time and who gives himself to all in the Most Holy Eucharist.


Benedict XVI's Act of Consecration of Priests
"May the Church Be Thus Renewed by Priests Who Are Holy"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, prayed today by Benedict XVI at the conclusion of the celebration of vespers with the religious, seminarians and diocesan priests at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Fatima.

The encounter was dedicated to the priesthood in this Year for Priests.

* * *

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called us
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our “here I am”.

Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
“They have no wine” (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
“Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of “visiting us”,
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!


© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Holy Father's Address at Fatima Shrine
"Do Not Be Afraid to Talk of God"

FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before leading the faithful in the recitation of the rosary at the Chapel of Apparitions, Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

* * *

Dear pilgrims,

All of you, standing together with lighted candles in your hands, seem like a sea of light around this simple chapel, lovingly built to the honour of the Mother of God and our mother, whose path from earth to heaven appeared to the shepherd children like a way of light. However, neither Mary nor we have a light of our own: we receive it from Jesus. His presence within us renews the mystery and the call of the burning bush which once drew Moses on Mount Sinai and still fascinates those aware of the light within us which burns without consuming us (cf. Ex 3:2-5). We are merely a bush, but one upon which the glory of God has now come down. To him therefore be every glory, and to us the humble confession of our nothingness and the unworthy adoration of the divine plan which will be fulfilled when "God will be all in all" (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). The matchless servant of that plan was the Virgin full of grace: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

Dear pilgrims, let us imitate Mary, letting her words "Let it be done to me" resound in our lives. God ordered Moses: "Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground" (Ex3:5). And that is what he did: he would put his shoes back on to free his people from slavery in Egypt and to guide them to the promised land. This was not about the possession of a parcel of land or about the national territory to which every people has a right; in the struggle for the freedom of Israel and in the exodus from Egypt, what appears central is above all the freedom to worship, the freedom of a religion of one’s own. Throughout the history of the chosen people, the promise of a homeland comes more and more to mean this: the land is granted in order to be a place of obedience, a window open to God.

In our time, in which the faith in many places seems like a light in danger of being snuffed out forever, the highest priority is to make God visible in the world and to open to humanity a way to God. And not to any god, but to the God who had spoken on Sinai; the God whose face we recognize in the love borne to the very end (cf. Jn 13:1) in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Dear brothers and sisters, worship Christ the Lord in your hearts (cf. 1 Pet 3:15)! Do not be afraid to talk of God and to manifest without fear the signs of faith, letting the light of Christ shine in the presence of the people of today, just as the Church which gives birth to humanity as the family of God sings on the night of the Easter Vigil.

Brothers and sisters, in this place it is amazing to think how three children entrusted themselves to the interior force which had enflamed them in the apparitions of the Angel and of our heavenly Mother. In this place where we were repeatedly requested to recite the rosary, let us allow ourselves to be attracted by the mysteries of Christ, the mysteries of Mary’s rosary. The recitation of the rosary allows us to fix our gaze and our hearts upon Jesus, just like his Mother, the supreme model of contemplation of the Son. Meditating upon the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious mysteries as we pray our Hail Marys, let us reflect upon the interior mystery of Jesus, from the Incarnation, through the Cross, to the glory of the Resurrection; let us contemplate the intimate participation of Mary in the mystery of our life in Christ today, a life which is also made up of joy and sorrow, of darkness and light, of fear and hope. Grace invades our hearts, provoking a wish for an incisive and evangelical change of life so that we can say with Saint Paul: "For me to live is Christ" (Phil 1:21) in a communion of life and destiny with Christ.

The devotion and affection of all of you, the faithful who have come here from all around the world, is clear to me. I bring with me the worries and hopes of our times, the sufferings of our wounded humanity and the problems of the world, and I place them at the feet of Our Lady of Fatima: Virgin Mother of God and our own dear Mother, intercede for us before your Son, that the family of nations, both those called Christians and those who do not yet know the Saviour, may live in peace and harmony, in order that they come together as the one people of God, to the glory of the most holy and indivisible Trinity. Amen.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address Upon Arriving to Portugal
"I Come As a Pilgrim to Our Lady of Fatima"

LISBON, Portugal, MAY 11, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon arriving at Portugal's Lisbon Portela Airport.

Today the Pope began his 4-day visit to the country to mark the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who were two of the witnesses of Our Lady of Fatima's apparitions in 1917.

* * *

Mr President,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Only now has it been possible for me to accept the kind invitations of the President and my Brother Bishops to visit this beloved and ancient Nation, which this year is celebrating the centenary of the proclamation of the Republic. As I set foot on Portuguese soil for the first time since Divine Providence called me to the See of Peter, I feel greatly honoured and I am moved to gratitude by the respectful and hospitable presence of all of you. I thank you, Mr President, for your kind words of welcome, giving voice to the sentiments and the hopes of the beloved Portuguese people. To all, whatever their faith or religion, I extend a greeting in friendship, especially to those who were unable to be here to meet me. I come as a pilgrim to Our Lady of Fatima, having received from on high the mission to strengthen my brothers as they advance along their pilgrim journey to heaven.

Since the earliest days of their nationhood, the Portuguese people have looked to the Successor of Peter for recognition of their existence as a Nation; in due course, one of my predecessors was to honour Portugal, in the person of its King, with the title "most faithful" (cf. Pius II, Bull Dum Tuam, 25 January 1460), for long and distinguished service to the cause of the Gospel. As for the event that took place 93 years ago, when heaven itself was opened over Portugal -- like a window of hope that God opens when man closes the door to him -- in order to refashion, within the human family, the bonds of fraternal solidarity based on the mutual recognition of the one Father, this was a loving design from God; it does not depend on the Pope, nor on any other ecclesial authority: "It was not the Church that imposed Fatima", as Cardinal Manuel Cerejeira of blessed memory used to say, "but it was Fatima that imposed itself on the Church."

The Virgin Mary came from heaven to remind us of Gospel truths that constitute for humanity -- so lacking in love and without hope for salvation -- the source of hope. To be sure, this hope has as its primary and radical dimension not the horizontal relation, but the vertical and transcendental one. The relationship with God is constitutive of the human being, who was created and ordered towards God; he seeks truth by means of his cognitive processes, he tends towards the good in the sphere of volition, and he is attracted by beauty in the aesthetic dimension. Consciousness is Christian to the degree to which it opens itself to the fullness of life and wisdom that we find in Jesus Christ. The visit that I am now beginning under the sign of hope is intended as a proposal of wisdom and mission.

From a wise vision of life and of the world, the just ordering of society follows. Situated within history, the Church is open to cooperating with anyone who does not marginalize or reduce to the private sphere the essential consideration of the human meaning of life. The point at issue is not an ethical confrontation between a secular and a religious system, so much as a question about the meaning that we give to our freedom. What matters is the value attributed to the problem of meaning and its implication in public life. By separating Church and State, the Republican revolution which took place 100 years ago in Portugal, opened up a new area of freedom for the Church, to which the two concordats of 1940 and 2004 would give shape, in cultural settings and ecclesial perspectives profoundly marked by rapid change. For the most part, the sufferings caused by these transformations have been faced with courage. Living amid a plurality of value systems and ethical outlooks requires a journey to the core of one’s being and to the nucleus of Christianity so as to reinforce the quality of one’s witness to the point of sanctity, and to find mission paths that lead even to the radical choice of martyrdom.

Dear Portuguese brothers and sisters, my friends, I thank you once more for your cordial welcome. May God bless those who are here and all the inhabitants of this noble and beloved Nation, which I entrust to Our Lady of Fatima, the sublime image of God’s love embracing all as children.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Lisbon Mass
"Base Your Human Hopes Upon Divine Hope"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during a public Mass in Lisbon's Commerce Square, also known as Palace Square.

Today the Pope began his 4-day visit to the country to mark the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who were two of the witnesses of Our Lady of Fatima's apparitions in 1917.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young Friends,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19-20). These words of the risen Christ take on a particular significance in this city of Lisbon, from which generations upon generations of Christians – bishops, priests, consecrated and lay persons, men and women, young and not so young – have journeyed forth in great numbers in obedience to the Lord’s call, armed simply with the certainty that he had entrusted to them: “I am with you always”. Portugal has gained a glorious place among the nations for the service rendered to the spreading of the faith: in all five continents there are local churches that owe their origin to Portuguese missionary activity.

In times past, your departure in search of other peoples neither impeded nor severed your bonds with what you were and what you believed. On the contrary, with Christian wisdom you succeeded in transplanting experiences and characteristic elements, opening yourselves up to the contribution of others so as to be yourselves, through an apparent weakness which is actually strength. Today, as you play your part in building up the European Community, you offer the contribution of your cultural and religious identity. Indeed, just as Jesus Christ joined the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so today he walks with us in accordance with his promise: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” We too have a real and personal experience of the risen Lord, even if it differs from that of the Apostles. The distance of centuries is overcome and the risen Lord presents himself alive and at work, acting through us, in the Church and the world of today. This is our great joy. In the living river of ecclesial Tradition, Christ is not two thousand years distant from us, but is really present among us: he gives us the Truth and he gives us the light which is our life and helps us find the path towards the future.

Present in his word, present in the assembly of the people of God with its Pastors, and pre-eminently present in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, Jesus is here with us. I greet the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, whom I thank for the affectionate words that he addressed to me at the start of the celebration, in the name of his community that has made me so welcome. I in turn embrace the almost two million sons and daughters who form that community. To all of you here present – dear brother bishops and priests, beloved consecrated women and men and members of the lay faithful, dear families and young people, baptized and catechumens – I address my fraternal and friendly greeting, which I extend to those who are united with us through radio and television. I warmly thank the President of the Republic for his presence, as well as the other authorities, especially the Mayor of Lisbon, who has been good enough to confer upon me the keys of the city.

Lisbon – friend, port and shelter for the great hopes that were placed in you by those who set off from here, hopes that were cherished by those who visited you – today I wish to make use of these keys that you have given me so that you may be able to base your human hopes upon divine Hope. In the reading that has just been proclaimed, taken from the First Letter of Saint Peter, we heard: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame”. And the Apostle explains: Draw near to the Lord, “that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious” (1 Pet 2:6,4). Brothers and sisters, those who believe in Jesus will not be put to shame: he is the Word of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and this Word is attested by a “great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues,” a multitude pictured by the author of the Apocalypse “clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev 7:9). This countless multitude includes not only Saints Verissimus, Maxima and Julia, martyred here during the persecution of Diocletian, Saint Vincent, deacon and martyr, the principal patron of the Patriarchate, Saint Anthony and Saint John of Brito who set off from here to sow God’s good seed in other lands and among other peoples, and Saint Nuno of Santa Maria, whom I added to the ranks of the Saints just over a year ago. It is formed of the “servants of our God” from all times and places, on whose forehead the sign of the cross has been inscribed with “the seal of the living God” (Rev 7:2), that is to say, with the Holy Spirit. I am referring to the initial rite administered to each one of us in the sacrament of Baptism, through which the Church gives birth to the “saints”.

We know that she also has quarrelsome and even rebellious sons and daughters, but it is in the saints that the Church recognizes her most characteristic features, it is in them that she tastes her deepest joy. They all share the desire to incarnate the Gospel in their own lives, under the inspiration of the eternal animator of God’s People – the Holy Spirit. Focussing her attention upon her own saints, this local Church has rightly concluded that today’s pastoral priority is to make each Christian man and woman a radiant presence of the Gospel perspective in the midst of the world, in the family, in culture, in the economy, in politics. Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavour?

In order for this not to happen, it is necessary to proclaim anew with vigour and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity, the fulcrum and mainstay of our faith, the firm lever of our certainties, the strong wind that sweeps away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation. The resurrection of Christ assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church. Therefore our faith is well-founded, but this faith needs to come alive in each one of us. A vast effort at every level is required if every Christian is to be transformed into a witness capable of rendering account to all and at all times of the hope that inspires him (cf. 1 Pet 3:15): only Christ can fully satisfy the profound longings of every human heart and give answers to its most pressing questions concerning suffering, injustice and evil, concerning death and the life hereafter.

Dear brothers and sisters, dear young friends, Christ is always with us and always walks with his Church, accompanies her and guards her, as he has told us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). Never doubt his presence! Always seek the Lord Jesus, grow in friendship with him, receive him in communion. Learn to listen to his word and also to recognize him in the poor. Live your lives with joy and enthusiasm, sure of his presence and of his unconditional, generous friendship, faithful even to death on the cross. Bear witness to all of the joy that his strong yet gentle presence evokes, starting with your contemporaries. Tell them that it is beautiful to be a friend of Jesus and that it is well worth following him. With your enthusiasm, demonstrate that, among all the different ways of life that the world today seems to offer us – apparently all on the same level – the only way in which we find the true meaning of life and hence true and lasting joy, is by following Jesus.

Seek daily the protection of Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. She, the all-holy one, will help you to be faithful disciples of her Son Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Greeting to Youth at Apostolic Nunciature
"Thank You for Your Joyful Witness to Christ"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 11, 2010 ( Here is a Vatican translation of the brief greeting Benedict XVI delivered today to the youth who gathered at the Apostolic Nunciature in Lisbon to welcome the Pope to Portugal, and receive his apostolic blessing.

Today the Pope began his 4-day visit to the country to mark the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto, who were two of the witnesses of Our Lady of Fatima's apparitions in 1917.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young Friends,
Dear Friends,

I appreciated the lively and numerous participation of young people in this afternoon’s Mass on the Terreiro do Paço, a clear indication of their faith and their desire to build their future on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your joyful witness to Christ, who is eternally young, and thank you for the kindness you have shown to his humble Vicar on earth by gathering here this evening. You have come to wish me good night and from my heart I thank you; but now you must let me go and sleep, otherwise the night will not be good, and tomorrow awaits us.

I am very happy in being able to join the multitude of pilgrims to Fatima on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Beatification of Francisco and Jacinta. With Our Lady’s help, they learned to recognize God’s light in the depths of their hearts and to adore it in their lives. May the Virgin Mary obtain the same grace for you and may she protect you! I continue to count on you and on your prayers that this Visit to Portugal may bear abundant fruit. And now, with great affection, I give you my blessing, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Good night! See you tomorrow.

Thank you very much!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana



VATICAN CITY, 10 MAY 2010 (VIS) - "The definitive text of the second volume of the book 'Jesus of Nazareth' by His Holiness Benedict XVI was recently consigned to the publishers entrusted with its publication", says a note released today by the Holy See Press Office.

"This second volume is dedicated to the Passion and the Resurrection, and starts where the first volume finished", says the note. "The German original was simultaneously consigned to Manuel Herder - the publisher editing the complete works ('Gesammelte Schriften') of Joseph Ratzinger - and to Fr. Giuseppe Costa, director of the Vatican Publishing House.

"The latter, as the main publisher, will be responsible for the concession of rights, the publication of the Italian edition, and the delivery of the text to other publishers for translation into the various languages, which will be undertaken directly from the German original.

"The hope is that the publication of the book in the major languages will come about contemporaneously. Yet this, however rapid, will still require various months, given the times necessary for an accurate translation of such an important and long-awaited text".


On the Month Dedicated to Mary
"Humble and Discreet Protagonist of the 1st Steps of the Christian Community"

Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli together with the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

May is a month that is loved and its arrival is welcome for several reasons. In our hemisphere spring advances with so many and colorful blossoms; the climate is favorable for walks and excursions. For the liturgy, May always belongs to the Easter Season, the season of the "alleluia," of the revelation of the mystery of Christ in the light of the Resurrection and of the Easter faith; and it is the time of expectation of the Holy Spirit, who descends with power on the nascent Church at Pentecost. With both these contexts, the "natural" and the liturgical, the tradition of the Church is well in tune in dedicating the month of May to the Virgin Mary. She is, in fact, the most beautiful flower to blossom in creation, the "rose" that appeared in the fullness of time, when God, sending his Son, gave the world a new spring. And she is at the same time humble and discreet protagonist of the first steps of the Christian community: Mary is its spiritual heart, because her very presence in the midst of the disciples is a living memory of the Lord Jesus and pledge of the gift of his Spirit.

This Sunday's Gospel, taken from Chapter 14 of St. John, offers us an implicit spiritual portrait of the Virgin Mary, where Jesus says: "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (John 14:23). These expressions are addressed to the disciples, but they can be applied precisely to her who is the first and perfect disciple of Jesus. Mary in fact observed first and fully the word of her Son, thus demonstrating that she loved him not only as his mother, but first still as humble and obedient handmaid; because of this God the Father loved her and the Most Holy Trinity made its dwelling in her. Moreover, when Jesus promises his friends that the Holy Spirit will assist them, helping them to remember and understand profoundly every word of his (cf. John 14:26), how can we not think of Mary, who in her heart, temple of the Spirit, meditated and interpreted faithfully everything that her Son said and did? In this way, already before and above all after Easter, the Mother of Jesus became also the Mother and model of the Church.

Dear friends, in the heart of this Marian month, I will have the joy of going in the forthcoming days to Portugal. I will visit the capital, Lisbon, and Porto, the country's second city. The principal objective of my trip will be Fatima, on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Beatification of the two little shepherds, Jacinta and Francisco. For the first time as Successor of Peter I will go to that Marian Shrine, so dear to the Venerable John Paul II. I invite everyone to accompany me on this pilgrimage, participating actively with prayer: with only one heart and one soul we invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary for the Church, in particular for priests, and for peace in the world.


Papal Address to New Swiss Guards
"Maintain the Legacy Received From Your Predecessors"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 7, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the new recruits of the Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps, on the occasion of their entry into the military institution. He addressed the group in German, Italian and French, which are the three official languages of Switzerland.

* * *

Esteemed Mr. Commander, Reverend Mr. Chaplain,
Dear Guards, dear Relatives,

I welcome you all with joy and greet in particular the new recruits, who are accompanied by their relatives and friends gathered here.

You can be proud, with reason, given that by the oath you have just taken, you have joined a Corps of the Guard with a long history. No sooner you don the familiar uniform, than you are immediately recognized by everyone as a Swiss Guard, and thus you are recognized and respected. From now on, you will also benefit from the experience accumulated in the course of the centuries, and from all the resources that will enable you to carry out your task. As of today, you become guardians of a tradition and of practical knowledge that has been entrusted to you. Your task is to contribute so that this tradition will continue. With it your responsibility will be measured, and it will ask of you a generous dedication. The Successor of Peter sees in you a true support and entrusts to you his safeguarding. It is my sincere desire that through your service in the Guard you will maintain the legacy received from your predecessors and that it will make you mature as men and as Christians.

By entering into the Pontifical Swiss Guard, you are associated, indirectly but really, to the service of Peter in the Church. From today on, in your meditation on the Word of God, I invite you to pay much attention to the Apostle Peter when he, after the Resurrection of Christ, commits himself to fulfill the mission that the Lord entrusted to him.

These passages of Scripture clarify the meaning of your noble commitment, and this in a singular way in possible moments of exhaustion or toil. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that Peter went through the whole of Judea, to visit the faithful (cf.Acts 9:32). The first of the Apostles thus manifests concretely his solicitude for all. The Pope wishes to pay the same attention to all the Churches and to each faithful, as well as to all those who expect something from the Church. With the Successor of Peter, the charity that animates your soul must be universal. Your heart is called to enlarge itself. Your service will inspire you to discover in the face of everyone a pilgrim that, on his journey, hopes to meet another face through which he is given a living sign of the Lord, owner of the whole of life and of all graces.

We know that everything we do for the Name of Jesus, even if it is humble, transforms us and configures us a bit more to the new man regenerated in Christ. Thus your service in favor of the Petrine ministry will give you a more living sense of catholicity, together with a more profound perception of the dignity of the man who passes next to you and who seeks in his innermost self the path of eternal life. Lived with professional awareness and a supernatural sense, your duty will prepare you also for future commitments, personal and public, which you will undertake when you leave this service, and which will enable you to assume them as true disciples of the Lord.

Invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of your holy Patrons Sebastian, Martin and Nicholas of Flue, I impart from my heart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you, to your families, to your friends and to all the persons who came to accompany you in the moment of your oath.


On the Priest's Mission to Sanctify
"Be Conscious of the Great Gift That Priests Are for the Church"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 5, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Sunday, in my pastoral visit to Turin, I had the joy of pausing in prayer before the Holy Shroud, joining the more than 2 million pilgrims that during the solemn exposition of these days, have been able to contemplate it. This sacred Cloth can nourish faith and reinvigorate Christian piety, because it impels one to go to the Face of Christ, to the Body of Christ crucified and resurrected, to contemplate the Paschal Mystery, the center of the Christian message. Of the Body of the resurrected Christ, living and operating in history (cf. Romans 12:5), we, dear brothers and sisters, are living members, each one in our own function, namely, with the task that the Lord has entrusted us.

Today, in this catechesis, I would like to return to the specific tasks of priests, which, according to tradition, are essentially three: to teach, to sanctify, to govern. In one of the preceding catecheses I spoke about the first of these three missions: teaching, the proclamation of the truth, the proclamation of the God revealed in Christ or, in other words, the prophetic task of putting man in contact with the truth, of helping him to know the essential of his life, of reality itself.

Today I would like to reflect briefly with you on the second task the priest has, that of sanctifying men, above all through the sacraments and the worship of the Church. Here first of all we must ask ourselves: what does the word "saint" mean? The answer is: "Saint" is the specific quality of God's being, that is, absolute truth, goodness, love, beauty -- pure light. Hence, to sanctify a person means to put him in contact with God, with his being light, truth, pure love. It is obvious that this contact transforms the person. In ancient times there was this firm conviction: No one can see God without dying right away. The force of truth and light is too great! If man touches this absolute current, he does not survive. Moreover, there was also this conviction: Without a minimum contact with God, man cannot live. Truth, goodness, love are fundamental conditions of his being. The question is: How can man find this contact with God, which is fundamental, without dying, overwhelmed by the grandeur of the divine being? The faith of the Church tells us that God himself creates this contact, which transforms us little by little into true images of God.

Thus we return again to the task of the priest to "sanctify." No man on his own, by his own strength, can put another in contact with God. An essential part of the grace of priesthood is the gift, the task to create this contact. This is done in the proclamation of the Word of God, in which He comes to meet us. It is done in a particularly profound way in the sacraments. Immersion in the Paschal Mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ happens in baptism, is reinforced in confirmation and in reconciliation, is nourished in the Eucharist, the sacrament that builds the Church as People of God, Body of Christ, Temple of the Holy Spirit (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation 'Pastores Gregis,' No. 32).

Hence, it is Christ himself who makes us saints, namely, who attracts us to the sphere of God. But as an act of his infinite mercy he calls some to "be" with him (cf. Mark 3:14) and to be converted, through the sacrament of Holy Orders, despite human poverty, into participants in his own priesthood, ministers of this sanctification, dispensers of his mysteries, "bridges" of the encounter with him, of his mediation between God and men and between men and God (cf. po, 5).

In the last decades there have been tendencies oriented to having the dimension of proclamation prevail in the identity and mission of the priest, separating it from that of sanctification: It has often been affirmed that it would be necessary to surmount a merely sacramental ministry. But, is it possible to genuinely exercise the priestly ministry "surmounting" the sacramental ministry? What does it mean exactly for priests to evangelize, in what does the so-called primacy of proclamation consist?

As the Gospels state, Jesus affirms that the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the objective of his mission; this proclamation, however, is not only a "speech," but includes, at the same time, his very action; the signs, the miracles that Jesus does indicate that the Kingdom comes as a present reality and that it coincides in the end with his very person, with the gift of himself, as we have heard today in the reading of the Gospel. And the same is true for the ordained minister: he, the priest, represents Christ, the One sent by the Father, he continues his mission, through the "word" and the "sacrament," in this totality of body and soul, of sign and word. In a letter to Bishop Honoratus of Thiabe, St. Augustine says, referring to priests: "The servants of Christ, the ministers of his word and of his sacrament must, therefore, do what he commanded or permitted" (Epist. 228,2). It is necessary to reflect if in some cases this undervaluing of the faithful exercise of the munus sanctificandi did not represent, perhaps, a weakening of the faith itself in the salvific efficacy of the sacraments and, in short, in the present action of Christ and of his Spirit, through the Church, in the world.

Who, therefore, saves the world and man? The only answer we can give is: Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, crucified and resurrected. And where is the mystery realized of the death and resurrection of Christ, which brings salvation? In the action of Christ through the Church, in particular in the sacrament of reconciliation, in which from the death of sin one returns to the new life, and in every other sacramental act of sanctification (cf. po, 5). Hence, it is important to promote a suitable catechesis to help the faithful to understand the value of the sacraments, but it is also necessary, following the example of the Holy Curé d'Ars, to be available, generous and attentive in giving the faithful the treasure of grace that God has placed in our hands, and of which we are not the "owners," but custodians and administrators. Above all in this our time in which, on one hand, it seems that faith is weakening and, on the other, that a profound need and widespread search of spirituality is emerging, it is necessary that every priest remember that in his mission, the missionary proclamation, worship and the sacraments are never separated, and that he promote a healthy sacramental ministry to form the People of God and to help them live the liturgy, the worship of the Church, the sacraments in fullness as free gifts of God, free and effective acts of his saving action.

As I reminded in the Holy Chrism Mass of this year: "At the centre of the Church’s worship is the notion of 'sacrament.' This means that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through his action, he looks upon us and he leads us to himself. (...) God touches us through material things (...) that he takes up into his service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and himself" (Holy Chrism Mass, April 1, 2010). The truth according to which in the sacrament "it is not we men who do something" also affects, and must affect, the priestly awareness: Every presbyter knows well that he is a necessary instrument of the salvific action of God, but always as an instrument. This awareness must make one humble and generous in the administration of the sacraments, in respect of the canonical norms, but also in the profound conviction that one's mission is that of making all men, united to Christ, able to offer themselves to God as a living and holy host agreeable to him (cf. Romans 12:1).

Exemplary, on the primacy of the munus sanctificandi and of the correct interpretation of sacramental ministry, continues to be St. John Mary Vianney, who, one day, before a man who said he had no faith and wanted to debate with him, the parish priest answered: "O, my friend, you conduct yourself very poorly, I don't know how to reason ... but if you are in need of some consolation, place yourself there (his finger indicated the immobile footstool of the confessional) and believe me, that many others placed themselves on it before you, and they did not have to regret it" (cf. Monnin A., Il Curato d'Ars. Vita di Gian Battista Maria Vianney, vol. i, Turin, 1870, pp. 163-164).

Dear priests, live the liturgy and worship with joy and love: It is action that the Risen One carries out through the power of the Holy Spirit in us, with us and for us. I would like to renew the invitation I recently made to "return to the confessional as a place in which to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but also as a place in which 'to dwell' more often, so that the faithful may find compassion, advice and comfort, feel that they are loved and understood by God and experience the presence of Divine Mercy beside the Real Presence in the Eucharist" (Address to the Apostolic Penitentiary, March 11, 2010). And I would also like to invite each priest to celebrate and live the Eucharist with intensity, which is at the heart of the task of sanctifying; it is Jesus who wants to be with us, to live in us, to give himself to us, to show us the infinite mercy and tenderness of God; it is the only Sacrifice of love of Christ that makes itself present, is realized among us and reaches the throne of grace, the presence of God, embraces humanity and unites us to him (cf. Address to the Clergy of Rome, February 18, 2010).

And the priest is called to be minister of this great Mystery, in the sacrament and in life. If "the great ecclesial tradition has rightly separated sacramental efficacy from the concrete existential situation of the individual priest and so the legitimate expectations of the faithful are appropriately safeguarded," this does not take anything away from the "necessary, indeed indispensable, aspiration to moral perfection that must dwell in every authentically priestly heart": There is also an example of faith and witness of sanctity that the People of God rightly expect from their pastors (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Clergy, March 16, 2009). And it is in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries where the priest finds the root of his sanctification (cf. po, 12-13).

Dear friends, be conscious of the great gift that priests are for the Church and for the world; through their ministry, the Lord continues saving men, making himself present, sanctifying. Know how to thank God, and above all be close to your priests with your prayer and support, especially in difficulties, so that they will be increasingly shepherds according to the heart of God. Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT]

[In English, he said}

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During my recent visit to Turin, I prayed before the sacred Shroud, which invites us to contemplate the face of Christ and to ponder the mystery of his death and resurrection. As members of Christ's Body, the Church, all the baptized are called to share in his saving work. In these final days of the Year for Priests, however, I would like to return to the specific ministry of the priest and, today, to his ministry of sanctification. Holiness, as we know, is proper to God, who is himself absolute truth, goodness, love and beauty. As ministers of Christ, priests bring us into life-giving contact with the mystery of God's holiness. Thanks to the priest's preaching of the Gospel and his celebration of the sacraments, we are enabled to approach God and to be transformed gradually into the divine image. In the celebration of the sacraments, and in particular the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Christ's sanctifying work is constantly made present and effective. In their devout celebration of the sacraments, priests sanctify the faithful and are themselves sanctified and configured ever more closely to Christ. I ask all of you to pray for priests and their ministry of sanctification, that they may be true shepherds according to God's heart.

I offer a cordial welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience. My warm greetings go to the teachers and students of the Institute of Saint Joseph in Copenhagen. Upon all of you, including those from England, Scotland, Canada, Indonesia and the United States of America, I invoke Almighty God's blessings of joy and peace!

I send cordial greetings to all who will be taking part in the congress on the Family in Jonkoping, Sweden, later this month. Your message to the world is truly a message of joy, because God's gift to us of marriage and family life enables us to experience something of the infinite love that unites the three divine persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, are made for love -- indeed at the core of our being, we long to love and to be loved in return. Only God's love can fully satisfy our deepest needs, and yet through the love of husband and wife, the love of parents and children, the love of siblings for one another, we are offered a foretaste of the boundless love that awaits us in the life to come. Marriage is truly an instrument of salvation, not only for married people but for the whole of society. Like any truly worthwhile goal, it places demands upon us, it challenges us, it calls us to be prepared to sacrifice our own interests for the good of the other. It requires us to exercise tolerance and to offer forgiveness. It invites us to nurture and protect the gift of new life. Those of us fortunate enough to be born into a stable family discover there the first and most fundamental school for virtuous living and the qualities of good citizenship. I encourage all of you in your efforts to promote a proper understanding and appreciation of the inestimable good that marriage and family life offer to human society. May God bless all of you.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said]

Last May 3 in New York opened the eighth review conference for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The process toward a concerted and secure disarmament is closely connected with the full and solicitous fulfillment of related international commitments. Peace, in fact, rests on the trust and respect of the obligations assumed, and not only on the balance of forces. In such a spirit, I encourage the initiatives that pursue a progressive disarmament and the creation of areas free of nuclear arms, in the prospect of their complete elimination from the planet. I exhort, finally, all the participants in the meeting in New York to surmount the conditionings of history and to knit patiently the political and economic fabric of peace, to help integral human development and the authentic aspirations of peoples.

Finally, I greet young people, the sick and newlyweds. Dear young people, especially you students of Palermo, with your presence you witness faith in Jesus Christ who calls you to build his Church together with your pastors, each one according to his responsibility. Correspond with generosity to his invitation. Dear sick, you are also here today to fulfill an act of faith and ecclesial communion. The daily weight of your suffering, if offered to Jesus Christ Crucified, gives you the possibility of cooperating in your salvation and that of the world. And you also, dear newlyweds, with your union are called to be expression of the love that binds Christ to the Church. Be always conscious of the high mission to which the sacrament you received commits you.


Papal Homily at Cardinal Mayer's Funeral Mass
"The Christian Is Distinguished by the Fact That He Places His Security in God"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 3, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave during the funeral liturgy for Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer, who died Friday at the age of 98. The funeral was held today in St. Peter's Basilica.

The cardinal, although retired at the time of his death, had served as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and president of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei."

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Venerated Brothers,
Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Also for our beloved brother, Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer, the hour has come to leave this world. He was born, almost a century ago, in my own land, precisely in Altotting, where the famous Marian shrine arises to which many of the affections and memories of us, Bavarians, are linked. Thus is the destiny of human existence: It flowers from the earth -- at a precise point of the world -- and is called to Heaven, to the homeland from which it comes mysteriously. "Desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus" (Psalm 41/42:2). In this verb "desiderat" is the whole man, his being flesh, spirit, earth and heaven. It is the original mystery of the image of God in man. Young Paul -- who later as a monk was called Augustin -- Mayer studied this topic, in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, for his doctorate in theology. It is the mystery of eternal life, deposited in us as a seed since baptism, which must be received in the journey of our life, until the day that we give back the spirit to God the Father.

"Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum" (Luke 23:46). Jesus' last words on the cross guide us in prayer and in meditation, while we are gathered around the altar to give our last farewell to our mourned brother. Every funeral celebration of ours is placed under the sign of hope: In the last breath of Jesus on the cross (cf. Luke 23:46; John 19:30), God gave himself wholly to humanity, filling the void opened by sin and re-establishing the victory of life over death. Because of this, every man who dies in the Lord participates through faith in this act of infinite love, in some way gives up his spirit together with Christ, in the sure hope that the hand of the Father will resurrect him from the dead and introduce him into the Kingdom of life.

"Hope does not disappoint us," says the Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Rome, "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). The great and unfailing hope, founded on the solid rock of the love of God, assures us that the life of those who die in Christ "is not taken away but transformed"; and that "while the dwelling of this earthly exile is destroyed, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven" (Preface of the Dead I). In an age such as ours, in which fear of death leads many people to despair and to the search for illusory consolations, the Christian is distinguished by the fact that he places his security in God, in a love so great that it can renew the whole world. "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5), states he who sits on the throne at the end of the Book of Revelation. The vision of the new Jerusalem expresses the realization of humanity's most profound desire: to live together in peace, with no more threat of death, but enjoying full communion with God and among ourselves. The Church and, in particular, the monastic community, are a prefigurement on earth of this final goal. It is an imperfect anticipation, marked by limitations and sins and hence always in need of conversion and purification; and yet, in the Eucharistic community we taste ahead of time the victory of the love of Christ over that which divides and mortifies. "Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor" -- the Love of Christ has gathered us in unity: This is the episcopal motto of the venerated brother who has left us. As a son of St. Benedict, he has experienced the promise of the Lord: "He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:7).

Formed in the school of the Benedictine Fathers of the Abbey of St. Michael in Metten, in 1931 he made his monastic profession. During his whole life he sought to realize all that St. Benedict says in the Rule: "Prefer nothing to the love of Christ." After studies in Salzburg and Rome, he undertook a long and appreciated teaching activity in the St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum, where he became rector in 1949, holding this office for 17 years. Founded, precisely at that time, was the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, which became an essential point of reference for the preparation of formators in the field of liturgy. Elected, after the Council, Abbot of his beloved Abbey of Metten, he held this office for five years, but in 1972 the Servant of God Pope Paul VI appointed him Secretary of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, and consecrated him personally bishop on Feb. 13, 1972.

During the years of service in this dicastery, he promoted the progressive implementation of the dispositions of Vatican Council II in regard to religious families. In this particular realm, in his capacity as religious, he demonstrated outstanding ecclesial and human sensitivity. In 1984, the Venerable John Paul II entrusted him with the post of prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, creating him later cardinal in the consistory of May 25, 1985 and assigning him the title of St. Anselm on the Aventine. Subsequently he appointed him first president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Also in this post, Cardinal Mayer proved to be a faithful and zealous servant, attempting to implement the content of his motto: The love of Christ has gathered us in unity.

Dear brothers, our life is in the hands of the Lord at every instant, above all at the moment of death. Because of this, with the confident invocation of Jesus on the cross: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit," we want to accompany our brother Paul Augustin, while he takes his step from this world to the Father.

At this moment, my thoughts cannot but go to the Shrine of the Mother of Graces of Altotting. Spiritually turned to that place of pilgrimage, we entrust to the Holy Virgin our prayer of suffrage for mourned cardinal Mayer. He was born near that Shrine, conformed his life to Christ according to the Benedictine Rule, and died in the shadow of this Vatican Basilica. May the Virgin, St. Peter and St. Benedict accompany this faithful disciple of the Lord to his Kingdom of light and peace. Amen.


On Our Lady of Consolation
"From Her We Can Always Learn How to Look Upon Jesus"

TURIN, Italy, MAY 2, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli. The Pope is on a one-day trip to Turin.

* * *

As we come to the conclusion of this solemn celebration, we offer a prayer to Mary Most Holy, who in Turin is venerated as the principal patroness with the title Blessed Virgin of Consolation. To her I entrust this city and all those who live here. O Mary, watch over the families and the workers; watch over those who have lost faith and hope; comfort the sick, those in prison and all who suffer. O Help of Christians, sustain the young people, the elderly and persons in difficulty. O Mother of the Church, watch over her pastors and the whole community of believers, that they may be “salt and light” in the midst of the world.

The Virgin Mary is she who more than any other contemplated God in the human face of Jesus. She saw him as a newborn when, wrapped in swaddling clothes, he was placed in a manger; she saw him when, just after his death, they took him down from the cross, wrapped him in linen and placed him in the sepulcher. Inside her was impressed the image of her martyred Son; but this image was then transfigured in the light of the Resurrection. Thus in Mary’s heart was carried the mystery of the face of Christ, a mystery of death and of glory. From her we can always learn how to look upon Jesus with a gaze of love and of faith, to recognize in that human countenance, the Countenance of God.

To Mary Most Holy I entrust with gratitude those who worked to make my visit possible as well as the display of the Shroud. I pray for them and that these events might bring about a profound spiritual renewal.


Papal Homily in Turin
"If We Are United to Christ, We Can Truly Love"

TURIN, Italy, MAY 2, 2010    Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today when he celebrated Mass in Turin.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters!

I am happy to find myself with you on this festive day and to celebrate this solemn Eucharist for you. I greet everyone present, in particular the pastor of your archdiocese, Cardinal Severino Poletto, whom I thank for the warm address to me on behalf of everyone. I also greet the archbishops and bishops present, the priests, religious, the representatives of ecclesial associations and movements. I turn deferentially to the mayor, Dr. Sergio Chiamparino, grateful for the courteous address and greeting, to the representatives of the government and to the civil and military officials, with a special thanks to those who generously offered their cooperation for the realization of this pastoral visit of mine. I bear in mind those who were not able to be present, especially the sick, those who are alone and those who find themselves in difficulty. I entrust to the Lord the city of Turin and all its inhabitants in this Eucharistic celebration, which, as every Sunday, invites us to participate in a communal way at the twofold table of the Word of truth and the Bread of eternal life.

We are in the Easter season, which is the time of the glorification of Jesus. The Gospel that we have just heard reminds us that this Glorification is realized through the Passion. In the paschal mystery, Passion and Glorification are closely joined; they form an indissoluble unity. Jesus says: “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31) and he says this when Judas leaves the Upper Room to carry out the plan of his betrayal, which will lead to the Master’s death: precisely at that moment Jesus’ glorification begins. The Evangelist John makes it clear: he does not, in fact, say that Jesus was glorified only after his passion, through his resurrection, but shows that his glorification is begun precisely with the passion. In it Jesus manifests his glory, which is the glory of love, which gives its entire self. He loved the Father, doing his will to the very end, with a perfect oblation; he loved humanity, giving his life for us. Thus, already in his Passion he was glorified, and God is glorified in him.

But the Passion is only the beginning. Thus Jesus says that his glorification is also to come (cf. 13:32). Then the Lord, in the moment that he announces his departure from this world (cf. 13:33), almost as a testament to his disciples to continue his presence among them in a new way, gives them a new commandment: “I give you a new commandment: that you love one another. As I loved you, love one another” (13:34). If we love each other, Jesus will continue to be present in our midst.

Jesus speaks of a “new commandment.” But what is new about it? Already in the Old Testament, God gave the commandment of love; now, however, this commandment has become new insofar as Jesus makes a very important addition to it: “As I loved you, love one another.” What is new is precisely this “loving as Jesus loved.” The Old Testament did not give any mode of love but only formulated the precept to love. Jesus, however, gave himself to us as model and source of love. This is a love without limits, universal, able to transform all the negative circumstances and all the obstacles into occasions for progress in love. In centuries past the Church that is in Turin knew a rich tradition of sanctity and generous service -- as the archbishop and the mayor pointed out -- thanks to the work of zealous priests, men and women in both active and contemplative religious communities and faithful laypeople. Jesus’ words thus acquire a particular resonance for this Church, a Church that is generous and active, beginning with her priests. Giving us the new commandment, Jesus asks us to live his own love, which is the truly credible, eloquent and efficacious sign that announces to the world the Kingdom of God.

Obviously with our own power we are weak and limited. There is always a resistance to love in us and in our existence, there are many difficulties that provoke divisions, resentment and rancor. But the Lord promised us to be present in our life, making us capable of this generous and total love, which knows how to overcome all obstacles. If we are united to Christ, we can truly love in this world. Loving others as Jesus loved us is possible only with that strength that is communicated to us in our relationship with him, especially in the Eucharist, in which his Sacrifice of love that generated love is made present in a real way.

I would like to say, then, a word of encouragement especially to the priests and deacons of this Church, who dedicate themselves with generosity to pastoral work, and to the religious. Sometimes being a worker in the Lord’s vineyard can be tiring, duties multiply, there are so many demands, there is no lack of problems: Know how daily to draw from this relationship of love with the Lord in prayer the strength to convey the prophetic announcement of salvation; re-center your existence on what is essential in the Gospel; cultivate a real dimension of communion and fraternity in the presbyterate, in your communities, in relationships with the People of God; in service testify to the power of love that comes from on high.

The first reading that we heard indeed presents a special way of glorifying Jesus: the apostle and his fruits. Paul and Barnabas, at the end of their first apostolic trip, return to the cities that they have already visited and reanimate the disciples, exhorting them to remain solid in the faith, because, as they say, “we must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations” (Acts 14:22). Christian life, dear brothers and sisters, is not easy; I know that there is no lack of difficulties, problems, worries in Turin: I think in particular of those who concretely live their lives in precarious conditions, because of the scarcity of jobs, the uncertainty of the future, physical and moral suffering; I think of families, young people, of old people who often live in solitude, the marginalized, immigrants. Yes, life leads to many difficulties, many problems, but it is precisely the certainty that comes from faith, the certainty that we are not alone, that God loves everyone without distinction and is near to everyone with his love, that makes it possible to face, to live through and to overcome the toil of daily problems. It was the universal love of the risen Christ that moved the apostles to go out of themselves, to spread the word of God, to spend themselves without reserve for others, with courage, joy and serenity. The Risen One has a strength of love that overcomes every limit, that does not stop at any obstacle. And the Christian community, especially in the situations that are the most pastorally demanding, must be a concrete instrument of this love of God.

I exhort families to live the Christian dimension of love in simple daily actions, in family relationships, overcoming divisions and misunderstandings, in cultivating faith, which makes communion still stronger. Also in the rich and diverse world of the university and culture, witness to the love that today’s Gospel speaks of is not lacking, in the capacity for attentive listening and humble dialogue in the search for Truth, certain that it is the same truth that comes to meet us and draws us. I would like also to encourage the effort, often difficult, of those who are called to look after the public sphere: Collaboration to pursue the common good and make the city ever more human and habitable is a sign that Christian thought about man is never against his liberty but in favor of a greater fullness that finds its realization only in a “civilization of love.” To everyone, in particular the young people, I want to say never to lose hope, that which comes from the risen Christ, from God’s victory over sin and death.

Today’s second reading shows us precisely the final outcome of Jesus’ resurrection: it is the new Jerusalem, the holy city, that comes down from heaven, from God, prepared as a bride for her husband (cf. Revelation 21:2). He who was crucified, who shared our suffering -- as the sacred Shroud also reminds us in an eloquent way -- is he who is risen and wants to reunite all of us in his love. It is a stupendous, “powerful,” solid hope, because, as Revelation says: “[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death will be no more, nor will there be any mourning or lament anymore, because the former things will pass away” (21:4). Does the holy Shroud not communicate the same message? In it we see, as in a mirror, our sufferings in the sufferings of Christ: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.” It is because of this that the Shroud is a sign of hope: Christ faced the cross to put up a wall against evil; to make us see, in his passion, the anticipation of that moment in which for us too, every tear will be wiped away, when there will be no death, no mourning, no lament anymore.

The passage from Revelation ends with this statement: “He who sits upon the throne says: ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (21:5). The first absolutely new thing realized by God was Jesus’ resurrection, his heavenly glorification. It is the beginning of a whole series of “new things” in which we also have a share. “New things” are a world full of joy, in which there are no more suffering and destruction, there is no rancor and hate, but only the love that comes from God and transforms everything.

Dear Church that is in Turin, I have come among you to confirm you in the faith. I would like to exhort you, firmly and with affection, to remain solid in that faith that you have received and that gives meaning to life; never to lose the light of hope in the Risen Christ, who is able to transform reality and make all things new; to live God’s love in a simple and concrete way in the city, in the neighborhoods, in communities, in families: “As I have loved you, love one another.”



Pope's Remarks After Venerating Shroud of Turin
"In the Hour of Extreme Solitude We Will Never Be Alone"

TURIN, Italy, MAY 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the remarks Benedict XVI gave today after venerating the Shroud of Turin.

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Dear Friends,

This is a moment that I have been waiting for for quite some time. I have found myself before the sacred Shroud on another occasion but this time I am experiencing this pilgrimage and this pause with particular intensity: perhaps because the years make me more sensitive to the message of this extraordinary icon; perhaps, and I would say above all, because I am here as Successor of Peter, and I carry in my heart the whole Church, indeed, all of humanity. I thank God for the gift of this pilgrimage, and also for the opportunity to share with you a brief meditation, which was suggested to me by the title of this solemn exhibition: “The Mystery of Holy Saturday.” One could say that the Shroud is the icon of this mystery, the icon of Holy Saturday. It is in fact a winding sheet, which covered the corpse of a man who was crucified, corresponding to everything that the Gospels say of Jesus, who was crucified about noon and died at about 3 in the afternoon.

Once evening came, since it was Parasceve, the eve of the solemn Sabbath of Passover, Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy and influential member of the Sanhedrin, courageously asked Pontius Pilate to be able to bury Jesus in his new tomb, that he had made in the rock not far from Golgotha. Having received the permission, he bought linen and, taking the body of Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the linen and put him in that tomb (cf. Mark 15:42-46). This is what is related by the Gospel of St. Matthew and the other evangelists. From that moment, Jesus remained in the sepulcher until the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, and the Shroud of Turin offers us the image of how his body was stretched out in the tomb during that time, which was brief chronologically (about a day and a half), but was immense, infinite in its value and its meaning.

Holy Saturday is the day of God’s concealment, as one reads in an ancient homily: “What happened? Today there is great silence upon the earth, great silence and solitude. Great silence because the King sleeps … God died in the flesh and descended to make the kingdom of hell (‘gli inferi’) tremble” (“Homily on Holy Saturday,” PG 43, 439). In the Creed we confess that Jesus Christ “was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried; he descended into hell (‘negli inferi’), and the third day he rose again from the dead.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in our time, especially after having passed through the last century, humanity has become especially sensitive to the mystery of Holy Saturday. God’s concealment is part of the spirituality of contemporary man, in an existential manner, almost unconscious, as an emptiness that continues to expand in the heart. At the end of the 18th century, Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead! And we have killed him!” This celebrated expression, if we consider it carefully, is taken almost word for word from the Christian tradition, we often repeat it in the Via Crucis, perhaps not fully realizing what we are saying. After the two World Wars, the concentration camps, the gulags, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, our epoch has become in ever great measure a Holy Saturday: the darkness of this day questions all those who ask about life, it questions us believers in a special way. We too have something to do with this darkness.

And nevertheless, the death of the Son of God, of Jesus of Nazareth, has an opposite aspect, totally positive; it is a font of consolation and hope. And this makes me think that the sacred Shroud acts as a “photographic” document, with a “positive” and a “negative.” And in effect, this is exactly how it is: The most obscure mystery of faith is at the same time the most luminous sign of a hope without limits. Holy Saturday is the “no man’s land” between death and resurrection, but into this “no man’s land” has entered the One, the Only One, who has crossed it with the signs of his passion for man: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.” And the Shroud speaks to us precisely of that moment; it witnesses precisely to the unique and unrepeatable interval in the history of humanity and the universe, in which God, in Jesus Christ, shared not only our dying, but also our remaining in death. The most radical solidarity. In that “time-beyond-time” Jesus Christ “descended into hell” (“agli inferi”) What does this expression mean? It means that God, made man, went to the point of entering into the extreme and absolute solitude of man, where no ray of love enters, where there is total abandonment without any word of comfort: “hell” (“gli inferi”). Jesus Christ, remaining in death, has gone beyond the gates of this ultimate solitude to lead us too to go beyond it with him.

We have all at times felt a frightening sensation of abandonment, and that which makes us most afraid of death is precisely this [abandonment]; just as when as children we were afraid to be alone in the dark and only the presence of a person who loves us could reassure us. So, it is exactly this that happened in Holy Saturday: In the kingdom of death there resounded the voice of God. The unthinkable happened: that Love penetrated “into hell” (“negli inferi”): that in the most extreme darkness of the most absolute human solitude we can hear a voice that calls us and find a hand that takes us and leads us out. The human being lives by the fact that he is loved and can love; and if love even has penetrated into the realm of death, then life has also arrived there. In the hour of extreme solitude we will never be alone: “Passio Christi. Passio hominis.”

This is the mystery of Holy Saturday! It is from there, from the darkness of the death of the Son of God, that the light of a new hope has shone: the light of the Resurrection. And it seems to me that looking upon this cloth with the eyes of faith one perceives something of this light. In effect, the Shroud was immersed in that profound darkness, but it is luminous at the same time; and I think that if thousands and thousands of people come to see it -- without counting those who contemplate copies of it -- it is because in it they do not see only darkness, but also light; not so much the defeat of life and love but rather victory, victory of life over death, of love over hatred; they indeed see the death of Jesus, but glimpse his resurrection [too]; in the heart of death there now beats life, inasmuch as love lives there. This is the power of the Shroud: from the countenance of this “Man of sorrows,” who takes upon himself man’s passion of every time and every place, even our passion, our suffering, our difficulties, our sins -- “Passio Christi. Passio hominis” -- from this moment there emanates a solemn majesty, a paradoxical lordship. This face, these hands and these feet, this side, this whole body speaks, it is itself a word that we can hear in silence. How does the Shroud speak? It speaks with blood, and blood is life! The Shroud is an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who has been scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified and wounded in his right side. Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. Especially that large mark near the side, made by blood and water that poured copiously from a great wound caused by a Roman spear, that blood and that water speak of life. It is like a spring that speaks in silence, and we can hear it, we can listen to it, in the silence of Holy Saturday.

Dear friends, let us praise the Lord always for his faithful and merciful love. Departing from this holy place, we carry in our eyes the image of the Shroud, we carry in our heart this word of love, and we praise God with a life full of faith, of love and of charity.

Thank you.


Papal Address to Social Science Academy
"Economic Life Should Properly Be Seen as an Exercise of Human Responsibility"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to participants in the 16th plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
The academy's assembly is focused on "Crisis in a Global Economy. Re-planning the Journey." It began today and concludes May 4.

* * *

Dear Members of the Academy,

I am pleased to greet you at the beginning of your Sixteenth Plenary Session, which is devoted to an analysis of the global economic crisis in the light of the ethical principles enshrined in the Church’s social doctrine. I thank your President, Professor Mary Ann Glendon, for her gracious words of greeting and I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the fruitfulness of your deliberations.

The worldwide financial breakdown has, as we know, demonstrated the fragility of the present economic system and the institutions linked to it. It has also shown the error of the assumption that the market is capable of regulating itself, apart from public intervention and the support of internalized moral standards. This assumption is based on an impoverished notion of economic life as a sort of self-calibrating mechanism driven by self-interest and profit-seeking. As such, it overlooks the essentially ethical nature of economics as an activity of and for human beings. Rather than a spiral of production and consumption in view of narrowly-defined human needs, economic life should properly be seen as an exercise of human responsibility, intrinsically oriented towards the promotion of the dignity of the person, the pursuit of the common good and the integral development – political, cultural and spiritual – of individuals, families and societies. An appreciation of this fuller human dimension calls, in turn, for precisely the kind of cross-disciplinary research and reflection which the present session of the Academy has now undertaken.

In my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, I observed that "the current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment" (No. 21). Re-planning the journey, of course, also means looking to comprehensive and objective standards against which to judge the structures, institutions and concrete decisions which guide and direct economic life. The Church, based on her faith in God the Creator, affirms the existence of a universal natural law which is the ultimate source of these criteria (cf. ibid., 59). Yet she is likewise convinced that the principles of this ethical order, inscribed in creation itself, are accessible to human reason and, as such, must be adopted as the basis for practical choices. As part of the great heritage of human wisdom, the natural moral law, which the Church has appropriated, purified and developed in the light of Christian revelation, serves as a beacon guiding the efforts of individuals and communities to pursue good and to avoid evil, while directing their commitment to building an authentically just and humane society.

Among the indispensable principles shaping such an integral ethical approach to economic life must be the promotion of the common good, grounded in respect for the dignity of the human person and acknowledged as the primary goal of production and trade systems, political institutions and social welfare. In our day, concern for the common good has taken on a more markedly global dimension. It has also become increasingly evident that the common good embraces responsibility towards future generations; intergenerational solidarity must henceforth be recognized as a basic ethical criterion for judging any social system. These realities point to the urgency of strengthening the governance procedures of the global economy, albeit with due respect for the principle of subsidiarity. In the end, however, all economic decisions and policies must be directed towards "charity in truth", inasmuch as truth preserves and channels the liberating power of charity amid ever-contingent human events and structures. For "without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation" (Caritas in Veritate, 5).

With these considerations, dear friends, I once more express my confidence that this Plenary Session will contribute to a more profound discernment of the serious social and economic challenges facing our world, and help point the way forward to meet those challenges in a spirit of wisdom, justice and authentic humanity. I assure you once more of my prayers for your important work, and upon you and your loved ones I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Words of Thanks for Anniversary Concert
"Music Is ... Capable of Opening Minds"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 30, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Thursday after a concert in honor of the fifth anniversary of his pontificate.

* * *

Mr. President of the Republic,

Lords Cardinal,

Honorable Ministers and Authorities,

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,

Once again the president of the Italian Republic, Honorable Giorgio Napolitano, with a gesture of exquisite courtesy, has offered all of us the possibility to hear excellent music on the occasion of the anniversary of my pontificate. On greeting you with deference, Mr. President, together with your distinguished wife, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for the truly pleasing homage of this concert and for the cordial words you addressed to me. In this act of consideration I also see a further sign of affection that the Italian people nourishes toward the Pope, affection that was so fervent in St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Italy, whose feast is celebrated today. I am happy to greet the other authorities of the Italian state, the lord ambassadors, the various personalities and all of you who have taken part in this moment of high cultural and musical value.

I wish to thank all those who cooperated generously in the realization of this event, in particular the directors of the Fondazione Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, of which the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana is a significant component, ably directed by Maestro Nicola Paszkowski.

Certain of interpreting the sentiments of all those present, I direct a special appreciation to the members of the orchestra, who have played with ability and skill interpretative fragments of the Milanese composer Giovanni Battista Sammartini, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and of Ludwig van Beethoven.

We have had the joy of hearing tonight young concert students of the Music School of Fiesole, founded by Piero Farulli, which in the course of the years has affirmed itself an excellent national center of orchestral formation, offering numerous children, adolescents, young people and adults the possibility of undertaking a qualified formative itinerary directed to the preparation of musicians for the best Italian and European orchestras. The study of music has high value in the educational process of the person, inasmuch as it produces positive effects in the individual's development, fostering his harmonious human and spiritual growth. We know that the formative value of music, in its implications of expressive, creative, relational, social and cultural nature, is commonly recognized.

Therefore, the experience of more than 30 years of the School of Music of Fiesole assumes a particular relevance also in face of the daily reality that tells us that it is not easy to educate. In the present social context, in fact, all the work of education seems to be increasingly arduous and problematic: Often there is talk between parents and teachers of the difficulties encountered in the transmission of the basic values of existence and of correct behavior to new generations. This problematic situation affects both the school as well as the family, as also the various agencies that operate in the formative realm.

The present conditions of society require an extraordinary educational commitment in favor of the new generations. Young people, even if they live in different contexts, have in common a sensitivity in face of the great ideals of life, but they find many difficulties in living them. We cannot ignore their needs and hopes, or the obstacles and threats they meet. They feel the need to approach authentic values such as the centrality of the person, human dignity, peace and justice, tolerance and solidarity. They also seek, at times in confused and contradictory ways, spirituality and transcendence, to find balance and harmony.

In this regard, I wish to observe that music is, in fact, capable of opening minds and hearts to the dimension of the spirit and of leading persons to raise their gaze on High, to open to absolute Goodness and Beauty, which have their ultimate source in God. The joy of song and music is also a constant invitation to believers and to all men of good will to commit themselves to give humanity a rich future of hope. Moreover, the experience of playing in an orchestra also adds the collective dimension: the constant practices carried out with patience; the exercise of listening to the other musicians; the commitment not to play "in solitude," but to do so in a way that the different "orchestral colors" -- while maintaining their own characteristics -- are established; the common search for the best expression: all this constitutes a powerful "gymnasium," not only on the artistic and professional plane, but in the overall human profile.

Dear friends, I hope that the grandeur and beauty of the musical pieces masterfully played tonight may give everyone a new and continual inspiration to tend to ever higher aims in personal and social life. I renew to Mr. President of the Italian Republic, to the organizers and to all those present, the expression of my sincere gratitude for this appreciated homage. Remember me in your prayers, so that on beginning the sixth year of my Pontificate, I will always be able to fulfill my ministry as the Lord wills. May he, who is our strength and our peace, bless you all and your families.


Papal Address to African Bishops
"Defend Your People Against Attempts to Introduce an Anti-birth Mentality"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2010 - Here is the text of an address Benedict XVI gave today to bishops of Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

* * *

Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to welcome you, the Bishops of Liberia, The Gambia and Sierra Leone on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I am grateful for the sentiments of communion and affection expressed by Bishop Koroma on your behalf, and I ask you to convey my warm greetings and encouragement to your beloved people as they strive to lead a life worthy of their calling (cf. Eph 4:1).

The Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was a rich experience of communion and a providential occasion for renewing your own episcopal ministry and reflecting on its essential task, namely, "to help the People of God to give to the word of revelation the obedience of faith and to embrace fully the teachings of Christ" (Pastores Gregis, 31). I am pleased to see from your Quinquennial Reports that, while dedicated to the administration of your Dioceses, you personally strive to preach the Gospel at confirmations, in your visits to parishes, when meeting with groups of priests, religious or lay people and in your pastoral letters. Through your teaching the Lord preserves your people from evil, ignorance and superstition, and transforms them into children of his Kingdom. Strive to build vibrant and expansive communities of men and women strong in their faith, contemplative and joyful in the liturgy, and well instructed on "how to live in the way that pleases God" (1 Th 4:1). In an environment marked by divorce and polygamy, promote the unity and well-being of the Christian family built on the sacrament of marriage. Initiatives and associations dedicated to the sanctification of this basic community deserve your full support. Continue to uphold the dignity of women in the context of human rights and defend your people against attempts to introduce an anti-birth mentality disguised as a form of cultural progress (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 28). Your mission also requires that you give attention to the adequate discernment and preparation of vocations and to the ongoing formation of priests, who are your closest collaborators in the task of evangelization. Continue to lead them by word and example to be men of prayer, sound and clear in their teaching, mature and respectful in their dealings with others, faithful to their spiritual commitments and strong in compassion towards all in need. Likewise do not hesitate to invite missionaries from other countries to assist the good work being done by your clergy, religious and catechists.

In your countries the Church is held in high regard for her contribution to the good of society especially in education, development and health care, offered to all without distinction. This tribute speaks well of the vitality of your Christian charity, that divine legacy given to the Universal Church by her founder (cf. Caritas in Veritate, 27). I appreciate in a special way the assistance you offer to refugees and immigrants and I urge you to seek, when possible, pastoral cooperation from their countries of origin. The struggle against poverty must be carried out with respect for the dignity of all concerned by encouraging them to be the protagonists of their own integral development. Much good can be done through small-scale community engagements and microeconomic initiatives at the service of families. In developing and sustaining such strategies, improved education will always be a decisive factor. Hence I encourage you to continue providing school programmes that prepare and motivate new generations to become responsible citizens, socially active for the good of their community and their country. You rightly encourage people in positions of authority to lead in the struggle against corruption by calling attention to the gravity and injustice of such sins. In this regard, the spiritual and moral formation of lay men and women for leadership, through specialized courses in Catholic Social Doctrine, is an important contribution to the common good.

I commend you for your attention to the great gift which is peace. I pray that the process of reconciliation in justice and truth, which you have rightly supported in the region, may produce lasting respect for all God-given human rights and defuse tendencies to retaliation and vengeance. In your service to peace continue to promote dialogue with other religions, especially with Islam, so as to sustain the existing good relations and forestall any form of intolerance, injustice or oppression, detrimental to the promotion of mutual trust. Working together in the defence of life and in the struggle against disease and malnutrition will not fail to build understanding, respect and acceptance. Above all, a climate of dialogue and communion must characterize the local Church. By your own example, lead your priests, religious and lay faithful to grow in understanding and cooperation, in listening to one another and in sharing initiatives. The Church as the sign and instrument of the one Family of God must bear clear witness to the love of Jesus our Lord and Saviour that extends beyond ethnic frontiers and embraces all men and women.

Dear Brother Bishops, I know that you find inspiration and encouragement in the words of the Risen Christ to his Apostles: "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn 20:21). On your return home to continue your mission as successors of the Apostles, please convey my affectionate and prayerful good wishes to your priests, religious, catechists and all your beloved people. To each of you, and to those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On 2 Holy Priests of the 19th Century
"It Is Not Possible to Exercise Charity Without Living in Christ"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are drawing close to the end of the Year for Priests and, on this last Wednesday of April, I would like to speak about two saintly priests who were exemplary in their giving of themselves to God and in their witness of charity -- lived in the Church and for the Church -- toward their neediest brothers: St. Leonard Murialdo and St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo. Regarding the first, we mark the 110th anniversary of his death and the 40th of his canonization; regarding the second, the celebrations have begun for the second centenary of his priestly ordination.

Murialdo was born in Turin on Oct. 26, 1828: it was the Turin of St. John Bosco, of St. Joseph Cottolengo himself, a land fertilized by so many examples of holiness of the lay faithful and priests. Leonard was the eighth child of a simple family. As a child he entered, together with his brother, the school of the Escolapios Fathers of Savona for elementary, middle and high school; he found prepared educators, in a climate of religiosity founded on serious catecheses, with regular pious practices. During his adolescence, however, he went through a profound existential and spiritual crisis that led him to advance his return to his family and to conclude his studies in Turin, enrolling in the two-year period of philosophy. 

A "return to the light" occurred -- as he recounts -- after a few months, with the grace of a general confession, in which he rediscovered God's immense mercy; at 17 the decision matured to become a priest, as a response of love to God who had seized him with his love. He was ordained on Sept. 20, 1851. Precisely in that period, as a catechist of the Guardian Angel Oratory, Don Bosco met and came to esteem him, convincing him to accept the direction of the new Oratory of St. Louis in Porta Nuova, which he did until 1865. There he also came into contact with the grave problems of the poorest classes, he visited their homes, developing a profound social, educational and apostolic sensitivity that led him later to dedicate himself independently to multiple initiatives in favor of youth. Catecheses, school and recreational activities were the foundation of his educational method in the Oratory. Don Bosco wanted him with him on the occasion of the audience granted by Blessed Pius IX in 1858.

In 1873 he founded the Congregation of St. Joseph, whose apostolic objective was, from the beginning, the formation of youth, especially the poorest and most abandoned. The environment of Turin at the time was marked by the intense flourishing of charitable works and activities promoted by Murialdo until his death, which occurred on March 30, 1900.

I wish to underline that the central nucleus of Murialdo's spirituality was the conviction of the merciful love of God: a Father who is always good, patient and generous, who reveals the greatness and immensity of his mercy with forgiveness. St. Leonard experienced this reality at the existential, not the intellectual level, through a living encounter with the Lord. He always considered himself a man graced by the merciful God: because of this he lived the joyous sense of gratitude to the Lord, the serene awareness of his own limitations, the ardent desire of penance, the constant and generous commitment to conversion. He saw all his existence not only illumined, guided, sustained by this love, but continually immersed in the infinite mercy of God. He wrote in his Spiritual Testament: "Your mercy surrounds me, O Lord ... How God is always and everywhere, so he is always and everywhere love, is always and everywhere mercy." 

Recalling the moment of crisis he had in his youth, he wrote: "See how the good God wanted his goodness and generosity to shine again in an altogether singular way. Not only did he admit me again to his friendship, but he called me to a choice of predilection: he called me to the priesthood, and this only a few months after my return to him." Because of this, St. Leonard lived his priestly vocation as a free gift of the mercy of God with a sense of gratitude, joy and love. He wrote as well: "God has chosen me! He has called me, has in the end forced me to the honor, to the glory, to the ineffable happiness of being his minister, of being 'another Christ.' And where was I when God sought me? At the bottom of the abyss! I was there, and God came there to seek me; there he made me hear his voice."

Underlining the greatness of the mission of the priest who must "continue the work of redemption, the great work of Jesus Christ, the work of the Savior of the world," namely, that of "saving souls," St. Leonard always reminded himself and his confreres of the responsibility of a life consistent with the sacrament received. Love of God and love for God: this was the force of his journey of holiness, the law of his priesthood, the deepest meaning of this apostolate among poor young people and the source of his prayer. St. Leonard Murialdo abandoned himself with confidence to Providence, fulfilling generously the divine will, in contact with God and dedicating himself to poor young people. In this way he joined contemplative silence with the tireless ardor of action, fidelity to the duties of each day with the ingeniousness of initiatives, strength in difficulties with the serenity of the spirit. This was his way of holiness to live the commandment of love, towards God and towards his neighbor.

With the same spirit of charity, 40 years before Murialdo lived St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, founder of the work he himself called "Little Home of Divine Providence" and also called today "Cottolengo." Next Sunday, in my pastoral visit to Turin, I will be able to venerate the remains of this saint and meet the guests of the "Little Home."

Joseph Benedict Cottolengo was born in Bra, a town in the province of Cuneo, on May 3, 1786. The first born of 12 children, six of whom died at an early age, he showed from his boyhood great sensitivity toward the poor. He embraced the path of priesthood, imitated also by two brothers. The years of his youth were those of the Napoleonic venture and of the consequent hardships in the religious and social realm. Cottolengo became a good priest, sought after by many penitents and, in the Turin of that time, a preacher of spiritual exercises and conferences for university students, where he earned notable success. At the age of 32, he was appointed canon of the Most Holy Trinity, a congregation of priests that had the task of officiating in the Church of Corpus Domini and of giving decorum to the religious ceremonies of the city, but he felt ill at ease in that post. God was preparing him for a particular mission and, in fact, with an unexpected and decisive meeting, made him understand what his future destiny would be in the exercise of the ministry.

The Lord always puts signs on our way to guide us according to his will to our real good. For Cottolengo this happened, in a dramatic way, on Sunday morning of Sept. 2, 1827. Arriving in Turin from Milan was a stage coach crowded as never before, where a whole French family was crammed in which the wife, with five children, was in an advanced state of pregnancy with high fever. After having wandered through several hospitals, that family found lodgings in a public dormitory, but the woman's situation got worse and some started to look for a priest. By a mysterious design they came across Cottolengo, and it was in fact he who, with a heavy and oppressed heart, was to accompany the death of this young mother, amid the torment of the whole family. 

After having performed this painful task, with a suffering heart, he went before the Most Blessed Sacrament and prayed: "My God, why? Why did you want me to be a witness? What do you want from me? Something must be done!" Rising, he had all the bells rung, lighted the candles and welcoming the curious in the church, he said: "Grace has done it! Grace has done it!" From that moment Cottolengo was transformed: all his capabilities, especially his economic and organizational abilities, were used to give life to initiatives in support of the neediest.

He was able to involve in his enterprise dozens and dozens of collaborators and volunteers. Moving to the outskirts of Turin to expand his work, he created a sort of village. Every building he succeeded in constructing he gave a significant name: "house of faith," "house of hope," "house of charity." He activated the style of "families," establishing true and proper communities of persons, volunteers, men and women, religious and laity, united to address and overcome together the difficulties that presented themselves. Every one in that Little Home of Divine Providence had a specific task: those who worked, prayed, served, instructed, administrated. The healthy and the sick all shared the same daily burden. The religious life was also defined in time, according to the particular needs and exigencies. He even thought of his own seminary, for the specific formation of priests for the Work. He was always ready to follow and serve Divine Providence, never to question it. He said: "I am a good for nothing and I don't even know what I am doing. However, Divine Providence knows what it wants. And it is for me only to second it. Forward in Domino." For his poor and neediest he described himself always as "the laborer of Divine Providence."

Next to the small towns he also wished to found five convents of contemplative sisters and a monastery of hermits, and he regarded it as among the most important accomplishments: a sort of "heart" that had to beat for the whole Work. He died on April 30, 1842, saying these words: "Misericordia, Domine; Misericordia, Domine. Good and Holy Providence ... Holy Virgin, now it is up to You." His whole life, as a newspaper of the time wrote, had been "an intense day of love."

Dear friends, these two priests, of whom I have presented some traits, lived their ministry in the total gift of their lives to the poorest, to the neediest, to the last, always finding the profound root, the inexhaustible source of their action in the relationship with God, drinking from his love, in the profound conviction that it is not possible to exercise charity without living in Christ and in the Church. May their intercession and example continue to enlighten the ministry of so many priests who spend themselves with generosity for God and for the flock entrusted to them, and may they help each one to give himself with joy and generosity to God and to his neighbor.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the Year for Priests draws to its close, I would like to devote today's catechesis to the example of two remarkable priests of the nineteenth century associated with the Italian city of Turin. Saint Leonard Murialdo, the founder of the Congregation of Saint Joseph, devoted his life to the education and pastoral care of disadvantaged young people. He saw his priestly vocation as a gracious gift of God's love, to be received with gratitude, joy and love. Imbued with a powerful sense of the Lord's mercy, he encouraged his confreres to unite contemplation and apostolic zeal, and to confirm their preaching by the example of their lives. Saint Joseph Cottolengo, who lived a generation before Saint Leonard, was another outstanding apostle of charity. Early in his priesthood, after a dramatic encounter with human suffering, he founded the "Little Home of Divine Providence," involving scores of people -- priests, religious and laity alike -- in a great charitable outreach which continues today. May the example of these two great priests, outstanding for their love of God and their devotion to Christ and the Church, continue to inspire and sustain the many priests today who generously devote their lives to God and to the service of our brothers and sisters in need.

I offer a most cordial welcome to the ecumenical delegations from the Lutheran Church of Norway and from the Church of England. My warm greeting also goes to the group of Jewish leaders visiting the Vatican with the Pave the Way Foundation. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Norway, Indonesia and the United States of America I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Vox Clara Committee
"English Translation of the Roman Missal Will Soon Be Ready"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 28, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Vox Clara Committee, which assists the Vatican in regard to the English translation of liturgical texts.

* * *

Dear Cardinals,

Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,

Members and Consultors of the Vox Clara Committee,

I thank you for the work that Vox Clara has done over the last eight years, assisting and advising the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in fulfilling its responsibilities with regard to the English translations of liturgical texts. This has been a truly collegial enterprise. Not only are all five continents represented in the membership of the Committee, but you have been assiduous in drawing together contributions from Bishops’ Conferences in English-speaking territories all over the world. I thank you for the great labour you have expended in your study of the translations and in processing the results of the many consultations that have been conducted. I thank the expert assistants for offering the fruits of their scholarship in order to render a service to the universal Church. And I thank the Superiors and Officials of the Congregation for their daily, painstaking work of overseeing the preparation and translation of texts that proclaim the truth of our redemption in Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.

Saint Augustine spoke beautifully of the relation between John the Baptist, the vox clara that resounded on the banks of the Jordan, and the Word that he spoke. A voice, he said, serves to share with the listener the message that is already in the speaker’s heart. Once the word has been spoken, it is present in the hearts of both, and so the voice, its task having been completed, can fade away (cf. Sermon 293). I welcome the news that the English translation of the Roman Missal will soon be ready for publication, so that the texts you have worked so hard to prepare may be proclaimed in the liturgy that is celebrated across the anglophone world. Through these sacred texts and the actions that accompany them, Christ will be made present and active in the midst of his people. The voice that helped bring these words to birth will have completed its task.

A new task will then present itself, one which falls outside the direct competence of Vox Clara, but which in one way or another will involve all of you – the task of preparing for the reception of the new translation by clergy and lay faithful. Many will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly forty years of continuous use of the previous translation. The change will need to be introduced with due sensitivity, and the opportunity for catechesis that it presents will need to be firmly grasped. I pray that in this way any risk of confusion or bewilderment will be averted, and the change will serve instead as a springboard for a renewal and a deepening of Eucharistic devotion all over the English-speaking world.

Dear Brother Bishops, Reverend Fathers, Friends, I want you to know how much I appreciate the great collaborative endeavour to which you have contributed. Soon the fruits of your labours will be made available to English-speaking congregations everywhere. As the prayers of God’s people rise before him like incense (cf. Psalm 140:2), may the Lord’s blessing come down upon all who have contributed their time and expertise to crafting the texts in which those prayers are expressed. Thank you, and may you be abundantly rewarded for your generous service to God’s people.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations
"The First Form of Witness That Awakens Vocations Is Prayer"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2010 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Regina Caeli with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, which is called "Good Shepherd Sunday," the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated, which has as its theme this year "Witness Awakens Vocations," a theme that is "closely linked to the life and mission of priests and consecrated persons" ("Message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, April 25, 2010"). The first form of witness that awakens vocations is prayer (cf. ibid.), as is shown to us by the example of St. Monica, who, supplicating God with humility and persistence, obtained the grace of seeing her son Augustine become Christian. St. Augustine wrote: "Without a doubt I believe and affirm that through her prayers, God granted me the intention not to propose, not to want, not to think, not to love anything else but the attainment of truth" ("De Ordine," II 20, 52; CCL 29, 136).

Therefore, I invite parents to pray that the heart of their children open to listening to the Good Shepherd, and "each tiny seed of a vocation ... grow into a mature tree, bearing much good fruit for the Church and for all humanity" ("Message"). How can we hear the voice of the Lord and recognize it? In the preaching of the Apostles and their successors: In it there resounds the voice of Christ, who calls us to communion with God and to the fullness of life, as we read today in St. John's Gospel: "My sheep hear my voice and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never be lost and no one will take them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28). Only the Good Shepherd leads his flock with immense tenderness and defends them from evil, and only in him can the faithful place absolute confidence.

On this special day of prayer for vocations I especially exhort the ordained ministers, so that, inspired by the Year for Priests, they are moved to "a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today's world" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests"). May they remember that the priest "continues the work of the Redemption on earth;" may they know how to "stop frequently before the tabernacle;" may they remain "completely faithful to [their] own vocation and mission through the practice of an austere asceticism;" may they be available to listen and forgive; may they form the people entrusted to them in a Christian way; may they cultivate with care "priestly fraternity" (cf. ibid.). May they take wise and zealous pastors as an example, as St. Gregory Nazianzus, who wrote to his dear friend and bishop, St. Basil: "Teach us your love for your sheep, your solicitude and your capacity for understanding, your vigilance ... the austerity in sweetness, the serenity and meekness in activity ... the combats in defense of the flock, the victories ... achieved in Christ" (Oratio IX, 5, PG 35, 825ab).

I thank everyone who is present and those who with prayer and affection support my ministry as the Successor of Peter, and upon everyone I invoke the heavenly protection of the Virgin Mary, to whom we now turn in prayer.

[After the recitation of the Regina Caeli, the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

This morning, in Rome and in Barcelona respectively, two priests were beatified: Angelo Paoli, a Carmelite, and José Tous y Soler, a Capuchin. I will speak about the latter shortly. In regard to Blessed Angelo Paoli, who was from Lunigiana and lived between the 17th and 18th centuries, I would like to recall that he was an apostle of charity in Rome and was called "Father of the Poor." He dedicated himself especially to the sick of the Hospital of St. John, also caring for the convalescents. His apostolate drew strength from the Eucharist and from devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and from an intense life of penance as well. In the Year for Priests I gladly propose his example to all priests, in a special way to those who belong to religious institutes of the active life.

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present for today's Regina Caeli prayer. This Sunday the Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. As we rejoice in the new life that the Risen Lord has won for us, let us ask him to inspire many young people to center their hearts on the things of Heaven (cf. Col 3:1-2) and to offer themselves joyfully in the service of Christ our Good Shepherd in the priesthood and religious life. Confidently entrusting this petition to Mary, Queen of Heaven, I invoke upon you God's abundant blessings of peace and joy!

[The Pontiff concluded in Italian:]

I direct a special greeting to the Meter Association, which, for the past 14 years, has promoted the national day for children who are victims of violence, exploitation and indifference. On this occasion I would like above all to thank and encourage those who dedicate themselves to prevention and education, especially parents, teachers, many priests, sisters, catechists and leaders who work with the young people in the parishes, schools and associations. I greet the faithful from Brescia, Cassana near Ferrara, from parishes in Umbria and Toronto, Canada; the young people of the parishes in Valposchiavo, in Switzerland, and those from Francavilla al Mare; and the group of engaged couples from Altamura. I wish everyone a good Sunday.


Papal Address on the Media and the Internet
"Without Fear We Want to Set Out Upon the Digital Sea"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in an audience in Paul VI Hall with participants in a national conference on "Digital Witnesses: Faces and Languages in the Cross-Media Age," an initiative promoted by the Italian bishops' conference.

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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,

Dear Friends,

I am happy for this opportunity to meet with you and to conclude your gathering, which has had as its quite evocative theme, "Digital Witnesses: Faces and Languages in the Cross-Media Age." I thank the president of the Italian bishops' conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, for the cordial words of welcome with which, once again, he desired to express the affection and the nearness of the Church in Italy to my apostolic service. In his words the cardinal reflects the faithful adhesion to Peter of all the Catholics of this beloved nation and the esteem of so many men and women animated by the desire to seek the truth.

The time in which we live is experiencing an enormous expansion of the frontiers of communication, realizing an untold convergence between different media and making interaction possible. Thus the Internet manifests an open vocation, with an egalitarian and pluralistic tendency, but at the same time it has dug a moat about itself: One speaks, in fact, of the "digital divide." It separates the included from the excluded and adds to the other discrepancies that separate nations from each other and divide them internally. The dangers of homogenization and control, of intellectual and moral relativism, already quite evident in the bent of the critical spirit, in truth reduced to the play of opinions, in the multiple forms of the degradation and humiliation of the human person in his intimate dimension. One witnesses, then, a "polluting of the spirit, which makes us smile less, makes our faces gloomier, less likely to greet each other or look each other in the eye..." ("Speech in the Piazza di Spagna, December 8, 2009"). But this meeting points to recognizing faces and so to overcoming those collective dynamics that can make us lose the perception of the depth of persons and remain at the surface: When that happens, they are bodies without souls, objects of trade and consumption.

How is it possible today to return to faces? I tried to show the road in my third encyclical. It passes through that "caritas in veritate" that shines upon the face of Christ. Love in truth constitutes a "great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized" ("Caritas in Veritate," no. 9). The media can become a factor in humanization "not only when, thanks to technological development, they increase the possibilities of communicating information, but above all when they are geared towards a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal values" (no. 73). This demands that they "focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity" (ibid.). Only under those conditions can the epochal journey that we are undertaking become something rich and fertile with new opportunities. Without fear we want to set out upon the digital sea embracing the unrestricted navigation with the same passion that for 2,000 years has steered the barque of the Church. More than with technical resources, although necessary, we want to qualify ourselves dwelling in this universe too with a believing heart, that contributes to giving a soul to the uninterrupted communicational flow of the Internet.

This is our mission, the Church's mission that she cannot renounce: The task of every believer who works in the media is that of "opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord's presence" ("Message for the 44th World Communications Day, May 10, 2010"). Dear Friends, you are called to take on the role of "animators of the community" on the Internet too, attentive to "prepare the ways that lead to the Word of God," and to express a particular sensitivity to "the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute" (ibid.). The Internet could in this way become a kind of "Court of the Gentiles," where "there is also a space for those who have not yet come to know God" (ibid.).

As animators of culture and communication, you are a living sign of how much "Church communities have always used the modern media for fostering communication, engagement with society, and, increasingly, for encouraging dialogue at a wider level" (ibid.). In this field voices are not lacking in Italy: We need only to point to "Avvenire," TV2000, the inBlu radio network and the SIR press agency, along with Catholic periodicals, the network of weekly diocesan papers and the now numerous Catholic Web sites. I exhort all media professionals not to tire of nourishing in their heart that passion for man that draws ever closer to the languages he speaks and to his true face. You will be helped in this by a solid theological formation and above all a deep and joyful passion for God, fed by a constant dialogue with the Lord. The particular Churches and religious institutes, for their part should not hesitate to value the formation courses offered by the Pontifical universities, by the University of the Sacred Heart and the other Catholic and ecclesiastical universities, providing persons with foresight and resources. The media world should be a part of pastoral planning.

As I thank you for the service you give to the Church and therefore to the cause of man, I exhort you to walk the roads of the digital continent, animated by the courage of the Holy Spirit. Our confidence is not uncritically placed in any instrument of technology. Our strength lies in being Church, believing community, able to bear witness to all the perennial newness of the Risen One, with a life that blooms in fullness in the measure that it opens up, enters into relation, gives itself gratuitously.

I entrust you to the protection of Mary Most Holy and the great saints of communication and bless you from my heart.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Belgian Ambassador
"The Gospel Is a Force That There Is No Reason to Fear"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2010 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address given Saturday in an audience with the new Belgian ambassador to the Holy See, Charles Ghislain.

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Mr. Ambassador,

I am happy to welcome you on the occasion of the presentation of the letters that accredit you as extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Belgium to the Holy See. I thank you for the words that you have addressed to me. For my part I ask you to kindly express to His Majesty Albert II, King of Belgium, whom I recently was able to greet in person, my cordial vows to his person, and also for the happiness and success of the Belgian people. Through you I also greet the government and all the officials of the kingdom.

Your country experienced at the beginning of this year the two sad tragedies of Liege and Buizingen. I would like to renew the assurances of my spiritual nearness to the families that were affected and to the victims. These catastrophes bring us to measure the fragility of human existence and grasp the necessity, in order to protect it, of authentic social cohesion that does not weaken the legitimate diversity of opinions. This is based on the conviction that human life and dignity constitute a precious good that must be defended and promoted with decision, founding itself upon natural law. For quite some time the Church has inscribed itself fully in the history and the social fabric of your nation. It desires to continue to be a factor in the harmonious coexistence among all. It contributes to this in a very active way, especially through its numerous educational institutions, its work of a social character and the voluntary efforts of so many faithful. The Church is happy therefore to place itself at the service of all the components of Belgian society.

Nevertheless, it does not find it unnecessary to stress that it has, as an institution, the right to express itself publicly. It shares this right with all individuals and institutions, with the scope of speaking its mind on questions of common interest. The Church respects the right of everyone to think differently from it; it would like that its right to expression also be respected. The Church is a depository of a teaching, of a religious message that it received from Jesus Christ. It can be summarized with the following words from Sacred Scripture: "God is love" (1 John 4:16) and throws its light upon the meaning of the personal, familial and social life of man. The Church, having the common good as its objective, asks nothing other than the freedom to be able to propose this message, without imposing it on anyone, in respect for freedom of conscience.

It was in nourishing himself with this ecclesial teaching in a radical way that Joseph de Veuster became he who is now called "St. Damien." The exceptional destiny of this man shows to what point the Gospel awakens an ethics that is a friend to the person, above all if he is in need or marginalized. The canonization of this priest and the universal fame that he enjoys is a legitimate reason for pride among the Belgian people. This attractive personage is not the fruit of a solitary journey. It is well to recall the religious roots that nourished his education and formation as well as the teachers who awakened that admirable generosity in him. It led him to share the marginalized life of the lepers, to the point of exposing himself to the illness from which they suffer. In the light of similar witnesses everyone can understand that the Gospel is a force that there is no reason to fear. I am convinced that despite the sociological developments, the Christian "humus" is still rich in your land. It can generously nourish the commitment of a growing number of volunteers who, inspired by evangelical principles of fraternity and solidarity, accompany persons who experience difficulties and who, for this reason, need to be helped.

Your country, which already hosts the headquarters of international community institutions, has seen its European vocation once again reaffirmed by the choice of one of your countrymen as president of the European Council. Certainly these successive choices are not only linked to the geographical position of your country and its multilingual capacities. A member of the original nucleus of founding countries, your nation committed itself and distinguished itself in seeking a consensus in very complex situations. This quality must be encouraged at the moment to face, for the good of all, the challenges internal to your country.

Today I would like to underscore that the art of consensus, if it is to bear lasting fruit, must not be reduced to a purely dialectical ability but must seek the true and the good. Because "[w]ithout truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present" ("Caritas in Veritate," no. 5).

Profiting from our meeting, I would like to warmly greet the bishops of Belgium, whom I will have the pleasure of receiving very soon on the occasion of their ad limina Apostolorum visit. My thoughts turn especially to His Excellency Archbishop Léonard, who, with enthusiasm and generosity, has just begun his new mission as archbishop of Malines-Brussels. I would also like to greet the priests of your country as well as the deacons and all the faithful who make up the Catholic community of Belgium. I invite them to bear witness to their faith with audacity. In their roles in society may they assert fully their right to propose values that respect human nature and correspond to the deepest and most authentic spiritual aspirations of the person!

In the moment in which you officially assume your functions at the Holy See, I offer my best wishes for a happy carrying out of your mission. You can be certain, Mr. Ambassador, that you will always find a cordial attention and understanding among my coworkers. Invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary and St. Damien, I pray to the Lord to pour out his generous blessings upon you, upon your family and your coworkers, and also upon the Belgian people and their leaders.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Macedonian Envoy
"Your Country Is Proud of a Long and Luminous Christian Tradition"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 22, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today as he greeted Macedonia's new ambassador to the Holy See, Gioko Gjorgjevski.

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Mr. Ambassador

I am happy to receive Your Excellency for the presentation of your Letters of Credence as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the Holy See. I am grateful for the cordial expressions you addressed to me, also on behalf of the authorities and of the noble Nation that you represent. I ask you to convey to them the expression of my esteem and benevolence, united to the certainty of my prayer for concord and the harmonious development of the whole country.

On receiving you, my thought goes to the annual meeting between the Successor of Peter and an authoritative official delegation from your country, which is held on the occasion of the feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, venerated spiritual guides of the Slav peoples and co-patrons of Europe. This meeting, which has become a pleasant custom, attests to the good relations that exist between the Holy See and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. They are bilateral relations, which have developed, especially in the last year, in a positive way, and which are characterized by cordial cooperation. In regard to this, I wish to manifest my pleasure over the mutual commitment manifested in the recent construction of new buildings of Catholic worship in several places of the country.

As you have underlined, visible in the Macedonian people are the signs of human and Christian values, embodied in the life of the people, which constitute the cherished spiritual and cultural patrimony of the nation, of which are also eloquent the wonderful religious monuments, which arose in different periods and localities, notably in the city of Ohrid. To this precious heritage, the Holy See looks with great esteem and consideration, favoring, in what is of her competence, its historical-documentary deepening, for a greater knowledge of its religious and cultural past. Beginning from this patrimony, the citizens of your country will continue building also in the future their own history and, strong in their spiritual identity, will be able to contribute their experience to the concert of European nations. Because of this, I very much hope that the aspirations and growing efforts of this country to form part of a united Europe will come to a good end, in a condition of acceptance of the relative rights and duties and in the mutual respect of collective agencies and of the traditional values of each nation.

Mr. Ambassador, in the words you pronounced on the commitment of the Macedonian people to increasingly favor dialogue and coexistence between the different ethnic and religious realities that constitute the country, I have perceived that universal aspiration to justice and internal cohesion which has always animated it, and which can become an example for other regions of the Balkans. In fact, the bridges of exchange of more ample agreements and close religious relations between the different components of Macedonian society have favored the creation of a climate in which persons recognize themselves brothers, children of the same God and citizens of one country. It is certainly the task, in the first place of those in charge of institutions, to find ways of translating into political initiatives the aspirations of men and women to dialogue and peace. Believers, nevertheless, know that peace is not only the fruit of planning and human activities, but that first of all it is a gift of God to men of good will. Of this peace, moreover, justice and forgiveness are the basic pillars. Justice ensures full respect of the rights and duties and forgiveness heals and rebuilds from the foundations relations between persons, who still resent the consequences of the confrontation between ideologies of the recent past.

Having surmounted the stage of the last World War, after the sad experience of a totalitarianism that denied the fundamental rights of the human person, the Macedonian people have pointed themselves to a harmonious economic progress, giving proof of patience, willingness to sacrifice and persevering optimism, tenaciously directed to the creation of a better future for all its inhabitants. A stable social and economic development cannot but keep in mind the cultural, social and spiritual needs of the people, as it must also appreciate the most noble traditions and popular resources. All this in the awareness of the growing phenomenon of globalization, which entails, on one hand, a certain leveling of social and economic differences, could, on the other, aggravate the balance between those who take advantage of ever greater possibilities of wealth and those, instead, who are left on the margins of progress.

Mr. Ambassador, your country is proud of a long and luminous Christian tradition, which dates back to Apostolic times. I hope that in a global context of moral relativism and of little interest in the religious experience, in which a part of European society often moves, the citizens of the noble nation that you represent will be able to make a wise discernment by opening themselves to the new horizons of authentic civilization and true humanism. To do this, it is necessary to keep alive and firm, at the personal and community level, those principles that are also at the base of this nation's civilization: attachment to the family, the defense of human life, the promotion of religious needs, especially of the young. Although the Catholic Church in your nation constitutes a minority, it wishes to make a sincere contribution in the building of a more just and solidaristic society, based on the Christian values that have fertilized the consciences of its inhabitants. I am certain that the Catholic community, in the awareness that charity in truth "is the principal driving force for the true development of every person and of the whole of humanity" (Caritas in Veritate, n. 1) will continue its charitable mission, especially in favor of the poor and the suffering, so appreciated in your country.

Excellency, I am sure that you also, in the fulfillment of the lofty task entrusted to you, will contribute to intensify the already good existing relations between the Holy See and the Macedonian nation, and I assure you that you can count, to this end, on the full availability of all my collaborators of the Roman Curia. With these fervent desires, I invoke upon you, Mr. Ambassador, upon your family, upon those governing and upon all the inhabitants of the nation that you represent, an abundant divine Blessing.


On the Trip to Malta
"The Plan of the Love of God Is Even Greater Than the Storms"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters:

As you know, last Saturday and Sunday I undertook an apostolic journey to Malta, on which I would like to reflect briefly today. The occasion of the pastoral visit was the 1,950th anniversary of the Apostle Paul's shipwreck on the coasts of the Maltese archipelago and of his sojourn on those islands during almost three months. It is an event that occurred around the year 60 and which is recounted with abundant detail in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (chapters 27-28).

As happened to St. Paul, I also experienced the warm welcome of the Maltese -- truly extraordinary -- and because of this I express again my most heartfelt and cordial gratitude to the president of the republic, to the government and to the other state authorities, and I fraternally thank the bishops of the country, along with all those who collaborated in preparing this festive meeting between the Successor of Peter and the Maltese people. The history of these people for 2,000 years is inseparable from the Catholic faith, which characterizes its culture and traditions. It is said that in Malta there are 365 churches, "one for each day of the year," a visible sign of this profound faith!

It all began with that shipwreck: After drifting for 14 days, pushed by the winds, the vessel that transported the Apostle Paul and many other persons to Rome, ran aground on a sandbank of the Island of Malta. That is why, after the very cordial meeting with the president of the republic, in the capital Valletta -- which had the beautiful framework of the joyful greeting with so many boys and girls -- I went immediately on pilgrimage to the so-called Grotto of St. Paul, near Rabat, for an intense moment of prayer. There I was also able to greet a large group of Maltese missionaries.

To think of this small archipelago in the center of the Mediterranean, and how the seed of the Gospel arrived in it, stirs a sentiment of great amazement in face of the mysterious plans of Divine Providence: Arising spontaneously is gratitude to the Lord and also to St. Paul, who, in the midst of that violent storm, kept his confidence and hope and transmitted them also to his travel companions. From that shipwreck, or better, from Paul's subsequent sojourn in Malta, was born a fervent and solid Christian community, which after 2,000 years is still faithful to the Gospel and makes an effort to combine it with the complex questions of the contemporary age. This, naturally, is not always easy, nor is it taken for granted, but the Maltese know how to find in the Christian vision the answer to the new challenges. A sign of this, for example, is the fact of having kept firm their profound respect for unborn life and for the sacredness of marriage, choosing not to introduce abortion and divorce in the country's juridical system.

Hence, my journey had as its objective to confirm in the faith the Church that is in Malta, a very living reality, well ordered and present in the territory of Malta and Gozo. This community met in Floriana, in Granai Square, before the Church of St. Paul, where I celebrated Holy Mass, in which there was participation with great fervor. It was for me a motive of joy and also of consolation, to feel the particular warmth of that people, which gives the feeling of a great family, united by the faith and Christian vision of life. After the celebration, I wished to meet with some victims of abuses on the part of members of the clergy. I shared with them their suffering and, overwhelmed, I prayed with them, assuring them of the Church's action.

If Malta gives the impression of a great family, one must not think that, because of its geographic conformation, it is a society "isolated" from the world. This is not so and one sees it, for example, in the contacts that Malta has with several countries and because of the fact that Maltese priests are in many nations. In fact, the families and parishes of Malta have been able to educate many young people in the sense of God and of the Church, so much so that many of them have responded generously to Jesus' call and have become presbyters. Among these, many have embraced the missionary commitment ad gentes, in far off lands, inheriting the apostolic spirit that impelled St. Paul to take the Gospel where it had not yet arrived. This is an aspect that I have stressed, namely, that "faith is strengthened when it is given to others" (Redemptoris Missio, 2). Malta has developed on the trunk of this faith and now opens to several economic, social and cultural realities, to which it offers a precious contribution.

Clearly Malta has often had to defend itself in the course of the centuries -- and this is seen by its fortifications. The strategic position of the small archipelago obviously attracted the attention of the different political and military powers. And yet, Malta's most profound vocation is the Christian vocation, that is, the universal vocation of peace! Malta's famous cross, which everyone associates with that nation, has waved many times in the midst of conflicts and struggles; but thank God, it has not lost its authentic and lasting meaning: It is the sign of love and reconciliation, and this is the true vocation of peoples who receive and embrace the Christian message!

A natural crossroads, Malta is at the center of migration routes: men and women, like St. Paul before them, arrive on the Maltese coasts, at times impelled by conditions of life that are too harsh, by violence and persecutions, and this entails, naturally, complex problems on the humanitarian, political and juridical plane, problems that have solutions but that are not easy, but which must be sought with perseverance and tenacity, coordinating interventions at the international level. It is good to do this in all the nations that have Christian values at the root of their constitutional charters and cultures.

The challenge to reconcile the lasting validity of the Gospel in today's complexity is fascinating for all, but especially for young people. In fact, the new generations perceive it more strongly, and that is why I wished, despite the brevity of my visit, that a meeting not be lacking in Malta with young people. This was a moment of intense and profound dialogue, made even more beautiful by the environment in which it took place -- the port of Valletta -- and by the enthusiasm of the young people. I could not fail to remind them of St. Paul's youthful experience: an extraordinary, unique experience and yet able to speak to the new generations of every age, by that radical transformation that followed the encounter with the Resurrected Christ. Therefore I saw the young people of Malta as the potential heirs of St. Paul's spiritual adventure, called, like him, to discover the beauty of the love of God that has been given to us in Jesus Christ; to embrace the mystery of the cross; to be victors precisely in the trials and tribulations, not to be afraid of the "storms" of life, or of shipwrecks, because the plan of the love of God is even greater than the storms and shipwrecks.

Dear friends, this, in synthesis, has been the message I took to Malta. However, as I pointed out, I have received much from that Church, from those people blessed by God, who have been able to collaborate effectively with his grace. Through the intercession of the Apostle Paul, of St. Gorg Preca, priest and first Maltese saint, and of the Virgin Mary, whom the faithful of Malta and Gozo venerate with such devotion, may they be able to progress always in peace and in prosperity.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This past weekend I had the joy of visiting Malta for the nineteen hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Saint Paul's shipwreck and his three-month sojourn there. I am deeply grateful to the civil and Church authorities, and to all who received me so warmly. At the Grotto of Saint Paul I thanked God for the abundant fruits of faith, holiness and missionary zeal which the preaching of the Apostle has brought forth on those islands. The Christian vision, so deeply rooted in Maltese life and culture, continues to provide inspiration for meeting the great social and moral challenges of the present time. The vitality of the faith in Malta was evident in the joyful celebration of Mass before the Church of Saint Publius. As a natural crossroads, Malta has never been isolated or self-enclosed, nor has the Maltese cross, which I saw waving everywhere, ever lost its authentic meaning as a signs of love and reconciliation. The challenge of passing on the perennial wisdom and truth of the Gospel belongs in a particular way to the younger generation. At the port of Valletta, I challenged Malta's young people to look to Saint Paul's spiritual journey as a model for their own, to let their lives be changed by an encounter with the Risen Christ, and to trust that God's loving plan is more powerful than any storm or shipwreck along the way.

I welcome the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Scots College, together with their family members and friends. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, the Philippines, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

I greet so many students of every order and degree, whom I thank for their numerous participation, with a particular thought for the Nazareth Institute of Rome, and I encourage them to persevere in the generous commitment of Christian witness in the school sector.

A special thought goes, finally, to the other young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Next Sunday, the fourth Sunday of the season of Easter, the Day of Prayer for Vocations will be celebrated. A hope that you, dear young people, will find in the dialogue with God your personal response to his plan of love; I invite you, dear sick, to offer your sufferings so that numerous and holy vocations will mature. And you, dear newlyweds, draw from daily prayer the strength to build a genuine Christian family.


Cardinal Sodano's Address at Pope's Luncheon
"The College of Cardinals Is ... Always United to the Successor of Peter"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 21, 2010 ( On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his election, Benedict XVI lunched with 46 cardinals and some members and collaborators of the Roman Curia on Monday morning, April 19, in the Ducal Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

At the end of the lunch, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals, gave the following address on behalf of all those present.

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Most Blessed Father,

Five years ago now the Lord addressed to you those telling words that one day long ago he directed to the Apostle Peter: "If you love me, feed my lambs, feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17).

Animated by a great love of Christ and of his Holy Church, you manifested your "Yes" to the Good Shepherd and thus initiated your mission with great generosity. Today we wish to thank you for all that you have done in these five years at the service of the Church and of the world.

At the end of the Holy Mass that you celebrated in the Sistine Chapel, the day after your election -- many of those present remember it -- Your Holiness said to us: "Of you, esteemed cardinals, with a grateful spirit for the trust demonstrated to me, I ask that you sustain me with prayer and with constant, active and wise collaboration" (cf. "Insegnamenti di Benedetto XVI," 2005/i, page 9).

Holy Father, in these years this has been our commitment, or common commitment, and today more than ever we seek to do carry it out. It is the commitment not only of the 60 cardinals residents in the city, but also that of the 121 brothers spread over the world, whom we feel close today.

In fact, some cardinals resident in the Curia have not been able to be with us today, because of their conditions of health. But in spirit they are also present in our midst and present to you their most fervid wishes for every good.

Precisely last Friday, we were left my one of our brothers, dear Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, at the venerated age of 90 years, after having taught us, in all the alternating events of his long life, to trust always in Divine Providence, with that serenity and wisdom of heart that he had drawn from the heart of Christ.

As you see, Holy Father, the College of Cardinals is a large family, always united to the Successor of Peter, and committed to live in a mutual spirit of fraternal communion.

Of course, we cannot forget the challenges that the modern world poses to every disciple of Christ and so much more to us pastors, but we are always sustained by the light of Christian hope, with the certainty that the Lord's grace continues to operate in our midst!

Recently, speaking of that great cardinal that St. Bonaventure was, Your Holiness reminded us of his teaching on the inexhaustible power of the grace of Christ, which is able to light lights of hope also between today's generations.

In this connection, you quoted to us those profound words of the holy Franciscan cardinal: "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt." In reality, also today the works of Christ do not diminish, but progress and it confirms to us that the leaven of the Gospel continues to permeate, with its innate interior dynamism, the whole of humanity (cf. L'Osservatore Romano, March 11, 2010).

I understand, Holiness, that I am taking water to the sea, speaking of hope in front of you, who have given us the beautiful encyclical "Spe Salvi" and that every day directs us to the Risen One, who said to his Apostles: "be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). We wish however to say to you that it is with this spirit that we, today, surround you on the fifth anniversary of your pontificate. With this spirit we say to you today from the depth of our heart: "Ad multos annos, ad multos felicissimos annos!"

[These are the spontaneous remarks of Benedict XVI]

Your Eminence, dear brothers, precisely for his mediation five years ago, the Lord asked me, Do you love me? He gave me the responsibility of continuing the work of St. Peter. At this moment, after five years, I can only give thanks: thanks above all to the Lord himself, who guides me, but also thanks to all of you: to you cardinal dean and to the entire College of Cardinals, for the support I receive every day.

On this occasion I would like to thank all of those who work in the Curia, who work together to carry out the mandate of the Lord to Peter of confirming our brothers in the faith, or proclaiming the Resurrection and of being witnesses of the charity of God. [...]

Let's give thanks to God and pray that God will help us to go forward with strength and faith in the joy of His Resurrection.

Thank you!


Papal Address After Cardinal Spidlik's Funeral Mass
He "Placed ... His Life Within the Commandment of Love"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 20, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave today at the end of the funeral Mass for Jesuit Cardinal Tomas Spidlik, which was presided over by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. The Pope was present at the end of the Mass to make an address and administer the rites of "Ultima Commendatio" and of "Valedictio."

* * *

Venerated Brothers,
Illustrious Gentlemen and Ladies,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Among the last words spoken by the mourned Cardinal Spidlik were these: "I have looked for the face of Jesus during my whole life, and now I am happy and at peace because I am about to see it." This wonderful thought -- so simple, almost childlike in its expression, and yet so profound and true -- refers us immediately to the prayer of Jesus, which resounded a moment ago in the Gospel: "Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

It is beautiful and consoling to meditate on this correspondence between man's desire, who aspired to see the Lord's face, and Jesus' own desire. In reality, that of Christ is much more than an aspiration: It is a will. Jesus says to the Father: "I desire that they also ... may be where I am." And it is precisely here, in this will, where we find the "rock," the solid foundation to believe and to hope. The will of Jesus in fact coincides with that of God the Father, and with the work of the Holy Spirit it constitutes for man a sort of sure "embrace," strong and gentle, which leads him to eternal life.

What an immense gift to hear this will of God from his own mouth! I think that the great men of faith live immersed in this grace, they have the gift to perceive this truth with particular force, and so can also go through harsh trials, such as those that Father Tomas Spidlik went through, without losing confidence, and keeping, on the contrary, a lively sense of humor, which is certainly a sign of intelligence but also of interior liberty. Under this profile, evident was the likeness between our mourned cardinal and the Venerable John Paul II: both were given to ingenious joking and jokes, even though having had as youths difficult personal circumstances, similar in some aspects. Providence made them meet and collaborate for the good of the Church, especially so that she would learn to breathe fully "with her two lungs," as the Slav Pope liked to say.

This liberty and presence of spirit has its objective foundation in the Resurrection of Christ. I want to underline it because we are in the Easter liturgical season and because it is suggested by the first and second biblical readings of this celebration. In his first preaching, on the day of Pentecost, St. Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, proclaims the realization in Jesus Christ of Psalm 16.

It is wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit reveals to the Apostles all the beauty of those words in the full interior light of the Resurrection: "I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope" (Acts 2:25-26; cf Psalm 16/15:8-9). This prayer finds superabundant fulfillment when Christ, the Holy One of God, is not abandoned in hell. He in the first place has known "ways of life" and has been filled with joy with the presence of the Father (cf Acts 2:27-28; Psalm 16/15:11).

The hope and joy of the Risen Jesus are also the hope and joy of his friends, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. Father Spidlik demonstrated it habitually with his way of living, and this witness of his was ever more eloquent with the passing of the years because, despite his advanced age and the inevitable infirmities, his spirit remained fresh and youthful. What is this if not friendship with the Risen Lord?

In the second reading, St. Peter blesses God that "by his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." And he adds: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials" (1 Peter 1:3.6). Here, too, is seen clearly how hope and joy are theological realities that emanate from the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ and from the gift of his Spirit. We could say that the Holy Spirit takes them from the heart of the Risen Christ and infuses them in the heart of his friends.

I introduced on purpose the image of the "heart," because, as many of you know, Father Spidlik chose it as the motto of his cardinal's coat of arms: "Ex toto corde," "with all the heart." This expression is found in the Book of Deuteronomy, within the first and fundamental commandment of the law, there where Moses says to the people: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). "With all the heart -- ex toto corde" refers hence to the way with which Israel must love its God. Jesus confirms the primacy of this commandment, which he combines with that of love of neighbor, affirming that the latter is "similar" to the first and that from both the whole law and the prophets depend (cf Matthew 22:37-39). Choosing this motto, our venerated brother placed, so to speak, his life within the commandment of love, he inscribed it wholly in the primacy of God and of charity.

There is another aspect, a further meaning of the expression "ex toto corde," that surely Father Spidlik had present and attempted to manifest with his motto. Always starting from the Biblical root, the symbol of the heart represents in Eastern spirituality the seat of prayer, of the meeting between man and God, but also with other men and with the cosmos. And here we must remember that in Cardinal Spidlik's standard, the heart that the coat of arms shows contains a cross in whose arms intersect the words "phos" and "zoe" -- "light" and "life" -- which are names of God. Hence, the man who fully receives, "ex toto corde," the love of God, receives light and life, and becomes in turn light and life in humanity and in the universe.

But who is this man? Who is this "heart" of the world, if not Jesus Christ? He is the Light and life, for in Him "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Colossians 2:0). And I wish to recall here that our deceased brother was a member of the Society of Jesus, that is, a spiritual son of St. Ignatius who put in the center of faith and spirituality the contemplation of God in the mystery of Christ.

In this symbol of the heart East and West meet, not in a devotional but in a profoundly Christological sense, as other Jesuit theologians of the last century revealed. And Christ, central figure of Revelation, is also the formal principle of Christian art, a realm that had in Father Spidlik a great teacher, inspirer of ideas and of expressive projects, which found an important synthesis in the Redemptoris Mater chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

I would like to conclude returning to the theme of the Resurrection, quoting a text much loved by cardinal Spidlik, a fragment of the Hymns on the Resurrection of St. Ephrem the Syrian:

"From on High He descended as Lord,
From the womb he issued as a slave,
Death knelt before Him in Sheol,
And life adored Him in his resurrection.

"Blessed is his victory!" (No. 1:8).u

May the Virgin Mother of God accompany the soul of our venerated brother in the embrace of the Most Holy Trinity, where "with all the heart" he will eternally praise his infinite Love. Amen.


Papal Homily at Biblical Commission Mass
"It Is Necessary to ... Recognize What Is Wrong in Our Life"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 19, 2010 - Here is a translation of the complete text of Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass for the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, at which he presided on Thursday morning in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican.

* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I did not find the time to prepare a real homily. I would just like to invite everyone to personal meditation, proposing and highlighting some lines from today's liturgy that offer themselves to the prayerful dialogue between us and the Word of God. The word, the phrase that I would like to propose for our meditation is this magnificent statement by St. Peter: "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). St. Peter is standing before the supreme religious institution, whom he must ordinarily obey, but God is above this institution and God has given him a different "order": he must obey God. Obeying God is freedom, obeying God gives him the freedom to oppose the institution.

And here the exegetes draw our attention to the fact that St. Peter's answer to the Sanhedrin is, almost to the letter, the answer that Socrates gives to the judgment of the tribunal of Athens at his trial. The tribunal offers him freedom, liberation, on the condition, however, that he does not continue to seek God. But seeking God, the search for God is a higher mandate for him, it comes from God himself. And a freedom that is bought with the renunciation of the path toward God would no longer be freedom. So he must not obey these judges -- he must not buy his life losing himself -- but he must obey God. Obedience to God has the primacy.

Here it is important to underscore that the obedience that we are dealing with is precisely the obedience that gives freedom. Modernity has spoken about man's liberation, of his complete autonomy, thus also liberation from obedience to God. There is no need for freedom anymore, man is free, he is autonomous: there is nothing more. But this autonomy is a lie: it is an ontological lie, because man does not exist from himself nor for himself, and it is also a political and practical lie, because collaboration, the sharing of freedom is necessary. And if God does not exist, if God is not accessible to man, only the consensus of the majority is supreme. Consequently, the consensus of the majority becomes the last word, which we must obey. And this consensus -- we know from the history of the last century -- can also be a "consensus in evil."

So we see that so-called autonomy does not truly liberate man. Obedience to God is freedom, because it is the truth, it confronts all that is human. In the history of humanity these words of Peter and Socrates are the true beacon of man's liberation, which knows how to see God and, in the name of God, can and must obey not men but God and therefore be freed from the positivism of human obedience. Dictatorships have always been against this obedience to God. The Nazi dictatorship, like the Marxist dictatorship, cannot accept a God who is above ideological power; and the freedom of martyrs, who recognize God, precisely in obedience to the divine power, always perform that act of liberation in which the freedom of Christ comes to us.

Today, thanks be to God, we do not live under dictatorships but there are subtle forms of dictatorship: a conformism that becomes obligatory, think like everyone thinks, act like everyone acts, and the subtle aggression against the Church, or even the less subtle, demonstrates how this conformism can really be a true dictatorship. For us this is true: one must obey God rather than men. But that means that we truly know God and truly want to obey him. God is not a pretext for one's own will, but it is really he who calls and invites us, even -- if it is necessary -- to martyrdom. This is why, faced with this word that begins a new history of freedom in the world, we pray above all to know God, to humbly and truly know him and, knowing God, to learn the true obedience that is the foundation of human freedom.

Let us choose another line from the first reading: St. Peter says that God raises up Christ to his right hand as head and Savior (cf. 5:31). "Head" is a translation of the Greek term "archegos," which implies a much more dynamic vision: "archegos" is he who points out the road, who precedes, who is moving, a movement toward what is above. God raised him up to his right hand -- so speaking of Christ as "archegos" means to say that Christ walks before us, he precedes us, he shows us the road. And being in communion with Christ is being on a journey, ascending with Christ, it is the following of Christ, it is this ascent upward, it is this following of the "archegos," he who is already gone ahead, who precedes us and shows us the road.

Here, obviously, it is important to say where Christ goes and where we too must go: "hypsosen" -- above -- ascent to the right hand of the Father. The following of Christ is not only the imitation of his virtues, it is not only living like Christ in this world, as far as possible, according to his word; but it is a journey that has a goal. And the goal is the right hand of the Father. There is this journey of Jesus, this following of Jesus that ends at the Father's right hand. Jesus' whole journey and his arriving at the Father's right hand are the horizon of such a following.

In this sense the goal of this journey is eternal life at the right hand of the Father in communion with Christ. Today we often have a little fear of speaking about eternal life. We talk about the things that are useful to this world, we show that Christianity also helps to improve the world, but we do not dare say that its goal is eternal life and that from such a goal come the criteria for life. We must once again understand that Christianity remains a "fragment" if we do not think of this goal, that we want to follow the "archegos" to the heights of God, to the glory of the Son that makes us sons in the Son and we must again recognize that only in the vast perspective of eternal life does Christianity reveal its whole meaning. We must have the courage, the joy, the great hope that there is eternal life, that it is the true life and that from this true life comes the light that also enlightens this world.

If one can say that, even prescinding from eternal life, from the promise of Heaven, it is better to live according to Christian criteria, because living according to the truth and love, even in persecutions, is good in itself and better than all the rest, it is precisely this will to live according to the truth and according to love that must also open to the whole breadth of God's plan for us, to the courage to have already the joy in expectation of eternal life, of ascending, following our "archegos." And "Soter" is the Savior who saves us from ignorance about the last things. The Savior saves us from solitude, from an emptiness that remains in life without eternity; he saves us giving us life in its fullness. He is the leader. Christ, the "archegos," giving us light, giving us truth, giving us God's love.

Let us pause over another line: Christ the Savior gave Israel conversion and forgiveness of sin (5:31) -- in the Greek text the term is "metanoia" -- he has given us penance and forgiveness of sins. For me this is a very important observation: penance is a grace. There is a tendency in exegesis that says: In Galilee Jesus announced a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, so also without penance, pure grace, without human preconditions. But this is a false interpretation of grace. Penance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin, it is a grace to know that we need renewal, change, of a transformation of our being. Penance, to be able to do penance, is a gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, we have often avoided the word penance, it seemed too harsh to us. Now, under the attacks of the world that speaks to us of our sins, we see that being able to do penance is a grace. And we see that it is necessary to do penance, that is, recognize what is wrong in our life, to open up to purification, to transformation, this pain is grace, because it is renewal, it is the work of divine mercy. And thus these 2 things that St. Peter says -- penitence and forgiveness -- correspond to the beginning of Jesus' preaching: "metanoeite," that is, convert (cf. Mark 1:15). This is the fundamental point, then: "metanoia" is not a private thing, that could be substituted by grace; "metanoia" is rather the arrival of the grace that transforms us.

It is finally a word of the Gospel, where we are told that he who believes will have eternal life (cf. John 3:36). In faith, in this "transformation of self" that penance gives, in this conversion, along this new road of living, we reach life, true life. And here to other texts come to my mind. In the "priestly prayer" the Lord says: this is life, knowing you and your consecrated one (cf. John 17:3). Knowing the essential, knowing the decisive Person, knowing God and the one he has sent is life, life and knowledge, knowledge of realities that are life. And the other text is Jesus' reply to the Sadducees about the Resurrection, where, from the books of Moses, the Lord proves the fact of the Resurrection, saying: God is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob (cf. Matthew 22:31-32; Mark 12:26-27; Luke 20:37-38). God is not the God of the dead. If God is their God, then they are alive. Those who are inscribed in God's name participate in God's life, live. And thus believing is being inscribed in God's name. And in this way we are alive. Those who belong to God's name are not dead, they belong to the living God. It is in this sense that we must understand the dynamism of faith, which is an inscribing of our name in God's name and thus an entering into eternal life.

Let us pray to the Lord that this truly happens with our life, that we know God, that our name enters into God's name and our existence becomes true life: eternal life, love and truth.


Pope's Comments En Route to Malta
"Even ... Wounded by Our Sins, The Lord Still Loves This Church"

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, APRIL 17, 2010 ( Here is the transcription of the brief press conference Benedict XVI gave today aboard the papal plane en route to Malta. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, facilitated the encounter with the journalists.

* * *

Father Lombardi: Dear friends, His Holiness is here again with us on the occasion of the first of five trips planned for this year.

[Holy Father], we are very grateful to be with you at the beginning of this trip. This way we can congratulate you on the occasion of two anniversaries to take place in these days: that of yesterday, your birthday, and that of next Monday [the fifth anniversary of his election as Pope].

The Holy Father received the questions that some of you presented and which express in a certain sense the expectations that we all have at the beginning of this trip, and for this reason he will offer some reflections, some considerations, responding to our expectations. We will not follow the usual question-and-answer format of other trips; we will allow the Holy Father to offer a synthetic response. Thank you, Holy Father, and have a good trip.

Benedict XVI: Dear friends, good evening! We hope for a good trip, but without this dark cloud that is hanging over a part of Europe.

So, why this trip to Malta? There are many reasons.

The first is St. Paul. The Pauline Year for the universal Church has concluded, but Malta is celebrating 1,950 years since his shipwreck, and this is for me an occasion to underline once again the great figure of the Apostle to the Gentiles, and his important message, precisely for the world today. I think one can synthesize the essence of his journey with the words he himself used toward the end of the letter to the Galatians: "faith working through love." This is something important also for today: Faith, a relationship with God, transforms itself into charity.

I also think the memory of the shipwreck says something to us. With the shipwreck, Malta was given to opportunity to have the faith. In this way, we can also think about how the shipwrecks of life can be part of God's project for us, and be useful for a new beginning in our life.

The second reason: I like to be in the midst of a lively church such as the one in Malta, which is fruitful still today in vocations, full of faith in the midst of our times, and responds to the challenges of our times. I know that Malta loves Christ, and loves his church, which is his body. And [Malta] knows that even if this body is wounded by our sins, the Lord still loves this Church, and its Gospel is the true strength that purifies and heals.

Third point: Malta is the place where waves of refugees arrive from Africa and knock on the door of Europe. This is a great problem of our time, and naturally, the island of Malta cannot resolve it. We all have to respond to this challenge. We must work so that all can live a dignified life in their own land. Also, we must do all that is possible so that these refugees can find room for a dignified life here. It means responding to a great challenge of our time. Malta reminds us of these problems. It also reminds us that faith is the strength of charity -- as well as the imagination -- that allows us to respond well to these challenges. Thank you.

Father Lombardi: Thank you, Your Holiness, and have a good trip. We will accompany you with our work and our information.


Papal Address Upon Arriving in Malta
"Serve As a Bridge of Understanding"

LUQA, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon arriving at the Malta International Airport in Luqa, at the beginning of his two-day trip to the island nation.

* * *

Mr President,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Jien kuntent ?afna li ninsab fostkom! [I am delighted to be here with you!]

It gives me great joy to be here in Malta with you today. I come among you as a pilgrim to worship the Lord and to praise him for the wonders he has worked here. I come also as the Successor of Saint Peter to confirm you in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) and to join you in prayer to the one living and true God, in the company of all the Saints, including the great Apostle of Malta, Saint Paul. Though my visit to your country is short, I pray that it will bear much fruit.

I am grateful, Mr President, for the kind words with which you have greeted me in your own name and on behalf of the Maltese people. I thank you for your invitation and for the hard work that you and the Government have done in order to prepare for my visit. I thank the Prime Minister, the civil and military authorities, the members of the Diplomatic Corps and everyone present, for honouring this occasion by your presence and for your cordial welcome.

I greet in a special way Archbishop Paul Cremona, Bishop Mario Grech and Auxiliary Bishop Annetto Depasquale, as well as the other Bishops present. In greeting you, I wish to express my affection for the priests, deacons, men and women Religious and all the lay faithful entrusted to your pastoral care.

The occasion of my visit to these islands is the nineteen hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Saint Paul’s shipwreck off the island of Malta. Saint Luke describes this event in the Acts of the Apostles, and it is from his account that you have chosen the theme of this visit: "Je?tieg iz.da li naslu fi gz.ira" ["But we are to be stranded on some island"] (Acts 27:26). Some might consider Saint Paul’s arrival in Malta by means of a humanly unforeseen event to be a mere accident of history. The eyes of faith, however, enable us to recognize here the workings of divine Providence.

Malta, in fact, has been at the crossroads of many of the great events and cultural exchanges in European and Mediterranean history, right up to our own times. These islands have played a key role in the political, religious and cultural development of Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. To these shores, then, in the mysterious designs of God, the Gospel was brought by Saint Paul and the early followers of Christ. Their missionary work has borne much fruit over the centuries, contributing in innumerable ways to shaping Malta’s rich and noble culture.

On account of their geographical position, these islands have been of great strategic importance on more than one occasion, even in recent times: indeed, the George Cross upon your national flag proudly testifies to your people’s great courage during the dark days of the last world war. Likewise, the fortifications that feature so prominently in the island’s architecture speak of earlier struggles, when Malta contributed so much to the defence of Christianity by land and by sea. You continue to play a valuable role in the ongoing debates on European identity, culture and policy. At the same time, I am pleased to note your Government’s commitment to humanitarian projects further afield, especially in Africa. It is greatly to be hoped that this will serve to promote the welfare of those less fortunate than yourselves, as an expression of genuine Christian charity.

Indeed, Malta has much to contribute to questions as diverse as tolerance, reciprocity, immigration, and other issues crucial to the future of this continent. Your Nation should continue to stand up for the indissolubility of marriage as a natural institution as well as a sacramental one, and for the true nature of the family, just as it does for the sacredness of human life from conception to natural death and for the proper respect owed to religious freedom in ways that bring authentic integral development to individuals and society.

Malta also has close links to the near East, not only in cultural and religious terms, but even linguistically. Allow me to encourage you to put this ensemble of skills and strengths to ever greater use so as to serve as a bridge of understanding between the peoples, cultures and religions which surround the Mediterranean. Much has still to be done to build relationships of genuine trust and fruitful dialogue, and Malta is well placed to hold out the hand of friendship to her neighbours to north and south, to east and west.

The Maltese people, enlightened for almost two millennia by the teachings of the Gospel and continually fortified by their Christian roots, are rightly proud of the indispensable role that the Catholic faith has played in their nation’s development. The beauty of our faith is expressed in various and complementary ways here, not least in the lives of holiness which have led Maltese to give of themselves for the good of others. Among these we must include Dun G.or? Preca, whom I was pleased to canonize just three years ago (3 June, 2007). I invite all of you to invoke his intercession for the spiritual fruitfulness of this, my first pastoral visit among you.

I look forward to praying with you during my time in Malta and I wish, as a father and as a brother, to assure you of my affection for you and my eagerness to share this time with you in faith and friendship. With these thoughts, I entrust all of you to the protection of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu and your father in the faith, the great Apostle Paul.

Il-Mulej ibierek lill-poplu kollu ta’ Malta u ta’ G?awdex! [God bless all the people of Malta and Gozo!].

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Words at Grotto of St. Paul
"Take Up the Exciting Challenge of the New Evangelization"

RABAT, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today upon visiting the Church of St. Paul in Rabat. The Pope arrived in Malta today for a two-day trip.

* * *

Dear Archbishop Cremona,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My pilgrimage to Malta has begun with a moment of silent prayer at the Grotto of Saint Paul, who first brought the faith to these islands. I have come in the footsteps of those countless pilgrims down the centuries who have prayed in this holy place, entrusting themselves, their families and the welfare of this nation to the intercession of the Apostle of the Gentiles. I rejoice to be at last in your midst and I greet all of you with great affection in the Lord!

Paul’s shipwreck and his three-month stay in Malta left an indelible mark upon the history of your country. His words to his companions prior to his arrival in Malta are recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles and have been a special theme in your preparation for my visit. Those words – "Je?tieg iz.da li naslu fi gz.ira" ["But we are to be stranded on some island"] (Acts 27:26). – in their original context are a summons to courage in the face of the unknown and to unfailing confidence in God’s mysterious providence. The castaways were, in fact, warmly welcomed by the Maltese people, following the lead given by Saint Publius. In God’s plan, Saint Paul thus became your father in the Christian faith. Thanks to his presence among you, the Gospel of Jesus Christ took deep root and bore fruit not only in the lives of individuals, families and communities, but also in the formation of Malta’s national identity and its vibrant and distinctive culture.

Paul’s apostolic labours also bore a rich harvest in the generations of preachers who followed in his footsteps, and particularly in the great number of priests and religious who imitated his missionary zeal by leaving Malta in order to bring the Gospel to distant shores. I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet so many of them today in this Church of Saint Paul, and to encourage them in their challenging and often heroic vocation. Dear missionaries: I thank all of you, in the name of the whole Church, for your witness to the Risen Lord and for your lives spent in the service of others. Your presence and activity in so many countries of the world brings honour to your country and testifies to an evangelical impulse deeply embedded in the Church in Malta. Let us ask the Lord to raise up many more men and women to carry forward the noble mission of proclaiming the Gospel and working for the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom in every land and people!

Saint Paul’s arrival in Malta was not planned. As we know, he was travelling to Rome when a violent storm arose and his ship ran aground on this island. Sailors can map a journey, but God, in his wisdom and providence, charts a course of his own. Paul, who dramatically encountered the Risen Lord while on the road to Damascus, knew this well. The course of his life was suddenly changed; henceforth, for him, to live was Christ (cf. Phil 1:21); his every thought and action was directed to proclaiming the mystery of the Cross and its message of God’s reconciling love.

That same word, the word of the Gospel, still has the power to break into our lives and to change their course. Today the same Gospel which Paul preached continues to summon the people of these islands to conversion, new life and a future of hope. Standing in your midst as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I invite you to hear God’s word afresh, as your ancestors did, and to let it challenge your ways of thinking and the way you live your lives.

From this holy place where the apostolic preaching first spread throughout these islands, I call upon each of you to take up the exciting challenge of the new evangelization. Live out your faith ever more fully with the members of your families, with your friends, in your neighbourhoods, in the workplace and in the whole fabric of Maltese society. In a particular way I urge parents, teachers and catechists to speak of your own living encounter with the Risen Jesus to others, especially the young people who are Malta’s future. "Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!" (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 2). Believe that your moments of faith assure an encounter with God, who in his mighty power touches human hearts. In this way, you will introduce the young to the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith, and offer them a sound catechesis, inviting them to ever more active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

The world needs this witness! In the face of so many threats to the sacredness of human life, and to the dignity of marriage and the family, do not our contemporaries need to be constantly reminded of the grandeur of our dignity as God’s children and the sublime vocation we have received in Christ? Does not society need to reappropriate and defend those fundamental moral truths which remain the foundation of authentic freedom and genuine progress?

Just now, as I stood before this Grotto, I reflected on the great spiritual gift (cf. Rom 1:11) which Paul gave to Malta, and I prayed that you might keep unblemished the heritage bequeathed to you by the great Apostle. May the Lord confirm you and your families in the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6), and make you joyful witnesses to the hope which never disappoints (cf. Rom 5:5). Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Maltese President's Welcome to Pontiff
"We Still Cherish a Code of Values, Nourished by Our Faith"

LUQA, Malta, APRIL 17, 2010 ( Here is the text of the address delivered today by George Abela, president of Malta, on the ocassion of welcoming Benedict XVI to the country for a two-day visit.

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Your Holiness,

Mer?ba fil-Gz.ira ta' San Pawl - Welcome to the Island of St. Paul on this Your first Apostolic visit to our Island coinciding with your birthday which was yesterday, on behalf of the People of Malta and Gozo, on my own behalf and on behalf of my wife Margaret, I wish you "Ad multos annos".

I still have vivid memories of my inspiring meeting with you last June, during the customary first official visit outside Malta of every Maltese President, when your departing words were "I hope I will see you next time in Malta".

We rejoice today that the Successor of St. Peter, St. Peter the Apostle friend of St. Paul, is amongst us to commemorate with his faithful flock, the one thousand, nine hundred and fiftieth (1950) anniversary of the shipwreck in Malta of St. Paul in the year 60.

St. Paul, as we find recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, was on his way to trial in Rome when a storm caused all the two hundred seventy six (276) passengers on board the vessel to seek shelter on the Island of Malta, then known as Melite, which was a Roman possession. The inhabitants, described by Luke as barbaroi, and therefore spoke no Greek or Latin, were pagan but treated the Apostle and all the shipwrecked with "unusual hospitality by kindling a fire because of the rain and the cold". He healed the father of Publius, the Protos, chief man of the Island and afterwards, others came to Paul and were also cured. What appears from archaeological remains to have been a sophisticated Roman city, Melite, thrived at the centre of the Island where Mdina and Rabat are now built. It seems Paul had some freedom of movement since he was highly regarded by Julius, the Roman centurion guarding him and since he usually exercised his mission in an urban environment, it is likely that he went to this city and may have met members of the community living there. St. Paul's Grotto, which has been traditionally associated with Paul for centuries, is found precisely in this neighbourhood.

Although the Acts are silent as to St. Paul's preaching and the inhabitants' conversion, it is unimaginable that the Apostle of the Gentiles, who described himself as "Zealous for God", could have lived three months on the Island, as recounted in the Acts, without preaching to its inhabitants the message of Redemption. It is also natural to presume that a small community of Christians was born around the figure of the Apostle. The idea of God, as entertained by our ancestors before the shipwreck, had progressively changed during St. Paul's stay in Malta from that "of the Avenging Judge, as recounted when the viper came out of the fire and stuck to Paul's hand, into that of God the Healer, the Pardoner and the Saviour". This is how the conversion of our fore-fathers happened.

St. Paul is therefore generally accepted as having sown the first seeds of evangelisation on this land and of having led its people to their first encounter with Jesus or "with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" as you aptly describe, Holy Father, in your encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est". This means that the people of our Islands were fortunate enough to have received the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven even before the first gospel is believed to have been written.

This was a definite moment in our history which has to be viewed not only in its historical and religious perspective but also in its moral and cultural implications because it laid the ethical and intellectual foundations of our State. It gave Malta a new identity: a Christian identity which gradually replaced the pagan, polytheistic culture into a Christian one.

While bearing in mind these historical roots, we must now look at the present time and ask ourselves the pertinent question: Where does Malta stand today? What would the same Apostle Paul say of Malta today had he been around to see all that has taken place since that time?

Malta is not only an independent country today but it has also reached a level of economic and social development which has enabled it to become a Member State of the European Union. Like all the rest of Europe and the western world, we are now facing a conflict between Christianity on one side and laicism or secularism on the other which in the words of philosopher Marcello Pera, as he recently described it in Il Corriere della Sera, whilst referring to Europe : "e in corso una guerra. La guerra e' fra il laicismo e il cristianesimo". [as in the middle of a war. The war is between secularism and Christianity.]

And, in drawing parallels with Nazism and Communism he reiterates that:

"Oggi come ieri, cio' che si vuole e' la distruzione della religione. Allora l'Europa pago` a questa furia distruttrice il prezzo della propria liberta'... la stessa democrazia sarebbe perduta se il cristianesimo venisse ancora cancellato". [Today as yesterday, there are those who wish to destroy religion. So Europe pays the price of its own liberty for this destructive fury… democracy itself would be lost if Christianity were yet to be eliminated.]

Today, we face the wave of secularism which has as its starting point the strict separation of Church and State: a laicist model advocating that the State should be strictly separate from religion which is conceived as belonging exclusively to the private domain. This profane character which has developed in some European States is driving people to be laicist or even anti-Christian.

However, as we all know or as we all should know, the moral foundations of a society as a whole, comprising believers, agnostics or atheists, are better served not with the falling away from religion but with the reinvigoration of the moral consciousness of the State. As Your Holiness has splendidly described it in your book "Values in a time of Upheaval":

"One point that is fundamental in all cultures, is namely, reverence for that which is holy to other persons, and reverence to the Holy One, God. One can certainly demand this even of those who are not themselves willing to believe in God. Where this reverence is shattered, something in a society perishes".

Holy Father, those of us who believe, are fortified by these fundamental values enunciated by the Church and, though we acknowledge that church members, even its ministers, may, at times, unfortunately go astray, we are left in no doubt that these values have universal application and their validity transcends both time and space. It would be wrong in my view to try to use the reprehensible indiscretions of the few to cast a shadow on the Church as a whole. The Catholic Church remains committed to safeguarding children and all vulnerable people and to seeing that there is no hiding place for those who seek to do harm. It is therefore the Church and even the State's duty to work hand in hand to issue directives and enact legislation so that effective, transparent mechanisms are set-up together with harmonized and expeditious procedures in order to curb cases of abuse so that justice will not only be done but seen to be done.

Holy Father, we are proud as a nation to have inherited a Christian heritage which is at the core of our historical identity, even though we are not a confessional state. We too are experiencing, like all the rest of Europe, the phenomenon of multiculturalism, but this does not mean that we have to renounce to the beliefs which are our own. We still cherish a code of values, nourished by our Faith, such as the cardinal value of marriage and the family. We acknowledge that our Maltese family is undergoing rapid social changes and challenges, greatly influenced by current Western-world lifestyles and the ever-increasing secularization of the Maltese society. But the majority of our people still believe in monogamous marriage, based on the relationship between a man and a woman, open to the procreation of children, and consequently to the formation of a family as the bedrock of our nation.

We treasure the inviolability of the human person and affirm our full respect for human rights and uphold the principles of social justice by providing equal opportunities for all and ensuring that everybody has access to one's basic needs. We are against human trafficking and cherish the sanctity of human life from its conception to its natural end. We believe in the values of freedom, equality and solidarity, the fundamental principles of democracy and of the rule of law.

Being situated at the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta is exposed to and faces the burden of illegal immigration which is stretching our financial and human resources. In spite of these difficulties, we should however, never shrink back from our traditional values of solidarity and hospitality towards these migrants during their stay in Malta in full respect of their rights and human dignity.

We have made it our mission to work for peace and prosperity in our Mediterranean region and we refuse to countenance conflict between cultures and actively foster dialogue, including inter-faith dialogue, and understanding between peoples. I am sure I would be speaking for the majority of my countrymen when I say that in the Crucifix we see a symbol of our history, of our culture, and above all of our Faith. The face of the suffering Jesus on the Cross is the face of God who forgave his enemies while He was dying.

The great majority of our young people, although not immune to certain negative tendencies of the modern world, harbour positive values and are seriously dedicated to preparing themselves to be the good citizens of tomorrow. Our hopes for the future of our Nation depend on them. Tomorrow, Malta's youth will have the wonderful opportunity of meeting the Vicar of Christ in person to share their experiences with him and I know how a large number of them have been involved in preparations for this memorable and fruitful event which will enrich their lives for many years to come.

Holy Father, I am proud to say that all this forms part of our national identity and heritage. Your predecessor, the Venerable Pope John Paul II, during His visit in Malta on the 27th of May 1990 had exhorted us by proclaiming that:

"Malta is called to contribute to the spiritual unity of the old Continent by offering her treasures of Christian faith and values. Europe needs Malta's faithful witness too".

This is what we promise You today, that we continue upholding these values and our Faith which seemingly started off by mere chance but which we now cherish by our own choice as our firm belief.

In the meantime, Holy Father, rest assured that we are welcoming You, as the successor of St. Peter, with extraordinary hospitality, "bi tjubija liema b?ala" as our ancestors did with St. Paul.


Pope's Address to Papal Foundation Members
"I Ask You to Pray for the Needs of the Universal Church"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today in an audience with members of the Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation.

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Dear Friends,

I am pleased to greet the members of The Papal Foundation on the occasion of your annual pilgrimage to Rome. Our meeting is pervaded by the joy of this Easter season, as the Church celebrates the Lord's glorious victory over death and his gift of new life in the Holy Spirit.

A year ago I had the grace of visiting the Holy Land and praying before the Lord's empty tomb. There, echoing the witness of the Apostle Peter, I proclaimed that Christ, by rising to new life, has taught us "that evil never has the last word, that love is stronger than death, and that our future, and the future of all humanity, lies in the hands of a faithful and provident God" (Address at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 15 May 2009). In every time and place, the Church is called to proclaim this message of hope and to confirm its truth by her practical witness of holiness and charity. The Papal Foundation has advanced this mission in a particular way by supporting a broad spectrum of charities close to the heart of the Successor of Peter. I thank you for your generous efforts to offer assistance to our brothers and sisters in developing countries, to provide for the education of the Church's future leaders, and to advance the missionary endeavors of so many dioceses and religious congregations throughout the world.

In these days I ask you to pray for the needs of the universal Church and to implore a renewed outpouring of the Spirit's gifts of holiness, unity and missionary zeal upon the whole People of God. With great affection I commend you and your families to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of joy and peace in Jesus our Risen Lord.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Priest's Mission as Teacher
"In the Church, Christ Is Never Absent"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear friends,

In this Easter season, which leads us to Pentecost and also directs us to the celebrations closing the Year for Priests, planned for next June 9, 10 and 11, I cherish dedicating again some reflections to the topic of the ordained ministry, pausing on the fruitful reality of the priest's configuration to Christ the Head, in the exercise of the three "munera" he receives, that is, the three offices of teaching, sanctifying and governing.

To understand what it means to act "in persona Christi Capitis" -- in the person of Christ the Head -- on the part of the priest, and to understand also what consequences stem from the task of representing the Lord, especially in the exercise of these three offices, it is necessary to clarify first of all what is intended by [the word] "representation." The priest represents Christ. What does it mean, what does it signify to "represent" someone? In ordinary language it means -- generally -- to receive a delegation from a person to be present in his place, to speak and act in his place, because the one who is represented is absent from the concrete action.

We ask ourselves: Does the priest represent the Lord in the same way? The answer is no, because in the Church, Christ is never absent, the Church is his living body and he is the Head of the Church, present and active in it. Christ is never absent; in fact he is present in a way totally free of the limits of space and time, thanks to the event of the Resurrection, which we contemplate in a special way in this Easter season.

Hence, the priest who acts "in persona Christi Capitis" and in representation of the Lord, never acts in the name of someone who is absent, but in the very Person of the Risen Christ, who makes himself present with his truly effective action. He really acts and does what the priest could not do: the consecration of the wine and the bread so that they will really be the presence of the Lord, [and] the absolution of sins. The Lord makes present his own action in the person who carries out such gestures. These three tasks of the priest -- which Tradition has identified in the different mission words of the Lord: teach, sanctify, govern -- in their distinction and in their profound unity, are a specification of this effective representation. They are in reality the three actions of the Risen Christ, the same one who today teaches in the Church and in the world and thus creates faith, gathers his people, creates the presence of truth and really builds the communion of the universal Church; and sanctifies and guides.

The first task of which I wish to speak today is the "munus docendi," namely, that of teaching. Today, at the height of the educational emergency, the "munus docendi" of the Church, exercised concretely through the ministry of each priest, is particularly important. We live amid great confusion about the fundamental choices of our life and the questions about what the world is, from where it comes, where we are going, what we must do to carry out the good, how we must live, what are the really pertinent values. In relation to all this there are so many contrasting philosophies, which arise and disappear, creating confusion about the fundamental decisions, how to live, why we do not know more, ordinarily, from what thing and for what thing we were made and where we are going.

Fulfilled in this situation is the word of the Lord, who has compassion on the crowd because they were like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mark 6:34). The Lord had made this confirmation when he saw the thousands of people who followed him in the desert because, in the diversity of currents of that time, they no longer knew the true meaning of Scripture, what God was saying. The Lord, moved by compassion, interpreted the word of God, he himself is the Word of God, and thus he gave guidance. This is the function in persona Christi of the priest: to render present, in the confusion and disorientation of our times, the light of the Word of God, the light that is Christ himself in this our world. Hence the priest does not teach his own ideas, a philosophy that he himself has invented, has found and that pleases him; the priest does not speak of himself, does not speak by himself, to create perhaps admirers or his own party; he does not say his own things, his own inventions, but, in the confusion of all the philosophies, the priest teaches in the name of Christ present, he proposes the truth that is Christ himself, his word, his way of living and of going forward. True for the priest is what Christ said of himself: "My teaching is not mine" (John 7:16); that is, Christ does not propose himself, but, as Son, is the voice, the word of the Father. The priest must also speak and act like this: "My doctrine is not mine, I do not propagate my ideas or what pleases me, but I am the mouth and heart of Christ and make present this unique and common doctrine, which the universal Church has created and which creates eternal life."

This fact -- that the priest does not invent, does not create and does not proclaim one's own ideas inasmuch as the doctrine he proclaims is not his, but Christ's -- does not mean, on the other hand, that he is neutral, almost like a spokesman who reads a text which, perhaps, he does not appropriate. Also in this regard Christ's example is applicable, who said: I am not of myself and I do not live for myself, but I come from the Father and I live for the Father. That is why, in this profound identification, the doctrine of Christ is that of the Father and he himself is one with the Father. The priest who proclaims the word of Christ, the faith of the Church and not his own ideas, must also say: I do not live from myself and for myself, but I live with Christ and from Christ and because of this all that Christ has said to us becomes my word, even if it is not mine. The life of the priest must be identified with Christ and, in this way, the word that is not his own becomes, however, a profoundly personal word. On this topic, St. Augustine said, speaking of priests: "And we, what are we? Ministers (of Christ), his servants; because all that we contribute to you is not ours, but we bring it out from his storeroom. And we also live from it, because we are servants like you" (Discourse 229/E, 4).

The teaching that the priest is called to give, the truth of the faith, must be internalized and lived in an intense personal spiritual journey, so that the priest really enters into a profound, interior communion with Christ himself. The priest believes, accepts and tries to live, first of all as his own, all that the Lord has taught and the Church has transmitted, in that journey of identification with the very ministry of which St John Mary Vianney is an exemplary witness (cf. Letter for the proclamation of the Year for Priests). "United in the very same charity -- affirms again St. Augustine -- we are all hearers of him who is for us in Heaven the only Teacher" (Enarr. in Ps. 131, 1, 7).

Consequently it is not rare that the voice of the priest might seem the "voice of one crying in the desert" (Mark 1:3), but precisely in this consists his prophetic force: in not ever being homologated, or homologable to some prevailing culture or mentality, but in showing the unique novelty capable of bringing about an authentic and profound renewal of man, namely that Christ is the Living One, and the nearby God, the God who operates in the life and for the life of the world and gives us truth, the way to live.

In the careful preparation of his Sunday preaching, without excluding the weekday preaching, in the effort of catechetical formation, in schools, in academic institutions and, in a special way, through that unwritten book that is his own life, the priest is always "docent," he teaches. But not with the presumption of one who imposes his own truth, rather with the humble and happy certainty of one who has found the Truth, who has been gripped and transformed, and because of this, can do nothing less than proclaim it. In fact, no one can choose the priesthood for himself, it is not a way to arrive at security in life, to win a social position; no one can give it to him, or seek it by himself. The priesthood is response to the call of the Lord, to his will, to become heralds not of a personal truth but of his truth.

Dear brother priests, the Christian people ask to hear from our teachings the genuine ecclesial doctrine, by which to be able to renew the encounter with Christ who gives joy, peace, salvation. Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Fathers and doctors of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church constitute, in this regard, indispensable points of reference in the exercise of the munus docendi, so essential for conversion, the journey of faith and the salvation of men. "Priestly ordination means: being immersed [...] in the Truth" (Homily for the Chrism Mass, April 9, 2009), that Truth which is not simply a concept or a whole of ideas to transmit and assimilate, but which is the Person of Christ, with which, by which and in which to live. And thus, necessarily, is also born the timeliness and comprehensibility of the proclamation. Only this awareness of a Truth made Person in the incarnation of the Son justifies the missionary mandate: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). Only if it is the Truth is it destined to every creature, it is not an imposition of something, but the opening of the heart to that for which it is created.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord entrusted a great task to priests: to be heralds of his Word, of the Truth that saves; to be his voice in the world to carry that which helps the true good of souls and the authentic journey of faith (cf. Corinthians 6:12). May St. John Mary Vianney be an example for all priests. He was a man of great wisdom and heroic strength in resisting the cultural and social pressures of his time to be able to lead souls to God: simplicity, fidelity and immediacy were the essential characteristics of his preaching, the transparency of his faith and of his holiness. The Christian people were edified and, as happens with authentic teachers of every era, recognized in him the light of Truth. Recognized in him, in a word, was that which must always be recognized in a priest: the voice of the Good Shepherd.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the Year for Priests draws to its close, I would like to devote the catecheses of this Easter season to a series of reflections on the ordained ministry. I wish to speak in particular of the priest's configuration to Christ, the head of the Church, through the exercise of the three "munera" of teaching, sanctifying and governing. In their ministry priests act in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ." The three "munera" are in fact actions of the Risen Christ, who even today, through his priests, continues to teach, sanctify and govern his Church. The first of the three "munera" is that of teaching, so important for our times. The priest is called to preach and teach not himself, but Jesus Christ and his revelation of the Father. This teaching, far from abstract doctrine, is a living proclamation of the person of Christ, who is himself Truth, the source of our joy, peace and spiritual rebirth. The priest's "munus docendi" demands that his whole life testify to the truth of the message that he proclaims, in harmony with the apostolic tradition and often in opposition to the spirit of the dominant culture. Following the example of the great Cure of Ars, may every priest proclaim Christ faithfully and speak in such a way that all can hear in him the voice of the Good Shepherd.

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present in today's Audience, especially those from England, Wales, Scotland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Korea, Canada and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Christ!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On Easter Joy
"The Supreme and Insuperable Act of the Power of God"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 13, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave April 7 at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The traditional Wednesday General Audience is inundated today by the luminous joy of Easter. In these days, in fact, the Church celebrates the mystery of the Resurrection and experiences the great joy that stems from the Good News of Christ's victory over evil and death. A joy that is prolonged not only in the Octave of Easter, but is extended for 50 days until Pentecost. After the mourning and consternation of Good Friday, and after the silence charged with expectation of Holy Saturday, here is the stupendous announcement: "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" (Luke 24:34). In the whole history of the world, this is the "Good News" par excellence, it is the Gospel proclaimed and passed over the centuries, from generation to generation.

The Lord's Easter is the supreme and insuperable act of the power of God. It is an absolutely extraordinary event, the most beautiful and mature fruit of the "mystery of God." It is so extraordinary that it cannot be recounted in its dimensions which escape our human capacity of knowledge and research. And yet, this is also an "historical" event, real, witnessed and documented. It is the event that founds the whole of our faith. It is the central content in which we believe and the principal content of why we believe.

The New Testament does not describe Jesus' Resurrection in its realization. It refers only to the testimonies of those whom Jesus met in person after resurrecting. The three Synoptic Gospels recount this announcement: "He has risen!" -- it is proclaimed initially by some angels. Hence, it is an announcement whose origin is in God; but God entrusts it immediately to his "messengers" so that they will transmit it to everyone, And thus it is these same angels who invite the women, who arrived in the early morning at the sepulcher, to go quickly to tell the disciples: that "he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him" (Matthew 28:7). Thus, through the women of the Gospel, that divine mandate reaches one and all so that, in turn, they will transmit to others, with fidelity and courage, this same news: beautiful news, joyful and bearer of joy.

Yes, dear friends, our faith is founded on the constant and faithful transmission of this "Good News." And we, today, want to express to God our profound gratitude for the innumerable multitudes of believers in Christ who have preceded us in the centuries, because they have never defaulted in the fundamental mandate to proclaim the Gospel that they had received. The Good News of Easter, therefore, requires the work of enthusiastic and courageous witnesses. Each disciple of Christ, also each one of us, is called to be a witness. This is the precise, committed and exciting mandate of the risen Lord. The "news" of new life in Christ must shine in the life of the Christian, it must be alive and active in the one who bears it, really capable of changing the heart, the whole existence. It is alive first of all because Christ himself is its living and vivifying soul. Saint Mark reminds us of it at the end of his Gospel, where he writes that the Apostles "went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (Mark 16:20).

The Apostles' event is also ours and that of every believer, of every disciple who makes himself a "herald. "In fact, we also, are sure that the Lord , today as yesterday, works together with his witnesses. This is a fact that we can recognize every time we see the seeds of a true and lasting peace sprout, there where the commitment of Christians and of men of good will is animated by respect for justice, by patient dialogue, by convinced esteem for others, by selflessness, by personal and community sacrifice. Unfortunately we also see in the world much suffering, much violence, much misunderstanding. The celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the joyful contemplation of the Resurrection of Christ, who defeats sin and death with the force of the Love of God is a propitious occasion to rediscover and profess with more conviction our trust in the risen Lord, who accompanies the witnesses of his word working miracles together with them. We will truly and absolutely be witnesses of the risen Jesus when we reflect in ourselves the miracle of his love: when in our words, and even more so in our deeds, in full consistency with the Gospel, the voice and hand of Jesus himself is recognized.

Hence, the Lord sends us everywhere as his witnesses. But we can only be so from and in continual reference to the paschal experience, which Mary Magdalen expressed when announcing to the other disciples: "I have seen the Lord" (John 20:18). In this personal encounter with the Risen One is the indestructible foundation and the central content of our faith, the fresh and inexhaustible source of our hope, the ardent dynamism of our charity. Thus our Christian life itself with coincide fully with the proclamation: "Christ the Lord has truly risen." Hence, let us allow ourselves to be conquered by the fascination of the Resurrection of Christ. May the Virgin Mary sustain us with her protection and help us to taste fully the Easter joy, so that we will be able to take it in turn to all our brothers.

Once again, Happy Easter to all!

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our General Audience today is marked by the spiritual joy of Easter, as the Church continues her celebration of Christ's glorious resurrection from the dead. The resurrection is the greatest of God's mighty acts in history; mysterious beyond all imagining, it is also a real event attested by trustworthy witnesses who in turn became messengers of this Good News before the world. In every generation, the Gospel of Christ, crucified and risen, must constantly be proclaimed anew. Each of us, as a disciple of Christ, is called to testify to the reality and power of the new life bestowed by the Risen Lord upon those who believe. Saint Mark, at the end of his Gospel, tells us that the Lord "worked with" the Apostles, and "confirmed the message by the signs which accompanied it" (Mk 16:20). Today too, the Risen Christ wishes to work with us, so that we might reflect his words in our words and reveal the power of his love by our actions. During the Easter season, may our personal encounter with the Lord deepen our faith, hope and love, and inspire us to proclaim, with our lips and in our lives, the Good News that "Christ is truly risen!"


On Easter Monday
"We Are Messengers of His Resurrection"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 12, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Easter Monday, April 5, before praying the Regina Caeli in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

In the light of Easter, which we celebrate during this whole week, I renew my most cordial wish for peace and joy. As you know, the Monday following the Sunday of the Resurrection is called traditionally "the Angel's Monday." It is very interesting to reflect more deeply on this reference to the "angel." Of course, our thought goes immediately to the evangelical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus, in which the figure of the Lord's messenger appears. St. Matthew writes: "And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow" (Matthew 28:2-3).

All the evangelists specify later that, when the women went to the sepulcher and found it open and empty, it was an angel who announced to them that Jesus had resurrected. In St. Matthew this messenger of the Lord says to them: "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said" (Matthew 28:5-6); then he showed them the empty tomb and told them to take the announcement to the disciples. St. Mark describes the angel as "a young man, dressed in a white robe," who gives the women the same message (cf. Mark 16:5-6). St. Luke speaks of "two men in dazzling apparel," who remind the women that Jesus had announced to them much earlier his death and resurrection (cf. Luke 24:4-7). St. John also speaks of "two angels in white"; it is Mary Magdalene who sees them while weeping near the sepulcher, and they say to her: "Woman, why are you weeping?" (John 20:11-13).

However, the angel of the resurrection also has another meaning. It is appropriate to recall that the term "angel," in addition to describing the angels, spiritual creatures gifted with intelligence and will, servants and messengers of God, is also one of the oldest titles attributed to Jesus himself. For example, in Tertullian, in the 3rd century, we read: "He -- Christ -- has also been called 'angel of counsel,' that is, herald, term that denotes an office, not his nature. In fact, he had to proclaim to the world the great plan of the Father for man's restoration" ("De carne Christi," 14). Thus writes Tertullian. Consequently, Jesus Christ, Son of God, is also called the angel of God the Father: He is the Messenger par excellence of his love.

Dear friends, let us think now of what the resurrected Jesus said to the Apostles: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21); and he communicated his Holy Spirit to them. This means that, as Jesus was the herald of the love of God the Father, we must also be so of the charity of Christ: We are messengers of his resurrection, of his victory over evil and death, bearers of his divine love. Of course we continue to be by nature men and women, but we receive the mission of "angels," messengers of Christ: We are all given it in baptism and in confirmation. Priests, ministers of Christ, receive it in a special way, through the sacrament of Holy Orders; I am pleased to stress it in this Year for Priests.

Dear brothers and sisters, we now turn to the Virgin Mary, invoking her as Regina Caeli, Queen of Heaven. May she help us to accept fully the grace of the Easter mystery and to be courageous and joyful messengers of the resurrection of Christ.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Words After Viewing Pius XII Film
"Great Teacher of Faith, of Hope and of Charity"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 12, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo after viewing the film "Sotto il Cielo di Roma" (Under the Roman Sky). The film is set in 1940s Rome, and reflects the Church’s efforts to save people from the Nazis, as well as Adolph Hitler’s plot to kidnap the Pope.

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Dear Friends,

I am very happy to have attended the first showing of the film "Sotto il Cielo di Roma" [Under the Roman Sky], an international co-production which presents the fundamental role of the Venerable Pius XII in the saving of Rome and of so many of the persecuted between 1943 and 1944. Although within the popularizing genre, it is a work that, also in the light of the most recent studies, attempts to reconstruct those dramatic events and the figure of the Pastor Angelicus. I am grateful to Mr. Paolo Garimberti, president of RAI [Italian Radio and Television], for the kind words he addressed to me. A grateful thought also goes to Mr. Ettore Bernabei, to the other producers and to all those who collaborated in making the significant work we have just seen. I greet with affection the Lord Cardinals, the prelates and all those present.

These works -- planned for the general public with the most modern means, and at the same time directed to illustrating personalities and events of the last century -- are of particular value especially for the new generations. For those who, in school, have studied certain events, of which they have also, perhaps, heard discussed, films like this might be useful and stimulating and can help to know a period that is not remote, in fact, but that the pressure of the events of recent history and a fragmented culture can make one forget.

Pius XII was the Pope of our youth. With his rich teaching he was able to speak to the men of his time pointing out the way of Truth and with his great wisdom was able to direct the Church towards the horizon of the Third Millennium. I must, however, stressed particularly that Pius XII was the Pope that, as father of all, presided in charity in Rome and in the world, above all in the difficult time of World War II. In an address of July 23, 1944, immediately after the liberation of the city of Rome, he thanked the members of Saint Peter's Circle for their collaboration, saying: "(You) help us to satisfy more amply Our desire to dry so many tears, to alleviate so many sorrows," and he indicated as central for all Christians Saint Paul's exhortation to the Colossians (3:14-15): "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body" (Addresses and Radio Messages of Pius XII, pp. 87-88).

The primacy of charity, of love -- which is the commandment of the Lord Jesus -- is the principle and key of the reading of the whole work of the Church, in primis of her universal Pastor. Charity is the reason for every action, for every intervention. It is the global reason that moves thought and concrete gestures, and I am happy that also in this film this unifying principle emerges. I take the liberty to suggest this key of reading, in the light of the genuine witness of that great teacher of faith, of hope and of charity that was Pope Pius XII.

Renewing to all the expression of my gratitude, I take advantage of the occasion to express my best Easter wishes, while imparting my heartfelt blessing to all those present here, together with your collaborators and loved ones.


On God’s Mercy
“Everyone Can Receive the Gift of Peace and Life”

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 11, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo and, via television, with those gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican.
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Dear brothers and sisters!
This Sunday is the conclusion of the Octave of Easter. It is a unique day "made by the Lord," marked by the resurrection and the joy of the disciples in seeing Jesus. From antiquity this Sunday has been called Sunday "in albis," from the Latin word "alba" (white), because of the white vestments the neophytes put on at their baptism on Easter night and set aside eight days later. On April 30, 2000, Venerable John Paul II named this same Sunday for Divine Mercy on the occasion of the canonization of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska.
The Gospel passage from St. John (20:19-31) for this Sunday is rich with divine mercy and goodness. There it is told that Jesus, after the resurrection, visited his disciples, passing through the closed doors of the cenacle. St. Augustine explains that "the closed doors did not impede the entrance of that body in which divinity lived. He who in his birth left the virginity of his mother intact could enter the cenacle despite the doors being closed" (In Ioh. 121, 4: CCL 36/7, 667); and St. Gregory the Great added that the Redeemer, after his resurrection, appeared with a body of an incorruptible and palpable nature but in the state of glory (cf. Hom. in Evag., 21,1: CCL 141, 219). Jesus showed the signs of the passion to the point of permitting the incredulous Thomas to touch him.
How is it possible, however, for a disciple to doubt? In reality the divine condescension allows us to draw profit even from the incredulous Thomas, together with the believing disciples. In fact, touching the Lord's wounds, the hesitant disciple not only heals his own diffidence but ours too.
The visit of the Risen One is not limited to the space of the cenacle but it goes beyond so that everyone can receive the gift of peace and life with the "creative breath." Indeed, twice Jesus says to the disciples: "Peace be with you!" and he adds: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Having said this, he breathes upon them, saying: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven and those whose sins you do not forgive shall not be forgiven." This is the mission of the Church perennially assisted by the Paraclete: to bring to all the glad tidings, the joyous reality of the merciful Love of God, "so that," as St. John says, "you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that, believing, you may have life in his name" (20:31).
In light of this word, I encourage especially all pastors to follow the example of the saintly Curéé d'Ars, who, "in his time was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord's merciful love. Our own time urgently needs a similar proclamation and witness to the truth of Love" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests").
In this way we will render ever more familiar and close him who our eyes have not seen but whose infinite mercy we are absolutely certain of. We ask Mary, the Queen of the Apostles, to sustain the mission of the Church, and we invoke her exultant with joy.

[In English, the Pope said:]
I greet all the English-speaking visitors who join us for the Regina Cææli prayer on this Octave of Easter. The Church's liturgy today invites us, with the Apostle Thomas, to acknowledge the Risen Christ as our Lord and our God, and to welcome into our hearts his gifts of peace, mercy, forgiveness and new life. Upon you and your families I invoke a continued outpouring of the joy and hope born of Christ's glorious resurrection from the dead. Happy Easter!


Homily at Mass for Pope John Paul II
"His Was a Suffering Lived to the End for Love and With Love"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at a Mass in the Vatican to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death. The Pontiff died April 2, 2005.

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Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We are gathered around the altar, near the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice for the eternal repose of the chosen soul of Venerable John Paul II, on the fifth anniversary of his death. We do so a few days early, because this year April 2 is Good Friday. We are, in any case, in Holy Week -- a context that is much more propitious for recollection and prayer, in which the Liturgy makes us relive more intensely the last days of Jesus' earthly life. I wish to express my gratitude to all of you who are taking part in this Mass. I greet cordially the cardinals -- in a special way Archbishop Stanislao Dziwisz -- the bishops, priests, men and women religious, as well as the pilgrims gathered purposely from Poland, and so many young people and numerous faithful who did not want to miss this celebration.

In the first biblical reading that was proclaimed, the prophet Isaiah presents the figure of a "servant of God," who is at the same time his chosen one, in whom he is well pleased. The servant will act with unbreakable firmness, with an energy that does not fail until he has realized the task that was assigned to him. However, he will not have at his disposition those human means that seem indispensable to act on such a grandiose plane. He will present himself with the force of conviction, and it will be the Spirit that God has put in him that will give him the capacity to act with meekness and strength, assuring him of final success.

That which the inspired prophet says of the servant, we can apply to our beloved John Paul II: the Lord called him to his service and, in entrusting to him tasks of ever greater responsibility, also accompanied him with his grace and his continual assistance. During his long Pontificate, he spent himself in proclaiming the law with firmness, without weakness or hesitation, above all when he had to face resistance, hostility and rejection. He knew he was taken by the hand of the Lord, and this enabled him to exercise a very fecund ministry, for which, once again, we give fervid thanks to God.

The Gospel just proclaimed takes us to Bethany, where, as the evangelist notes, Lazarus, Martha and Mary offered a supper to the Master (John 12:1). This banquet in the home of three friends of Jesus is characterized by presentiments of imminent death: the six days before Passover, the suggestion of the traitor Judas, Jesus' reply that recalls one of the pious acts of burial anticipated by Mary, the hint that they will not always have him with them, the intention to eliminate Lazarus, in which is reflected the will to kill Jesus.

In this evangelical account, there is a gesture to which I wish to draw your attention: Mary of Bethany "took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair" (12:3). Mary's gesture is the expression of great faith and love toward the Lord: for her it was not enough to wash the feet of the Master with water, but she spreads them with a great quantity of precious perfume that -- as Judas will argue -- could have been sold for three hundred denari; she does not, thus, anoint the head, as was the custom, but the feet: Mary offers Jesus all that she has that is most precious and with a gesture of profound devotion. Love does not calculate, does not measure, is not concerned about expenses, puts no barriers, but is able to give with joy, seeks only the other's good, overcomes stinginess, miserliness, resentment, the narrow-mindedness that man bears at times in his heart.

Mary places herself at Jesus' feet in a humble attitude of service, as the Master himself will do in the Last Supper, when -- the fourth Gospel tells us -- he "rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples feet" (John 13:4-5), because, he says, "you also should do as I have done to you" (v. 15): the rule of Jesus' community is that of love that is able to serve to the point of giving one's life.

And the perfume spreads: "and the house was filled," notes the evangelist, "with the fragrance of the ointment" (John 12:3). The meaning of Mary's gesture, which is a response to the infinite love of God, is diffused among all the guests; every gesture of charity and of genuine devotion to Christ does not remain a personal event, does not concern only the relationship between the individual and the Lord, but concerns the whole body of the Church, it is contagious: It infuses love, joy, light.

"He came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (John 1:11): Contrasted with Mary's act are the words and attitude of Judas that, under the pretext of the help to be given to the poor, hides egoism and the falsehood of the man shut-in on himself, chained by the greed of possession, who does not let himself be enveloped by the good perfume of divine love. Judas calculates where one cannot calculate, he enters with a mean spirit where the space is one of love, of gift, of total dedication. And Jesus, who up to that moment has been silent, intervenes in favor of Mary's gesture: "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial" (John 12:7).

Jesus understands that Mary intuited the love of God and indicates that now his "hour" is drawing close, the "hour" in which Love will find its supreme expression on the wood of the cross: the Son of God gives himself, so that man can have life, he descends into the abyss of death to take man to the heights of God, he is not afraid to humble himself "and become obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:8). In the sermon in which he comments on this evangelical passage, St. Augustine addresses to each one of us, with pressing words, the invitation to enter into this circuit of love, imitating Mary's gesture and putting ourselves concretely in the following of Jesus. Augustine writes: "Every soul that wishes to be faithful, unites itself to Mary to anoint with precious perfume the feet of the Lord. [...] Anoint the feet of Jesus: Follow the footprints of the Lord by leading a worthy life. Dry his feet with your hair: If there is something superfluous, give it to the poor, and you will have dried the feet of the Lord" (In Ioh. evang., 50, 6).

Dear brothers and sisters! The whole life of the Venerable John Paul II unfolded in the sign of this charity, of this capacity to give himself in a generous way, without reservations, without measure, without calculation. What moved him was love for Christ, to whom he had consecrated his life, a superabundant and unconditional love. It is precisely because he drew ever closer to God in love, that he was able to make himself a fellow wayfarer with the man of today, spreading in the world the perfume of the love of God. Whoever had the joy of knowing and frequenting him, was able to touch with the hand how alive was in him the certainty "of contemplating the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," as we heard in the Responsorial Psalm (26/27:13); a certainty that accompanied him in the course of his existence and that, in a particular way, was manifested during the last period of his pilgrimage on this earth: the progressive physical weakness, in fact, never affected his rock-like faith, his luminous hope, his fervent charity. He let himself be consumed by Christ, for the Church, for the whole world: his was a suffering lived to the end for love and with love.

In the homily for the 25th anniversary of his Pontificate, he confided having felt strongly in his heart, at the moment of the election, Jesus' question to Peter: "Do you love me? Do you love me more than these ...? " (John 21:15-16); and he adds: "Every day within my heart the same dialogue takes place between Jesus and Peter. In spirit, I fix my gaze on the benevolent look of the Risen Christ. He, however, aware of my human frailty, encourages me to respond with trust as Peter: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you" (John 21:17). And then he invites me to assume the responsibility that He himself has entrusted to me" (Oct. 16, 2003). They are words charged with faith and love, love of God, who conquers all."

[In Polish, he said:]

Finally I wish to greet the Poles here present. Many of you have gathered around the tomb of the Venerable Servant of God with a special sentiment, as daughters and sons of the same land, raised in the same culture and spiritual tradition. The life and work of John Paul II, great Pole, can be a reason for pride for you.

However, it is necessary for you to remember that this is also a great call to be faithful witnesses of the faith, the hope and the love, that he taught us uninterruptedly. Through the intercession of John Paul II, may the Lord's blessing always sustain you.

[He continued in Italian]

While we continue the Eucharistic celebration, being on the point of living the glorious days of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord, let us entrust ourselves with confidence -- following the example of the Venerable John Paul II -- to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, so that she will sustain us in the commitment to be, in every circumstance, tireless apostles of her divine Son and of his merciful Love. Amen!


Benedict XVI's Palm Sunday Homily
"The Cross Is Part of the Ascent Toward the Height of Jesus Christ"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2010 ( Here is the text of the homily that Benedict XVI gave today in the Mass for Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square. Many young people participated in the celebration, which also marked this year's World Youth Day, held on a diocesan level worldwide.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Dear Young People!

The Gospel for the blessing of the palms that we have listened to together here in St. Peter's Square begins with the phrase: "Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem" (Luke 19:28). Immediately at the beginning of the liturgy this day, the Church anticipates her response to the Gospel, saying, "Let us follow the Lord." With that the theme of Palm Sunday is clearly expressed. It is about following. Being Christian means seeing the way of Jesus Christ as the right way of being human -- as that way that leads to the goal, to a humanity that is fully realized and authentic. In a special way, I would like to repeat to all the young men and women, on this 25th World Youth Day, that being Christian is a journey, or better: It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ. A going in that direction that he has pointed out to us and is pointing out to us.

But what direction are we talking about? How do we find it? The line from our Gospel offers two indications in this connection. In the first place it says that it is a matter of an ascent. This has in the first place a very literal meaning. Jericho, where the last stage of Jesus's pilgrimage began, is 250 meters below sea-level while Jerusalem -- the goal of the journey -- is 740-780 meters above sea level: an ascent of almost 1,000 meters. But this external rout is above all an image of the interior movement of existence, which occurs in the following of Christ: It is an ascent to the true height of being human. Man can choose an easy path and avoid all toil. He can also descend to what is lower. He can sink into lies and dishonesty. Jesus goes ahead of us, and he goes up to what is above. He leads us to what is great, pure, he leads us to the healthy air of the heights: to life according to truth; to the courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip of dominant opinions; to the patience that stands up for and supports the other. He leads us to availability to the suffering, to the abandoned; to the loyalty that stands with the other even when the situation makes it difficult.

He leads us to availability to bring help; to the goodness that does not let itself be disarmed not even by ingratitude. He leads us to love -- he leads us to God.

"Jesus went ahead of everyone going up to Jerusalem." If we read these words of the Gospel in the context of Jesus' way as a whole -- a way that, in fact, he travels to the end of time -- we can discover different meanings in the indication of "Jerusalem" as the goal. Naturally, first of all it must be simply understood as the place "Jerusalem:" It is the city in which one found God's Temple, the oneness of which was supposed to allude to the oneness of God himself. This place thus announces in the first place two things: On the one hand it says that there is only one God in all the world, who is completely beyond all our places and times; he is that God to whom all creation belongs. He is the God whom deep down all men seek and whom they all have knowledge of in some way. But this God has given himself a name. He has made himself known to us, he has launched a history with men; he chose a man -- Abram -- as the beginning of this history. The infinite God is at the same time the God who is near. He, who cannot be enclosed in any building, nevertheless wants to live among us, be completely with us.

If Jesus goes up to Jerusalem together with Israel on pilgrimage, he goes there to celebrate the Passover with Israel: the memorial of Israel's liberation -- a memorial that is always at the same time hope for the definitive liberation that God will give. And Jesus goes to this feast with the awareness that he himself is the Lamb spoken of in the Book of Exodus: a male lamb without blemish, which at twilight will be slaughtered before all of Israel "as a perpetual institution" (cf. Exodus 12:5-6, 14). And in the end Jesus knows that his way goes beyond this: It will not end in the cross. He knows that his way will tear away the veil between this world and God's world; that he will ascend to the throne of God and reconcile God and man in his body. He knows that his risen body will be the new sacrifice and the new Temple; that around him in the ranks of the angels and saints there will be formed the new Jerusalem that is in heaven and nevertheless also on earth. His way leads beyond the summit of the Temple mount to the height of God himself: This is the great ascent to which he calls all of us. He always remains with us on earth and has always already arrived [in heaven] with God; he leads us on earth and beyond the earth.

Thus in the breadth of Jesus' ascent the dimensions of our following of him become visible -- the goal to which he wants to lead us: to the heights of God, to communion with God, to being-with-God. This is the true goal, and communion with him is the way. Communion with Christ is being on a journey, a permanent ascent to the true height of our calling. Journeying together with Jesus is always at the same time a traveling together in the "we" of those who want to follow him. It brings us into this community. Because this journey to true life, to being men conformed to the model of the Son of God Jesus Christ is beyond our powers, this journeying is also always a state of being carried. We find ourselves, so to speak, in a "roped party" [1] with Jesus Christ -- together with him in the ascent to the heights of God. He pulls us and supports us. Letting oneself be part of a roped party is part of following Christ; we accept that we cannot do it on our own. The humble act of entering into the "we" of the Church is part of it -- holding on to the roped party, the responsibility of communion, not letting go of the rope because of our bullheadedness and conceit.

Humbly believing with the Church, like being bound together in a roped party ascending to God, is an essential condition for following Christ. Not acting as the owners of the Word of God, not chasing after a mistaken idea of emancipation -- this is also part of being together in the roped party. The humility of "being-with" is essential to the ascent. Letting the Lord take us by the hand through the sacraments is another part of it. We let ourselves be purified and strengthened by him, we let ourselves accept the discipline of the ascent, even if we are tired.

Finally, we must again say that the cross is part of the ascent toward the height of Jesus Christ, the ascent to the height of God. Just as in the affairs of this world great things cannot be done without renunciation and hard work (joy in great discoveries and joy in a true capacity for activity are linked to discipline, indeed, to the effort of learning) so also the way to life itself, to the realization of one's own humanity is linked to him who climbed to the height of God through the cross. In the final analysis, the cross is the expression of that which is meant by love: Only he who loses himself will find himself.

Let us summarize: Following Christ demands as a first step the reawakening of the nostalgia for being authentically human and thus the reawakening for God. It then demands that one enter into the roped party of those who climb, into the communion of the Church. In the "we" of the Church we enter into the communion with the "Thou" of Jesus Christ and therefore reach the way to God. Moreover, listening to and living Jesus Christ's word in faith, hope and love is also required. We are thus on the way to the definitive Jerusalem and already, from this point forward, we already find ourselves there in the communion of all God's saints.

Our pilgrimage in following Christ, then, is not directed toward any earthly city, but toward the new City of God that grows in the midst of this world. The pilgrimage to the earthly Jerusalem, nevertheless, can be something useful for us Christians for that greater voyage. I myself linked three meanings to my pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year. First, I thought that what St. John says at the beginning of his first letter could happen to us: That which we have heard, we can, in a certain way see and touch with our hands (cf. 1 John 1:1). Faith in Jesus Christ is not the invention of a fairy tale. It is founded on something that actually happened. We can, so to speak, contemplate and touch this historical event. It is moving to find oneself in Nazareth in the place where the angel appeared to Mary and transmitted the task of becoming Mother of the Redeemer to her. It is moving to be in Bethlehem in the place where the Word, made flesh, came to live among us; to put one's foot upon the holy ground where God wanted to make himself man and child.

It is moving to climb the steps up to Calvary to the place where Jesus died on the cross. And then standing before the empty tomb, praying there where his holy corpse lay and where on the third day the Resurrection occurred. Following the material paths of Jesus should help us to walk more joyously and with a new certainty along the interior paths that Jesus himself points out to us.

When we go to the Holy Land as pilgrims, we go there, however -- and this is the second aspect -- as messengers of peace too, with prayer for peace; with the firm invitation that everyone in that place (which bears the word "peace" in name), has everything possible so that it truly become a place of peace. Thus this pilgrimage is at the same time -- as the third aspect -- an encouragement to Christians to remain in the country of their origin and to commit themselves in an intense way to peace.

Let us return once more to the liturgy of Palm Sunday. The prayer with which the palms are blessed we pray so that in communion with Christ we can bear the fruit of good works. Following a mistaken interpretation of St. Paul, there has repeatedly developed over the course of history and today too, the opinion that good works are not part of being Christian, in any case they would not be significant for man's salvation. But if Paul says that works cannot justify man, he does not intend by this to oppose the importance of right action and, if he speaks of the end of the Law, he does not declare the Ten Commandments obsolete and irrelevant. It is not necessary at the moment to reflect on the whole question that the Apostle was concerned with. It is important to stress that by the term "Law" he does not mean the Ten Commandments, but the complex way of life by which Israel had to protect itself against paganism. Now, however, Christ has brought God to the pagans. This form of distinction was not to be imposed upon them.

Christ alone was given to them as Law. But this means the love of God and neighbor and all that pertains to it. The Ten Commandments read in a new and deeper way beginning with Christ are part of this love. These commandments are nothing other than the basic rules of true love: first of all and as fundamental principle, the worship of God, the primacy of God, which the first three commandments express. They tell us: Without God nothing comes out right. Who this God is and how he is, we know from the person of Jesus Christ. The sanctity of the family follows (fourth commandment), holiness of life (fifth commandment), the ordering of matrimony (sixth commandment), the regulation of society (seventh commandment) and finally the inviolability of the truth (eighth commandment). All of this is of maximum relevance today and precisely also in St. Paul's sense -- if we read all of his letters. "Bear fruit with good works:" At the beginning of Holy Week we pray to the Lord to grant all of us this fruit more and more.

At the end of the Gospel for the blessing of the palms we hear the acclamation with which the pilgrims greet Jesus at the gates of Jerusalem. They are the words of Psalm 118 (117), that originally the priests proclaimed to the pilgrims from the Holy City but that, after a period, became an expression of messianic hope: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" (Psalm 118[117]:26; Luke 19:38). The pilgrims see in Jesus the one whom they have waited for, who comes in the name of the Lord, indeed, according to the St. Luke's Gospel, they insert another word: "Blessed is he who comes, the king, in the name of the Lord."

And they follow this with an acclamation that recalls the message of the angels at Christmas, but they modify it in a way that gives pause. The angels had spoken of the glory of God in the highest heavens and of peace on earth for men of divine goodwill. The pilgrims at the entrance to the Holy City say: "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens!" They know well that there is no peace on earth. And they know that the place of peace is in heaven. Thus this acclamation is an expression of a profound suffering and it is also a prayer of hope: May he who comes in the name of the Lord bring to earth what is in heaven. The Church, before the Eucharistic consecration, sings the words of the Psalm with which Jesus is greeted before his entrance into the Holy City: It greets Jesus as the King who, coming from God, enters in our midst in God's name.

Today too this joyous greeting is always supplication and hope. Let us pray to the Lord that he bring heaven to us: God's glory and peace among men. We understand such a greeting in the spirit of the request of the Our Father: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!" We know that heaven is heaven, a place of glory and peace, because there the will of God rules completely. And we know that earth is not heaven until the will of God is accomplished on it. So we greet Jesus, who comes from heaven and we pray to him to help us know and do God's will. May the royalty of God enter into the world and in this way it be filled with the splendor of peace. Amen.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Translator's Note:

[1] The Pope is using a mountaineering metaphor here. Groups of climbers often rope themselves together when they scale mountainsides. This is the meaning of a "roped party." The Italian word is "cordata."


On the Paschal Mystery
"Let Yourselves Be Enthralled by Him"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

We are living the holy days that invite us to meditate on the central events of our redemption, the essential nucleus of our faith. Tomorrow the Easter Triduum begins, summit of the whole liturgical year, in which we are called to silence and prayer to contemplate the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.

In their homilies, the Fathers often make reference to these days that, as St. Athanasius observes in one of his Easter letters, introduce us "into that time that makes us know a new beginning, the day of Holy Easter, in which the Lord immolated himself" (Letter 5,1-2: PG 26, 1379).

I exhort you, therefore, to live these days intensely so that they will decisively orient each one's life to a generous and convinced adherence to Christ, dead and resurrected for us.

The Holy Chrism Mass, morning prelude of Holy Thursday, will find gathered together tomorrow morning the presbyters with their respective bishops. During a significant Eucharistic celebration, which customarily takes place in the diocesan cathedrals, the oil of the sick, of the catechumens and the chrism will be blessed. Moreover, the bishop and the presbyters will renew their priestly promises pronounced on the day of ordination. This gesture takes on this year a special importance, because it is situated in the ambit of the Year for Priests, which I proclaimed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of the holy Curé d'Ars. I would like to repeat to all priests the exhortation that I formulated as a conclusion of the letter of convocation: "In the footsteps of the Curé d'Ars, 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!!"

Tomorrow afternoon we will celebrate the moment of the institution of the Eucharist. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul confirmed the first Christians in the truth of the Eucharistic mystery, communicating to them what he had learned: "That the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

These words manifest with clarity Christ's intention: Under the species of bread and wine, he makes himself present in a real way with his body given and with his blood shed as sacrifice of the New Covenant. At the same time, he constitutes the Apostles and their successors as ministers in this sacrament, which he gives to his Church as supreme proof of his love.

With a thought-provoking rite we will remember as well Jesus' gesture washing the feet of the Apostles (cf. John 13:1-25). This act becomes, for the evangelist, the representation of Jesus' whole life and reveals his love to the end, an infinite love, capable of making man fit for communion with God and of making him free. At the end of the liturgy of Holy Thursday, the Church reposes the Most Holy Sacrament in a place especially prepared, which represents the loneliness of Gethsemane and Jesus' mortal anguish. Before the Eucharist, the faithful contemplate Jesus in the hour of his loneliness and pray for an end to all the loneliness of the world. This liturgical journey is, on the other hand, an invitation to seek an intimate encounter with the Lord in prayer, to recognize Jesus among those who are alone, to watch with him and to be able to proclaim him light of one's life.

On Good Friday we will remember the Passion and Death of the Lord. Jesus wished to offer his life in sacrifice for the remission of humanity's sins, choosing for this end the most cruel and humiliating death: crucifixion. There is an indivisible connection between the Last Supper and Jesus' death. In the first, Jesus gives his body and blood, namely, his earthly existence, likewise, anticipating his death and transforming it into an act of love. Thus death that, by nature is the end, the destruction of every relationship, is made by him an act of communication of himself, the instrument of salvation and proclamation of the victory of love. In this way, Jesus becomes the key to understand the Last Supper, which is the anticipation of the violent death in voluntary sacrifice, an act of love that redeems and saves the world.

Holy Saturday is characterized by a great silence. The Churches are naked and no private liturgies are planned. In this time of expectation and hope, believers are invited to prayer, reflection and conversion also through the sacrament of reconciliation, to be able to participate, profoundly renewed, in the celebration of Easter.

On the night of Holy Saturday, during the solemn Easter Vigil, "mother of all vigils," this silence will be broken with the singing of the Alleluia, which announces the resurrection of Christ and proclaims the victory of light over darkness, of life over death. The Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord, entering the day of Easter that the Lord inaugurates resurrecting from the dead.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us dispose ourselves to live intensely this Holy Triduum now imminent, to be ever more profoundly inserted in the Mystery of Christ, dead and resurrected for us. May the Most Holy Virgin accompany us in this spiritual itinerary. May she, who followed Jesus in his passion and was present beneath the cross, introduce us into the Paschal Mystery, so that we will be able to experience the joy and peace of the Risen One.

With these sentiments I address to you already now my most cordial wishes for a holy Easter, extending them to your communities and to all your loved ones.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow the Church begins her celebration of the Easter Triduum, a time devoted to silent prayer and contemplation of the mystery of the Lord's passion, death and resurrection. The liturgies of these days invite us to ponder Christ's saving sacrifice and his promise of new life. In this Year for Priests, the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, at which priests renew the promises made on the day of their ordination, will take on a particular significance. May priests everywhere be conformed ever more closely to Christ as heralds of his message of hope, reconciliation and peace! The Mass of the Lord's Supper, celebrated the evening of Holy Thursday, recalls the institution of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders. The liturgy of Good Friday, in which we enter into the mystery of Christ's redemptive death, invites us to contemplate the deep relationship between the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Calvary. Following the great silence of Holy Saturday, the Easter vigil proclaims the resurrection of Christ and his victory over sin and death. May the joy of the resurrection even now fill our hearts as we prepare to celebrate the great events of the Lord's passover from death to the fullness of life. I am pleased to welcome all the English-speaking visitors present in today's Audience, especially those from England, Japan, Canada and the United States. I also greet the various student groups present, including those taking part in the annual "Univ Congress." Upon all of you I invoke God's Blessings of joy and peace!

[In Italian, he said:]

Finally I direct my cordial thoughts to youth, the sick and newlyweds. May the contemplation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you ever more firm in your Christian witness. And you, dear sick, extract from the cross of Christ the daily support to overcome the moments of trial and distress. Dear newlyweds, may the strength to make your family a place of faithful and fruitful love come from the Paschal Mystery that we contemplate these days.


25 Years of World Youth Days

"I Renew this Call to the New Generation to Give Witness"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2010 - Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today after the celebration of Palm Sunday Mass and before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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As we conclude this celebration our thoughts cannot but turn to the Palm Sunday of 25 years ago. It was 1985 that the United Nations declared the as "Year of Young People." Venerable John Paul II wanted to welcome that occasion and, commemorating Christ's entrance into Jerusalem, acclaimed by his disciples, initiated the World Youth Days. Since then Palm Sunday has acquired this characteristic that every two or three years it is also marked by great global meetings, tracing a kind of pilgrimage of young people across the whole planet, following Jesus.

Some 25 years ago my beloved predecessor invited young people to profess their faith in Christ, who "who took man's cause upon himself" (Homily, March 31, 1985, nos. 5 and 7: Insegnamenti VIII, 1 [1985], 884, 886). Today I renew this call to the new generation to give witness by the meek and luminous power of the truth, so that the men and women of the third millennium do not lack the most authentic model: Jesus Christ. I give this mandate especially to the 300 delegates of the International Youth Forum, who have come from every part of the world. The forum was convoked by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

[After these remarks the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors at this Angelus, especially the young people present who are celebrating the twenty-fifth World Youth Day. Today we also begin Holy Week, the Church's most intense time of prayer and reflection, by recalling Jesus' welcome into Jerusalem by the children. Let us make their joy our own, by welcoming Christ into our lives, our hearts and our families. Upon you and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[The Holy Father said in Italian:]

In this moment our thoughts and our hearts are directed in a special way toward Jerusalem, where the paschal mystery was accomplished. I am deeply saddened by the recent conflicts and for the tensions that have again arisen in that city, which is a spiritual homeland for Christians, Jews and Muslims, prophecy and promise of that universal reconciliation that God desires for the whole human family.

Peace is a gift that God entrusts to human responsibility so that it might be cultivated through dialogue and respect for the rights of all, reconciliation and forgiveness. Let us pray therefore that those who are responsible for the fate of Jerusalem enter the way of peace with courage and follow it with perseverance!

Dear brothers and sisters! As Jesus did with his disciple John, I too entrust you to Mary, saying to you: Behold your mother (cf. John 19:27). To her we turn with filial confidence, reciting the Angelus prayer.


Papal Homily at Last Supper Mass
"Truly You Are a God Who Is Close, You Are a God-With-Us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, held today in St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his Gospel, Saint John, more fully than the other three evangelists, reports in his own distinctive way the farewell discourses of Jesus; they appear as his testament and a synthesis of the core of his message. They are introduced by the washing of feet, in which Jesus’ redemptive ministry on behalf of a humanity needing purification is summed up in a gesture of humility. Jesus’ words end as a prayer, his priestly prayer, whose background exegetes have traced to the ritual of the Jewish feast of atonement. The significance of that feast and its rituals – the world’s purification and reconciliation with God – is fulfilled in Jesus’ prayer, a prayer which anticipates his Passion and transforms it into a prayer. The priestly prayer thus makes uniquely evident the perpetual mystery of Holy Thursday: the new priesthood of Jesus Christ and its prolongation in the consecration of the Apostles, in the incorporation of the disciples into the Lord’s priesthood. From this inexhaustibly profound text, I would like to select three sayings of Jesus which can lead us more fully into the mystery of Holy Thursday.

First, there are the words: "This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3). Everyone wants to have life. We long for a life which is authentic, complete, worthwhile, full of joy. This yearning for life coexists with a resistance to death, which nonetheless remains unescapable. When Jesus speaks about eternal life, he is referring to real and true life, a life worthy of being lived. He is not simply speaking about life after death. He is talking about authentic life, a life fully alive and thus not subject to death, yet one which can already, and indeed must, begin in this world. Only if we learn even now how to live authentically, if we learn how to live the life which death cannot take away, does the promise of eternity become meaningful. But how does this happen? What is this true and eternal life which death cannot touch? We have heard Jesus’ answer: this is eternal life, that they may know you – God – and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. Much to our surprise, we are told that life is knowledge. This means first of all that life is relationship. No one has life from himself and only for himself. We have it from others and in a relationship with others. If it is a relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful. But for that very reason, the destruction of that relationship by death can be especially painful, it can put life itself in question. Only a relationship with the One who is himself Life can preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death, can bring me through them alive. Already in Greek philosophy we encounter the idea that man can find eternal life if he clings to what is indestructible – to truth, which is eternal. He needs, as it were, to be full of truth in order to bear within himself the stuff of eternity. But only if truth is a Person, can it lead me through the night of death. We cling to God – to Jesus Christ the Risen One. And thus we are led by the One who is himself Life. In this relationship we too live by passing through death, since we are not forsaken by the One who is himself Life.

But let us return to Jesus’s words – this is eternal life: that they know you and the One whom you have sent. Knowledge of God becomes eternal life. Clearly "knowledge" here means something more than mere factual knowledge, as, for example, when we know that a famous person has died or a discovery was made. Knowing, in the language of sacred Scripture, is an interior becoming one with the other. Knowing God, knowing Christ, always means loving him, becoming, in a sense, one with him by virtue of that knowledge and love. Our life becomes authentic and true life, and thus eternal life, when we know the One who is the source of all being and all life. And so Jesus’ words become a summons: let us become friends of Jesus, let us try to know him all the more! Let us live in dialogue with him! Let us learn from him how to live aright, let us be his witnesses! Then we become people who love and then we act aright. Then we are truly alive.

Twice in the course of the priestly prayer Jesus speaks of revealing God’s name. "I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world" (v. 6). "I have made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (v. 26). The Lord is alluding here to the scene of the burning bush, when God, at Moses’ request, had revealed his name. Jesus thus means to say that he is bringing to fulfilment what began with the burning bush; that in him God, who had made himself known to Moses, now reveals himself fully. And that in doing so he brings about reconciliation; that the love with which God loves his Son in the mystery of the Trinity now draws men and women into this divine circle of love. But what, more precisely, does it mean to say that the revelation made from the burning bush is finally brought to completion, fully attains its purpose? The essence of what took place on Mount Horeb was not the mysterious word, the "name" which God had revealed to Moses, as a kind of mark of identification. To give one’s name means to enter into relationship with another. The revelation of the divine name, then, means that God, infinite and self-subsistent, enters into the network of human relationships; that he comes out of himself, so to speak, and becomes one of us, present among us and for us. Consequently, Israel saw in the name of God not merely a word steeped in mystery, but an affirmation that God is with us. According to sacred Scripture, the Temple is the dwelling-place of God’s name. God is not confined within any earthly space; he remains infinitely above and beyond the world. Yet in the Temple he is present for us as the One who can be called – as the One who wills to be with us. This desire of God to be with his people comes to completion in the incarnation of the Son. Here what began at the burning bush is truly brought to completion: God, as a Man, is able to be called by us and he is close to us. He is one of us, yet he remains the eternal and infinite God. His love comes forth, so to speak, from himself and enters into our midst. The mystery of the Eucharist, the presence of the Lord under the appearances of bread and wine, is the highest and most sublime way in which this new mode of God’s being-with-us takes shape. "Truly you are a God who is hidden, O God of Israel", the prophet Isaiah had prayed (45:15). This never ceases to be true. But we can also say: Truly you are a God who is close, you are a God-with-us. You have revealed your mystery to us, you have shown your face to us. You have revealed yourself and given yourself into our hands… At this hour joy and gratitude must fill us, because God has shown himself, because he, infinite and beyond the grasp of our reason, is the God who is close to us, who loves us, and whom we can know and love.

The best-known petition of the priestly prayer is the petition for the unity of the disciples, now and yet to come: "I do not ask only on behalf of these – the community of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room – but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (v. 20ff.; cf. vv. 11 and 13). What exactly is the Lord asking for? First, he prays for his disciples, present and future. He peers into the distance of future history. He sees the dangers there and he commends this community to the heart of the Father. He prays to the Father for the Church and for her unity. It has been said that in the Gospel of John the Church is not present. Yet here she appears in her essential features: as the community of disciples who through the apostolic preaching believe in Jesus Christ and thus become one. Jesus prays for the Church to be one and apostolic. This prayer, then, is properly speaking an act which founds the Church.

The Lord prays to the Father for the Church. She is born of the prayer of Jesus and through the preaching of the Apostles, who make known God’s name and introduce men and women into the fellowship of love with God. Jesus thus prays that the preaching of the disciples will continue for all time, that it will gather together men and women who know God and the one he has sent, his Son Jesus Christ. He prays that men and women may be led to faith and, through faith, to love. He asks the Father that these believers "be in us" (v. 21); that they will live, in other words, in interior communion with God and Jesus Christ, and that this inward being in communion with God may give rise to visible unity. Twice the Lord says that this unity should make the world believe in the mission of Jesus. It must thus be a unity which can be seen – a unity which so transcends ordinary human possibilities as to become a sign before the world and to authenticate the mission of Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ prayer gives us the assurance that the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history; that it will always awaken faith and gather men and women into unity – into a unity which becomes a testimony to the mission of Jesus Christ. But this prayer also challenges us to a constant examination of conscience. At this hour the Lord is asking us: are you living, through faith, in fellowship with me and thus in fellowship with God? Or are you rather living for yourself, and thus apart from faith? And are you not thus guilty of the inconsistency which obscures my mission in the world and prevents men and women from encountering God’s love? It was part of the historical Passion of Jesus, and remains part of his ongoing Passion throughout history, that he saw, and even now continues to see, all that threatens and destroys unity. As we meditate on the Passion of the Lord, let us also feel Jesus’ pain at the way that we contradict his prayer, that we resist his love, that we oppose the unity which should bear witness before the world to his mission.

At this hour, when the Lord in the most holy Eucharist gives himself, his body and his blood, into our hands and into our hearts, let us be moved by his prayer. Let us enter into his prayer and thus beseech him: Lord, grant us faith in you, who are one with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Grant that we may live in your love and thus become one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe. Amen.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Chrism Mass Homily
"Christ Does Not Conquer Through the Sword, but Through the Cross"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today at the Chrism Mass held at St. Peter's Basilica.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the centre of the Church’s worship is the notion of "sacrament". This means that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through his action, he looks upon us and he leads us to himself. Another striking feature is this: God touches us through material things, through gifts of creation that he takes up into his service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and himself. There are four elements in creation on which the world of sacraments is built: water, bread, wine and olive oil. Water, as the basic element and fundamental condition of all life, is the essential sign of the act in which, through baptism, we become Christians and are born to new life. While water is the vital element everywhere, and thus represents the shared access of all people to rebirth as Christians, the other three elements belong to the culture of the Mediterranean region. In other words, they point towards the concrete historical environment in which Christianity emerged. God acted in a clearly defined place on the earth, he truly made history with men. On the one hand, these three elements are gifts of creation, and on the other, they also indicate the locality of the history of God with us. They are a synthesis between creation and history: gifts of God that always connect us to those parts of the world where God chose to act with us in historical time, where he chose to become one of us.

Within these three elements there is a further gradation. Bread has to do with everyday life. It is the fundamental gift of life day by day. Wine has to do with feasting, with the fine things of creation, in which, at the same time, the joy of the redeemed finds particular expression. Olive oil has a wide range of meaning. It is nourishment, it is medicine, it gives beauty, it prepares us for battle and it gives strength. Kings and priests are anointed with oil, which is thus a sign of dignity and responsibility, and likewise of the strength that comes from God. Even the name that we bear as "Christians" contains the mystery of the oil. The word "Christians", in fact, by which Christ’s disciples were known in the earliest days of Gentile Christianity, is derived from the word "Christ" (Acts 11:20-21) – the Greek translation of the word "Messiah", which means "anointed one". To be a Christian is to come from Christ, to belong to Christ, to the anointed one of God, to whom God granted kingship and priesthood. It means belonging to him whom God himself anointed – not with material oil, but with the One whom the oil represents: with his Holy Spirit. Olive oil is thus in a very particular way a symbol of the total compenetration of the man Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

In the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the holy oils are at the centre of the liturgical action. They are consecrated in the bishop’s cathedral for the whole year. They thus serve also as an expression of the Church’s unity, guaranteed by the episcopate, and they point to Christ, the true "shepherd and guardian" of our souls, as Saint Peter calls him (1 Pet 2:25). At the same time, they hold together the entire liturgical year, anchored in the mystery of Holy Thursday. Finally, they point to the Garden of Olives, the scene of Jesus’ inner acceptance of his Passion. Yet the Garden of Olives is also the place from which he ascended to the Father, and is therefore the place of redemption: God did not leave Jesus in death. Jesus lives forever with the Father, and is therefore omnipresent, with us always. This double mystery of the Mount of Olives is also always "at work" within the Church’s sacramental oil. In four sacraments, oil is the sign of God’s goodness reaching out to touch us: in baptism, in confirmation as the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, in the different grades of the sacrament of holy orders and finally in the anointing of the sick, in which oil is offered to us, so to speak, as God’s medicine – as the medicine which now assures us of his goodness, offering us strength and consolation, yet at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing, the resurrection (cf. Jas 5:14). Thus oil, in its different forms, accompanies us throughout our lives: beginning with the catechumenate and baptism, and continuing right up to the moment when we prepare to meet God, our Judge and Saviour. Moreover, the Chrism Mass, in which the sacramental sign of oil is presented to us as part of the language of God’s creation, speaks in particular to us who are priests: it speaks of Christ, whom God anointed King and Priest – of him who makes us sharers in his priesthood, in his "anointing", through our own priestly ordination.

I should like, then, to attempt a brief interpretation of the mystery of this holy sign in its essential reference to the priestly vocation. In popular etymologies a connection was made, even in ancient times, between the Greek word "elaion" – oil – and the word "eleos" – mercy. In fact, in the various sacraments, consecrated oil is always a sign of God’s mercy. So the meaning of priestly anointing always includes the mission to bring God’s mercy to those we serve. In the lamp of our lives, the oil of mercy should never run dry. Let us always obtain it from the Lord in good time – in our encounter with his word, in our reception of the sacraments, in the time we spend with him in prayer.

As a consequence of the story of the dove bearing an olive branch to signal the end of the flood – and thus God’s new peace with the world of men – not only the dove but also the olive branch and oil itself have become symbols of peace. The Christians of antiquity loved to decorate the tombs of their dead with the crown of victory and the olive branch, symbol of peace. They knew that Christ conquered death and that their dead were resting in the peace of Christ. They knew that they themselves were awaited by Christ, that he had promised them the peace which the world cannot give. They remembered that the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples were: "Peace be with you!" (Jn 20:19). He himself, so to speak, bears the olive branch, he introduces his peace into the world. He announces God’s saving goodness. He is our peace. Christians should therefore be people of peace, people who recognize and live the mystery of the Cross as a mystery of reconciliation. Christ does not conquer through the sword, but through the Cross. He wins by conquering hatred. He wins through the force of his greater love. The Cross of Christ expresses his "no" to violence. And in this way, it is God’s victory sign, which announces Jesus’ new way. The one who suffered was stronger than the ones who exercised power. In his self-giving on the Cross, Christ conquered violence. As priests we are called, in fellowship with Jesus Christ, to be men of peace, we are called to oppose violence and to trust in the greater power of love.

A further aspect of the symbolism of oil is that it strengthens for battle. This does not contradict the theme of peace, but forms part of it. The battle of Christians consisted – and still consists – not in the use of violence, but in the fact that they were – and are – ready to suffer for the good, for God. It consists in the fact that Christians, as good citizens, keep the law and do what is just and good. It consists in the fact that they do not do whatever within the legal system in force is not just but unjust. The battle of the martyrs consists in their concrete "no" to injustice: by taking no part in idolatry, in Emperor worship, they refused to bow down before falsehood, before the adoration of human persons and their power. With their "no" to falsehood and all its consequences, they upheld the power of right and truth. Thus they served true peace. Today too it is important for Christians to follow what is right, which is the foundation of peace. Today too it is important for Christians not to accept a wrong that is enshrined in law – for example the killing of innocent unborn children. In this way we serve peace, in this way we find ourselves following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, of whom Saint Peter says: "When he was reviled he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Pet 2:23f.).

The Fathers of the Church were fascinated by a phrase from Psalm 45 (44) – traditionally held to be Solomon’s wedding psalm – which was reinterpreted by Christians as the psalm for the marriage of the new Solomon, Jesus Christ, to his Church. To the King, Christ, it is said: "Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above other kings" (v. 8). What is this oil of gladness with which the true king, Christ, was anointed? The Fathers had no doubt in this regard: the oil of gladness is the Holy Spirit himself, who was poured out upon Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the gladness that comes from God. From Jesus this gladness sweeps over us in his Gospel, in the joyful message that God knows us, that he is good and that his goodness is the power above all powers; that we are wanted and loved by him. Gladness is the fruit of love. The oil of gladness, which was poured out over Christ and comes to us from him, is the Holy Spirit, the gift of Love who makes us glad to be alive. Since we know Christ, and since in him we know God, we know that it is good to be a human being. It is good to be alive, because we are loved, because truth itself is good.

In the early Church, the consecrated oil was considered a special sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who communicates himself to us as a gift from Christ. He is the oil of gladness. This gladness is different from entertainment and from the outward happiness that modern society seeks for itself. Entertainment, in its proper place, is certainly good and enjoyable. It is good to be able to laugh. But entertainment is not everything. It is only a small part of our lives, and when it tries to be the whole, it becomes a mask behind which despair lurks, or at least doubt over whether life is really good, or whether non-existence might perhaps be better than existence. The gladness that comes to us from Christ is different. It does indeed make us happy, but it can also perfectly well coexist with suffering. It gives us the capacity to suffer and, in suffering, to remain nevertheless profoundly glad. It gives us the capacity to share the suffering of others and thus by placing ourselves at one another’s disposal, to express tangibly the light and the goodness of God. I am always struck by the passage in the Acts of the Apostles which recounts that after the Apostles had been whipped by order of the Sanhedrin, they "rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus" (Acts 5:41). Anyone who loves is ready to suffer for the beloved and for the sake of his love, and in this way he experiences a deeper joy. The joy of the martyrs was stronger than the torments inflicted on them. This joy was ultimately victorious and opened the gates of history for Christ. As priests, we are – in Saint Paul’s words – "co-workers with you for your joy" (2 Cor 1:24). In the fruit of the olive-tree, in the consecrated oil, we are touched by the goodness of the Creator, the love of the Redeemer. Let us pray that his gladness may pervade us ever more deeply and that we may be capable of bringing it anew to a world in such urgent need of the joy that has its source in truth. Amen.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Conversation With Roman Youth
"Find the Beautiful and Joyful Life"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2010 - Here is a translation of a conversation between some young people and Benedict XVI during a meeting Thursday in St. Peter's Square in preparation for World Youth Day.

More than 70,000 young people were present for the event organized to commemorate the 25th anniversary of World Youth Day, established by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

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Q: Holy Father, the young man of the Gospel asked Jesus: Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? I don't even know what eternal life is. I cannot even imagine it, but I know one thing: I don't want to throw my life away; I want to live it fully and not alone. I'm afraid this won't happen, I'm afraid of thinking only of myself, of mistaking everything and of finding myself without a goal to reach, living for the day. Is it possible to make something beautiful and great of my life?

Benedict XV: Dear young people, before answering the question I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you all for your presence, for this marvelous witness of faith, of wishing to live in communion with Jesus, for your enthusiasm in following Jesus and living well. Thank you!

And now the question. You have said that you don't know what eternal life is and cannot imagine it. No one of us is able to imagine eternal life, because it is outside of our experience. However, we can begin to understand what eternal life is, and I think that you, with your question, have given us a description of the essential of eternal life, that is, of true life: not to throw life away, to live it in profundity, not to live for oneself, not to live for the day, but to really live life in its richness and its totality. And how can we do this? This is the big question, with which even the rich man of the Gospel came to the Lord (cf. Mark 10:17).

At first glance, the Lord's answer seems very dry. In sum, he says: observe the commandments (cf. Mark 10:19). But behind this, if we reflect well, if we listen to the Lord well, in the totality of the Gospel, we find the great wisdom of the Word of God, of Jesus. The commandments, according to another Word of Jesus, are summarized in this one alone: love God with your whole heart, with your whole reason, with your whole existence and love your neighbor as yourself.

To love God implies knowing God, recognizing God. And this is the first step we must take: to seek to know God. And thus we know that our life does not exist by accident, it is not an accident. My life is willed by God from eternity. I am loved, I am necessary. God has a plan for me in the totality of history; he has a plan specifically for me. My life is important and also necessary. Eternal love has created me in profundity and awaits me. Therefore, this is the first point: to know, to seek to know God and thus understand that life is a gift, that it is good to live.

Essential, then, is love. To love this God who has created me, who has created this world, who governs through all the difficulties of man and of history, and who accompanies me. And to love one's neighbor.

The Ten Commandments to which Jesus refers in his answer, are only an explicitness of the commandment to love. They are, so to speak, rules of love, indicating the way of love with these essential points: the family, as foundation of society; life, to be respected as gift of God; the order of sexuality, of the relationship between man and woman; the social order and, finally, truth. These essential elements specify the way of love, specifying how to really love and how to find the correct life. Hence it is a fundamental will of God for us all, which is identical for all of us.

But its application is different in every life, because God has a specific plan for each man. St. Francis de Sales once said: Perfection, that is, to be good, to live faith and love, is essentially one, but in very different forms. Very different is the holiness of a monk and that of a politician, of a scientist and a peasant, and so on. And thus for every man God has his plan and I must find, in my circumstances, my way of living this unique and common will of God the great rules of which are indicated in these explanations of love. And hence to seek also to fulfill that which is the essence of love, namely, not to take life for myself, but to give life; not to "have" life, but to make of life a gift, not to seek myself, but to give to others.

This is the essential, and it implies renunciations, that is, to come out of myself and not to seek myself. And precisely by not seeking myself, but giving myself to the great and true things, I find the true life. Thus everyone will find, in his life, the different possibilities: to commit oneself to charitable work, in a community of prayer, in a movement, in the action of one's parish, in one's profession. It is important and essential to find my vocation and to live it in every situation, whether I am a great scientist, or a peasant. Everything is important in God's eyes: It is beautiful if it is lived to the very bottom with that love that really redeems the world.

At the end I would like to recount a little story of St. Josephine Bakhita, this little African saint who found God and Christ in Italy, and who always makes a great impression on me. She was a sister in an Italian convent; one day, the bishop of the place paid a visit to the convent, saw this little black sister, of whom he did not seem to know anything and said: "Sister, what are you doing here?" And Bakhita answered: "The same thing that you do, Excellency." The bishop visibly irritated said: "But how, Sister, do you do the same thing that I do?" "Yes, said the Sister, we both wish to do the will of God, isn't that true?"

In sum, this is the essential point: to know, with the help of the Church, of the Word of God and of friends, the will of God, whether in its great lines, common for all, or in the concreteness of my personal life. Thus life becomes, perhaps, not too easy, but beautiful and joyful. Let us pray that the Lord will always help us to find his will and to follow it with joy.

Q: The Gospel has told us that Jesus looked at the young man and loved him. Holy Father, what does it mean to be looked at with love by Jesus; how can we also have this experience today? But is it really possible to live this experience also in this life of today?

Benedict XVI: Of course I will say yes, because the Lord is always present and looks at each one of us with love. Only we must find this love and meet with him. How do we do this?

I would say that the first point to meet with Jesus, to experience his love, is to know him. To know Jesus involves different ways. A first condition is to know the figure of Jesus as he appears to us in the Gospels, which give us a very rich portrait of the figure of Jesus, in the great parables, we think of the Prodigal Son, the Samaritan, Lazarus, etc.

In all the parables, in all his words, in the Sermon on the Mount, we really find the face of Jesus, the face of God unto the cross where, out of love for us, he gives himself totally unto death and can, in the end, say into your hands, Father, I give my life, my spirit (cf. Luke 23:46).

Hence: to know, to meditate Jesus together with friends, with the Church and to know Jesus not only in an academic, theoretical way, but with the heart, that is, to speak with Jesus in prayer. A person cannot be known in the same way as I can study mathematics. Reason is necessary and sufficient for mathematics, but to know a person, above all the great person of Jesus, God and man, we also need reason but, at the same time, also the heart. Only with the opening of the heart to him, only with knowledge of the whole of what he has said and done, with our love, with are going to him, can we little by little know him ever more and thus also have the experience of being loved. Hence, to listen to the Word of God, to listen to it in the communion of the Church, in her great experience and respond with our prayer, with our personal conversation with Jesus, where we tell him how much we cannot understand, our needs, our questions.

In a true conversation, we can always find increasingly this way of knowledge that becomes love. Of course, not only to think, not only to pray, but also to do is part of the way to Jesus: to do good things, to be committed to one's neighbor. There are different ways: every one know his own possibilities, in the parish and in the community in which he lives, to be committed also to Christ and to others, for the vitality of the Church, so that the faith is really a formative force of our environment, and thus of our time.

Therefore, I would say these elements: to listen, to answer, to enter the believing community, communion with Christ in the sacraments, where he gives himself to us, whether in the Eucharist or in Confession, etc., and, finally, to do, to carry out the words of the faith, so that they become the force of my life and the look of Jesus also truly appears to me and his love helps me and transforms me.

Q: Jesus invited the rich young man to leave everything, and to follow him, but he went away sad. Like him I also find it hard to follow him, because I am afraid of leaving my things and sometimes the Church asks me for difficult renunciations. Holy Father how can I find the strength for courageous choices, and who can help me?

Benedict XVI: Look, we began with this hard word for us: renunciation. Renunciations are possible and, in the end, become even beautiful if they have a reason and if this reason then justifies even the difficulty of the renunciation. In this context, St. Paul used the image of the Olympics and of athletes committed to the Olympics (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25). He says: They, to arrive finally at the medal -- at that time, the crown -- must live a very hard discipline, must give up so many things, must exercise themselves in the sport they practice and make great sacrifices and renunciations because they have a motivation, it's worthwhile. Even if at the end, perhaps, they are not among the winners, still it is a beautiful thing having disciplined oneself and having been capable of doing these things with a certain perfection.

The same thing that is true, with this image of St. Paul for the Olympics, for the whole of sport, is also true for all the other things of life. A good professional life cannot be achieved without renunciations, without an adequate preparation, which always calls for discipline, it calls for giving up something, and so on, also in art and in all the elements of life. We all understand that to attain an objective, whether professional, athletic, artistic, or cultural we must deny ourselves, learn to get ahead.

In fact, also the art of living, of being oneself, the art of being a person calls for renunciations, and true renunciations, which help us to find the way of life, the art of life, are indicated to us in the Word of God and they help us not to fall -- let us say -- into the abyss of drugs, of alcohol, the slavery to sexuality, the slavery of money, of laziness. All these things at first seem like actions of liberty. In reality, they are not actions of liberty, but the beginning of a slavery that becomes ever more insurmountable. Success is in giving up the temptation of the moment, to go forward toward the good, which creates true liberty and makes life beautiful.

In this connection, it seems to me, we must see that without a "no" to certain things, the great "yes" to true life does not grow, as we see it in the figures of the saints. We think of St. Francis, of the saints of our time, Mother Teresa, Father Gnocchi and so many others, who denied themselves and who conquered and became not only free themselves but also a richness for the world and they show us how one can live.

Thus to the question "who helps me," I would say that we are helped by the great figures of the history of the Church, by the Word of God, by the parish community, movements, charitable work, etc. And we are helped by the friendships of men who "go forward," who have already made progress on the way of life and who can convince me that to walk thus is the right way. Let us pray to the Lord that he will always give us friends, communities that help us to see the way of goodness and thus find the beautiful and joyful life.



Benedict XVI's Address to Scandinavian Bishops
"Commit Your Energies to Promoting a New Evangelization"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 25, 2010 - Here is the text of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Scandinavian episcopal conference who are in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I welcome you to Rome on the occasion of your visit "to the threshold of the Apostles" and I thank Bishop Arborelius for the words he has addressed to me on your behalf. You exercise pastoral governance over the Catholic faithful in the far north of Europe and you have travelled here to express and renew the bonds of communion between the people of God in those lands and the Successor of Peter at the heart of the universal Church. Your flock is small in number, and scattered over a wide area. Many have to travel great distances in order to find a Catholic community in which to worship. It is most important for them to realize that every time they gather around the altar for the Eucharistic sacrifice, they are participating in an act of the universal Church, in communion with all their fellow Catholics throughout the world. It is this communion that is both exercised and deepened through the quinquennial visits of bishops to the Apostolic See.

I am pleased to note that a Congress on the Family is due to be held at Jönköping in May of this year. One of the most important messages that the people of the Nordic lands need to hear from you is a reminder of the centrality of the family for the life of a healthy society. Sadly, recent years have seen a weakening of the commitment to the institution of marriage and the Christian understanding of human sexuality that for so long served as the foundation of personal and social relations in European society. Children have the right to be conceived and carried in the womb, brought into the world and brought up within marriage: it is through the secure and recognized relationship to their own parents that they can discover their identity and achieve their proper human development (cf. Donum Vitae, 22 February 1987). In societies with a noble tradition of defending the rights of all their members, one would expect this fundamental right of children to be given priority over any supposed right of adults to impose on them alternative models of family life and certainly over any supposed right to abortion. Since the family is "the first and indispensable teacher of peace" (Message for the 2008 World Day of Peace), the most reliable promoter of social cohesion and the best school of the virtues of good citizenship, it is in the interests of all, and especially of governments, to defend and promote stable family life.

While the Catholic population of your territories constitutes only a small percentage of the total, it is nevertheless growing, and at the same time a good number of others listen with respect and attention to what the Church has to say. In the Nordic lands, religion has an important role in shaping public opinion and influencing decisions on matters concerning the common good. I urge you, therefore, to continue to convey to the people of your respective countries the Church's teaching on social and ethical questions, as you do through such initiatives as your 2005 pastoral letter "The Love of Life" and the forthcoming Congress on the Family. The establishment of the Newman Institute in Uppsala is a most welcome development in this regard, ensuring that Catholic teaching is given its rightful place in the Scandinavian academic world, while also helping new generations to acquire a mature and informed understanding of their faith. Within your own flock, pastoral care of families and young people needs to be pursued with vigour, and with particular care for the many who have experienced difficulties in the wake of the recent financial crisis. Due sensitivity should be shown to the many married couples in which only one partner is Catholic. The immigrant component among the Catholic population of the Nordic lands has needs of its own, and it is important that your pastoral outreach to families should include them, with a view to assisting their integration into society. Your countries have been particularly generous to refugees from the Middle East, many of whom are Christians from Eastern Churches. For your part, as you welcome "the stranger who sojourns with you" (Lev 19:34), be sure to help these new members of your community to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the faith through apposite programmes of catechesis -- in the process of integration within their host country, they should be encouraged not to distance themselves from the most precious elements of their own culture, particularly their faith.

In this Year for Priests, I ask you to give particular priority to encouraging and supporting your priests, who often have to work in isolation from one another and in difficult circumstances in order to bring the sacraments to the people of God. As you know, I have proposed the figure of Saint John Vianney to all the priests of the world as a source of inspiration and intercession in this year devoted to exploring more deeply the meaning and indispensable role of the priesthood in the Church's life. He expended himself tirelessly in order to be a channel of God's healing and sanctifying grace to the people he served, and all priests are called to do likewise: it is your responsibility, as their Ordinaries, to see that they are well prepared for this sacred task. Ensure too that the lay faithful appreciate what their priests do for them, and that they offer them the encouragement and the spiritual, moral and material support that they need.

I would like to pay tribute to the enormous contribution that men and women religious have made to the life of the Church in your countries over many years. The Nordic lands are also blessed with the presence of a number of the new ecclesial movements, which bring fresh dynamism to the Church's mission. In view of this wide variety of charisms, there are many ways in which young people may be attracted to devote their lives to the service of the Church through a priestly or religious vocation. As you carry out your responsibility to foster such vocations (cf. Christus Dominus, 15), be sure to address yourselves to both the native and the immigrant populations. From the heart of any healthy Catholic community, the Lord always calls men and women to serve him in this way. The fact that more and more of you, the Bishops of the Nordic lands, originate from the countries in which you serve is a clear sign that the Holy Spirit is at work among the Catholic communities there. I pray that his inspiration will continue to bear fruit among you and those to whom you have dedicated your lives.

With great confidence in the life-giving power of the Gospel, commit your energies to promoting a new evangelization among the people of your territories. Part and parcel of this task is continued attention to ecumenical activity, and I am pleased to note the numerous tasks in which Christians from the Nordic lands come together to present a united witness before the world.

With these sentiments, I commend all of you and your people to the intercession of the Nordic saints, especially Saint Bridget, co-patron of Europe, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. Albert the Great
"Scientific Study Is Transformed Then Into a Hymn of Praise"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

One of the greatest teachers of Medieval theology is St. Albert the Great. The title "great" (magnus) with which he has passed into history, indicates the vastness and depth of his doctrine, which he coupled with holiness of life. But already his contemporaries did not hesitate to attribute excellent titles to him; one of his disciples, Ulrich of Strasbourg, described him as "wonder and miracle of our age."

Born in Germany at the beginning of the 13th century, he was still young when he went to Italy, to Padua, seat of one of the most famous universities of the Middle Ages. He dedicated himself to the study of the so-called liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, that is, of the general culture, manifesting that typical interest for the natural sciences, which would soon become the favorite field of his specialization. During his stay in Padua, he frequented the church of the Dominicans, whom he later joined with the profession of religious vows. The hagiographic sources lead one to understand that Albert matured this decision gradually. The intense relationship with God, the example of holiness of the Dominican Friars, the listening of sermons of Blessed Giordano of Saxony, successor of St. Dominic in the leadership of the Order of Preachers, were the decisive factors that helped him to overcome every doubt, overcoming also family resistance. Often, in the years of youth, God speaks to us and indicates the plan of our life. As for Albert, so for all of us, personal prayer nourished by the Word of the Lord, the frequenting of the sacraments and the spiritual guidance of enlightened men are the means to discover and follow the voice of God. He received the religious habit from Blessed Giordano of Saxony.

After his priestly ordination, the superiors sent him to teach in several centers of theological study adjacent to monasteries of the Dominican Fathers. His brilliant intellectual qualities enabled him to perfect the study of theology in the most famous university of the time, that of Paris. From then on St. Albert undertook that extraordinary activity of writer, which he would then follow for his whole life.

He was assigned prestigious tasks. In 1248 he was charged with opening a theological study at Cologne, one of the most important administrative centers of Germany, where he lived in successive stages, and which became his adopted city. From Paris he took with him an exceptional pupil, Thomas Aquinas. The merit would suffice of having been St. Thomas' teacher to foster profound admiration toward St. Albert. Established between these two great theologians was a relationship of mutual esteem and friendship, human attitudes that help much in the development of science. In 1254, Albert was elected Provincial of the "Provincia Teutoniae" -- Teutonic Province -- of the Dominican Fathers, which embraced communities spread over a vast territory in Central and Northern Europe. He distinguished himself for the zeal with which he exercised this ministry, visiting the communities and constantly recalling his fellow brothers to fidelity, to the teachings and examples of St. Dominic.

His gifts did not pass unnoticed and the Pope of that time, Alexander IV, wanted Albert next to him for a certain time in Anagni -- where the Pope frequently went -- in Rome itself and in Viterbo, to make use of his theological counsel. The same Supreme Pontiff appointed him bishop of Regensburg, a great and famous diocese, which was, however, going through a difficult time. From 1260 to 1262 Albert carried out this ministry with tireless dedication, succeeding in taking peace and concord to the city, reorganizing parishes and convents, and giving a new impulse to charitable activities.

In the years 1263-1264 Albert preached in Germany and in Bohemia, charged by Pope Urban IV, to return then to Cologne to take up again his mission of docent, scholar and writer. Being a man of prayer, of learning and of charity, he enjoyed great authoritativeness in his interventions, in several affairs of the Church and of the society of the time. He was above all a man of reconciliation and peace in Cologne, where the archbishop had entered into harsh opposition with the city's institutions; he spent himself during the unfolding of the Second Council of Lyon in 1274, convoked by Pope Gregory X to foster the union between the Latin and Greek Churches, after the separation of the Great Schism of the East of 1054; he clarified the thought of Thomas Aquinas, who was the object of objections and even of wholly unjustified condemnations.

He died in the cell of his monastery of the Holy Cross in Cologne in 1280, and very soon was venerated by his fellow brothers. The Church proposed him to the devotion of the faithful with his beatification in 1622 and his canonization in 1931, when Pope Pius XI proclaimed him Doctor of the Church. It was undoubtedly an appropriate recognition of this great man of God and illustrious scholar not only of the truths of the faith, but of very many other sectors of learning; in fact, glancing at the titles of his very numerous works, we realize that his culture was something prodigious, and that his encyclopedic interest led him to be concerned not only with philosophy and theology, as other contemporaries, but also with every other discipline then known, from physics to chemistry, from astronomy to mineralogy, from botany to zoology. For this reason Pope Pius XII named him patron of cultivators of the natural sciences and he is also called "Doctor universalis" precisely because of the vastness of his interest and learning.

Of course, the scientific methods adopted by St. Albert the Great are not those that were to be affirmed in subsequent centuries. His method consisted simply in observation, description and classification of phenomenons studied, but thus he opened the door for future works.

He still has much to teach us. Above all, St. Albert shows that between faith and science there is no opposition, notwithstanding some episodes of misunderstanding recorded in history. A man of faith and prayer, as St. Albert the Great was, can cultivate serenely the study of the natural sciences and progress in the knowledge of the micro and macro cosmos, discovering the laws proper of matter, because all this concurs to feed the thirst for and love of God. The Bible speaks to us of creation as the first language through which God -- who is supreme intelligence, who is Logos -- reveals to us something of himself. The Book of Wisdom, for example, states that the phenomena of nature, gifted with grandeur and beauty, are as the works of an artist, through which, by analogy, we can know the Author of creation (cf. Wisdom 13:5). With a classic similarity in the Medieval Age and the Renaissance one can compare the natural world with a book written by God, which we read on the basis of several approaches of the sciences (cf. Address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Oct. 31, 2008). How many scientists, in fact, in the wake of St. Albert the Great, have carried forward their research inspired by wonder and gratitude before a world that, in the eyes of scholars and believers, seemed and seems the good work of a wise and loving Creator! Scientific study is transformed then into a hymn of praise. It was well understood by a great astrophysicist of our times, whose cause of beatification has been introduced, Enrico Medi, who wrote: "Oh, you mysterious galaxies ... I see you, I calculate you, I understand you, I study you and discover you, I penetrate you and I am immersed in you. From you I take the light and I do science, I take the motion and do science, I take the sparkling of colors and make poetry; I take you stars in my hands, and trembling in the unity of my being I raise you beyond yourselves, and in prayer I hand you to the Creator, that only through me you stars can adore" (The Works. Hymn to Creation).

St. Albert the Great reminds us that between science and faith there is friendship, and that the men of science can undertake, through their vocation to the study of nature, a genuine and fascinating journey of sanctity.

His extraordinary openness of mind is revealed also in a cultural operation that he undertook with success, that is, in the acceptance and evaluation of the thought of Aristotle. Spreading at the time of St. Albert, in fact, was knowledge of numerous works of this great Greek philosopher who lived in the fourth century before Christ, above all in the realm of ethics and metaphysics. They demonstrated the force of reason, explained with lucidity and clarity the meaning and structure of reality, of its intelligibility, the value and end of human actions. St. Albert the Great opened the door for the complete reception of the philosophy of Aristotle in Medieval philosophy and theology, a reception elaborated later in a definitive way by St. Thomas. This reception of a philosophy, let us say, pagan and pre-Christian was an authentic cultural revolution for that time. And yet, many Christian thinkers feared Aristotle's philosophy, non-Christian philosophy, above all because, presented by its Arab commentators, it was interpreted in a way of appearing, at least in some points, as altogether irreconcilable with the Christian faith. Thus a dilemma was posed: are faith and reason in opposition to one another or not?

Here is one of the great merits of St. Albert: with scientific rigor he studied the works of Aristotle, convinced that everything that is rational is compatible with the faith revealed in sacred Scriptures. In other words, St. Albert the Great, thus contributed to the formation of an autonomous philosophy, different from theology and united to it only by the unity of the truth. Thus was born in the 13th century a clear distinction between these two learnings, philosophy and theology, which, in dialogue between them, cooperate harmoniously in the discovery of the authentic vocation of man, thirsty for truth and blessedness: and it is above all theology, defined by St. Albert as "affective science," which indicates to man his call to eternal joy, a joy that gushes from full adherence to the truth.

St. Albert the Great was able to communicate these concepts in a simple and comprehensible way. Authentic son of St. Dominic, he preached willingly to the people of God, which were conquered by his word and the example of his life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to the Lord so that there will never be lacking in the Holy Church learned, pious and wise theologians like St. Albert the Great and may he help each one of us to make our own the "formula of sanctity" that he followed in his life: "To want everything that I want for the glory of God, to wish and do everything only and always for his glory."

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to Saint Albert, better known as Albertus Magnus, Albert the Great. A universal genius whose interests ranged from the natural sciences to philosophy and theology, Albert entered the Dominicans and, after studies in Paris, taught in Cologne. Elected provincial of the Teutonic province, he served as bishop of Regensburg for four years and then returned to teaching and writing. He played an important part in the Council of Lyons, and he worked to clarify and defend the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, his most brilliant student. Albert was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI, and Pope Pius XII named him the patron of the natural sciences. Saint Albert shows us that faith is not opposed to reason, and that the created world can be seen as a "book" written by God and capable of being "read" in its own way by the various sciences. His study of Aristotle also brought out the difference between the sciences of philosophy and theology, while insisting that both cooperate in enabling us to discover our vocation to truth and happiness, a vocation which finds its fulfillment in eternal life.


Pontiff's Address to Italian Civil Defense
"Love for Neighbor Cannot Be Delegated"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered March 6 upon receiving in audience some 7,000 Members, Personnel and Volunteers, of the Italian National Civil Defense.

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Dear Friends,

I am very glad to receive you and to address my cordial welcome to each one of you. I greet my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood and all the Authorities. I greet Mr Guido Bertolaso, Undersecretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Head of the Department for Civil Protection and I thank him for his courteous words to me on behalf of all and for all that he does for civil society and for all of us. I greet Mr Gianni Letta, Undersecretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, present at this meeting. I address my affectionate greeting to the many volunteers and to the representatives of several sections of the National Service for Civil Defense.

This Meeting was preceded by a joyful and festive moment, brightened by the musical performance of the "Istituzione Sinfonica Abruzzese" my grateful thoughts to you all.

You have wished to review the Civil Defence's role over the past 10 years, on the occasion of both national and international emergencies and in support activities for important and specific events.

How could one fail to mention in this regard the interventions on behalf of the earthquake victims in San Giuliano di Puglia and, above all, in Abruzzo? In visiting Onna and l'Aquila last April I was able to see for myself how hard you had worked to help those who had lost their loved ones and their homes. The words I addressed to you on that occasion seem to me to be appropriate: "Thank you for all you have done and especially for the love with which you have done it. Thank you for the example you have given" (Visit to Abruzzo Region, Address to the faithful, volunteers, rescue teams, the military and other authorities, 28 April 2009; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 6 May 2009, p. 5).

And how can we fail to think with admiration of the many volunteers who provided assistance and security to the immense crowd of young people and not only to them present at the unforgettable World Youth Day in the year 2000, or to those who came to Rome to pay their last respects to Pope John Paul ii?

Dear volunteers of the Civil Defense I know how much you have been looking forward to this Meeting. I can assure you that it is something that I too eagerly awaited. You constitute one of the most recent and mature expressions of the long tradition of solidarity that is rooted in the altruism and generosity of the Italian people. The Civil Defense's voluntary service has become a national phenomenon that has acquired characteristics of participation and organization that are particularly significant and today has about 1,300,000 members, divided into more than 3,000 organizations. Your Association's aim and intentions have been recognized in appropriate legislative norms which have helped to shape the national identity of the Civil Defense's voluntary service which is attentive to the primary needs of the individual and of the common good.

The terms "defense" and "civil" are precise terms and a profound expression of your mission, or I would say your "vocation": to protect people and their dignity which are central goods to civil society in the tragic cases of calamities and emergencies that threaten the life and security of families or entire communities. This mission does not consist solely in emergency management but also in making a prompt and praiseworthy contribution to achieving the common good, which always constitutes the horizon of human coexistence even, and above all, in times of great trial.

Such trials constitute an occasion for discernment rather than for desperation. They afford the opportunity to formulate a new social program that focuses more on virtue and on the good of all.

The twofold dimension of protection, which is expressed both during the emergency and after it, is clearly seen in the figure of the Good Samaritan, taken from Luke's Gospel (cf. Lk 10: 30-35). In assisting the unfortunate traveler in the moment of his greatest need the Good Samaritan certainly showed charity, humility and courage. And he did so when everyone else some through indifference, others because they were hard-hearted looked away. The Good Samaritan, however, teaches us to go beyond the emergency and to prepare, we might say, for the return to normality. Indeed, not only did he bind up the wounds of the man who had been left lying on the ground, but he then took the trouble to entrust him to the innkeeper so that once the emergency was past he might recover.

As this Gospel passage teaches us, love for neighbor cannot be delegated: the State and politics, even with the necessary concern for welfare, cannot replace it.

As I wrote in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: "Love caritas will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable" (n. 28, b).

This always requires and always will require personal and voluntary commitment. For this very reason volunteers are not "stopgaps" in the social network but people who truly contribute to tracing society's human and Christian features. Without voluntary service the common good and society could not last long, for their progress and dignity depend to a large extent precisely on those people who do more than their duty strictly demands of them.

Dear friends, your commitment is a service to the dignity of the human beings founded on their having been created in God's image and likeness (cf. Gn 1: 26). As the episode of the Good Samaritan has shown us, sometimes seeing can turn to emptiness or even contempt, but a gaze can also express love.

In addition to being custodians of the territory, you are, increasingly, living icons of the Good Samaritan, attentive to your neighbor, remembering human dignity and inspiring hope.

When a person does not limit himself to doing no more than his professional or family duties require but seeks to help others, his heart expands. Those who love and freely serve others as their neighbour live and act in accordance with the Gospel and take part in the mission of the Church that always looks at the whole person and wants him to feel God's love.

Dear volunteers, the Church and the Pope support your invaluable service. May the Virgin Mary who went "with haste" to her kinswoman Elizabeth to help her (cf. Lk 1: 39), be your model. As I entrust you to the intercession of your Patron, St Pius of Pietrelcina, I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and with affection impart the Apostolic Blessing to you and to your dear ones.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Message to International Youth Forum
"Christ Has Revealed to Us the Face of God That Is Love"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 24, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and to the participants in the 10th International Youth Forum being held in Rocca di Papa on the theme "Learn to Love."

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To the Venerated Brother
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko
President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity

I am happy to send my cordial greeting to you, to the collaborators of the Pontifical Council for the Laity and to all those taking part in the 10th International Youth Forum, being held this week in Rocca di Papa on the theme "Learn to Love." I address with particular affection the young delegates of the episcopal conferences and of the different movements, associations and international communities, from the five continents. I extend my thought to the authoritative speakers, who bring to the meeting the contribution of their competence and experience.

"Learn to Love": This topic is central to the Christian faith and life and I am happy that you have the occasion to reflect on it deeply together. As you know, the starting point of any reflection on love is the mystery itself of God, given that the heart of Christian revelation is this: "Deus caritas est." In his Passion, in his total self-giving, Christ has revealed to us the face of God that is Love.

Contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity makes us enter into this mystery of eternal Love, which is fundamental for us. The first pages of the Bible state, in fact, that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). By the very fact that God is love and man is in his image and likeness, we understand the profound identity of the person, his vocation to love. Man is made to love; his life is fully realized only if he lives in love. After having searched for a long time, St. Therese of the Child Jesus understood the meaning of her existence: "My vocation is Love!" (Manuscript B, folio 3).

I exhort the young people present in this forum to search with all their heart to discover their vocation to love, as persons and as baptized. This is the key to the whole of existence. Thus they will be able to invest all their energies in approaching the goal day after day, sustained by the Word of God and by the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.

The vocation to love takes different forms according to one's state in life. In this Year for Priests I wish to recall the words of the holy Curé d'Ars: "The priesthood is love of the heart of Jesus." In following Jesus, many priests have given their life, so that the faithful can live of the love of Christ. Called by God to give themselves entirely to him, with an integral heart, persons consecrated in celibacy are also a sign of the love of God for the world and of the vocation to love God above all.

I would also like to exhort the young delegates to discover the grandeur and beauty of marriage: The relationship between man and woman reflects divine love in a completely special way; because of this the conjugal bond assumes an immense dignity. Through the sacrament of marriage, the spouses are united by God and with their relationship manifest the love of Christ, who gave his life for the salvation of the world.

In a cultural context in which many persons consider marriage as a temporal contract that can be broken, it is of vital importance to understand that true love is faithful, definitive gift of self. Given that Christ consecrates the love of Christian spouses and commits himself to them, this fidelity not only is possible, but is the way to enter into an ever greater charity. Thus, in the daily life of the couple and of the family, spouses learn to love as Christ loves. Necessary to correspond to this vocation is a serious educational review and this Forum also places itself in this perspective.

These days of formation through meetings, listening to talks and common prayer, must also be a stimulus for all the young delegates to be witnesses to their contemporaries of what they have seen and heard. It is a true and authentic responsibility, for which the Church counts on you. They have an important role to carry out in the evangelization of young people in their countries, so that they will respond with joy and fidelity to Christ's commandment: "love one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12).

Inviting youth to persevere in the path of charity in the following of Christ, I make an appointment with them for next Sunday in Saint Peter's Square, where the solemn celebration of Palm Sunday and the 25th World Youth Day will take place.

This year the theme for reflection is: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17). To this question, posed by a rich young man, Jesus answers with a look of love and an invitation to total self-giving for love of God. May this meeting be able to contribute to the generous response of each delegate to the call and gifts of the Lord!

With this aim I assure you of my prayers for all youth and I send you, Venerated Brothers, and all those participating in the International Forum, a heartfelt special Apostolic Blessing.

In the Vatican, March 20, 2010



Pope's Words at End of "Name Day" Concert
"God Pronounced in Christ the Most Beautiful and True Word of Love"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 22, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Friday at the end of a concert the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household organized in the Vatican for the feast day of Benedict XVI's namesake, St. Joseph, featuring the music of Joseph Haydn.

The musical event featured a work of Spanish composer José Peris Lacasa. He presented his version of Joseph Haydn's "The Last Seven Words of Christ on the Cross," which Peris Lacasa calls "In the Manner of Haydn." The Henschel String Quartet and mezzosoprano Susanne Kelling performed the work.

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Dear Friends,

At the end of such intense and spiritually profound listening, it would be better to keep silent and prolong the meditation. However, I am very happy to greet and thank each one of you for your presence on the day of the celebration of my name day, in a particular way all those who have given me this great gift. I express my cordial gratitude to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my secretary of state, for the beautiful words he addressed to me.

I greet affectionately all the other cardinals, Cardinal Sodano, bishops and prelates present. Special thanks go also to the musicians, beginning with Maestro José Peris Lacasa, composer closely connected to the Spanish Royal House. He has the merit of having elaborated a version of "The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross" of Franz Joseph Haydn, who takes up the [version] for a string quartet and the [version] in the form of oratory, written by Haydn himself. I also congratulate the Henschel Quartet for its admirable performance, and Mrs. Susanne Kelling, who put her extraordinary voice at the service of the holy words of the Lord Jesus.

The choice of this work has really been a happy one. In fact, if on one hand, its austere beauty is worthy of the solemnity of St. Joseph -- whose name the famous composer bore -- on the other its content is very appropriate for the Lenten season, what is more, it should predispose us to live the central Mystery of the Christian faith.

"The Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross" is, in fact, among the most sublime examples, in the musical field, of how art and faith can be united. The musician's invention is wholly inspired and almost "directed" by the evangelical texts, which culminate in the words pronounced by the crucified Jesus, before exhaling his last breath. However, more than the text, the composer was also connected by precise conditions to those who commissioned the work, dictated by the particular type of celebration in which the music would be performed. And it is precisely from these very close conditionings that the creative genius was able to manifest itself in all its excellence: Having to imagine seven sonatas of a tragic and meditative character, Haydn is centered on the intensity, as he himself wrote in a letter of the time, where he says: "Each sonata, or each text, is expressed with the only means of instrumental music, in such a way that it will necessarily make the most profound impression on the soul of the listener, including the least sharp" (Letter to W. Forster, April 8, 1787).

There is in this something similar to the work of the sculptor, who must constantly measure himself against the material on which he works -- let us think of the marble of Michelangelo's Pieta -- and in spite of everything, he is able to make that material speak, to have a singular and unrepeatable synthesis of thought and emotion arise, an absolutely original artistic expression that, however, at the same time, is totally at the service of that beautiful content of the faith, it is as though dominated by the event it represents -- in our case, by the Seven Words and by their context.

Hidden here is a universal law of artistic expression: To be able to communicate a beauty that is also a good and a truth, through a sensible means -- a painting, a music, a sculpture, a written text, a dance, etc. Well looked at, it is the same law that God followed to communicate himself and his love to us: He was incarnated in our human flesh and did the greatest work of art of the whole of creation: "the only mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" -- as St. Paul writes (1 Timothy 2:5).

The "harder" the material the closer the conditionings of the expression, and highlighted in the main is the genius of the artist. Thus on the "hard" cross, God pronounced in Christ the most beautiful and true Word of love, which is Jesus in his full and definitive self-giving: He is the last Word of God, not in a chronological but in a qualitative sense. It is the universal, absolute Word, but it was pronounced in that concrete man, in that time and in that place, in that "hour" -- says John's Gospel. This connection with history, with flesh is the sign of fidelity par excellence, of a love so free that it is not afraid to be bound forever, to express the infinite in the finite, the whole in the fragment. This law, which is the law of love, is also the law of art in its highest expressions.

Dear friends, perhaps I have gone too far with this reflection, but the fault -- or rather the merit! -- is Franz Joseph Haydn's. Let us thank the Lord for these great artistic geniuses, who have been able and have wanted to measure themselves with his Word -- Jesus Christ -- and with his words -- the sacred Scriptures. I renew my gratitude to all those who have planned and prepared this tribute: may the Lord recompense each one of you with largesse.

[In German]

Once again I thank profoundly all those who have made this evening possible. I address my particular gratitude to the Henschell Quartet and to mezzo-soprano, Mrs. Susanne Kelling who, with her expressive performance, has brought us close in a musical way to the words of the Savior on the Cross. Thank you very much!

[In Spanish]

I greet very cordially Maestro José Peris Lacasa, author of an successful re-elaboration of Haydn's "Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross," which we had the pleasure to listen to today. I also greet those who have come from Spain for this occasion. Thank you very much.

I renew a cordial greeting to all with the hope that you will follow Christ closely, as the Virgin Mary, to live Holy Week profoundly and really celebrate Easter now so close. With this intention, I impart to you and your loved ones my Blessing.


On Casting Stones
"Let Us Learn ... Not to Judge and Not to Condemn Our Neighbor"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2010 - 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.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We have arrived at the 5th Sunday of Lent in which this year the liturgy proposes to us the Gospel episode of Jesus saving the adulterous woman condemned to death (John 8:1-11). While he is teaching in the Temple area the scribes and the Pharisees bring to Jesus a woman caught in adultery, for whom the Mosaic Law prescribes stoning.

These men ask Jesus to judge the woman with the purpose of "putting him to the test" and trip him up. The scene is full of drama: The woman's life and Jesus' own life depend on his words. The hypocritical accusers, in fact, pretend to entrust him with the judgment while in reality they want to accuse and judge him. But Jesus is "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14): He knows what is in every man's heart, he wants to condemn sin but save the sinner, and unmask hypocrisy.

There is a detail that is highlighted by the evangelist St. John: While the accusers question him insistently, Jesus bends down and starts writing with his finger on the ground. St. Augustine observes that this gesture displays Jesus as the divine lawgiver: Indeed, God wrote the law with his finger on the tables of stone (cf. Commentary on the Gospel of John 33:5). Thus, Jesus is the lawgiver, justice incarnate. And what is his judgment? "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her."

These words are full of the disarming power of the truth, which makes the wall of hypocrisy crumble and opens consciences to a greater justice, that of love, in which consists the perfect fulfillment of every precept (cf. Romans 13:8-10). It is justice that also saved Saul of Tarsus, transforming him into St. Paul (cf. Philippians 3:8-14). When the accusers "departed, one by one, beginning with the elders," Jesus, absolving the woman of her sin, introduces her into a new life, oriented toward the good: "Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on do not sin any more." It is the same grace that will make the Apostle say: "I only know this: forgetting what is behind and looking to that which is ahead, I race toward the goal, to the prize that God is calling me to receive above in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14).

God only wants goodness and life for us; he provides for the salvation of our soul through his ministers, freeing us from evil by the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so that no one is lost but all have a way to be converted. In this Year for Priests, I would like to exhort pastors to imitate the holy Curé d'Ars in the ministry of sacramental Penance, so that the faithful rediscover its meaning and beauty, and are again healed by the merciful love of God, who even "forces himself willingly to forget sin," so that he can grant us his forgiveness!" ("Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests").

Dear friends, let us learn from the Lord Jesus not to judge and not to condemn our neighbor. Let us learn to be intransigent with sin -- beginning with our own! -- and indulgent with people. May we be helped in this by the Holy Mother of God, who, free of every fault, is the mediatrix of grace for every contrite sinner.


Benedict XVI's Letter to Catholics of Ireland
"Make Reparation for the Sins of Abuse That Have Done So Much Harm"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2010 - Here is the full text of Benedict XVI's pastoral letter to the Catholics of Ireland. The Vatican published the letter today.

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1. Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Church in Ireland, it is with great concern that I write to you as Pastor of the universal Church. Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

As you know, I recently invited the Irish bishops to a meeting here in Rome to give an account of their handling of these matters in the past and to outline the steps they have taken to respond to this grave situation. Together with senior officials of the Roman Curia, I listened to what they had to say, both individually and as a group, as they offered an analysis of mistakes made and lessons learned, and a description of the programmes and protocols now in place. Our discussions were frank and constructive. I am confident that, as a result, the bishops will now be in a stronger position to carry forward the work of repairing past injustices and confronting the broader issues associated with the abuse of minors in a way consonant with the demands of justice and the teachings of the Gospel.

2. For my part, considering the gravity of these offences, and the often inadequate response to them on the part of the ecclesiastical authorities in your country, I have decided to write this Pastoral Letter to express my closeness to you and to propose a path of healing, renewal and reparation.

It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination. No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly. Real progress has been made, yet much more remains to be done. Perseverance and prayer are needed, with great trust in the healing power of God's grace.

At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.

As you take up the challenges of this hour, I ask you to remember "the rock from which you were hewn" (Is 51:1). Reflect upon the generous, often heroic, contributions made by past generations of Irish men and women to the Church and to humanity as a whole, and let this provide the impetus for honest self-examination and a committed programme of ecclesial and individual renewal. It is my prayer that, assisted by the intercession of her many saints and purified through penance, the Church in Ireland will overcome the present crisis and become once more a convincing witness to the truth and the goodness of Almighty God, made manifest in his Son Jesus Christ.

3. Historically, the Catholics of Ireland have proved an enormous force for good at home and abroad. Celtic monks like Saint Columbanus spread the Gospel in Western Europe and laid the foundations of medieval monastic culture. The ideals of holiness, charity and transcendent wisdom born of the Christian faith found expression in the building of churches and monasteries and the establishment of schools, libraries and hospitals, all of which helped to consolidate the spiritual identity of Europe. Those Irish missionaries drew their strength and inspiration from the firm faith, strong leadership and upright morals of the Church in their native land.

From the sixteenth century on, Catholics in Ireland endured a long period of persecution, during which they struggled to keep the flame of faith alive in dangerous and difficult circumstances. Saint Oliver Plunkett, the martyred Archbishop of Armagh, is the most famous example of a host of courageous sons and daughters of Ireland who were willing to lay down their lives out of fidelity to the Gospel. After Catholic Emancipation, the Church was free to grow once more. Families and countless individuals who had preserved the faith in times of trial became the catalyst for the great resurgence of Irish Catholicism in the nineteenth century. The Church provided education, especially for the poor, and this was to make a major contribution to Irish society. Among the fruits of the new Catholic schools was a rise in vocations: generations of missionary priests, sisters and brothers left their homeland to serve in every continent, especially in the English-speaking world. They were remarkable not only for their great numbers, but for the strength of their faith and the steadfastness of their pastoral commitment. Many dioceses, especially in Africa, America and Australia, benefited from the presence of Irish clergy and religious who preached the Gospel and established parishes, schools and universities, clinics and hospitals that served both Catholics and the community at large, with particular attention to the needs of the poor.

In almost every family in Ireland, there has been someone – a son or a daughter, an aunt or an uncle – who has given his or her life to the Church. Irish families rightly esteem and cherish their loved ones who have dedicated their lives to Christ, sharing the gift of faith with others, and putting that faith into action in loving service of God and neighbour.

4. In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people's traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The programme of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.

Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and effective remedies be found. Certainly, among the contributing factors we can include: inadequate procedures for determining the suitability of candidates for the priesthood and the religious life; insufficient human, moral, intellectual and spiritual formation in seminaries and novitiates; a tendency in society to favour the clergy and other authority figures; and a misplaced concern for the reputation of the Church and the avoidance of scandal, resulting in failure to apply existing canonical penalties and to safeguard the dignity of every person. Urgent action is needed to address these factors, which have had such tragic consequences in the lives of victims and their families, and have obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.

5. On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them. Earlier in my pontificate, in my concern to address this matter, I asked the bishops of Ireland, "to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected, and above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes" (Address to the Bishops of Ireland, 28 October 2006).

With this Letter, I wish to exhort all of you, as God's people in Ireland, to reflect on the wounds inflicted on Christ's body, the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them, and the need for unity, charity and mutual support in the long-term process of restoration and ecclesial renewal. I now turn to you with words that come from my heart, and I wish to speak to each of you individually and to all of you as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

6. To the victims of abuse and their families

You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church. I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ's own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love – even in the darkest and most hopeless situations – to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God's children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ's infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

7. To priests and religious who have abused children

You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God's forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ's redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God's justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God's mercy.

8. To parents

You have been deeply shocked to learn of the terrible things that took place in what ought to be the safest and most secure environment of all. In today's world it is not easy to build a home and to bring up children. They deserve to grow up in security, loved and cherished, with a strong sense of their identity and worth. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person, to be inspired by the truth of our Catholic faith and to learn ways of behaving and acting that lead to healthy self-esteem and lasting happiness. This noble but demanding task is entrusted in the first place to you, their parents. I urge you to play your part in ensuring the best possible care of children, both at home and in society as a whole, while the Church, for her part, continues to implement the measures adopted in recent years to protect young people in parish and school environments. As you carry out your vital responsibilities, be assured that I remain close to you and I offer you the support of my prayers.

9. To the children and young people of Ireland

I wish to offer you a particular word of encouragement. Your experience of the Church is very different from that of your parents and grandparents. The world has changed greatly since they were your age. Yet all people, in every generation, are called to travel the same path through life, whatever their circumstances may be. We are all scandalized by the sins and failures of some of the Church's members, particularly those who were chosen especially to guide and serve young people. But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church, for he will never betray your trust! He alone can satisfy your deepest longings and give your lives their fullest meaning by directing them to the service of others. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and his goodness, and shelter the flame of faith in your heart. Together with your fellow Catholics in Ireland, I look to you to be faithful disciples of our Lord and to bring your much-needed enthusiasm and idealism to the rebuilding and renewal of our beloved Church.

10. To the priests and religious of Ireland

All of us are suffering as a result of the sins of our confreres who betrayed a sacred trust or failed to deal justly and responsibly with allegations of abuse. In view of the outrage and indignation which this has provoked, not only among the lay faithful but among yourselves and your religious communities, many of you feel personally discouraged, even abandoned. I am also aware that in some people's eyes you are tainted by association, and viewed as if you were somehow responsible for the misdeeds of others. At this painful time, I want to acknowledge the dedication of your priestly and religious lives and apostolates, and I invite you to reaffirm your faith in Christ, your love of his Church and your confidence in the Gospel's promise of redemption, forgiveness and interior renewal. In this way, you will demonstrate for all to see that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (cf. Rom 5:20).

I know that many of you are disappointed, bewildered and angered by the way these matters have been handled by some of your superiors. Yet, it is essential that you cooperate closely with those in authority and help to ensure that the measures adopted to respond to the crisis will be truly evangelical, just and effective. Above all, I urge you to become ever more clearly men and women of prayer, courageously following the path of conversion, purification and reconciliation. In this way, the Church in Ireland will draw new life and vitality from your witness to the Lord's redeeming power made visible in your lives.

11. To my brother bishops

It cannot be denied that some of you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse. Serious mistakes were made in responding to allegations. I recognize how difficult it was to grasp the extent and complexity of the problem, to obtain reliable information and to make the right decisions in the light of conflicting expert advice. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred. All this has seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness. I appreciate the efforts you have made to remedy past mistakes and to guarantee that they do not happen again. Besides fully implementing the norms of canon law in addressing cases of child abuse, continue to cooperate with the civil authorities in their area of competence. Clearly, religious superiors should do likewise. They too have taken part in recent discussions here in Rome with a view to establishing a clear and consistent approach to these matters. It is imperative that the child safety norms of the Church in Ireland be continually revised and updated and that they be applied fully and impartially in conformity with canon law.

Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church to which we have consecrated our lives. This must arise, first and foremost, from your own self-examination, inner purification and spiritual renewal. The Irish people rightly expect you to be men of God, to be holy, to live simply, to pursue personal conversion daily. For them, in the words of Saint Augustine, you are a bishop; yet with them you are called to be a follower of Christ (cf. Sermon 340, 1). I therefore exhort you to renew your sense of accountability before God, to grow in solidarity with your people and to deepen your pastoral concern for all the members of your flock. In particular, I ask you to be attentive to the spiritual and moral lives of each one of your priests. Set them an example by your own lives, be close to them, listen to their concerns, offer them encouragement at this difficult time and stir up the flame of their love for Christ and their commitment to the service of their brothers and sisters.

The lay faithful, too, should be encouraged to play their proper part in the life of the Church. See that they are formed in such a way that they can offer an articulate and convincing account of the Gospel in the midst of modern society (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and cooperate more fully in the Church's life and mission. This in turn will help you once again become credible leaders and witnesses to the redeeming truth of Christ.

12. To all the faithful of Ireland

A young person's experience of the Church should always bear fruit in a personal and life-giving encounter with Jesus Christ within a loving, nourishing community. In this environment, young people should be encouraged to grow to their full human and spiritual stature, to aspire to high ideals of holiness, charity and truth, and to draw inspiration from the riches of a great religious and cultural tradition. In our increasingly secularized society, where even we Christians often find it difficult to speak of the transcendent dimension of our existence, we need to find new ways to pass on to young people the beauty and richness of friendship with Jesus Christ in the communion of his Church. In confronting the present crisis, measures to deal justly with individual crimes are essential, yet on their own they are not enough: a new vision is needed, to inspire present and future generations to treasure the gift of our common faith. By treading the path marked out by the Gospel, by observing the commandments and by conforming your lives ever more closely to the figure of Jesus Christ, you will surely experience the profound renewal that is so urgently needed at this time. I invite you all to persevere along this path.

13. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is out of deep concern for all of you at this painful time in which the fragility of the human condition has been so starkly revealed that I have wished to offer these words of encouragement and support. I hope that you will receive them as a sign of my spiritual closeness and my confidence in your ability to respond to the challenges of the present hour by drawing renewed inspiration and strength from Ireland's noble traditions of fidelity to the Gospel, perseverance in the faith and steadfastness in the pursuit of holiness.In solidarity with all of you, I am praying earnestly that, by God's grace, the wounds afflicting so many individuals and families may be healed and that the Church in Ireland may experience a season of rebirth and spiritual renewal.

14. I now wish to propose to you some concrete initiatives to address the situation.

At the conclusion of my meeting with the Irish bishops, I asked that Lent this year be set aside as a time to pray for an outpouring of God's mercy and the Holy Spirit's gifts of holiness and strength upon the Church in your country. I now invite all of you to devote your Friday penances, for a period of one year, between now and Easter 2011, to this intention. I ask you to offer up your fasting, your prayer, your reading of Scripture and your works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland. I encourage you to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and to avail yourselves more frequently of the transforming power of its grace.

Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organize periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.

I am confident that this programme will lead to a rebirth of the Church in Ireland in the fullness of God's own truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (cf. Jn 8:32).

Furthermore, having consulted and prayed about the matter, I intend to hold an Apostolic Visitation of certain dioceses in Ireland, as well as seminaries and religious congregations. Arrangements for the Visitation, which is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal, will be made in cooperation with the competent offices of the Roman Curia and the Irish Episcopal Conference. The details will be announced in due course.

I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.

In this Year for Priests, I commend to you most particularly the figure of Saint John Mary Vianney, who had such a rich understanding of the mystery of the priesthood. "The priest", he wrote, "holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods." The Curé d'Ars understood well how greatly blessed a community is when served by a good and holy priest: "A good shepherd, a pastor after God's heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy." Through the intercession of Saint John Mary Vianney, may the priesthood in Ireland be revitalized, and may the whole Church in Ireland grow in appreciation for the great gift of the priestly ministry.

I take this opportunity to thank in anticipation all those who will be involved in the work of organizing the Apostolic Visitation and the Mission, as well as the many men and women throughout Ireland already working for the safety of children in church environments. Since the time when the gravity and extent of the problem of child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions first began to be fully grasped, the Church has done an immense amount of work in many parts of the world in order to address and remedy it. While no effort should be spared in improving and updating existing procedures, I am encouraged by the fact that the current safeguarding practices adopted by local Churches are being seen, in some parts of the world, as a model for other institutions to follow.

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church. As you make use of this prayer in your families, parishes and communities, may the Blessed Virgin Mary protect and guide each of you to a closer union with her Son, crucified and risen. With great affection and unswerving confidence in God's promises, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.

From the Vatican, 19 March 2010, on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph


Prayer for the Church in Ireland

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation,
the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal,
the charity which purifies and opens our hearts
to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment
to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, comforter, advocate and guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal
for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears,
our sincere effort to redress past wrongs,
and our firm purpose of amendment
bear an abundant harvest of grace
for the deepening of the faith
in our families, parishes, schools and communities,
for the spiritual progress of Irish society,
and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace
within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary,
Queen of Ireland, our Mother,
and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints,
do we entrust ourselves, our children,
and the needs of the Church in Ireland.


© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Vatican Spokesman's Presentation of Letter to Ireland
"I Hope It Becomes the Starting Point of a New Way Forward"

VATICAN CITY, Saturday, MARCH 20, 2010 - Here is a transcription of the video presentation of Jesuit Father Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, that introduces Benedict XVI's letter to Ireland concerning the crisis of sexual abuse.

The video can be seen here:

* * *

Dear friends.

My name is Father Federico Lombardi. I am the Director of the Vatican Press Office. I'm here to present a much-awaited document written by the Pope himself.

It's his letter to the Catholics of Ireland and regards the sexual abuse committed by some members of the Church in that country.

I think it's an honest and courageous letter.

It communicates the Pope's sorrow and his personal commitment to do everything he can to heal, repair, and renew.

He addresses the victims, first and foremost.

He says how deeply he shares their pain and suffering.

He understands how victims feel betrayed by trusted representatives of the Church.

The Pope has met with abuse victims before – in the United States, Australia and Rome – and says he wants to meet others as well.

He is uncompromising towards those who committed the abuse.

In the letter he tells them they are accountable to God for their sins, and to the courts for their crimes.

The Pope insists that abusers face the full force of justice.

He tells them to do penance and to have faith in Divine Mercy.

But the Pope doesn't stop here.

He speaks to priests and parents, to young people and to all Catholics.

He encourages us and invites us to a new awareness and responsibility on this matter.

The Pope also addresses the Bishops. He criticises the mistakes made in protecting and guiding the people entrusted to them.

He tells the Bishops to apply the Church's norms strictly in all cases of abuse.

He also insists they collaborate with civil authorities to ensure that justice is done and that young people are protected.

The Pope then suggests some concrete spiritual and pastoral initiatives.

He calls for penance and spiritual renewal.

When the Pope was in the United States he spoke out strongly on the issue of abuse.

His words helped the Church there to emerge from a similar crisis and to go forward again with hope and trust.

It's important that this letter to the faithful of Ireland does the same thing.

I hope it becomes the starting point of a new way forward.


Cardinal Brady Welcomes Pastoral Letter
"Today Is a Very Historic Day for the Catholics of Ireland"

ARMAGH, Ireland, MARCH 20, 2010 - Here is the address given today by Cardinal Sean Brady, archbishop of Armagh and primate of All Ireland, upon welcoming the "Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland."

He gave the address after morning Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh.

* * *

My dear people of the Cathedral Parish of Armagh:

Today is a very historic day for the Catholics of Ireland.

Pope Benedict has written a pastoral letter to express his closeness to us at this challenging time. He says ‘with words that come from my heart… I wish to speak to each of you individually and to all of you as brothers and sisters in the Lord’. He speaks of the wounds inflicted on Christ’s body by child sexual abuse and of the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them. He talks of the need for unity, charity and mutual support in the long-term process of restoration and renewal.

I welcome this letter. I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father for his profound kindness and concern.

It is evident from the Pastoral Letter that Pope Benedict is deeply dismayed by what he refers to as ‘sinful and criminal acts and the way the Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.’

He says the Church in Ireland must acknowledge before the Lord and others the serious sins committed against defenceless children.

He addresses various groups within the letter, but the first group he addresses are the victims of abuse and their families. He says to them, ‘You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity violated.’ Pope Benedict acknowledges that when many survivors were courageous enough to speak of what happened to them, no one would listen. He says it is understandable if they find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. But he also hopes that they will find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace, by knowing how close Christ is to them in their pain, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin.

In the name of the Church, Pope Benedict openly expresses the shame and remorse that we all feel about the abuse that has occurred. He expresses his readiness to meet victims of sexual abuse in the future, as he has done in the past.

In addition, the Pastoral Letter has particular words addressed to young people, parents, priests and religious, as well as the Bishops of Ireland.

To us Bishops he says we must admit ‘that grave errors of judgement were made and failures of leadership occurred’ which have seriously undermined our credibility and effectiveness. He calls on us to continue to cooperate fully with the civil authorities. He exhorts us to fully apply and keep updated our child safeguarding policies. ‘Only decisive action carried out with complete honesty and transparency’, Pope Benedict says, ‘will restore the respect and good will of the Irish people towards the Church.’ He asks us as Bishops to renew our sense of accountability before God.

The Holy Father offers very stern words to priests and religious who have abused children. He says directly to them: ‘You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God.’ He says they must also be accountable to the processes of civil and canon law. He tells them that their crimes brought shame, dishonour and damage to the Church. ‘Openly acknowledge your guilt,’ he says, ‘submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.’

Throughout the letter Pope Benedict talks about the need for healing, repentance and renewal. He expresses the depth of the pain that has been caused and acknowledges that some people find it difficult even to go inside the doors of a Church after all that has occurred. He recognises the deep shock of parents at the ‘terrible things that took place in what ought to be the safest and most secure environment of all.’ Yet he believes in the healing power of Christ’s love, even in the darkest and most hopeless situations.

The Holy Father calls on us to face the future with courage and determination. No one imagines that the present painful situation will be resolved quickly. Yet with perseverance, prayer and working together in unity, the Holy Father says we can be confident that the Church in Ireland will experience a season of rebirth and spiritual renewal.

Central to this renewal is the lay faithful playing their full part in the life of the Church. Specifically addressing the children and young people of Ireland, he invites them to bring their ‘much needed enthusiasm and idealism to the rebuilding and renewal of our beloved Church.’ He calls on all the faithful to find new ways of passing on the beauty and richness of friendship with Christ. ‘A new vision is needed,’ he says, ‘to inspire future generations to treasure the gift of our faith.’

The Holy Father then goes on to signpost some concrete initiatives to assist the grace of healing and renewal in the Church in Ireland. He calls on all the faithful to make reparation for the sins of abuse. Some initiatives suggested include offering up Friday penances for the coming year, fasting, offering up works of mercy and reading of Scripture. We are invited to discover anew the sacrament of Reconciliation and in particular the practice of Eucharistic adoration. Another proposal is that a nationwide Mission be held for all Bishops, priests and religious.

To assist the Church in Ireland in the process of renewal, Pope Benedict has announced that there will be an ‘Apostolic Visitation’ of some Dioceses, of Irish Seminaries and of Religious Congregations. This will involve Representatives of the Holy See visiting, reviewing and offering support to all concerned.

My dear people, as Pope Benedict said at his General Audience this week on St. Patrick’s Day, I ask you that you read this letter with an open heart and in a spirit of faith.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Communications media, I warmly welcome you to Armagh today. I thank you for your dedication to duty, your commitment to truth and your work for justice. I thank your producers and editors who asked you to come here this morning. I am pleased to present each of you with a copy of the Pastoral Letter – in the hope that you will have time to read it and to reflect its spirit and content. The Pastoral Letter is but one of many steps on the road to healing, repentance and renewal. I wish you well in your work of communicating this special message of national and international importance.

The Holy Father concludes his Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which he composed himself. He asks us to make use of this prayer in our families, parishes and communities.

Let us pray that the Holy Father’s Pastoral Letter will be the beginning of a great season of rebirth and hope in the Irish Church, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In a spirit of faith – and in conclusion - let us pray together Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer for the Church in Ireland.

Let us stand and pray.


Papal Address to Italian Business Leaders
"Work Is a Good for Man, for the Family and for Society"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 18, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience when he met with a group of Italian business leaders at the Vatican.

* * *

Distinguished President,
Illustrious Gentlemen and Ladies,

I am happy to address my cordial welcome to each one of you, on the eve of the feast of St. Joseph, who is an example for all those who operate in the world of work. I address my deferent thought to Doctor Aurelio Regina, President of the Union of Industrialists and Managers of Rome, thanking him for the courteous words he addressed to me. With him I greet the Junta and the Association's Executive Council.

The Roman business reality, made up in great part by small and medium enterprises, is one of the most important territorial associations belonging to Confindustria [the Italian Employers' organization], which today operates also in a context characterized by globalization, by the negative effects of the recent financial crisis, by the so-called "financialization" of the economy of businesses themselves. It is a complex situation, because the present crisis has sorely tested the economic and productive systems of several countries. Nevertheless, it must be lived with confidence, because it can be considered as an opportunity from the point of view of the revision of models of development and of a new organization of the world of finance, a "new time" -- as has been said -- of profound revision.

In the social encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," I observed that we come from a phase of development in which the material and technical has been favored, as opposed to the ethical and spiritual, and I encouraged to put the person at the center of the economy and of finance (cf. No. 25), whom Christ reveals in his most profound dignity. Proposing, in addition, that politics not be subordinated to financial mechanisms, I called for the reform and creation of international juridical and political ordering (cf. No. 67), to be given to global structures of the economy and of finance, to obtain more effectively the common good of the human family. Following in the footsteps of my predecessors, I reaffirmed that the increase of unemployment, especially of youth, the economic impoverishment of many workers and the emergence of new forms of slavery, exact as a priority objective access to fitting work for all (cf. Nos. 32 and 63). What guides the Church in being a promoter of a similar objective is the conviction that work is a good for man, for the family and for society, and it is source of liberty and responsibility. Obviously involved in achieving these objectives, together with other social entities, are businessmen, who must be particularly encouraged in their commitment to the service of society and of the common good.

No one ignores the many sacrifices that must be faced to open or maintain one's own business in the market, as "community of persons" that produces goods and services and that, consequently, does not have profit, though necessary, as its sole objective. In particular small and medium businesses are increasingly in need of financing, in as much as credit seems less accessible and competition in the globalized markets is very strong, especially on the part of those countries where there are no -- or minimal -- systems of social protection for workers. From this stems the fact that the high cost of work makes the products and services themselves less competitive, and no small sacrifices are required to not dismiss one's dependent workers and to allow them professional updating.

In this context it is important to be able to conquer that individualist and materialist mentality which suggests removing investments from the real economy to favor the employment of one's capital in the financial markets, dedicated to easier and swifter returns. I take the liberty to remind that instead, the safest ways to address the decline of the business system of one's country consist in networking with other social realities, in intervening in research and innovation, in not practicing unjust competition between businesses, in not forgetting one's social duties and in stimulating a productivity able to respond to the real needs of people.

There are several proofs that the life of a business depends on its attention to all the individuals with whom it establishes relations, of the ethicality of its plan and its activity. The financial crisis itself has shown that in a market shocked by the chain of failures, those economic individuals have endured who are capable of keeping to moral behavior and are attentive to the needs of their own territory. The success of Italian business, especially in some regions, has always been characterized by the importance assigned to the network of relations that it has been able to weave with workers and other business realities, through relations of mutual collaboration and trust. A business can be vital and produce "social wealth" if what guides businessmen and managers is a vision of the future, which prefers long-term investment to speculative profit and that promotes innovation rather than thinking of accumulating wealth for its own sake.

The businessman who is attentive to the common good is called to see his own activity always in the framework of a plural whole. This attitude generates, through personal dedication and fraternity lived concretely in economic and financial choices, a more competitive and at the same time more civilized market, animated by the spirit of service. Clearly a simple business logic presupposes certain motivations, a certain vision of man and of life; that is, a humanism that is born from the awareness of being called as individuals and as community to form part of the one family of God, who has created us in his image and likeness and has redeemed us in Christ; a humanism that revives charity and allows itself to be guided by truth; a humanism open to God and, precisely because of this, open to man and to life understood as a solidaristic and joyous task (cf. No. 78). Development, in any sector of human existence, also implies openness to the transcendent, to the spiritual dimension of life, to trust in God, to love, to fraternity, to hospitality, to justice, to peace (cf. No. 79). I wish to stress all this while we are in Lent, appropriate time for the revision of our own profound attitudes and to question ourselves on the consistency between the aims to which we tend and the means we use.

Distinguished gentlemen and ladies, I leave you these reflections. And while I thank you for your visit, I wish every good for the economic activity, as also for the associative activity, and I impart to you willingly and to your loved ones my Blessing.


Holy Father's Greeting to Romano Canavese
"Guard and Cultivate the Genuine Values of Your Tradition"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2010 - At the end of today's general audience in Paul VI Hall, Benedict XVI was conferred honorary citizenship of the Italian city of Romano Canavese.

Here is a translation of the Pope's address to those present.

* * *

Dear Cardinal,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and Dear Brothers in the Priesthood
Lord Mayor and Municipal Counselors,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am very happy to receive honorary citizenship of the Municipality of Romano Canavese, to which I am connected by ties of affection. First of all because it is the place that gave birth to my very dear Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, whom I have known and esteemed for so many years, especially when I was prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I wish to renew to him my heartfelt gratitude for the precious service to the Holy See. Then, because I myself, on July 19 of last year, had the joy of visiting your region and of meeting the industrious people of Canavese. I address to each one of you my cordial greeting, in particular Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Ivrea and the mayor, Mr. Oscar Ferrero: thank you for your words, thank you for your thoughts, thank you for your prayers.

The conferring of honorary citizenship attests to the esteem, closeness and affection that you nourish in your meetings with me; with such a gesture, in a certain sense, you wished to receive me in the great family of Romano Canavese, even if my presence will not be able to be physical, but certainly cordial and paternal. I will feel in some way part of your glorious history, which sinks its roots in the second century before the birth of Christ and has had moments of particular importance, especially in the High Middle Ages and in the 19th century.

But, above all, what characterizes Romano Canavese is a long history of faith, which began with the blood of martyrs, among whom is St. Solutore, and reaches down to our days. On this occasion I renew my invitation to you to guard and cultivate the genuine values of your tradition and your culture, which are rooted in the Gospel. In particular to witness with ever new commitment faith in the crucified and risen Lord, attachment to the family, and the spirit of solidarity. Always trust in the help of God, who never abandons his children and is close with his loving concern to all those who work for goodness, peace and justice.

Dear friends, in renewing to you my sentiments of gratitude, I invoke on each one of you, on your families and on all the citizens the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of your Holy Patrons, so that they will continue to protect and guide your community. With affection I impart to each one of you and your fellow citizens, my fellow citizens now, a special apostolic blessing.


On Theology According to Thomas and Bonaventure
"Different Accents in an Essentially Shared Vision"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

This morning, continuing last Wednesday's reflection, I would like to reflect further with you on other aspects of the doctrine of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. He is an eminent theologian, who merits being placed next to another very great thinker, his contemporary, St. Thomas Aquinas. Both scrutinized the mysteries of revelation, valuing the resources of human reason in the fruitful dialogue between faith and reason that characterized the Christian Middle Ages, making it a period of great intellectual liveliness, as well as of faith and of ecclesial renewal, often not sufficiently noted. Other similarities associate them: Both Bonaventure, a Franciscan, and Thomas, a Dominican, belonged to the Mendicant Orders that, with their spiritual freshness -- as I mentioned in preceding catecheses -- renewed the whole Church in the 13th century and attracted so many followers. Both served the Church with diligence, passion and love, to the point that they were invited to take part in the Ecumenical Council of Lyon in 1274, the same year in which they died: Thomas while he was going to Lyon; Bonaventure during the course of that same council. Also in St. Peter's Square the statues of the two saints are parallel, placed in fact at the beginning of the Colonnade starting from the facade of the Vatican Basilica: one in the left wing and the other in the right wing. Despite all these aspects, we can see in these two great saints two different approaches to philosophical and theological research, which show each one's originality and depth of thought. I would like to refer to some of these differences.

A first difference concerns the concept of theology. Both doctors asked themselves if theology is a practical or a theoretical, speculative science. St. Thomas reflects on two possible contrasting answers. The first says: theology is reflection on faith and the aim of faith is that man become good, that he live according to the will of God. Hence, the aim of theology should be to guide man on the just and good way; consequently it is, fundamentally, a practical science. The other position says: theology seeks to know God. We are the work of God; God is above our action. God operates just action in us. Hence it is essentially not of our doing, but of knowing God, not of our working. St. Thomas' conclusion is: theology entails both aspects: it is theoretical, it seeks to know God ever more, and it is practical: it seeks to orient our life to the good. But there is a primacy of knowledge: we must above all know God, then follows action according to God (Summa Theologiae Ia, q. 1, art.4). This primacy of knowledge in comparison with practice is significant for St. Thomas' essential orientation.

St. Bonaventure's answer is very similar, but the accents are different. St. Bonaventure has the same arguments in both directions, as St. Thomas does, but to respond to the question if theology is a practical or theoretical science, St. Bonaventure makes a threefold distinction -- hence he lengthens the alternative between theoretical (primacy of knowledge) and practical (primacy of practice), adding a third attitude, which he calls "sapiential" and affirming that wisdom embraces both aspects. And then he continues: Wisdom seeks contemplation (as the highest form of knowledge) and has as its intention "ut boni fiamus" -- that we become good, above all this: to become good (cf. Breviloquium, Prologus, 5). Then he adds: "Faith is in the intellect, in such a way that it causes affection. For example: to know that Christ died 'for us' does not remain knowledge, but becomes necessarily affection, love" (Proemium in I Sent., q. 3).

His defense of theology moves along the same line, that is of the rational and methodical reflection of faith. St. Bonaventure lists some arguments against engaging in theology, perhaps widespread also among some of the Franciscan brothers and present also in our time: reason empties faith, it would be a violent attitude toward the Word of God, we must listen to and not analyze the word of God (cf. Letter of St. Francis of Assisi to St. Anthony of Padua). To these arguments against theology, which demonstrate the dangers existing in theology itself, the saint responds: It is true that there is an arrogant way of engaging in theology, a pride of reason, which places itself above the Word of God. But true theology, the rational work of the true and good theology, has another origin, not the pride of reason. He who loves always wants to know more and better the one who is loved; true theology does not engage reason and its seeking motivated by pride, "sed propter amorem eius cui assentit" -- [but] "motivated by the love of him, to whom it has given its consent" (Proemium in I Sent., q. 2), and wishes to know the loved one better: this is the essential intention of theology for St. Bonaventure. Hence, in the end, determinant for St. Bonaventure is the primacy of love.

Consequently, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure define in a different way man's ultimate destiny, his full happiness: for St. Thomas the supreme end, to which our desire is directed, is to see God. In this simple act of seeing God all problems find their solution: let us be happy, nothing else is necessary.

For St. Bonaventure, man's ultimate destiny is instead to love God, the encounter and the union of his love and our own. This is for him the most adequate definition of our happiness.

In this line, we could also say that the highest category for St. Thomas is the true, while for St. Bonaventure it is the good. It would be mistaken to see a contradiction in these two answers. For both the true is also the good, and the good is also the true; to see God is to love and to love is to see. It is a question therefore of different accents in an essentially shared vision. In both the accents have formed different traditions and different spiritualities and thus they have shown the fecundity of the faith -- one in the diversity of its expressions.

We return to St. Bonaventure. It is evident that the specific accent of his theology, of which I have given only one example, is explained from the Franciscan charism: the Poverello of Assisi, beyond the intellectual debates of his time, showed with his whole life the primacy of love; he was a living and enamored icon of Christ and thus made present, in his time, the figure of the Lord -- he convinced his contemporaries not with words, but with his life. In all St. Bonaventure's works, also the scientific works, of academia, one sees and finds this Franciscan inspiration; one notices, namely, that his thought starts from his encounter with the Poverello of Assisi. But to understand the concrete elaboration of the topic "primacy of love," we must also keep in mind another source: the writings of so-called Pseudo-Dionysius, a Syrian theologian of the 6th century, who concealed himself under the pseudonym of Dionysius the Areopagite, referring, with this name, to a figure of the Acts of the Apostles (cf. 17:34). This theologian had created a liturgical theology and a mystical theology, and had spoken amply of different orders of angels. His writings were translated into Latin in the 9th century; at the time of St. Bonaventure -- we are in the 13th century -- a new tradition was appearing, which sparked the interest of the saint and of the other theologians of his century. Two things in particular attracted the attention of St. Bonaventure:

1. Pseudo-Dionysius speaks of nine orders of angels, whose names he had found in Scripture and then systematized them, from the simple angels to the seraphim. St. Bonaventure interprets these orders of angels as steps for creatures drawing close to God. Thus they can represent the human journey, the ascent to communion with God. For St. Bonaventure there is no doubt: St. Francis belonged to the seraphic order, the highest order, to the choir of seraphim. That is, he was a pure fire of love. And so should the Franciscans be. But St. Bonaventure knew well that this last step of closeness to God cannot be inserted in a juridical ordering, but is always a particular gift of God. Because of this, the structure of the Franciscan Order is more modest, more realistic, but must, however, help the members to come ever closer to a seraphic existence of pure love. Last Wednesday I spoke about this synthesis between sober realism and evangelical radicalism in the thought and action of St. Bonaventure.

2. St. Bonaventure, however, found in the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius another element, for him even more important. Whereas for St. Augustine the intellectus, the seeing with reason and with the heart, is the ultimate category of knowledge, Pseudo-Dionysius takes still another step: in the ascent to God one can come to a point when reason no longer sees. But in the night of the intellect, love still sees -- it sees what remains inaccessible to reason. Love goes beyond reason, sees more, enters more profoundly into the mystery of God. St. Bonaventure was fascinated by this vision, which met with his Franciscan spirituality. Precisely in the dark night of the cross appears all the grandeur of divine love; where reason no longer sees, love sees. The conclusive words of his "Journey of the Mind to God," in a superficial reading, might seem an exaggerated expression of a devotion devoid of content; read, instead, in the light of the theology of the cross of St. Bonaventure, they are a clear and realistic expression of Franciscan spirituality: "If now you yearn to know how that happens (that is, the ascent to God), ask grace, not doctrine; desire, not the intellect; the groan of prayer, not the study of the letter; ... not light, but the fire that inflames everything and transports to God" (VII, 6). All this is not anti-intellectual and anti-rational: it implies the way of reason but transcends it in the love of the crucified Christ. With this transformation of the mysticism of Pseudo-Dionysius, St. Bonaventure is placed at the beginning of a great mystical current, which greatly raised and purified the human mind: it is a summit in the history of the human spirit.

This theology of the cross, born of the encounter between the theology of Pseudo-Dionysius and Franciscan spirituality, must not make us forget that St. Bonaventure also shares with St. Francis of Assisi the love of creation, the joy of the beauty of God's creation. I quote on this point a phrase of the first chapter of the "Journey": "He ... who does not see the innumerable splendors of creatures, is blind; he who is not awakened by so many voices, is deaf; he who for all these wonders does not praise God, is dumb; he who from so many signs does not rise to the first principle, is foolish" (I, 15). The whole of creation speaks in a loud voice of God, of the good and beautiful God; of his love.

Hence, for St. Bonaventure, all our life is a "journey," a pilgrimage -- an ascent to God. But with our own strength we cannot ascend to the loftiness of God. God himself must help us, must "pull" us on high. That is why prayer is necessary. Prayer -- so says the saint -- is the mother and origin of the ascent -- "sursum actio," action that takes us on high, Bonaventure says. Because of this, I conclude with the prayer, with which he begins his "Journey": "Let us pray, therefore and say to our Lord God: 'Lead me, Lord, on your way and I will walk in your truth. My heart rejoices in fearing your name'" (I,1).


Pope's World Youth Day Message
"Good Teacher, What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 15, 2010 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI wrote for the 25th World Youth Day, which will be celebrated Palm Sunday, March 28, at the diocesan level.

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Dear Friends,

This year we observe the 25th anniversary of the institution of World Youth Day, desired by the Venerable John Paul II as an annual meeting of believing young people of the whole world. It was a prophetic initiative that has borne abundant fruits, enabling new generations of Christians to come together, to listen to the Word of God, to discover the beauty of the Church and to live experiences of faith that have led many to give themselves totally to Christ.

The present 25th Youth Day represents a stage toward the next World Youth meeting, which will take place in August 2011 in Madrid, where I hope a great number of you will live this event of grace.

To prepare ourselves for such a celebration, I would like to propose to you some reflections on this year's theme: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17), treating the evangelical episode of Jesus' meeting with the rich young man, a topic already addressed in 1985 by Pope John Paul II in a most beautiful Letter, addressed for the first time to young people.

1. Jesus Meets a Young Man

And as he [Jesus] was setting out on his journey," recounts the Gospel of St. Mark, "a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother."

And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:17-22).

This account expresses effectively Jesus' great attention to youth, to you, to your expectations, your hopes, and shows how great his desire is to meet with you personally and open a dialogue with each one of you. In fact, Christ interrupts his journey to respond to his interlocutor's question, manifesting full availability to that young man, who was moved by an ardent desire to speak with the "good Teacher," to learn from him how to follow the way of life. With this evangelical passage, my Predecessor wished to exhort each one of you to "develop your own conversation with Christ -- a conversation that is of fundamental and essential importance for a young man (Letter to Young People, No. 2).

2. Jesus Looking Upon Him Loved Him

In the evangelical account, St. Mark stresses how "Jesus looking upon him loved him" (cf. Mark 10-21). In the Lord's look is the heart of the very special encounter and of all the Christian experience. In fact, Christianity is not primarily a morality, but experience of Jesus Christ, who loves us personally, young and old, poor and rich; he loves us even when we turn our back to him.

Commenting on the scene, Pope John Paul II added, turning to young people: "I hope you will experience such a look! I hope you will experience the truth that he, the Christ, keeps for you with love!" (Letter to Young People, No. 7). A love, manifested on the cross in such a full and total way, that it made St. Paul write with amazement: "who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). "The awareness that the Father has always loved us in his Son, that Christ loves every one and always," writes, again, Pope John Paul II, "becomes a firm point of support for the whole of our human existence" (Letter to Young People , No. 7), and enables us to overcome all trials: the discovery of our sins, suffering, discouragement.

In this love is found the source of the whole of Christian life and the fundamental reason of evangelization: If we have truly encountered Jesus, we cannot do other than witness him to those who have not yet crossed his look!

3. The Discovery of the Plan of Life

In the young man of the Gospel, we can perceive a very similar condition to that of each one of you. You are also rich in qualities, energies, dreams, hopes: Resources that you possess in abundance! Your very age constitutes a great richness, not only for you, but also for others, for the Church and for the world.

The rich young man asks Jesus: "What must I do?" The stage of life in which you are immersed is a time of discovery: of the gifts that God has lavished on you and of your responsibilities. It is, moreover, a time of fundamental choices to build your plan of life. It is the moment, therefore, to ask yourselves about the authentic meaning of existence and to ask yourselves: "Am I satisfied with my life? Is there something lacking?"

As the young man of the Gospel, perhaps you also live situations of instability, of disturbance or of suffering, which lead you to aspire to a life that is not mediocre, and to ask yourselves: In what does a successful life consist? What must I do? What might be my plan of life? "What must I do, for my life to have full value and full meaning?" (Ibid., No. 3).

Do not be afraid to address these questions! Far from overwhelming you, they express great aspirations, which are present in your heart. Hence, they are to be listened to. They await answers that are not superficial, but able to satisfy your authentic expectations of life and happiness.

To discover the plan of life that could render you fully happy, listen to God, who has a plan of love for each one of you. With trust, ask him: "Lord, what is your plan of Creator and Father for my life? What is your will? I want to fulfill it." Be sure that he will respond. Do not be afraid of his answer! "God is greater than our heart and knows everything!" (1 John 3:20).

4. Come and follow me!

Jesus invited the rich young man to go far beyond the satisfaction of his aspirations and of his plans, he says to him: "Come and follow me!" The Christian vocation springs from a proposal of love of the Lord and can be realized only thanks to a response of love: "Jesus invites his disciples to the total gift of their life, without human calculation or benefit, with a trust without reservations in God. The saints accepted this exacting invitation, and with humble docility followed the crucified and risen Christ. Their perfection, in the logic of faith at times humanly incomprehensible, consists in no longer putting oneself at the center, but in choosing to go against the current living according to the Gospel" (Benedict XVI, Homily at Canonization Mass, L'Osservatore Romano, 12-13, October 2009, p. 6).

On the example of so many disciples of Christ, you also, dear friends, accept with joy the invitation to follow, to live intensely and fruitfully in this world. With Baptism, in fact, he calls each one to follow him with concrete actions, to love him above all things and to serve him in brothers. The rich young man, unfortunately, did not accept Jesus' invitation and left saddened. He did not find the courage to detach himself from his material goods to find the greatest good proposed by Jesus.

The sadness of the rich young man of the Gospel is that which is born in the heart of each one when one does not have the courage to follow Christ, to make the right choice. However, it is never too late to respond to him!

Jesus never tires of turning his look of love and of calling to be his disciples, but He proposes to some a more radical choice. In this Year for Priests, I would like to exhort boys and girls to be attentive if the Lord invites to a great gift, in the way of the Ministerial Priesthood, and to make oneself available to accept with generosity and enthusiasm this sign of special predilection, undertaking with a priest or spiritual director the necessary path of discernment. Do not be afraid, then, dear boys and girls, if the Lord calls you to the religious, monastic, missionary life or one of special consecration: He is able to give profound joy to one who responds with courage!

Moreover, I invite all those who feel the vocation to marriage to accept it with faith, committing themselves to lay the solid base to live a great love, faithful and open to the gift of life, which is richness and grace for society and for the Church.

5. Oriented to Eternal Life

"What must I do to inherit eternal life?" This question of the young man of the Gospel seems far from the concerns of many contemporary young people, because, as my predecessor observed, "are we not the generation, whose horizon of existence the world and temporal progress fill completely? (Letter to Young People, No. 5). But the question on "eternal life" flowers in particularly painful moments of existence, when we suffer the loss of a close person or when we live the experience of failure.

But what is the "eternal life" to which the young man refers? It is illustrated by Jesus when, turning to his disciples, he affirms: "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22). They are words that indicate an exalted proposal of endless happiness, of joy of being filled with divine love forever.

To ask oneself about the definitive future that awaits each one of us gives full meaning to existence, because it orients the plan of life toward horizons that are not limited and passing, but ample and profound, which lead to loving the world, so loved by God himself, to dedicate oneself to its development, but always with the liberty and joy born from faith and hope. They are horizons that help not to absolutize earthly realities, seeing that God prepares a greater prospect for us, and to repeat with St. Augustine: "We desire together the heavenly homeland, we sigh for the heavenly homeland, we feel ourselves pilgrims down here" (Commentary on St. John's Gospel, Homily 35, 9). Keeping his gaze fixed on eternal life, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who died in 1925 at the age of 24, said: "I want to live and not just get along!" and on the photo of an ascent sent to a friend, he wrote: "Toward on high," alluding to Christian perfection, but also to eternal life.

Dear young people, I exhort you not to forget this prospect of your plan of life: We are called to eternity. God has created us to be with Him, forever. This will help you to give full meaning to your choices and to give quality to your existence.

6. The Commandments, the Way of Authentic Love

Jesus reminds the rich young man of the Ten Commandments, as necessary conditions to "inherit eternal life." They are essential points of reference to live in love, to clearly distinguish good from evil and build a solid and lasting plan of life. Jesus also asks you if you know the commandments, if you are concerned to form your conscience according to the divine law and if you will put it into practice.

They certainly are questions that go against the current of the present-day mentality, which proposes a liberty disconnected from values, rules, objective norms and invites to reject every limitation to desires of the moment. But this type of proposal instead of leading to true liberty, leads man to become a slave of himself, of his immediate desires, of idols such as power, money, unbridled pleasure and the seductions of the world, rendering him incapable of following his original vocation to love.

God gives us the commandments because he wants to educate us to true liberty, because he wants to build with us a Kingdom of love, justice and peace. To listen to them and to put them into practice does not mean to be alienated, but to find the path of authentic liberty and love, because the commandments do not limit happiness, but indicate how to find it. At the beginning of his dialogue with the rich young man, Jesus reminds him that the law given by God is good because "God is good."

7. We Have Need of You

One who lives the condition of youth finds himself facing many problems derived from unemployment, the lack of sure ideal references and of concrete prospects for the future. At times one can have the impression of being impotent in face of the present crises and drifts. Despite the difficulties, do not let yourselves be discouraged and do not give up your dreams! Instead, cultivate in your heart great desires of fraternity, justice and peace. The future is in your hands, because the gifts and riches that the Lord has enclosed in the heart of each one of you, molded by the encounter with Christ, can bring authentic hope to the world! It is faith in his love that, rendering you strong and generous, will give you the courage to address with serenity the journey of life and to assume family and professional responsibilities. Be committed to build your future through serious courses of personal formation and study, to serve the common good in a competent and generous way.

In my encyclical letter "Caritas in Veritate" on integral human development, I listed some of the great present challenges, which are urgent and essential for the life of this world: The use of the resources of the earth and respect for the ecology, the just division of goods and the control of financial mechanisms, solidarity with poor countries in the ambit of the human family, the struggle against hunger in the world, the promotion of the dignity of human labor, service to the culture of life, the building of peace between peoples, the interreligious dialogue, the good use of the social means of communication.

They are challenges to which you are called to respond to build a more just and fraternal world. They are challenges that call for an exacting and passionate plan of life, into which you put all your richness according the plan that God has for each one of you. It is not a question of carrying out heroic or extraordinary gestures, but of acting by putting to good use one's talents and possibilities, committed to constantly progress in faith and love.

In this Year for Priests, I invite you to know the life of the saints, in particular that of holy priests. You will see that God guided them and that they found their way day after day, precisely in faith, in hope and in love. Christ calls each one of you to be committed with him and to assume your responsibilities to build a civilization of love. If you follow his Word, your path will also be illumined and will lead you to lofty goals, which give joy and full meaning to life.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, accompany you with her protection. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and bless you with great affection.

From the Vatican, Feb. 22, 2010



On the Prodigal Son and Spiritual Maturity
"Now We Know God: He Is Our Father"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 14, 2010 - 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.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent the Gospel about the father and the two sons is proclaimed; this parable is better known as that of the "prodigal son" (Luke 15:11-32). This passage from St. Luke constitutes a meeting point of the spirituality and the literature of all time.

In fact, what would our culture, art, and more generally, our civilization be without this revelation of a God who is a Father full of mercy? It does not cease to move us and every time that we hear it or read it is always able to suggest new meanings to us. Above all, this evangelical text has the power to speak to us of God, to make us know his face, better yet, his heart. After Jesus has told us about the merciful Father, things are not as they were before. Now we know God: he is our Father, who out of love created us free and endowed with conscience, who suffers when we are lost and celebrates when we return. Because of this, the relationship with him is built through a story that is analogous to what happens to every child with their parents: At the beginning the child depends on them; then he asserts his own autonomy; and in the end -- if there is a positive development -- he arrives at a mature relationship based on reconciliation and authentic love.

In these stages we can also read moments of man's journey in his relationship with God. There can be a phase that is like childhood: a religion moved by need, by dependency. Little by little as man grows and emancipates himself, he wants to liberate himself from this submission and become free, adult, able to rule himself and make his own decisions in an autonomous way, thinking he can do without God. Fortunately, God does not dispense with his fidelity and, even if we distance ourselves from him and are lost, he continues to follow us with his love, forgiving our mistakes and speaking within us to our conscience to recall us to himself. In the parable, the two sons behave in opposite ways: The younger one leaves and falls further and further, while the other one remains at home, but he too has an immature relationship with the Father; in fact, when the younger brother returns, the older one is not happy like the Father, but becomes angry and does not want to enter the house. The two sons represent two immature ways to relate to God: rebellion and infantile obedience.

Both of these [immature ways of relating to God] are overcome by the experience of mercy. Only through experiencing forgiveness, recognizing ourselves as loved by a gratuitous love -- that is greater than our misery, but also greater than our justice -- we finally enter into a truly filial and free relationship with God.

Dear Friends, let us meditate on this parable. Let us see ourselves in the two sons, and above all let us contemplate the heart of the Father. Let us throw ourselves into his arms and let ourselves be regenerated by his merciful love. May we aided in this by the Virgin Mary, "Mater misericordiae."

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. Today's Gospel presents the touching parable of the prodigal son. Jesus invites us to trust in the Father's infinite mercy and to return to him with hearts purified by repentance. Through our Lenten observance and reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, may we grow in sorrow for our sins and discover anew the Father's loving embrace. Upon you and your families I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address to Participants in Priesthood Congress
"There Is a Great Need of Priests That Speak of God"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 12, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today upon receiving in audience the participants in the International Theological Conference "Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest," organized by the Congregation for Clergy.

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Dear Cardinals,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Distinguished Audience,

I am happy to meet with you on this particular occasion and I greet you all affectionately. I address a particular thought to Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and I thank him for the words he addressed to me. My gratitude to the whole dicastery, for the commitment with which it coordinates the many initiatives of the Year for Priests, among them this Theological Congress, on the subject: "Fidelity of Christ, Fidelity of the Priest." I am delighted with this initiative that witnesses the presence of more than 50 bishops and over 500 priests, many of them national or diocesan leaders of the clergy and of permanent formation. Your attention to topics referring to the ministerial priesthood is one of the fruits of the special Year, which I wished to convoke precisely to "promote the commitment to interior renewal of all priests, so that their evangelical witness in the world of today is more intense and incisive" (Letter for the celebration of the Year for Priests).

The subject of priestly identity, object of your first day of study, is determinant for the exercise of the ministerial priesthood in the present and in the future. In an age such as ours, so "polycentric" and inclined to blur any type of conception of identity, considered by many contrary to liberty and democracy, it is important to have very clear the theological peculiarity of the ordained ministry and not yield to the temptation to reduce it to the prevailing cultural categories.

In the context of widespread secularization, which progressively excludes God from the public sphere and, by tendency, also from the shared social conscience, the priest often seems "strange" to common opinion, precisely because of the more fundamental aspects of his ministry, such as being a man of the sacred, removed from the world to intercede in favor of the world, constituted in that mission by God and not by men (cf. Hebrews 5:1).

For this reason, it is important to overcome dangerous reductionism that, in past decades, using categories that were more functional than ontological, has presented the priest almost as a "social agent," running the risk of betraying the priesthood of Christ itself. Just as the hermeneutic of continuity is increasingly revealed as urgent to understand in an appropriate way the texts of the Second Vatican Council, similarly an hermeneutic seems necessary that we could describe "of priestly continuity," which, starting from Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, and going through the 2,000 years of the history of grandeur and holiness, of culture and piety, which the priesthood has written in the world, arrives at our days.

Dear brother priests, at this time in which we live it is especially important that the call to participate in the one priesthood of Christ in the ordained ministry flower in the "charism of prophecy": There is a great need of priests that speak of God to the world and that present God to the world; men not subject to ephemeral cultural ways, but capable of living in an authentic way that liberty that only the certainty of belonging to God is in conditions to give. As your Congress has pointed out well, today the most necessary prophecy is that of fidelity, which, starting from the fidelity of Christ to humanity, will lead through the Church and the ministerial priesthood to live one's priesthood in total adherence to Christ and to the Church. In fact, the priest no longer belongs to himself but, because of the sacramental seal received (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Nos. 1563;1582), is "property" of God. This "being of Another" must be made recognizable by all, through a clear witness.

In the way of thinking, of speaking, of judging the events of the world, of serving and loving, in relating to persons, also in the habit, the priest must draw prophetic strength from his sacramental belonging, from his profound being. Consequently, he must have every care to subtract himself from the prevailing mentality, which tends to associate the value of the minister not to his being, but only to his function, thus not appreciating the work of God, who influences the profound identity of the person of the priest, configuring him to himself in a definitive way (cf. Ibid., No. 1583).

The horizon of the ontological belonging to God constitutes, moreover, the appropriate framework to understand and reaffirm, also in our days, the value of sacred celibacy, which in the Latin Church is a charism required for Holy Orders (cf. "Presbyterorum Ordinis," 16) and is held in very great consideration in the Eastern Churches (cf. CCEO, can. 373). That is authentic prophecy of the Kingdom, sign of consecration to the Lord and to the "things of the Lord" with an undivided heart (1 Corinthians 7:32), expression of the gift of self to God and to others (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1579).

Hence, the vocation of the priest, which continues being a great mystery also for those of us who have received it as a gift, is sublime. Our limitations and weaknesses must lead us to live and protect with profound faith that precious gift, with which Christ has configured us to Himself, making us participants in his salvific mission. In fact, comprehension of the ministerial priesthood is linked to the faith and calls, ever more strongly, for a radical continuity between the formation of the seminary and permanent formation. The prophetic life, without compromises, with which we will serve God and the world, proclaiming the Gospel and celebrating the Sacraments, will foster the coming of the Kingdom of God, already present, and the growth of the People of God in the faith.

Beloved priests, the men and women of our time do not only ask that we be thorough priests and no more. The lay faithful will find in many other persons what they humanly need, but only in the priest will they be able to find that Word of God that must always be on their lips (cf. "Presbyterorum Ordinis," 4); the mercy of the Father, which is lavished abundantly and free in the sacrament of reconciliation; the Bread of New Life, "true nourishment given to men" (cf. Hymn of the Office on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi of the Roman rite).

Let us pray to God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint John Mary Vianney, to be able to thank him every day for the great gift of the vocation and to live our priesthood with full and joyful fidelity. Thank you all for this meeting! It gives me great pleasure to impart to each one the apostolic blessing.


Papal Address on Internal Forum
"It Is Necessary to Turn to the Confessional"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 11, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience participants in the course on the internal forum promoted by the Apostolic Penitentiary.

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Dear Friends,

I am happy to meet with you and to address to each one of you my welcome, on the occasion of the annual course on the internal forum, organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary. I cordially greet Archbishop Fortunato Baldelli, who, for the first time as Major Penitentiary, has led your study sessions and thank him for the words he addressed to me. With him I greet Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, regent, the staff of the Penitentiary and all of you who, with your participation in this initiative, manifest the strong need to reflect further on an essential subject for the ministry and life of presbyters.

Your course is placed, providentially, in the Year for Priests, which I proclaimed for the 150th anniversary of the birth in heaven of St. John Mary Vianney, who exercised in a heroic and fruitful way the ministry of reconciliation. As stated in the letter of proclamation: "All of us priests must hear those words which regard us personally that he (the Curé d'Ars) put in Christ's mouth: 'I will charge my ministers with proclaiming to sinners, whom I am always ready to receive, that my Mercy is infinite.' From the Holy Curé d'Ars we priests can learn not only an inexhaustible trust in the sacrament of penance, which drives us to put it at the center of our pastoral concerns, but also the method of the 'dialogue of salvation' that should be carried out in it."

Where do the roots of heroism and fruitfulness sink, with which St. John Mary Vianney lived his own ministry of confessor? First of all in an intense personal penitential dimension. The awareness of one's own limits and the need to take recourse to Divine Mercy to ask for pardon, to convert the heart and to be sustained on the path of sanctity, are essential in the life of the priest: Only one who has first experienced its greatness can be a convinced herald and administrator of the Mercy of God. Every priest becomes minister of penance by his ontological configuration to Christ, High and Eternal Priest, who reconciles humanity with the Father; however, fidelity in administering the sacrament of reconciliation is entrusted to the responsibility of the presbyter.

We live in a cultural context marked by a hedonistic and relativistic mentality, which tends to cancel God from the horizon of life, does not favor the acquisition of a clear picture of values of reference and does not help to discern good from the evil and to mature a correct sense of sin. This situation makes even more urgent the service of administrators of Divine Mercy.

We must not forget, in fact, that there is a sort of vicious circle between obfuscation of the experience of God and the loss of the sense of sin. However, if we look at the cultural context in which St. John Mary Vianney lived, we see that, in several aspects, it was not so dissimilar from ours. Also in his time, in fact, a hostile mentality to faith existed, expressed by forces that sought actually to impede the exercise of the ministry. In such circumstances, the Holy Curé d'Ars made "the church his home," to lead men to God. He lived radically the spirit of prayer, the personal and intimate relationship with Christ, the celebration of Mass, Eucharistic adoration and evangelical poverty, appearing to his contemporaries as such an evident sign of the presence of God, as to drive so many penitents to approach his confessional.

In the conditions of liberty in which it is possible to exercise today the priestly ministry, it is necessary that the presbyters live in a "lofty way" their own response to their vocation, because only one who becomes every day the living and clear presence of the Lord can arouse in the faithful the sense of sin, give courage and have the desire born for the forgiveness of God.

Dear brothers, it is necessary to turn to the confessional, as place in which to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, but also as place in which to "dwell" more often, so that the faithful can find mercy, counsel and comfort, feel loved and understood by God and experience the presence of Divine Mercy, close to the real Presence in the Eucharist.

The "crisis" of the Sacrament of Penance, so often talked about, is a question that faces first of all priests and their great responsibility to educate the People of God to the radical demands of the Gospel. In particular, it asks them to dedicate themselves generously to the listening of sacramental confessions; to guide the flock with courage, so that it will not be conformed to the mentality of this world (cf. Romans 12:2), but will be able to make choices also against the current, avoiding accommodations and compromises. Because of this it is important that the priest have a permanent ascetic tension, nourished by communion with God, and that he dedicate himself to a constant updating in the study of moral theology and of human sciences.

St. John Mary Vianney was able to establish with penitents a real and proper "dialogue of salvation," showing the beauty and greatness of the Lord's goodness and arousing that desire for God and heaven, of which the saints are the first bearers. He affirmed: "The good God knows everything. Before you even confess, he knows that you will sin again and yet he forgives you. How great is the love of our God, which drives him to willingly forget the future, so as to forgive us" (Monnin A., "Il Curato d'Ars. Vita di Gian-Battista-Maria Vianney," Vol. 1, Turin, 1870, p. 130).

It is the priest's task to foster that experience of "dialogue of salvation," which, born of the certainty of being loved by God, helps man to acknowledge his own sin and to introduce himself, progressively, into that stable dynamic of conversion of heart, which leads to the radical renunciation of evil and to a life according to God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1431).

Dear priests, what an extraordinary ministry the Lord has entrusted to us! As in the Eucharistic Celebration he puts himself in the hands of the priest to continue to be present in the midst of his people, similarly, in the sacrament of reconciliation he entrusts himself to the priest so that men will have the experience of the embrace with which the Father receives the prodigal son, restoring him the filial dignity and reconstituting him fully heir (cf. Luke 15:11-32).

May the Virgin Mary and the Holy Curé d'Ars help us to experience in our life the breadth, the length, the height and the depth of the Love of God (cf. Ephesians 3:18-19), to be faithful and generous administrators. My heartfelt thanks to all of you to whom I willingly impart my blessing.


Saint Bonaventure's concept of history,

Last week I spoke of the life and personality of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. This morning I would like to continue with the presentation, reflecting on part of his literary work and his doctrine.

As I already said, among various merits, St. Bonaventure had that of interpreting authentically and faithfully the figure of St. Francis of Assisi, whom he venerated and studied with great love. In a particular way, in the times of St. Bonaventure a current of Friars Minor called "spiritual" held that there was a totally new phase of history inaugurated with St. Francis; the "eternal Gospel" had appeared, of which Revelation speaks, which replaced the New Testament. This group affirmed that the Church had now exhausted her historical role, and in her place came a charismatic community of free men guided interiorly by the Spirit, namely, the "spiritual Franciscans." At the base of the ideas of this group were the writings of a Cistercian abbot, Joachim of Fiore, who died in 1202. In his works, he affirmed a Trinitarian rhythm of history. He considered the Old Testament as the age of the Father, followed by the time of the Son, the time of the Church. To be awaited yet was the third age, that of the Holy Spirit. The whole of history was thus interpreted as a history of progress: from the severity of the Old Testament to the relative liberty of the time of the Son, in the Church, up to the full liberty of the children of God, in the period of the Holy Spirit, which would have been also the period of peace among men, of the reconciliation of peoples and religions. Joachim of Fiore aroused the hope that the beginning of the new time would come from a new monasticism. It is thus understandable that a group of Franciscans thought it recognized in St. Francis of Assisi the initiator of the new time and in his order the community of the new period -- the community of the time of the Holy Spirit, which left behind it the hierarchical Church, to begin a new Church of the Spirit, no longer connected to the old structures.

There was, hence, the risk of a very serious misunderstanding of the message of St. Francis, of his humble fidelity to the Gospel and to the Church, and such a mistake implied an erroneous vision of Christianity as a whole.

St. Bonaventure, who in 1257 became minister-general of the Franciscans, found himself before serious tension within his own order due, precisely, to those who espoused this current of "spiritual Franciscans," which aligned itself to Joachim of Fiore. Precisely to respond to this group and to give unity again to the order, St. Bonaventure carefully studied the authentic writings of Joachim of Fiore and those attributed to him and, taking into account the need to present correctly the figure and message of his beloved St. Francis, he wished to show a correct view of the theology of history.

St. Bonaventure addressed the problem in fact in his last work, a collection of conferences to monks of the Paris studio, which remained unfinished and which was completed with the transcriptions of the hearers. It was titled "Hexaemeron," that is, an allegorical explanation of the six days of creation. The Fathers of the Church considered the six or seven days of the account of creation as a prophecy of the history of the world, of humanity. The seven days represented for them seven periods of history, later interpreted also as seven millennia. With Christ we would have entered the last, namely, the sixth period of history, which would then be followed by the great sabbath of God. St. Bonaventure accounts for this historical interpretation of the relation of the days of creation, but in a very free and innovative way. For him, two phenomena of his time render necessary a new interpretation of the course of history:

The first: the figure of St. Francis, the man totally united to Christ up to communion of the stigmata, almost an alter Christus, and with St. Francis the new community created by him, different from the monasticism known up to then. This phenomenon called for a new interpretation, as a novelty of God which appeared in that moment.

The second: the position of Joachim of Fiore, who announced a new monasticism and a totally new period of history, going beyond the revelation of the New Testament, called for an answer.

As minister-general of the Order of Franciscans, St. Bonaventure had seen immediately that with the spiritualistic conception, inspired by Joachim of Fiore, the order was not governable, but was going logically toward anarchy. For him there were two consequences:

The first: the practical need of structures and of insertion in the reality of the hierarchical Church, of the real Church, needed a theological foundation, also because the others, those who followed the spiritualist conception, showed an apparent theological foundation.

The second: although taking into account the necessary realism, it was not necessary to lose the novelty of the figure of St. Francis.

How did St. Bonaventure respond to the practical and theoretical need? Of his answer I can only give here a very schematic and incomplete summary in some points:

1. St. Bonaventure rejected the idea of the Trinitarian rhythm of history. God is one for the whole of history and he is not divided into three divinities. As a consequence, history is one, even if it is a journey and -- according to St. Bonaventure -- a journey of progress.

2. Jesus Christ is the last word of God -- in him God has said all, giving and expressing himself. More than himself, God cannot express, cannot give. The Holy Spirit is Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Christ himself says of the Holy Spirit: He "...will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26), "he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (John 16:15). Hence, there is not another higher Gospel, there is not another Church to await. Because of this, the Order of St. Francis had also to insert itself in this Church, in her faith, in her hierarchical order.

3. This does not mean that the Church is immobile, fixed in the past and that novelties cannot be exercised in her. "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt," the works of Christ do not go backward, do not fail, but progress, says the saint in the letter "De tribus quaestionibus." Thus St. Bonaventure formulates explicitly the idea of progress, and this is a novelty in comparison with the Fathers of the Church and a great part of his contemporaries. For St. Bonaventure, Christ is no longer, as he was for the Fathers of the Church, the end, but the center of history; history does not end with Christ, but a new period begins. Another consequence is the following: prevailing up to that moment was the idea that the Fathers of the Church were at the absolute summit of theology, all the following generations could only be their disciples. Even St. Bonaventure recognizes the Fathers as teachers for ever, but the phenomenon of St. Francis gave him the certainty that the richness of the word of Christ is inexhaustible and that also new lights can appear in the new generations. The uniqueness of Christ also guarantees novelties and renewal in all the periods of history.

Certainly, the Franciscan Order -- so he stresses -- belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ, to the Apostolic Church, and cannot build itself on a utopian spiritualism. But, at the same time, the novelty of such an order is valid in comparison with classic monasticism, and St. Bonaventure -- as I said in the preceding catechesis -- defended this novelty against the attacks of the secular clergy of Paris. The Franciscans do not have a fixed monastery, they can be present everywhere to proclaim the Gospel. Precisely the break with stability, characteristic of monasticism, in favor of a new flexibility, restored to the Church her missionary dynamism.

At this point perhaps it is useful to say that also today there are views according to which the whole history of the Church in the second millennium is a permanent decline; some see the decline already immediately after the New Testament. In reality, "opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt," the works of Christ do not go backward, but progress. What would the Church be without the new spirituality of the Cistercians, of the Franciscans and Dominicans, of the spirituality of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, and so on? This affirmation is also valid today: "Opera Christi non deficiunt, sed proficiunt," they go forward.

St. Bonaventure teaches us the whole of the necessary discernment, even severe, of the sober realism and of openness to new charisms given by Christ, in the Holy Spirit, to his Church. And while this idea of decline is repeated, there is also the other idea, this "spiritualistic utopianism," which is repeated. We know, in fact, how after the Second Vatican Council, some were convinced that everything should be new, that there should be another Church, that the pre-conciliar Church was finished and that we would have another, totally "other" Church. An anarchic utopianism! And thanks be to God, the wise helmsmen of Peter's Barque, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, on one hand defended the novelty of the council and on the other, at the same time, defended the uniqueness and continuity of the Church, which is always a Church of sinners and always a place of grace.

4. In this connection, St. Bonaventure, as minister-general of the Franciscans, took a line of government in which it was very clear that the new order could not, as a community, live at the same "eschatological height" of St. Francis, in which he saw the future world anticipated, but -- guided, at the same time, by healthy realism and spiritual courage -- had to come as close as possible to the maximum realization of the Sermon on the Mount, which for St. Francis was the rule, though taking into account the limits of man, marked by original sin.

Thus we see that for St. Bonaventure, to govern was not simply a task but was above all to think and to pray. At the base of his government we always find prayer and thought; all his decisions resulted from reflection, from thought illumined by prayer. His profound contact with Christ always accompanied his work of minister-general and that is why he composed a series of theological-mystical writings, which express the spirit of his government and manifest the intention of guiding the order interiorly, of governing, that is, not only through commands and structures, but through guiding and enlightening souls, orienting them to Christ.

Of these his writings, which are the soul of his government and show the way to follow either as an individual or a community, I would like to mention only one, his masterwork, the "Itinerarium mentis in Deum," which is a "manual" of mystical contemplation. This book was conceived in a place of profound spirituality: the hill of La Verna, where St. Francis had received the stigmata. In the introduction, the author illustrates the circumstances that gave origin to his writing: "While I meditated on the possibility of the soul ascending to God, presented to me, among others, was that wondrous event that occurred in that place to Blessed Francis, namely, the vision of the winged seraphim in the form of a crucifix. And meditating on this, immediately I realized that such a vision offered me the contemplative ecstasy of Father Francis himself and at the same time the way that leads to it" (Journey of the Mind in God, Prologue, 2, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici / 1, Rome, 1993, p. 499).

The six wings of the seraphim thus became the symbol of six stages that lead man progressively to the knowledge of God through observation of the world and of creatures and through the exploration of the soul itself with its faculties, up to the satisfying union with the Trinity through Christ, in imitation of St. Francis of Assisi. The last words of St. Bonaventure's "Itinerarium," which respond to the question of how one can reach this mystical communion with God, would make one descend to the depth of the heart: "If you now yearn to know how that happens (mystical communion with God), ask grace, not doctrine; desire, not the intellect; the groaning of prayer, not the study of the letter; the spouse, not the teacher; God, not man; darkness not clarity; not light but the fire that inflames everything and transport to God with strong unctions and ardent affections. ... We enter therefore into darkness, we silence worries, the passions and illusions; we pass with Christ Crucified from this world to the Father, so that, after having seen him, we say with Philip: that is enough for me" (Ibid., VII, 6).

Dear friends, let us take up the invitation addressed to us by St. Bonaventure, the Seraphic Doctor, and let us enter the school of the divine Teacher: We listen to his Word of life and truth, which resounds in the depth of our soul. Let us purify our thoughts and actions, so that he can dwell in us, and we can hear his divine voice, which draws us toward true happiness.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we return to the teaching of Saint Bonaventure, the great Franciscan theologian of the thirteenth century. Bonaventure refuted the idea, based on the doctrine of Joachim of Fiore and associated with the "spiritual" Franciscans, that Saint Francis had inaugurated a new and final age of the Holy Spirit, to replace the age of Christ and the Church. In his defence of the newness of the Franciscan charism, he developed a remarkable theology of history and progress, based on the definitiveness of the Christ event and its enduring fruitfulness in the history of the Church. He insisted that Christian revelation will not be surpassed in history, and that the future fulfillment of God's plan remains the object of our Christian hope.

Bonaventure was influenced by the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, which present God as the origin and goal of a goodness which pervades the cosmos. In his work, The Journey of the Mind to God, he guides the soul from created realities to the mystic contemplation of the Triune God. Bonaventure made Christ the centre of his theology; his writings invite us to welcome Christ's word into our hearts and thus to experience the joy of God's eternal love.


On the Suffering the Lord Allows
God "Is Good and Cannot Will Evil"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The liturgy of this Third Sunday of Lent presents us with the theme of conversion. In the first reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, Moses, while he is feeding his flock, sees a burning bush, which is not consumed by the fire that burns it. He comes closer to observe this prodigy when a voice calls him by name and, inviting him to be aware of his unworthiness, commands him to take off his shoes, because the place is a holy one. [The voice says to him] “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob”; and adds: “I am he who is!” (Exodus 3:6a, 14).

God manifests himself in different ways also in each of our lives. To recognize his presence however we must draw near to him aware of our misery and with profound respect. In any other way we would make ourselves incapable of meeting him and of entering into communion with him. As the Apostle Paul writes, this event too is told about for our edification: It reminds us that God does not reveal himself to those who are pervaded by sufficiency and frivolity, but to him who is poor and humble before him.

In the passage from today’s Gospel Jesus is questioned about some sorrowful events: the killing in the Temple of some Galileans on the order of Pontius Pilate and the collapse of a tower on some passers-by (cf. Luke 13:1-5). In the face of the facile conclusion that the evil is the effect of divine punishment, Jesus restores the true image of God, who is good and cannot will evil, and warning people not to think that these misfortunes are the immediate effect of the personal guilt of those who suffered them, says: “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:2-3).

Jesus invites us to interpret these facts differently, connecting them with conversion: misfortunes, sorrowful events, should not arouse curiosity in us or a seeking of people presumed to be guilty, but they must be occasions for reflecting, for overcoming the illusion of pretending to live without God, and for reinforcing, with the Lord’s help, the commitment to change our life. In the face of sin, God shows himself to be full of mercy and he does not fail to call sinners to avoid evil, to grow in his love and to concretely help our neighbor in need, to live the joy of grace and not risk eternal death. But the possibility of conversion entails that we learn to read the events of life in the light of faith, animated by the holy fear of God. In the presence of suffering and grief, true wisdom is to let oneself be called from the precariousness of existence and to read human history with God’s eyes, who, always and only wanting the good of his children, by an inscrutable plan of his love, sometimes allows them to be tried through suffering to lead them to a greater good.

Dear friends, let us pray to Mary Most Holy, who accompanies us on the Lenten journey, to help every Christian to return to the Lord with his whole heart. May she sustain our firm decision to renounce evil and to accept God’s will in our life with faith.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus, especially a group of visitors from Boston, in the United States. The readings of today’s liturgy invite all of us to embrace conversion, and to be humble in allowing the Lord to prepare us to bear more fruit. Our cooperation with the Lord often demands great sacrifice, but the fruit which that conversion bears always leads to freedom and joy. May we experience these great gifts of God! Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Homily at Roman Parish
"He Is Concerned About Our Good, Our Happiness, Our Salvation"

ROME, MARCH 7, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily that Benedict XVI gave during a pastoral visit this morning to the parish of San Giovanni della Croce in Colle Salario in the northern part of the Diocese of Rome.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

“Convert, says the Lord, the kingdom of heaven is near!” We pronounced these words before the Gospel for this Third Sunday of Lent. They present us with the fundamental theme of this “difficult time” of the liturgical year: the invitation to conversion and the doing of works of penitence. Jesus, as we heard, mentions two historical events: the Romans’ brutal treatment of a group of Jews in the temple (cf. Luke 13:1) and the tragedy of the 18 people who were killed when a tower in Siloam collapsed (13:4). The people took these episodes to be divine punishment of the victims for their sins and, thinking themselves righteous, believe that they are safe from such things, not being in need of conversion in their lives. But Jesus denounces this attitude as an illusion: “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (13:2-3). And he invites us to reflect on these facts in view of a greater commitment to conversion, for it is precisely closing oneself to the Lord, not walking the road of the conversion of ourselves, that leads to death, the death of the soul.

During Lent each of us is invited by God to bring about a change in our lives, thinking and living according to the Gospel, correcting something in our way of praying, of acting, of working and in our relations with others. Jesus makes this appeal to us not with a severity that is an end in itself but precisely because he is concerned about our good, our happiness, our salvation. On our part we have to answer him with a sincere interior effort, asking him to make us understand those particular things about us that we need to change.

The conclusion of the Gospel passage returns to the perspective of mercy, showing the necessity and the urgency of the return to God, the renewal of life according to God’s will. Referring to a custom of his time, Jesus presents the parable of the fig tree planted in an orchard; this fig tree does not bear fruit (cf. Luke 13:6-9). The dialogue that develops between the owner and the gardener manifests, on one hand, God’s mercy, which is patient and allows man, all of us, time for conversion; and, on the other hand, the necessity of immediately making the interior and exterior changes of life so as not to lose the opportunities that God’s mercy offers us to overcome our spiritual laziness and to return God’s love with our filial love. St. Paul too, in the reading that we heard, exhorts us not to deceive ourselves: It is not enough to be baptized and be nourished at the same Eucharistic meal if one does not live as a Christian and is not attentive to the signs from the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of San Giovanni della Croce! I am very glad to be among you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day. I cordially greet the cardinal vicar, the auxiliary bishop of the district, your pastor, Father Enrico Gemma, whom I thank for the beautiful words he addressed to me on your behalf, and the other priests who assist him. My thoughts go out to all those who live in this quarter, especially the elderly, the sick, those who are alone and those in difficulty. I remember all of you in this Holy Mass.

I know that your parish is young. In fact, it began its pastoral activity in 1989, for a period of 12 years in a provisory location, and then in the new parish complex. Now that you have a new sacred edifice, my visit aims to encourage you to realize more and more that Church of living stones that you are. I know that the experience of the first 12 years formed a way of life that still remains. The lack of adequate structures and consolidated traditions moved you, indeed, to entrust yourselves to the strength of the Word of God, which has been the light along your way and bore concrete fruit of conversion, of participation in the sacraments, especially the Sunday Eucharist, and of service.

I exhort you now to make this Church a place in which you learn the Lord better and listen to him who speaks to us in the sacred Scriptures. These will remain the vivifying center of your community so that it becomes a continual school of Christian life, from which every pastoral activity begins. The building of the new parish church has led you to a joint apostolic commitment, with special attention to the field of catechesis and the liturgy. I congratulate you on the pastoral efforts that you are undertaking. I know that various groups of the faithful gather to pray, form themselves in the school of the Gospel, participate in the sacraments -- above all penance and the Eucharist -- and live that essential dimension of the Christian life that is charity. I acknowledge with gratitude those who contribute to help the community to participate more in the liturgical celebrations and make them more lively as well as those who, with the parish Caritas and the Sant’Egidio group, try to meet the many exigencies of the area, especially those of the poor and needy. Finally, I acknowledge those who praiseworthily help families by seeing to the Christian education of the children and those who come to the oratory.

From the very beginning this parish was open to the movements and to the new ecclesial communities, thus developing a wider awareness of the Church and experiencing new forms of evangelization. I call on you to continue in this direction with courage but also to dedicate yourselves to bring all of these realities together into a unified pastoral project. I was happy to hear that your community wishes to promote, in regard to the vocations and the role of consecrated persons and the laity, the co-responsibility of all the members of the People of God. As I already noted, this demands a change in mentality, above all with regard to the laity, “moving from considering them ‘collaborators’ of the clergy to recognizing them as truly ‘co-responsible’ for the being and action of the Church, promoting a mature and dedicated laity in this way” (cf. “Address a the Opening of the Pastoral Conference of the Diocese of Rome,” May 26, 2009).

Dear Christian families, dear young people, who live in this area and who attend this parish, let yourselves be more and more drawn by the desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Do not wait until others bring you other messages that do not lead to life, but make yourselves missionaries of Christ for the brothers and sisters where you live, work, study or only pass your free time. You should also establish here a strong and organic vocational program that educates families and young people in prayer and the living of life as a gift that comes from God.

Dear brothers and sisters! The difficult time of Lent invites all of us to recognize the mystery of God, which makes itself present in our life, as we heard in the first reading. Moses sees a burning bush in the desert, but the fire does not consume the bush. In a first moment, moved by curiosity he comes nearer to see this mysterious event when a voice from the bush calls to him, saying: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). And it is precisely this God who sends him into Egypt with the task of leading the people of Israel into the promised land, demanding from Pharaoh, in the name of this God, the freedom of Israel.

At this point Moses asks God what his name is, the name with which God shows his particular authority so that he can present it to the people and then to Pharaoh. God’s answer might seem strange; it seems to be an answer and not an answer. God simply says of himself: “I am he who is!” “He is,” and this must suffice. Thus, God did not reject Moses request, he manifests his name and in this way made it possible to invoke him, to call him, enter into relation with him. This means that he delivers himself over, in a certain way, to our human world, becoming accessible, almost one of us. He confronts the risk of relation, of being with us. What began at the burning bush in the desert finishes at the burning bush of the cross, where God, who became accessible in his Son made man, made truly one of us, is delivered into our hands and, in this way, realizes the liberation of humanity. On Golgotha, God, who during the night of the flight from Egypt revealed himself as he who frees from slavery, reveals himself as he who embraces every man with the salvific power of the cross and resurrection and frees man from sin and death. He accepts him in his embrace of love.

Let us remain in the contemplation of this mystery of the name of God to better understand the mystery of Lent, and to live as individuals and as community in permanent conversion, in a way to be a constant epiphany in the world, witness of the living God, for love, frees and saves. Amen.


Papal Address to Ugandan Bishops
"Evangelization Gives Rise ... to a Deeper Catholic Culture"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2010 - Here is the English-language address Benedict XVI delivered today upon receiving in audience the Ugandan bishops who are in Rome for their five-yearly "ad limina" visit.

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Your Eminence,
Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to greet you, the Bishops of Uganda, on your Ad Limina visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I thank Bishop Ssekamanya for the gracious sentiments of communion with the Successor of Peter which he expressed on your behalf. I willingly reciprocate and assure you of my prayers and affection for you and for the People of God entrusted to your care. In a particular way my thoughts go to those who have been affected by the recent landslides in the Bududa region of your country. I offer prayers to Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, that he may grant eternal rest to the souls of the deceased, and give strength and hope to all who are suffering the consequences of this tragic event.

The recently celebrated Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops was memorable in its call for renewed efforts in the service of a more profound evangelization of your continent (cf. Message to the People of God, 15). The power of the word of God and the knowledge and love of Jesus cannot but transform people’s lives by changing for the better the way they think and act. In the light of the Gospel message, you are aware of the need to encourage the Catholics of Uganda to appreciate fully the sacrament of marriage in its unity and indissolubility, and the sacred right to life. I urge you to help them, priests as well as the lay faithful, to resist the seduction of a materialistic culture of individualism which has taken root in so many countries. Continue to call for lasting peace based on justice, generosity towards those in need and a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation. While promoting true ecumenism, be especially close to those who are more vulnerable to the advances of sects. Guide them to reject superficial sentiments and a preaching that would empty the cross of Christ of its power (cf. 1 Cor 1:17); in this way you will continue, as responsible Pastors, to keep them and their children faithful to the Church of Christ. In this regard I am pleased to learn that your people find spiritual consolation in popular forms of evangelization such as the organized pilgrimages to the Shrine of the Ugandan Martyrs at Namugongo, where the active pastoral presence of Bishops and numerous priests guides the piety of the pilgrims towards renewal as individuals and communities. Continue to sustain all who with generous hearts assist displaced persons and orphans from war-torn areas. Encourage those who care for people afflicted by poverty, Aids and other diseases, teaching them to see in those whom they serve the suffering face of Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40).

Renewed evangelization gives rise in turn to a deeper Catholic culture which takes root in the family. From your Quinquennial Reports I am aware that programmes of education in parishes, schools and associations, and your own interventions on topics of common interest, are indeed spreading a stronger Catholic culture. Great good can come from well-prepared lay people who are active in the media, in politics and culture. Courses for their adequate formation, especially in Catholic Social Doctrine, should be provided, taking advantage of resources at Uganda Martyrs University or other institutions. Encourage them to be active and outspoken in the service of what is just and noble. In this way, society as a whole will benefit from trained and zealous Christians who take up leadership roles in the service of the common good. Ecclesial movements also deserve your support for their positive contribution to the life of the Church in many sectors.

Bishops, as the first agents of evangelization, are called to bear clear witness to the practical solidarity born of our communion in Christ. In a spirit of Christian charity Dioceses that enjoy more resources, both materially and spiritually, should assist those that have less. At the same time, all communities have a duty to strive for self-sufficiency. It is important that your people develop a sense of responsibility towards themselves, their community and their Church, and become more deeply imbued with a Catholic spirit of sensitivity to the needs of the universal Church.

Your priests, as committed ministers of evangelization, already benefit greatly from your fatherly concern and guidance. In this Year for Priests offer them your assistance, your example and your clear teaching. Exhort them to prayer and vigilance, especially with regard to self-centred, worldly or political ambitions, or excessive attachment to family or ethnic group. Continue promoting vocations, providing for due discernment of candidates and for their proper motivation and formation, especially their spiritual formation. Priests must be men of God, capable of guiding others, through wise counsel and example, in the Lord’s ways.

Religious men and women in Uganda are called to be an example and a source of encouragement to the whole Church. By your advice and prayers, assist them as they strive for the goal of perfect charity and bear witness to the Kingdom. Priests and religious require constant support in their lives of celibacy and consecrated virginity. By your own example, teach them of the beauty of this way of life, of the spiritual fatherhood and motherhood with which they can enrich and deepen the love of the faithful for the Creator and Giver of all good gifts. Your catechists likewise are a great resource. Continue to be attentive to their needs and formation, and place before them, for their encouragement, the example of martyrs such as Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa.

Dear Brother Bishops, with the Apostle Paul, I exhort you: "always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (2 Tim 4:5). In the Blessed Ugandan Martyrs you and your people have models of great courage and endurance in suffering. Count on their prayers and strive always to be worthy of their legacy. Commending you and those entrusted to your pastoral care to the loving protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, I affectionately impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On St. Bonaventure
"Proposing This Theme I Feel a Certain Nostalgia"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I would like to speak about St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. I confide to you that on proposing this theme I feel a certain nostalgia because I remember the research that, as a young scholar, I carried out precisely on this author, whom I particularly esteem. His knowledge has been of no small influence in my formation. With great joy I went on pilgrimage a few months ago to his birthplace, Bagnoregio, a small Italian city, in Latium, which venerates his memory.

Born probably in 1217, he died in 1274; he lived in the 13th century, an age in which the Christian faith, profoundly permeating the culture and society of Europe, inspired immortal works in the field of literature, visual arts, philosophy and theology. Striking among the great Christian figures who contributed to the composition of this harmony between faith and culture is, precisely, Bonaventure, man of action and of contemplation, of profound piety and of prudence in governing.

He was called John of Fidanza. An incident that occurred when he was still a boy profoundly marked his life, as he himself relates. He had been affected by a serious illness and not even his father, who was a doctor, hoped to save him from death. His mother appealed then to the intercession of St. Francis of Assisi, canonized a short time earlier. And John was cured. The figure of the Poverello of Assisi became even more familiar a year later, when he was in Paris, where he had gone for his studies. He had obtained the diploma of Master of Arts, which we could compare to that of a prestigious secondary school of our time. At that point, as so many young people of the past and also of today, John asked himself a crucial question: "What must I do with my life?" Fascinated by the witness of fervor and evangelical radicalism of the Friars Minor, who had arrived in Paris in 1219, John knocked on the doors of the Franciscan monastery of that city, and asked to be received in the great family of the disciples of St. Francis.

Many years later, he explained the reasons for his choice: He recognized the action of Christ in St. Francis and in the movement he initiated. He wrote thus in a letter addressed to another friar: "I confess before God that the reason that made me love more the life of Blessed Francis is that it is similar to the origin and growth of the Church. The Church began with simple fishermen, and was enriched immediately with very illustrious and wise doctors; the religion of Blessed Francis was not established by the prudence of men, but by Christ" (Epistula de tribus quaestionibus ad magistrum innominatum, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Intoduzione generale, Rome, 1990, p. 29).

Therefore, around the year 1243 John put on the Franciscan coarse woolen cloth and took the name Bonaventure. He was immediately directed to studies and frequented the faculty of theology of the University of Paris, following a program of very difficult courses. He obtained the different titles required by the academic career, those of "biblical bachelor's" and "bachelor's in sentences." Thus Bonaventure studied in depth sacred Scripture, the Sentences of Peter Lombard, the manual of theology of that time, and the most important authors of theology and, in contact with the teachers and students that arrived in Paris from the whole of Europe, he matured his own personal reflection and a spiritual sensitivity of great value that, in the course of the following years, showed in his works and sermons, thus making him one of the most important theologians of the history of the Church. It is significant to recall the title of the thesis he defended to be able to qualify in the teaching of theology, the licentia ubique docendi, as it was then called. His dissertation was titled "Questions on Knowledge of Christ." This argument shows the central role that Christ always had in the life and teaching of Bonaventure. We can say, in fact, that all his thought was profoundly Christocentric.

In those years in Paris, Bonaventure's adopted city, a violent dispute broke out against the Friars Minor of St. Francis of Assisi and the Friars Preachers of St. Dominic Guzmán. Debated was their right to teach in the university and doubts were even cast on the authenticity of their consecrated life. Certainly the changes introduced by the Mendicant Orders in the way of understanding religious life, of which I spoke in preceding catecheses, were so innovative that not everyone understood them. Also added, as happens sometimes among sincerely religious persons, were motives of human weakness, such as envy and jealousy. Bonaventure, although surrounded by the opposition of the rest of the university teachers, had already started to teach in the chair of theology of the Franciscans and, to respond to those who were criticizing the Mendicant Orders, he composed a writing titled "Evangelical Perfection." In this writing he showed how the Mendicant Orders, especially the Friars Minor, practicing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, were following the counsels of the Gospel itself. Beyond these historical circumstances, the teaching offered by Bonaventure in this work of his and in his life is always timely: The Church becomes luminous and beautiful by fidelity to the vocation of those sons and daughters of hers who not only put into practice the evangelical precepts, but who, by the grace of God, are called to observe their advice and thus give witness, with their poor, chaste and obedient lifestyle, that the Gospel is source of joy and perfection.

The conflict died down, at least for a certain period, and, by the personal intervention of Pope Alexander IV, in 1257 Bonaventure was officially recognized as doctor and teacher of the Parisian University. Despite all this, he had to resign from this prestigious post, because that same year the General Chapter of the order elected him minister-general.

He carried out this task for 17 years with wisdom and dedication, visiting the provinces, writing to brothers, intervening at times with a certain severity to eliminate abuses. When Bonaventure began this service, the Order of Friars Minor had developed in a prodigious way: There were more than 30,000 friars spread over the whole of the West, with a missionary presence in North Africa, the Middle East and also Peking. It was necessary to consolidate this expansion and above all to confer on it, in full fidelity to Francis' charism, unity of action and spirit. In fact, among the followers of the Saint of Assisi there were different forms of interpreting his message and the risk really existed of an internal split. To avoid this danger, in 1260 the General Chapter of the order in Narbonne accepted and ratified a text proposed by Bonaventure, which unified the norms that regulated the daily life of the Friars Minor. Bonaventure intuited, however, that the legislative dispositions, though inspired in wisdom and moderation, were not sufficient to ensure communion of spirit and hearts. It was necessary to share the same ideals and the same motivations. For this reason, Bonaventure wished to present the authentic charism of Francis, his life and his teaching. Hence he gathered with great zeal documents related to the Poverello and listened attentively to the memories of those who had known Francis directly. From this was born a biography, historically well founded, of the Saint of Assisi, titled Legenda Maior, written also in a very succinct manner and called because of this the Legend. The Latin word, as opposed to the Italian [and English, legend], does not indicate a fruit of imagination but, on the contrary, Legenda means an authoritative text, "to be read" officially. In fact, the General Chapter of the Friars Minor of 1263, which met in Pisa, recognized in St. Bonaventure's biography the most faithful portrait of the founder and it thus became the official biography of the saint.

What is the image of St. Francis that arises from the heart and pen of his devoted son and successor, St. Bonaventure? The essential point: Francis is an alter Christus, a man who passionately sought Christ. In the love that drives to imitation, he was entirely conformed to Him. Bonaventure pointed out this living ideal to all of Francis' followers. This ideal, valid for every Christian, yesterday, today and always, was indicated as a program also for the Church of the Third Millennium by my predecessor, the Venerable John Paul II. This program, he wrote in the letter "Tertio Millennio Ineunte," is centered "on Christ himself, who must be known, loved and imitated to live in Him the Trinitarian life, and, with Him, to transform history to its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem" (No. 29).

In 1273 St. Bonaventure's life met with another change. Pope Gregory X wished to consecrate him bishop and name him cardinal. He also asked him to prepare a very important ecclesial event: the Second Ecumenical Council of Lyon, whose objective was the re-establishment of communion between the Latin and the Greek Churches. He dedicated himself to this task with diligence, but was unable to see the conclusion of that ecumenical summit, as he died while it was being held. An anonymous papal notary composed a eulogy of Bonaventure, which offers us a conclusive portrait of this great saint and excellent theologian: "Good, affable, pious and merciful man, full of virtues, loved by God and by men ... God, in fact, had given him such grace, that all those who saw him were invaded by a love that the heart could not conceal" (cf. J.G. Bougerol, Bonaventura, in A. Vauchez (vv.aa), Storia dei Santi e della santita cristiana. Vol. VI. L'epoca del rinnovamento evangelico, Milan, 1991, p. 91).

Let us take up the legacy of this saint, doctor of the Church, who reminds us of the meaning of our life with these words: "On earth ... we can contemplate the divine immensity through reasoning and admiration; in the heavenly homeland, instead, through vision, when we will be made like to God, and through ecstasy --- we will enter into the joy of God" (La conoscenza di Cristo, q. 6, conclusione, in Opere di San Bonaventura. Opuscoli Teologici /1, Rome, 1993, p. 187).

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catecheses on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to Saint Bonaventure, an early follower of Saint Francis of Assisi and a distinguished theologian and teacher in the University of Paris. There Bonaventure was called upon to defend the new mendicant orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans, in the controversies which questioned the authenticity of their religious charism. The Friars, he argued, represent a true form of religious life, one which imitates Christ by practising the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Elected Minister General of the Friars Minor, he served in this capacity for seventeen years, at a time of immense expansion accompanied by controversies about the genuine nature of the Franciscan charism. His wisdom and moderation inspired the adoption of a rule of life, and his biography of Francis, which presented the Founder as alter Christus, a passionate follower of Christ, was to prove most influential in consolidating the charism of the Franciscan Order. Named a Bishop and Cardinal, Bonaventure died during the Council of Lyons. His writings still inspire us by their wisdom penetrated by deep love of Christ and mystical yearning for the vision of God and the joy of our heavenly homeland.

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from Nigeria, Japan and the United States. To the pilgrims from Sophia University in Tokyo I offer my prayerful good wishes that the coming centenary of your University will strengthen your service to the pursuit of truth and your witness to the harmony of faith and reason. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the Transfiguration
"The Joys Sown by God in Our Life Are Not the Destination"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Here in the Apostolic Palace yesterday we concluded the customary retreat that is held in the Vatican at the beginning of Lent. My coworkers in the Roman Curia and I have spent the days in recollection and intense prayer, reflecting on the priestly vocation in sync with the Year for Priests that the Church is celebrating. I thank those who were near to us spiritually.

On this second Sunday of Lent the liturgy is dominated by the event of the Transfiguration, which in St. Luke's Gospel immediately follows the Master's invitation: "If anyone wants to follow me, he must renounce himself, take up his cross every day and follow me!" (Luke 9:23). This extraordinary event is an encouragement in following Jesus.

Luke does not speak of transfiguration but describes what happened through two elements: the countenance of Jesus that changes and his vestments, which become dazzling white in the presence of Moses and Elijah, symbol of the Law and the Prophets. The three disciples who witness the scene are heavy with sleep: It is the attitude of those who, although spectators of divine prodigies, do not understand them. Only the struggle against the torpor that assails them allows Peter, James and John to "see" Jesus' glory. The pace is driving: as Moses and Elijah depart from Jesus, Peter speaks, and while he is speaking, a cloud covers him and the other disciples with its shadow; it is a cloud that, although it conceals also reveals God's glory, as happened for the people of Israel on pilgrimage through the desert. The eyes can no longer see, but the ears can hear the voice that comes from the cloud: "This is my Son, my chosen one; listen to him!" (Luke 9:35).

The disciples are no longer before a transfigured face, nor before a dazzling garment, nor a cloud that reveals the divine presence. Before their eyes there is "only Jesus" (9:36). Jesus is alone before his Father as he prays, but at the same time, Jesus is everything that is given to the disciples of all times: It is what must suffice on the journey. He is the only voice to listen to, the only one to follow, he who, going up to Jerusalem, will give his life and one day "will transfigure our miserable body to conform it to his glorious body" (Philippians 3:21).

"Master, it is good for us to be here" (John 9:33): These are Peter's ecstatic words, which often resemble our desire before the Lord's consolations. But the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys sown by God in our life are not the destination, but they are lights that he gives us on the earthly pilgrimage, so that "only Jesus" is our Law and his Word the criterion that guides our existence.

During this time of Lent I invite everyone to meditate assiduously on the Gospel. Furthermore, I hope in this Year of the Priest that pastors "are truly filled by the Word of God, that they know it in truth, that they love it to the point that it really gives them life and forms their thought" (Homily for the Chrism Mass, April 9, 2009). May the Virgin Mary help us to live with intensity our moments of encounter with the Lord so that we can follow him every day with joy. To her we turn our gaze, invoking upon her with the prayer of the Angelus.

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

I heard with deep sadness the tragic news of the recent killings of some Christians in the city of Mosul and I followed with much concern the other episodes of violence, perpetrated in the martyred land of Iraq, which have harmed defenseless persons of various religious affiliations. In these days of intense recollection I often prayed for all the victims of those attacks and today I would like to join myself spiritually in prayer for peace and the restoration of security promoted by the council of bishops at Nineveh. I am affectionately near to the Christians communities of the whole country. Do not weary of being a ferment for good for the homeland to which, for centuries, you have rightfully belonged!

In the delicate political phase that Iraq is passing through I call upon the civil authorities that they do everything possible to restore security to the population and, especially to the most vulnerable religious minorities. It is my wish that they do not given in to the temptation to allow the temporary and special interests prevail over the safety and the fundamental rights of every citizen. Finally, as I greet the Iraqis present here in the piazza, I exhort the international community to do its best to give the Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, while I ask with confidence from God almighty the precious gift of peace.

My thought goes out also to Chile and the populations affected by the earthquake, which caused numerous losses of human life and much damage. I pray for the victims and am spiritually near to the persons tried by so grave a calamity; for them I implore from God relief from suffering and courage in these adversities. I am certain that they will not lack the solidarity of many, especially of ecclesial organizations.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus prayer, especially the group of priests from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. On this Second Sunday of Lent the voice of our Heavenly Father instructs us to listen to Jesus, the beloved Son of God. May our Lenten journey continue to dispose our hearts to Christ and to his saving truth. Upon all of you I invoke Almighty God's abundant blessings of strength and peace!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pontiff's Address at End of Lenten Retreat
"Only in the 'We' of the Church Can We Truly Hear the Word"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2010 - Here is a translation of the words Benedict XVI spoke this Saturday to those present in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican at the conclusion of the Retreat preached by Salesian Father Enrico Dal Covolo to the Pope and the Roman curia.

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Dear Brothers,
Dear Father Enrico,

In the name of all of us present here I would like to say thank you with my whole heart to you, Father Enrico, for this retreat, for the impassioned and very personal way in which you guided our path toward Christ, on path of renewal of our priesthood.

You chose as your starting point, as an always present background, as destination -- we saw it just now -- Solomon's prayer for "a heart that hears." In truth, it seems to me that here the whole Christian vision of man is recapitulated. Man is not perfect in himself, man has need of relation -- he is a being in relation. It is not his "cogito" that can "cogitare" the whole of reality. He needs to listen, to listen to the other, above all the Other -- with a capital "O" -- who is God. Only in this way does he know himself, only in this way does he become himself.

From my place here I always saw the Mother of the Redeemer, the "Sedes Sapietiae," the living seat of wisdom, with Wisdom incarnate in her womb. And as we saw, St. Luke presents Mary precisely as a woman who listens from the heart, who is immersed in the Word of God, who listens to the Word, who meditates ("synballein") on it, composes and treasures it, who carries it in her heart. The Fathers of the Church say that in the moment of the conception of the eternal Word in the womb of the Virgin the Holy Spirit entered into Mary through her ear. In listening she conceived the eternal Word, she gave her flesh to this Word. And thus she tells what it means to have a heart that listens.

Mary is surrounded here by the fathers and the mothers of the Church, by the communion of saints. And so we see and we have understood during these days that we cannot truly hear the Word in the isolated "I" but only in the "we" of the Church, in the "we" of the communion of saints.

And you, dear Father Enrico, have shown us, have provided a voice for five exemplary figures of the priesthood, beginning with Ignatius of Antioch and continuing to the dear and venerable Pope John Paul II. Thus we have truly again perceived what it means to be a priest, to become priests more and more.

You have also stressed that consecration is for mission, it is destined to become mission. During these days we have penetrated our consecration more deeply with God's help. Thus, with new courage, we would like now to take up our mission. May the Lord help us. Thank you for your help, Father Enrico.


Pope's "Lectio Divina" to Roman Priests
"The Priest's Mission Is to Be a Mediator, a Bridge That Connects"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 24, 2010 - Here is the "lectio divina" delivered by Benedict XVI to the parish priests of Rome upon receiving them in audience at the Vatican on Feb. 18.

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Your Eminence,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

It is always a very joyful as well as an important tradition for me to be able to begin Lent with my Presbyterium, the Priests of Rome. Thus, as the local Church of Rome but also as the universal Church, we can start out on this essential journey with the Lord towards the Passion, towards the Cross, the Easter journey.

Let us meditate this year on the passages from the Letter to the Hebrews that have just been read. The Author of this Letter introduced a new way of understanding the Old Testament as a Book that speaks of Christ. The previous tradition had seen Christ above all, essentially, in the key of the Davidic promise, the promise of the true David, of the true Solomon, of the true King of Israel, the true King since he was both man and God.

And the inscription on the Cross truly proclaimed this reality to the world: now there is the true King of Israel, who is King of the world, the King of the Jews hangs on the Cross. It is a proclamation of the kingship of Jesus, of the fulfilment of the messianic expectation of the Old Testament which, at the bottom of their hearts, is shared by all men and women who await the true King who will bring justice, love and brotherhood.

However, the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews discovered a citation which until then had gone unnoticed: Psalm 110 [109]: 4 "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek". This means that not only does Jesus fulfil the Davidic promise, the expectation of the true King of Israel and of the world, but he also makes the promise of the real Priest come true. In a part of the Old Testament and especially in Qumran there are two separate lines of expectation: of the King and of the Priest. In discovering this verse, the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews realized that the two promises are united in Christ: Christ is the true King, the Son of God in accordance with Psalm 2: 7, from which he quotes but he is also the true Priest.

Thus the whole of the religious world, the whole reality of sacrifices, of the priesthood that is in search of the true priesthood, the true sacrifice, finds in Christ its key, its fulfilment. And with this key it can reinterpret the Old Testament and show precisely that also the religious law abolished after the destruction of the Temple was actually moving towards Christ. Hence it was not really abolished but renewed, transformed, so that in Christ all things might find their meaning. The priesthood thus appears in its purity and in its profound depth.

In this way the Letter to the Hebrews presents the theme of the priesthood of Christ, of Christ the priest, at three levels: the priesthood of Aaron, that of the Temple; Melchizedek; and Christ himself as the true priest.

Indeed, the priesthood of Aaron, in spite of being different from Christ's priesthood, in spite of being, so to speak, solely a quest, a journey in the direction of Christ, is nevertheless a "journey" towards Christ and in this priesthood the essential elements are already outlined. Then Melchizedek we shall return to this point who is a pagan.

The pagan world enters the Old Testament. It enters as a mysterious figure, without father or mother the Letter to the Hebrews says it simply appears, and in this figure can be seen the true veneration of the Most High God, of the Creator of the Heavens and of the earth. Thus the pagan world too experiences the expectation and profound prefiguration of Christ's mystery. In Christ himself everything is recapitulated, purified and led to its term, to its true essence.

Let us now look at the individual elements concerning the priesthood as best we can. We learn two things from the Law, from the priesthood of Aaron, the Author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: If he is truly to be a mediator between God and man, a priest must be man. This is fundamental and the Son of God was made man precisely in order to be a priest, to be able to fulfil the priest's mission.

He must be man: We shall come back to this point, but he is unable, on his own, to make himself a mediator for God. The priest needs divine authorization, institution, and only by belonging to both spheres the divine and the human can he be a mediator, can he be a "bridge".

This is the priest's mission: to combine, to link these two realities that appear to be so separate, that is, the world of God far from us, often unknown to the human being and our human world. The priest's mission is to be a mediator, a bridge that connects, and thereby to bring human beings to God, to his redemption, to his true light, to his true life.

As the first point, therefore, the priest must be on God's side. Only in Christ is this need, this prerequisite of mediation fully brought about. This Mystery was therefore necessary: the Son of God is made man so that he may be the true bridge for us, the true mediation. Others must have at least an authorization from God, or in the Church's case, the Sacrament, that is they must introduce our being into the being of Christ, into divine being.

Only with the Sacrament, this divine act that makes us priests in communion with Christ, can we accomplish our mission.

And this seems to me a first point for our meditation: the importance of the Sacrament. No one can become a priest by himself; God alone can attract me, can authorize me, can introduce me into participation in Christ's mystery; God alone can enter my life and take me by the hand.

This aspect of divine giving, of divine precedence, of divine action that we ourselves cannot bring about and our passivity being chosen and taken by the hand by God is a fundamental point we must enter into. We must always return to the Sacrament, to this gift in which God gives me what I will never be able to give; participation, communion with divine being, with the priesthood of Christ.

Let us also make this reality a practical factor in our life: if this is how it is, a priest must really be a man of God, he must know God intimately and know him in communion with Christ and so we must live this communion; and the celebration of Holy Mass, the prayer of the Breviary, all our personal prayers are elements of being with God, of being men of God. Our being, our life and our heart must be fixed in God, in this point from which we must not stir. This is achieved and reinforced day after day with short prayers in which we reconnect with God and become, increasingly, men of God who live in his communion and can thus speak of God and lead people to God.

The other element is that the priest must be man, human in all senses. That is, he must live true humanity, true humanism; he must be educated, have a human formation, human virtues; he must develop his intelligence, his will, his sentiments, his affections; he must be a true man, a man according to the will of the Creator, of the Redeemer, for we know that the human being is wounded and the question of "what man is" is obscured by the event of sin that hurt human nature even to the quick.

Thus people say: "he lied" "it is human"; "he stole" "it is human"; but this is not really being human. Human means being generous, being good, being a just person, it means true prudence and wisdom. Therefore emerging with Christ's help from this dark area in our nature so as to succeed in being truly human in the image of God is a lifelong process that must begin in our training for the priesthood. It must subsequently be achieved, however, and continue as long as we live. I think that basically these two things go hand in hand: being of God and with God and being true man, in the true sense meant by the Creator when he formed this creature that we are.

To be man: the Letter to the Hebrews stresses our humanity; we find this surprising for it says: "He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness" (5:2). And then even more forcefully "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear" (5:7).

For the Letter to the Hebrews, the essential element of our being human is being compassionate, suffering with others: this is true humanity. It is not sin because sin is never solidarity but always tears solidarity apart, it is living life for oneself instead of giving it.

True humanity is real participation in the suffering of human beings. It means being a compassionate person metriopathèin, the Greek text says that is, being at the core of human passion, really bearing with others the burden of their suffering, the temptation of our time: "God, where are you in this world?".

The humanity of the priest does not correspond to the Platonic or Aristotelian ideal which claims that the true man is the one who lives in contemplation of the truth alone and so is blessed happy because he only has friendship with beautiful things, with divine beauty, while "the work" is left to others.

This is a hypothesis; whereas here it is implied that the priest enter, like Christ, into human wretchedness, carry it with him, visit those who are suffering and look after them and, not only outwardly but also inwardly, take upon himself, recapitulate in himself the "passion" of his time, of his parish, of the people entrusted to his care.

This is how Christ showed his true humanity. Of course, his Heart was always fixed on God, he always saw God, he was always in intimate conversation with him. Yet at the same time he bore the whole being, the whole of human suffering entered the Passion.

In speaking, in seeing people who were lowly, who had no pastor, he suffered with them. Moreover, we priests cannot withdraw to an Elysium. Let us rather be immersed in the passion of this world and with Christ's help and in communion with him, we must seek to transform it, to bring it to God.

Precisely this should be said, with the following really stimulating text: "Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears" (Heb 5: 7). This is not only a reference to the hour of anguish on the Mount of Olives but sums up the whole history of the Passion that embraces Jesus' entire life. Tears: Jesus wept by the tomb of Lazarus, he was truly moved inwardly by the mystery of death, by the terror of death. People forgive the brother, as in this case, the mother and the son, the friend: all the dreadfulness of death that destroys love, that destroys relationships, that is a sign of our finiteness, our poverty. Jesus is put to the test and he confronts this mystery in the very depths of his soul in the sorrow that is death and weeps. He weeps before Jerusalem, seeing the destruction of the beautiful city because of disobedience; he weeps, seeing all the destruction of the world's history; he weeps, seeing that people destroy themselves and their cities with violence and with disobedience.

Jesus weeps with loud cries. We know from the Gospels that Jesus cried out from the Cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34; cf. Mt 27:46) and cried out once again at the end. And this cry responds to a fundamental dimension of the Psalm: in the terrible moments of human life many Psalms are a loud cry to God: "Help us, hear us!".

On this very day, in the Breviary, we prayed like this: God, where are you? "You have made us like sheep for slaughter" (Ps 44[43]: 11 [rsv]). A cry of suffering humanity! And Jesus, who is the true subject of the Psalms, truly bears this cry of humanity to God, to God's ears: "help us and hear us!". He transforms the whole of suffering humanity, taking it to himself in a cry to God to hear him.

Thus we see that in this very way he brings about the priesthood, the function of mediator, bearing in himself, taking on in himself the sufferings and passion of the world, transforming it into a cry to God, bringing it before the eyes and to the hands of God and thus truly bringing it to the moment of redemption.

In fact the Letter to the Hebrews says that "he offered up prayers and supplications", "loud cries and tears" (5: 7). It is a correct translation of the verb prosphèrein. This is a religious word and expresses the act of offering human gifts to God, it expresses precisely the act of offering, of sacrifice. Thus with these religious terms applied to the prayers and tears of Christ, it shows that Christ's tears, his anguish on the Mount of Olives, his cry on the Cross, all his suffering are nothing in comparison with his important mission. In this very way he makes his sacrifice, he becomes the priest. With this "offered", prosphèrein, the Letter to the Hebrews says to us: this is the fulfilment of his priesthood, thus he brings humanity to God, in this way he becomes mediator, he becomes priest.

We say, rightly, that Jesus did not offer God some thing. Rather, he offered himself and made this offering of himself with the very compassion that transforms the suffering of the world into prayer and into a cry to the Father. Nor, in this sense, is our own priesthood limited to the religious act of Holy Mass in which everything is placed in Christ's hands but all of our compassion to the suffering of this world so remote from God is a priestly act, it is prosphèrein, it is offering up. In this regard, in my opinion, we must understand and learn how to accept more profoundly the sufferings of pastoral life, because priestly action is exactly this, it is mediation, it is entering into the mystery of Christ, it is communication with the mystery of Christ, very real and essential, existential and then sacramental.

A second term in this context is important. It is said that by means of this obedience Christ is made perfect, in Greek teleiothèis (cf. Heb 5: 8-9). We know that throughout the Torah, that is, in all religious legislation, the word tèleion, used here, means priestly ordination. In other words the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that precisely by doing this Jesus was made a priest, and his priesthood was fulfilled. Our sacramental priestly ordination should be brought about and achieved existentially but also Christologically, and through precisely this, should bring the world with Christ and to Christ and, with Christ, to God: thus we really become priests, teleiothèis. Therefore the priest is not a thing for a few hours but is fulfilled precisely in pastoral life, in his sufferings and his weaknesses, in his sorrows and also in his joys, of course. In this way we increasingly become priests in communion with Christ.

Finally the Letter to the Hebrews sums up all this compassion in the word hypakoèn, obedience: it is all obedience. This is an unpopular word in our day. Obedience appears as an alienation, a servile attitude. One does not enjoy one's own freedom, one's freedom is subjected to another's will, hence one is no longer free but determined by another, whereas self-determination, emancipation, would be true human existence.

Instead of the word "obedience", as an anthropological keyword we would like the term "freedom". Yet, on considering this problem closely, we see that these two things go together: Christ's obedience is the conformity of his will with the will of the Father; it is bringing the human will to the divine will, to the conformation of our will with God's will.

In his interpretation of the Mount of Olives, of the anguish expressed precisely in Jesus' prayer, "not my will but your will", St Maximus Confessor described this process that Christ carries in himself as a true man, together with the human nature and will; in this act "not my will but your will" Jesus recapitulates the whole process of his life, of leading, that is, natural human life to divine life and thereby transforming the human being. It is the divinization of the human being, hence the redemption of the human being, because God's will is not a tyrannical will, is not a will outside our being but is the creative will itself; it is the very place where we find our true identity.

God created us and we are ourselves if we conform with his will; only in this way do we enter into the truth of our being and are not alienated. On the contrary, alienation occurs precisely by disregarding God's will, for in this way we stray from the plan for our existence; we are no longer ourselves and we fall into the void.

Indeed, obedience, namely, conformity to God, the truth of our being, is true freedom, because it is divinization. Jesus, in bearing the human being, being human in himself and with himself, in conformity with God, in perfect obedience, that is, in the perfect conformation between the two wills, has redeemed us and redemption is always this process of leading the human will to communion with the divine will.

It is a process for which we pray every day: "May your will be done" And let us really pray the Lord to help us see closely that this is freedom and thus enter joyfully into this obedience and into "taking hold of" human beings in order to bring them by our own example, by our humility, by our prayer, by our pastoral action into communion with God.

Continuing our reading, a sentence of difficult interpretation follows. The Author of the Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus prayed loudly, with cries and tears, to God who could save him from death and that in his total abandonment he is heard (cf. 5:7).

Here let us say: "No, it is not true, his prayer went unheard, he is dead". Jesus prayed to be released from death, but he was not released, he died a very cruel death.

Harnack, a liberal theologian, therefore wrote: "Here a not is missing", it must be written "He was not heard", and Bultmann accepted this interpretation. Yet this is a solution that is not an exegesis but rather a betrayal of the text. "Not" does not appear in any of the manuscripts but "he was heard"; so we must learn to understand what "being heard" means, in spite of the Cross.

I see three levels on which to understand these words. At a first level the Greek text may be translated as: "He was redeemed from his anguish", and in this sense Jesus is heard. This would therefore be a hint of what St Luke tells us: An angel strengthened him (cf. Lk 22: 43), in such a way that after the moment of anguish he was able to go, straight away and fearlessly towards his hour, as the Gospels describe it to us, especially that of John.

This would be being heard in the sense that God gives him the strength to bear the whole of this burden and so he was heard. Yet to me it seems that this answer is not quite enough.

Being heard, in the fullest sense Fr Vanhoye emphasized this would mean "he was redeemed from death", however not for the moment, for that moment, but for ever, in the Resurrection: God's true response to the prayer to be saved from death is the Resurrection and humanity is saved from death precisely in the Resurrection which is the true healing of our suffering and of the terrible mystery of death.

Already present here is a third level of understanding: Jesus' Resurrection is not only a personal event. I think it would be helpful to keep in mind the brief text in which St John, in chapter 12 of his Gospel, presents and recounts, in a very concise manner, the event on the Mount of Olives.

Jesus says: "Now is my soul troubled" (Jn 12: 27) and, in all the anguish of the Mount of Olives, what shall I say? "Father, save me from this hour... Father glorify your name" (cf. Jn 12: 27-28).

This is the same prayer that we find in the Synoptic Gospels: "all things are possible to you... your will be done (cf. Mt 26: 42; Mk 14: 36; Lk 22: 42) which in Johannine language appears: either as "save me" or "glorify" [your name]. And God answers: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again" (cf. Jn 12: 28). This is the response, it is God hearing him: I will glorify the Cross; it is the presence of divine glory because it is the supreme act of love. On the Cross Jesus is raised above all the earth and attracts the earth to him; on the Cross the "Kabod" now appears, the true divine glory of God who loves even to the Cross and thus transforms death and creates the Resurrection.

Jesus' prayer was heard in the sense that his death truly becomes life, it becomes the place where he redeems the human being, where he attracts the human being to himself.

If the divine response in John says: "I will glorify" you, it means that this glory transcends and passes through the whole of history over and over again: from your Cross, present in the Eucharist, it transforms death into glory. This is the great promise that is brought about in the Blessed Eucharist which ever anew opens the heavens. Being a servant of the Eucharist is, therefore, a depth of the priestly mystery.

Another brief word, at least about Melchizedek. He is a mysterious figure who enters Sacred History in Genesis 14. After Abraham's victory over several kings, Melchizedek, King of Salem, of Jerusalem, appears and brings out bread and wine.

This uncommented and somewhat incomprehensible event appears only in Psalm 110 [109] as has been said, but it is clear that Judaism, Gnosticism and Christianity then wished to reflect profoundly on these words and created their interpretations. The Letter to the Hebrews does not speculate but reports only what Scripture says and there are various elements: he is a king of righteousness, he dwells in peace, he is king where peace reigns, he venerates and worships the Most High God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, and he brings out bread and wine (cf. Heb 7: 1-3; Gn 14: 18-20).

It is not mentioned here that the High Priest of the Most High God, King of Peace, worships God, Creator of Heaven and earth with bread and wine.

The Fathers stressed that he is one of the holy pagans of the Old Testament and this shows that even from paganism there is a path that leads to Christ. The criteria are: worshipping God Most High, the Creator, fostering righteousness and peace and venerating God in a pure way. Thus, with these fundamental elements, paganism too is on its way to Christ, and in a certain way, makes Christ's light present.

In the Roman canon after consecration we have the prayer supra quae that mentions certain prefigurations of Christ, his priesthood and his sacrifice: Abel, the first martyr, with his lamb; Abraham, whose intention is to sacrifice his son Isaac, replaced by the lamb sent by God; and Melchizedek, High Priest of God Most High who brings out bread and wine.

This means that Christ is the absolute newness of God and at the same time is present in the whole of history, through history, and history goes to encounter Christ. And not only the history of the Chosen People, which is the true preparation desired by God, in which is revealed the mystery of Christ, but also in paganism the mystery of Christ is prepared, paths lead from it toward Christ who carries all things within him.

This seems to me important in the celebration of the Eucharist: here is gathered together all human prayer, all human desire, all true human devotion, the true search for God that is fulfilled at last in Christ. Lastly. it should be said that the Heavens are now open, worship is no longer enigmatic, in relative signs, but true. For Heaven is open and people do not offer some thing, rather, the human being becomes one with God and this is true worship.

This is what the Letter to the Hebrews says: "Our priest... is seated at the right hand of the throne... in the sanctuary, the true tent which is set up... by the Lord" (cf. 8: 1-2).

Let us return to the point that Melchizedek is King of Salem. The whole Davidic tradition refers to this, saying: "Here is the place, Jerusalem is the place of the true worship, the concentration of worship in Jerusalem dates back to the times of Abraham, Jerusalem is the true place for the proper veneration of God".

Let us take another step: the true Jerusalem, God's Salem, is the Body of Christ, the Eucharist is God's peace with humankind. We know that in his Prologue, St John calls the humanity of Jesus the tent of God, eskènosen en hemìn (cf. Jn 1: 14). It was here that God himself pitched his tent in the world, and this tent, this new, true Jerusalem is at the same time on earth and in Heaven because this Sacrament, this sacrifice, is ceaselessly brought about among us and always arrives at the throne of Grace, at God's presence.

Here is the true Jerusalem, at the same time heavenly and earthly, the tent which is the Body of God, which as a risen Body always remains a Body and embraces humanity. And, at the same time, since it is a risen Body, it unites us with God.

All this is constantly brought about anew in the Eucharist. We, as priests, are called to be ministers of this great Mystery, in the Sacrament and in life. Let us pray the Lord that he grant us to understand this Mystery ever better, that he make us live this mystery ever better and thus to offer our help so that the world may be opened to God, so that the world may be redeemed. Thank you.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On the New Adam's Obedience
"The World Improves Beginning With Ourselves"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Last Wednesday, with the penitential rite of the ashes, we began Lent, a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for the annual celebration of Easter. But what does it mean to enter into the Lenten journey?

The Gospel of this First Sunday of Lent illustrates it, with the account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. The evangelist St. Luke tells us that Jesus, after having received baptism from John, “full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2). It is evident that there is an insistence on the fact that the temptations were no accident but the consequence of Jesus’ choice to carry out the mission entrusted to him by the Father, to embrace completely his reality as beloved Son, who hands himself over entirely to the Father. Christ came into the world to free us from sin and the dangerous fascination of planning our lives without God. He did it not with high-sounding proclamations, but by personally struggling against the Tempter, right to the cross. This is an example for all: The world improves beginning with ourselves, changing what is not right in our lives with the grace of God.

Of the three temptations that Satan proposes to Jesus, the first has to do with hunger, that is, material need: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answers with sacred Scripture: “One does not live on bread alone” (Luke 4:3-4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3).

Then the devil shows all the kingdoms of the earth to Jesus and says: All this will be yours, if you will fall down and worship me. It is the deception of power, and Jesus unmasks this temptation and rejects it: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Luke 4:5-8; Deuteronomy 6:13). Power is not to be worshiped but God alone, truth and love.

Finally, the Tempter proposes that Jesus perform a spectacular miracle: He should throw himself from the high walls of the Temple and make the angels save him so that everyone would believe in him. But Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test (cf. Deuteronomy 6:16). We must never try an experiment in which God is supposed to respond and show himself to be God: we must believe in him! We must not make God “material” for our “experiment”! Referring again to sacred Scripture, Jesus opposes to human criterion the only authentic criterion: obedience, conformity with God’s will, which is the foundation of our being. This too is a basic teaching for us: If we carry the Word of God in our heart and in our mind, if it enters into our lives, if we have confidence in God, we can reject any sort of deception of the Tempter. Moreover, from the whole story there clearly emerges the image of Christ as the new Adam, Son of God, humble and obedient to the Father, unlike Adam and Eve, who in the Garden of Eden gave in to the seductions of the spirit of evil to become immortal without God.

Lent is a long “retreat,” during which we return to ourselves and listen to God’s voice to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and find the truth of our being. It is a time, we could say, of spiritual “contest” to live together with Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the weapons of faith, that is, prayer, listening to God’s Word and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our baptism. May the Virgin Mary help us so that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we live this time of grace with joy and fruit. May she especially intercede for me and my co-workers in the Roman Curia since this evening we will begin our retreat.

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

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the boys and girls of the London Oratory Junior Choir. In today’s Gospel the Church invites us to contemplate Christ’s victory over temptation and to imitate his complete obedience to the Father’s will. May the Lenten season which we have now begun draw us closer to the Lord in prayer and prepare us to celebrate worthily his victory over sin and death at Easter. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Address to Roman Seminarians
"Prayer ... Becomes a Process of Purification of Our Thoughts"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 19, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 12 upon visiting the Roman Major Seminary on the feast of Our Lady of Trust.

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Your Eminence,
Your Excellencies,
Dear Friends,

Every year it is a great joy to me to be with the seminarians of the Diocese of Rome, young men who are preparing themselves to respond to the Lord's call to be labourers in his vineyard and priests of his mystery. This is the joy of seeing that the Church lives, that the Church's future is also present in our region and, precisely, also in Rome.

In this Year for Priests let us be particularly attentive to the Lord's words about our service. The Gospel Passage that has just been read speaks indirectly but profoundly of our sacrament, of our call to be in the Lord's vineyard, to be servants of his mystery.

In this brief passage we find certain key words that give an idea of the proclamation that the Lord wishes to make with this text. "Abide": in this short passage we find the word "abide" ten times. We then find the new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" , "No longer do I call you servants... but friends", "bear fruit"; and lastly, "Ask, and it will be given you... that your joy may be full".

Let us pray to the Lord that he may help us enter into the meaning of his words, that these words may penetrate our hearts, thus becoming in us the way and life, with us and through us.

The first words are: "Abide in me... in my love". Abiding in the Lord is fundamental as the first topic of this passage. Abide: where? In love, in the love of Christ, in being loved and in loving the Lord. The whole of chapter 15 explains where we are to abide, because the first eight verses explain and present the Parable of the Vine: "I am the vine, you are the branches". The vine is an Old Testament image that we find in both the Prophets and the Psalms and it has a double meaning: It is a parable for the People of God which is his vineyard. He planted a vine in this world, he tended this vine, he tended his vineyard, he protected his vineyard and what was his intention? It was of course to produce fruit, to harvest the precious gift of grapes, of good wine.

And thus the second meaning appears: Wine is a symbol, the expression of the joy of love. The Lord created his people to find the answer to his love. This image of the vine, of the vineyard thus has a spousal meaning, it is an expression of the fact that God seeks his creature's love, through his Chosen People he wants to enter into a relationship of love, a spousal relationship with the world.

Then, however, history proved to be a history of infidelity: Instead of precious grapes, only small "inedible fruits" are produced. The response of this great love is not forthcoming, this unity, this unconditional union between man and God in the communion of love does not come about, man withdraws into himself, he wants to keep himself to himself, he wants to have God for himself, he wants the world for himself. Consequently the vineyard is devastated, the boar from the forest and all the enemies arrive and the vineyard becomes a wilderness.

But God does not give up. God finds a new way of reaching a free, irrevocable love, the fruit of this love, the true grape: God becomes man, and thus he himself becomes the root of the vine, he himself becomes the vine and so the vine becomes indestructible. This people of God cannot be destroyed for God himself has entered it, he has put down roots in this land. The new People of God is truly founded in God himself who becomes man and thus calls us to be the new vine in him and to abide in him, to dwell in him.

Let us also bear in mind that in chapter 6 of John's Gospel we find the Discourse of the Bread that becomes the great Discourse on the Eucharistic mystery. In this chapter 15 we have the Discourse on the Vine: the Lord does not speak explicitly of the Eucharist. Naturally, however, behind the mystery of the wine is the reality that he has made himself fruit and wine for us, that his Blood is the fruit of the love born from the earth for ever and, in the Eucharist, this Blood becomes our blood, we are renewed, we receive a new identity because Christ's Blood becomes our blood. Thus we are related to God in the Son and, in the Eucharist, this great reality of life in which we are branches joined to the Son and thereby in union with eternal love becomes our reality.

"Abide": Abide in this great mystery, abide in this new gift of the Lord that has made us a people in itself, in his Body and with his Blood. It seems to me that we must meditate deeply on this mystery, that is, that God makes himself Body, one with us; Blood, one with us; that we may abide abide in this mystery in communion with God himself, in this great history of love that is the history of true happiness. In meditating on this gift God made himself one of us and at the same time he made us all one, a single vine we must also begin to pray so that this mystery may penetrate our minds and hearts ever more deeply and that we may be ever more capable of living the greatness of the mystery and thus begin to put this imperative: "abide" into practice.

If we continue to read this Gospel passage attentively, we also find a second imperative: "abide", and "observe my commandments".

"Observe" only comes second. "Abide" comes first, at the ontological level, namely that we are united with him, he has given himself to us beforehand and has already given us his love, the fruit. It is not we who must produce the abundant fruit; Christianity is not moralism, it is not we who must do all that God expects of the world but we must first of all enter this ontological mystery: God gives himself. His being, his loving, precedes our action and, in the context of his Body, in the context of being in him, being identified with him and ennobled with his Blood, we too can act with Christ.

Ethics are a consequence of being: first the Lord gives us new life, this is the great gift. Being precedes action and from this being action then follows, as an organic reality, for we can also be what we are in our activity. Let us thus thank the Lord for he has removed us from pure moralism; we cannot obey a prescribed law but must only act in accordance with our new identity. Therefore it is no longer obedience, an external thing, but rather the fulfilment of the gift of new life.

I say it once again: Let us thank the Lord because he goes before us, he gives us what we must give, and we must then be, in the truth and by virtue of our new being, protagonists of his reality. Abiding and observing: Observing is the sign of abiding and abiding is the gift that he gives us but which must be renewed every day of our lives.

Next comes this new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you". There is no greater love than this, "that a man lay down his life for his friends". What does this mean? Here too it is not a question of moralism. Some might say: "It is not a new commandment; the commandment to love one's neighbour as oneself already exists in the Old Testament".

Others say: "This love should be even more radicalized; this love of others must imitate Christ who gave himself for us; it must be a heroic love, to the point of the gift of self".

In this case, however, Christianity would be a heroic moralism. It is true that we must reach the point of this radicalism of love which Christ showed to us and gave for us, but here too the true newness is not what we do, the true newness is what he did: The Lord gave us himself, and the Lord gave us the true newness of being members of his Body, of being branches of the vine that he is. Therefore, the newness is the gift, the great gift, and from the gift, from the newness of the gift, also follows, as I have said, the new action.

St. Thomas Aquinas says this very succinctly when he writes: "The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Summa Theologiae, i-iiae, q.106 a. 1). The New Law is not another commandment more difficult than the others: The New Law is a gift, the New Law is the presence of the Holy Spirit imparted to us in the sacrament of Baptism, in Confirmation, and given to us every day in the Most Blessed Eucharist. The Fathers distinguished here between "sacramentum" and "exemplum". "Sacramentum" is the gift of the new being, and this gift also becomes an example for our action, but "sacramentum" precedes it and we live by the sacrament. Here we see the centrality of the sacrament which is the centrality of the gift.

Let us proceed in our reflection. The Lord says: "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".

No longer servants who obey orders, but friends who know, who are united in the same will, in the same love. Hence the newness is that God has made himself known, that God has shown himself, that God is no longer the unknown God, sought but not found or only perceived from afar. God has shown himself: In the Face of Christ we see God, God has made himself "known", and has thereby made us his friends.

Let us think how, in humanity's history, in all the archaic religions, it is known that there is a God. This knowledge is deeply rooted in the human heart, the knowledge that God is one, that deities are not "the" God. Yet this God remains very distant, he does not seem to make himself known, he does not make himself loved, he is not a friend, but is remote. Religions, therefore, were not very concerned with this God, concrete life was concerned with the spirits that we meet every day and with which we must reckon daily. God remained distant.

Then we see the great philosophical movement: Let us think of Plato and Aristotle who began to understand that this God is the agathon, goodness itself, that he is the eros that moves the world; yet this remains a human thought, it is an idea of God that comes close to the truth but it is an idea of ours and God remains the hidden God.

A Regensburg professor recently wrote to me, a professor of physics who had read my Discourse to the University very late. He wrote to tell me that he could not agree, or not fully, with my logic. He said:

"Of course, the idea is convincing that the rational structure of the world demands a creative reason that made this rationality which is not explained by itself". And he continued: "But if a demiurge can exist", this is how he put it, "a demiurge seems to me certain by what you say, I do not see that there is a God who is good, just and merciful. I can see that there is a reason that precedes the rationality of the cosmos, but I cannot see the rest".

Thus God remains hidden to him. It is a reason that precedes our reasoning, our rationality, the rationality of being, but eternal love does not exist, the great mercy that gives us life does not exist.

And here, in Christ, God showed himself in his total truth, he showed that he is reason and love, that eternal reason is love and thus creates. Unfortunately, today too, many people live far from Christ, they do not know his face and thus the eternal temptation of dualism, which is also hidden in this professor's letter, is constantly renewed, in other words perhaps there is not only one good principle but also a bad principle, a principle of evil; perhaps the world is divided and there are two equally strong realities and the Good God is only part of the reality. Today, even in theology, including Catholic theology, this thesis is being disseminated: That God is not almighty. Thus an apology is sought for God who would not, therefore, be responsible for the great store of evil we encounter in the world. But what a feeble apology! A God who is not almighty! Evil is not in his hands! And how could we possibly entrust ourselves to this God? How could we be certain of his love if this love ended where the power of evil began?

However, God is no longer unknown: In the Face of the Crucified Christ we see God and we see true omnipotence, not the myth of omnipotence. For us human beings, almightiness, power, is always identified with the capacity to destroy, to do evil. Nevertheless the true concept of omnipotence that appears in Christ is precisely the opposite: In him true omnipotence is loving to the point that God can suffer: Here his true omnipotence is revealed, which can even go as far as a love that suffers for us. And thus we see that he is the true God and the true God, who is love, is power: the power of love. And we can trust ourselves to his almighty love and live in this, with this almighty love.

I think we should always meditate anew on this reality, that we should thank God because he has shown himself, because we know his Face, we know him face to face; no longer like Moses who could only see the back of the Lord.

This too is a beautiful idea of which St. Gregory of Nyssa said: "Seeing only his back, means that we must always follow Christ". But at the same time God showed us his Countenance with Christ, his Face. The curtain of the temple was torn. It opened, the mystery of God is visible. The first commandment that excludes images of God because they might only diminish his reality is changed, renewed, taking another form. Today we can see God's Face in Christ the man, we can have an image of Christ and thus see who God is.

I think that those who have understood this, who have been touched by this mystery, that God has revealed himself, that the curtain of the temple has been torn asunder, that he has shown his Face, find a source of permanent joy. We can only say "thank you. Yes, now we know who you are, who God is and how to respond to him".

And I think that this joy of knowing God who has shown himself, to the depths of his being, also embraces the joy of communicating this: those who have understood this, who live touched by this reality, must do as the first disciples did when they went to their friends and brethren saying: "We have found the one of whom the Prophets spoke. He is present now".

Mission is not an external appendix to the faith but rather the dynamism of faith itself. Those who have seen, who have encountered Jesus, must go to their friends and tell them: "We have found him, he is Jesus, the One who was Crucified for us".

Then, continuing, the text says: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide". With this we return to the beginning, to the image, to the Parable of the Vine: it is created to bear fruit. And what is the fruit? As we have said, the fruit is love. In the Old Testament, with the Torah as the first stage of God's revelation of himself, the fruit was understood as justice, that is, living in accordance with the Word of God, living in accordance with God's will, hence, living well.

This continues but at the same time is transcended: True justice does not consist in obedience to a few norms, rather it is love, creative love that finds in itself the riches and abundance of good.

Abundance is one of the key words of the New Testament. God himself always gives in abundance. In order to create man, he creates this abundance of an immense cosmos; to redeem man he gives himself, in the Eucharist he gives himself.

And anyone who is united with Christ, who is a branch of the Vine and who abides by this law does not ask: "Can I still do this or not?", "Should I do this or not?". Rather, he lives in the enthusiasm of love that does not ask: "Is this still necessary or is it forbidden?", but simply, in the creativity of love, wants to live with Christ and for Christ and give his whole self to him, thus entering into the joy of bearing fruit.

Let us also bear in mind that the Lord says: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go": This is the dynamism that dwells in Christ's love; to go, in other words not to remain alone for me, to see my perfection, to guarantee eternal beatification for me, but rather to forget myself, to go as Christ went, to go as God went from the immensity of his majesty to our poverty, to find fruit, to help us, to give us the possibility of bearing the true fruit of love. The fuller we are of this joy in having discovered God's Face, the more real will the enthusiasm of love in us be and it will bear fruit.

And finally, we come to the last words in this passage: "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you": a brief catechesis on prayer that never ceases to surprise us. Twice in this chapter 15 the Lord says: "Ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you", and he says it once more in chapter 16.

And we want to say: "But no, Lord it is not true". There are so many good and deeply-felt prayers of mothers who pray for a dying child which are not heard, so many prayers that something good will happen and the Lord does not grant it. What does this promise mean? In chapter 16 the Lord offers us the key to understanding it: He tells us what he gives us, what all this is, chara, joy. If someone has found joy he has found all things and sees all things in the light of divine love. Like St. Francis, who wrote the great poem on creation in a bleak situation, yet even there, close to the suffering Lord, he rediscovered the beauty of being, the goodness of God and composed this great poem.

It is also useful to remember at the same time some verses of Luke's Gospel, in which the Lord, in a parable, speaks of prayer, saying, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" .

The Holy Spirit, in the Gospel according to Luke, is joy, in John's Gospel he is the same reality: joy is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is joy or, in other words from God we do not ask something small or great, from God we invoke the divine gift, God himself; this is the great gift that God gives us: God himself.

In this regard we must learn to pray, to pray for the great reality, for the divine reality, so that God may give us himself, may give us his Spirit and thus we may respond to the demands of life and help others in their suffering. Of course he teaches us the "Our Father". We can pray for many things. In all our needs we can pray: "Help me!". This is very human and God is human, as we have seen; therefore it is right to pray God also for the small things of our daily lives.

However, at the same time, prayer is a journey, I would say flight of stairs: We must learn more and more what it is that we can pray for and what we cannot pray for because it is an expression of our selfishness.

I cannot pray for things that are harmful for others, I cannot pray for things that help my egoism, my pride. Thus prayer, in God's eyes, becomes a process of purification of our thoughts, of our desires.

As the Lord says in the Parable of the Vine: We must be pruned, purified, every day; living with Christ, in Christ, abiding in Christ, is a process of purification and it is only in this process of slow purification, of liberation from ourselves and from the desire to have only ourselves, that the true journey of life lies and the path of joy unfolds.

As I have already said, all the Lord's words have a sacramental background. The fundamental background for the Parable of the Vine is Baptism: We are implanted in Christ; and the Eucharist: We are one loaf, one body, one blood, one life with Christ. Thus this process of purification also has a sacramental background: The sacrament of Penance, of Reconciliation, in which we accept this divine pedagogy which day by day, throughout our life, purifies us and increasingly makes us true members of his Body. In this way we can learn that God responds to our prayers, that he often responds with his goodness also to small prayers, but often too he corrects them, transforms them and guides them so that we may at last and really be branches of his Son, of the true vine, members of his Body.

Let us thank God for the greatness of his love, let us pray that he may help us to grow in his love and truly to abide in his love.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Ash Wednesday Homily
"Lent Lengthens Our Horizon, It Orients Us to Eternal Life"

ROME, FEB. 18, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily delivered Wednesday by Benedict XVI during the celebration of the Mass of Imposition of Ashes in the Basilica of St. Sabina on the Aventine Hill.

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"You love all creatures, Lord,
And do not loath anything you have made;
You forget the sins of those who convert and forgive them,
Because you are the Lord our God" (Entrance Antiphon)

Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With this moving invocation, taken from the Book of Wisdom (cf 11:23-26), the liturgy introduces the Eucharistic celebration of Ash Wednesday. They are words that, in some way, open the whole Lenten journey, placing as their foundation the omnipotence of the love of God, his absolute lordship over every creature, which is translated in infinite indulgence, animated by a constant and universal will to live. In fact, to forgive someone is equivalent to saying: I do not want you to die, but that you live; I always and only want your good.

This absolute certainty sustained Jesus during the 40 days transpired in the desert of Judea, after the baptism received from John in the Jordan. This long time of silence and fasting was for him a complete abandonment to the Father and to his plan of love; it was a "baptism," that is, an "immersion" in his will, and in this sense, an anticipation of the Passion and the Cross. To go into the desert and to stay there a long time, alone, meant to be willingly exposed to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who made Adam fall and through whose envy death entered the world (cf Wisdom 2:24); it meant engaging in open battle with him, defying him with no other weapons than limitless confidence in the omnipotent love of the Father. Your love suffices me, my food is to do your will (cf John 4:34): This conviction dwelt in the mind and heart of Jesus during that "Lent" of his. It was not an act of pride, a titanic enterprise, but a decision of humility, consistent with the Incarnation and the Baptism in the Jordan, in the same line of obedience to the merciful love of the Father, who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (John 3:16).

The Lord did all this for us. He did it to save us and, at the same time, to show us the way to follow him. Salvation, in fact, is a gift, it is God's grace, but to have effect in my existence it requires my consent, an acceptance demonstrated in deeds, that is, in the will to live like Jesus, to walk after him. To follow Jesus in the Lenten desert is, hence, the condition necessary to participate in his Easter, in his "exodus." Adam was expelled from the earthly Paradise, symbol of communion with God; now, to return to that communion and, therefore, to true life, it is necessary to traverse the desert, the test of faith. Not alone, but with Jesus! He -- as always -- has preceded us and has already conquered in the battle against the spirit of evil. This is the meaning of Lent, liturgical time that every year invites us to renew the choice to follow Christ on the path of humility to participate in his victory over sin and death.

Understood in this perspective also is the penitential sign of the ashes, which are imposed on the head of those who begin with good will the Lenten journey. It is essentially a gesture of humility, which means: I recognize myself for what I am, a frail creature, made of earth and destined to the earth, but also made in the image of God and destined to him. Dust, yes, but loved, molded by love, animated by his vital breath, capable of recognizing his voice and of responding to him; free and, because of this, also capable of disobeying him, yielding to the temptation of pride and self-sufficiency. This is sin, the mortal sickness that soon entered to contaminate the blessed earth that is the human being. Created in the image of the Holy and Righteous One, man lost his own innocence and he can now return to be righteous only thanks to the righteousness of God, the righteousness of love that -- as St. Paul writes -- was manifested "through faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:22). From these words of the Apostle I took my inspiration for my Message, addressed to all the faithful on the occasion of this Lent: a reflection on the theme of righteousness in the light of the Sacred Scriptures and of its fulfillment in Christ.

Also very present in the biblical readings of Ash Wednesday is the theme of righteousness. First of all, the page of the prophet Joel and the Responsorial Psalm -- the Miserere -- form a penitential diptych, which manifests how at the origin of all material and social injustice is what the Bible calls "iniquity," that is, sin, which consists essentially in a disobedience to God, namely, a lack of love. "For I know my transgressions, / and my sin is ever before me. / Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, / and done that which is evil in thy sight" (Psalm 51 (50): 3-4). The first act of righteousness, therefore, is to recognize one's own iniquity, it is to recognize that it is rooted in the "heart," in the very center of the human person. "Fasting," "weeping", "mourning" (cf. Joel 2:12) and every penitential expression has value in the eyes of God only if it is the sign of truly repentant hearts. Also the Gospel, taken from the "Sermon on the Mount," insists on the need to practice proper "righteousness" -- almsgiving, prayer and fasting -- not before men but only in the eyes of God, who "sees in secret" (cf Matthew 6:1-6.16-18). The true "recompense" is not others' admiration, but friendship with God and the grace that derives from it, a grace that gives strength to do good, to love also the one who does not deserve it, to forgive those who have offended us.

The second reading, Paul's appeal to allow ourselves to be reconciled with God (cf 2 Corinthians 5:20), contains one of the famous Pauline paradoxes, which redirects the whole reflection on righteousness to the mystery of Christ. St. Paul writes: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). In the heart of Christ, that is, in the center of his divine-human Person, the whole drama of liberty was at stake in decisive and definitive terms. God took to the extreme consequences his own plan of salvation, remaining faithful to his love even at the cost of giving his Only-begotten Son to death, and to death on a cross. As I wrote in the Lenten Message, "here divine righteousness is revealed, profoundly different from the human. [...] Thanks to Christ's action, we can enter the 'greatest' righteousness, which is that of love (cf Romans 13:8-10)."

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent lengthens our horizon, it orients us to eternal life. On this earth we are on pilgrimage, "[f]or here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come," says the Letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:14). Lent makes us understand the relativity of the goods of this earth and thus makes us capable of the necessary self-denials, free to do good. Let us open the earth to the light of heaven, to the presence of God in our midst. Amen.


On the Lenten Season
Man "Is Precious Dust in God's Eyes"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten journey: a journey that extends over 40 days and that leads us to the joy of the Lord's Easter. We are not alone in this spiritual itinerary, because the Church accompanies and sustains us from the start with the Word of God, which encloses a program of spiritual life and penitential commitment, and with the grace of the sacraments.

The words of the Apostle Paul offer us a precise instruction: "Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: 'In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.' Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). In fact, in the Christian vision of life every moment must be called favorable and every day must be called the day of salvation. But the liturgy of the Church refers these words in a very particular way to the time of Lent. And that the 40 days of preparation for Easter be a favorable time and grace we can understand precisely in the call that the austere rite of the imposition of ashes addresses to us and which is expressed, in the liturgy, with two formulae: "Repent and believe in the Gospel," and "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return."

The first call is to conversion, a word that must be taken in its extraordinary seriousness, discovering the amazing novelty it contains. The call to conversion, in fact, uncovers and denounces the easy superficiality that very often characterizes our way of living. To be converted means to change direction along the way of life -- not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction. Conversion is to go against the current, where the "current" is a superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and illusory, which often draws us, controls us and makes us slaves of evil, or in any case prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, one aims to the lofty measure of Christian life; we are entrusted to the living and personal Gospel, which is Christ Jesus. His person is the final goal and the profound meaning of conversion; he is the way which we are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be illumined by his light and sustained by his strength that moves our steps. In this way conversion manifests its most splendid and fascinating face: It is not a simple moral decision to rectify our conduct of life, but it is a decision of faith, which involves us wholly in profound communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus.

To be converted and to believe in the Gospel are not two different things or in some way closely related, but rather, they express the same reality. Conversion is the total "yes" of the one who gives his own existence to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ, who first offered himself to man as Way, Truth and Life, as the one who frees and saves him. This is precisely the meaning of the first words with which, according to the Evangelist Mark, Jesus began the preaching of the "Gospel of God." "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).

"Repent and believe in the Gospel" is not only at the beginning of the Christian life, but accompanies all its steps, [this call] remains, renewing itself, and spreads, branching out in all its expressions. Every day is a favorable moment of grace, because each day invites us to give ourselves to Jesus, to have confidence in him, to remain in him, to share his style of life, to learn from him true love, to follow him in daily fulfilling of the will of the Father, the only great law of life -- every day, even when difficulties and toil, exhaustion and falls are not lacking, even when we are tempted to abandon the following of Christ and to shut ourselves in ourselves, in our egoism, without realizing the need we have to open to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love.

In the recent Message for Lent, I wished to remind that "humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from 'what is mine,' to give me gratuitously 'what is his.' This happens especially in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the 'greatest' justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognizes itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected" (L'Osservatore Romano, Feb. 5, 2010, p. 8).

The favorable moment and grace of Lent shows us the very spiritual meaning also through the old formula: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," which the priest pronounces when he places ashes on our head. We are thus remitted to the beginning of human history, when the Lord said to Adam after the original fault: "By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).

Here, the Word of God reminds us of our frailty, including our death, which is the extreme expression of our frailty. In face of the innate fear of the end, and even more so in the context of a culture that in so many ways tends to censure the reality and the human experience of dying, the Lenten liturgy on one hand reminds us of death, inviting us to realism and to wisdom but, on the other hand, it drives us above all to accept and live the unexpected novelty that the Christian faith liberates us from the reality of death itself.

Man is dust and to dust he shall return, but he is precious dust in God's eyes, because God created man for immortality. Thus the liturgical formula "Remember man that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return" finds the fullness of its meaning in reference to the new Adam, Christ. The Lord Jesus also wished to freely share with every man the lot of frailty, in particular through his death on the cross; but precisely this death, full of his love for the Father and for humanity, has been the way for the glorious resurrection, through which Christ has become the source of a grace given to those who believe in him and are made participants of divine life itself. This life which will have no end is already present in the earthly phase of our existence, but will be led to fulfillment after the "resurrection of the flesh." The little gesture of the imposition of ashes reveals to us the singular richness of its meaning: It is an invitation to live the time of Lent as a more conscious and more intense immersion in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in his death and resurrection, through participation in the Eucharist and in the life of charity, which stems from the Eucharist and in which it finds its fulfillment. With the imposition of ashes we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, to allow ourselves to be transformed by his Paschal Mystery, to overcome evil and do good, to have the "old man" in us die, the one linked to sin, and to have the "new man" be born, transformed by the grace of God.

Dear friends! While we hasten to undertake the austere Lenten journey, we want to invoke with particular confidence the protection and help of the Virgin Mary. May she, the first believer in Christ, be the one who accompanies us in these 40 days of intense prayer and sincere penance, to be able to celebrate, purified and completely renewed in mind and spirit, the great mystery of her Son's Easter.

Good Lent to all!

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Church's Lenten journey towards Easter. Lent reminds us, as Saint Paul exhorts, "not to accept the grace of God in vain" (cf. 2 Cor: 6-1), but to recognize that today the Lord calls us to penance and spiritual renewal. This call to conversion is expressed in the two formulae used in the rite of the imposition of ashes. The first formula -- "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel " -- echoes Jesus's words at the beginning of his public ministry (cf. Mk 1:15). It reminds us that conversion is meant to be a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways in order to enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness and fulfillment. The second, older formula -- "Remember, man, that you are dust and to dust you shall return" -- recalls the poverty and death which are the legacy of Adam's sin, while pointing us to the resurrection, the new life and the freedom brought by Christ, the Second Adam. This Lent, through the practice of prayer and penance, and an ever more fruitful reception of the Church's sacraments, may we make our way to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of this special season.

I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Ireland and the United States. My special greeting goes to the members of the Movement Pro Sanctitate from Lithuania, led by Bishop Antons Justs. I also greet the many school and university students, including those from Bishop Hendrickson High School in Rhode Island, and I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all of you I invoke God's blessings of joy and peace!

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pontiff's Message for Vocation Prayer Day
Theme for 2010: "Witness Awakens Vocations"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 16, 2010 - Here is Benedict XVI's message for the 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on Good Shepherd Sunday, which falls on April 25 this year. The message was signed by the Pope on Nov. 13, and released today by the Vatican press office.

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

The 47th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, to be celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Easter -- Good Shepherd Sunday -- 25 April 2010, gives me the opportunity to offer for your meditation a theme which is most fitting for this Year for Priests: Witness Awakens Vocations. The fruitfulness of our efforts to promote vocations depends primarily on God's free action, yet, as pastoral experience confirms, it is also helped by the quality and depth of the personal and communal witness of those who have already answered the Lord's call to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life, for their witness is then able to awaken in others a desire to respond generously to Christ's call. This theme is thus closely linked to the life and mission of priests and of consecrated persons. Hence I wish to invite all those whom the Lord has called to work in his vineyard to renew their faithful response, particularly in this Year for Priests which I proclaimed on the 150th anniversary of the death of Saint John Mary Vianney, the Curé of Ars, an ever-timely model of a priest and a pastor.

In the Old Testament the prophets knew that they were called to witness by their own lives to the message they proclaimed, and were prepared to face misunderstanding, rejection and persecution. The task which God entrusted to them engaged them fully, like a "burning fire" in the heart, a fire that could not be contained (cf. Jer 20:9). As a result, they were prepared to hand over to the Lord not only their voice, but their whole existence. In the fullness of time, Jesus, sent by the Father (cf. Jn 5:36), would bear witness to the love of God for all human beings, without distinction, with particular attention to the least ones, sinners, the outcast and the poor. Jesus is the supreme Witness to God and to his concern for the salvation of all. At the dawn of the new age, John the Baptist, by devoting his whole life to preparing the way for Christ, bore witness that the promises of God are fulfilled in the Son of Mary of Nazareth. When John saw Jesus coming to the river Jordan where he was baptizing, he pointed him out to his disciples as "the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). His testimony was so effective that two of his disciples, "hearing him say this, followed Jesus" (Jn 1:37).

Similarly the calling of Peter, as we read in the Evangelist John, occurred through the witness of his brother Andrew, who, after meeting the Master and accepting his invitation to stay with him, felt the need to share immediately with Peter what he discovered by "staying" with the Lord: "We have found the Messiah (which means Christ). He then brought him to Jesus" (Jn 1:41-42). This was also the case for Nathanael, Bartholomew, thanks to the witness of yet another disciple, Philip, who joyfully told him of his great discovery: "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (Jn 1:45). God's free and gracious initiative encounters and challenges the human responsibility of all those who accept his invitation to become, through their own witness, the instruments of his divine call. This occurs in the Church even today: the Lord makes use of the witness of priests who are faithful to their mission in order to awaken new priestly and religious vocations for the service of the People of God. For this reason, I would like to mention three aspects of the life of a priest which I consider essential for an effective priestly witness.

A fundamental element, one which can be seen in every vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life, is friendship with Christ. Jesus lived in constant union with the Father and this is what made the disciples eager to have the same experience; from him they learned to live in communion and unceasing dialogue with God. If the priest is a "man of God", one who belongs to God and helps others to know and love him, he cannot fail to cultivate a deep intimacy with God, abiding in his love and making space to hear his Word. Prayer is the first form of witness which awakens vocations. Like the Apostle Andrew, who tells his brother that he has come to know the Master, so too anyone who wants to be a disciple and witness of Christ must have "seen" him personally, come to know him, and learned to love him and to abide with him.

Another aspect of the consecration belonging to the priesthood and the religious life is the complete gift of oneself to God. The Apostle John writes: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and therefore we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 Jn 3:16). With these words, he invites the disciples to enter into the very mind of Jesus who in his entire life did the will of the Father, even to the ultimate gift of himself on the Cross. Here, the mercy of God is shown in all its fullness; a merciful love that has overcome the darkness of evil, sin and death. The figure of Jesus who at the Last Supper, rises from the table, lays aside his garments, takes a towel, girds himself with it and stoops to wash the feet of the Apostles, expresses the sense of service and gift manifested in his entire existence, in obedience to the will of the Father (cf. Jn 13:3-15). In following Jesus, everyone called to a life of special consecration must do his utmost to testify that he has given himself completely to God. This is the source of his ability to give himself in turn to those whom Providence entrusts to him in his pastoral ministry with complete, constant and faithful devotion, and with the joy of becoming a companion on the journey to so many brothers and sisters, enabling them too to become open to meeting Christ, so that his Word may become a light to their footsteps. The story of every vocation is almost always intertwined with the testimony of a priest who joyfully lives the gift of himself to his brothers and sisters for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This is because the presence and words of a priest have the ability to raise questions and to lead even to definitive decisions (cf. John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, 39).

A third aspect which necessarily characterizes the priest and the consecrated person is a life of communion. Jesus showed that the mark of those who wish to be his disciples is profound communion in love: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (Jn 13:35). In a particular way the priest must be a man of communion, open to all, capable of gathering into one the pilgrim flock which the goodness of the Lord has entrusted to him, helping to overcome divisions, to heal rifts, to settle conflicts and misunderstandings, and to forgive offences. In July 2005, speaking to the clergy of Aosta, I noted that if young people see priests who appear distant and sad, they will hardly feel encouraged to follow their example. They will remain hesitant if they are led to think that this is the life of a priest. Instead, they need to see the example of a communion of life which can reveal to them the beauty of being a priest. Only then will a young man say, "Yes, this could be my future; I can live like this" (Insegnamenti I, [2005], 354). The Second Vatican Council, in speaking of the witness that awakens vocations, emphasizes the example of charity and of fraternal cooperation which priests must offer (cf. Decree Optatam Totius, 2).

Here I would like to recall the words of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II: "The very life of priests, their unconditional dedication to God's flock, their witness of loving service to the Lord and to his Church – a witness marked by free acceptance of the Cross in the spirit of hope and Easter joy – their fraternal unity and zeal for the evangelization of the world are the first and most convincing factor in the growth of vocations" (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 41). It can be said that priestly vocations are born of contact with priests, as a sort of precious legacy handed down by word, example and a whole way of life.

The same can be said with regard to the consecrated life. The very life of men and women religious proclaims the love of Christ whenever they follow him in complete fidelity to the Gospel and joyfully make their own its criteria for judgement and conduct. They become "signs of contradiction" for the world, whose thinking is often inspired by materialism, self-centredness and individualism. By letting themselves be won over by God through self-renunciation, their fidelity and the power of their witness constantly awaken in the hearts of many young people the desire to follow Christ in their turn, in a way that is generous and complete. To imitate Christ, chaste, poor and obedient, and to identify with him: this is the ideal of the consecrated life, a witness to the absolute primacy of God in human life and history.

Every priest, every consecrated person, faithful to his or her vocation, radiates the joy of serving Christ and draws all Christians to respond to the universal call to holiness. Consequently, in order to foster vocations to the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life, and to be more effective in promoting the discernment of vocations, we cannot do without the example of those who have already said "yes" to God and to his plan for the life of each individual. Personal witness, in the form of concrete existential choices, will encourage young people for their part to make demanding decisions affecting their future. Those who would assist them need to have the skills for encounter and dialogue which are capable of enlightening and accompanying them, above all through the example of life lived as a vocation. This was what the holy Curé of Ars did: always in close contact with his parishioners, he taught them "primarily by the witness of his life. It was from his example that the faithful learned to pray" (Letter Proclaiming the Year for Priests, 16 June 2009).

May this World Day once again offer many young people a precious opportunity to reflect on their own vocation and to be faithful to it in simplicity, trust and complete openness. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, watch over each tiny seed of a vocation in the hearts of those whom the Lord calls to follow him more closely, may she help it to grow into a mature tree, bearing much good fruit for the Church and for all humanity. With this prayer, to all of you I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 13 November 2009



Angelus: On the Beatitudes and Divine Justice
"This Is the Task That the Lord's Disciples Are Called to Undertake"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2010 - 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.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgical year is a great journey of faith, which the Church undertakes, always proceeded by the Virgin Mother Mary. In the Sundays of Ordinary Time this year the readings from the Gospel of Luke trace out this itinerary. Today's reading from this Gospel accompanies us "in a level stretch of land" (Luke 6:17), where Jesus pauses with the 12 and where a crowd of the other disciples and people from every part gather to listen to him. It is in this context that the proclamation of the "beatitudes" takes place (Luke 6:20-26; cf. Matthew 5:1-12). Jesus, looking upon his disciples, says: "Blessed are you poor... Blessed are you who hunger now... Blessed are you who weep now... Blessed shall you be when men hate you ... and reject your name" for my sake. Why does he call them blessed? Why will the justice of God see to it that they will be satisfied, joyous, compensated for every false accusation, in a word, why will it welcome them into his kingdom? The beatitudes are based on the existence of a divine justice, which raises up those who have been wrongly humiliated and casts down those who have been exalted (cf. Luke 14:11). In fact, the evangelist Luke, after the four blessings adds four admonishments: "Woe to you rich... Woe to you who are filled... Woe to you who laugh now..." and "Woe to you when all men speak well of you...," because, as Jesus states, things will be reversed, the last will be first, and the first last (cf. 13:30).

This justice and this beatitude are realized in the "Kingdom of Heaven," or the "Kingdom of God," which will be fulfilled at the end of time but is already present in history. Where the poor are consoled and admitted to the banquet of life, there God's justice is manifested. This is the task that the Lord's disciples are called to undertake even now in the present society. I think of the hostel of "Caritas" of Rome at the Termini Station that I visited this morning: From my heart I encourage those who work in such worthy institutions and those, in every part of the world, who freely engage in similar works of justice and love.

Justice is the theme that I have chosen for this year's Message for Lent, which will begin on Wednesday -- the day that we call Ash Wednesday. Today I would like to offer it to everyone, inviting all to read it and meditate on it. The Gospel of Christ responds positively to the thirst for justice in man, but in an unexpected and surprising way. Jesus does not propose a revolution of a social or political type, but one of love, which he has already realized with his cross and his resurrection. On these are founded the beatitudes, which propose a new horizon of justice, initiated by Easter, by which we can become just and build a better world.

Dear friends, let us turn to the Virgin Mary. All generations proclaim her "blessed," because she believed in the good news that the Lord announced (cf. Luke 1:45, 48). Let us allow ourselves to be led by her through the journey of Lent, to be liberated from the illusion of self-sufficiency, recognize that we need God, his mercy, and in this way enter into his Kingdom of justice, of love and of peace.

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

Today in various countries in Asia -- I think of China and Vietnam, for example -- and in many communities scattered throughout the world, the Lunar New Year is celebrated. These are festive days that these people celebrate as privileged occasions to re-solidify family and generational bonds. I hope that all will maintain and foster growth of the rich heredity of the spiritual and moral values that are solidly rooted in the culture of these peoples.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, the Pontiff said:]

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In today's Gospel Jesus heals the sick, proclaims the Beatitudes and invites us to open our hearts to God's Kingdom. May you and your families be truly "blessed" with the spiritual freedom and peace which the Lord promises to all who imitate his poverty and trust in his promises!

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address at Caritas Shelter
"Man Does Not Only Need to Be Fed Materially"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today while visiting the Don Luigi di Liegro shelter run by Caritas in Rome.

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Dear Friends,

I welcomed with joy the invitation to visit this hostel called "Don Luigi Di Liegro," who was the first director of the diocesan "Caritas" of Rome, which was launched over 30 years ago. From my heart I thank the Vicar Cardinal Agostino Vallini and the administrator delegate of the State Railways, Engineer Mauro Moretti, for the words that they kindly addressed to me. With particular affection I express my gratitude to all of you who frequent this hostel and who through the voice of Mrs. Giovanna Cataldo wanted to offer me a warm greeting, accompanied by the precious gift of the Crucifix of Onna, a luminous sign of hope. I greet Monsignor Giuseppe Merisi, presidente of Italian "Caritas," Auxiliary Bishop Monsignor Guerino Di Tora, and the director of "Caritas" of Rome, Monsignor Enrico Feroci. I am happy to greet the government officials present, especially the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Honorable Altero Matteoli, whom I thank for his words, the mayor of Rome, Honorable Gianni Alemanno, whom I thank for the active and constant help offered by the Municipality of Rome to the undertakings of the hostel. I greet the volunteers and all those present. Thanks for your welcome!

Some 23 years have already passed since this structure -- made possible with the cooperation of the State Railways, that generously made the location available, and the economic support of the Municipality of Rome -- began to welcome its first guests. Over the course of the years, along with a place of rest for those who had nowhere to sleep, further services were offered such as the health care clinic and meals, and other donors joined the first ones: ENEL, The Rome Foundation, Eng. Agostini Maggini, The Telecom Foundation and the Ministry for Cultural Goods, who have testified to the power of love to build up. In this way the hostel has become a place where, thanks to the service of many workers and volunteers, Jesus' words are actualized: "I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me" (Matthew 25:35-36).

Dear brothers and friends who have found welcome here, know that the Church loves you deeply and will not abandon you, because it recognizes in the countenance of each of you that of Christ. He wanted to identify himself in a very special way with those who find themselves in poverty and indigence. The witness of charity, which in this place finds particular realization, belongs to the mission of the Church together with the proclamation of the Gospel. Man does not only need to be fed materially or helped to overcome moments of difficulty, but also has the necessity of knowing who he is and knowing the truth about himself, about his dignity. As I recalled in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," "without truth, charity becomes sentimentalism. Love becomes an empty shell, to be arbitrarily refilled" (no. 3).

The Church, with its service on behalf of the poor, is therefore charged to proclaim to all the truth about man, who is loved by God, created in his image, redeemed by Christ and called to eternal communion with him. Many people have thus wanted to rediscover, and are rediscovering, their dignity, sometimes lost in tragic events, and recover confidence in themselves and hope in the future. Through deeds, examples and words of those who lend their service here, numerous men and women are able to feel in a tangible way that their lives are protected by the Love that is God, and because of this they have a meaning and an importance (cf. "Spe Salvi," no. 35). This profound certainty generates in man's heart a powerful, solid, luminous hope, a hope that gives one the courage to continue on the journey of life despite the failures, difficulties and trials that accompany it. Dear brothers and sisters who work in this place, have before your eyes and your heart Jesus' example, who for love became our servant and loved us "to the end" (cf. John 13:1), to the cross. So, be joyous witnesses of the infinite charity of God and, imitating the example of the deacon St. Lawrence, consider these friends of yours a treasure more precious than your life.

My visit is taking place during the "European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion," established by the European Parliament and the European Commission. Coming to this place as Bishop of Rome, the Church, who from the beginning of Christianity presides in charity (cf. St. Ignatius of Antioch, "Letter to the Romans," 1, 1), I would like to encourage not only Catholics, but every man of good will, especially those who have responsibility in public administration and the different institutions, to commit themselves to the building of a future worthy of man, rediscovering in charity the propulsive force for an authentic development and for the realization of a more just and fraternal society (cf. "Caritas in Veritate," no. 1). Charity, in fact "is not only the principle of micro-relations: relationships of friendship, family, small groups, but also macro-relations: social, economic and political relations" (ibid., no. 2). To promote a peaceful coexistence that helps men to recognize themselves as members of a single human family it is important that the dimensions of gift and gratuity be rediscovered as constitutive elements of daily living and interpersonal relations. All of that becomes day after day ever more urgent in a world in which the logic of profit and pursuit of one's own interests seem to prevail instead.

The hostel of "Caritas" constitutes, for the Church of Rome, a precious occasion for education in the values of the Gospel. The experience of volunteering that many are sharing in here is, especially for young people, an authentic school in which one learns to be a builder of the civilization of love, capable of welcoming the other in his uniqueness and difference. In this way the hostel concretely manifests that the Christian community, through its own organizations and without the truth that it proclaims being diminished, usefully collaborates with civil institutions to promote the common good. I trust that the fruitful synergy realized here extends also to other realities of our city, especially in the areas where the consequences of the economic crisis are most felt and the dangers of social exclusion are greatest. In its service to persons in difficulty the Church is wholly moved by the desire to express her faith in that God who is the defender of the poor and who loves every man for what he is and not for that which he possesses or does. The Church lives in history with the awareness that the anxieties and needs of men, of the poor above all and all those who suffer, are also among the disciples of Christ (cf. Vatican II, "Gaudium et Spes," no. 1) and for this reason, in respect to the responsibilities of the state, it takes care that every human being be guaranteed what he is owed.

Dear brothers and sisters, for Rome the hostel of the diocesan "Caritas" is a place where love is not only a word or a sentiment, but a concrete reality, which allows God's light to enter into the life of men and the whole civil community. This light helps us to look to tomorrow with hope, certain that in the future too our city will remain faithful to the value of welcome that is so deeply rooted in the history and in the heart of its citizens. May the Virgin Mary, "Salus popoli romani," accompany you always with her maternal intercession and help each of you to make this place a house where there flourish the same virtues present in the holy house of Nazareth. With these sentiments, I offer from my heart the apostolic blessing, extending it to those who are dear to you and all those who live in this place and give themselves here with generosity.


Papal Address to Pontifical Academy for Life
"God Loves Every Human Being in a Unique and Profound Way"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in an audience with members of the Pontifical Academy for Life who gathered in Rome for a general assembly on the topic of bioethics and natural law.

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Dear brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Illustrious members of the "Pontificia Academia Pro Vita,"

Kind Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am glad to cordially welcome and greet you on the occasion of the general assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called to reflect on themes pertaining to the relationship between bioethics and the natural moral law, which appear evermore relevant in the present context because of the continual development in the scientific sphere. I address a special greeting to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of this academy, thanking him for the courteous words that he wanted to address to me in the name of those present. I would also like to extend my personal thanks to each of you for the precious and irreplaceable work that you do on behalf of life in various contexts.

The issues that revolve around the theme of bioethics allow us to confirm how much these underlying questions in the first place pose the "anthropological question." As I state in my last encyclical letter, "Caritas in Veritate:" "A particularly crucial battleground in today's cultural struggle between the absolutism of technology and human moral responsibility is the field of bioethics, where the very possibility of integral human development is radically called into question. In this most delicate and critical area, the fundamental question asserts itself force-fully: is man the product of his own labors or does he depend on God? Scientific discoveries in this field and the possibilities of technological intervention seem so advanced as to force a choice between two types of reasoning: reason open to transcendence or reason closed within immanence" (no. 74).

Before such questions, which touch in such a decisive manner human life in its perennial tension between immanence and transcendence, and which have great relevance for the culture of future generations, it is necessary to create a holistic pedagogical project that permits us to confront these issues in a positive, balanced and constructive vision, above all in the relationship between faith and reason. The questions of bioethics often place the reminder of the dignity of the person in the foreground. This dignity is a fundamental principle that the faith in Jesus Christ crucified and risen has always defended, above all when it is ignored in regard to the humblest and most vulnerable persons: God loves every human being in a unique and profound way. Bioethics, like every discipline, needs a reminder able to guarantee a consistent understanding of ethical questions that, inevitably, emerge before possible interpretive conflicts. In such a space a normative recall to the natural moral law presents itself. The recognition of human dignity, in fact, as an inalienable right first finds its basis in that law not written by human hand but inscribed by God the Creator in the heart of man. Every juridical order is called to recognize this right as inviolable and every single person must respect and promote it (cf. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," nos. 1954-1960).

Without the foundational principle of human dignity it would be difficult to find a source for the rights of the person and the impossible to arrive at an ethical judgment if the face of the conquests of science that intervene directly in human life. It is thus necessary to repeat with firmness that an understanding of human dignity does not depend on scientific progress, the gradual formation of human life or facile pietism before exceptional situations. When respect for the dignity of the person is invoked it is fundamental that it be complete, total and with no strings attached, except for those of understanding oneself to be before a human life. Of course, there is development in human life and the horizon of the investigation of science and bioethics is open, but it must be reaffirmed that when it is a matter of areas relating to the human being, scientists can never think that what they have is only inanimate matter capable of manipulation in their hands. Indeed, from the very first moment, the life of man is characterized as "human life" and therefore always a bearer -- everywhere and despite everything -- of its own dignity (cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Instruction 'Dignitas Personae' on Certain Bioethical Questions," no. 5). Without this understanding, we would always be in danger of an instrumental use of science with the inevitable consequence of easily ceding to the arbitrary, to discrimination and to the strongest economic interest.

Joining bioethics and natural moral law permits the best confirmation of the necessary and unavoidable reminder of the dignity that human life intrinsically possesses from its first instant to its natural end. But in the contemporary context, while a just reminder about the rights that guarantee dignity to the person is emerging with ever greater insistence, one notes that such rights are not always recognized in the natural development of human life and in the stages of its greatest fragility. A similar contradiction makes evident the task to be assumed in different spheres of society and culture to ensure that human life always be seen as the inalienable subject of rights and never as an object subjugated to the will of the strongest.

History has shown us how dangerous and deleterious a state can be that proceeds to legislate on questions that touch the person and society while pretending itself to be the source and principle of ethics. Without universal principles that permit a common denominator for the whole of humanity the danger of a relativistic drift at the legislative level is not at all something should be underestimated (cf. "Catechism of the Catholic Church," no. 1959). The natural moral law, strong in its universal character, allows us to avert such a danger and above all offers to the legislator the guarantee for an authentic respect of both the person and the entire created order. It is the catalyzing source of consensus among persons of different cultures and religions and allows them to transcend their differences since it affirms the existence of an order impressed in nature by the Creator and recognized as an instance of true rational ethical judgment to pursue good and avoid evil. The natural moral law "belongs to the great heritage of human wisdom. Revelation, with its light, has contributed to further purifying and developing it" (John Paul II, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, February 6, 2004).

Illustrious members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, in the present context your task appears more and more delicate and difficult, but the growing sensitivity in regard to human life is an encouragement to continue, with ever greater spirit and courage, in this important service to life and the education of future generations in the evangelical values. I hope that all of you will continue to study and research so that the work of promoting and defending life be ever more effective and fruitful. I accompany you with the apostolic blessing, which I gladly extend to those who share this daily task with you.


Papal Address to Bishops of Romania, Moldova
"God Does Not Cease to Call Men and Women to His Service"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to the bishops of Romania and Moldova in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Venerated brothers in the episcopate,

It is a source of great joy to me to meet with you in the course of the ad limina visit, to listen to you and to reflect together on the journey of the People of God entrusted to you. I greet each one of you affectionately and I thank Archbishop Ioan Robu, in particular, for the cordial words he addressed to me on your behalf. A special thought goes to His Beatitude Lucian Muresan, archbishop major of the Romanian Greek-Catholic Church. You are pastors of communities of different rites, who put the riches of your own long tradition at the service of communion, for the good of all. In you I greet the Christian communities of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova, sorely tested in the past, and pay tribute to those bishops and innumerable priests, men and women religious and faithful who, in the time of persecution, showed indomitable attachment to Christ and his Church, and kept their faith intact.

To you, dear brothers in the episcopate, I wish to express my gratitude for your generous commitment at the service of the rebirth and development of the Catholic community in your countries, and exhort you to continue being zealous pastors of Christ's flock, in belonging to the one Church and in respect of the different ritual traditions. To keep and transmit the patrimony of faith is a task of the whole Church, but particularly of bishops (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 25). The field of your ministry is vast and exacting; in fact, it is about proposing to the faithful an itinerary of mature and responsible Christian faith, especially through the teaching of religion, catechesis -- also for adults -- and the preparation of the sacraments. In this realm it is appropriate to promote a greater knowledge of sacred Scripture, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the documents of the magisterium, in particular, of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and of papal encyclicals. It is a difficult program, which requires the joint elaboration of pastoral plans geared to the bonum animarum of all Catholics of the different rites and ethnic groups. This calls for witnessing unity, sincere dialogue and active collaboration, not forgetting that unity is primarily the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22), who guides the Church.

In this Year for Priests, I exhort you to be always authentic fathers of your presbyters, the first and precious collaborators in the Lord's vineyard (cf. "Christus Dominus," 16.28); there is with them first of all a sacramental bond, which makes them uniquely participants in the pastoral mission entrusted to the bishops. Be determined in preserving communion among yourselves and with them in a climate of affection, care and respectful and fraternal dialogue; be interested in their spiritual and material conditions, in their theological and pastoral actualization. There is no lack of religious institutes in your dioceses committed to pastoral care. It will be your special care to give them due attention and provide them with every possible help so that their presence is increasingly significant and the consecrated can carry out their apostolate according to their charism and in full communion with the local Church.

God does not cease to call men and women to his service: We should be grateful to the Lord for this, intensifying prayer so that he will continue to send laborers to his harvest (cf. Matthew 9:37). A primary task of the bishops is to promote vocational pastoral care and the human, spiritual and intellectual formation of candidates to the priesthood in the seminaries and in the rest of the formative institutes (cf. "Optatam Totius," 2.4), guaranteeing them the possibility of acquiring a profound spirituality and a rigorous philosophical/theological and pastoral preparation, also through the careful selection of educators and docents. Similar care must be given to the formation of members of institutes of consecrated life, in particular, women's institutes.

The flowering of priestly and religious vocations depends to a large extent on the moral and religious health of Christian families. Unfortunately, not few in our time are the snares placed before the institution of the family in a secularized and disoriented society. The Catholic families of your countries, which during the time of trial gave witness, at times at a high price, of the fidelity of the Gospel, are not immune to the plague of abortion, corruption, alcoholism and drugs, or to birth control through methods contrary to the dignity of the human person. To combat these challenges, it is necessary to promote parish consultors who ensure adequate preparation for conjugal and family life in addition to organizing better youth ministry. Necessary above all is a determined commitment to foster the presence of Christian values in society, developing centers of formation where young people can learn authentic values embellished by the cultural genius of your countries, to be able to witness them in the environments where they live. The Church wants to give her determined contribution to the construction of a reconciled and solidary society, able to address the process of present-day secularization. The transformation of the industrial and agricultural system, the economic crisis, emigration abroad, have not favored the preservation of traditional values which, because of this, must be proposed and reinforced again.

In this context, of particular importance is the witness of fraternity between Catholics and Orthodox: It prevails over divisions and disagreements and opens hearts to reconciliation. I am aware of the difficulties that Catholic communities must face in this realm; I hope that adequate solutions can be found, in that spirit of justice and charity that must animate relations between brothers in Christ. In May of 2009, you recalled the 10th anniversary of the historic visit that the Venerable Pope John Paul II made to Romania. On that occasion, Divine Providence offered the Successor of Peter the possibility of undertaking an apostolic journey to a nation of Orthodox majority, where for centuries a significant Catholic community has been present. May the desire for unity aroused by that visit nourish prayer and the commitment to dialogue in charity and truth and to promote joint initiatives. A particularly important realm of collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics today has to do with the defense of Europe's Christian roots and of Christian values, and with common witness on subjects such as the family, bioethics, human rights, honesty in public life and ecology. Undivided determination on these arguments will offer an important contribution to the moral and civil growth of society. A constructive dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics will not fail to be leaven of unity and concord not only for your countries, but also for the whole of Europe.

At the end of our meeting, my thoughts go out to your communities. Take to the priests, the men and women religious, to all the faithful of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova my greetings and encouragement, assuring them of my affection and prayer. While I invoke the intercession of the Mother of God and of the saints of your lands, I impart from the heart my blessing to you and to all the members of the People of God entrusted to your pastoral solicitude.


Papal Homily for Day of the Sick
"God, in Fact, Wishes to Heal the Whole Man"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered during a Mass celebrated today at St. Peter's Basilica. Today, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, is the 18th World Day of the Sick and the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

The relics of St. Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes, were present at the Mass.

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Lord Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospels, in the synthetic descriptions of the brief but intense public life of Jesus, attest that he proclaimed the Word and healed the sick, sign par excellence of the closeness of the Kingdom of God. For example, Matthew writes: "And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Matthew 4:23; cf 9:35). The Church, which has been entrusted with the task of prolonging the mission of Christ in space and time, cannot neglect these two essential works: evangelization and care of the sick in body and spirit. God, in fact, wishes to heal the whole man, and in the Gospel the healing of the body is a sign of a more profound healing, which is the remission of sins (cf Mark 2:1-12).

Hence, it is not surprising that Mary, Mother and model of the Church, is invoked and venerated as "salus infirmorum," "health of the sick." As first and perfect disciple of her Son, she has always shown, accompanying the journey of the Church, special solicitude for the suffering. Testimony of this is given by the thousands of people who go to Marian shrines to invoke the Mother of Christ, and find strength and relief. The Gospel narrative of the Visitation (cf. Luke 1:39-56) shows us how the Virgin, after the evangelical announcement, did not keep to herself the gift received, but left immediately to go to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who for six months had been carrying John in her womb. In the support given by Mary to this relative who was, at an advanced age, living a delicate situation such as pregnancy, we see prefigured the whole action of the Church in support of life in need of care.

The Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, instituted 25 years ago by the Venerable John Paul II, is undoubtedly a privileged expression of this solicitude. My thought goes with gratitude to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, first president of the dicastery and ever impassioned leader in this realm of ecclesial activity; as also to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, who until a few months ago gave continuity and growth to this service. With heartfelt cordiality I address to the present president, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who has assumed this significant and important legacy, my greetings, which I extend to all the officials and staff who in this quarter of a century have collaborated laudably in this office of the Holy See. In addition, I wish to greet the associations and organizations that take care of the organization of the Day of the Sick, in particular UNITALSI and the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.

The most affectionate welcome goes naturally to you, dear sick people. Thank you for coming and above all for your prayer, enriched with the offer of your toil and sufferings. And my greeting goes also to the sick and volunteers joining us today from Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa and from other Marian shrines, and to all those following us on radio and television, especially from clinics or from their homes. May the Lord God, who constantly watches over his children, give everyone relief and consolation.

Today's Liturgy of the Word presents two main themes: the first is of a Marian character, and it unites the Gospel and the first reading, taken from the last chapter of the Book of Isaiah, as well as the Responsorial Psalm, taken from Judith's canticle of praise. The other theme, which we find in the passage of the Letter of James, is of the prayer of the Church for the sick and, in particular, of the sacrament reserved for them. In the memorial of the apparitions of Lourdes, a place chosen by Mary to manifest her maternal solicitude for the sick, the liturgy appropriately makes the Magnificat resonate, the canticle of the Virgin who exalts the wonders of God in the history of salvation: the humble and the indigent, as all those who fear God, experience his mercy, [he] who reverses earthly fortunes and thus demonstrates the holiness of the Creator and Redeemer. The Magnificat is not the canticle of those on whom fortune smiles, who always "prosper"; rather it is the thanksgiving of those who know the tragedies of life, but trust the redeeming work of God. It is a song that expresses the tested faith of generations of men and women who have placed their hope in God and have committed themselves personally, like Mary, to being of help to brothers in need. In the Magnificat we hear the voice of so many men and women saints of charity, I am thinking in particular of those who consumed their lives among the sick and suffering, such as Camillus of Lellis and John of God, Damien de Veuster and Benito Menni. Whoever spends a long time near persons who suffer, knows anguish and tears, but also the miracle of joy, fruit of love.

The maternity of the Church is a reflection of the solicitous love of God, of which the prophet Isaiah speaks: "As one whom his mother comforts, / so I will comfort you; / you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 66:13). A maternity that speaks without words, which arouses consolation in hearts, a joy that paradoxically coexists with pain, with suffering. Like Mary, the Church bears within herself the tragedies of man, and the consolation of God, she keeps them together, in the course of her pilgrimage in history. Across the centuries, the Church shows the signs of the love of God, who continues to do great things in humble and simple people. Suffering that is accepted and offered, a sharing that is sincere and free, are these not, perhaps, miracles of love? The courage to face evils unarmed -- as Judith -- with the sole strength of faith and of hope in the Lord, is this not a miracle that the grace of God arouses continually in so many persons who spend time and energy helping those who suffer? For all this we live a joy that does not forget suffering, on the contrary, it includes it. In this way the sick and all the suffering are in the Church not only recipients of attention and care, but first and above all, protagonists of the pilgrimage of faith and hope, witnesses of the prodigies of love, of the paschal joy that flowers from the cross and the resurrection of Christ.

In the passage of the Letter of James, just proclaimed, the Apostle invites awaiting with constancy the already close coming of the Lord and, in this context, addresses a particular exhortation to the sick. This context is very interesting, because it reflects the action of Jesus, who curing the sick showed the closeness of the Kingdom of God. Sickness is seen in the perspective of the end times, with the realism of hope that is typically Christian. "Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise" (James 5:13). We seem to hear similar words in St. Paul, when he invites to live everything in relation to the radical news of Christ, his death and resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31). "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:14-15). Evident here is the prolongation of Christ in his Church; he is always the one who acts through the presbyters; it is his same Spirit that operates through the sacramental sign of the oil; it is to him that faith is directed, expressed in prayer; and, as happened with the persons cured by Jesus, one can say to each sick person: Your faith, supported by the faith of brothers and sisters, has saved you.

From this text, which contains the foundation and practice of the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, is extracted at the same time a vision of the role of the sick in the Church: An active role as it "provokes," so to speak, prayer made with faith. "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church." In this Year for Priests, I wish to stress the bond between the sick and priests, a sort of alliance, of evangelical "complicity." Both have a task: The sick person must "call" the presbyters, and they must respond, to bring upon the experience of sickness the presence and action of the Risen One and of his Spirit. And here we can see all the importance of the pastoral care of the sick, the value of which is truly incalculable, because of the immense good it does in the first place to the sick person and to the priest himself, but also to relatives, to friends, to the community and, through hidden and unknown ways, to the whole Church and to the world. In fact, when the Word of God speaks of healing, of salvation, of the health of the sick, it understands these concepts in an integral sense, never separating soul and body: A sick person cured by Christ's prayer, through the Church, is a joy on earth and in heaven, a first fruit of eternal life.

Dear friends, as I wrote in the encyclical "Spe Salvi," "The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer" (No. 38). By instituting a dicastery dedicated to health care ministry, the Church also wished to make her own contribution to promote a world capable of receiving and looking after the sick as persons. In fact, she has wished to help them to live the experience of sickness in a human way, without denying it, but giving it a meaning.

I would like to end these reflections with a thought of the Venerable Pope John Paul II, to which he gave witness with his own life. In the apostolic letter "Salvifici Doloris," he wrote: "At one and the same time Christ has taught man to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer."

May the Virgin Mary help us to live this mission fully. Amen!


Benedict XVI's Address to Pontifical Academies
"Be Vital and Lively Institutions, Able to Grasp the Questions of Society"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2010 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Jan. 28 upon receiving in audience members of the Pontifical Academies who were participating in their 14th annual public session.

The institutions represented included the Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Theological Academy, the Academy of Mary Immaculate, the International Marian Academy, the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature "dei Virtuosi al Pantheon," the Roman Academy of Archaeology and the "Cultorum Martyrum" Academy.

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Dear Cardinals,
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Presidents and Academicians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to welcome you and meet with you on the occasion of the Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, the culminating moment of their multiple activities during the year.

I greet Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Coordinating Council of the Pontifical Academies, and I thank him for the kind words he has addressed to me.

I extend my greetings to the Presidents of the Pontifical Academies, to the Academicians and to the Associates present. Today's Public Session, during which the Pontifical Academies' Prize was awarded in my name, touches a theme which, in the context of the Year for Priests, takes on particular significance: The theological formation of the priest.

Today, the memorial of St Thomas Aquinas, great Doctor of the Church, I wish to offer you various reflections on the goal and specific mission of the meritorious cultural institutions of the Holy See that you are part of, and which can claim a varied and rich tradition of research and engagement in different sectors.

In fact, the years 2009-2010, for some of them, are marked by specific anniversaries which constitute yet another reason to give thanks to the Lord. In particular, the Pontifical Roman Academy of Archeology marks its foundation two centuries ago, in 1810, and its promotion to a Pontifical Academy in 1829. The Pontifical Academy of St Thomas Aquinas and the Pontifical Academy Cultorum Martyrum have celebrated their 130th anniversary, both having been established in 1879. The International Pontifical Marian Academy has celebrated its 50th year since it was made into a Pontifical Academy. Finally, the Pontifical Academies of St Thomas Aquinas and of theology marked the 10th anniversary of their institutional renewal which took place in 1999 with the Motu Proprio Inter munera Academiarum, which bears the date of 28 January.

So many occasions, then, to revisit the past, through the attentive reading of the thought and action of the Founders and all those who gave of their best for the progress of these institutions. But a retrospective look at the memory of a glorious past cannot be the only approach to these events, which recall above all the task and the responsibility of the Pontifical Academies to serve the Church and the Holy See faithfully, updating their rich and diverse commitment which has already produced so many precious results, even in the recent past.

In fact, contemporary culture and believers even more continually requires the reflection and action of the Church in the various fields where new problems are emerging, and which also constitute the very sectors in which you work, such as philosophical and theological research; reflection on the figure of the Virgin Mary; the study of history, monuments, of the testimony received as a legacy from the faithful of the first Christian generations, beginning with the Martyrs; the delicate and important dialogue between the Christian faith and artistic creativity, to which I dedicated the meeting with representatives of the world of art and culture in the Sistine Chapel last 21 November.

In these delicate areas of research and commitment, you are called to offer a qualified contribution that is competent and impassioned, so that the whole Church, and particularly the Holy See, can avail themselves of the opportunities, different languages and appropriate means to dialogue with contemporary culture, and respond effectively to the questions and challenges that arise in the various fields of knowledge and human experience.

As I have stated several times, today's culture is strongly influenced both by a vision dominated by relativism and subjectivism, as well as by methods and attitudes that are often superficial and even banal, to the detriment of serious research and reflection, and consequently, of dialogue, confrontation and interpersonal communications.

Therefore, it seems urgent and necessary to recreate the essential conditions for a real capacity for in depth study and research, in order that we can dialogue reasonably and effectively confront each other on various problems, in the perspective of common growth and a formation that promotes the human being in his wholeness and completeness.

The lack of ideal and moral reference points, which particularly penalizes civil coexistence, and above all, the formation of the younger generations, should be met with an ideal and practical proposal of values and truth, of strong reasons for life and hope, which can and should interest everyone, especially the young.

Such a commitment should be especially cogent in the area of forming candidates for the ordained ministry, as the Year for Priests calls for, and as confirmed by your happy decision to dedicate your Annual Public Session to this theme.

One of the Pontifical Academies is named after St Thomas Aquinas, the Doctor Angelicus et Communis, an always relevant model to inspire the activity and dialogue of the Pontifical Academies with the different cultures.

In fact, he succeeded in establishing a fruitful confrontation both with the Arab and the Jewish thinking in his time, and while setting store by the Greek philosophical tradition, he produced an extraordinary theological synthesis, fully harmonizing reason and faith.

He already left his contemporaries a profound and indelible memory, precisely on account of the extraordinary refinement and acuteness of his intelligence and the greatness and originality of his genius, quite apart from the luminous sanctity of his life.

His first biographer, William of Tocco, emphasized the extraordinary and pervasive pedagogical originality of St Thomas, with expressions that could also inspire your activities. He wrote: "Fra Tommaso introduced new articles into his lectures, resolved questions in a new and clearer way with new arguments. Consequently, those who heard him teach new theses, treating them with new methods, could not doubt that God had enlightened him with a new light: indeed, could one ever teach or write new opinions if one had not received new inspiration from God?" (Vita Sancti Thomae Aquinatis, in Fontes Vitae S. Thomae Aquinatis notis historicis et criticis illustrati, ed. D. Prümmer M.-H. Laurent, Tolosa, s.d., fasc. 2, p. 81).

St Thomas Aquinas' thought and witness suggest that we should study emerging problems with great attention in order to offer appropriate and creative responses. Confident in the possibilities of "human reason", in full fidelity to the immutable depositum fidei, we must as the "Doctor Communis" did always draw from the riches of Tradition, in the constant search for "the truth of things".

For this, it is necessary that the Pontifical Academies, today more than ever, be vital and lively institutions, able to grasp the questions of society and of cultures, as well as the needs and expectations of the Church, to offer an adequate and valid contribution, and thus promote, with all the energy and means at their disposal, an authentic Christian humanism.

Therefore, as I thank the Pontifical Academies for their generous dedication and profound commitment, I wish that each one may enrich their individual histories and traditions with new significant projects to carry out their respective missions with new impetus.

I assure you of my remembrance in prayer, and in invoking upon you and your Institutions the intercession of the Mother of God, Seat of Wisdom, and of St Thomas Aquinas, I wholeheartedly impart the Apostolic Blessing.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Address to Family Council
"Raise Awareness of the Fundamental Value of the Family"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 8, 2010 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address to members and consultors of the Pontifical Council for the Family, who are currently holding their 19th Plenary Assembly.

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Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the beginning of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family, I am happy to receive you with my cordial welcome. This institutional moment sees your dicastery this year particularly renewed not only in the cardinal president and the bishop secretary, but also in some cardinals and bishops of the executive committee, in some officials and member spouses, as well as in numerous consultors. While I express my heartfelt thanks to all those who have concluded their service to the Pontifical Council and to those who even now offer it their valuable work, I invoke on all copious gifts of the Lord.

My gratitude goes in particular to deceased Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, who for 18 years led your dicastery with impassioned dedication to the cause of the family and of life in today's world. Finally, I wish to manifest to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli expressions of heartfelt gratitude for the cordial words he addressed to me on behalf of all of you, and for having illustrated the topics of this important assembly.

The dicastery's present activity is situated between the 6th World Meeting of Families, held in Mexico City in 2009, and the 7th, planned for Milan in 2010. While I renew my appreciation to Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera for the generous commitment shown by his archdiocese for the preparation and realization of the 2009 meeting, I express from now on my affectionate gratitude to the Ambrosian church and its pastor, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, for the willingness to host the 7th World Meeting of Families.

In addition to the preparation of these extraordinary events, the pontifical council is carrying forward initiatives to raise awareness of the fundamental value of the family for the life of the Church and of society. Among these are the project "The Family, Subject of Evangelization," which intends to collect, at the world level, valid experiences in the various areas of family pastoral care, so that they will serve as inspiration and encouragement for new initiatives; and the project "The Family, Resource for Society," which intends to make evident to public opinion the benefits that the family brings to society, to its cohesion and its development.

Another important task of the dicastery is the elaboration of a vademecum for marriage preparation. In the apostolic exhortation "Familaris Consortio," my beloved predecessor, the Venerable John Paul II, said that this preparation is "more than ever necessary in our days" and "entails three principal moments: one remote, one proximate, and one immediate" (No. 66). Referring to these indications, the dicastery intends to delineate appropriately the physiognomy of the three stages of the itinerary for the formation of and response to the conjugal vocation.

The remote preparation refers to children, adolescents and youths. It involves the family, the parish and the school, the places in which they are educated to understand life as a vocation to love, which is specified, later, in the modalities of marriage and of virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven. In this stage, moreover, the meaning should emerge gradually of sexuality as capacity of relationship and positive energy to be integrated in authentic love.

Proximate preparation refers to those who are engaged, and should be configured as an itinerary of Christian faith and life, which leads to a profound knowledge of the mystery of Christ and of the Church, of the meaning of grace and of the responsibility of marriage (cf Ibid.). The duration and modalities of acting will necessarily be different according to the situations, the possibilities and the needs. However, it is hoped that a program will be offered of catechesis and of experiences lived the Christian community, which provides for the interventions of a priest and of various experts, as well as the presence of leaders, the support of an exemplary couple of Christian spouses, of couple and group dialogue and a climate of friendship and prayer.

It is appropriate, moreover, that special attention be given on this occasion for engaged couples to relive their own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, especially by listening to the Word of God, approaching the sacraments and above all by participating in the Eucharist. Only by putting Christ in the center of personal existence and of that of the couple is it possible to live authentic love and to give it to others: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing," Jesus reminds us (John 15:5).

The immediate preparation takes place in the proximity of marriage. In addition to the examination of the engaged couple, provided by Canon Law, the latter could include a catechesis on the Rite of Marriage and on its meaning, a spiritual retreat and preparation so that the celebration of marriage is perceived by the faithful, and particularly by those preparing for it, as a gift for the whole Church, a gift that contributes to its spiritual growth. Moreover, it is good that the bishops promote the exchange of the most significant experiences, that they offer stimuli for a serious pastoral commitment in this important sector, and show particular attention so that the vocation of the spouses becomes a richness for the whole Christian community and, especially in the present context, a missionary and prophetic testimony.

Your Plenary Assembly has as its theme "The Rights of Childhood," chosen with reference to the 20th anniversary of the Convention approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. In the course of the centuries, the Church, following the example of Christ, has promoted the protection of the dignity and of the rights of minors and, in many ways, has protected them. Unfortunately, in some cases, some of its members, acting in contrast to this commitment, have violated these rights: a conduct that the Church does not cease and will not cease to deplore and condemn.

The tenderness and teaching of Jesus, who regarded children as a model to imitate to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 18:1-6; 19:13-14), has always constituted a strong appeal to nourish profound respect and concern for them. Jesus' harsh words against those who scandalize one of these little ones (cf. Mark 9:42) commit all to never lower the level of this respect and love. That is why the Convention on the Rights of Children was also received favorably by the Holy See, in as much as it contains positive principles on adoption, health care, education, the protection of the disabled and of little ones against violence, abandonment and sexual and labor exploitation.

In the preamble, the convention indicates the family as "the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members, especially children." Certainly, it is precisely the family, founded on marriage between a man and a woman, which is the greatest help that can be given to children. They want to be loved by a mother and a father who love one another, and they need to dwell, grow and live together with both parents, because the maternal and paternal figure are complementary in the education of children and in the construction of their personality and their identity. Hence, it is important that everything possible is done to make them grow in a united and stable family.

To this end, it is necessary to exhort the spouses never to lose sight of the profound reasons and sacredness of the conjugal pact and to reinforce it with listening to the Word of God, prayer, constant dialogue, mutual acceptance and mutual forgiveness. A family environment that is not serene, the division of the couple and, in particular, separation with divorce do not fail to have consequences for the children, whereas supporting the family and promoting its good, its rights, its unity and stability, is the best way of protecting the rights and the genuine needs of minors.

Venerated and dear brothers, thank you for your visit! I am spiritually close to you and the work you carry out in favor of families, and I impart from my heart to each one of you and to all those who share this precious ecclesial service the Apostolic Blessing.


On the Divine Call
"Encounter With God Brings Man to Recognize His Own Poverty"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The liturgy of this Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time presents us with the theme of the divine call. In a majestic vision, Isaiah finds himself in the presence of the Thrice-Holy Lord and is seized by a great fear and by the profound feeling of his own unworthiness. But a seraph purifies his lips with a hot coal and takes away his sin, and he, making himself ready to answer the call, exclaims: "Here I am, Lord, send me!" (cf. Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8).

The same succession of sentiments is present in the episode of the miraculous catch of fish, about which today's Gospel passage speaks. Invited by Jesus to lower their nets, despite a night of fruitless effort, Simon Peter and the other disciples, trusting in his word, make a huge catch. Faced with such a prodigy, Simon Peter does not throw his arms around Jesus to express his joy over the unexpected catch but, as the Evangelist St. Luke recounts, falls to his knees, saying: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Jesus then answers him: "Do not be afraid; from now on I will make you a fisher of men" (cf. Luke 5:10); and Peter, leaving everything, follows him.

Paul too, noting that he was a persecutor of the Church, confesses that he is unworthy of being called an apostle, but he recognizes that the grace of God has accomplished marvels in him and, despite his own limitations, has entrusted to him the task and the honor of preaching the Gospel (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:8-10). In these three experiences we see how the authentic encounter with God brings man to recognize his own poverty and inadequacy, his limitations and his sin. But this fragility notwithstanding, the Lord, rich in mercy and forgiveness, transforms man's life and calls man to follow him.

The humility that Isaiah, Peter and Paul bear witness to, invites those who have received the gift of a divine calling not to focus on their own limits, but to keep their gaze fixed on the Lord and on his surprising mercy, to convert the heart and continue, with joy, to "leave everything" for him. He, in fact does not look at what man considers important: "Man sees the appearance but the Lord sees the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7), and renders men who are poor and weak, but who have faith in him, intrepid apostles and proclaimers of salvation.

In this Year for Priests, let us pray that the Lord of the harvest send workers into fields. Let's pray that those who hear the Lord's invitation to follow him, after the necessary discernment, know how to respond to him with generosity, not trusting in their own power, but opening themselves to the action of his grace. In particular, I invite all priests to revive their generous availability to respond to the Lord's call every day with the same humility and faith that Isaiah, Peter and Paul had.

We entrust to the Holy Virgin all vocations, especially those to the religious and priestly life. May Mary awaken in everyone the desire to say his own "yes" to the Lord with joy and total dedication.

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

We celebrate the Day for Life in Italy today. I gladly join with the Italian bishops and in their message on the theme: "The Power of Life: A Challenge in Poverty." In the current economic difficulty, those mechanisms become more harmful that, causing poverty and creating major social inequality, wound and offend life, striking above all the weakest and most defenseless.

Such a situation consequently calls for the promotion of an integral human development to overcome poverty and need, and above all reminds us that man's destiny is not well-being but God himself, and that human existence must be defended and favored in all of its stages. No one, in fact, is the owner of his life, but we are all called to care for it and respect it, from the moment of conception until natural death.

As we express appreciation for those who more directly work in the service of children, the sick and the elderly, I affectionately greet the many faithful of Rome who are present here led by the Cardinal Vicar and some of the auxiliary bishops.

The Diocese of Rome gives special attention to the Day for Life and extends it into the Week of Life and the Family. I wish the success of this initiative and encourage the activity of the consultors, the associations and movements, as well as that of university professors, engaged in supporting life and the family.

In this context I would like to note that Feb. 11, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick, I will celebrate Holy Mass with the sick in St. Peter's Basilica.


Benedict XVI's Address to Scottish Bishops
"People of Faith Bear Witness to the Truth"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2010 - Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today to a group of bishops from Scotland who are in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Dear Brother Bishops,

I extend a warm welcome to all of you on your ad Limina visit to Rome. I thank you for the kind words that Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien has addressed to me on your behalf, and I assure you of my constant prayers for you and for the faithful entrusted to your care. Your presence here expresses a reality that lies at the heart of every Catholic diocese -- its relationship of communion with the See of Peter, and hence with the universal Church. Pastoral initiatives that take due account of this essential dimension bring authentic renewal: when the bonds of communion with the universal Church, and in particular with Rome, are accepted joyfully and lived fully, the people's faith can grow freely and yield a harvest of good works.

It is a happy coincidence that the Year for Priests, which the whole Church is currently celebrating, marks the four hundredth anniversary of the priestly ordination of the great Scottish martyr Saint John Ogilvie. Rightly venerated as a faithful servant of the Gospel, he was truly outstanding in his dedication to a difficult and dangerous pastoral ministry, to the point of laying down his life. Hold him up as an example for your priests today. I am glad to know of the emphasis you place on continuing formation for your clergy, especially through the initiative "Priests for Scotland". The witness of priests who are genuinely committed to prayer and joyful in their ministry bears fruit not only in the spiritual lives of the faithful, but also in new vocations. Remember, though, that your commendable initiatives to promote vocations must be accompanied by sustained catechesis among the faithful about the true meaning of priesthood.

Emphasize the indispensable role of the priest in the Church's life, above all in providing the Eucharist by which the Church herself receives life. And encourage those entrusted with the formation of seminarians to do all they can to prepare a new generation of committed and zealous priests, well equipped humanly, academically and spiritually for the task of ministry in the twenty-first century.

Hand in hand with a proper appreciation of the priest's role is a correct understanding of the specific vocation of the laity. Sometimes a tendency to confuse lay apostolate with lay ministry has led to an inward-looking concept of their ecclesial role. Yet the Second Vatican Council's vision is that wherever the lay faithful live out their baptismal vocation -- in the family, at home, at work -- they are actively participating in the Church's mission to sanctify the world.

A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society. That task requires a readiness to grapple firmly with the challenges presented by the increasing tide of secularism in your country. Support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life. Recent developments in medical ethics and some of the practices advocated in the field of embryology give cause for great concern. If the Church's teaching is compromised, even slightly, in one such area, then it becomes hard to defend the fullness of Catholic doctrine in an integral manner. Pastors of the Church, therefore, must continually call the faithful to complete fidelity to the Church's Magisterium, while at the same time upholding and defending the Church's right to live freely in society according to her beliefs.

The Church offers the world a positive and inspiring vision of human life, the beauty of marriage and the joy of parenthood. It is rooted in God's infinite, transforming and ennobling love for all of us, which opens our eyes to recognize and love his image in our neighbour (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 10-11 et passim). Be sure to present this teaching in such a way that it is recognized for the message of hope that it is. All too often the Church's doctrine is perceived as a series of prohibitions and retrograde positions, whereas the reality, as we know, is that it is creative and life-giving, and it is directed towards the fullest possible realization of the great potential for good and for happiness that God has implanted within every one of us.

The Church in your country, like many in Northern Europe, has suffered the tragedy of division. It is sobering to recall the great rupture with Scotland's Catholic past that occurred four hundred and fifty years ago. I give thanks to God for the progress that has been made in healing the wounds that were the legacy of that period, especially the sectarianism that has continued to rear its head even in recent times. Through your participation in Action of Churches Together in Scotland, see that the work of rebuilding unity among the followers of Christ is carried forward with constancy and commitment. While resisting any pressure to dilute the Christian message, set your sights on the goal of full, visible unity, for nothing less can respond to the will of Christ.

You can be proud of the contribution made by Scotland's Catholic schools in overcoming sectarianism and building good relations between communities. Faith schools are a powerful force for social cohesion, and when the occasion arises, you do well to underline this point. As you encourage Catholic teachers in their work, place special emphasis on the quality and depth of religious education, so as to prepare an articulate and well-informed Catholic laity, able and willing to carry out its mission "by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God" (Christifideles Laici, 15). A strong Catholic presence in the media, local and national politics, the judiciary, the professions and the universities can only serve to enrich Scotland's national life, as people of faith bear witness to the truth, especially when that truth is called into question.

Later this year, I shall have the joy of being present with you and the Catholics of Scotland on your native soil. As you prepare for the Apostolic Visit, encourage your people to pray that it will be a time of grace for the whole Catholic community. Take the opportunity to deepen their faith and to rekindle their commitment to bear witness to the Gospel. Like the monks from Iona who spread the Christian message throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, let them be beacons of faith and holiness for the Scottish people today.

With these thoughts, I commend your apostolic labours to the intercession of Our Lady, Saint Andrew, Saint Margaret and all the saints of Scotland. To all of you, and to your clergy, religious and lay faithful I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.

© Copyright 2010 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Pope's Homily on Day of Consecrated Life
"A School of Trust in the Mercy of God"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 2, 2010 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered today during vespers on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, which is also the 14th Day of Consecrated Life.

Present at the liturgical celebration were members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is a celebration of a mystery of the life of Christ, linked to the precept of the Mosaic law that prescribed for parents, 40 days after the birth of their first-born, to go to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer their son to the Lord and for the ritual purification of the mother (cf Exodus 13:1-2.11-16; Leviticus 12:1-8).

Mary and Joseph also fulfilled this rite, offering -- according to the law -- a couple of turtle doves or pigeons. Reading things in greater depth, we understand that at that moment it was God himself who presented his Only-begotten Son to men, through the words of the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Simeon, in fact, proclaimed Jesus as "salvation" of humanity, as "light" of all nations and "sign of contradiction," because he would reveal the thoughts of hearts (cf Luke 2:29-35).

In the East this feast was called Hypapante, feast of meeting: In fact, Simeon and Anna, who met Jesus in the Temple and recognized in him the Messiah so awaited, represent humanity that meets its Lord in the Church. Subsequently, this feast spread also to the West, developing above all the symbol of light, and the procession with candles, which gave origin to the term "Candlemas." With this visible sign one wishes to signify that the Church meets in faith him who is "the light of men" and receives him with all the impulse of her faith to take this "light" to the world.

In concomitance with this liturgical feast, Venerable John Paul II, beginning in 1997, wished that the whole Church should celebrate a special Day of Consecrated Life. In fact, the oblation of the Son of God -- symbolized by his presentation in the Temple -- is the model for every man and woman that consecrates all his or her life to the Lord.

The purpose of this day is threefold: first of all to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of consecrated life; in the second place, to promote the knowledge and appreciation by all the People of God; finally, to invite all those who have fully dedicated their life to the cause of the Gospel to celebrate the marvels that the Lord has operated in them.

In thanking you for having gathered in such numbers, on this day dedicated particularly to you, I wish to greet each one of you with great affection: men and women religious and consecrated persons, expressing to you my cordial closeness and heartfelt appreciation for the good you do in the service of the People of God.

The brief reading, which was just proclaimed, treats of the Letter to the Hebrews, which brings together well the motives that were at the origin of this significant and beautiful event and offers us some ideas for reflection. This text -- which has two verses, but very charged with significance -- opens the second part of the Letter to the Hebrews, introducing the central theme of Christ the high priest.

One should really consider as well the immediately preceding verse, which says: "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Hebrews 4:14). This verse shows Jesus who ascends to the Father; while the subsequent one presents him descending toward men. Christ is presented as the Mediator: He is true God and true man -- that is why he really belongs to the divine and to the human world.

In reality, it is properly and only from this faith, from this profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the only and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life has meaning in the Church, a life consecrated to God through Christ. It has meaning only if he is truly Mediator between God and us, otherwise it would only be a form of sublimation or evasion.

If Christ was not truly God, and was not, at the same time, fully man, the foundation of Christian life as such would come to naught, and in an altogether particular way, the foundation of every Christian consecration of man and woman would come to naught. Consecrated life, in fact, witnesses and expresses in a "powerful" way the reciprocal seeking of God and man, the love that attracts them to one another. The consecrated person, by the very fact of his or her being, represents something like a "bridge" to God for all those he or she meets -- a call, a return. And all this by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Father's Consecrated One. He is the foundation! He who shared our frailty so that we could participate in his divine nature.

Our text insists on more than on faith, but rather on "trust" with which we can approach the "throne of grace," from the moment that our high priest was himself "put to the test in everything like us." We can approach to "receive mercy," "find grace," and "to be helped in the opportune moment." It seems to me that these words contain a great truth and also a great comfort for us who have received the gift and commitment of a special consecration in the Church.

I am thinking in particular of you, dear sisters and brothers. You approached with full trust the "throne of grace" that is Christ, his Cross, his Heart, to his divine presence in the Eucharist. Each one of you has approached him as the source of pure and faithful love, a love so great and beautiful as to merit all, in fact, more than our all, because a whole life is not enough to return what Christ is and what he has done for us. But you approached him, and every day you approach him, also to be helped in the opportune moment and in the hour of trial.

Consecrated persons are called in a particular way to be witnesses of this mercy of the Lord, in which man finds his salvation. They have the vivid experience of God's forgiveness, because they have the awareness of being saved persons, of being great when they recognize themselves to be small, of feeling renewed and enveloped by the holiness of God when they recognize their own sin. Because of this, also for the man of today, consecrated life remains a privileged school of "compunction of heart," of the humble recognition of one's misery but, likewise, it remains a school of trust in the mercy of God, in his love that never abandons. In reality, the closer we come to God, and the closer one is to him, the more useful one is to others. Consecrated persons experience the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God not only for themselves, but also for their brothers, being called to carry in their heart and prayer the anxieties and expectations of men, especially of those who are far from God.

In particular, communities that live in cloister, with their specific commitment of fidelity in "being with the Lord," in "being under the cross," often carry out this vicarious role, united to Christ of the Passion, taking on themselves the sufferings and trials of others and offering everything with joy for the salvation of the world.

Finally, dear friends, we wish to raise to the Lord a hymn of thanksgiving and praise for consecrated life itself. If it did not exist, how much poorer the world would be! Beyond the superficial valuations of functionality, consecrated life is important precisely for its being a sign of gratuitousness and of love, and this all the more so in a society that risks being suffocated in the vortex of the ephemeral and the useful (cf Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Consecrated Life, 105). Consecrated life, instead, witnesses to the superabundance of the Lord's love, who first "lost" his life for us. At this moment I am thinking of the consecrated persons who feel the weight of the daily effort lacking in human gratification, I am thinking of elderly men and women religious, the sick, of all those who feel difficulties in their apostolate. Not one of these is futile, because the Lord associates them to the "throne of grace." Instead, they are a precious gift for the Church and the world, thirsty for God and his Word.

Full of trust and gratitude, let us then also renew the gesture of the total offering of ourselves, presenting ourselves in the Temple. May the Year for Priests be a further occasion, for priests religious to intensify the journey of sanctification, and for all consecrated men and women, a stimulus to support and sustain their ministry with fervent prayer.

This year of grace will have a culminating moment in Rome, next June, in the international meeting of priests, to which I invite all those who exercise the Sacred Ministry. We approach the thrice Holy to offer our life and our mission, personal and community, of men and women consecrated to the Kingdom of God. Let us carry out this interior gesture in profound spiritual communion with the Virgin Mary: while contemplating her in the act of presenting the Child Jesus in the Temple, we venerate her as the first and perfect consecrated one, carried by that God she carries in her arms; Virgin, poor and obedient, totally dedicated to us because totally of God. In her school, and with her maternal help, we renew our "here I am" and our "fiat." Amen.


On St. Dominic
"He Always Spoke With God and About God"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience held in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Last week I presented the luminous figure of Francis of Assisi; today I would like to speak to you of another saint who, in the same period, made an essential contribution to the renewal of the Church of his time. It is St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, known also as the Dominican Friars.

His successor in the leadership of the order, Blessed Giordano di Saxony, gives a complete portrait of St. Dominic in the text of a famous prayer: "Inflamed by zeal for God and supernatural ardor, by your limitless charity and the fervor of a vehement spirit, you consecrated yourself wholly with the vow of perpetual poverty to apostolic observance and to evangelical preaching." It is in fact this essential feature of Dominic's witness that is underlined: He always spoke with God and about God. In the life of saints, love of the Lord and of neighbor, the seeking of God's glory and the salvation of souls always go together.

Dominic was born in Spain, in Caleruega, around 1170. He belonged to a noble family of Old Castille and, supported by an uncle priest, he was educated in a famous school of Palencia. He was distinguished immediately for his interest in the study of sacred Scripture and for his love of the poor, to the point of selling books, which in his time constituted a good of great value, to help victims of famine with what he collected.

Ordained a priest, he was elected canon of the chapter of the cathedral in his native diocese, Osma. Although this appointment could represent for him some motive of prestige in the Church and in society, he did not interpret it as a personal privilege, or as the beginning of a brilliant ecclesiastical career, but as a service to render with dedication and humility. Is not perhaps the temptation to a career, to power, a temptation to which not even those who have a role of leadership and governance in the Church are immune? I recalled this a few months ago, during the consecration of some bishops: "We do not seek power, prestige or esteem for ourselves. [...] We know how in civil society and often also in the Church things suffer because many people on whom responsibility has been conferred work for themselves rather than for the community" (Homily, Cappella Papale per l'Ordinazione episcopale di cinque Ecc. mi Presuli, Sept. 12, 2009).

The bishop of Osma, who was named Diego, a true and zealous pastor, very soon noticed the spiritual quality of Dominic, and wished to make use of his collaboration. Together they went to Northern Europe to carry out diplomatic missions entrusted to them by the king of Castille.

While traveling, Dominic became aware of two great challenges for the Church of his time: the existence of people who were not yet evangelized, in the northern limits of the European continent, and the religious scourge that weakened Christian life in southern France, where the action of some heretical groups created disturbance and a falling away from the truth of the faith. Missionary work on behalf of those who do not know the light of the Gospel and the work of re-evangelization of the Christian community thus became the apostolic goals that Dominic intended to pursue. It was the Pope, to whom Bishop Diego and Dominic went to ask advice, who requested the latter to dedicate himself to preaching to the Albigensians, a heretical group which held a dualistic concept of reality, that is, of two equally powerful creative principles, Good and Evil. This group, consequently, had contempt for matter as coming from the principle of evil, even rejecting marriage, and reaching the point of denying the incarnation of Christ, the sacraments in which the Lord "touches" us through matter, and the resurrection of bodies. The Albigensians esteemed a poor and austere life -- in this sense they were even exemplary -- and they criticized the wealth of the clergy of that time.

Dominic accepted this mission enthusiastically, which he carried out precisely with the example of his poor and austere existence, with the preaching of the Gospel and with public debates. He dedicated the rest of his life to this mission of preaching the Good News. His sons would fulfill St. Dominic's other dreams: the mission ad gentes, that is, to those who did not yet know Jesus, and the mission to those who lived in the city, especially in the universities, where new intellectual tendencies were a challenge for the faith of the well-educated.

This great saint reminds us that a missionary fire must always burn in the heart of the Church, which drives incessantly to take the first proclamation of the Gospel and, where necessary, to a new evangelization: Christ is, in fact, the most precious good that men and women of all times and all places have the right to know and to love! And it is consoling to see how also in the Church of today there are so many -- pastors and lay faithful, members of old religious orders and of new ecclesial movements -- that with joy spend their life for this supreme ideal: to proclaim and witness the Gospel!

Other men associated themselves to Dominic Guzmán, attracted by the same aspiration. Thus, gradually, from the first foundation of Tolosa, was born the Order of Preachers. Dominic, in fact, in full obedience to the directives of the Popes of his time, Innocent III and Honorius III, adopted the ancient Rule of St. Augustine, adapting it to the needs of apostolic life, which led him and his companions to preach, moving from one post to another, but returning, later, to their own monasteries, places of study, prayer and community life. In a particular way, Dominic wished to highlight two values considered indispensable for the success of the evangelizing mission: community life in poverty and study.

First of all, Dominic and the Friars Preachers presented themselves as mendicants, that is, without vast properties of land to administer. This element rendered them more available for study and itinerant preaching and constituted a concrete witness for the people. The internal government of the Dominican monasteries and provinces was structured on the system of chapters, which elected their own superiors, confirmed later by major superiors; hence, an organization that stimulated fraternal life and the responsibility of all the members of the community, exacting strong personal convictions. The choice of this system stemmed precisely from the fact that the Dominicans, as preachers of the truth of God, had to be consistent with what they proclaimed. Truth studied and shared in charity with brothers is the most profound foundation of joy. Blessed Giordano of Saxony said of St. Dominic: "He received every man in the great bosom of charity and, because he loved everyone, everyone loved him. He made a personal law for himself of being joyful with happy persons and of weeping with those who wept" (Libellus de principiis Ordinis Praedicatorum autore Iordano de Saxonia, ed. H.C. Scheeben, [Monumenta Historica Sancti Patris Nostri Dominici, Romae, 1935]).

In the second place, with a courageous gesture Dominic wished that his followers acquire a solid theological formation, and he did not hesitate to send them to the universities of the time, even though not a few ecclesiastics regarded with diffidence these cultural institutions. The Constitutions of the Order of Preachers give great importance to study as preparation for the apostolate. Dominic wanted his friars to dedicate themselves to study, sparing no effort, with diligence and compassion -- to study founded on the soul of all theological learning, that is, on sacred Scripture, and respectful of the questions posed by reason.

The development of culture imposes on those who carry out the ministry of the Word, at various levels, to be well prepared. Hence I exhort all, pastors and laity, to cultivate this "cultural dimension" of faith, so that the beauty of the Christian truth can be better understood and faith can be truly nourished, reinforced and also defended. In this Year for Priests, I invite seminarians and priests to appreciate the spiritual value of study. The quality of the priestly ministry depends also on the generosity with which one applies oneself to the study of revealed truths.

Dominic, who wished to found a religious Order of Preachers-Theologians, reminds us that theology has a spiritual and pastoral dimension, which enriches the spirit and life. Priests, consecrated persons and also all the faithful can find a profound "interior joy" in contemplating the beauty of the truth that comes from God, truth that is always up-to-date and always living. Hence, the motto of the Friars Preachers -- contemplata aliis tradere -- helps us to discover a pastoral yearning in the contemplative study of such truth, by the need to communicate to others the fruit of one's contemplation.

When Dominic died in 1221 in Bologna, the city that declared him its patron, his work had already had great success. The Order of Preachers, with the support of the Holy See, had spread to many countries of Europe to the benefit of the whole Church. Dominic was canonized in 1234, and it is he himself, with his sanctity, who indicates to us two indispensable means for apostolic action to be incisive. First of all, Marian devotion, which he cultivated with tenderness and which he left as precious legacy to his spiritual children, who in the history of the Church have had the great merit of spreading the prayer of the holy rosary, so dear to the Christian people and so rich in evangelical values, a true school of faith and piety. In the second place, Dominic, who took care of some women's convents in France and in Rome, believed profoundly in the value of intercessory prayer for the success of apostolic work. Only in Paradise will we understand how much the prayer of the cloistered effectively supports apostolic action! To each one of them I direct my grateful and affectionate thoughts.

Dear brothers and sisters, may Dominic Guzmán's life spur all of us to be fervent in prayer, courageous in living the faith, profoundly in love with Jesus Christ. Through his intercession, we ask God to enrich the Church always with genuine preachers of the Gospel.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I wish to speak of the great contribution made by Saint Dominic to the renewal of the Church in the Middle Ages. As a priest of the Spanish diocese of Osma, he was sent on missions throughout Europe, which drew his attention to the need for sound and zealous preachers to bring the Gospel to the people. He was entrusted with the task of refuting the heresy of the Albigensians, who denied the incarnation of Christ, the resurrection of the body and the value of marriage and the sacraments. Embracing a life of poverty, Dominic dedicated himself to the task of preaching the Gospel, and with a band of followers he established the Order of Preachers, also know as Dominican Friars. Adapting the rule of Saint Augustine to the needs of the apostolic life, Dominic placed emphasis on theological study, prayer and community life for his friars. Thus fortified, they would be sent out on missions as itinerant, mendicant preachers. Hence the Dominican motto, contemplata aliis tradere -- to hand on to others the fruits of contemplation. One important way in which the Dominicans did this was by promoting the prayer of the rosary, a beautiful means of contemplating, through the eyes of Mary, the truth revealed in the mysteries of the life, death and Resurrection of her son.

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Nigeria and the United States. My greetings also go to the students present, including those from Loyola University Chicago, Rome Campus. Upon all of you I willingly invoke God's abundant blessings.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's message for Lent (2010), which was published today by the Vatican press office.

The message has as its theme: "The Justice of God Has Been Manifested Through Faith in Jesus Christ."

Lent begins Feb. 17.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Each year, on the occasion of Lent, the Church invites us to a sincere review of our life in light of the teachings of the Gospel. This year, I would like to offer you some reflections on the great theme of justice, beginning from the Pauline affirmation: "The justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ" (cf. Rm 3, 21-22).

Justice: "dare cuique suum"

First of all, I want to consider the meaning of the term "justice," which in common usage implies "to render to every man his due," according to the famous expression of Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century. In reality, however, this classical definition does not specify what "due" is to be rendered to each person. What man needs most cannot be guaranteed to him by law. In order to live life to the full, something more intimate is necessary that can be granted only as a gift: we could say that man lives by that love which only God can communicate since He created the human person in His image and likeness. Material goods are certainly useful and required – indeed Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine – yet "distributive" justice does not render to the human being the totality of his "due." Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God. Saint Augustine notes: if "justice is that virtue which gives every one his due ... where, then, is the justice of man, when he deserts the true God?" (De civitate Dei, XIX, 21).

What is the Cause of Injustice?

The Evangelist Mark reports the following words of Jesus, which are inserted within the debate at that time regarding what is pure and impure: "There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him … What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts" (Mk 7, 14-15, 20-21). Beyond the immediate question concerning food, we can detect in the reaction of the Pharisees a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: since injustice comes "from outside," in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved. This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is ingenuous and shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil. With bitterness the Psalmist recognises this: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps 51,7). Indeed, man is weakened by an intense influence, which wounds his capacity to enter into communion with the other.

By nature, he is open to sharing freely, but he finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others: this is egoism, the result of original sin. Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one’s own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty. How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?

Justice and Sedaqah

At the heart of the wisdom of Israel, we find a profound link between faith in God who "lifts the needy from the ash heap" (Ps 113,7) and justice towards one’s neighbor. The Hebrew word itself that indicates the virtue of justice, sedaqah, expresses this well. Sedaqah, in fact, signifies on the one hand full acceptance of the will of the God of Israel; on the other hand, equity in relation to one’s neighbour (cf. Ex 20, 12-17), especially the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (cf. Dt 10, 18-19). But the two meanings are linked because giving to the poor for the Israelite is none other than restoring what is owed to God, who had pity on the misery of His people. It was not by chance that the gift to Moses of the tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai took place after the crossing of the Red Sea. Listening to the Law presupposes faith in God who first "heard the cry" of His people and "came down to deliver them out of hand of the Egyptians" (cf. Ex 3,8). God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to: He asks for justice towards the poor (cf. Sir 4,4-5, 8-9), the stranger (cf. Ex 22,20), the slave (cf. Dt 15, 12-18). In order to enter into justice, it is thus necessary to leave that illusion of self-sufficiency, the profound state of closure, which is the very origin of injustice. In other words, what is needed is an even deeper "exodus" than that accomplished by God with Moses, a liberation of the heart, which the Law on its own is powerless to realize. Does man have any hope of justice then?

Christ, the Justice of God

The Christian Good News responds positively to man’s thirst for justice, as Saint Paul affirms in the Letter to the Romans: "But now the justice of God has been manifested apart from law … the justice of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (3, 21-25).

What then is the justice of Christ? Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. The fact that "expiation" flows from the "blood" of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself in the extreme, even to the point of bearing in Himself the "curse" due to man so as to give in return the "blessing" due to God (cf. Gal 3, 13-14). But this raises an immediate objection: what kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one? Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his "due"? In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from "what is mine," to give me gratuitously "what is His." This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the "greatest" justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected.

Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum, in which this year, too, we shall celebrate divine justice – the fullness of charity, gift, salvation. May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill every justice. With these sentiments, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 30 October 2009



Hans-Gert Pöttering on Papal Lenten Message
"Solidarity Is Not Abstract, It Has to Be Concrete"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2010 - Here is the address given today by Hans-Gert Pöttering, retired president of the European Parliament and president of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, at the press conference that presented Benedict XVI's message for Lent.

The Pope's message has as its theme: "The Justice of God Has Been Manifested Through Faith in Jesus Christ." Lent begins Feb. 17.

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It is good that through the message of the Holy Father the Church illuminates for us the spiritual context of the Lenten Season. For us Christians, the reasons for and the mission of the Lenten Season are encompassed in this impressive theological interpretation: to work in union with our Creator on our responsibility in the world. I as a Politician can in no way even attempt to be as profound as the Holy Father when He talks about the religious vision of justice. In all modesty I would, however, like to comply with the request made of me to reflect with you on several political implications of the Christian lesson of justice.

The topic is as old as philosophising about politics itself is. And it is more relevant than ever before in our contemporary world of globalisation and the encounter between cultures and religions. In political philosophy, one likes to start with a retrospective on the two central figures of the Antiquity, Plato and Aristotle. Already in their works, we find aspects of the understanding of justice that the Holy Father has called the internal and the external understanding of human justice. Plato regarded justice as an unchangeable, transcendent idea of which the soul of the singular human being is a part of. Aristotle underlined that justice is not only an inner virtue but always also has to be seen with regard to others. The political reflections that we name today "corrective justice" and "distributive justice" correspond to this idea of intersubjectivity. The father of our church Thomas Aquinas also has a considerable share in this interpretation of the idea of justice. The Holy Father has indicated that a secularly radicalised form of the idea of distributive justice that is decoupled from faith in God becomes ideological. As a politician, I would like to add: We have experienced in collapsed socialism where this thinking can lead to.

Hence, it is of importance also for a political consideration of justice to keep the balance between the idea of justice that slumbers in the soul of every human being and the material reality that can always only be thought of in relation to others, towards our fellow men and towards the system we live in.

We have experienced again and again in the past two centuries in Europe and in other parts of the world to what extent this balance can get mixed up. Freedom and equality have continuously been placed in opposition to each other since the French Revolution inscribed these two postulates on its flag. However, in the course of the struggle towards freedom and equality, the third idea written on the flags of the French Revolution has been neglected: fraternity. Politically, we speak of "solidarity". Theologically, we have always spoken of charity. In these words - charity, solidarity, fraternity - lie the key to a true understanding of the responsibility of Christians in the world - an understanding, that is appropriate to our time of globalization. Solidarity or charity implies the responsibility to defend and protect the universal dignity of any human being anywhere in the world under any circumstances.

If we want to preserve freedom and if we want to increase justice, then we have to place the value of fraternity or solidarity at the centre of our political thinking. In the European Union, we have achieved a unique political wonder in the spirit of solidarity, that hardly anybody would have considered possible at the end of the Second World War. With the reunification of Europe after the end of the Cold War, we have proven ourselves with the principle of solidarity evident between the states and the peoples of the old and the new European Union. Lately, the joint measures taken to combat the financial crisis have shown that a common way of thinking and a joint policy are possible in the European Union.

Nevertheless, the power of solidarity has rather faded inside Europe since reunification. Regarding our relations with the other peoples of the earth, especially with the poorest among them, the idea of solidarity is at best in the fledging stages. Whereas Europe and the world have already invested unimaginable sums for the fight against the financial crisis, the implementation of charity leaves much to be desired, especially in the fight against hunger in the world. The determination with which Europe and the world have reacted to the financial crisis shows that international cooperation can overcome huge challenges. A similar firmness is equally necessary in the fight against worldwide poverty. Europe and the international community have a moral obligation to take further responsibility. 2010 as the "European year for combating poverty and social exclusion" offers the ideal framework for a stronger and effective dedication of the European Union to do more for the poorest of the planet.

It is exactly here that politics has to adopt the Lenten Message of the Holy Father: we need again a European spirit of solidarity. And, more than ever, we need a European spirit of solidarity with all peoples and cultures of this one world. Those are the two most important social-ethical tasks that the European Union faces. This is not only about the provision of material means, although this is so important. In the first place, however, this is about a spiritual renewal that the European Union has to bring about: This is about approaching the tasks that we face in the spirit of solidarity and that we seize the possibilities that we possess in a comparatively rich and privileged Europe so that justice becomes a reality for as many people as possible. Where justice is experienced, the value of freedom is equally strengthened.

"Development is the new name for peace", that is how Pope Paul VI formulated it in 1967 in his Enzyklika „Populorum progressio". Today, I believe, we have to go a step further and say "solidarity is the new name for peace". In formulating this we bring freedom and equality again into a proper balance with solidarity. This is how the struggle for justice finds its deepest ethical root, the root of fraternity and, formulated in a Christian way, of charity. In this sense, I understand the purpose of the Holy Father and his interpretation of the 2010 Lenten Message in the spirit of justice.

Solidarity is not abstract, it has to be concrete. Today, we realise that rich countries are getting always richer and poor countries are getting always poorer. Two billion people live with less than 1.5 US-Dollars per day. It is not to be expected - as much as this would be desirable - that the rich countries will rapidly increase their development aid. Therefore, we also have to try new ways. The project "UNITAID" that is closely affiliated to the World Health Organisation of the United Nations aims at fighting HIV, Malaria, Tuberculosis and other illnesses in 93 of the poorest countries. A big part of the funding is raised by a small extra fee on airline tickets. Thanks to an extra charge of one or two US-Dollars per ticket, it was possible to collect a total amount of 1.5 billion US-Dollars in the participating 15 countries during the last three years and three months.

I would like to propose to extend this initiative to all countries and all airlines. Airline passengers can afford to pay this minor increase of the ticket price. With additional billions we could help ease the misery in the world.

On the other hand, I am deeply convinced that the task of global solidarity is not only a material concern. Justice and peace, redistribution and recognition will only exist between the peoples and states of this world if we act in solidarity and in brotherhood also in our dialogue on faith and the basis of our culture. In doing so, we will also talk about the understanding of justice that is inherent to the different cultures and religions. The Hebrew letter of Sedaqah, of which the Holy Father has spoken in his Lenten Message, also includes - if I understood correctly - the idea of fidelity towards one's community. This old Jewish idea can help us to rethink our sense of mutual obligations and about the right balance of rights and obligations. In Islam, the notion of justice is naturally derived from the Koran. Secular Europe will also experience, in the course of the interreligious and intercultural dialogue, that the notion of justice in other cultures is self-evidently influenced by religion. To a certain extent, this has also been the case with the Christian influence on the notion of justice and - by the way - also on the notion of freedom and solidarity. In many cases, we have forgotten the connection between religious justification and political ideas. It will do us good to rediscover the treasures of this tradition - also through intercultural and interreligious dialogue. This has nothing to do with fundamentalism, but a lot to do with the timeless pertinence of our own roots. Where the update of our cultural and religious roots succeeds, we will be able to make good policy with Christian responsibility - also in a mainly secular European Union.

Mutual respect in the intercultural dialogue does not mean to close one's eyes before insurmountable contrasts. However, we will only be able to stop fanaticism in the world of the 21st century if we deprive fanaticists, who want to change the world through violence, of the spiritual grounds on which they can manipulate many people of good will. We therefore need a sincere dialogue of solidarity between Christians and Muslims, between Christians and Jews. We need it between the privileged living in prosperity and material freedom and those living on the margins of the social and cultural existence that are excluded from economic growth and technological opportunities. We have to forge the idea of solidarity into a political project that invites us to have dialogue across the many barriers which separate our world today. Only solidarity can lead the way towards more freedom and justice for more and more people throughout the world.

Policy that acts out of the Christian understanding of the human being should never decrease ambition. The Holy Father has pointed us towards two essential conclusions of the Christian understanding of justice: To give up self-sufficiency and to accept our mission with humbleness. This is the compass for any policy that is committed to Christian responsibility - not only in the Lenten Season 2010 but far beyond in this 21st century with the huge tasks of shaping globalisation which lie ahead.


Papal Letter to Host Diocese of Winter Olympics
"May Sport Always Be a Valued Building Block of Peace and Friendship"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 4, 2010 - Here is the message Benedict XVI sent Dec. 30 to Archbishop J. Michael Miller of Vancouver ahead of the XXI Winter Olympic Games (Feb. 12-28) and the X Paralympic Winter Games (March 12-21), both of which will take place in Vancouver. The letter was published today by the Vatican press office.
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To the Most Reverend J. Michael Miller
Archbishop of Vancouver

I was pleased to learn that the XXI Winter Olympic Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games are to be held in the Archdiocese of Vancouver and the Diocese of Kamloops, from 12 to 28 February 2010. As I send my cordial greetings to you and Bishop David Monroe, my good wishes also go to the participating athletes, the organizers and the many community volunteers who are generously cooperating in the celebration of the significant international event.

Such an important occurrence for both athletes and spectators allows me to recall how sport "can make an effective contribution to peaceful understanding between peoples and to establishing the new civilization of love" (John Paul II, Homily, 29 October 2000, 2). In this light, may sport always be a valued building block of peace and friendship between peoples and nations. I also note the ecumenical initiative More Than Gold, intended to provide spiritual and material assistance to visitors, participants and volunteers alike. I pray that all who avail themselves of this service will be confirmed in their love of God and neighbour.

With these sentiments in mind, upon all associated with the celebration of the XXI Winter Olympic Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

From the Vatican, 30 December 2009



Baby Jesus, the Refugee
"The Child ... Must First of All and Always Be Considered a Person"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday we celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The presence of the Church at the side of these persons has been constant through time, reaching singular heights at the beginning of the last century: We need only think of Blessed Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and St. Frances Cabrini. In my message for this occasion I called attention to young migrants and refugees. Jesus Christ, who as a newborn lived through the dramatic experience of being a refugee because of Herod’s threats, taught his disciples to welcome children with great respect and love. The child too, in fact, whatever his nationality or the color of his skin, must first of all and always be considered a person, the image of God, to promote and protect against every marginalization and exploitation. In particular, it is necessary to take every care that minors who live in a foreign country are protected by legislation and above all watched over in the countless problems that they must face. While I strongly encourage the Christian communities and organizations that are engaged in assisting young migrants and refugees, I exhort everyone to keep alive an educative and cultural sensitivity toward them, according to the authentic Gospel spirit.

This afternoon, almost 24 years after the historic visit of Venerable John Paul II, I will go to the Synagogue of Rome, which is called the “Great Temple” (Tempio Maggiore), to meet the city’s Jewish community and take another step on the journey of concord and friendship between Catholics and Jews. In fact, despite the problems and difficulties between the believers of the two religions, we breathe an air of great respect and dialogue, which testifies to how much the relationships have matured and the common commitment to value what unites us: faith in the one God, first of all, but also the protection of the life of the family, the aspiration to social justice and peace.

Finally, I would like to note that tomorrow the traditional Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins. Every year it constitutes, for believers in Christ, a propitious time to revive the ecumenical spirit, to meet each other, to get to know each other, to pray and reflect together. The biblical theme, taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, echoes the words of the risen Jesus to the apostles: “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). Our proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus will be much more credible and effective the more that we are united in his love, as true brothers. Thus, I invite parishes, religious communities, ecclesial movements and associations to pray unceasingly, in a special way during Eucharistic Celebrations, for the complete unity of Christians.

We entrust these three intentions -- our migrant and refugee brothers, religious dialogue with the Jews and the unity of Christians -- to the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

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

Our thoughts, in these days, turn to the dear people of Haiti, and [we] raise up sorrowful prayer. The apostolic nuncio, who, thanks be to God, is unhurt, keeps me continually informed, and thus I heard of the sad passing of the archbishop, as well as of many priests, religious and seminarians. I am following and encourage the numerous charitable organizations, who are taking charge of the immense necessities of the country. I pray for the injured, the homeless, and for those who tragically lost their lives.

On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees I am happy to greet the representatives of different ethnic groups who are present. I hope all will participate fully in the life of society and the Church, maintaining the values of their cultures of origin. I also greet the Brazilians who have come today and who are descendants of immigrants from Trentino. Thank you for coming!

Finally I offer a special greeting to the participants in the second edition of the International Festival of the Journeys of the Spirit, taking place at the Nuova Fiera di Roma, where Holy Mass was just celebrated by the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English, he said:]

To the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, I extend heartfelt greetings. In particular I welcome the students from the "Catholic Studies Program" at Loras College, Dubuque in the United States. In today’s Gospel we hear how Jesus let his glory be seen by turning water into wine. May all of you discover the transforming power of his love in your lives, so that his glory may be manifested today to those around you. Upon all who are present, and upon your families and loved ones, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

©Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Papal Address at Synagogue of Rome
"May These Wounds Be Healed Forever!"

ROME, JAN. 17, 2010 - Here is a non-official translation provided by the Vatican of the address Benedict XVI gave today when he visited the Synagogue of Rome.

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"What marvels the Lord worked for them!
What marvels the Lord worked for us:
Indeed we were glad" (Ps 126)

"How good and how pleasant it is
when brothers live in unity" (Ps 133)

Dear Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Rome,
President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities,
President of the Jewish Community of Rome,
Distinguished Authorities,
Friends, Brothers and Sisters,

1. At the beginning of this encounter in the Great Synagogue of the Jews of Rome, the Psalms which we have heard suggest to us the right spiritual attitude in which to experience this particular and happy moment of grace: the praise of the Lord, who has worked marvels for us and has gathered us in his Hèsed, his merciful love, and thanksgiving to him for granting us this opportunity to come together to strengthen the bonds which unite us and to continue to travel together along the path of reconciliation and fraternity. I wish to express first of all my sincere gratitude to you, Chief Rabbi, Doctor Riccardo Di Segni, for your invitation and for the thoughtful words which you have addressed to me. I wish to thank also the President of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Mr Renzo Gattegna, and the President of the Jewish Community of Rome, Mr Riccardo Pacifici, for their courteous greetings. My thoughts go to the Authorities and to all present, and they extend in a special way, to the entire Jewish Community of Rome and to all who have worked to bring about this moment of encounter and friendship which we now share.

When he came among you for the first time, as a Christian and as Pope, my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, almost 24 years ago, wanted to make a decisive contribution to strengthening the good relations between our two communities, so as to overcome every misconception and prejudice. My visit forms a part of the journey already begun, to confirm and deepen it. With sentiments of heartfelt appreciation, I come among you to express to you the esteem and the affection which the Bishop and the Church of Rome, as well as the entire Catholic Church, have towards this Community and all Jewish communities around the world.

2. The teaching of the Second Vatican Council has represented for Catholics a clear landmark to which constant reference is made in our attitude and our relations with the Jewish people, marking a new and significant stage. The Council gave a strong impetus to our irrevocable commitment to pursue the path of dialogue, fraternity and friendship, a journey which has been deepened and developed in the last forty years, through important steps and significant gestures. Among them, I should mention once again the historic visit by my Venerable Predecessor to this Synagogue on 13 April 1986, the numerous meetings he had with Jewish representatives, both here in Rome and during his Apostolic Visits throughout the world, the Jubilee Pilgrimage which he made to the Holy Land in the year 2000, the various documents of the Holy See which, following the Second Vatican Council's Declaration Nostra Aetate, have made helpful contributions to the increasingly close relations between Catholics and Jews. I too, in the course of my Pontificate, have wanted to demonstrate my closeness to and my affection for the people of the Covenant. I cherish in my heart each moment of the pilgrimage that I had the joy of making to the Holy Land in May of last year, along with the memories of numerous meetings with Jewish Communities and Organizations, in particular my visits to the Synagogues of Cologne and New York.

Furthermore, the Church has not failed to deplore the failings of her sons and daughters, begging forgiveness for all that could in any way have contributed to the scourge of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism (cf. Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews,We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, 16 March 1998). May these wounds be healed forever! The heartfelt prayer which Pope John Paul II offered at the Western Wall on 26 March 2000 comes back to my mind, and it calls forth a profound echo in our hearts: "God of our Fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant."

3. The passage of time allows us to recognize in the Twentieth Century a truly tragic period for humanity: ferocious wars that sowed destruction, death and suffering like never before; frightening ideologies, rooted in the idolatry of man, of race, and of the State, which led to brother killing brother. The singular and deeply disturbing drama of the Shoah represents, as it were, the most extreme point on the path of hatred that begins when man forgets his Creator and places himself at the centre of the universe. As I noted during my visit of 28 May 2006 to the Auschwitz Concentration camp, which is still profoundly impressed upon my memory, "the rulers of the Third Reich wanted to crush the entire Jewish people", and, essentially, "by wiping out this people, they intended to kill the God who called Abraham, who spoke on Sinai and laid down principles to serve as a guide for mankind, principles that remain eternally valid" (Discourse at Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp: The Teachings of Pope Benedict XVI, II, 1 [2006], p.727).

Here in this place, how could we not remember the Roman Jews who were snatched from their homes, before these very walls, and who with tremendous brutality were killed at Auschwitz? How could one ever forget their faces, their names, their tears, the desperation faced by these men, women and children? The extermination of the people of the Covenant of Moses, at first announced, then systematically programmed and put into practice in Europe under the Nazi regime, on that day tragically reached as far as Rome. Unfortunately, many remained indifferent, but many, including Italian Catholics, sustained by their faith and by Christian teaching, reacted with courage, often at risk of their lives, opening their arms to assist the Jewish fugitives who were being hunted down, and earning perennial gratitude. The Apostolic See itself provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way.

The memory of these events compels us to strengthen the bonds that unite us so that our mutual understanding, respect and acceptance may always increase.

4. Our closeness and spiritual fraternity find in the Holy Bible - in Hebrew Sifre Qodesh or "Book of Holiness" - their most stable and lasting foundation, which constantly reminds us of our common roots, our history and the rich spiritual patrimony that we share. It is in pondering her own mystery that the Church, the People of God of the New Covenant, discovers her own profound bond with the Jews, who were chosen by the Lord before all others to receive his word (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 839). "The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs and of their race, according to the flesh is the Christ' (Rom 9:4-5), ‘for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!' (Rom 11:29)" (Ibid).

5. Many lessons may be learnt from our common heritage derived from the Law and the Prophets. I would like to recall some of them: first of all, the solidarity which binds the Church to the Jewish people "at the level of their spiritual identity", which offers Christians the opportunity to promote "a renewed respect for the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament" (cf. Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Jewish people and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, 2001, pp.12 and 55); the centrality of the Decalogue as a common ethical message of permanent value for Israel, for the Church, for non-believers and for all of humanity; the task of preparing or ushering in the Kingdom of the Most High in the "care for creation" entrusted by God to man for him to cultivate and to care for responsibly (cf. Gen 2:15).

6. In particular, the Decalogue - the "Ten Words" or Ten Commandments (cf. Ex 20:1-17; Dt 5:1-21) - which comes from the Torah of Moses, is a shining light for ethical principles, hope and dialogue, a guiding star of faith and morals for the people of God, and it also enlightens and guides the path of Christians. It constitutes a beacon and a norm of life in justice and love, a "great ethical code" for all humanity. The "Ten Commandments" shed light on good and evil, on truth and falsehood, on justice and injustice, and they match the criteria of every human person's right conscience. Jesus himself recalled this frequently, underlining the need for active commitment in living the way of the Commandments: "If you wish to enter into life, observe the Commandments" (Mt 19:17). From this perspective, there are several possible areas of cooperation and witness. I would like to recall three that are especially important for our time.

The "Ten Commandments" require that we recognize the one Lord, against the temptation to construct other idols, to make golden calves. In our world there are many who do not know God or who consider him superfluous, without relevance for their lives; hence, other new gods have been fabricated to whom man bows down. Reawakening in our society openness to the transcendent dimension, witnessing to the one God, is a precious service which Jews and Christians can offer together.

The "Ten Commandments" call us to respect life and to protect it against every injustice and abuse, recognizing the worth of each human person, created in the image and likeness of God. How often, in every part of the world, near and far, the dignity, the freedom and the rights of human beings are trampled upon! Bearing witness together to the supreme value of life against all selfishness, is an important contribution to a new world where justice and peace reign, a world marked by that "shalom" which the lawgivers, the prophets and the sages of Israel longed to see.

The "Ten Commandments" call us to preserve and to promote the sanctity of the family, in which the personal and reciprocal, faithful and definitive "Yes" of man and woman makes room for the future, for the authentic humanity of each, and makes them open, at the same time, to the gift of new life. To witness that the family continues to be the essential cell of society and the basic environment in which human virtues are learned and practised is a precious service offered in the construction of a world with a more human face.

7. As Moses taught in the Shema (cf. Dt 6:5; Lev 19:34) - and as Jesus reaffirms in the Gospel (cf. Mk 12:19-31), all of the Commandments are summed up in the love of God and loving-kindness towards one's neighbour. This Rule urges Jews and Christians to exercise, in our time, a special generosity towards the poor, towards women and children, strangers, the sick, the weak and the needy. In the Jewish tradition there is a wonderful saying of the Fathers of Israel: "Simon the Just often said: The world is founded on three things: the Torah, worship, and acts of mercy" (Avoth 1:2). In exercising justice and mercy, Jews and Christians are called to announce and to bear witness to the coming Kingdom of the Most High, for which we pray and work in hope each day.

8. On this path we can walk together, aware of the differences that exist between us, but also aware of the fact that when we succeed in uniting our hearts and our hands in response to the Lord's call, his light comes closer and shines on all the peoples of the world. The progress made in the last forty years by the International Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations and, in more recent years, by the Mixed Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and of the Holy See, are a sign of our common will to continue an open and sincere dialogue. Tomorrow here in Rome, in fact, the Mixed Commission will hold its ninth meeting, on "Catholic and Jewish Teaching on Creation and the Environment"; we wish them a profitable dialogue on such a timely and important theme.

9. Christians and Jews share to a great extent a common spiritual patrimony, they pray to the same Lord, they have the same roots, and yet they often remain unknown to each other. It is our duty, in response to God's call, to strive to keep open the space for dialogue, for reciprocal respect, for growth in friendship, for a common witness in the face of the challenges of our time, which invite us to cooperate for the good of humanity in this world created by God, the Omnipotent and Merciful.

10. Finally, I offer a particular reflection on this, our city of Rome, where, for nearly two millennia, as Pope John Paul II said, the Catholic Community with its Bishop and the Jewish Community with its Chief Rabbi have lived side by side. May this proximity be animated by a growing fraternal love, expressed also in closer cooperation, so that we may offer a valid contribution to solving the problems and difficulties that we still face.

I beg from the Lord the precious gift of peace in the world, above all in the Holy Land. During my pilgrimage there last May, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I prayed to Him who can do all things, asking: "Send your peace upon this Holy Land, upon the Middle East, upon the entire human family; stir the hearts of those who call upon your name, to walk humbly in the path of justice and compassion" (Prayer at the Western Wall of Jerusalem, 12 May 2009).

I give thanks and praise to God once again for this encounter, asking him to strengthen our fraternal bonds and to deepen our mutual understanding.

"O praise the Lord, all you nations,
acclaim him, all you peoples.
Strong is his love for us,
He is faithful forever.
Alleluia" (Ps 117)


On Beginning a New Year
"Thank You, Holy Mother, Who Gave Birth to the Saviour"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2010 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *
Dear brothers and sisters:

Today the Lord gives us the gift of beginning a new year in his name and under the gaze of the Most Holy Virgin, whom we celebrate with the solemnity of the Mother of God. I am happy to be with you for this first Angelus of 2010. I address you who are gathered in a great number in St. Peter's Square and also those who are united with our prayer through radio and television: To all of you I express my wish that the year just begun will be a time in which, with the help of the Lord, we can find Christ and the will of God and thus as well improve our common home, which is the world.

An objective shared by everyone, an indispensable condition for peace, is that of administering with justice and wisdom the natural resources of the earth. "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation" is the very relevant theme to which I have dedicated my message for the 43rd World Day of Peace, [celebrated] today.

As the message was being published, the leaders of states and governments were gathered in Copenhagen for the summit on climate [change], where once again the urgency of common accords at the global level was discussed. Nevertheless, in this moment, I would like to highlight the importance that each one's decisions have in defending the environment -- the decisions of families and local administrations. "We can no longer do without a real change of outlook which will result in new lifestyles" (cf. Message, No. 11). In reality, all of us are responsible for the protection and care of the created world. Therefore, in this field too, education is fundamental: to learn to respect nature, to direct oneself ever more to build peace "begin[ning] with far-reaching decisions on the part of individuals, families, communities and states" (ibid.).

If we should care for the creatures that surround us, what consideration we should have for people, our brothers and sisters! What respect for human life! On the first day of the year, I would like to call out to the consciences of those who form part of armed groups of any kind.

To each and every one, I say: Stop, reflect and abandon the path of violence! At first, this step could seem impossible to you, but if you have the courage to do it, God will help you, and you will feel return to your hearts joy and peace, which perhaps you've forgotten for a long time now. I entrust this call to the intercession of the Most Holy Mother of God, Mary.

Today, the liturgy reminds us that eight days after the birth of the Child, she and her husband Joseph brought him to be circumcised, according to the Law of Moses, and gave him the name Jesus, which had been given him by the angel (Luke 2:21). This name, which means "God saves," is the fulfillment of the revelation of God. Jesus is the face of God. He is the blessing for each person and for all populations. He is the peace of the world.

Thank you, Holy Mother, who gave birth to the Saviour, the Prince of Peace!


On John of Salisbury
"We Witness a Worrying Separation Between Reason ... and Liberty"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we will meet the figure of John of Salisbury, who belonged to one of the most important philosophical and theological schools of the Middle Ages, that of the cathedral of Chartres, in France. John, too, like the theologians about whom I've spoken over the past weeks, helps us to understand how faith, in harmony with the just aspirations of reason, pushes thought toward revealed truth, in which the true good of man is found.

John was born in England, in Salisbury, between the year 1100 and 1120. Reading his works, and above all, his rich epistles, we discover the most important events of his life. For 12 years, between 1136 and 1148, he dedicated himself to study, availing of the most qualified schools of the epoch, where he heard lectures from famous teachers.

He headed to Paris and then to Chartres, the environment that particularly marked his formation and from which he assimilated his great cultural openness, his interest for speculative problems, and his appreciation of literature. As often happened in that time, the most brilliant students were picked by prelates and sovereigns, to be their closest collaborators. This also happened to John of Salisbury, who was presented by a great friend of his, Bernard of Claraval, to Archbishop Theobald of Canterbury -- the primary see of England -- who happily took him in among his clergy.

For 11 years, from 1150 to 1161, John was the secretary and chaplain of the elderly archbishop. With tireless zeal, despite continuing his studies, he carried out an intense regimen of diplomatic activities, traveling 10 times to Italy with the specific objective of nourishing the relationship of the kingdom of England and the Church there with the Roman Pontiff.

Among other things, during those years, the Pope was Adrian IV, an Englishman who was a close friend of John of Salisbury. In the years following the 1159 death of Adrian IV, a situation of serious tension was created in England between the Church and the kingdom. The king, Henry II, aimed to wield authority over the internal life of the Church, limiting its liberty. This endeavor brought about a reaction from John of Salisbury, and above all, valiant resistance from Theobald's successor in the episcopal see of Canterbury, St. Thomas Becket. St. Thomas went to exile in France because of this. John of Salisbury accompanied him and remained at his service, always working for reconciliation. In 1170, when both John and Thomas Becket had returned to England, Thomas was attacked and killed in the cathedral. He died as a martyr and was immediately venerated as such by the people.

John continued faithfully serving the successor of Thomas as well, until he was elected bishop of Chartres, where he stayed from 1176 to 1180, the year of his death.

I would like to point out two of John of Salisbury's works, which are considered his masterpieces and which are elegantly named with the Greek titles of "Metalogicon" (In Defense of Logic) and "Policraticus" (The Man of Government).

In the first work -- and not lacking that fine irony that characterizes many men of culture -- he rejects the position of those who had a reductionist concept of culture, considering it empty eloquence and useless words. John instead praises culture, authentic philosophy, that is, the encounter between clear thought and communication, efficient speech. He writes, "As in fact eloquence that is not enlightened by faith is not only rash but also blind, so wisdom that does not engage in the use of the word not only is weak, but in a certain way, is truncated: Although perhaps wisdom without words could be of benefit to the individual conscience, rarely and little does it benefit society" (Metalogicon 1,1 PL 199,327).

This is a very relevant teaching. Today, what John defines as "eloquence," that is, the possibility of communicating with instruments ever more elaborate and widespread, has enormously increased. For all that, there is an even more urgent need to communicate messages gifted with "wisdom," that is, messages inspired in truth, goodness and beauty. This is a great responsibility that particularly involves those who work in the multiform and complex realm of culture, communication and the media. And this is a realm in which the Gospel can be announced with missionary vigor.

In "Metalogicon," John takes up the problems of logic, which were something of great interest in his time, and he proposes a fundamental question: What can human reason come to know? Up to what point can it respond to this aspiration that is in every person, that of seeking the truth? John of Salisbury takes a moderate position, based in the teaching of certain treatises of Aristotle and Cicero. According to him, ordinarily human reason can reach knowledge that is not indisputable, but probable and contestable. Human knowledge -- this is his conclusion -- is imperfect, because it is subject to finitude, to the limits of man. Nevertheless, it increases and becomes perfected thanks to experience and the elaboration of correct and concrete reasoning, capable of establishing relationships between concepts and reality; thanks to discussion, to confrontation, and to knowledge that is enriched from one generation to another. Only in God is there a perfect knowledge, which is communicated to man, at least partially, by means of revelation welcomed in faith. Thus the knowledge of faith opens the potentialities of reason and brings it to advance with humility in knowledge of the mysteries of God.

The believer and the theologian, who go deeper into the treasure of the faith, are opened as well to a practical knowledge that guides daily activity, that is, moral law and the exercise of virtue.

John of Salisbury writes: "The clemency of God has conceded us his law, which establishes what is useful for us to know, and indicates how much is licit to know of God and how much is justifiable to investigate. ... In this law, in fact, the will of God is made explicit and manifested, so that each one of us knows what is necessary for him to do" (Metalogicon 4,41, PL 199,944-945).

According to John of Salisbury, there also exists an objective and immutable truth, whose origin is God, accessible to human reason. This truth regards practical and social actions. This is a natural law, from which human laws and political and religious authority should take inspiration, so that they can promote the common good. This natural law is characterized by a property that John calls "equity," that is, the attribution to each person of his rights. From here descend precepts that are legitimate for all peoples and which in no case can be abrogated. This is the central thesis in "Policraticus," the treatise on philosophy and political theology, in which John of Salisbury reflects on the conditions that enable a political leader to act in a just and authorized manner.

While other discussions taken up in this work are tied to the historical circumstances in which it was written, the theme of the relationship between natural law and a positive-juridical ordering, arbitrated by equity, is still today of great importance. In our times, in fact, above all in certain countries, we witness a worrying separation between reason, which has the task of discovering the ethical values linked to the dignity of the human person, and liberty, which has the responsibility of welcoming and promoting these values. Perhaps John of Salisbury would remind us today that only those laws are equitable that protect the sanctity of human life and reject the legalization of abortion, euthanasia and limitless genetic experimentation, those laws that respect the dignity of matrimony between a man and a woman, that are inspired in a correct secularity of state -- secularity that always includes the protection of religious liberty -- and that pursue subsidiarity and solidarity at the national and international level.

If not, what John of Salisbury calls the "tyranny of the sovereign" or, what we would call "the dictatorship of relativism," ends up taking over -- a relativism that, as I recalled some years ago, "recognizes nothing as definitive and that has as its measure only the self and its desires" (Misa pro eligendo Romano Pontifice, homily, April 19, 2005).

In my most recent encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," addressing men and women of good will, who endeavor to ensure that social and political action is never disconnected from the objective truth about man and his dignity, I wrote: "Truth, and the love which it reveals, cannot be produced: they can only be received as a gift. Their ultimate source is not, and cannot be, mankind, but only God, who is himself Truth and Love. This principle is extremely important for society and for development, since neither can be a purely human product; the vocation to development on the part of individuals and peoples is not based simply on human choice, but is an intrinsic part of a plan that is prior to us and constitutes for all of us a duty to be freely accepted" (No. 52).

This plan that is prior to us, this truth of being, we should seek and welcome, so that justice is born. But we can find it and welcome it only with a heart, a will and reason purified in the light of God.

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to John of Salisbury, an outstanding philosopher and theologian of the twelfth century. Born in England, John was educated in Paris and Chartres. A close associate of Saint Thomas Becket, he was involved in the crisis between the Church and the Crown under King Henry II, and died as Bishop of Chartres. In his celebrated work, the Metalogicon, John teaches that authentic philosophy is by nature communicative: it bears fruit in a message of wisdom which serves the building up of society in truth and goodness. While acknowledging the limitations of human reason, John insists that it can attain to the truth through dialogue and argumentation. Faith, which grants a share in God’s perfect knowledge, helps reason to realize its full potential. In another work, the Policraticus, John defends reason’s capacity to know the objective truth underlying the universal natural law, and its obligation to embody that law in all positive legislation. John’s insights are most timely today, in light of the threats to human life and dignity posed by legislation inspired more by the "dictatorship of relativism" than by the sober use of right reason and concern for the principles of truth and justice inscribed in the natural law.


Pope's Letter to Conference on the God Question
"When God Disappears From Man's Horizon, Humanity Loses Its Direction"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2009 - Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa and president of the Italian episcopal conference, on the occasion of the three-day international congress taking place in Rome through Saturday titled "God Today: With Him or Without Him Everything Changes."

* * *

To the Venerated Brother
Lord Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco
Metropolitan Archbishop of Genoa
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference

On the occasion of the Congress "God Today: With or Without Him Everything Changes," which is taking place in Rome from December 10-12, I wish to express to you, venerated Brother, to the Italian Episcopal Conference and, in particular, to the Committee for the Cultural Project, my profound appreciation for this important initiative, which addresses one of the great topics that has always fascinated and questioned the human spirit.

The question of God is also central in our time, in which man is often reduced to one dimension, the "horizontal," considering openness to the Transcendent as irrelevant for his life. The relationship with God, instead, is essential for humanity's journey and, as I have had the occasion to affirm many times, the Church and every Christian, in fact, have the task to make God present in this world, to attempt to open to men access to God.

Planned from this perspective is the international event of these days. The breadth of the approach to the important topic that characterizes the meeting, will make possible the sketching of a rich and articulated picture of the question of God, but above all it will be a stimulation for a profound reflection on God's place in the culture and life of our time.

On one hand, in fact, an attempt is being made to show the different ways that lead to affirming the truth about the existence of God, that God which humanity has always known in some way, even in the chiaroscuro of his history, and who revealed himself with the splendor of his face in the covenant with the people of Israel and, beyond that, in every measure and hope, in a full and definitive way, in Jesus Christ.

He is the Son of God, the Living who enters into the life and history of man to illumine him with his grace, with his presence. On the other hand, the desire is precisely to bring to light the essential importance that God has for us, for our personal and social life, for understanding ourselves and the world, for the hope that illumines our way, for the salvation that awaits us beyond death.

Directed to these objectives are the numerous interventions, according to the many points of view which will be the object of study and exchange: from philosophical and theological reflection on the witness of the great religions; from the impulse to God, which finds its expression in music, literature, the figurative arts, the cinema and television; to the development of the sciences, which attempt to read in depth the mechanisms of nature, fruit of the intelligent work of God the Creator; from the analysis of the personal experience of God to the consideration of the social and political dynamics of an already globalized world.

In a cultural and spiritual situation such as the one we are living in, where the tendency grows to relegate God to the private sphere, to consider him irrelevant and superfluous, or to reject him explicitly, it is my heartfelt hope that this event might at least contribute to disperse that semi-darkness that makes openness to God precarious and fearful for the men of our time, though he never ceases to knock on our door.

The experiences of the past, although not remote to us, teach us that when God disappears from man's horizon, humanity loses its direction and runs the risk of taking steps to its own destruction. Faith in God opens man to the horizon of certain hope, which does not disappoint; it indicates a solid foundation on which to base life without fear; it calls for abandoning oneself with confidence in the hands of the Love which sustains the world.

To you, cardinal, to all those who have contributed to prepare this congress, to the speakers and to all the participants I express my cordial greeting with the desire for the full success of the initiative. I support the works with prayer and with my apostolic blessing, propitiator of that light from on High, which makes us capable of finding God, our treasure and our hope.

In the Vatican, December 7, 2009


On Mary as Mother
"We Can Turn to Her, and Our Heart Receives Light and Comfort"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered at midday before and after praying the Angelus on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, together with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The 8th of December we celebrate one of the most beautiful feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception. But what does it mean that Mary is the "Immaculate"? And what does this title tell to us?

First of all we refer to the biblical texts of today's liturgy, especially the great "fresco" of the third chapter of the Book of Genesis and the account of the Annunciation of the Gospel of Luke. After original sin, God turned to the serpent, which represents Satan, he curses him and adds a promise: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15).

It is the proclamation of revenge: Satan at the beginning of creation seems to have the upper hand, but the son of a woman will come who will crush his head. Thus, through the woman's offspring, God himself will triumph. That woman is the Virgin Mary, from whom was born Jesus Christ who, with his sacrifice, has defeated once and for all the ancient tempter. Because of this, in so many painting and statues of the Immaculate, she is represented in the act of crushing a serpent under her foot.

The evangelist Luke, instead, shows us the Virgin Mary who receives the annunciation of the heavenly messenger (cf. Luke 1:26-38). She appears as the humble and authentic daughter of Israel, true Zion in whom God wishes to make his dwelling. She is the young plant from which the Messiah must be born, the just and merciful King.

In the simplicity of the home of Nazareth lives Israel's pure remnant from which God wishes to have his people be born again, as a new tree that will extend its branches in the whole world, offering all men good fruits of salvation. As opposed to Adam and Eve, Mary remains obedient to the Lord's will, with her whole self she pronounces her "yes" and places herself fully at the disposition of the divine plan. She is the new Eve, true "mother of all the living" -- that is, of all those who by faith in Christ receive eternal life.

Dear friends, what immense joy to have Mary Immaculate as Mother! Every time we experience our frailty and the suggestion of evil, we can turn to her, and our heart receives light and comfort.

Also in life's trials, in the storms that make faith and hope vacillate, we think that we are her children and that the roots of our existence sink in the infinite grace of God. The Church herself, even if exposed to the negative influences of the world, always finds in her the star to direct and follow the route indicated by Christ.

Mary is in fact the Mother of the Church, as Pope Paul VI and Vatican Council II solemnly proclaimed. While, therefore, we render thanks to God for this wonderful sign of his goodness, we entrust to the Immaculate Virgin each one of us, our families and the community, the whole Church and the entire world.


On Mary's Presence in Rome
"Let Us Hear Her Silent but Pressing Appeal"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 8, 2009 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, during his visit to the image of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza de Spagna.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In the heart of Christian cities, Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence. With her discreet style she gives everyone peace and hope in happy and sad moments of life. In the churches, in the chapels, on the walls of palaces: a painting, a mosaic, a statue recalls the presence of the Mother who constantly watches over her children. Also here, in Piazza di Spagna, Mary is placed on high, almost to watch over Rome.

What does Mary say to the city? Of what does she remind everyone with her presence? She reminds that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Romans 5:20) -- as the Apostle Paul writes. She is the Immaculate Mother who repeats also to the men of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus has conquered evil; he has conquered it at the root, freeing us from its dominion.

How much we have need of this beautiful news! Every day, in fact, through newspapers, the television and the radio, evil is recounted, repeated, amplified, accustoming us to the most horrible things, making us become insensitive and, in some way, intoxicating us, because the negative is not fully disposed of and accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts become dark. Because of this, the city has need of Mary, who with her presence speaks to us of God, reminds us of the victory of grace over sin, and induces us to hope even in humanly more difficult situations.

In the city live -- or survive -- invisible persons, who every now and then leap onto the front page or on television screens, and are exploited to the end, so that the news and the image attract attention. It is a perverse mechanism, to which unfortunately one finds it hard to resist. The city first hides and then exhibits to the public, without pity, or with false pity. There is instead in every man the desire to be received as a person and considered a sacred reality, because every human history is a sacred history, and requires the greatest respect.

The city, dear brothers and sisters, is all of us! Each one contributes to its life and its moral climate, for good or evil. In the heart of every one of us passes the boundary between good and evil, and not one of us should feel the right to judge others, but rather each one must feel the duty to improve himself!

The mass media tends to make us feel always as "spectators," as if evil refers only to others, and certain things could never happen to us. Instead we are all "actors" and, in evil as in good, our behavior has an influence on others.

We often lament the pollution of the air, which in certain places of the city is unbreathable. It is true: We need everyone's commitment to make the city cleaner.

And yet, there is another pollution, less perceptible to the senses, but just as dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit; it is that which renders our faces less smiling, more gloomy, which leads us not to greet one another, to not look at one another in the face. The city is made up of faces, but unfortunately the collective dynamics can make the perception of their depth disappear. We see everything on the surface. Persons become bodies, and these bodies lose the soul, become things, objects without a face, to be exchanged and consumed.

Mary Immaculate helps us to rediscover and defend the depth of persons, because in her there is perfect transparency of the soul in the body. She is purity personified, in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are in her, fully consistent between themselves and with the will of God. The Madonna teaches us to open ourselves to God's action, to look at others as he looks at them -- from the heart. And to look at them with mercy, with love, with infinite tenderness, especially those who are most alone, most looked down upon, most exploited. "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more."

I wish to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, not with words, but with deeds, make an effort to practice this evangelical law of love, which sends the world forward. They are so many, also here in Rome, and rarely do they make news. Men and women of every age, who have understood that it is no use to condemn, to lament, to recriminate, but it is better to respond to evil with good. This changes things, it changes persons and, in consequence, improves society.

Dear Roman friends, and all of you who live in this city! While we are busy in daily activities, let us listen to Mary's voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She says to each one of us: Where sin increased, grace can overflow, beginning precisely from your heart and your life! And the city will be more beautiful, more Christian, more human.

Thank you, Holy Mother, for this your message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, "Salus Populi Romani," pray for us!


Papal Words to Conference on Care of the Deaf
"Ephphatha! The Hearing-Impaired Person in the Life of the Church"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2009 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Nov. 20 upon receiving in audience participants in the 24th International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. The theme of the meeting was "Ephphatha! The Hearing-Impaired Person in the Life of the Church."

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to meet you on the occasion of the 24th International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health-Care Workers on a theme of great social and ecclesial importance: "Ephphatha! The hearing-impaired person in the life of the Church."

I greet Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Dicastery, and thank him for his cordial words. I extend my greeting to the Secretary and to the new Undersecretary, to the Priests, Religious and Lay People, to the Experts and to everyone present. I would like to express my appreciation and my encouragement for your generous commitment to this important sector of pastoral care.

Indeed, the problems that beset deaf people, who have been made the object of attentive reflection in these days, are numerous and delicate. It is a situation on different levels, which ranges from the sociological horizon to the pedagogical, from the medical and psychological to the ethical and spiritual and the pastoral. The reports of specialists, the exchange of experiences among those who work in this field, the testimonies of the deaf themselves have offered the possibility for an in-depth analysis of the situation and for the formulation of proposals and guidelines for an ever more specialized attention to these brothers and sisters of ours.

The word "Ephphatha" as the beginning of the title of the Conference's theme, calls to mind the well-known episode in Mark's Gospel (cf. 7: 31-37), which is paradigmatic of how the Lord works for deaf people. Jesus took aside a deaf mute and, after making some symbolic gestures, raised his eyes to Heaven and said to him: "'Ephphatha', that is, 'Be opened'".

At that moment, the Evangelist says, the man's ears were opened, his tongue released, and he spoke plainly. Jesus' gestures are full of loving attention and express deep compassion for the man who stood before him. The Lord showed the deaf man his concrete concern, drew him aside from the confusion of the crowd, made him feel his closeness and understanding by several gestures full of meaning. He placed his fingers in his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. He then invited him to turn his interior gaze, that of his heart, together with him to the heavenly Father. Finally, he healed him and restored him to his family, to his people, and the crowd, marvelling, could only exclaim: "He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak!" (Mk 7: 37).

By his way of behaving which reveals the heavenly Father's love, Jesus does not only heal physical deafness but points out that there is another form of deafness of which humanity must be cured, indeed, from which it must be saved: it is deafness of the spirit, which raises ever higher barriers against the voice of God and that of one's neighbour, especially the cry for help of the lowliest and the suffering, and closes the human being in profound and ruinous selfishness.

As I had the opportunity to say in the Homily during my Pastoral Visit to the Diocese of Viterbo last 6 September: "we can see in this "sign' Jesus' ardent desire to overcome man's loneliness and incommunicability created by selfishness, in order to bring about a "new humanity', the humanity of listening and speech, of dialogue, of communication, of communion with God. A "good' humanity, just as all of God's Creation is good; a humanity without discrimination, without exclusion... so that the world is truly and for all a "scene of true brotherhood'" (Homily, Mass in Faul Valley, Viterbo, 6 September; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, pages 5-6, 9 September 2009).

Unfortunately experience does not always testify to acts of prompt acceptance, convinced solidarity and warm communion for people who are unable to hear. The numerous associations that have come into being to protect and promote their rights, highlight the existence of a discontent society that is marked by prejudice and discrimination. These are deplorable and unjustifiable attitudes because they are contrary to respect for the dignity of the deaf and their full social integration.

Far more widespread, however, are the initiatives promoted by institutions and associations, in both the ecclesial and civil contexts, that are inspired by authentic and generous solidarity and which have contributed to improving the living conditions of many hearing-impaired people.

In this regard, it is important to remember that in the 18th century the first schools for the religious instruction and formation of these brothers and sisters of ours were being founded in Europe.

From that time on charitable institutions in the Church increased, impelled by priests, men and women religious and lay people, whose purpose was to offer the hearing-impaired not only an education but also an integral assistance for their complete fulfillment.

However, it is not possible to forget the serious situation in which they still live today in the developing countries, both because of the lack of appropriate policies and legislation and because of the difficulty in obtaining access to primary health care treatment. Deafness, in fact, is often the consequence of illnesses that can easily be treated.

I therefore appeal to the political and civil authorities, as well as to the international organizations, to offer the necessary support in order to promote, also in those countries, a proper respect for the dignity and rights of deaf people, encouraging their full social integration with adequate assistance.

Following the teaching and example of her divine Founder, the Church is continuing to accompany the various pastoral and social initiatives for their benefit with love and solidarity, reserving special attention for those who are suffering, in the awareness that it is precisely in suffering that a special strength is concealed, a special grace which brings the human being inwardly closer to Christ.

Dear hearing-impaired brothers and sisters, you are not only recipients of the Gospel message but also legitimately heralds of it, by virtue of your Baptism. Thus you live every day as witnesses of the Lord in your living contexts, making Christ and his Gospel known. In this Year for Priests, you are also praying for vocations, so that the Lord will inspire numerous good ministries for the growth of the ecclesial community.

Dear friends, I thank you for this encounter and entrust all of you who are present here to the motherly protection of Mary, Mother of Love, Star of Hope, Our Lady of Silence. With these wishes, I cordially impart to you the Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to your families and to all the associations which actively work at the service of the hearing-impaired.

© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


On God's Presence and Coming
"He Is Here and Comes to Visit Us"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2009 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Saturday at First Vespers for the First Sunday of Advent.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

With this evening celebration we enter the liturgical time of Advent. In the biblical reading we just heard, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul invites us to prepare for the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:23), keeping ourselves irreproachable, with the grace of God. Paul uses, in fact, the word "coming," in Latin adventus, from whence comes the term Advent.

Let us reflect briefly on the meaning of this word, which can be translated as "presence," "arrival," "coming." In the language of the ancient world it was a technical term used to indicate the arrival of a functionary or the visit of a king or emperor to a province. But it could also indicate the coming of the divinity, which goes out of concealment to manifest itself with power, or which is celebrated as present in worship. Christians adopted the word "advent" to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: Jesus is King, who has entered into this poor "province" called earth to visit everyone; he brings to participate in his advent those who believe in him, all those who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly. With the word adventus an attempt was made essentially to say: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not left us alone. Although we cannot see or touch him, as is the case with tangible realities, he is here and comes to visit us in multiple ways.

The meaning of the expression "advent" includes therefore also that of visitatio, which means simply and properly "visit"; in this case it is a visit of God: He enters my life and wants to address me. We all experience in daily life having little time for the Lord and little time for ourselves. We end up by being absorbed in "doing." Is it not true that often activity possesses us, that society with its many interests monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we dedicate much time to amusements and leisure of different kinds? Sometimes things "trap" us.

Advent, this intense liturgical time that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to grasp a presence. It is an invitation to understand that every event of the day is a gesture that God directs to us, sign of the care he has for each one of us. How many times God makes us perceive something of his love! To have, so to speak, an "interior diary" of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord who is present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us to see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to see our whole existence as a "visit," as a way in which he can come to us and be close to us, in each situation?

Another essential element of Advent is expectation, expectation that at the same time is hope. Advent drives us to understand the meaning of time and history as "kairos," as a favorable occasion for our salvation. Jesus illustrated this mysterious reality in many parables: in the account of the servants invited to await the return of their master; in the parable of the virgins who await the bridegroom; or in those of the sowing and harvesting. Man, in his life, is in constant waiting: When he is a child he wants to grow, as an adult he tends to his realization and success, growing in age, he aspires to his deserved rest. However the time comes in which he discovers that he has waited too little if, beyond his profession or social position, he has no choice but to wait. Hope marks the path of humanity, but for Christians it is animated by a certainty: The Lord is present in the course of our life, he accompanies us and one day he will also dry our tears. In a not too distant day, everything will find its fulfillment in the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of justice and peace.

However, there are very different ways of waiting. If time is not filled by a present gifted with meaning, the waiting runs the risk of becoming unbearable; if something is expected, but at this moment there is nothing, namely, if the present is empty, every instant that passes seems exaggeratedly long, and the waiting is transformed into a weight that is too heavy because the future is totally uncertain. When, instead, time is gifted with meaning and we perceive in every instant something specific and valuable, then the joy of waiting makes the present more precious.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us live the present intensely, when we already have the gifts of the Lord, let us live it projected to the future, a future full of hope. The Christian Advent thus becomes an occasion to reawaken in ourselves the true meaning of waiting, returning to the heart of our faith which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah awaited for long centuries and born in the poverty of Bethlehem. Coming among us, he has brought us and continues to offer us the gift of his love and of his salvation. Present among us, he speaks to us in many ways: in sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in the whole of creation, which changes in aspect if he is behind it or if it is obfuscated by the mist of an uncertain origin and an uncertain future. In turn, we can speak to him, present to him the sufferings that afflict us, impatience, the questions that spring from the heart. We are certain that he always hears us! And if Jesus is present, there is no time deprived of meaning and void. If he is present, we can continue to wait also when others can no longer give us their support, even when the present is exhausting.

Dear friends, Advent is the time of the presence and the expectation of the eternal. Precisely for this reason it is, in a particular way, the time of joy, of an internalized joy, that no suffering can erase. Joy because of the fact that God became a child. This joy, invisibly present in us, encourages us to walk with confidence. Model and support of this profound joy is the Virgin Mary, through whom the Child Jesus has been given to us. May she, faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace to live this liturgical time vigilant and diligent in waiting. Amen.


Papal Letter to Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople
"Christianity Is Faced With Increasingly Complex Challenges"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2009 - Here is the message Benedict XVI sent to Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, on the occasion of today's Feast of St. Andrew. St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter, is the protector of the ecumenical patriarchate.

The Holy Father's message was delivered by a delegation headed by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

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To His Holiness Bartholomaios I
Archbishop of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarch
Your Holiness,

It is with great joy that I address Your Holiness on the occasion of the visit of the delegation guided by my Venerable Brother Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to whom I have entrusted the task of conveying to you my warmest fraternal greetings on the Feast of Saint Andrew, the brother of Saint Peter and the protector of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

On this joyful occasion commemorating the birth into eternal life of the Apostle Andrew, whose witness of faith in the Lord culminated in his martyrdom, I express also my respectful remembrance to the Holy Synod, the clergy and all the faithful, who under your pastoral care and guidance continue even in difficult circumstances to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The memory of the holy martyrs compels all Christians to bear witness to their faith before the world. There is an urgency in this call especially in our own day, in which Christianity is faced with increasingly complex challenges. The witness of Christians will surely be all the more credible if all believers in Christ are "of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32).

Our Churches have committed themselves sincerely over the last decades to pursuing the path towards the re-establishment of full communion, and although we have not yet reached our goal, many steps have been taken that have enabled us to deepen the bonds between us. Our growing friendship and mutual respect, and our willingness to encounter one another and to recognize one another as brothers in Christ, should not be hindered by those who remain bound to the remembrance of historical differences, which impedes their openness to the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and is able to transform all human failings into opportunities for good.

This openness has guided the work of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue, which held its eleventh plenary session in Cyprus last month. The meeting was marked by a spirit of solemn purpose and a warm sentiment of closeness. I extend once again my heartfelt gratitude to the Church of Cyprus for its most generous welcome and hospitality. It is a source of great encouragement that despite some difficulties and misunderstandings all the Churches involved in the International Commission have expressed their intention to continue the dialogue.

The theme of the plenary session, The Role of the Bishop of Rome in the Communion of the Church in the First Millennium, is certainly complex, and will require extensive study and patient dialogue if we are to aspire to a shared integration of the traditions of East and West. The Catholic Church understands the Petrine ministry as a gift of the Lord to His Church. This ministry should not be interpreted in the perspective of power, but within an ecclesiology of communion, as a service to unity in truth and charity. The Bishop of the Church of Rome, which presides in charity (Saint Ignatius of Antioch), is understood to be the Servus Servorum Dei (Saint Gregory the Great). Thus, as my venerable predecessor the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote and I reiterated on the occasion of my visit to the Phanar in November 2006, it is a question of seeking together, inspired by the model of the first millennium, the forms in which the ministry of the Bishop of Rome may accomplish a service of love recognized by one and all (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 95). Let us therefore ask God to bless us and may the Holy Spirit guide us along this difficult yet promising path.

Yet even as we make this journey towards full communion, we should already offer common witness by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person, in affirming fundamental ethical values, in promoting justice and peace, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world, particularly hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the inequitable distribution of resources.

Furthermore, our Churches can work together in drawing attention to humanity’s responsibility for the safeguarding of creation. In this regard, I express once again my appreciation for the many valuable initiatives supported and encouraged by Your Holiness which have borne witness to the gift of creation. The recent international symposium on Religion, Science and the Environment dedicated to the Mississippi River, and your encounters in the United States with distinguished figures from the political, cultural and religious spheres, have exemplified your commitment.

Your Holiness, on the solemn Feast of the great Apostle Andrew, I express my respectful esteem and spiritual closeness to Your Holiness and to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and I pray that the Triune God may bestow abundant blessings of grace and light on your lofty ministry for the good of the Church.

It is with these sentiments that I extend to you a fraternal embrace in the name of our one Lord Jesus Christ, and I renew my prayer that the peace and grace of our Lord may be with Your Holiness and with all those entrusted to your eminent pastoral leadership.

From the Vatican, 25 November 2009



On Europe's Cathedrals
"Beauty Is a Privileged ... Way to Approach the Mystery of God"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience, which was held in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

In the catecheses of recent weeks I have presented some aspects of Medieval theology. However Christian faith, profoundly rooted in the men and women of those centuries, did not only give origin to masterpieces of theological literature, of thought and of faith. It also inspired one of the loftiest artistic creations of universal civilization: the cathedrals, true glory of the Christian Middle Ages. In fact, for almost three centuries, beginning in the 11th century, Europe witnessed an extraordinary artistic fervor. An ancient chronicler describes thus the enthusiasm and industry of that time: "It happened that the whole world, but especially in Italy and in Gaul, churches began to be reconstructed, although many, being in good conditions, had no need of this restoration. It was as though one village and another competed; it was as if the world, shaking off its old rags, wished to be clothed everywhere in the white garment of new churches. In sum, almost all the cathedral churches, a great number of monastic churches, and even village chapels, were then restored by the faithful" (Rodolfo el Glabro, Historiarum 3,4).

Several factors contributed to this rebirth of religious architecture. First of all, more favorable historical conditions, such as greater political security, accompanied by a constant increase in the population and the progressive development of cities, of exchanges and of wealth. Moreover, architects found increasingly elaborate technical solutions to increase the dimension of buildings, ensuring at the same time their firmness and majesty. However, it was thanks primarily to the spiritual ardor and zeal of monasticism then in full expansion that abbey churches were erected, where the liturgy could be celebrated with dignity and solemnity, and the faithful could remain in prayer, attracted by the veneration of the relics of the saints, object of countless pilgrimages. Thus the Romanesque churches and cathedrals were born, characterized by their longitudinal development along the naves to house numerous faithful; very solid churches, with thick walls, stone vaults and simple and essential lines.

A novelty is represented by the introduction of sculptures. As Romanesque churches were the place of monastic prayer and the faithful's worship, the sculptors, rather than being concerned with technical perfection, took care above all of the educational end. It was necessary to arouse in souls strong impressions, feelings that could incite them to flee from vice and evil and practice virtue, goodness -- the recurrent theme was the representation of Christ as Universal Judge, surrounded by the personages of revelation. In general it is Romanesque facades that offer this representation, to underline that Christ is the door that leads to heaven. The faithful, crossing the threshold of the sacred building, entered a time and space that were different from those of ordinary life. Beyond the main door of the church, believers in the sovereign, just and merciful Christ could -- the artists hoped -- anticipate eternal happiness in the celebration of the liturgy and in acts of piety carried out inside the sacred building.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, beginning in the north of France, another type of architecture spread in the construction of sacred buildings: the Gothic. This style had two new characteristics as compared to the Romanesque: the vertical thrust and luminosity. Gothic cathedrals showed a synthesis of faith and art expressed harmoniously through the universal and fascinating language of beauty, which still today awakens wonder. Thanks to the introduction of pointed vaults, which were supported by robust pillars, it was possible to notably raise the height [of these churches]. The thrust to the sublime was an invitation to prayer and at the same time was a prayer. The Gothic cathedral thus wished to translate in its architectural lines souls longing for God. Moreover, with the new technical solutions, the perimeter walls could be penetrated and embellished by colorful stained glass windows. In other words, the windows were transformed into great luminous figures, very adapted to instructing the people in the faith. In them -- scene by scene -- were narrated the life of a saint, a parable or other biblical events. From the painted windows a cascade of light was shed on the faithful to narrate to them the history of salvation and to involve them in this history.

Another merit of the Gothic cathedrals was the fact that, in their construction and decoration, the Christian and civil community participated in a different but coordinated way; the poor and the powerful, the illiterate and the learned participated, because in this common house all believers were instructed in the faith. Gothic sculpture made of cathedrals a "Bible of stone," representing the episodes of the Gospel and illustrating the contents of the Liturgical Year, from Christmas to the Lord's glorification. Spreading ever more in those centuries, moreover, was the perception of the Lord's humanity, and the sufferings of his Passion were represented in a realistic way: The suffering Christ (Christus patiens) became an image loved by all, and able to inspire piety and repentance for sins. Not lacking were the personages of the Old Testament, whose history became familiar to the faithful in such a way that they frequented the cathedrals as part of the one, common history of salvation. With their faces full of beauty, tenderness, intelligence, Gothic sculpture of the 13th century reveals a happy and serene piety, which is pleased to emanate a heartfelt and filial devotion to the Mother of God, seen at times as a young, smiling and maternal woman, and represented primarily as the sovereign of heaven and earth, powerful and merciful.

The faithful who filled the Gothic cathedrals wanted to find in them artistic expressions that recalled the saints, models of Christian life and intercessors before God. And there was no lack of "lay" manifestations of existence; hence there appeared here and there representations of work in the fields, in the sciences and in the arts. Everything was oriented and offered to God in the place where the liturgy was celebrated. We can understand better the meaning that was attributed to a Gothic cathedral, considering the text of an inscription on the main door of St. Denis in Paris: "Passer-by, you who want to praise the beauty of these doors, do not be dazzled either by the gold or the magnificence, but by the laborious work. Here shines a famous work, but may the heavens allow that this famous work which shines make spirits shine, so that with luminous truths they will walk toward the true light, where Christ is the true door."

Dear brothers and sisters, I now wish to underline two elements of Romanesque and Gothic art, which are also useful for us.

The first: the works of art born in Europe in past centuries are incomprehensible if one does not take into account the religious soul that inspired them. Marc Chagall, an artist who has always given testimony of the encounter between aesthetics and faith, wrote that "for centuries painters have dyed their brush in that colored alphabet that is the Bible." When faith, celebrated in a particular way in the liturgy, encounters art, a profound synchrony is created, because both can and want to praise God, making the Invisible visible. I would like to share this in the meeting with artists on Nov. 21, renewing that proposal of friendship between Christian spirituality and art, desired by my venerated predecessors, in particular by the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II.

The second element: the force of the Romanesque style and the splendor of the Gothic cathedrals remind us that the via pilchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating way to approach the Mystery of God. What is beauty, which writers, poets, musicians, and artists contemplate and translate into their language, if not the reflection of the splendor of the Eternal Word made flesh? St. Augustine states: "Ask the beauty of the earth, ask the beauty of the sea, ask the beauty of the ample and diffused air. Ask the beauty of heaven, ask the order of the stars, ask the sun, which with its splendor brightens the day; ask the moon, which with its clarity moderates the darkness of night. Ask the beasts that move in the water, that walk on the earth, that fly in the air: souls that hide, bodies that show themselves; the visible that lets itself be guided, the invisible that guides. Ask them! All will answer you: Look at us, we are beautiful! Their beauty makes them known. This mutable beauty, who has created it if not Immutable Beauty?" (Sermo CCXLI, 2: PL 38, 1134).

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord help us to rediscover the way of beauty as one of the ways, perhaps the most attractive and fascinating, to be able to find and love God.

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

My dear brothers and sisters,

I have been speaking in recent weeks about medieval theology, and would now like to turn my attention to how the Christian faith of the Middle Ages inspired some of the greatest works of art of all time: the cathedrals of Europe. Romanesque cathedrals are distinctive for their size and for introducing to churches beautiful sculpture, including the image of Christ as the Universal Judge and the Gate of Heaven. By entering through Him, as it were, the faithful enter a space and even a time different from everyday life, somewhere they can anticipate eternal life through their participation in the liturgy. Gradually, Gothic architecture replaced the Romanesque, adding height and luminosity to the previous style. The Gothic cathedral translates the aspirations of the soul into architectural lines, and is a synthesis between faith, art and beauty which still raises our hearts and minds to God today. When faith encounters art, in particular in the liturgy, a profound synthesis is created, making visible the Invisible, and the two great architectural styles of the Middle Ages demonstrate how beauty is a powerful means to draw us closer to the Mystery of God. May the Lord help us to rediscover that "way of beauty," surely one of the best ways to know and to love Almighty God.


On New Territories for Evangelizing
"Go On Speaking, and Do Not Be Silent"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 16, 2009 - Here is a translation of a message Benedict XVI sent to Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on the occasion of that dicastery's plenary assembly.

The assembly began today and is under way through Wednesday on the topic "St. Paul and the New Areopagi."

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To the Venerable Brother, Lord Cardinal Ivan Dias,
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

On the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, I wish to express to you, Lord Cardinal, my cordial greeting, which I happily extend to the archbishops, bishops and all those taking part in this assembly. I also greet the secretary, the assistant secretary, the under-secretary and all the collaborators of this dicastery. I add the expression of my sentiments of appreciation and gratitude for the service you render the Church in the area of the mission ad gentes.

The topic you are addressing in this meeting, "St. Paul and the New Areopagi" -- also in light of the Pauline Year concluded a short while ago -- assists in reliving an experience of the Apostle to the Gentiles while in Athens. After having preached in many places, he addressed the Areopagus and there proclaimed the Gospel using a language that today we could describe as "inculturated" (cf. Acts 17:22-31).

That Areopagus, which at the time represented the center of culture for the refined Athenian people, today -- as my venerated predecessor John Paul II would say -- "can be taken as a symbol of the new sectors in which the Gospel must be proclaimed" (Redemptoris Missio, 37). In fact, the reference to that event is an urgent invitation to know how to value the "Areopagi" of today, where the great challenges of evangelization are addressed.

You wish to analyze this topic with realism, taking into account the many social changes that have occurred: a realism supported by the spirit of faith, which sees history in the light of the Gospel, and with the certainty that Paul had of the presence of the Risen Christ. Resonating and comforting for us also are the words that Jesus addressed to him in Corinth: "Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you," (Acts 18:9-10).

In an effective way, the Servant of God Paul VI said that it is not just a question of preaching the Gospel, but of "affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation" (Insegnamenti XIII, [1975], 1448).

It is necessary to look at the "new Areopagi" with this spirit; some of these [areas], with present globalization, have become common, whereas others continue to be specific to certain continents, as was seen recently in the special assembly for Africa of the synod of bishops. Therefore, the missionary activity of the Church must be directed to the vital centers of the society of the third millennium.

Not to be underestimated is the influence of a widespread relativistic culture, more often than not lacking in values, which enters the sanctuary of the family, infiltrates the realm of education and other realms of society and contaminates them, manipulating consciences, especially those of the young. At the same time, however, despite these snares, the Church knows that the Holy Spirit is always acting. New doors, in fact, are opened to the Gospel, and spreading in the world is the longing for authentic spiritual and apostolic renewal. As in other periods of change, the pastoral priority is to show the true face of Christ, lord of history and sole redeemer of man.

This demands that every Christian community and the Church as a whole offer a testimony of fidelity to Christ, patiently building that unity desired by him and invoked by all his disciples. The unity of Christians will, in fact, facilitate evangelization and confrontation with the cultural, social and religious challenges of our time.

In this missionary enterprise we can look to the Apostle Paul, imitate his "style" of life and his apostolic "spirit" itself, centered totally on Christ. With this complete adherence to the Lord, Christians will more easily be able to transmit to future generations the heritage of faith, capable of transforming difficulties into possibilities of evangelization.

In the recent encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," I wished to emphasize that the economic and social development of contemporary society needs to renew attention to the spiritual life and "a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God's providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. Christians long for the entire human family to call upon God as 'Our Father!'" (No. 79).

Lord Cardinal, while thanking you for the service that this dicastery renders to the cause of the Gospel, I invoke upon you and upon all those taking part in the present plenary assembly the help of God and the protection of the Virgin Mary, star of evangelization, while I send my heartfelt apostolic blessing to all.

From the Vatican, Nov. 13, 2009



Pope's Address to World Food Summit
"Win the Battle Against Hunger and Malnutrition"

ROME, NOV. 16, 2009 - Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today upon visiting the Rome headquarters of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the occasion of the World Summit on Food Security, being held there through Wednesday.

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Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

1. I was very pleased to receive an invitation from Mr Jacques Diouf, Director General of FAO, to speak at the opening session of this World Summit on Food Security. I greet him warmly and I thank him for his kind words of welcome. I greet the distinguished authorities present and all the participants. Echoing the sentiments of my venerable predecessors Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, I should like once more to express my esteem for the work of FAO, which the Catholic Church and the Holy See follow attentively, taking a keen interest in the day-to-day work that is carried out there. Thanks to your generous engagement, aptly expressed in your motto Fiat Panis, the development of agriculture and food security remain among the key priorities of international political action. I am confident that this same spirit will inform the decisions taken at the present Summit, and those that will follow later, in the common desire to win the battle against hunger and malnutrition in the world as quickly as possible.

2. The international community is currently facing a grave economic and financial crisis. Statistics bear witness to the dramatic growth in the number of people suffering from hunger, made worse by the rise in price of foodstuffs, the reduction in economic resources available to the poorest peoples, and their limited access to markets and to food – notwithstanding the known fact that the world has enough food for all its inhabitants. Indeed, while low levels of agricultural production persist in some regions, partly owing to climate change, sufficient food is produced on a global scale to satisfy both current demands and those in the foreseeable future. From these data we may deduce that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between population growth and hunger, and this is further demonstrated by the lamentable destruction of foodstuffs for economic gain. In the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate I pointed out that, "Hunger is not so much dependent on lack of material things as on shortage of social resources, the most important of which are institutional. What is missing, in other words, is a network of economic institutions capable of guaranteeing regular access to sufficient food and water … and also capable of addressing the primary needs and necessities ensuing from genuine food crises …" I added, "The problem of food insecurity needs to be addressed within a long-term perspective, eliminating the structural causes that give rise to it and promoting the agricultural development of poorer countries. This can be done by investing in rural infrastructures, irrigation systems, transport, organization of markets, and in the development and dissemination of agricultural technology that can make the best use of the human, natural and socio-economic resources that are more readily available at the local level, while guaranteeing their sustainability over the long term as well" (no. 27). Hence the need to oppose those forms of aid that do grave damage to the agricultural sector, those approaches to food production that are geared solely towards consumption and lack a wider perspective, and especially greed, which causes speculation to rear its head even in the marketing of cereals, as if food were to be treated just like any other commodity.

3. The weakness of current mechanisms for food security and the need to re-examine them are confirmed, one might say, by the mere fact that this Summit has been convoked. Even though the poorest countries are more fully integrated into the world economy than in the past, movements in international markets make them more vulnerable and force them to seek the aid of intergovernmental institutions, which no doubt do valuable and indispensable work. The concept of cooperation, though, must be consistent with the principle of subsidiarity: it is necessary to involve "local communities in choices and decisions that affect the use of agricultural land" (ibid.). This is because integral human development requires responsible choices on the part of everyone and it demands an attitude of solidarity – meaning that aid or disaster relief should not be seen as opportunities to promote the interests of those who make resources available or of elite groups among the beneficiaries. With regard to countries that are in need of external support, the international community has the duty to assist with the instruments of cooperation, assuming collective responsibility for their development, "through the solidarity of … presence, supervision, training and respect" (ibid., 47). Within this overall context of responsibility, every country has the right to define its own economic model, taking steps to secure its freedom to choose its own objectives. In this way, cooperation must become an effective instrument, unbeholden to interests that can absorb a not insignificant part of the resources destined for development. Moreover, it is important to emphasize that an attitude of solidarity regarding the development of poor countries also has the potential to contribute to a solution of the current global crisis. Support given to these nations through financial plans inspired by solidarity, enabling them to provide for their own requirements of consumption and development, not only favours their internal economic growth, but can have a positive impact on integral human development in other countries (cf. ibid., 27).

4. In the current situation there is a continuing disparity in the level of development within and among nations that leads to instability in many parts of the world, accentuating the contrast between poverty and wealth. This no longer applies only to models of development, but also to an increasingly widespread perception concerning food insecurity, namely the tendency to view hunger as structural, an integral part of the socio-political situation of the weakest countries, a matter of resigned regret, if not downright indifference. It is not so, and it must never be so! To fight and conquer hunger it is essential to start redefining the concepts and principles that have hitherto governed international relations, in such a way as to answer the question: what can direct the attention and the consequent conduct of States towards the needs of the poorest? The response must be sought not in the technical aspects of cooperation, but in the principles that lie behind it: only in the name of common membership of the worldwide human family can every people and therefore every country be asked to practise solidarity, that is, to shoulder the burden of concrete responsibilities in meeting the needs of others, so as to favour the genuine sharing of goods, founded on love.

5. Nevertheless, while it is true that human solidarity inspired by love goes beyond justice – because to love is to give, to offer what is "mine" to the other – it is never without justice, which leads us to give the other what is "his", what belongs to him by virtue of his being and acting. Indeed, I cannot "give" the other what is "mine", without first giving him what belongs to him in justice (cf. ibid., 6). If the aim is to eliminate hunger, international action is needed not only to promote balanced and sustainable economic growth and political stability, but also to seek out new parameters – primarily ethical but also juridical and economic ones – capable of inspiring the degree of cooperation required to build a relationship of parity between countries at different stages of development. This, as well as closing the existing gap, could favour the capacity of each people to consider itself an active player, thereby confirming that the fundamental equality of all peoples is rooted in the common origin of the human family, the source of those principles of "natural law" that should inspire political, juridical and economic choices and approaches in international life (cf. ibid., 59). Saint Paul speaks eloquently on this subject: "I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack’" (2 Cor 8:13-15).

6. Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, in order to combat hunger and promote integral human development, it is necessary to understand the needs of the rural world, and likewise to ensure that any decline in donor support does not create uncertainties in the financing of activities of cooperation: any tendency towards a short-sighted view of the rural world as a thing of secondary importance must be avoided. At the same time, access to international markets must be favoured for those products coming from the poorest areas, which today are often relegated to the margins. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary to separate the rules of international trade from the logic of profit viewed as an end in itself, directing them towards the support of economic initiative in countries with greater need of development; once they have greater income at their disposal, these countries will be able to advance towards the self-sufficiency that leads to food security.

7. Nor must the fundamental rights of the individual be forgotten, which include, of course, the right to sufficient, healthy and nutritious food, and likewise water; these rights take on an important role in the realization of others, beginning with the primary one, the right to life. It is necessary, then, to cultivate "a public conscience that considers food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination" (Caritas in Veritate, 27). Much has been patiently accomplished in recent years by FAO in this regard: on the one hand it has favoured an enlargement of the objectives of this right over and above the mere guarantee of satisfying primary needs, and on the other it has emphasized the need for its adequate regulation.

8. Methods of food production likewise demand attentive analysis of the relationship between development and protection of the environment. The desire to possess and to exploit the resources of the planet in an excessive and disordered manner is the primary cause of all environmental degradation. Protection of the environment challenges the modern world to guarantee a harmonious form of development, respectful of the design of God the Creator and therefore capable of safeguarding the planet (cf. ibid., 48-51). While the entire human race is called to acknowledge its obligations to future generations, it is also true that States and international organizations have a duty to protect the environment as a shared good. In this context, the links between environmental security and the disturbing phenomenon of climate change need to be explored further, focusing on the central importance of the human person, and especially of the populations most at risk from both phenomena. Norms, legislation, development plans and investments are not enough, however: what is needed is a change in the lifestyles of individuals and communities, in habits of consumption and in perceptions of what is genuinely needed. Most of all, there is a moral duty to distinguish between good and evil in human action, so as to rediscover the bond of communion that unites the human person and creation.

9. As I pointed out in the Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, it is important to remember that "the deterioration of nature is … closely connected to the culture that shapes human coexistence: when ‘human ecology’ is respected within society, environmental ecology also benefits." Indeed, "the ecological system is based on respect for a plan that affects both the health of society and its good relationship with nature." And "the decisive issue is the overall moral tenor of society." Therefore, "our duties towards the environment are linked to our duties towards the human person, considered in himself and in relation to others. It would be wrong to uphold one set of duties while trampling on the other. Herein lies a grave contradiction in our mentality and practice today: one which demeans the person, disrupts the environment and damages society" (ibid., 51).

10. Hunger is the most cruel and concrete sign of poverty. Opulence and waste are no longer acceptable when the tragedy of hunger is assuming ever greater proportions. Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Catholic Church will always be concerned for efforts to defeat hunger; the Church is committed to support, by word and deed, the action taken in solidarity – planned, responsible and regulated – to which all members of the international community are called to contribute. The Church does not wish to interfere in political decisions: she respects the knowledge gained through scientific study, and decisions arrived at through reason responsibly enlightened by authentically human values, and she supports the effort to eliminate hunger. This is the most immediate and concrete sign of solidarity inspired by charity, and it brooks neither delay nor compromise. Such solidarity relies on technology, laws and institutions to meet the aspirations of individuals, communities and entire peoples, yet it must not exclude the religious dimension, with all the spiritual energy that it brings, and its promotion of the human person. Acknowledgment of the transcendental worth of every man and every woman is still the first step towards the conversion of heart that underpins the commitment to eradicate deprivation, hunger and poverty in all their forms.

I thank you for your gracious attention and, as I conclude, I offer greetings and good wishes in the official languages of FAO, to all the Member States of the Organization:

God bless your efforts to ensure that everyone is given their daily bread.

Thank you.


ANGELUS  On the End Times and God's Kingdom

"Behold the Power of the Word of Christ"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 15, 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.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

We have reached the last two weeks of the liturgical year. We thank the Lord who has enabled us to carry out, yet again, this journey of faith -- old and always new -- in the great spiritual family of the Church! It is an inestimable gift, which allows us to live in history the mystery of Christ, receiving in the furrows of our personal and community existence the seed of the Word of God, seed of eternity that transforms this world from within and opens it to the Heavenly Kingdom. Accompanying us in the itinerary of Sunday biblical readings was St. Mark's Gospel, which today presents a part of Jesus' discourse on the end times. In this discourse, there is a phrase that is striking for its synthetic clarity: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Mark 13:31). Let us reflect, for a moment, on this prophecy of Christ.

The expression "heaven and earth" is frequent in the Bible to indicate the whole universe, the entire cosmos. Jesus says that all this is destined to "pass." Not only the earth, but also heaven, understood, in fact, in the cosmic sense, not as a synonym of God. Sacred Scripture knows no ambiguity: The whole of creation is marked by finiteness, including the elements divinized by ancient mythologies: There is no confusion between creation and the Creator, but rather a clear difference. With such a clear distinction, Jesus affirms that his words "will not pass," that is, they come from the part of God and because of this are eternal.

However, pronounced in the concreteness of his earthly existence, they are prophetic words par excellence, as Jesus affirms in another place, addressing the celestial Father: "for I have given them the words which thou gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee and they have believed that thou didst send me" (John 17:8). In a well-known parable, Christ compares himself to the sower and explains that the seed is the Word (cfr Mark 4:14): Those who hear it, receive it and bear fruit (cfr Mark 4:20) are part of the Kingdom of God, that is, they live under his lordship; they remain in the world , but are no longer of the world; therefore, in them is a seed of eternity, a principle of transformation that already now is manifested in a good life, animated by charity, and in the end will produce the resurrection of the flesh. Behold the power of the Word of Christ.

Dear friends, the Virgin Mary is the living sign of this truth. Her heart was "good earth" that received with full disposition the Word of God, so that all her existence, transformed according to the image of the Son, was introduced into eternity, soul and body, anticipating the eternal vocation of every human being. Now, in prayer, let us make our own her response to the Angel: "let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38), so that, following Christ on the way of the Cross, we might also be able to come to the glory of the Resurrection.

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

I address first of all a cordial greeting to the participants of the plenary assembly of the Commission for the Media of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences, who carried out their work these days in the Vatican. Beloved, you had to address the Internet culture and communication in the Church. I thank you for your skilled contribution on this topic of great present importance.

In addition, I wish to remind you that the national celebration of Thanksgiving Day is taking place in Ivrea, in Piedmont. I willingly join spiritually all those who are grateful to the Lord for the fruits of the earth and of man's work, renewing the urgent invitation to respect the natural environment, a precious resource entrusted to our responsibility.


© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana


Benedict XVI's Message to Brazilian Bishops

"Authentic Social Life Begins in Each Conscience"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 15, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's Saturday address to bishops of Southern Brazil, in Rome for their five-yearly visit.

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Revered Cardinal,

Dear Archbishops and Bishops of Brazil,

In the midst of the ad limina Apostolorum visit you are fulfilling, you have come together today to go up to the house of the Successor of Peter, who welcomes all of you with open arms, esteemed pastors of the Southern Region 1, in the state of Sao Paulo. There is found that important center of hospitality and evangelization, the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, where I had the joy of being able to visit in May of 2007 for the opening of the 5th General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. I hope that the seed sown then will bear true fruits for the spiritual and also the social good of the populations of that promising continent, of the dear Brazilian nation and of your federal state.

They "have the right to a full life, proper of the children of God, with more human conditions: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence (Opening Address 13/V/2007, n.4). Once again, I wish to express my gratitude for all that was done with such great generosity and renew my cordial greeting to you and to your dioceses, remembering in a special way the priests, the consecrated men and women and the lay faithful who help you in the work of evangelization and the Christian animation of society.

Your people harbor in their hearts great religious sentiments and noble traditions, rooted in Christianity, which are expressed in heartfelt and genuine religious and civil manifestations. It is a patrimony rich in values that you -- as the reporters show, and Father Nelson referred to in the affable greeting he just addressed to me in your name -- try to maintain, defend, extend, deepen and vivify. In rejoicing greatly over all this, I exhort you to continue this work of constant and methodical evangelization, conscious that the truly Christian formation of the conscience is decisive for a profound life of faith and also for social maturity and the true and balanced well-being of the human community.

In fact, to merit the title of community, a human group must correspond, in its organization and objectives, to the fundamental aspiration of the human being. That is why it is not exaggerated to affirm that an authentic social life begins in each one's conscience. Given that a well formed conscience leads to fulfilling the true good of man, the Church, specifying what this good is, enlightens man and, throughout the whole of Christian life, tries to educate his conscience. The teaching of the Church, due to its origin -- God --, to its content -- the truth -- and to its point of support -- the conscience -- finds a profound and persuasive echo in the heart of each person, whether or not a believer.

Concretely, "the question of life and of its defense and promotion is not only the prerogative of Christians. Even if it receives the light and extraordinary strength of faith, it belongs to every human conscience that aspires to truth and lives attentive and watchful of the destiny of humanity. (...)The 'people of life' rejoice to be able to share their commitment with many others, so that the 'people of life' will be ever more numerous, and the new culture of love and of solidarity can grow for the true good of the city of men" [Enc. Evangelium Vitae (25/III/1995), 101].

Venerable Brothers, speak to the heart of your people, awaken consciences, unite wills in a joint effort against the growing wave of violence and contempt for the human being. The latter, from gift of God received in the loving intimacy of marriage between a man and a woman, is now seen as a mere human product. "Today, a primary and crucial field of cultural strife between the absolutism of technology and man's moral responsibility is that of bioethics, where the possibility of integral human development is radically at stake. It is a most delicate and decisive realm, where the fundamental question of knowing whether man produces himself or depends on God bursts with dramatic intensity. The scientific discoveries in this field and the possibilities of technical intervention seem so advanced that they impose a choice between these two conceptions: that of reason open to transcendence or that of reason enclosed in immanence" [Enc. Caritas in Veritate (29/VI/2009), 74].

In a provocative way, Job calls irrational beings to give their own testimony: "But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:7-10). The conviction of right reason and the certainty of faith that the life of the human being, from conception until natural death, belongs to God and not to men, confers on it that sacred character and that personal dignity that arouses only one correct legal and moral attitude, that is, one of profound respect. Because the Lord of life said: "[f]or your life-blood I will surely require a reckoning (...) for God made man in his own image" (Genesis 9:5.6).

My dear and venerable brothers, we must never be discouraged in our appeal to conscience. We would not be faithful followers of our Divine Master, if we did not know in all situations, also in the most arduous, how to carry our hope "against all hope" (Romans 4:18). Continue to work for the triumph of God's cause, not with the sad spirit of one who only sees want and dangers, but with the firm confidence of one who knows he can count on Christ's victory. United to the Lord in an ineffable way is Mary, fully conformed to her Son, conqueror of sin and death. Through the intercession of Our Lady Aparecida, I implore from God the light, consolation, strength, intensity of resolutions and achievements for you and your most direct collaborators, while at the same time I grant you from my heart -- and extend to all the faithful of every diocesan community --, my particular Apostolic Blessing.


On What Europe Owes to Cluny
"The Value of the Human Person and the Primary Good of Peace"

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2009 - Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address today during the general audience held in Paul VI Hall.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

This morning I wish to speak of a monastic movement that had great importance in the Medieval centuries, and to which I have already referred in previous catecheses. It is about the Order of Cluny, which, at the beginning of the 12th century, the time of its greatest expansion, had almost 1,200 monasteries: a really impressive figure!

In fact at Cluny, 1,100 years ago, in 910, a monastery was founded and placed under the guidance of Abbot Bernone, after the donation of William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine. At that time Western monasticism, which flowered some centuries before with St. Benedict, was very impoverished for several reasons: the unstable political and social conditions due to the constant invasions and devastation of people not integrated in the European fabric, widespread poverty and above all the dependence of abbeys on local lords, who controlled everything that belonged to the territory of their competence. In such a context, Cluny represented the soul of a profound renewal of monastic life, to lead it back to its original inspiration.

Represented at Cluny was the observance of the Rule of St. Benedict with some adaptations already introduced by other reformers. Above all the intention was to guarantee the central role that the liturgy must have in Christian life. The monks of Cluny dedicated themselves with love and great care to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, the singing of psalms, to processions both devotional and solemn and, above all, to the celebration of Holy Mass. They promoted sacred music; they wanted architecture and art to contribute to the beauty and solemnity of the rites; they enriched the liturgical calendar with special celebrations such as, for example, the commemoration of the faithful deceased at the beginning of November, which we also celebrated a short time ago; the they enhanced devotion to the Virgin Mary.

So much importance was given to the liturgy because the monks of Cluny were convinced that it was participation in the liturgy of Heaven. And the monks felt responsible to intercede at the altar of God for the living and the dead, given that very many faithful repeatedly requested them to be remembered in prayer. On the other hand, it was precisely for this purpose that William the Pious had desired the birth of the Abbey of Cluny. In the ancient document, which attests to the foundation, we read: "With this gift I establish that a monastery of regulars be built at Cluny in honor of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and that monks gather here who live according to the Rule of St. Benedict (...) and that it be a venerable asylum of prayer which is frequented with vows and supplications, seeking and yearning with every desire and profound ardor the celestial life, and assiduous prayers, invocations and supplications addressed to the Lord."

To guard and nourish this climate of prayer, the rule of Cluny emphasized the importance of silence, a discipline to which the monks willingly submitted themselves, convinced that the purity of the virtues, to which they aspired, required profound and constant recollection. It is no wonder that very soon, fame for holiness was attributed to the monastery of Cluny, and that many other monastic communities decided to follow its practices. Many princes and popes requested the abbots of Cluny to spread their reform, to the point that in a short time a multitudinous network of monasteries were linked to Cluny, wither with true and proper juridical links or a sort of charismatic affiliation. Thus a Europe of the spirit was being delineated in the different regions of France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Hungary.

The success of Cluny was assured first of all by the lofty spirituality cultivated there, but also by some other conditions that favored its development. As opposed to what had happened up to then, the monastery of Cluny and the communities depending on it were exempted from the jurisdiction of the local bishops and placed directly under that of the Roman Pontiff. This entailed a special bond with the See of Peter and, thanks precisely to the protection and encouragement of pontiffs, the ideals of purity and fidelity, which the Cluniac reform intended to follow, were able to spread rapidly. Moreover, the abbots were elected without any intervention by the civil authorities, very different to what was the case in other places. Truly worthy persons succeeded one another in the guidance of Cluny and of the numerous dependent monastic communities: Abbot Odo of Cluny, of whom I spoke in a catechesis two months ago, and other great personalities, such as Emard, Maiolus, Odilo and above all Hugh the Great, who carried out their service for long periods, ensured stability to the reform undertaken and to its diffusion. Venerated as saints, in addition to Odo, are Maiolus, Odilo and Hugh.

The Cluniac reform had positive effects not only on the purification and reawakening of monastic life, but also on the life of the universal Church. In fact, the aspiration to evangelical perfection represented a stimulus to combat two grave evils that afflicted the Church in that period: simony, that is the acquisition of compensated pastoral offices, and the immorality of the secular clergy. The abbots of Cluny with their spiritual authoritativeness, the Cluniac monks who became bishops, some of them even popes, were protagonists of such an imposing action of spiritual renewal. And the fruits were not lacking: The celibacy of priests became esteemed and lived, and more transparent procedures were introduced in the assumption of ecclesiastical offices.

Significant also were the benefits contributed to society by monasteries inspired by the Cluniac reform. At a time in which only ecclesiastical institutions provided for the indigent, charity was practiced with determination. In all houses, the almoner had to receive passers-by and needy pilgrims, traveling priests and religious, and above all the poor who came to ask for food and roof for a day. Not less important were two other institutions, typical of Medieval civilization, which were promoted by Cluny: the so-called truce of God and the peace of God. At a time strongly marked by violence and the spirit of revenge, assured with the "truce of God" were long periods of non-belligerence, on the occasion of important religious feasts and of some days of the week. Requested with "the peace of God," under the pain of a canonical censure, was respect for defenseless people and sacred places.

Thus enhanced in the conscience of the people of Europe was that process of long gestation, which led to the recognition, in an ever clearer way, of two essential elements for the construction of society, that is, the value of the human person and the primary good of peace. Moreover, as happened with other monastic foundations, the Cluniac monasteries had ample properties that, put diligently to good use, contributed to the development of the economy. Next to manual labor, there was no lack of some typical cultural activities of Medieval monasticism, such as schools for children, the setting up of libraries and the scriptoria for the transcription of books.

In this way, a thousand years ago, when the process of the formation of European identity was at its height, the Cluniac experience spread over vast regions of the European Continent, and made its important and precious contribution. It recalled the primacy of the goods of the spirit; from this it drew the tension toward the things of God; it inspired and favored initiatives and institutions for the promotion of human values; it educated in a spirit of peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray so that all those who have at heart a genuine humanism and the future of Europe will be able to rediscover, appreciate and defend the rich cultural and religious patrimony of these centuries.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages, we now turn to the monastic reform linked to the great monastery of Cluny. Founded eleven hundred years ago, Cluny restored the strict observance of the Rule of Saint Benedict and made the Church’s liturgy the centre of its life. It stressed the solemn celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours and Holy Mass, and enriched the worship of God with splendid art, architecture and music. The monastic liturgy, seen as a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy, was accompanied by a daily regime marked by silence and intercessory prayer. Cluny’s reputation for sanctity and learning caused its influence to spread to monasteries throughout Europe. Exempt from interference by feudal authorities, the monastery freely elected its abbots and flourished under a series of outstanding spiritual leaders like Saints Odo and Hugh. Cluny also contributed to the reform of the universal Church by its concern for holiness, the restoration of clerical celibacy and the elimination of simony. At a formative time of Europe’s history, Cluny helped to forge the Continent’s Christian identity by its emphasis on the primacy of the spirit, respect for human dignity, commitment to peace and an authentic and integral humanism.

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